Journaling Through the Valley . . . and finding JOY in the morning!

Location: MICHIGAN, United States

Thank you for stopping by. It's my hope you find glimpses of my Savior interwoven thru my writings. I am the wife to one husband for over 25 years, a blessed mama to a dozen children, yes each born from me ~ two of which see Jesus face to face & ten at home, all of us yearning to see Jesus someday. We have been home educating for over 18 years with . . . well, another 15 years to go (the youngest is 3, the oldest 23!) I have walked through rejection, to continually learning I am CALLED, LOVED and forever KEPT by God - never, ever to be rejected by Jesus! (Jude 1:1) I've walked through deep sorrow to find that joy does come again, though the night may be long; I've witnessed God orchestrating miracles with my children still beyond my comprehension, & I am seeing new love forming as we begin a new road of older children finding life mates. My life has and is a journey, from the deepest, almost rock bottom pit, to stumbling through my faith and looking towards the ultimate climax of everlasting life in heaven. Will you be joining me here and there? ~ Loni

Saturday, April 30, 2005

20 weeks - Signs of Life

"As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God."
Psalm 42:1

It was a day of seeing God's caring hand in the "small" things of our lives today. A local coffee shoppe that we like to go to was having an anniversary "kid's day" which they do every year. They usually have a "smoke house" which is a small mobile type home kids can go through and learn about fires and how to crawl along the floor when fake smoke goes through it. They usually have an ambulance there and the kids can go in it and see the various parts of it, how to give CPR, and hear the siren. The kids were looking forward to it (actually the older two did not want to go, more being "too old" for it). Norm and I were not looking forward to seeing the local ambulance. It just brings those dreaded minutes back. Norm especially was not going to go, but I was able to talk him into it. Well, the ambulance was not there as usual and we were thankful and relieved, and had an enjoyable time out with the children. The little ones liked the little talking robotic fire hydrant.

Later Norm & I made a quick "quiet" run and as we came out of the store, there was "that ambulance". It just seemed strange that we did not see it earlier, and here it was just outside the door, and had to walk right by it. Such memories from that day. We talked, had some tears (again) and decided to stop at the cemetery on the way home. We don't do this often, but we have to set some cement there soon for the gravestone to be on, so we thought while we were thinking of it, we'd stop. Seeing that dry dirt, no grass yet, next to Angela's gravestone, of course, brings that awful sting back. We held each other's hands tight as we walked up to the gravesite. And then, we saw, fresh, deer tracks across his grave. Matthew loved finding the deer tracks in the woods. He loved being outdoors. Then by Angela's gravestone I noticed some soft gray fur. I moved some of it and it just blew away. I noticed some more by the corner of her gravestone, and then realized I saw a little bunny's ears just underneath. I didn't touch it. It looked like it's eyes were already open. We could only see one. But it just seemed to touch both Norm and I. LIFE

As we were going back to our car, Norm looked back, past the cemetery and told me too look. We saw two deer run in the distance. It was just such a neat, calm, consoling sight - seeing God's creation - at the right time - signs of life - signs of His gifts for us - His way of saying "You CAN find me - I am here".

Psalm 42

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

My tears have been my food
day and night, while men say to me all day long,
"Where is your God?"

These things I remember as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go with the multitude,
leading the procession to the house of God,
with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
among the festive throng.

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,

for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

By day the LORD directs His love,
at night His song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,
"Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?"

My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
"Where is your God?"

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise Him,
my Savior and my God.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

One Day At A Time

How are YOU doing?

I am asked this just about every day. I just got a new thin silver bracelet, and all around it, it says, "one day at a time". That's where we are at. I've known the verse for many years, “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34), yet it's easy to worry how we will get through another day, all the firsts, up coming events. The other day after quite a few rough days, I made the comment to Norm, "we made it through another day". And, "one day at a time" is realistic.

We still have so many firsts. Yesterday was our children's AWANA awards. Our daughter Heidi received her "third book award". This is where I can push on the advantages of homeschooling. She is one that really struggled when first starting. She had a little bit of a lisp, and got frustrated with everyone correcting her. She thought she'd never learn to read, and was in tears often those first few years. The other comparison for HER, is that she is a twin, and it always appeared her twin did so much better. Heidi is competitive and strong-willed, which helped her keep moving forward. Her twin, Heather is more carefree and though she did great with her book this year, she helped more with the younger kids, and just did not finish. So they BOTH did great, but just neat to see the rewards of homeschooling even with this where Heidi would have been labeled.

Last year we remember the AWANA awards well, and Stephen and Matthew each gave their testimony. I did good getting through the program, concentrating on each of the children as they got their awards and prizes. Then, seeing Stephen and Jayson up there, without Matthew, brought that lump back. There were no testimonies from that group this year, which for their sake, probably is good, as it would have been quite emotional for them.

