Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015 from the Stilp's: Capturing Beauty in the Daily Grind

the family photo we used on our Christmas card
Capturing beauty in the daily grind” is the motto that drives my photography business.  It’s my goal to draw this beauty out in my photos.  Nothing monumental happened in 2015, and yet there was so much beauty in the daily grind of our lives that feels noteworthy.

Curt won a prestigious award from Portland State University
CURT: This guy makes working full time, being a full time grad student, an incredible husband and father, and an elder in our church look easy.  He’s a gem.  Curt turned 40 in June and celebrated by a short trip to Minnesota to see his family.  He finished his first year of doctoral school and lived to tell about it.  Doctoral school is not for the faint of heart. The biggest change this year for Curt was dropping his clinic day.  After fourteen years of practicing orthopedics, he hung up his clinician hat to focus solely on higher education.  Well done. We are so proud of you.

Leg one of the Cascade Lakes Relay
JODI:  Jodi Stilp Photography LLC has become a profitable, full time business, and I still can’t believe I get paid to take photos.  God is so good. Running is my main hobby.  I started a run streak on July 9th and have logged more than 1,800 miles on the run this year. I thank God every time I run for the health to do crazy stuff like this. This phase of parenting is my new favorite. The kids are really coming into their own, becoming mini-adults and excelling at their passions.  Taxiing them around and cheering them on at their events is so fun.  We surprised the kids with a puppy on New Year’s Day and Kimber has stolen my heart.

Grant and Kimber
GRANT: Grant (14 years, 9th grade) has entered the world of high school.  His water polo team won the state championship and he lettered so I’m not sure he could have a better start to high school.  He goes after all his passions with 110% effort.  Water polo, swim team, skateboarding, drumming, academics, and his Lawn Care Company consume his free time.  His lawn care business financed two water polo trips to California this year.  His team is headed to Croatia next summer, so he’ll be mowing a LOT of yards to earn that $4,000! He also volunteers every other week in the three-year-old class at church, folding his man-sized body into tiny toddler chairs to play with the kids and teach them about Jesus.
Katie Joy
KATIE: Katie (13 years, 8th grade) is at the top of the middle school totem pole.  Where did that time go?  She is very studious, smart, kind, and a good friend. She gave up soccer this fall to try volleyball and enjoyed it, but lacrosse is her passion.  She’s doing some off-season training this winter to prep for lacrosse in the spring. Katie loves down time, hanging with her friends, and watching movies.  She’s great with kids – babysitting regularly and volunteering every other week at church in the infant/toddler room.

Alli Claire
ALLI: Alli (11 years, 6th grade) has smoothly entered the realm of middle school, killing her academics to earn the school incentive trips. She plays a sport year-round.  A fierce competitor, Alli can’t decide if she loves soccer, basketball, lacrosse, or water polo the best.  She plans to add track to her sports resume’ this spring too.  When she’s not playing sports, Alli wants to be with her friends or holding babies.  She is finally old enough to volunteer at church and plays with the 4-5 year olds every other week. 
Paige Elizabeth
PAIGE: Paige (9 years, 4th grade) has really come into her own this year. Academics and reading are some of her main passions, but she is trying sports this year, with soccer this fall and now basketball.  Paige still wants to be a missionary in Hawaii when she grows up. She also participated in the Battle of the Books and loved it.  Paige is a friend to all, but thrives on quiet time at home. If Paige looks exceptionally cute to you in this year’s picture it’s because she got braces and contacts this year.

That’s our year in a nutshell.  How was yours?  We thank God for each of you.  Merry Christmas!


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

Thursday, December 10, 2015

S L O W D O W N....

Yoga is a hard practice for me.  Why?  Because if you want to do it well and experience the full benefit of your practice you can't do it fast.

Anyone who knows me, knows I can't sit still.  EVER. Give me a list a mile long and a short time to do it and  I thrive under the pressure and the chaos.  It's why life as a business owner with four kids, two dogs, a husband in grad school, and a commitment to run every day usually feels full, but only sometimes overwhelming.  Taking time to BE STILL is hard for me.

The problem with a fast-paced, on the go 24-7 lifestyle is that it's counterintuitive to how we're created.  God created us for regular rhythms of rest.  We must create space to stop. Pause. Breathe in.  Breathe out.

S L O W  D O W N....

I'm racing a half marathon on Sunday and am supposed to be resting this week.  Yoga is a no-brainer for a rest week, but I talked myself out of it every day so far this week.  Who can slow down for an entire hour when there is work to be done, shopping to finish, presents to wrap, and Christmas cards to send out?

