Sunday, January 26, 2014

The HOW Behind our Fifteen Year Anniversary Trip

Last year I wrote a story for a website that was being created to highlight how a giant church does community.  I completely forgot about this article until the website was promoted tonight at church.  When I checked later this evening our story was posted!

I found myself smiling as I re-lived the story of how Curt and I were able to escape to Mexico for an entire week to celebrate our fifteen year anniversary.  That trip is one I never actually wrote about.  Partly because we jumped right back into life with the kids and partly because it's hard to summarize how incredible it is to have entire week with just my husband to celebrating the love God has built over the past fifteen years.

The Cliff's Note takeaway from our trip is this.  If you are married, get away with your spouse.  Date them.  Romance them.  Spend time with them.  Laugh.  Tease.  Relax. Try something new.  Teach each other how to do the things you're good at.  Spend the money to get a  nice hotel and then "get a room."  Get away from your kids and from your life and just BE.  Together.  You will NEVER regret it.

Click here to read story of HOW we were able to get away.  Thank you to all our beautiful friends that have become just like family.  We love you!

Friday, January 24, 2014

"I Can Feel You" - Finding Hope in the Midst of the Storm

Last week I was praying for a dear one that I love who is struggling.  She's resilient and determined to not let the enemy keep her down.  But she's weary and battered - facing struggles and fighting battles that are too big for her.  And she's not the only one.

Many of my dear friends are in the midst of one of life's storms.  Broken, exhausted and scared, they are clinging to truth and searching for hope.  Praying for some shred of light or encouragement to keep putting one weary foot in front of the other.

I know what that feels like.  I've been there so many times.  Haven't we all?  Suffering is part of life.

So often it is in my desperation - when I have come to the end of myself and all my failings are abundantly clear - that I connect most intimately with my Savior.  

He rescues me. Saves me from the waves that engulf me and sets my feet on solid ground.  Comforts me.  Breathes life into me.  Encourages me to keep going when I want to quit.  Redirects me when I've wandered off course and points me back to truth.  Tells me he loves me.  Reminds me that he believes in me and has a purpose for my life - good things planned out for me to do that will advance his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  

As I prayed for my friend the CD player in my car randomly selected I Can Feel You - a song off the Tides album by Bethel Music.  The song is sung by and co-written by Jenn Johnson.  For the first time I really listened to the lyrics.  It was as if they were written specifically for my friend.  I prayed the words of the lyrics over her in that moment and many times since.

If despair has sunk its talons deep into your spirit and hope seems impossible, don't give up.  The One who gave His life so you can live is just waiting for you to call out, "HELP!  Jesus, please help me."  And He always does. 

I pray you find rest and comfort in this beautiful song. (Click here to hear the song.)

I Can Feel You
by Jenn Johnson, Steffany Frizzell-Gretzinger, Ian McIntosh, Gabriel Wilson, Daniel MacKenzie, and Hunter Thompson

The wind and waves surround me
And I'm tossed,
Feel like I'm drowning.
I am tired, I am weak.
I need you here with me.

'Cause I can feel the rising tide
But I don't have the strength to fight.
I feel clouded and confused,
I need you here with me.

In the chaos of the storm,
I have drifted far, far away.
But I call out Your name
Cause You are just a breath, a breath away.

Then through the shadows Your light appears.
I've known You're with me, but now it is clear.
I can feel You, Jesus all around.

Like sun on my skin, warm to the touch,
Here you surround me, and I am held by love
I can feel You, Jesus all around.

Now hope is rushing through my veins
With everything You've rearranged.
I am peaceful, I am brave.
When You're here with me.

All my questions find their answers here.
When You come You change the atmosphere.
I am focused, I am clear.
When You're here with me.

There is nothing in this world
That will satisfy my soul like You do.

Though the storm it rages
I won't be moved. 
I won't be shaken
I am anchored in You.
I can feel You, Jesus all around.

Copyright 2013 Bethel Music Publishing (ASCAP)
/Jesus Culture Msuic (ASCAP)
All Rights Reserved.  Use by Permission.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2013 Year in Review Highlights

My favorite Christmas gift we gave our kids was a weekend getaway at the beach over New Year's Eve.  Normally we throw a big New Year's Eve party at our house, but this year we decided to change it up.  In keeping with Paigey's theme of reducing commotion and chaos, we decided to rent a cozy little ocean cottage and ring the new year in with just our family.  We gave the kids an envelope on Christmas Day announcing the news.  Once they got over being mad that we weren't having a big party (tradition reigns at our house), they got excited.