Yesterday Norm was cleaning up the yard, and around Matthew's car, which Stephen used after his accident, before he got his new truck. But now it sits there. Norm was cleaning around yard, picking up lots of depris from the winter, and came in and told me he was ready to sell Matthew's car. It's too hard to have that just sitting there. Today we did a little garage saling. One time it struck me when we saw some nice clean shoes, size 11, Matthew's size - again that lump. But, I was concentrating mostly on what the children needed. Later Norm asked me on how much I thought of Matthew while garage saling, and I said, really not much, except for the shoes. He said for him, it was hard again - just all the "material things" that really have no meaning compared to eternity, and the great, great responsibility we have. The other stuff has lost so much meaning. Our fun garage saling ventures at this time are a lot more low key.

So, we are taking one day at a time. We've not done as much with the remodeling because of puppy business, schooling, and doctor/ortho appointments (Jayson's jaw is still locking up a lot - please pray regarding this, because the ortho does not feel we have many more options, and he may need surgery). We keep busy, and are trying more and more to get more personal with the children. We don't have a second chance.

This is something I read today, and even something my father-in-law encouraged me with yesterday, and will end it with this.

From GRACE TO YOU - by John MacArthur

God gives you the glorious gift of life today; live in the light and full joy of that day, using the resources God supplies. Don’t push yourself into the future and forfeit the day’s joy over an anticipated tomorrow that may never happen. Today is all you really have, for God permits none of us to live in tomorrow until it turns into today.

Understand this: God gives you strength one day at a time. He gives you what you need when you need it and doesn’t encumber you with excess baggage. Perhaps your worst fear is how you’d handle a loved one’s death. Let me assure you as a pastor who has kept watch over many Christians finding themselves in that situation, this is the attitude I most often encounter: “It is so wonderful how God has sustained me! I naturally miss my beloved, but I feel such incredible strength and confidence and a gladness in my heart that my loved one is with the Lord.” God gives us His grace in the hour we need it. If we worry about the future now, we double our pain without having the grace to deal with it.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever” (Heb. 13:8). That means He will be doing the same thing tomorrow that He was doing yesterday. If you have any question about the future, look at the past. Did He sustain you then? Don’t worry—He will sustain you in the future as well.

Adapted from Anxiety Attacked, © 1993 by John MacArthur. All rights reserved

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


You may have read this already, as I've read it several times in forwarded e-mails, but brought on a little different meaning as I read it today . . .

I Wish You Enough

Recently at an airport, I overheard a father and daughter in their last moments together. They had announced her departure and standing near the security gate, they hugged and he said, "I love you, I wish you enough."

She in turn said, "Daddy, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed, I wish you enough too, Daddy." They kissed and she left.

He walked over toward the window where I was seated. Standing there, I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, "Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?"

"Yes, I have," I replied, "forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?" I asked.

"I am old and she lives much too far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is, the next trip back would be for my funeral," he said.

"When you were saying good-bye I heard you say, 'I wish you enough', may I ask what that means?"

He began to smile. "That's a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone." He paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, he smiled ever more. "When we said, 'I wish you enough,' we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them," he continued and then turning toward me he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough "Hello's" to get you through the final "Good-bye."

Tears filled his eyes and he walked away.

And so,
I wish you enough.
(author unknown)

(but without God we don't have enough, or have eternal secturity)

"Moment in Time" Poem


I often wonder what it would be like to travel the long dusty roads
The exact ones where my precious Savior walked
I can see it in my mind now
Thousands of people gather ‘round
To listen to His stories
What if I was in the crowd?
Jesus mingled with the lame and meek
He hung with people like me
Even though the holy people said it was a shame
The lame longed to be made whole
The blind longed to see
All of the sudden the crowd stopped
Their mouths gaped open
A woman came crawling down the dirt covered street
With every move she made
You could see she was in pain
What if that woman was me?
Longing to get a glimpse of this Jesus
What would it be like to touch the hem of His robe?
Would my faith have been enough?
I wonder what it would have been like if it was me who touched His robe
For just a moment in time, would the world stop?
Would everything go in slow motion as I scramble to my feet?
How would people react?
Would Jesus stop so I could catch a glimpse
Of the man who would soon shed His blood for me?
I wonder what it would feel like to run
Or dance
In that moment in time would I fall to His feet?
Would I finally feel free?
Free enough to fly?
Oh how I wish I could have a moment in time such as this
To touch His robe
And look my Savior in the eye
And finally be able to dance in freedom's song.


Sunday, April 24, 2005

19 weeks - Still Hurting & Growing

It's been a long week. Many ups - but more downs. We are still trying to find this "new normal" and there's so many adjustments, we just never realized. I often read the obituaries - I've done this for years especially since our stillborn daughter, and will send a card to a bereaved family. Last week I read an interesting memorial in the obituary section. The husband wrote in memory of his wife, and mainly stated after first losing her, all they could thing of was the wonderful, loving times, but as time has gone on, the rough, bitter days come back too, yet their love was unconditional, and they made it through those days too. I think when we first went through the shock of losing Matthew, we all clung on to each other, wanted to uplift each other and bear each another's burdens. We were at the beginning, all at the same point, but as time goes on, we are finding how we are each grieving differently, and things that may not have been "settled" before Matthew died, still are not, and are a bigger issue, that take a lot more out of us to try to break the barriers and work out. So, it's definitely not been easy, and am thankful for close friends and our pastor who have been very available to us. It's easy to close ourselves off at times to other friends (especially me) just not wanting the openess and revealing the pain we are truly going through. I know some of my friends and family read this, and wonder why I share here, and though I certainly don't give the itty-bitty details of the failures and trying times we have gone through, I like to write, I want to be able to look back and see how God carried us, and want others who I don't even know, know that as a true Believer in Jesus, that I have emotions that are deep, and that I can weep as those that weep, and maybe it will help another person to know, they can carry on despite the valleys we fall into. We aren't alone. Also, my husband reads what I write, and there have been times, certain things have quickly come off that I have written! :)