Yesterday I received the Christmas cards I ordered last week.  I was in such a hurry to get the cards ordered that I uploaded the low resolution version of the picture we wanted to use so... The Professional Photographer's Christmas photo is highly pixilated.  I am trying to see the ironic humor in it and not hyperventilate.

This morning on my run I realized I completely, 100% forgot my niece's birthday.  No card. No phone call.  No present. No remembering it was even her birthday until today - FIVE days after the fact.  Could I be any lamer?

The hustle and bustle of the Christmas season has officially taken it's toll.

Enough is enough.

Yoga forces me to stop the madness and just be.  It was time for a yoga session.

I got out my yoga mat. Lit my Christmas candle.  Turned on the fire. Then spent an hour stretching and meditating.

Inhale. Exhale.

Calm the chaos inside my brain.

S L O W  D O W N....

That one hour of yoga refreshed my spirit and my mind, adding new depth and perspective to this Christmas season.  After all this is the season of Advent - a reminder to anticipate Jesus' coming. There is beauty in the quiet stillness and I experienced that today.

If you feel frazzled and overwhelmed, I encourage you to take an hour to quiet your mind and be still.  You won't regret it.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Never Underestimate What Kids Who Are Willing to Work Hard Can Do: Newberg Water Polo State Champions 2015

When we moved to Newberg, Oregon, Grant was going into 2nd grade.  That kid was like a fish and could hold his breath forever.  We couldn't keep him out of the water.  I have an unnatural fear of drowning and am a nervous wreck when my kids are around water so I registered the kids in swim lessons.  The walls at the pool were covered with boards touting one water polo state championship after another.  It never once crossed my mind to consider this sport for my family.  But God had other plans.

My Future Stuntman at age 10, when he first started playing water polo.
Grant insisted on trying water polo.  The spring of his fourth grade year, he and his two buddies Dane and Raleigh signed up.  Watching them play - even at an elementary level - scared me half to death.  I couldn't believe all the shoving/drowning/pushing was legal.  It was like a living nightmare for me, but Grant LOVED it. I would have to get over my fear of him drowning because this kid was made for water polo.

Water polo is co-ed until high school.  Grant, Dane, Raleigh, Zach, Wilson, Mackenzie and Hannah all grew up together in the pool. We watched them graduate from the shallow, short end of the pool where they could touch if they got tired to the full-length, deep end that required continual treading of water and non-stop swimming.  They swam their little pre-adolescent bodies up and down the pool proving they were indeed capable of playing this grueling sport without drowning. They got stronger and faster almost overnight.
The boys when they started playing water polo: Left to Right (Caleb - not a polo player), Grant, (Alden - not a polo player), Raleigh and Dane.
Newberg's water polo program is all about community.  The older, more experienced kids help coach and train the younger kids coming up through the system.  Families work together to raise money to pay for club fees.  We cheer on each other's kiddos, volunteer at home tournaments, travel together to away tournaments, and host potlucks for team dinners. When you continually rub shoulders, strangers melt into friends.  Friends begin feel like family.  You can't put a price tag on what we share.

Jim McMaster is legendary when it comes to Newberg water polo.  He's been coaching the teams for years and led them to one state title after another.  Jim expects the kids to show up, work hard, be respectful, work hard, be nice to each other, work hard (have I mentioned that yet?), and exhibit good sportsmanship.  He has high expectations and holds the kids accountable to them.  No surprise - they step up and meet the bar.
Coaching the boys through the state championship game
This year Grant and his friends are freshmen.  The girls split off to their own team and the Freshmen Five moved on to a boys high school team that graduated their entire starting line up, minus two.  Everyone agreed this would be a re-building year for the boy's team.

Conditioning (in two hour segments times five days a week) started in mid-August.  The following week, the kids moved into Daily Doubles.  Practice started early (6:30 a.m.) and usually consumed five hours of each day.  That didn't include the ten miles per day of biking Grant, Dane and Raleigh rode to and from practices.  It was intense, but Grant never once complained. He loved the challenge, the discipline, and the muscles that quickly emerged. When school started, practice was six days a week.  After home games, Coach Jim has the boys do a full swim set.  These kids are in the best shape of their lives!
Fast forward five years and this is what those "little boys" look like now. 
Lots of hours spent carpooling with these hooligans.  I love them all like they're my own.  That's me, Grant, Dane and Raleigh after the district tournament.
Coach Jim is a great judge of talent and has vision for how to sculpt his team.  He knows when to push the kids harder and when to give them a break.  He definitely lets them know when they screw up, but he also has frequent words of praise for a job well done. During games he often paces the pool deck yelling out plays and instructions.  The kids know to listen for his voice and do what he says.  They respect him and it shows.

