Tag Archives: zielkehut


When we were first married, one day I decided I wanted to paint the walls red. I gathered the paint and brush, and no joke, did three strokes of paint and decided I was sick of painting. Our wall stayed there with just three strokes of bright red paint for the whole 3 years we lived in that house.

I’m infamous for starting projects and never finishing. Why is that? I am an idea woman, you tell me something to dream up and I’m your girl. But following through is a whole different beast. The work is HARD. You have to keep going after the initial excitement of the new thing wears off. And you have to be careful and fix mistakes. Things I’m not totally crazy about.

I want change, I just don’t want to do the whole process leading up to change. It would be so much easier if I could just take my magic wand and zap! Healthy body. Zap! Positive attitude. Zap! Rehabbed house.

But I’m finding that in that process, the hard process of change, that the magic happens. The slow, but true, transformation of my soul, mind, and body is beautiful when I stop and look back where it has come from. And where it is continuing to go.

I can get so hung up on the fact that I haven’t arrived yet, or become all I want to be. I get frustrated that every little thing still scares me and makes me anxious. But you know what? Being afraid of something, but doing it anyway- that is courage. That I don’t give up and keep going even though it scares me? That is bravery.

So be brave, my friends. I don’t think there is some magical moment where you have it all figured out and feel like you have no more growth to do. You just swing with the pendulum of highs and lows in life and you just keep going. Even it’s just one baby step forward, or one more stroke of red paint, you just keep going.

baby steps

For as long as I can remember I have struggled with anxiety and panic attacks. I remember being five years old sitting on our stairs rocking back and forth because I was so afraid that something in the garage was going to catch fire and make the house explode. This continued on through elementary school, and I would have episodes where I would cry uncontrollably at night because I didn’t want to go to school the next day. I remember flashes of those nights in my mind, and I remember that there was nothing specific that made me so fearful.  I was just consumed with worry. Even as a young eight year old, I knew this wasn’t normal, so I begin to make up lies to tell my parents why I was afraid. I said that there was a boy being mean to me in computer class (which there wasn’t), and I begin to tell so many lies to myself that my fears piled up and got tangled with one another to the point of overwhelm.

My parents took me to a therapist in 5th grade, and I don’t remember much, but I do remember he helped me. One thing that came out in my therapy sessions that year was that I was my harshest critic. I would get so mad at myself if I got even one answer wrong on a test, or if my teacher had to reprimand me for something minor like not standing straight in line while walking through the hallway. I pushed and pushed myself to be the best at everything and to never fail at anything. I never showed myself grace and I always wanted to preform better.

I knew all these fears and worries and anxieties and thoughts weren’t normal, but I always thought that I was just crazy and needed to push through those debilitating thoughts. They continued to plague me.  As a young mom, I would wake up several times a night and make sure the baby was breathing and that no blankets were covering his face. (Now, I do realize that this might be considered somewhat normal for a new mom…;) When I would have to go to a social event where I didn’t know people, I wouldn’t be able to eat and I would run through several scenarios in my head where people would decide I was an airhead and flaky and dumb and wouldn’t like me.

I remember specifically one night this summer, I awoke in the middle of the night in a panic. We had purchased an inflatable pool with a filter recently, and I was terrified (and sure) that I left the filter on and that it was going to catch fire and burn down the house, and since the boys’ bedroom is closest to the backyard, they would die first and I would have to live without them. So at 3:00 a.m., I went outside and checked the filter and electrical cord for the pool. Then I came in and checked all the burners on the stove because I thought, “Did I really turn them off after making dinner? I don’t think so.”

I finally I decided to get help.

That was six months ago. It took me THREE whole months to work through the anxiety of making the phone call to schedule an appointment, but I did it. I have been on a low dose of medication that helps take the edge off my anxiety attacks, and I also go to talk therapy to work on coping strategies for living with anxiety. I can’t tell you how free I feel! Naming my condition and having someone hear what I’m saying and not making me feel crazy, but wanting to help me has been amazing. I’m learning that my anxiety most likely will always be a part of me, but I CAN be in control of it, instead of it controlling me. I can acknowledge that voice that stirs up my anxious heart, but I can say, “okay voice, I hear you, but we are going to work through this. Here is what is real…”

I love choosing natural routes when I can (essential oils, etc.), and there are several oil blends that I diffuse in my home and put on my wrists that really help me when I am experiencing anxious thoughts. But sometimes medication is helpful, which in my case it has been. While I learn coping mechanisms from my therapist, my medicine helps me remain in control. I encourage you if you struggle with anxiety, depression, panic, whatever- don’t be ashamed or feel like you’re just crazy and need to get over it. Seek help whether its through talking to someone, medication, or lavender oil.