Nope, life is not easy. God did not promise us that. But, I know we will make it. After church today, Norm put his arms around me and said though this was one of the worst past weeks, he thinks we made some progress and broke through some communication gaps, and we WILL make it. I know we will. Too many are praying for us, and we made a commitment to God and our family. Continue praying for us, and our children. The wounds are still raw, but we are so wanting for the healing to continue.

In going along with this, a mom recently left a comment here, who lost her husband 2 years ago, leaving behind his wife, a 3 year old and she was 8 months pregnant. I've not had a lot a time to look through her website in memory of her husband, but what I've read has been very encouraging. Her husband also published a book, Proverbs for your Life. It sounds very interesting.

PS - Please read the first comment (there is only one as I write this - does NOT mean any others are not important!!) that was left with this post. We have gotten many personal e-mails regarding families learning the game Matthew played and finding out their children or others they know are experimenting with it also. I don't take this as a "pat on the back", but that God is allowing our journey to help other families. We do believe good can come out of this, for eternities perspective.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


(This is my article for the "on-line" homeschool convention)


I never really thought of our homeschooling years directly as memory making time. Oh, I knew it in the back of my mind (I take lots of pictures), but our main focus through the years, was to teach our children “differently”, to be able to focus on them individually where their strengths and weakness are, to guard their hearts and minds, and to be able to work with “our schedule” which with my husband working second shift for most of our homeschooling years, he would not have seen them during the week had they been sent away to school, and we know how important a dad’s influence is on a family.

The last four months, however, I treasure our homeschooling years as I never imagined. I certainly do not regret for one minute we chose to homeschool. These years have made special memories, and am so thankful for all the time our children have been home and not spending more time away from us rather than at a school. I’ve been catching up on two scrapbooks, one for my oldest son, Stephen, who just turned 18 and may be graduating soon, and the other for my second son, Matthew, who died on December 11, 2004. Though there are such mixed emotions putting these two scrapbooks together, many of our memories are focused around our homeschooling years – from the first day each child “did school”, to pictures of our special family fieldtrips, to the precious growth in their writings – these are my treasure pieces.

I am a blessed mom with 9 children on earth, 3 miscarried babies, a stillborn daughter, Angela Hope, and our “forever 16” year old son, Matthew, forever in God’s glory. I remember starting school with Stephen and Matthew, when I was not stretched as thin, and loving all our “unit studies”, many trips to the library, and science experiments. I loved it, yet, there were struggles, and remember clearly when I was ready to give up. Matthew struggled more with math than Stephen did. Both Matthew and I were in tears - both of us ready to tare up the math book. I called my husband at work, clearly distraught. He encouraged me to put the math book away – possibly for even a year, and work with Matthew’s other strengths. At first that went against me – I was not being a good homeschool mom, not teaching my child math! But we are homeschooling – we are suppose to be flexible, and I listened to my wise and understanding husband (probably not cheerfully at first!). Many months later when we got Matthew’s math book out, it “clicked” with him, and he understood the concepts so much more clearly, and even caught up to his older brother in a short amount of time. The look of joy in his face that he could do it was rewarding for both of us. Another advantage of homeschooling – instead of being labeled “slow” or put in special education classes.

As I go through hundreds of pictures over the last 18 years, 13 of these years homeschooling, what precious memories. How thankful I am for our “family” homeschool fieldtrips, that we could enjoy learning together with our children. The bonds that were made with the children as they helped each other (and me) with their schooling and correcting some of each others work, are memory keepsakes. After Matthew died, we had so many things to go through, including his 11 years of schoolbooks. How precious to find his little “love notes” in some of his earlier years of books to me (and mine to him). How many teachers can write “I love you son” on their school work? There was also another very special note we found to his sister, Jessica (now 8). Jessica had two open heart surgeries after her first birthday, and spent 10 weeks in ICU. Matthew spent many days reading to her at her bedside, and also doing schoolwork either in the Ronald McDonald House or in her room. In going through his notebooks I found a big, red colored heart, with “I love Jessica” printed on it. Oh, what a treasure for all of us, but quite a treasure for Jessica to know his love for her. He prayed so much for her.

