Tag Archives: Birkeneder


I am at a loss for words to explain how thankful I am for my two parents.  I have truly been blessed with a phenomenal pair.

I was the only (and best of course) child for 4 years.  I have such fond memories with both my parents.  I would snuggle with my dad and watch all the Chicago sports, and once he even fed me Kool-aid as an infant because I was hungry. :)  My mom would take me to Mommy and Me classes and would form playgroups so we could make new friends and learn new things. I remember we would go on adventures together during the day and dance around our living room in the evenings.  We would talk to our basset hound like he was the fourth member of the family, and I’d sit with my Sharp microphone singing along while my dad played the guitar and my mom lovingly cheered along. The three of us were best friends and I never doubted their intense love for me, which I’m finding out as I get older is a rare thing to find.

Having two sisters come along only made things all the better though.  We were now this tightly knit family of five.

And I love it.

My dad has always been musical.  When Christina, Elli & I were little he would often sing to us at night and play original songs he wrote from his huge plaid “Binder” that originated in his early teens.  We would happily sing along and giggle during ‘Turkey Strut” and “The Jewel Osco Song” and then have nightmares after “Who Took the Butter?” :)  We just thought my dad was amazing, he was our hero.

My dad loves to write songs.  I remember watching him write and perform his songs for weddings, for anniversary parties, for church events, even for funerals.  He would sing them with proud joy, but then they’d get tucked away in his Binder.  My dad poured out everything for the four women in his life for as long as I can remember. He took our dreams on as his own and sacrificed everything he is to make our lives better.

This Thanksgiving my dad shared with us that someone in Nashville sparked interest in one of his wedding songs, We Are One.  They wanted to produce a track to promote for vocalists/instrumentalists to use in weddings.  This afternoon he emailed me a track that they have produced and I can’t help but cry tears of joy.  I love my dad.  I am so proud to be his daughter.  His dreams are becoming realized and I can’t think of anyone more deserving!  I feel like it’s MY turn to pour into his life now, so I wanted to share this song file with all of you and tell him what a truly wonderful legacy he has left in mine, Christina’s, Elli’s, and my mom’s life- simply for being him.

I love you, Dad!


Your Proud Daughter :)

Listen to We Are One:



Oh man, I’ve let a lot of time slide on here.  Here’s a quick summary of the past half a year:

-Simon turned one (and what a cute christmas cookie/hot chocolate themed party he had)

-Michael started to shave his head.

-The tooth fairy came to visit (and sometimes forgot to come to visit) several times in one month.

-my sweet nephew, little Cayden, (if that isn’t an oxymoron I don’t know what is.  The kid is 6 months old and 25 lbs) was born.  My sister Christina and I have very realistic hopes of him forming a band with my boys somewhat along the lines of The Jonas Brothers.  Or at the very least their own super Glee club.

-we hosted our 4th annual Birkeneder Brunch on Christmas Eve

-the boys helped Grandma Lanie tell her traditional story of the 3 kings and their gifts to Jesus

-the boys obsession with building forts started

-I lost 20 lbs.  Albeit, most of it was due to having meningitis.  But if I can put any positive spin on that wretched disease I will, so therefore I’m thankful for the weight-loss plan.  And that having it may have saved my close friend’s mom’s life.  (Her story: http://copelandcraziness.blogspot.com/2012/03/hope.html )

-our good friends from Texas came to visit and our boys were smitten

-Grandpa Bob came to visit

-the boys got all spiffed out for Easter

-we regularly practiced for our own glee club. (see reference above)

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-we were given an awesome Bible book.    If you’re looking for a good Bible summary book for children look no further.  The Jesus Storybook Bible is awesome. A friend of ours gave this to us a while back and we started reading it to the boys every so often.  I love it! Each story is a part of God’s rescue plan- each character pointing towards the Great Rescuer.  I’m not kidding, I don’t think I ended a single chapter without my eyes (and heart) welling up with tears of joy as we imparted these truths of God’s love for them into our children’s hearts. The stories came to life to me (the adult!) through this children’s version.  And the boys love reading it!  Each story is a piece of the Great Rescue- and being so into good guys/bad guys, sword fights and battles-the setup is very appealing to them.

Tonight we finished the final chapter, and this page struck me:

(from Revelation)  “I see a sparkling city shimmering in the sky: glittering, glowing- coming down!