I am on a journey towards healing and towards wholeness, and I am so excited.

merry christmas from our family to yours

christmascard14our top ten {+5} :: 2014

simon is a preschooler. #failingnaptime

made the 20 hour road trip to Austin to visit family and overindulged at all the best local breweries and eateries. #fatfamiliesarehappyfamilies

elliott became a lego lover. #masterbuilder

michael became a home brewer. several ales were born, including a spiced holiday ale named “war on christmas”, a rye ipa, and a vanilla milk stout. #beerisproofthatgodlovesus

jenni enthusiastically entered her 30’s and became the proud coordinator of the freeman elementary pta room parents. #phonecallsarefunphonecallsarefunphonecallsarefunphonecallsarefunphonecallsarefun

trevor & elliott pledged to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. #cubscoutspackthreetwelve

trevor became the next Tolkien. #apixelmonjourneybegins

michael & jenni celebrated ten years of marital bliss.  #iphonesixisaluminum

simon is knowledgeable on all things batman thanks to HobbyDad/HobbyKids. #adultsopeningchildrenstoysonyoutubeisathing

michael finally finished his student career. #alotofpeoplegotoschoolforsevenyears

jenni is conquering her anxiety head on #therapymedicationandessentialoils

we love family video game time sweating it out in Just Dance or exploring mods in Minecraft as QueenBee (jenni), TheDeadlyKiller (trevor), SmellyWhat (elliott), ISmellLikePoo (simon), and TurdFurgeson (michael). #stinkyscreennames

jenni became a reader, runner, public speaker, and tattoo enthusiast all in one summer. #whoknew

we discovered a deep love for playing laser tag as a family.  #simonthesilentassassin

Our prayer for this year: Help us to love without agenda. If our brother or sister are not free, than we are not free. If our neighbor is not free, then we are not free. We have been loved extravagantly, so let us live and love with an extravagant love!
“Where there are steep valleys, treacherous descents, raise the highway; lift it up; bring down the dizzying heights. Fill in the potholes and gullies, the rough places. Iron out the shoulders flat and wide. The Lord will be, really be, among us. The radiant glory of the Lord will be revealed.”  Isaiah 40:3-5
May God continue to raise up our valleys and level out our rough ground in 2015.

Dedicated to Grandpa Al :: 1935-2014


This past year has been a whirlwind of newness for me. I think my body doesn’t know what to do with itself and might curl up into a big ball of anxiety if I do one more new thing. :)

Not really, but kind of.

I have conquered a lot of fears and unknowns this year, and I really feel I’m becoming more and more of who God has created me to be. It is thrilling! And scary. There are moments where I think, “wait, who the heck am I and why do I think know what I’m doing?” But then I do it, and I become more confident in what God is calling me to next. More often than not, I find that no, I really don’t know what I’m doing, but yes, God equips me each time I need to do it!

I’ve always struggled with anxiety and “that voice” that tells me nobody likes me and they’re all just waiting for me to fail. As an 11 year old I regularly visited with a therapist because I would cry and cry at night to the point of vomiting, all because I was worried my teacher was mad at me.

This new season of life has brought out a new level of, but familiar sound to my anxiety. But instead of being afraid of it, I’m learning to say, “Oh, hello voice. I see you’re there, but I’m not going to let you control me.” I’ve been working with a life coach who is helping me develop skills to learn to live with my anxiety, and I’m also going to be visiting a therapist again as well. I am finding power in the ability to acknowledge my struggle, name it, and find tools to learn to process it.

This year has also been a new stage of mothering for me. I no longer have babies, but boys. No diapers, no high chairs, no early morning wake up times. They are more and more independent, and we have a new element to our relationship that I really enjoy. We have conversations about life and God and feelings. We laugh together, and go on dates together. We have moments away from each other. I work. They go to school. They play with friends and neighbors, I go out on girls’ nights and dates with my husband. It is a new season that I just kind of stumbled upon, and there is much beauty in it. God is helping me to continue to understand that yes, life is designed to move, and each stage and season is full of goodness and beauty.

Surprisingly, even though filled with newness and anxiety and thrill, I would label this season: quiet. My heart (and blog!) have been quiet, listening for God. I often hear Him in the quiet times of my day, through the wind in the trees and the pitter patter of the rain. It’s almost as if He’s revealing Himself as the calm and the constant presence I need amidst the chaos. I’ve held to that and found myself looking forward to those moments of quiet and stillness with God, enjoying His unconditional love and peace.

I have this beautiful picture of five birds flying together that I find myself thinking of often. Michael, Trevor, Elliott, Simon, and I fly together and enjoy each other’s presence, but we also fly off on our own at times too. As God has helped me “fly off” to become more of who He has created me to be this year, He will also help each of the boys to do that too. It is my joy and my honor to be a part of their journey and help equip them to do great things. When I see them choose compassion for the underdog, or love for someone different than them, or joy in the little, ordinary things my heart feels full. I may not feel like I know what I’m doing, or that most of the time I’m flying by the seat of my pants, but I have great peace in knowing that by helping them develop language for connecting with God and loving people, they will change their world.

orchard kids: jz announements

{This past weekend I was given the opportunity to do announcements and speak about Orchard Kids. I love speaking AFTER I do it, but I get myself all worked up and nervous beforehand. I couldn’t eat and my armpits were sweating like crazy. But, I love sharing my heart for children and for God, so I’m really glad I did it. Thank you for your support, Orchard, and for continuing to pray for our ministry!}

I have been reading this book- Children’s Ministry in the Way of Jesus by David Csinos and Ivy Beckwith which I highly, highly recommend you check out if you will ever come into contact with a child in your lifetime.  I feel like I have underlined and highlighted the whole thing! But I wanted to share with you an excerpt today…

“Children’s ministry is less about providing children with absolute answers and more about helping them live faithfully with questions and doubts that arise on the journey of discipleship. It aims at nurturing the whole life of the child and not compartmentalizing the child’s church life from the rest of the child’s life. It realizes that children feel God’s love when they are surrounded by a close-knit faith community who loves them and sees them as valued participants. It realizes that children make the values of God’s reign their own by seeing them lived out radically in their churches and homes, not simply by learning about them in a classroom or through a programmed activity. It understands that children are learners and teachers, and that they have as much to teach adults about life in God’s kingdom as we adults have to teach them. Jesus said one must become like a child to enter God’s kingdom. We take these words seriously as we seek to minister with children.”