One of my favorite verses in Scripture is Luke 2:19 – “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” As we get so involved in the busyness of life, homeschooling, laundry, discipline, making meals, do we have the joy in teaching our children, cherishing the time God has given with each child, and treasuring and pondering these things in our heart? I challenge you to bring the joy into homeschooling, make memories, hug your child when he does great on a page or is frustrated with learning how to write a hard cursive letter. Take pictures. Go on more fieldtrips. Are you a tired mom who did not get much sleep last night? Have a snuggle reading book day – just sit with the children, low stress and see how many books you can read together. You probably can cover several subjects! Start planting a garden with them, and enjoy God’s beauty in life and treasuring with them the new life in plants and flowers. Encourage your children to write a journal. Oh, how I treasure my children’s journals – seeing the changes in their writing, and growth in their lives and spirit. Even if they write one time a week, what memories you are storing away, for generations to come.

Our main goal in our homeschooling is raising our children to be godly men and women, “That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.” (Psalm 78:6,7). Through our homeschooling years, we are helping mold our children’s hearts and minds, and prayfully they will follow God. So, someday, if you are putting a scrapbook together for your child’s special birthday, graduation, wedding or sadly, even a memory book as we are doing, you can thank God for the treasured memories and all the time you spent with them and what can be passed on from generation to generation.

©Loni Vander Stel 2005

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

More Firsts & "420"

This was something Norm was dreading, yet, we like to do - barbecuing. Matthew loved to barbecue - and liked doing some cooking (had his own "secret ingredient" bean dip we miss). But during the summer months, like most typical families, we like to barbecue and eat outside. Matthew took over this for the most part, and Norm especially was dreading doing it, yet, we need to continue and start making new memories. He even talked about getting a new grill - because ours is old & we have had to buy several replacement parts for it, but yet can't justify spending the money on it. Norm did grill tonight & know Norm had that lump again in his throat. He never asked one of the other boys to do it - probably didn't want to see the pain on their face either. He made great hamburgs and we did have a good time outside. Norm was kinda quiet. Later we had a good conversation just with Stephen outside. It's neat as the children become "adults" and can have talks and share opinions and concerns, see how our children are growing.

We learned something new today. Maybe we are "too sheltered" and nieve with some things but Stephen keeps hearing the term "four twenty" at his automotive class, and thought maybe it was related to drugs. We were a little nervous what he was hearing, and privately did a websearch, concerned about what we would find out. Our search brought us to the about parenting teens website and shows how there's different myths with its, such as, there are 420 chemicals in marijuana, April 20th is National Pot Smokers Day, April 20th is Hitler's birthday, April 20th is the anniversary date of Columbine, 4:20 is a tea time for pot smokers in Holland, but this on the webpage summerized it well:

"Simply put, 420 is a symbol of cannabis and its culture. Today, April 20th events are international, and 4:20 pm has become sort of a world wide "burn time". It certainly doesn't matter too much where the term came from because for us parents, it's a flag, a warning sign that our teenagers may be into something that could harm their future. When you see the symbol 420, be aware of what it represents. "

Stephen has heard kids mention this 420, seen it written on walls, so it's another things to be aware of, if your children say, or hear others using this term. Wish we didn't have to know though!

Well, the thunder is rumbling as the much needed rain is approaching, so I better end this and get the computer shut off before the lightening does it!

Monday, April 18, 2005

Starting a Book Review

I enjoy reading, and especially lately, it really helps me to distract from thinking of all the past months . I am doing a couple different women's type Bible studies, that I try to do in the afternoon or early evening. With the ladies from my church I am doing, A Woman's High Calling by Elizabeth George & with some friends, The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace.

So, at night before going to sleep I usually try to read to help distract from the days stresses (or past months). I just found out about Mind & Media - Publicity with Faith, which is for bloggers to do reviews on books (sometimes movies and other media) on their own blog. If a blogger agrees to do this, and has enough visitors on their site, the blogger can choose a book from Mind & Media's list, receive it for free, read it, and do a review on it! (There are a few other details, which you can read on the Mind & Media site). I've been "approved", and will be receiving my first book soon - Levi's Will by W. Dale Cramer. By what Bethany House Publishers says about the book, it sounds like a book I will thoroughly enjoy. It's somewhat about the Amish, and we have a lot of Amish people in our area, and I find them interesting people. It's also about rejection and judmentalism, which I have dealt a lot with in my childhood years. I am looking forward to getting it and sharing it with you too!

The Mind & Media website is very nice and have been very impressed with the owner, Stacy. She is not just "all business" but is an encourager, quotes very appropriate Scripture verses, and gives updates on the exciting things that are happening with new books and publishers (and even tells about some of their blogs and links to them!). If you are who likes to read and have a blog, this sounds like a great opportunity to have great (Christian) books to read, and be able to share and promote it to others.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Going to our first Funeral Visitation - a child's

Today we went to the first funeral visitation since Matthew's death (a few we have already avoided, since they were at the same funeral home), and this one was also for a child - a 13 year old girl. My husband worked with the father for many years and share the same faith.

If you live in the area you may have heard or read in the news of this young girl, Faith, who was rollerblading with her family and collapsed as they were getting into their van. She died later at the hospital of a rare, undetected heart birth defect. We visited the family today, and know the fog they are in, when everything seems to be a cloud around, and you just go on with the motions as though someone is leading you along. So much is a blur, and is forgotten. We were thankful to be able to "weep with those that weep" and try to encourage them.

