God is always working to make His children aware of a dream
that remains alive beneath the rubble of every shattered dream,

a new dream that
when realized will release a new song, sung with tears,

till God wipes them away
and we sing with nothing but joy in our hearts

--Larry Crabb

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Which way?

I told a friend the other day that I think someone may have opened my skull, removed my brain, and dumped a can of chicken soup in its place. Craig has stopped me mid sentence a few times to tell me that I had already told him something that I thought I was telling him for the first time. I cannot begin to accompany Craig to the grocery store without a list, and I have forgotten for days on end to return a phone call. I think what I miss most, though, is my sense of direction.
I don't leave the house alone too much except to go to doctor appointments. Three times lately I have gotten lost. Add this to the fact that I have been to each of these offices several times and it becomes embarrassing. A few weeks ago I was on my way home from seeing my MFS doctor (Maternal Fetal Specialist). There are exactly 5 turns involved in this trip. I was pretty confident that I could get home without the GPS (Bonnie), so she stayed off. After driving a reasonable distance I realized that none of my surroundings looked familiar. Hmmm. I drove on a little farther until there was a familiar road sign. Gratiot Road. What?!?! I had traveled a good 5 miles past where a turn needed to be made. Lucky for me, Bonnie warmed up quickly and got me home, though a little confused.
Fast forward one month to last Monday. Another appointment at MFS. Craig had taken my car that day, therefore, no GPS. That's ok, I could do this! I made it there with absolutely no problem. On the way home, I decided to stop at Sam's Club for a pretzel. Not a problem, it was right along the way. I got my snack and was back on the road when it started raining. Determined not to miss my turn, I paid close attention to the street signs...for a little while. Again, things weren't looking familiar. Neither were the street names, but then again some of them have more than one name. When I got to an area where there were many people loitering on the street and most of the houses were sporting boarded up windows, I decided to break down and call Craig. Sure I could probably retrace my steps to Sam's, but I really had no idea how I got here, so also couldn't be sure that I was still on the same road.

"Um, Craig, I need your help. I'm lost."

"Again??? (giggle giggle) "Where are you?"

It always cracks me up when he asks that. If I KNEW, I wouldn't be LOST! "Intersection of John R and 8 Mile."

"WHAT?!? Why are you there. You need to get out of there."

Um, I was trying. Thus the phone call to him. "How?"

Directions ensued that were so complicated I had to write them down on my pretzel wrapper. Nearly an hour later I pulled into the driveway, haven driven an extra thirty miles. Oops. Yes, next time I would be sure to take Bonnie. That night on the news it was reported that some trouble had brewed during the day on John R and 7 Mile....just 1 mile from where I stopped to call Craig.

Today I went to see my regular doctor. I knew I was in trouble when I got lost and had to do 3 U-turns to get out of our subdivision. I know very well how to get there, but road construction and traffic congestion led me astray. Once again I found myself on unfamiliar roads, but I recovered and found my way. Woe is me.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Round 2: Neighbor meeting

Today as I made my pilgrimage to the mailbox again our neighbor's wife (who, coincidently, is also our neighbor) was out in the driveway. I politely waved and retrieved my mail. As we made our way to the "meeting tree" that joins our properties I once again realized that I looked like a mess. This time I was wearing the only OTHER pair of pants that I vowed would never leave the house...black capris showing off my ridiculously long leg hair (seriously, who shaves their legs during pants season when they don't have a doctor's appointment and their husband is out of town?), an old newly-too-small T-shirt, fuzzy socks, and slippers. Luckily the wind was blowing like mad so it may be ok that my hair looked like I just got off of a roller coaster, and not a drop of make up. Do you know how many days I have gotten dressed up and done my hair and makeup before going to the mailbox after the last incident? Nearly EVERY DAY since. After all, it usually is my big outing for the day! Go figure.