I love that, and our heartbeat for Orchard Kids is exactly that. Our hope is that each child would know that they are deeply loved and uniquely made by God, and we desire to create multi-sensory spaces for them to experience God in a way that is meaningful to them.

Our team has been researching how children learn and grow best, such as through different learning styles and the multiple intelligences, and are working hard to develop teaching and activities to help kids connect personally with God.

We have introduced Discovery Stations using Open Ended Art, Movement, Reading, Reflection, and Imaginative Play in hopes to develop the curiosity and wonder that comes with the mystery and joy of knowing God. It has been thrilling to hear how these kids are taking what God’s speaking to them and applying it to their individual lives.

Our kids are so used to flashy, manufactured, gimmicky, and loud things all the time. Our hope and desire is that we create an authentic and sacred space that is different from what our kids are experiencing during the week. I’d love if you would continue to pray for our team as we prayerfully consider what this looks like for our community in the days to come.



I don’t even know where to begin, really.  I’m a planner.  Since about age 3 (ask my parents), I have planned out my life exactly how it should go.  How often does it go according to my plan?  Never :)

Five months ago I wrote about the winds changing in my life.  I have my degree in Elementary Education, and I knew I wanted to teach once all our kids went to school.  Michael and I had talked about me going back to school to get my Masters in Teaching for Bilingual/ESL, and we figured now would be the best time to start. I began to apply to grad schools and move forward with my plan, happily telling everyone I came into contact with about what the next year would look like for me.  But little did I know God was moving (as always) in different ways and in things I couldn’t even imagine.

I attended a Leadership conference this spring with the Family Ministry team at our church, Jamey and Sarah, and I began to feel something happen in my heart about Leadership and what that looks like in my life. Jamey gave me a book by Andy Stanley called Next Generation Leader, and I had no idea how much God would use it to begin to shape me for the future.  Right inside the cover the tagline is, “Ready or not, you’re next!” I didn’t know how blatantly true that was. :)  This is the kind of book you can read 1,000 times and still get something new from it.  But for right now, the biggest revelation to me was “Courage is not the absence of fear.  Courage assumes fear. Courage is the willingness to strap on your fear and move ahead. Courage is the willingness to move in a direction in spite of the emotions and thoughts that bid you do otherwise.” The fact that this was so meaningful to me also made me nervous because I thought, “oh no…what does God have for me and why is He trying to prepare me to be courageous?!”

I was in a season of waiting with God, and I really wasn’t sure what to do.  School programs were too full, or classes were offered too far away, and things came up in our family that made us reconsider grad school for the time being.  It seemed as if all the doors were closing, and I was getting discouraged. I found myself clinging to lines in songs I listened to like,  “even when my dreams have died, even if I don’t survive, I’ll still worship You with all my life..” and “I’m trusting You when hope is hard to find…” I was kind of stuck at a standstill.

There was one grad school that I decided to continue to pursue. I was awaiting their decision on my application when one August afternoon, I got a call from Larry, a pastor at The Orchard.  He said for about a year, The Orchard has been dreaming up a new role for Orchard Kids for someone who has deep passion for children and would help lead others to be passionate about children, and that they would love to talk to me more about it.

The following six or so weeks were composed of several hours of interviews and meetings with the lead team,  real and honest conversations, and an intense role-playing evaluation (I still can’t believe I didn’t pass out).  But in all seriousness, God made His presence so evident to me and my heart was undergoing serious transformation. I felt Him unwrapping this whole other confident and courageous side to myself.  It was then that I began to see HIS plan for me unfold. God orchestrated it so beautifully and way more gracefully than anything I could ever have planned on my own.

17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18  

In my Bible study I was studying 1 Samuel 16,

1 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” “…6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” 12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” 13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.

God is doing a new thing in me and a new thing in my life.  I’m not a great and powerful leader with hundreds of years of experience as a Children’s Pastor.  Sometimes the ‘newness’ makes me afraid, and I feel like I’m not good enough. But God has reminded me that this is HIM.  He has called me and He will equip me; and I firmly believe that “the Spirit of the Lord is powerfully upon me!”

You know that feeling you get during a movie, when good is going to win out over evil?  The music gets intense with major crescendo and your heart just swells knowing deep down good will win?  That is how my heart feels for children.  My whole heart explodes with love for them, love for their genuine joy and spirit that hasn’t been hardened by the world yet.  I believe that children “get it.” They get what life is about, they know how to enjoy today and live in the moment. Children teach me so much about life, and even more about God.  I love the statement: “There is no ‘little’ Holy Spirit.  The same powerful Holy Spirit we experience, our children experience as well.” It is my joy and my honor to experience the mystery and joy of God alongside a child and to create a sense of wonder that invites them to seek Him more.  What a blessing to pass the torch on to children who have been equipped to be confident leaders of the next generation! Oh, my heart feels like exploding even as I type this! :)

Within a week of receiving my acceptance letter into grad school, The Orchard Community extended an invitation for me to join their team.  God’s direction was so clear to me, and this was my way to courageously respond and go forward, saying, “I trust You, God!”  I know God still has so much to do in me, but I am ready and willing with my arms open.  He is a good and faithful God, and He has given me an incredible team to coach me.