Last year the Newberg High School boys won the 6A state title against arch rival Southridge with a powerhouse lineup of mostly seniors. No one thought the boys had a chance at repeating as state champions.

Never underestimate what a crowd of kids who are willing to work hard can do.  

A team heavy with freshmen showed up this season ready to play and hungry to win.  They had something to prove. Wilson was the starting varsity goalie while Dane and Zach started in the field.  Raleigh was first off the bench with Grant following.

The older boys were incredible. If they were frustrated about having such young players, they never showed it.  Instead they poured into their new teammates - working hard in the early weeks to gel as a team and making all the boys feel like they were part of something bigger than themselves.  They were Newberg Nation.

In the pre-season the boys lost a nail-biter to a bigger, older Barlow team, losing by one goal.  It lit a fire under them and they didn't lose again to an Oregon team the entire season! Our boys entered the 6A Oregon state water polo championship tournament undefeated in league play! No one predicted that.

The boys won their way through the state tournament to the championship game.  Guess who they matched up against?  Barlow.  The only Oregon team to hand them a loss this season.
Team Photo after the won the state semi-finals game and earned a spot in the championship game.
To add to the drama, our girls team went undefeated all season as well.  Their roster was the opposite of the boys - top heavy with seniors who were playing their last games together at the state tournament with only Hannah and Mackenzie representing the freshmen class.   In a crazy twist of fate, the girls also were matched up against Barlow in the championship game. A big showdown between two great programs was in store.

Our boys came out strong, scoring four quick goals to end the first quarter 4-0.  Barlow played hard, but our boys never let them get close.  We won the state championship match 14-5!  When the All Tournament Team was announced, Wilson made the First Team -as a Freshman.  His teammates and the parents in the crowd went crazy. In fact five of our seven starters worked their way onto the All Tournament teams, with Tyler Bell earning the MVP.  It was magical.
Team Captains retrieving the trophy
2015 6A State Champions!

Look at Wilson's team celebrating when they announced he was the First Team All Tournament Goalie.
The girls game was the complete opposite.  Barlow came out strong, scoring three goals before we scored one.  The score at the half was 2-5 in Barlow's favor. Our girls played fierce defense against an equally fierce Barlow team and slowly but surely battled back, tying the game then going ahead by one in the fourth quarter.  The score was 6-5 in Newberg's favor with thirty-three seconds left when Barlow scored to send the game into overtime.  It came down to conditioning and our girls wore down Barlow, scoring three goals in the last three minutes to win the state title 9-6.  It was INTENSE and EXCITING.  Four of the Newberg Girls team players also earned spots on the All Tournament Team.  I'm still trying to come down off the adrenaline high!
Girls 6A State Champions 2015
WELL DONE BOYS AND GIRLS!  You make us all so proud.  I can't wait for next year.

#newbergnation #gotigers #waterpoloisnotforwimps #statechampions

You know I can't end this post without drawing a parallel to life.

So often we face challenges that seem insurmountable.  There appears to be no way out, around or through.  Well intentioned people may even be saying, "It's a rebuilding season. Don't plan to be successful."   Can I encourage you to not give up?

Keep showing up every day.

Get out of bed.  Sometimes that alone is a victory.

Choose joy in the face of heartache.

Hold tight to Jesus' hand.

Work hard.

Press in.

Don't quit.

You will get through this.  And you'll make yourself and everyone who loves you proud in the process.

#lifelessonsfromsports #yourewelcome #lifeisnotforwimps

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Olallie Lake - The Best Accidental Camping Trip of Our Life

Our "summer" was short.  Curt was in doctoral school and Grant and Alli were both playing water polo through mid-July. Grant resumed water polo in the second week of August, so our family only had a three week window of unplanned, summer days and open weekends.

The first weekend Grant, Katie and Alli were away at church camp leaving Curt, Paige, and me all by ourselves.  We loaded up our dogs and drove to Central Oregon to go camping.  We didn't have a reservation, but we stumbled upon a pretty campsite in the West South Twin Lake Campground.  Paige didn't get bored until the last day and we loved having her to ourselves.
Happy Church Campers
Happy Tent Campers
We hiked to South Sister Mirror Lake for a picnic lunch.

The following weekend Curt and I ran the Cascade Lakes Relay together.  It's a 216 mile relay race (split between twelve team members) that starts in Diamond Lake and finishes in Bend.  The entire race is run at elevation, through extreme temperatures, and a lot of altitude changes. Sounds crazy but it is a riot! My non-running husband "loved everything about it except the running."  He even agreed to do it again next year.