From heaven.  And from the sky.  Heaven is coming down to earth!

God’s city is beautiful.  Walls of topaz, jasper, sapphire.  Wide streets paved with gold. Gleaming pearl gates that are never locked shut. 

Where is the sun?  Where is the moon?  They aren’t needed anymore.  God is all the Light people need.  No more darkness!  No more night!

And the King says, “Look!  God and his children are together again.  No more running away.  Or hiding.  No more crying or being lonely or afraid.  No more being sick or dying.  Because all those things are gone.  Yes, they’re gone forever.  Everything sad has come unture.  And see- I have wiped away every tear from every eye!’

And then a deep, beautiful voice that sounded like thunder in the sky says, “Look, I am making everything new!”

You know the part in movies where there’s a big crescendo of music and the good guy wins and everyone celebrates and your whole soul just cheers while watching it?  I told Michael recently that I think that is what heaven is like all the time.  Always that sense of victory, that everything is finally as it should be.

When I read this to my children my heart swelled and tears filled my eyes and hope engulfed me.  Whenever I have those moments, they’re my God moments.  Its like the Lord is washing over me and I sense His presence and I trust Him.  I don’t really understand heaven and I certainly don’t understand the mysteries of God, the infinite Creator.  But I do trust Him and believe Him to be faithful to do what He says He will do.  And each time I have one of these “moments”- where my while body gets goosebumps and my soul feels inexplicably overwhelmed- its a tangible reminder to me of His presence.

I love how this book ends.

“And he knew then that the ending of The Story was going to be so great, it would make all the sadness and tears and everything seem like just a shadow that is chased away by the morning sun.

‘I’m on my way’, said Jesus. ‘I’ll be there soon!’

John came to the end of his book.  But he didn’t write ‘The End’. Because, of course, that’s how stories finish. (and this one’s not over yet.)

So instead , he wrote: ‘Come quickly, Jesus!’

Which, perhaps, is really just another way of saying…



Swollen Meninges

Just as the boys and I were boarding the plane on December 26th I thought, “Wow, that was relatively painless!  What will I ever blog about if I don’t have a crazy airport story to tell?”

Apparently, God took me seriously and gave me an even bigger story to tell.

I delivered my three cherubs to my parents and Aunt Elli in San Antonio before I jetted to Austin.  I had the honor of staying with Christina and Tyler for the week as Super Aunt.  I got to help take care of my sweet 2 week old nephew Cayden, and help Chritina and Tyler in any way I could.  It was wonderful.  I got to cuddle all day with the sweet little jellyBin, but not have to do any nighttime feedings. :)  It was bliss!  I had so much fun being on the other side of the newborn care= not the weepy new mom. :)  Christina was a pro right from the beginning though- she far surpassed me in my first days as a mom.  She is easygoing and worry free, none of which describe me.

Towards the end of my stay I woke up in the middle of the night with a throbbing headache. Like a bowling ball was sitting on top of my head.  All day I tried different kinds of medicine, but nothing would even touch it.  I thought maybe I was having a migraine and I just needed to sleep it off.  But when the pain continued into the next day, I was getting nervous.  Christina and I drove back to San Antonio on New Years Eve.  When we arrived at my parents’ house I still didn’t feel right. Then the vomiting started.  I was in so much pain and very fearful.  My mom convinced me I needed to go to the hospital (I was still worried they would just laugh at me because it was just a migraine).  The car ride was terrible and I could barely make it in the front doors.

When they got me in the stretcher and pumped Morphine and Zofran through my IV it was bliss.  Finally some relief!  The Doctor said she wanted to do a CT scan of my brain to check for tumors or an aneurysm.  Not sure if it was the drugs or my emotional heart, but I was convinced I was on my death bed.  I started pouring out tearful soliloquies to my mom about life lessons I’ve learned.  When I got to the part about how I wanted her to make sure my boys always remember me and how much I love them, she took my head in her hands and said something to the effect of , “Jen, you are not dying.  God is not finished with you yet-your boys need you still and the Lord knows that.  But I promise you, whatever happens, I will make sure everyday that your boys know how much you love them.”