The weather was breathtakingly beautiful.  Unseasonably warm and dry with no wind or even a hint of rain.  That never happens on the Oregon coast in January!  The tide was really low on New Year's Eve uncovering rocks we'd never seen before.  The kids set up a soccer field on the beach and the six of us squared off in teams of three, playing soccer as the sun set on another year.  GLORIOUS!

Dinner was at the 60's Cafe' - a greasy burger joint with a juke box and really old cracked booths.  We pigged out, licking the grease and salt from our fingers and enjoying every bite.
Happy New Year!
After dinner we headed over to Grocery Outlet to stock up on junk food and candy.  $40 worth of "food" later, we headed back to our cozy cottage.  Grant was in Junior High Boy Heaven.  He ate and ate and ate, all with a huge smile on his face.

We played games as a family.  The closer we got to midnight, the quieter and cuddlier everyone got.  We watched the ball drop in Times Square and for the first time ever, all six of us stayed awake until midnight.  Happy New Year!

The next morning over breakfast I asked everyone to give me their highlights from 2013.  They all scoffed and said, "Duh Mom.  We just did that last week at breakfast.  You wrote it all down in your journal.  Don't you remember?"  Oh...  right.

After a family walk on the beach, we picnicked at the park in sweatshirts (in January!!!).  The kids even got brave enough to get in the water - all except Paige who watched as usual from her safe spot on the high sand. What a great way to start 2014.  I'm confident many more awesome memories will be made and I hope to do a better job about writing them down this year.

Here are the Stilp Family 2013 Year in Review Highlights.

Katie (11 1/2 years old, 6th grade)

  • Grand Tour (junior high camp) with Aly
  • Weekly youth group with Maddy
  • Soccer season.  I LOVE soccer!
  • Starting middle school.
  • Running back from Fred Meyer in the rain with Sarai.

Grant (12 3/4 years old, 7th grade)
  • Staying up until 1:30 in the morning reading Dork Diaries with cousin Alexa when she was visiting from Minnesota this summer.
  • Beating Tualatin Hills in the Rose Cup water polo tournament.
  • Uncle Chad, Auntie Lara, Madi and Alexa coming to visit from Minnesota.
  • Saving up enough money to buy myself a drum kit.
  • Epic come-from-behind water polo win in the last six seconds of the game during summer polo.
  • Hiking in the pouring rain with Dad on a Man Training Day.

Alli (9 3/4 years old, 4th grade)
  • Sleepovers with Jenna on youth group nights.
  • Two weeks this summer when Livy and I were like real sisters and we spent every night together.
  • Camping at Timothy Lake
  • Learning to overcome obstacles.
  • My new teacher, Mrs. Passmore, and how awesome she is.
  • Playing soccer.  I LOVE soccer!

Paige (7 3/4 years old, 2nd grade)
  • Uncle Chad and Auntie Lara, Alexa and Madison visiting from Minnesota.
  • Having a part in both of the Christmas Readers Theatre Presentations at school.
  • Getting my first pedicure and manicure as a reward for reading through my kids Bible.
  • Trip to downtown Portland with Mom.  (It was pouring rain and we got hot chocolate at Barista while we waited for Katie).

Jodi (39 years old - currently not in school)
  • Celebrating 15 years of marriage to Curt with a week in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
  • Summiting the South Sister - Oregon's third tallest peak - with Curt.
  • Road tripping to Minnesota from Montana with my big brother Shane. 
  • Taking Katie to Lost Lake for a great hike, peddle boating, and Woman Training.  A day all to ourselves with no agenda.  SO awesome!
  • Chaperoning at Outdoor School with Katie.  More time to bond.
  • Taking Paige to get her first pedicure.  I love that she's already reading her Bible.
  • Transforming - with the help of our Big's - the ledge above the rock wall from Weed Fest 2013 into a beautiful flower garden.  
  • Picking berries "with" the kids.  Mommy picked berries.  Kids sat in the shade and read library books.
  • Chad and Lara's (and the girls' ) visit from MN.
  • Completing an Olympic-distance triathlon and living through another terrifying swim.
  • Starting Jodi Stilp Photography LLC.  I still can't believe I get paid to capture beauty!
  • Sabbath days with my family: Silver Star Mountain hike and Oneonta Gorge.
  • Hiking Tom McCall Nature Preserve after running a half marathon.
  • Getting third place in two races.  Not sure when or if that will ever happen again.