Anyway, I have found that our neighbors are VERY nice (and not at all openly judgemental!). She even chased my mail all over our lawns when I accidentally forgot that I was holding it. It is not easy being me!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

New Favs

These are a few of my favorite things (in random order):
  • Sour Patch Kids. My new candy of choice. So yummy.
  • Chips and Salsa.
  • Soup, Salad, and Bead sticks. Many days it is Olive Garden or bust.
  • Our new sofa. Incredibly comfortable.
  • Stealing Craig's pillow after he leaves for work in the morning.
  • Francine Rivers' books. Currently on #3 this week.
  • Our whirlpool tub. Soooo relaxing.
  • My husband. He is wonderful in case you didn't know. In case you do know, I'll say it again. Wonderful I am telling you.
  • Jet Dry liquid drying agent. Our dishes never looked so clean...and I've put some pretty nasty stuff in the dishwasher.
  • Farkle on facebook. It's not been a good farkling week, but it's all good.
  • Elastic waistbands. See ya in April, zippers!
  • Bella Bands.
  • Good family memories.
  • Fall weather.
  • Gravy. Disgusting but delicious.
  • Hearing baby's heartbeat. It is the most beautiful sound on earth right now.
  • Pickled Beets.
  • Texting.
  • Whole wheat toast with butter and strawberry jam.
  • Journaling.
  • Sunday afternoon naps. Today got a little out of control, but it felt good!
  • Blooming plants. My houseplants must love their new home.
  • Tim Horton's "Timbits." This is reserved as a Saturday-only morning treat.
  • Craig's job. I love it when he comes home smiling because he's had a great day.
  • My new iron. I protested the need at first, but really don't mind using it now because it works so well.
  • Friends and family that have kept me sane during this transition.
  • Green Bean Casserole. (hamburger, green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and tater tots...true comfort food and delicious!)
  • The toaster oven. I use it for nearly every meal.
  • Natural light. Our old house didn't have much of it and this one does. Makes me smile.
  • Feeling baby when it has the wiggles.
  • God's gifts of Grace and peace.
  • Family Reunions.
  • Pictures.
  • My Maddie girl. Miss her so much!
  • Nights out with my love. Especially when a good movie is involved.
  • KFC coleslaw.
  • Tenderloins
  • Down comforters
  • Our home
  • Big Macs. However, I NEVER eat a whole one in one setting. I do have limits.
  • Stretchy cotton pants. I've never liked them before but with this ever growing belly, I am loving them now!
  • Doctor appointments. I get to get out of the house AND get reassured that everything is going well.
  • Carrots with ranch dip.
  • Main floor laundry.

I realize that a lot of my love list includes food. That is because I am in this awkward stage of food cravings and aversions. It is getting a little better, but I still struggle to get enough calories. I spend an unhealthy amount of time trying to come up with things that are palatable yet good for baby and I. This whole losing instead of gaining weight thing is a whole new concept for me. Pretty sure that that will all change soon though.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Beyond Donuts

Tomorrow we're going to church #7 on our church shopping list that really isn't a list at all, but more of a collective remembrance of churches we've driven by and want to visit. This has by far been the most difficult part of our move. It is SO hard to find a church. Sometimes I feel like we have not even come close to finding what we're looking for. Other times I feel like maybe I'm just over analyzing.

We've been to several places that have things we like about them. The donut church was pretty awesome with having had a donut break right before the message. Beyond the donuts, though, I just wasn't feeling it. I was a little bothered by the way the pastor rephrased the scriptures instead of just reading them as they are. Then there was the repetitive church. The worship songs were meaningful, but singing the chorus over and over and over again distracts me and makes me wonder "does this song ever have an ending?" My legs were getting so tired from standing for 45 minutes of straight worship. Don't get me wrong...I'm all for worship, but not when it feels forced and becomes so long that I am physically exhausted. Finally there was the "Welcome to X Church, we have a job for you" church. As we walked in and found seats all eyes were on us. The message was good, but within 2 minutes of the service ending Craig was asked to help move tables. The reason? The congregation had miraculously and instantaneously changed into work out shorts and were preparing for an exercise class that started in precisely 10 minutes. That was just plain strange. As we made our way to the car (the only "foreign" car in any lot around here, mind you) we just looked at each other and shook our heads, wondering what had just happened.

Along the way, though, we have collected some nice gifts. A couple of coffee mugs, some hot chocolate, biscotti, animal crackers, fruit snacks, devotionals. There are upsides.