After the CT scan the Doctor came in and said my sinus cavities were inflamed.  I told my mom to please not tell that to Michael yet- I didn’t want him to get the expensive ER bill because I had a sinus infection!  I felt so dumb that I went to the emergency room for a sinus infection.  The Doctor said she was going to do a spinal tap because of my neck pain, but it was probably nothing because of the sinus infection.  I remember her exact words, “I guess I’ll go ahead and do the spinal tap to be on the safe side, but I wouldn’t get too worried.”

After the spinal tap, (which, ladies, if you have had an epidural- you can do a spinal tap relatively painlessly) my mom and I talked about what we were going to do when we got home.  It was nearly 3 am, and we knew Simon would be up in two hours, so we discussed who would get up with him, etc.  We had to wait an hour for the results, but thought they’d be clear and we would be heading home.  My tears were gone, I was embarrassed I just had a boring sinus infection that ruined New Years Eve.

At 4 am the Doctor walked in and said, “Well I’m so glad I did the spinal tap because you tested positive for meningitis.”

Well, back to my death bed.  Hysterical tears ensued. I had only heard of (bacterial) meningitis- the one you can get in college dorms that you die from. “I was just with my two week old nephew all week, and I have 3 young boys- what do we do to keep them safe?  Do they need to come in?  Are they going to survive?”  I really was not worried about me- I had made my peace with death a few hours earlier.  I was only concerned about Cayden, Trevor, Elliott, and Simon.

Immediately they put a mask on me and whisked me on my stretcher to the third floor.  It felt very Grey’s Anatomy.  Everyone that came into my room had to wear a mask, gown and gloves.  Definitely added to the frightfulness of this deadly disease I thought I was dying from.

A new Doctor, my favorite the whole stay, came in and asked me if I had questions.  My tears increased and I said all I wanted to know was if my two week old nephew was going to be okay.  She bent down near my face and looked me in my eyes.  I will not forget her compassion.  She explained to me that there are two kinds of meningitis- viral and bacterial.  She said my cultures were presenting as viral.  She told me 98% of my cells were the viral kind, with only 2% of the dangerous bacterial kind.  She said viral meningitis was not contagious, so all 4 boys would be fine.  I felt a flood of relief when I heard those words.  She even said worse case scenario, if my cultures started to say bacterial, that everyone I came in contact with would get antibiotics and would be fine. It was now 4 am and I was feeling a little less on my death bed, but more uncomfortable.  With some fresh morphine and zofran I was able to rest.

That was 25 days ago.  I didn’t even know what meninges were before this excitement.  Now I feel well educated on all things brain and spine.  Viral Meningitis can last 7-10 days for some, 3-4 months for others.  Two of my friends that have had told me it took months to feel like themselves again.  Sometimes I say, Lord- meningitis, seriously?!  Seriously.

I’m not good at resting.  I’m not good at letting other people care for me.  I’m not good at not being in control.  But I know God has purpose in everything.  I must be that stubborn that I had to get meningitis to learn to REST.

Lamentations 2:5

My Lord has become like an enemy.
He devoured Israel;
he devoured all her palaces; he made ruins of her city walls.
In Daughter Judah
he multiplied mourning
along with more mourning!

“Notice that God started to be like Israel’s enemy. The writer knows that, in fact, God wants the best for his people. He does not say, “My Lord has become an enemy,” but “My Lord has become like an enemy.” Thus, Lamentations 2:5 models, on the one hand, the kind of stunning bluntness that we have already seen in this biblical book. Yet, on the other hand, this verse gives evidence of faith, embattled faith, struggling faith, but faith that God is not really the enemy. Most Christians will go through seasons of life when God feels like anything but a friend. Perhaps we’ll wonder if God has simply turned his back on us. Maybe we’ll suffer so much that we’ll begin to feel as if God were our enemy. Lamentations urges us not to hide these feelings or pretend that they don’t exist. At the same time, this book encourages us to hang onto the truth about God, to trust that he is who he has revealed himself to be, even if we can’t make sense of his actions or inactions.”  -Mark Roberts

I refuse to give up.  I refuse to let these circumstances swallow me up.  My hope is in the Lord, and I trust Him even in my sickness. I am thankful for the rest (that I usually fight), and all the people that have surrounded us with prayer, meals, groceries, cards, childcare, and encouragement. I am learning what it is to be part of the body of Christ, and to truly carry one another’s heavy load in life. So here I am lying in my bed, which I’m pretty certain is not my death bed, trying to soak in all these lessons.  I get it Lord, thank you for the meningitis, but I’m ready for you to take it away now. :)

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.  Psalm 100:1-5


Apparently when my family is in town we eat lots of meals!