There is so much new happening at The Orchard Community.  I really see God moving and breathing new life into the people there and igniting passion and new direction. It really is quite exciting.  Church for me is about experiencing God through relationships.  I seek God through personal quiet time, studying the Bible with others, and constant conversation with Him.  Church is more about community to me, more about experiencing God with others through real brokenness that life brings and wholeness and beauty that the journey with Christ entails. God is constantly reminding me that He takes what is broken and makes it beautiful.  The Orchard Community is filled with stories of His goodness and beauty all over the place.  It is contagious and I can’t wait to see all God does there.

I’m nervous a little, but, I’m much more excited!  I truly believe in the truth my close friend encouraged me with: God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.  I’m nervous because this is new to me, but I see God’s hand in the whole process, and I trust He will be with me each step of the way, which is precisely how you can pray for me.

Ultimately the cry of my heart is, Lord, may more children and families know You even more deeply, and may You be glorified through my life.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. #philippians4:13



1,000 years

Here I am again. Back to sending off a kindergartener, one of my boys who will never be home all day with me again. Perhaps you remember this post from 3 years ago…

I really, really, really didn’t think I would be emotional this time, and honestly I’m not (well, mostly:) ). However, I decided to go in and look at Elliott after he went to sleep on Kindergarten Eve like I did with Trevor. All these images of him flooded my memory like that Father of the Bride scene (which, by the way, my dad swears he still sees when he looks at my sisters and me. :) ) I remember when Elliott was three and I would say, “you’re my boy Elliott!” and he would reply, “you’re my girl Mommy!” I thought about all the times when he all out punches and attacks Michael when he pretends to “get” me. Elliott is my defender, my Knight in shining armor, my true little superhero. He’s passionate, which when he is angry means he is my little ticking time bomb. But I love that about Elliott, and I know God will shape that passion into great things for his future.

There is something bittersweet about Kindergarten. Elliott is an old five- he turns six in a couple weeks, so he and I both have been ready for Kindergarten for a while now. :) But as excited as we both are, there’s still a heart wrenching ache knowing that this is it. He never again will be home with me all day every day. I nurtured him, prepared him, taught him, and helped him grow for nearly six years, and now I send him off with a piece of me.

I am so thankful for the three souls I have been given to nurture. And in all honesty, I find that THEY nurture MY soul. They have made me less selfish. They have made me learn to embrace God’s plan for life instead of my own. They have taught me that life is designed to move along, not stand still, but to run with joy in each new step.

Whenever the song, A Thousand Years, comes on I tell the boys, “This is my song to you! I have loved you for 1,000 years!” To which Trevor replies, “Mom, you haven’t lived 1,000 years.” :)

But it’s true. The love I have for them gives me even just a glimpse of God’s great love for me. It feels like there was no beginning to it and there will be no end.

So here’s to you my Elliott, my kindergartener, my middle medium boy- may you know God’s love deeply and convey His love to others. May you be a light on a lamp stand, and the salt of the earth bringing out the God flavors of this world.

I have loved you for 1,000 years and will love you for 1,000 more. :)


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P.S.  These videos might be the death of me someday.  Two computers, 1,000 cables, and my blog host helping me with server issues later- video is up. This is where my stubborn determinedness comes in handy! Plus, it means so much to Christina who kept asking me when I’d have a video made.  Just kidding, I love the finished product too :)


Christina’s Story

My sister Christina is one of my best friends, and someone I have always admired for her joy, perseverance, loyalty, and overall extroverted-ness (clearly, what I very much lack ;)  This past week she soared to a whole new level in my book.  I stood by and watched her go through one of the most heart-wrenching experiences you can go through as a mom, and I witnessed her come out refined by fire and shinier than gold.  This story may be characterized as Bennett’s story, and really overall it is God’s story of redemption and grace, but I think of it as Christina’s (and Tyler’s) story.  A beautiful picture and example of what it is to fully trust in Him who is able to do  immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us…#ephesians3:20


(Original Post on Christina’s Blog:

http://chobbspot.blogspot.com/2013/07/miracle.html )

Wednesday night everything was fine. I was enjoying my two boys, Tyler was at his kickball game, and I was just putting Cayden down for bedtime. Bennett and I were just watching some tv as Tyler got home from kickball. Something was bothering me a little bit, Bennett just hadn’t been eating as awesome as he had been since coming home from the hospital. I told Tyler and both of us remembered Cayden having a couple days that he didn’t eat as well when he was a newborn so I said I’d see how he did overnight and then call the pediatrician in the morning if it wasn’t the same still. Well, that night Bennett (who has been waking me up at night, as a newborn should) slept from 10pm to 5am. I woke up at 5 and woke him up and tried feeding him, he still wouldn’t eat a lot, he ate for a few minutes but still not the same. I put him back in bed and woke up at 7 and the same thing…