Curt (38 1/2 years - currently stuck repeating the same grade over and over again)
  • Taking in all the monuments in Washington D.C. on a ten mile run around the city.
  • Celebrating 15 years of marriage in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
  • Summiting the South Sister.
  • Saying goodbye to the Old Gal - his Jeep of fifteen years.  206,000 miles later she died on the side of the highway. May she rest in peace.
  • Going to Graceland.  A Bucket List item crossed off.
  • Chad and Lara's visit.  (Clearly we all thought that was ah-mazing).
  • Timothy Lake camping trip, especially canoeing across the lake with Dusty in the boat, the girls on tubes behind the boat, and Grant swimming alongside the boat.  "My life jacket is rubbing my face Daddy."  
  • Backpacking the rugged Montana wilderness (Jewel Basin) with Shane.
  • Running a half marathon and living to tell about it.
  • The Beard.*
*Curt notes The Beard as a highlight.  Jodi notes The Beard as a highlight the day it got shaved.

We hope you all can find highlights from 2013 and that you make many beautiful memories in 2014.  Happy New Year.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Christmas 2013 Highlights

Christmas Eve 2013
Our Christmas break was magical.  No one got super sick, the kids got along and kept the bickering to a minimum, we mixed fun activities with lots of relaxing, ate a lot of good food, enjoyed beautiful weather, gave each other thoughtful and fun presents, and soaked in two weeks of agenda-free fun.

There have been MANY Christmas breaks where my dreamy expectations were shattered by life's realities.  I know that what we experienced was Disney-esque and we are all so grateful.

Christmas Eve - downtown Portland
One morning after breakfast we went around the table and we all shared our favorite Christmas memory and Christmas gift.  Here are the results.  (Can I get a drum roll please?)....

Favorite Moment
Favorite Gift
Paige (7 ¾ years old, 2nd grade)
·      Learning to tie my new shoes on Christmas Day
·      Flutter, my DreamLite.
·      My new shoes that I can tie.
·      I can’t pick – I like them all.
Alli (9 ¾ years old, 4th grade)
·      Going to Grandma’s for dinner on Christmas Day
·      Cabbage Patch Doll like Mommy used to have.
·      My Seat Pet so maybe I’ll nap in the car on long drives.
·      Oh and my new boots.
Katie (11 ¼ years old, 6th grade)
·      Playing family soccer in the cul de sac on Christmas Day
·      Boots – finally!
·      Getting an Instagram account – finally!
Grant (12 ¾ years old, 7th grade)
·      Christmas Eve concert at the Schnitz.
·      A new cymbal set.  DUH.
·      And getting an Instagram account is cool too.
Curt (38 ½ years old, no grade)
·      Playing soccer in the cul de sac as a family on Christmas Day.
·      Swapping special gifts with Dad and Marcy.
·      Boots. (What a rule follower – he only chose one thing).
Jodi (39 years old, no grade)
Do I have to pick?  I loved it all.
·      Soccer in the cul de sac.
·      My Dad's photo canvas arriving at 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve and getting to give it to him in person on Christmas Day.  (Kleenex please).
·      Having Christmas with my Mom and Terry in their home and not at the hospital. (more Kleenex please).
·      MAGICAL Christmas Eve concert at the Schnitz and stopping to get stocking candy on the way home at the only Walgreens that was open.
Do I have to pick? I loved it all.
·      All my new running gear cause I think it makes me run faster.
·      A Great Falls Fire and Rescue sweatshirt from my big brother, Captain Klippenes.
·      A new office chair and tripod from My Love.

And because no post is complete without pictures, here are a few of my favorites.
it was so incredible to center our hearts and minds around the gift of Jesus on Christmas Eve.