Still, it is hard to feel settled without having a church home. A place where you can find common ground with people and form relationships. I am so yearning for that right now. Yearning for that "ahhh, I'm at home..." feeling. My time out of the house is so limited and I just need to connect and make it count.

In time, in time, in time I keep telling myself. We can really only go to one service per week, so obviously it is going to take a while to visit all the ones on "the list." (which doesn't seem to have an end, by the way!) There are two so far that we want to go back to for second visits...and 2 more on the the list. Hopefully soon we'll find "the one" that will quench my thirsty soul and become a home. Maybe tomorrow will be the day, but regardless, it will be good to go to worship.

OK, so here is a small update. Instead of checking out another different church today, we re-visited one that was on our "possible" list. It was refreshing, and even though the message went long, we both felt fed afterwards. And they had cookies today. BONUS!! We may just go back there, but need to re-visit one other to see if it makes the yea or nay list. Thank you, God, for filling us with what we needed that today and giving us some things to think about this week!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Only at the Fair

You know you may be pregnant at the fair when:
  • You pass by booth after booth of fried food on a stick and the only thing that sounds remotely tempting is a Sprite.
  • You cry when the Cowgirl Queen is crowned and does her final salute. Who cries (besides me) when someone rides a horse?
  • You can much easier spend an afternoon in an air conditioned camper playing solitaire and watching a movie than scouring the fairgrounds for free stuff. It's FREE for crying out loud!
  • Your feet feel like they're boiling from the inside out.
  • The only events that sound tempting are held in the air conditioned buildings.
  • A corndog, which has been a fair must have for the last 30 years, sounds repulsive. That is probably good, though, because you're not really supposed to have hot dogs when you're expecting according to the literature.
  • The only food items that consistently sound blissful are ramen noodles and cantaloupe.
  • You hurl yourself from booth to booth looking only for paper fans. Free, of course.
  • You cry when the big bull is weighed in.
  • Skin moisture changes make it virtually impossible to scrub off your tattoo passes from the last 3 days of the fair. I am sporting a hot dog, state of Iowa outline, and a blue ribbon as I type.
  • When going from place to place you carefully refer to the maps of bathrooms everywhere in between.
  • You take a 1/2 hour nap for every 2 hours spent walking.
  • You barely refrain from completely going bezerk on the guy who tells you good morning and that his neighbors lost their house in a flood when you're walking to the shower house.
  • He didn't know that I don't like morning conversations.
  • Public tooth brushing is an embarrassment. Toothpaste induces gagging which induces puking.
  • Someone eating a turkey drumstick makes you nauseous when it used to make you hungry.
  • You simply cannot breathe through your nose when wandering through a barn where any animal could be taking up temporary residence.
  • You have invented solitaire version of every game you can find in the camper.

Now here it is nearly 3 months later and I would LOVE some fair food. Funnel cake, cheese curds, gizmo, tater ribbons, but especially a turkey drumstick. Sadly, all that my refrigerator has to offer is some vegetable beef stew or leftover lasagna. Once again I find myself wanting what I don't have...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ghetto Chicken