The Finish Line is so sweet.
Our third and final weekend of freedom was held for "CAMPING."  Curt normally chooses our camping weekends in January, researches campgrounds online, and reserves the Reservable Campsites the day they become available.  But this year was different.  We were on a What Needs to Happen Today basis.  There was no planning ahead, even for camping.  The Stilp Family is learning to wing it!

We all love Timothy Lake, a giant man-made lake in the heart of the Mt. Hood National Forest.  It boasts several campgrounds with big, private, beautiful sites and a thirteen mile trail around the perimeter of the lake.  I was salivating over the possibility of such a long trail run and the kids were anxious to get back to their favorite place to camp.  With so many campgrounds we were certain we could get a campsite, but we were wrong.

Gone Creek Campground - our favorite on Timothy Lake - was already full by 2 p.m. on Friday afternoon.  The campground host warned us that "every campground on the lake was full." We went to two more neighboring campgrounds - each further off the lake and deeper into the forest - with no luck.  Our Crew was restless and disappointed.

I have wanted to go to Olallie Lake since we moved to Oregon.  One of our friends painted vivid stories of the rugged beauty and the memories made camping there year after year as a child.  It sounded idyllic - a Must See in the land of beauty that is Oregon.  But Olallie Lake is remote - you really have to want to go there.

We were out of options in the Timothy Lake area so we drove 30+ miles of Forest Service Road to get to the Olallie Lake junction, where we drove another fifteen uphill miles to get to the Olallie Lake Scenic Area. Nine of those fifteen miles were on a gravel road through what appeared to be the middle of Nowhere.  Finally we came across a map of the area.  Seven campgrounds and even one resort dotted the map. We had hope again.

The first two campgrounds weren't open. We kept driving to the "resort" which was really a smattering of tiny red cabins on the edge of one of the most beautiful mountain lakes I have ever seen.  Mt. Jefferson - majestic and glorious - guarded the lake, while backpackers hiking the Pacific Crest Trail sat on the edge of the road reading and catching their breath.  It was like something straight out of a movie.

We talked to some hikers who assured us that a plethora of open campsites awaited us at Peninsula campground - another two miles around the lake and deeper into the wilderness.  They were right.  We scored a giant, private campsite right on the water's edge.  We had to park and pack all our stuff in about 1/4 of a mile from our car but it was well worth it because we pitched our tent right on the beach! Olallie Butte - the other prominent feature of the area - was directly across from our tent, beckoning us to come and explore.
first night sitting in our camp chairs.

that Olallie Butte and our tent on the beach. Plus my handsome men.

Katie (way in the distance on that log) exploring as the sun sets on that burned out area.

Sunset as seen from my camp chair.

There was a campfire ban so we met on the fishing dock to roast marshmallows over a propane fire, courtesy of the Resort staff.

Our tent - lit only by headlamps and the brilliant stars.

view from my cot inside the tent.
Our campground matched the surrounding wilderness: bare bones and rugged.  There was no potable water and only a few scattered pit toilets, but we liked it like that.  It had the rugged feel of backpacking without all the work.

Mornings on the peninsula were calm - quiet, smooth water with no hint of wind. But every afternoon, the water began to ripple and the wind began to stir.  It slowly increased to a steady hum in the tree tops that stayed throughout the entire night.  We retired early one night to our tent, all cozied in our sleeping bags listening to the wind and playing cards by the light of our headlamps.  It was just what our family needed.
Alli playing on Curt's phone

Paige - headlamp on the tent.

Katie being awesome.

Grant and Kimber snuggling.
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) - a hiking trail that starts in Mexico and finishes in Canada, goes right through the Olallie Lakes Scenic Area.  The trail junction was a mere 2 miles from our campsite. and we HAD to say we hiked the PCT. We hiked the trail three miles to Upper Lake - a scenic, quiet alpine lake that we had entirely to ourselves.  It was magical!
The PCT is marked with these signs on trees along the way.

happy Dusty

bathing in a snow melt alpine lake is FRIGID.  Here I am at Upper Lake trying to warm up on the sun soaked rock.

Oh Dusty - we love you.

Kimber and Grant - always in the lead.

Paigey about to give Kimber a treat.  Look at Dusty waiting too.