We left to go get our car from the Ford dealership, as it had been there for two days getting fixed. My pediatrician’s office is literally next door, so I called her and she said yes, bring him in, she had an appointment open right then. We took him to the pediatrician and she is seriously the nicest pediatrician ever. I have been going to her since Cayden was two months old and have seen her when Cayden is sick and healthy, and nothing has ever come close to how I saw her today. I could tell in her eyes and the way she was talking that something was wrong. They had taken his temperature, which was 95.8 (low) and when they took it, some blood was in his stool. Both indicators that something was wrong. [side note: I didn’t know until this whole thing that newborns actually fight infections with a LOW temperature, not necessarily high]. His was extremely low. She immediately said she wanted us to go to Dell Chidlren’s Hospital. She called ahead for us, so when we arrived at the emergency room they knew exactly what was going on. Of course I was a basket case, my baby was going to have to have all of these tests, and I was playing the blame game on myself and how I could have prevented this, etc. etc. Tyler was such a huge support on the car ride over, praying for all of this. It was rush hour traffic (about 9:30 am), but surprisingly, and by God’s grace, we got there in pretty good time.
We called both sets of parents and just to let them know what was going on and they both started praying and telling us to let them know what the ER said. That’s the last info they knew.
Tyler got Cayden out of his car seat, I got Bennett out of his, and we went inside. We thought we may be here a couple of hours because of the tests, so I was deciding who could come get Cayden, but I thought I’d wait until we knew more information regarding Bennett, before we called anyone.
They quickly got us back in triage, where they weighed him (he had lost 1lb since his weight check at the doctor on Monday), and they took his temperature again, it was down to 95.1. They took us down some hallway to a small ER room and we put Bennett in a hospital gown, and answered the many questions the Dr. asked. He was in his residency and told us he wasn’t very confident in what to do for Bennett because his only symptoms were not eating and low temperature, so he went and got his boss, the attending Dr. She was very nice and told us they were going to take a thousand tests to eliminate what it could be. We were perfectly fine with that. One of the tests was a lumbar puncture. They asked Tyler and Cayden to step out of the room and I told them I wanted to stay, so they let me.
The next part of the day is all super slow motion, and somewhat a blur. Unfortunately, I will never get this day out of my head. All I can tell you is while I was a complete mess emotionally, Tyler and I still felt and clung to God’s goodness all around us.
The Dr. and nurses in the room were all around him about to do the lumbar puncture when I saw all of his vitals they were monitoring drop, his arms dropped below his side (the Dr. was holding him up), his face go purple, and the Dr. yell, “Wake up baby, wake up baby,” as she started rececitating him. They got out a child size green bag and started doing CPR on him. I lost it. I was shaking. I was praying. After studying Genesis this year, all I could think about in this instance was Abraham being willing to sacrifice Isaac, because he knew God loved Isaac even more than he did. God spared Isaac due to Abraham’s faith. All in this 30 seconds of realizing my son was not breathing, I ran through this and I said in my head, “Lord, I am willing to give you Bennett, but please don’t make me do that.” I just kept praying that he would perform a miracle and save Bennett. Save my baby’s life.
The doctors and nurses all ran out of our room with Bennett, still doing CPR. They went to some huge room down the hall. I followed. Tyler saw all of us run out of the room, picked up Cayden, and ran towards me. I yelled down the hall, “Tyler, he stopped breathing!” I see my husband start running as fast as he can, holding Cayden, crying like I have never seen him cry. We are a mess. Cayden, was being so good, realizing something was wrong, and just playing with a toy car and reading a book that the hospital staff had brought him. I wasn’t worried about someone coming to get Cayden at this point, he can stay with us. We needed him. I couldn’t call anyone, I just couldn’t bring to life the fact that one of my sons was literally not breathing. I finally was able to call my dad, who I could tell was fighting back tears as well, and ask him to have all of BSF headquarters just stop and pray. I think my exact words to him on the phone were “Dad, he stopped breathing, please have everyone pray. Please just pray my baby stays alive.” He said he was on his way to Austin, and would get my mom. My mom kept trying to call but too much was going on, her voicemails were really hard to listen to. I couldn’t even understand her, she was a mess too. I had to delete them…I never, ever want to listen to those again. She was crying and praying in the voicemail, but I could tell her heart was not steady. She was afraid too. My mom is one of my solid anchors, and this was even too extreme for her. Next I called my mother in law, she was at a loss for words, and said, “Christina, we’re on our way.”
We were still in the giant surgery room at the end of the hall. There were probably 20 doctors/nurses surround Bennett, we couldn’t see him, we could only hear him. And it was silent. Tyler and I just kept saying, “Come on Bennett, cry, cry, cry….” But still nothing. It had now been, what seemed like a lifetime. I think it had really been 45 minutes of them just trying to save his life. One of the hospital social workers came up to me (just doing her job), and asked, “Do you know what’s going on mommy?” I felt like screaming! Yes I knew what was going on…my baby was not breathing. He was about to die. I just cried and said, “Yes, he stopped breathing.” She nodded and asked how I felt. Again, felt like screaming. But I said, “Well, I’m 8 days post-partum, plus this.” She just sat next to me in silence.
Tyler and I are just interlocked by our arms and interacting with Cayden, and praying out loud for the whole time we’re in that terrible room. Finally, the Dr. comes over to me and says a ton of things (again, such a blur), but I hear, “He is stabilized  for now, so we’re going to have the NICU come get him and take him up there.” Good, I was okay with that. We were at a children’s hospital, but the NICU specifically would know an eight day old baby, and would be taken care of even better (the ER Dr. was fabulous).
The NICU nurse arrived downstairs with the incubator shortly after. Finally I could see Bennett. He looked so grey, so small, and so helpless. A view a mom never wants to see. Tyler, Cayden, and I were able to ride the elevator with the nurses & Bennett, while they continued to bag him with air.