As so many check back to pray for us, please pray for Mark & Linda Taber and the 2 siblings and extended family.

Also, our "baby" Bethany (almost 2) has been running a fever, spiking sometimes to 104 for the last 24 hours. You'd think after "all those kids" it would not un-nerve me, but I hate it, and keep checking her temp and breathing. Prayfully, it's just a virus, and she will be over it soon. But it makes for long nights, and a clingy child during the day.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

18 Weeks - LIFE

It was another one of those up and down days that anything could catch us off guard. Norm & I both had one of those days and had to be encouraging to each other to think of all we have and LIFE - 9 children so dependant on us yet, for leadership, love, and encouragement. LIFE - that we see coming alive after our long Michigan winter. We talked about really looking for LIFE - to brighten things up - yet not forgetting - how could we?

The day started out going to meet with Norm's uncle to pick out the gravestone - color, size, etc. I think the more emotional time for both of us was before - once again the anticipation that we never imagined having to pick out another gravestone for one of our children. We finalized it with a slanted gravestone in an Indiana Red color - flecks of grays and reds. Red was Matthew's favorite color. Jayson was one that went with us, and really wanted to be apart of it, and agreed whole heartedly which one was the "right one". Again it tugs at my heart that one of my children also has to go through this pain of being a part of choosing a gravestone for a brother.

Our puppy business was busy today, with calls and a couple of sales, so we are thankful for that. Jayson also does so well with this, and helps greatly with easing some of the continual non-stop busyness that can happen with a home business. Norm & I got out later, did some grocery shopping and ran into a neighbor that did not know about Matthew and two others that did know and greeted us with hugs and tears. So often people wonder what to say or do when there's a deep pain going on in someone else's life, and I can tell you from our experience, that "just a hug" or "we care" or "we continue to pray" - though short words, means a lot to know someone still remembers. The avoiding hurts more. The verse to "rejoice with those that rejoice and weep with those that weep" - both can take place in a moments time.

Tonight, though, we all had a rush of "that day" as police sirens screamed down our road. We live in the country and rarely do we hear sirens. The last time was December 11th. Tonight it sucked the breath out of us, as we saw numerous ones go by. We don't know what happened. I prayed another family is not going through the same pain. We didn't see an ambulance, so prayfully, that is good. But it bothered all the children, even Katie (almost 4). And then I am reminded of:

" . . . whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."

It's so easy to let our minds wander. Before Jayson went to bed I asked him how he was doing, especially after the sirens, and he surprised me with, "I don't understand why we get so sad, when Matthew just couldn't have it any better, and this part of our lives is nothing compared to FOREVER in heaven."

Friday, April 15, 2005

For those that Homeschool - On-Line Convention (free!)

This will just be a quick note, but think this is a great idea and a wonderful way of sharing on-line with other homeschoolers and it does not cost anything!

The idea of this on-line convention is to "write about anything you want related to home educating, parenting, family life, why you home educate, or whatever else comes to your mind. The only requirement is that you must home educate or plan on doing so... The deadline for submissions will be Wednesday, April 20, 2005 at 12:00 Noon. (EST). But if you can send them in early if you would like. Maybe I'll list them by the order in which they were received."

So, check out this on-line convention, and register to be a part of it!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Working on Gravestone

We have been working with Norm's cousin on Matthew's gravestone and how we want it to look. We thought we had it pretty much settled, and then started showing the children. Like I mentioned in my last post, seeing it "etched in stone" makes the reality more real, once again. Seeing that birth AND death date, hits at the heart. But we were surprised by one of our boys last night. Jayson (15.5) saw the design and really liked it. But then he began questioning how big it was going to be compared to Angela's little gravestone. Hers is just a small flat light pink-toned marker. Simple. We were planning on having Matthew's a little bigger, mainly so we could fit more wording on, yet still flat, with a slight tilt to it. Gravestones are expensive. The one we are planning on is over $600 and this is a "low cost" one. We had a friend over at the time too, when we were talking about this, and Jayson called me aside, and with tears in his eyes pleaded to have something bigger for his brother, that can be seen more, and may some other Bible verse on it. I told him that financially, we just cannot do that, and he said he has $300 saved up and he'd be willing to give us that to get more of a stand up type. He really wants this. It just touched Norm's and my hearts so much. It's not that he wants a "material" thing, but really wants his loved brother remembered. Prayfully Jayson and his siblings will visit this cemetary many years after we are gone, and he will be able to tell his children about Matthew and the many wonderful memories. We still are not exactly sure what we are going to do, and have to personally visit the monument company to see the variety, and what we can do, and Jayson especially wants to go. It just touched our hearts.

What we have planned so far, is of course, Matthew's full name, birth/death dates, and we have two lines from the MercyMe song, "I Can Only Imagine"on it (here are the words to the song) . Matthew does not "imagine" anymore, so we are using "Surrounded by God's Glory" and "Forever Worshipping Him". You can see our "rough draft" but it's a little fuzzy but you can get the general idea.

It's been neat though to see our children involved, and probably part of the healing, and working with us on this.