(I love the sequence of faces in these first few…haha!)

Four generations of Birkeneder!
Grandpa Al, Grandma Collette, Dad, and Aunt Susie
Papa Roger, Mom, Grandma Sharon, and Dad

And then these last three aren’t of us eating (can you believe it?) but they melt my heart so they had to join the post!

The boys went fishing with my dad at the lake behind our house and caught TWELVE fish! Last year my dad got them all their fishing gear and they were pumped to go fishing…and caught nothing. But their fishing joy was not diminished and they trekked out this year to try again! BAM- 12 fish!! :)

I love this picture of my dad and Simon more than words can even express.

Dr. Chuck

I’ve prepped myself for days to write this post, and fresh with tears still I sit here at a loss for words.

Chuck and Linda Musfeldt came into my life over 10 years ago, and soon became affectionately known as “Dr. Chuck and Nana Nu”.  The first time I met Dr. Chuck was when I was a member of the BSF Senior High class in Lombard.  Whenever I would walk by and say, “Hi, Dr. Chuck! How are you?”  he would always reply with a huge, gentle smile, “Like a million, great to be alive!”  I would giggle and keep walking to my class.

Shortly after my family moved to Texas for my dad’s job, the Musfeldts followed when God called Dr. Chuck to BSF headquarters as well.  It is then that God blossomed our friendship into the deep-heartstrings-connected relationship that it is today.  The Musfeldt/Birkeneder union quickly became the Musfledt/Birkeneder/Zielke/Walker/Hobbs union as God blessed our parents with descendant after descendant!  Our lives were and are forever intertwined.

Dr. Chuck lived a “larger than life” life.  He impacted SO many during his life, and will continue to do so in his death.  As proven by the over 104,000 views of the live streaming of his memorial service and over 196,000 views of it since then.  As Michael and I read through his obituary we were in awe of all he did.  He knew life was a blessing and he lived it fully!

I had the privilege of being mentored by Linda during the early years of my marriage and young motherhood.  She is an amazing, wise, God honoring woman that I have so much respect, love, and admiration for.  She lives life with such grace, elegance, and humility.  As is obvious with her response since Chuck’s death.  She is the perfect helpmate to Dr. Chuck.  I will be blessed if I can be half the wife and mother that Nana Nu is.  Linda is one of the most encouraging people in my life, always cheering me on and nudging me to be more like Christ.  I love her with all my heart.

I made this video in memory of Dr. Chuck’s life, and in honor of Nana Nu his helpmate.  It chronicles our time together, and then the time we celebrated his life and rallied together having joy in knowing that because of Christ’s perfect blood sacrifice we know with certain hope that we will spend eternity with Him.

The first song, You Are Good, has a double meaning for me.  God is SO good to me and He alone sustains me, enables me, and gives me life.  But God has used Chuck and Linda’s presence in my life and my family’s life as such blessing! I have no material thing to thank them for ALL they have done for me-spiritually, emotionally, or physically.  They are irreplaceable and I will be forever grateful for them.




The Wedding

Christina and Tyler had an absolutely gorgeous wedding and I was honored to be a part of it.  It was at a beautiful country club out in the hill country of Texas.  I loved all the unique things- outdoor seating at fireplaces, not the typical banquet room-but lots of open rooms, the rustic Christmas ambiance, and food stations such as a pasta bar, guacamole bar, and potato bar with my favorite- sweet potatoes in martini glasses complete with all the toppings.  Everything was simply amazing!

I can’t wait to see the professional pictures because I didn’t capture very much.  The pictures of the ceremony on my camera are terrible.  I gave it to Sarah who took great pictures, but I had the settings on my camera all wrong so they’re really poor quality. I’ll be sure to post the professional ones later if Christina gives me permission. :)  Which, P.S., the photographer was our good friend Catherine, who is from Germany AND was 4 weeks away from her due date for her second baby!  She was a pregnant photographer superstar!  I’m pretty sure I complained my whole last month of pregnancy and you would never catch me photographing anything let alone an entire wedding day.  Catherine, you’re my hero. :)

The highlight of the wedding was when Christina and my dad did their choreographed Daddy/Daughter dance.  Did I mention how crazy I am about my family?  They are my favorite people ever. :)  Needless to say, the dance was a hit!  If I can wrangle a copy of the video I’ll post it for sure!