We arrive on the NICU floor and they run him into his hospital room. There are already three doctors in there waiting, along with about ten nurses. [Later on we found out that there are NEVER three doctors in one room. Bennett was in bad shape.] The doctors immediately start asking us a ton of questions, the same ones that we answered in the ER. I am trying to dig in my mind for the answers. At this point, I have no memory, no words. My mind is just clouded with thoughts of “what if my baby dies?” The doctors asked us to take Cayden out to the family room while they stabilize Bennett and start some tests (they still had to get the lumbar puncture). We took Cayden out to the family room where there were toys and books and balls.
Both Tyler and I have decided this was one of the worst parts of the whole day. The last time we were in a family room, was when our good friend Dr. Chuck died. We did not have good memories in the family room. Not only that, we were now going to have to entertain Cayden with the books and balls while in our heads we were unsure if our newborn was going to survive, and with both of us feeling like we just wanted to vomit.
We made a few calls while in the family room. We called a couple from our small group (as we were supposed to host small group that night…and wouldn’t be), and we called Tyler’s best friend at work so his work would be updated on why he wouldn’t be returning as soon as we thought, and I called one of our neighbors to update all our neighbors, as they wouldn’t see us home in awhile. We still held off on telling everyone because we just didn’t have an answer to anything yet, and also, we just couldn’t do it. The five phone calls we had made at this point were the hardest thing and the people we talked to could barely understand either of us.
I did get one phone call while I was in the family room. I didn’t talk, I just nodded, and she knew what I was saying without me even talking. My sister Jenni, who was in complete tears called. I picked up and said nothing, she said, “Elli and I are buying tickets and we’re on our way.” I said nothing in response but a head nod. But she knew I heard. I said, “I love you.” We hung up. I will forever remember that phone call.
Tyler and I kept glancing at the clock. Still playing with Cayden, we were wondering how much longer. We were preparing for someone to come in and say he didn’t make it. We were praying for the best. We were praying we would get to hold our baby. We just wanted to see him. We wanted him to be okay.
Finally, about an hour later (again, felt like a lifetime), someone came to get us. They taught us all the ins and outs of the NICU, and prepared us for a long stay here. But I didn’t care, I would be here a year, if it meant my baby was alive. We scrubbed in and were able to go into Bennett’s room. There he was. Laying in an incubator with an oxygen mask, chords, wires, pumps, monitors, a breathing tube. He did not look like Bennett, but he was alive. Praise Jesus, he had saved Bennett. We found out once they stabilized him that he had stopped breathing five times. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. But I knew Jesus had saved him. He spared his life.
I immediately ran to Bennett’s side and held his IV’d hand, just sobbing. I had no words except, “Hi buddy. Mommy loves you, daddy loves you, and Jesus loves you. He is holding you in his hands.” I think everyone in the room started crying.
The worst part was not being able to hold him. That’s why I had to comfort myself, knowing that Jesus was holding him. He felt the presence of someone holding him…he wasn’t just laying in an incubator.
Cayden kept pointing at Bennett, saying, “Baby?” I hated the question mark. You could tell he was confused. At this point I knew Cayden had to leave. Thankfully, my parents arrived shortly after. They got into the room, also in tears, and just hugged me. They talked to Bennett, and then grabbed Cayden (we tried to make it a fun big deal that he got to go be with Grandma and Grandpa). The three of them left for our house. We still didn’t have any answers.
Tyler and I just sat in Bennett’s room. All we could hear were the monitors beeping and oxygen pumping. We just cried. I’m running scenarios in my head. What could this be? Did I cause it? Is Bennett going to live? What the heck is going on?
Tyler and I listen to Matt Chandler (an amazing pastor from Dallas), and he has said before, “I have brain cancer and God is good. And those things can’t be in conflict.” I thought to myself, “Bennett is laying in the NICU and God is good. These things can’t be in conflict.”  If I learned one thing from my study of Genesis last year, it is that God is sovereign. Knowing this characteristic of him, I never doubted his goodness. Yes I was scared. Yes I was a terrible mess. But I never once doubted God’s goodness in and through the situation. He wasn’t punishing me, he wasn’t punishing Tyler. He had purpose in this “not to harm us, but give us a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11).
While we were just sitting and staring at our sweet little boy, Tyler’s parents arrived from Katy. Again, huge relief. Having all of our parents there was just what we needed. We were not alone. At this point, the only answer we had was that he definitely had an infection. And due to that infection, his body responded by dropping his temperature and becoming very lethargic. Lethargic to the point where, due to his age, he just wasn’t remembering to breathe. Now they just wanted to figure out what the infection was so that they could help him fight it. Our doctors were very up front with us (they were amazing) and told us it could be days before we knew what was going on.
About an hour later, they already knew the culprit. The lumbar puncture came back positive for meningitis. We were thrilled we at least knew what was wrong. But now we wait. We wait to find out if it is bacterial or viral. After Jenni had it a few years ago, I knew we needed to pray for viral. Bacterial could have permanent life injury, and would have at least a 3 week NICU stay, viral would be about a week NICU stay (or until Bennett was doing everything on his own 100 percent–breathing, eating, pooping, & sleeping), and would not cause permanent damage. The Dr. said we would know in three days, after the cultures grew, if it was bacterial or viral.
We began to pray this was viral. We didn’t wait three days. We waited three hours. AMAZING. According to his glucose, protein, and other levels everything was pointing to viral. Praise Jesus. And finally, a test they received late that night, confirmed it was indeed viral. They still kept him on the antibiotics, just in case any bacteria grew over the next three days, but they said very rarely do bacterial and viral co-exist. Thank you Jesus for giving us such a clear answer so much sooner than we thought. Of course, I was playing the blame game. How did my eight day old get meningitis? They assured me there wasn’t anything I could’ve done or couldn’t have done that would have mattered. That they believe he was born with it, as some babies are born with certain spores on their mouths that can either get certain viruses or can’t. Bennett’s could. [Remember everything was still a blur at this point so all I heard was birth, spores, blah blah blah–so I’m not 100 percent sure what exactly they said!]