Food consumes a lot of my thoughts. It used to be "how can I avoid chocolate today?" and things along those lines, but now it is all about "How can I get enough calories today when absolutely nothing in the world sounds good?" I have lost weight again with this pregnancy. So far, I have only gained one pound of it back. The only thing that sounds consistently good is Olive Garden's Soup, Salad, and Breadsticks. The last time we went I ate the entire bowl of lettuce myself...it was that good.
Yesterday I got a hankering for KFC. We happened to be out for a drive when we spied one along the road and I asked Craig to stop. I won't identify our exact location, but I will say that I would never go there alone or at night. We pulled into the drive through lane and waited for our order to be taken. There was never a response and there was a car behind us. "Maybe the speaker is broken," Craig mumbled under his breath after a few minutes of waiting. We pulled on ahead to the window where we could see only one lady working. At this point we opted to park the car and go inside.
On our way in we happened to notice a SUV that was parked next to us. There were 3 kids staring at us from the cabin and a lady standing in the back with the hatch open. She was sorting through oodles and oodles of canvas bags that filled the rear hatch. Two KFC employees were next to her and watching intently. At first I thought that maybe she had ordered a whole boatload of Chicken and the KFC people were helping her to her car, but quickly realized that she was peddling perfumes and lotions. It was shady to say the least, but that would not stand between me and my extra crispy chicken drumstick kid's meal.
The restaurant was among the strangest I have ever seen. This was no open concept double-decker KFC like the ones in Hayes, Kansas. This was more like a bank. There was a 3/4" pane of glass between the cashier, chicken, and us. We placed our order through the microphone and slid our payment through the slot on the counter as the people before us received their food through the double doored contraption at the end of the glass panel. I took a few minutes to look around. The place was clean and the floor freshly mopped, but there wasn't a thing in there that wasn't bolted down. No ketchup packets, no napkins, no nothing. It was like Fort Knox. That was the most protected fried chicken I have ever seen. No one, and I mean NO ONE was getting near it without official KFC credentials.
By the time we got our food we were more than ready to be gone from there. The service was friendly enough, but the atmosphere looked like it could have doubled as a booking station in the evenings. (Not that I know from personal experience, for the record.) On our way back to the car we were met by one of the employees with her arms full of perfumes in fancy bottles.
The 15+ mile drive back home was filled with conversation of all we had just seen. The kids meal was good and tasted very fresh, but I doubt we'll be eating at fort Knox Fried Chicken again any time soon. It is amazing what a different life some people live either by choice or necessity. We are so blessed.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Letter

Dear Family and Friends, October, 2010

Since the holidays get so crazy and our letters never seem to make it out until late (if at all), I thought I’d take the time now to update you all on a few of the happenings in our life.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” Matthew 5:4
The turn of the calendar into 2010 brought a time of reflection on 2009. It was a tough year. Twice we found ourselves mourning the loss of loved ones. Even through the fog of sadness we feel so blessed. We may not have been given the many years we would have liked to have with Kim and my dad, but we were given some wonderful memories, a steadfast godly heritage, and a challenge to carry on their legacies in a way that would bring honor to their memories and to God.

“I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
We carried into 2010 two truths that we knew would change our lives. First was that sometime over the summer Craig’s job would be moving to eastern Michigan, and second was that we were expecting a baby around the same time as his new job would be starting. The thought of a move was somewhat welcome. I had been beginning to feel quite unsettled in my job--the stress of my work had begun to take its toll. I was ready for a change, but unsure what approach to take. Craig was stoked about the excitement of entering a new phase in his career. The idea of becoming parents was exciting and an answer to prayer. We couldn’t wait. We did our best to allow our doubts and insecurities over the changes to be turned to trust and faith that God would work out all the details. He did…but not at all by our plans. We were reminded that God tends to do things His own way and in His own time.

The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." Job 1:21
In March Craig was attending a training session in Alabama when I spontaneously went into labor at 17 weeks. Craig immediately planned for the next flight home, but wouldn’t be able to get there until noon the following day. What took place over the next 24 hours changed everything. We learned that, although the labor had stopped and I had not yet delivered, there was little chance that the baby would survive. We were praying like we had never prayed before. Late in the evening the heartbeat remained strong and I felt a strong movement. It would be the last. After Craig arrived home the next day, March 10th our son, Christopher Job, was born silent and still.

“Some people only dream of angels. We held one in our arms” --Unknown
Our dreams were shattered and hearts were broken, but yet we were filled with peace. The way things had all played out was profoundly sad but nothing short of beautiful. The hospital and our pastors helped us to deal with this difficult blow and inspired us to embrace our son’s life and come to terms with his death in a way that left no regrets. We will never forget those precious moments with our firstborn and reflect on them often. Holding someone so tiny, perfect, beautiful, and peaceful created a feeling of deep joy that would carry us through the valley of the shadow of death once again.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. Ecc 3:1
With all things considered, we opted to move earlier than scheduled. In April we spent 10 days in Michigan to explore what would be our new area. To our surprise we also found and fell in love with a house, made an offer and entered contract. Our Iowa house was on the market within 3 hours of returning home. I went back to work and the rest of the summer was a whirlwind of activity trying to tie up all of the loose ends.

In June, I quit my job and began working for Bard Access Systems as a consultant. It was a great change for me and I loved the aspect of teaching nurses all over the state how to place Picc lines. With my training complete, this was also something that I could do once we had moved, which eased a lot of stress for me to have contacts already set up in Michigan.