Emily, our neighbor growing up in Elburn (Elliott loved her :) )
The cutest Ring Bearer and Jr. Groomsman ever!

Beautiful Elli!
Limo ride!
Christina and Tyler's moms :)
needing a snack break...
Trevor had two jobs: to escort my mom, then walk back by himself to meet Dakota, and escort the flowergirl and stand up at the front...
both jobs he did SO well! We were very proud, and so was he :)

I love this picture for so many reasons...Dad, Bin, AND Cinne Binne in the background!!

Christina and Tyler

I can’t get enough of Mandi Mapes!  She has 4 songs on iTunes that were inspired by the Old Testament book of Ruth, and honestly they are my lifesong this year!  I must listen to them at least 5,000 times a day.  I used “I Already Know” in Trevor’s video ,and I used “Under the Wings of God” for Christina’s part in this video and “Story of Love” for the Christina & Tyler section. I only haven’t used “So Long Familiar” because it is sort of a melancholy song for a video slideshow.  But still very applicable to life…

My favorite lyric today is:

Can’t you see you are My clay;  I’m the Potter and you’re carrying My fingerprints…

Ahhh, I love it! :)

Anyways, this the beautiful Christina and Tyler Hobbs- they are so precious to me and I was honored to make this for them:)

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Almost wedding…

I love this series of pictures.  What a great fun bridal party!  Love all these girls so much and I only know them through Christina :)  Look at Michael the photographer just snapping away, capturing the moment!  I love it!

Best Sisters Forever :) "BSF" haha!

I’m so glad I caught this candid moment of Dr. Chuck with Trevor and Dakota!  Priceless!

Two of Elliott’s loves: Bailey and Presley :)

My best friend since 6th grade…I’m so glad she came to the wedding.  She did 15+ girls’ hair!  Hairdresser superstar!!

Countdown to wedding

We did lots of fun things while in Texas- but really, when do we not have fun when with my family?  Nothing less than stories galore, laughter every minute, and sisterly bonding.  I love imagining what my boys will be like when they get together as adults.  If they are anything like my sisters and me, they will have very full hearts!

While we were there Trevor reached a milestone- he lost teeth!  Not one, but two teeth!  Normally I am grossed out by wiggly teeth, but his were pretty much bloodless.  They just kind of fell right out.  No pain involved!  That’s my kind of way to lose teeth. :)  The tooth fairy was a little confused, maybe he has a rookie tooth fairy assigned to him?  Or it could be the fact that we were on vacation and Trevor “bed-hopped” which resulted in multiple tooth fairy deposits.  :)

As usual, we spent lots of meals at Taco Cabana.  (Remember the homework ABC book?  “T”: Taco Cabana…oh, and “M”: Missing tooth)

Trevor was super excited that the hotel gave him his very own key card.  (He called it his credit card…)  “H”: Hotel key

Whenever we visit TX, Michael has a “food list” of places we HAVE to visit for at least one meal.  One place is Rudy’s BBQ. (ABC alert, “R”: “Rudy’s)  Yumm-O! :)

I just had to post this one...I knew my sister Elli would love it :)

Obviously, Simon was a HUGE hit this trip!  He was one popular little fellow.  Can you blame him though?  He’s just so darn cute!

Simon's Great Aunt Kathy
Simon's Great Uncle Tom
Simon and Laura
Simon and Sarah
Landon holding Simon and saying "Oh! I almost pulled his head off!" :)

I just happened to be a part of the most GORGEOUS wedding party ever- oh yes, then there is me- the pale faced, mom of 3, 2 weeks postpartum chubby one. But let me tell you, for being moms, Sarah and I still hung with those girls at the Bachelorette party! So what if we had to come home 3 hours before the rest of them to feed a newborn, we still participated in the festivities. And that impressed me. :) This is the morning after the Bachelorette party. See what I mean? It’s the makeup free morning after and each one of these girls are drop dead gorgeous. I’m honored I got to tag along. :)

pedicure bride :)
only Simon would be the two week old getting held at the nail salon...actually it would be hard to get him away from Bailey if I tried!

More to come… :)