On January 23, just a week after our boys' truck accident, our pastor spoke from Joshua 24, and the 27th verse really stuck out to me, and I marked in my Bible and "claimed" after their accident, also goes along with "Matthew's story":

"Joshua said to all the people,
'Behold, this stone shall be for a witness against us,
for it has heard all the words of the Lord which He spoke to us;
thus it shall be for a witness against you, so that you do not deny your God.' "

I thought often of this verse after the boys' accident, and how God's mercy and grace let them not only live, yet come out remarkably well. We have so much to thank God for. Then, as I mentioned before there was just an accident at the same corner, and several were killed. We go by this intersection to and from church, and see the crosses and flowers there now in memory of those that were killed. After our pastor shared this verse and spoke of it, I wished we could put a big billboard up there, giving God the glory for saving their lives - our "stone as a witness". But, now with working on Matthew's gravestone, it's another type of witness, which he would want, and we certainly want. Despite all that has happened, we won't deny God. Matthew's stone will be as a witness until God makes the new earth.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Some rough days . . .

It's been a couple rough, emotional, bickering, pouty, insecure, soul-searching, teary, sad days. I am sure a lot can be read into that - and whatever you think, it's probably happened! Things from the past that did not get resolved, seem bigger now. Oh, we will make it, and Norm & I dearly love each other and are the best of friends, but life hurts, and it's easy to pick on each other - the people you love the most. We are dedicated to our children, who too, add to the tensions, who are also insecure, and life is just at a low right now for several of us. Norm & I spoke to our pastor for several hours, and he was so loving and kind, and cried with us, and told us we are probably not even through the worst days yet, yet, we will grow through this. The growing pains are real tough right now. Can we just go into a "hibernating" state right now? It hurts to see our children hurt, have "normal" disappointments with friendships and life in general, but things seem more magnified right now, and to encourage them and not fall into the same low with them.

So please pray.

We are "working on" Matthew's gravestone right now with one of Norm's cousins who works for a momument company. Several of the kids had a hard time seeing that. Just another realistic, "written in stone" finality. To see his name - the birth date and death date. It's real - but we just don't want it to be. We had some dentist appointments today, and I had Melody (5), Jessica (8) and Heidi (13) with me. I asked them if they wanted to go to the cemetary, and they did. I said I was not forcing them, but Heidi was the only one of those with me that went to the burial. Jessica & Melody had not see it yet. It brough another realisim. To see the dirt ground, the shape of his casket. To see little Angela's stone next to his, knowing soon we will have one for him there too. The "freshness" of the grave - new dirt having just been put down - and grass seed on top - so very real. We all had our arms around each other, crying. Then sweet Melody - this childlike faith - said "let's pray here mom - right now". So we sat down on the ground, and thanked Jesus for Matthew, and asked Him to continue healing our hearts, and to tell Matthew we loved him and missed him, and to give him a big hug for us. These are heartbreaking, yet bittersweet moments.

Hug your kids today.

Norm continues to work on the remodeling. We've not had as much help lately with so many sicknesses that had gone around, and then the nice weather, people want to get outside. I know he is getting worn from doing the remodeling, and just wants it done. He's been getting some small engine repair jobs (lawnmowers) and we have a litter of puppies to sell. So this is good. But, we can get overburden, over frazzled, and too much on our plates with doing so much, so we are trying to cut some things out that we can, slow down, and spend more time just being WITH/INVOLVED with the kids. I've been getting quite a few bracelet orders for Mother's Day already (don't forget dads and kids - it's NEXT MONTH!!), and the girls can help me more with that - especially stringing them after I get the patterns laid out. But we seem to get too much too do, and it becomes stressful, and life seems like whirlwind, so we are trying to reprioritize. Not easy!

Keep praying for us. The night is still here.

Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.
Psalm 30:5

Morning Will Come

How can I bear the pain?
So many plans...permanently interrupted.
So many dreams...shattered.
Hopes...dashed. All gone.
Why? Why this?
Why us? Why me?
Life will never be the same again.
Where are You, God?

I’m right here, beside you, My child.
Even though you may not feel My presence,
I’m hold you close under the shadow of My wings.
I will walk with you through this dark night.

Do not shrink from weeping.
I gave you tears for emotional release.
Don’t try to hide your grief.
Let it become for you a source of healing.
A process of restoration,
For I have planned it so.
Those who mourn shall be blessed.
I’ll be holding on to you,
Even when you feel you can’t hold on to Me.

See My face, child of Mine.
Receive My promise, impossible as it may seem now.
That joy WILL come in the morning.
It may take much time,
But I will heal your broken heart.
I know the night seems endless,
I have promised.

From Haven of Rest Newsletter

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Stephen is 18 - Our Busy Birthday Weekend!

It's been a busy couple of days! Our oldest child/son turned 18 yesterday, April 8th. It's hard to believe that I am a mom of an "adult" 18 year old "child". (Make sense?!?!?) Thursday night we went to Norm's parents (Noni & Papa) and had a wonderful home cooked dinner. Norm's mom always goes the extra mile when she makes a dinner - with lots of side dishes and several desserts to pick from.