“Children a reward from Him.” Psalm 127:3
Madison was with us for the month of July. She enjoyed a youth group work trip to Waupon, WI and was a great help in our move. As always, we enjoyed our time with her. This summer Craig and I realized that she is not a little girl anymore. Her cell phone was never far away, and she is beginning to see things with more maturity. We treasure our time with her and always wish we could have more. My niece, Brooke, joined us in Michigan for a while, too which was nice for all of us. We were able to take in a Detroit Tigers game at Comerica Park on a beautiful evening which we all really enjoyed.

“In Christ Alone my hope is found, He is my light, my strength my song. This Cornerstone, this Solid ground, Firm through the fiercest drought and storm”

Late July brought devastation when we learned that my cousin Brandon died after being struck by lightening while climbing in the Grand Tetons. Once again we found ourselves walking through the valley. We made a brief trip back to Iowa for the funeral. It was heart wrenching to feel death separate us from another loved one seemingly taken all too soon, but there was also a great blessing in being able to spend time with family and share in the burden of the grief with others who share in the hope that this is not where the journey ends.

God is always working to make His children aware of a dream that remains alive beneath the rubble of every shattered dream, a new dream that when realized will release a new song, sung with tears, till God wipes them away and we sing with nothing but joy in our hearts --Larry Crabb

This has become one of my favorite quotes. July also brought tears of joy as we learned that a new song of joy was indeed forming among our shattered dreams. We are pregnant again! This was a cause of very cautious celebration. With our minds still replaying fresh images of greeting our Christopher into the world and giving him back to heaven we found that it became difficult to fully embrace the excitement. It was as if part of me was saying “If you don’t believe it, it won’t hurt if something bad happens.” All of that changed when I saw the tiny flicker of a heartbeat on that ultrasound at six weeks. I fell head over heels in love—and became scared to death.
Everything is going great. I am at 15 weeks now and feeling very good. We found a great team of doctors who are right on track with following the latest research to prevent a recurrence of March’s events. (Yes, I have done my homework and have read more medical journal research articles than you could imagine!). I meet with my regular doctor biweekly for ultrasounds and the high risk specialist once a month now. I have also been placed on modified bed rest for at least another three weeks. It is wonderful to have some down time, but I am really itching to get out and get stuff done. I will not be going back to work until after the baby is born in late March...and won’t be working much at that. Craig has been wonderfully supportive through my insecurities as I nervously analyze every little ache and pain. We are so blessed.

Our most treasured family heirlooms are our sweet family memories.--Unknown
August brought the much anticipated once-every-three year Nieuwsma family reunion. As always, it was a wonderful time of sharing and reconnecting with my dad’s siblings and my cousins. There were 84 of us there with only two plus Grandma that weren’t able to make it. I feel like I spent the entire time bawling. I missed my dad even more than usual during those days and was already drowning in emotion from the pregnancy and a few extra hormones that the doctor had prescribed. Now you all know why I could barely finish a sentence without a tissue.

We are loving our new home. There are still a few more things that we need to do to be completely settled, but it has been a good move for us this far. A little hectic, but good.
Our guest room(s) are open for visitors anytime anyone is in the Detroit area!

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for you I pray with Joy.
--Phil 1:3-4

Finally, we would like to thank you all for all of the warm thoughts, cards, notes, and especially prayers as we’ve dealt with the ups and downs of life. If there is one thing alone that we have learned it is that true peace in difficult circumstances can only come from one source…Jesus. It is such a blessing to be a part such a wonderful community of family and friends. May you find yourself blessed and healthy through the remainder of the year and into the next.