Dell Childrens allows families to stay with the baby 24/7. Tyler and I were planning on staying in the recliners in the room with Bennett, but they actually had a “family room” open to stay in, with a double bed and a bathroom. We were able to stay in that room the whole time we were there and be with Bennett at any time. We were so thankful for that accommodation. I still wanted someone in the room with Bennett at night, though, and everyone wouldn’t let me (they all said I needed “quality” sleep…like that would happen after a day like today), so my mom & mother in law offered to switch out who was in the room every two hours overnight. What fabulous grandmas ;) Tyler and I were able to get some sleep, but I still woke up at 5am.
I woke up thinking maybe, just maybe, this had all just been a bad dream. But there I was, laying in mine and Tyler’s NICU bedroom. Not a dream at all, but at least Bennett was alive.
I went into Bennett’s room and my mom & Rose were sitting in there talking. I walked in and just cried. They both comforted me. I hated seeing Bennett in the condition he was in, and hated that I still couldn’t hold him. He could hear my voice, but he couldn’t feel my touch. He had gone 9 months hearing my voice right next to him, and then bam, he was all alone in this incubator. He looked so uncomfortable. He had wires coming out of his mouth, that made him look like he couldn’t move his tongue. He had oxygen over his nose which made it look like he was constantly struggling; and he had monitors all over his body which made him look all tangled. I just hated that he looked in pain and uncomfortable.
I think the nurse could tell I needed to hold him. She got him out of the incubator and asked if I wanted to. UMMMMM YEAH!!! I finally got to hold my baby. I just cried. I just held him and thanked God for him and just talked to him. He wasn’t opening his eyes but I know he knew I was there. I told him how much I loved him.
Since the meningitis was viral, they told us they were going to let Bennett determine all the action. If he looked like he could be off oxygen, they’d try it. If he seemed like he could eat, they’d try it. But they still prepared us for a long journey in the NICU. Less than 24 hours in the NICU and they said they were going to take off his oxygen. I was very excited but at the same time worried…what if it didn’t work. Tyler assured me if it’s not going to work, he’s exactly where we want him if he stopped breathing again. So true. They took him off of it around 8 am Friday. He stayed exactly where he needed to be for 24 hours! After the 24 hours, they took the oxygen completely out of the room!!!! My fighter had passed step 1 and my God had proved to everyone how sovereign and good he truly is.
While he was hooked up to the oxygen they would feed him my breast milk through a feeding tube through his nose. When he got off the oxygen they said we think he’s ready to eat! I tried breastfeeding but he was just so tired still. He’d latch and just fall asleep. So we did a bottle and he drank so much like a champ! Finally, Saturday morning, he was breastfeeding like normal again!
Little by little, Bennett was acting normal again. The doctors were amazed, we were amazed, and specifically his nurse was amazed. She had admitted him on Thursday and she told us much later (after he was almost 100 percent) that when they got him on Thursday the whole NICU floor didn’t think he was going to make it.
What a mighty God I serve.
By Saturday afternoon, Bennett had almost every pump, wire, chord, mask, and IV out! The only ones left were the heart monitors. The doctors did their rounds and said as long as nothing happened overnight, Bennett could go home in the morning. I know they were amazed at their answer as much as we were. We were thinking we’d be here much longer, but we were covered in prayer, literally around the world, and God heard, and not only answered, but went above and beyond. I am not surprised.
Sunday morning, we loaded Bennett in the car and got to go home. Finally, our family of 4 was together again. Cayden is so happy and we are thrilled to get back to “normal”.
I’m sure I forgot a lot of detail in the days he was at the NICU. Again, it was a blur. We are so thankful for our family who got to Austin as soon as they could. Our parents, Brandon & Rachel, and Jenni and Elli were here in a heartbeat. Our friends sent messages, posted on facebook, we received phone calls, our small group helped so much, as well as our neighbors! We were just smothered in love and prayers. Thank you for every prayer you prayed and any word of encouragement you sent. I could feel the presence of Jesus all around us and know that it is because of the prayers from all of you for peace.
As I look back I can see God’s hand in so many ways. His grace was surrounding the whole situation. Thursday morning, I didn’t shower. That saved us 30 minutes of time (He stopped breathing about 20 minutes after we arrived at the ER). We were already in Austin when we had to go to the hospital, if we were in Leander, he could’ve stopped breathing while we were in the car, depending on traffic. He didn’t stop breathing overnight, or even in the car where we wouldn’t necessarily notice. He stopped breathing with a ton of medical professionals surrounding him. By God’s grace, he was where he needed to be, when he needed to be there. God had everything orchestrated perfectly. I am both thankful and in awe.
I hope that through this terrible situation, Jesus’ light shined. I hope that he was glorified through little Bennett’s eight day old life. May he continue to be glorified the rest of Bennett’s life.
[These are hard and terrible pictures, but I feel like I need to post them to show how truly his life is a miracle that only God could do.]
In the ER before he stopped breathing:
All of the doctors and nurses around Bennett trying to get him to breathe again:
How Bennett was when they had him stabilized:
The first time I got to hold him. Does a Mama’s heart good:
Talking to him, telling him I love him:
Holding him for the first time:
Oxygen free!!!!!:
Taking his IV’s out!!!!:
Only a couple of monitors left!!
 Upgraded to a crib from a warmer (he was maintaining his own temperature):
First time breastfeeding again! Milk drunk :)
His fabulous day nurse he had all 3 days.
They think we’ll go home on Sunday!!!
No more monitors! Ready to go home!!!
The sign they made for his door :) We would rather not be in the NICU but they really do make you feel at “home” and special there!
Ready to go home…waiting to be discharged:
Home at last! All together :)