Stephen opening present at grandparents.

The little ones had fun outside in Noni & Papa's playhouse and running all around and finding Noni's candy treats! :) It was a special time with them, but then again, we got that lump in our throats - Matthew would have had so much fun and would have LOVED all the food. Norm's parents have a small pool table and other games in their basement and Matthew always loved being competitive with his brothers with that. The kids mentioned that on the way home, how they had fun, but it was "different". But, we keep moving forward, making new memories.

Friday was Stephen's birthday. He still had to work at the horse stable in the morning. The little ones were SO excited for Stephen to get home. Melody (5) was carrying her stack of cards she made for him, and in tears at one point cuz she set them down "somewhere" and couldn't find them. After being located, she walked around again, and when Stephen got home she followed him outside and in the house until he would finally would look at it. He was a good brother and made a very big deal out of it! It worked out neat that our church had a "movie night" and we went to that in the evening.

This evening, Saturday, several of the kids from our church gave Stephen and his best friend, Ryan, who is 2 days younger, a surprise birthday party. (They have been friends since little babies & have grown up together). It was actually kept quiet even by our kids and they were totally surprised. Many times we get together with Ryan's family for the boy's birthdays, so this was not out of the norm, and we met at a restaurant, where there was quite a group and afterwards went bowling. The neat thing with the kids that our kids are with at church, is that even though they may call it a "youth group" it's the families and parents very involved in it. We went bowling with them, and the kids did not act at all like we were in the way, and really enjoyed themselves, having a good time. There was cake and little presents and the bowling alley even gave Stephen & Ryan a bowling pin with their names and birthday on it, and a gift certificate for some free bowling.

Stephen (forefront) & Ryan as 9 month old babies & Stephen (left) & Ryan at 18!

So, it's been a busy few days, little reminders of things being different, yet, still moving forward. I got Stephen's scrapbook photo album all updated and there's so many pictures of him and Matthew together. That's when that pang comes back a little harder for awhile.

We are very thankful for the 18 years God has blessed Stephen with and even more thankful that he spared him death in the accident in January. Yesterday there was another accident at that same exact intersection and 2 out of 3 people involved were killed. Stephen seems to be making good choices, involvd several Bible studies, has been a good testimony to kids in his automotive class, and keeps himself busy with some project (mainly cars & trucks). He's got good Christian friends and desires to be a godly man. Oh, he still gets some rebuking at times, but we have a LOT to be thankful for. He adores his little sisters especially and gives them a lot of attention.

So on to another week - another week of several dentist and ortho appointments. Jayson is still having major problems with his jaw since the accident, locking up for hours at a time. Some decisions further decisions will probably have to be made regarding this. Above all we would like to avoid jaw surgery. However the next step may be braces, and it will be a matter of convincing the automotive insurance that this is for his jaw and not a cosmetic "want".

And I cannot forget another highlight of the day! Jessica, Benjamin & Heather went fishing down the street from us at a stream. They love to do this. Benjamin caught 15 fish and Jessica caught her first one! She was pretty delighted!


This is from another blogger, Friday's Feast, who encourages this for getting to know other bloggers better. So I might occassionally on Friday's answer this! :)

Appetizer - What is a symbol that inspires you?
Combination of the Cross and Christian Fish Symbol together. My son who died wore this often, and now I have it on several jewelry pieces.

Soup - Name something (either serious or funny) that has happened in your life that you would consider a miracle.

Miracles - I could name so many, when I know without a doubt God was the one allowed the protection. Our daughter Jessica went through two open heart surgeries, and has now gone much longer than expected without another surgery. Another time, my husband was building and a large rafter board came down and hit our son in the head. He wasn't even knocked out. The accident our boys got in - they were SO protected by God - another miracle.

Salad - How do you handle criticism?

Not well.

Main Course - Complete this sentence: I feel alone when...

oooohhhh . . . that is a deep one - but probably the most when "I" feel others don't understand or when my husband and I get in a disagreement and aren't talking.

Dessert - Name one TV show you wouldn't want to be caught dead watching.
CSI - We think it's the one our son watched and learned about the breath game that killed him.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Christian Traditions "Test" Results

Quite a few different Christian bloggers have been putting this on their site. It is an on-line test that can be taken to show where a person "fits" as far as Christian traditions. Here's my results!

1: Baptist (non-Calvinistic)/Plymouth Brethren/Fundamentalist (100%)
2: Anabaptist (Mennonite/Quaker etc.) (88%)
3: Methodist/Wesleyan/Nazarene (80%)
4: Baptist (Reformed/Particular/Calvinistic) (70%)
5: Congregational/United Church of Christ (67%)
6: Seventh-Day Adventist (67%)
7: Pentecostal/Charismatic/Assemblies of God (61%)
8: Presbyterian/Reformed (51%)
9: Church of Christ/Campbellite (50%)
10: Lutheran (48%)
11: Eastern Orthodox (38%)
12: Anglican/Episcopal/Church of England (35%)
13: Roman Catholic (20%)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Another First Hits our Hearts

We went to the vet today, for the first time since Matthew died. We have gone to this vet hundreds of times over the past 10 years, many times with Matthew, and the last year he had a lot of his practice driving time to the vet with Norm, and then last fall he did a lot of the visits by himself or with a brother, to help me out. He took his dog's pups in short before he died (Chocolate lab).