My Loves on the PCT - that's Mt. Jefferson.  Isn't she lovely?
We could have stayed a week in our paradise on the water's edge, but life forced us to pack up and come home.  Olallie Lake was THE BEST accidental camping trip of our life.  We will 100% be back again.  Thank you Jesus for teaching us to wing it and leading us to the perfect spot to unplug, unwind, and rest. We all agree these were the best three days of our summer.
the morning we left

That's a LOT of stuff to pack back up and out to the car.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

THIRTEEN - Celebrating Katie (a belated birthday post)

Katie - our oldest daughter - turned thirteen this summer and man did we celebrate! 
Katie Joy on her 13th birthday
Our Katie is... known by others for her kindness and sweet, gentle spirit.  She is a friend to all, super smart and studious. If her teacher asks her to give 100%, Katie gives 110%.  She loves Jesus of her own accord and not because we're raising her in the church.  Katie loves little kids and serves in the newborn and toddler room at church, but only likes to babysit if Alli comes with her. Katie is a competitive athlete, and hard on herself if she makes a mistake. She may be little, but she is fierce.  Don't get in her way on the lacrosse or soccer field.

Katie has a low tolerance for drama and has beautifully managed to avoid it almost entirely. She gently but firmly stands up for what is right and walks away from what is wrong.  Unlike most girls her age, she hates being on her phone.  Katie teaches me to put down my phone and engage in the world around me.  

Katie is creative and free-spirited.  She draws.  Writes stories and poems.  Makes up skits. Takes beautiful photographs with artistic perspectives.  She has definite opinions but doesn't always offer them freely.  Sometimes she makes you draw it out of her. Katie likes to plan ahead and hates being rushed. She thrives on having down time and prefers one-on-one time with her friends over group activities.

In many ways the two of us are like night and day.  Sometimes we clash.  Sometimes we don't understand each other.  But always we love each other.

For Katie's thirteenth birthday we updated her room.  She now has a Teenage Hideaway that she designed herself.  (She has great taste in design and style.)  
new room
For Katie's actual birthday, we went to the beach. We took the back road, stopped at a yard sale  that was NOT selling animals, and somehow came home with a bunny in a bird cage.  The kids TOTALLY used the "It's Katie's birthday.  It's Anything She Wants Day" to get me to say yes.  I still can't believe I said yes, but Finn Thumper Stilp is now living happily in our backyard.  Proof that I can be a pushover.
Birthday morning.  Lydia spent the weekend with us.

Gorgeous day at the beach for the birthday girl.

Grant and Alli with Finn, Kimber, and Dusty
In August we invited Katie's "Adult Friends" (her wording) to come over for a Coming of Age party.  The sole purpose of the party was to encourage Katie as she transitions into life as a teenager. We sat in the backyard as the sun faded away and each woman went around the circle blessing Katie, calling out the beauty and leadership skills they see in her or sharing a passage from the Bible that they wanted to speak over her. 
Birthday girl (in black)
see what I mean about being artsy?  Katie designed and made each of these notes that she wrote to her Adult Friends.
Katie doesn't love to be the center of attention so this was mildly uncomfortable for her, but the awkwardness melted away as she let herself bask in the glow of affirmation.  We all need to be told what we're doing well.  

When each woman had a chance to share, we gathered around my Girl and prayed over her.  We asked God to take all these beautiful gifts and talents that make Katie who she is and use them to advance His Kingdom.  To bring light to Katie's corner of the world.  We asked God to remind Katie how deeply loved she is.  That she is chosen.  Loved by God.  Equipped. And supported.

I fought back tears of joy pretty much the entire evening.  When we moved to Newberg seven years ago I asked God to bring a few women into my life who would love my kids well.  

God gave me an army.  

Women of all ages and generations are standing with us in this oh-so-important task of raising kids who love Jesus. Women who see qualities in my kids that I often overlook.  Women who model to me how to be gentle and how to be slow to speak, quick to listen and slow to get angry. "Thank you" doesn't seem adequate.

As if that wasn't enough, Katie and I escaped for a weekend away, just the two of us.  We hibernated in my friend's BEAUTIFUL log cabin in the heart of the Mt. Hood National Forest and talked - about life, growing up, peer pressure, puberty, purity and how following Jesus fits into all of that.  #awkward, only it wasn't awkward at all.  It was fun.  We followed a curriculum called Passport to Purity that was surprisingly 99% cheesy-free, totally relevant, and paved the way to talk more intimately together.  Katie and I both needed this connecting point.  
One of the crafts from Passport to Purity that drove home the point that we become like who we hang around with.
When we weren't talking we were either watching movies, eating, or exercising. We ran together and hiked the Tamawana Falls trail. It was such a pretty trail, following a river two miles through a gorgeous forest to a pretty waterfall.  We both loved everything about the hike and came back into town ready for some good Italian food.  Neither one of us wanted to come home.

can you find Katie?

Happy happy birthday Sweet Girl.  I can't thank God enough for giving you to us.  Welcome to your teens.  I know you're going to rock them.