Love to all,
Craig, Missy, and Madison.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

First Impressions

So yesterday I ventured out to the mailbox. There is nothing unusual about that. As I gathered coupons--YEAH!!--and no bills --bigger yeah--from the cast iron receptacle I noticed that our neighbor was out working in his driveway. I haven't actually met the neighbors yet, so I thought it would be a nice gesture to introduce myself.
It was at this point that I realized exactly what I must look like. I had showered...which quite honestly was a step up from the day before...but a quick glance at my outfit revealed a nightmarish scene. A very baggy sweatshirt, even baggier purple pants which, at the time I bought them more than 10 years ago, vowed would never ever under any circumstances exit the door of our house, and flip flops. I hadn't applied a drop of makeup and was crowned with a very fuzzy in-my-face hairstyle.
"Hi, I don't think that I ever introduced myself, I'm Melissa...."
He was very nice and we talked for a few minutes, but I'm sure he was thinking "What kind of freak...?"
When I got back to the house a quick glance in the mirror confirmed that, yep, it really was that bad. Oh well, first impressions are overrated anyway.
Maybe I should start looking for a job... ;)

Monday, October 4, 2010

One of these days....

One of these days something that I write will actually make it to posting status. Since our move, I have come down with a severe case of attention deficit. I cannot sit down, write an entry, and focus on it long enough to finish my thoughts. Sad, really.

I am also working on some other writing projects and journaling, so that has given me my writing fix for a bit. However, I can't let my blog go. I think about it a lot of the time, but there's only so many times that I can write "Today I did the very same thing that I did yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that..." before I bore even myself.

Here are the highlights of what's what since our move.

I have been reading a ton. After dad died, I really couldn't get into a storyline on a book, but have now completed 8 books in the last 2 weeks. Maybe it is nerdy, but I enjoy it.

Work. I am not working right now. Not for Bard, not for a hospital, nothing. There are several factors and I will not go there now, but I have definitely used some of the down time to reflect on everything we've been dealt in the last year and find myself in all of it. I wouldn't want it any other way. More about work later.... My big thing now is saving money since I'm not making money. To date I have saved us from having to pay over $2,000 in insurance errors related to our medical treatments from before we moved. GO ME!! I've also become obsessed with checking investments to see if there were any gains on a particular day. It is crazy (and I believe unhealthy) how much value I was placing on my paychecks...and now that I don't have them, I am more at ease with everything. Strange how that works.

Our "Christmas Letter" will come early this year. It is a work in progress.

We are settled. I think. Upstairs is finished for sure. I haven't even been up there for about a month now. That is crazy...I'm sure that there is a plenty thick layer of dust. Note to self: take a broom next time you brave the steps.

The downstairs is not really finished but not really a work in progress anymore either. My wonderful husband built several storage shelves to hold all of our junk. Some day I need to go through those totes and either get rid of stuff or pack it better. It looks like I'm getting ready for a garage sale.

I like to think that the main level is done, but that is just silly. We still need to get a bedroom set, but are debating between a king or queen size bed. There is plenty of space for a king, but we just bought a new queen mattress not too long ago and love it, so that throws a monkey wrench in things. Basically, we just haven't found a bedroom set that we love yet, so that makes a big difference, too. We did buy a sofa, loveseat, 3 end tables, a coffee table, wall mount t.v. and another leather recliner so the family room has taken shape. Everything fit pretty cozy, and the only thing that we need yet in there is a small entertainment cabinet and an area rug.

Finally, there is the dining room. We have been in cahoots about this room since we moved in. The problem is, it is a perfect dining room, but the kitchen also has an area that is large enough to accomodate a dining room set. Currently we have 2 oversized chairs in the space in the kitchen, but are considering moving them to the formal dining and having it be a music room with sitting area. The downside is there is a breakfast nook in one area of the kitchen and we'll probably put barstools at the counter...so how many eating areas does one need in a given space. So confusing and overwhelming, so we don't do anything.

When we bought the house there were weeds in the yard taller than me. Craig has now (with a significant amount of help from TrueGreen) got the yard under control. The grass had been over watered and was dead and the landscaping was all overgrown, but things are really taking shape now. (We bought the house from an investor who did the bare minimum to maintain the property from the time we put our offer in to the time we closed.)

We've really enjoyed our new neighborhood and community. It is slowly starting to feel like home. We have visited at least 5 different churches, but have still not found the right fit. There is one that we really like, but it is a little jaunt to get there, so we are continuing to look for something a little closer to home. We trust that God will reveal it to us when we find the right one.

I think that is it and that is enough. I'll post the "Christmas Letter" soon after I get it sent to family first.

Thanks for checking in!