We have been doing our home business, Puppy Halfway House for over 10 years, and going to the same vet throughout this time. We have adopted out probably close to a thousand puppies. Norm & I went to the vet tonight - just ourselves. I guess without talking about it before, we were both bracing ourselves for this first. We had a long wait in the lobby, and Norm got a little choked up, think of Matthew when we first starting going - probably around 6 years old - that sweet, innocent age. He loved puppies and dogs. He grew up with them always around. We were the last customers for the vet, and he and his wife talked to us for quite sometime. They knew about Matthew dying, though did not know how, and we told them. They were well aware of this, and were so saddened of what our family has gone through. They really liked Matthew, and appreciated his kindness to them throughout the years. They watched him grow up. We are thankful for their care and even the hugs and understanding. Others feel the pain with us.

When we left, Norm & both had tears on the ride home, remembering. Just that stabbing ache again. Thankful for the times we went with him alone when he was taking driver's ed. Thankful for the memories. But, ohhhh that sting of death.

Stephen (5 - who will be 18 on Friday) & Matthew (4).

Monday, April 04, 2005

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

16 Weeks - Baby forgot his name

Tonight the kids were showing Bethany ("baby", 23 months) the individual pictures we have up of all the kids in our hallway. She could name them all - but Matthew. She just would be silent, and stare. Then the kids told her his name, and when she'd get to his picture again, she did say "Mash-u" in a whisper. The kids brought her to me, with one of Matthew's pictures, to show me. I think it bothered them too. She looked at his picture, and then at me, like she had confussion about it. I said "Matthew - he went bye-bye". She said "bye-bye" - and then said his name in a whisper. Kind of stabbed at the heart tonight. She won't remember him herself - just through our memories and showing her pictures. He adored her. This is when the ache really comes back.

I "met" a new friend today, a woman that has been e-mailing me that lives in the area that heard about Matthew. When Matthew was working at the variety store, he waited on her several times, and then she heard about him, and we've "talked" through e-mails. She lost a daughter in a car accident several years ago. Today Norm & I were at GoodWill, and a lady came up to me and asked me my name. I told her and she said she thought so, and told me her name. We immediately gave each other a hug. We share some of different things we are going through. She was kind and asked each Norm & I how we are doing. She has an empty home, and I am sure her days have been very difficult in the quietness, and so have appreciated her encouraging e-mails. She said she reads this blog too - I am glad I finally got to meet you, Linda. {{{ hugs }}}

Stephen got the engine out of the "crashed" truck and was able to finally move the truck into the back area of our property so we don't have the continual reminder of the accident, which seems to just associate with that 5 week period of time with Matthew's death and the truck accident. He has next week off from his auto class, but after that he can take his "new truck" into class with the engine and work on it there with all the tools the class has. I am so thankful he is able to keep busy. He is going to be 18 on April 8th. Hard for me to believe!

We lose an hour of sleep tonight with Daylight Savings, so I really should end this now, before my ramblings continue on and on!

Friday, April 01, 2005

Book Review

It's kind of funny to already see roles change. Now my twin daughters (13) recommend books to ME! I love to read, but don't have nearly the amount of time I use to. I have been reading more at night before going to sleep as it helps me to get my mind on other things. Lately I've been reading a series my girls introduced me to by Leisha Kelly. The first book is Julia's Hope, second book, Emma's Gift, and the third book is Katie's Dream. These series are about a family that moves because of hard times, and ends up finding a vacant home, and staying in it a night or two to get out of the bad weather. They find out who owns it and the old lady lets them live there. They are even able to bring her back to her home, and develop a special friendship. In the second book, there are numerous tragedies, but real life like things, and how they coped.

But, I find it once again, just God's touch, reading something at the right time, knowing He does indeed have His thoughts towards us and we are not forsaken. This part of the book touched me and maybe it will touch someone else reading this, at the right time. I am hoping though you don't know the story, (and I don't want to tell too much to take away from it so you know to much in case you read it), that you can still understand these paragraphs here.

From Emma's Gift, by Leisha Kelly

"Emma and Wila and my mother and Grandma Pearl and everyone else we've loved and lost. Dancing. Happy. With their hands in Jesus' hands.

It doesn't take away the pain of this world. But just knowing the outcome can stop the ache that comes in the middle of some lonely night, or can give you words to make a crying child smile again. God is faithful. Our shelter in the time of trouble. Our refuge in the time of storm.

We don't always know what He's given us. When we're deep in the hurt of some awful moment, we don't always know what good things God has prepared for the days ahead. But we do know so much of Himself has been given to our hands. To cherish. To rest in. And especially to share.

To everything there is a season. To dance. To laugh. To rejoice again. To pick up a child and go swirling around the room the way George did when he got swept up in the music. Life goes on. And on. For eternity. And just gets better, if we have each other. If we have God."