All dressed up on Christmas Eve.

magic of Christmas Eve
Alli read the Christmas story out of the Bible to our family this year on Christmas morning.  Happy birthday Jesus!
Christmas Morning 2013
 (not sure why that random box is appearing below but I'm going to just roll with it.  Happy Christmas - a month late).

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Merry Christmas 2013 From the Stilp's

**We've had such a wonderful Christmas break that I completely forgot to post our annual Christmas letter on the blog. The upside to my forgetfulness is that now I can post the kids' school pictures because I finally took them this week.  And I'm adding all kinds of bonus pictures that the Christmas letter didn't originally have. **

The card we sent out
peace, love, joy, laughter ~ from our family to yours

December 2013

Hello dear friends and family.  We love hearing from you every year.  Here’s our family update.

Grant - 7th grade - almost 13 years old
Grant (7th grade, 12 years old) has become quite the drummer.  He mowed lawns all spring and summer to save enough money to buy his own drum kit that he practices 24-7.  Water polo, another of Grant’s passions, moves to the deep end of the pool in middle school.  By the time the season finished Grant was a mass of muscle and a great swimmer.  He gave me swim lessons and I taught him to cook bacon – a win/win for both of us.  Grant volunteers in the three-year-old classroom at church and his stories from his classroom adventures crack us up.  We love our Man Child.

Katie - 6th grade - 11.5 years
Our Katie Girl (6th grade, 11 years) has embraced middle school with gusto, shouldering the additional responsibilities of multiple teachers, switching classes, and getting up an hour earlier with ease.  This summer she camped for a week with a group of families and helped with the younger kiddos.  She liked it so much that she took an online babysitting course and is now officially certified by the American Red Cross to babysit.  Katie loves soccer and is a fierce and scrappy defender.  A natural and graceful runner, Katie hopes to run track this spring.

Alli - 4th grade - almost 10 years old
Alli (4th grade, 9 years) has mastered the art of making our Saturday Morning pancakes and is unstoppable when she is in Helper Mode.  She is really good at hair and fashion and frequently uses Paige as her model.  Alli found a sport she loves in soccer.  Fearless and aggressive, she is currently playing indoor soccer with a team of 6th graders and holding her own against girls twice her size.  Our favorite Alli-ism from this year is “pravana” – her version of prima donna.

Paige - 2nd grade - almost 8 years old
And then there’s Paige (2nd grade, 7 years) who keeps us laughing with her well-timed humor.  Her favorite activity is school and she takes it very seriously, often praying that Jesus will help her finish her monthly projects on time.  Paige’s current career aspiration is to be a “missionary in Hawaii.  If that pays too much, I’ll switch to veterinarian.”  She insisted on including The Big’s (our older, quasi-adopted kids) in her Family Tree report, writing paragraphs about all five of her “fake siblings.” 

the kids - how we love them!
Curt continues to work full-time as Clinical Coordinator at OHSU and part-time in the clinic at Hope Orthopedics. The Jeep he drove since we got married finally died on the side of the highway – may she rest in peace.  His brother Chad and family came to visit in July, and my brother Shane hogged Curt for a week of backpacking the Montana wilderness in August. 
Curt ran his first half marathon this year.  We forgot to include this fact in the Christmas letter.
Curt and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary with a week in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  We also had a Bucket List experience when we hiked to the summit of the South Sister, Oregon’s third tallest peak.  The adrenaline rush lasted for days!
Cabo San Lucas - 15 years

at the summit of the South Sister

I (Jodi) fractured my foot training for a spring marathon, limiting my race experiences to an Olympic-distance triathlon.  The swim continues to terrorize me but I survived to try another tri next summer.  In February my big brother and I road tripped from Montana to northern Minnesota to celebrate our Grandpa George’s life and legacy.  We laughed and cried together, building lifelong memories.  After years of carrying a camera everywhere I finally took the plunge and launched Jodi Stilp Photography.  I spent the fall shooting portraits and am currently building my website.  Look for coming soon.  (PS - I know the website doesn't load just yet.  It will once I get my act together.)

We pray you find peace, love, joy and laughter this holiday season and in the new year. 

the above three photos courtesy of Sara Shearer Photography

With love,

Curt, Jodi, Grant, Katie, Alli and Paige Stilp