my girls

Two years ago, my friend Valerie called me exploring childcare possibilities for her two young girls. I had just finished up two years of childcare with a wonderful family whose children were going off to school, and I was looking for a new job myself.  What I got in return from that one phone call was so much more.

The school year began and I had five little ducks following me now. :)  We got Trevor off on the bus together, we played play dough, we went on bike rides to the park, we baked cookies, we did our “workbooks”, we “painted the bricks” with water, we went to Bible Study Playtime (BSF) on Tuesdays, and Bible Study Class Time (BSF) on Wednesdays.  We laughed together, cried together, and ultimately fell in love with each other as a special second family.

I love the verse Hebrews 12:1. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” I believe our cloud of witnesses are those that have had some part in our spiritual journey and forever cheer us on like those on the sidelines of a marathon.  Not only those here, but our cloud of witnesses that have gone on to heaven as well- the whole physical and spiritual realm.  For me to have even a small part in these young girls spiritual journey makes my heart full.  I love them and will cheer them on the rest of their beautiful lives as a part of their cloud of witnesses.

Something God is constantly teaching me is that life is designed to move, everything is a season, and life is filled with endings and beginnings.  So while our regular time together came to a close at the end of this school year, I rejoice in knowing that I invested some of myself in Brooke and Ashley, and hope that I in some part contributed to their life long spiritual journey.

They left me with this precious gift of roses on our last day, and each rose had one of “a dozen reasons we will miss you” attached.  As I read each one, my heart filled and I thanked God for my girls. 


You are always so happy to see us…Helping you pick out your necklaces…We love Lily and that ‘crazy’ Link!…You love Jesus and teach us about Him…Having rest time in your bed…We love your hugs…Bringing you coffee to learn about serving others…You teach us fun new songs…Picking DVDs on ‘our’ day of the week…Bike rides…Pizza and Breadsticks…Going to BSF.  

A second blessing to me the last two years has been my friend Valerie.  While we were friends before, she has become one of my closest friends the past two years.  We have walked through everything from sickness to heartbreak together, and I wouldn’t pick another mom to co-mother with.  She is a woman of strength, courage, and humility, and I admire her greatly.  Thank you Valerie, for entrusting me with your children, and for becoming like a sister to me.  I love you, and your whole family, deeply. :)

The boys and I made this video to commemorate our time with the girls and Elliott said, “This video makes me cry in my head.”  My thoughts exactly, Elliott ;)

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Oh, summer.  I get so excited for you and I daydream about the endless days of sleeping in, not having to go anywhere and just lounging around the house.  I keep telling myself,  “Just wait, it’s almost summer break!” to get through each day of May.  Then, summer, you come and I almost feel like I missed something.  I still get up early with a wide awake 2 year old, and I putz around doing laundry and making meals and cleaning up dishes and putting away toys and running to doctor appointments.  Then I get in bed at night and think to myself, “Why aren’t you more excited?!? Why aren’t you more joyful!?! It’s summer break- what you’ve been WAITING for!” And my self says back, “Oh, but Fall will be better- two kids in school. ” :)

Oh just be still for a minute, my fickle, fickle heart.  I have a history of ALWAYS wanting the next thing, never living in the moment. I find myself with a serious case of permanent, the-grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side reasoning.  My poor boyfriends in Jr. High.. I would “go out” with them 1st period, and then “dump” them by 7th period.  :)  My heart always seems restless.  I have  a hard time just being still.  And maybe, just maybe, God is trying to teach me to be still?  Maybe He is trying to get me to realize that satisfaction doesn’t come through things or even life, but satisfaction come from abiding in Him.  When I’m not looking for satisfaction in the world, and just focused on Him, then I find more enjoyment in the little things.  The moment by moment things, not the big picture things and milestones.

Today I got up and instead of starting to clean the kitchen, I sat on the patio.  I talked to God while looking at the trees and the sky.  I watched the boys, while still in my pajamas, splash around in the inflatable pool (yes, it was only 7 am) and I just SAT.  I didn’t do anything- no chores, no magazine reading, no DVR watching.  Nothing.  When they ran up to talk to me, I looked in their eyes and enjoyed them.  I listened about nonsense things like bugs, farts, and dandelions, and talked WITH them not at them.  Does that make me seem like a horrible mom? :)  I mean I love them, but how often do I just go through life with each of them, not really just stopping to “be”.  Let me tell you its hard.  There are times I don’t want to sing the ABCs, or read Horton Hears a Who (that dang book is GIGANTIC), or play grocery store.  And I don’t think its necessary to do that ALL the time.  But, for me, I am trying to be more mindful to take time to do those little things, to enjoy them, and to savor each little part of the shared moment. Simon won’t always have the cute little voice  where his T’s sound like D’s, Elliott won’t always do his “pretty girl face” when he gets nervous and shy (well, maybe!), and Trevor won’t always tell super corny jokes that he thinks are hilarious. :)  I don’t want to miss all those “littles”!

So I guess what it all boils down to is that I’m selfish and I’m fickle, always looking to the next thing. :)  But my hope is in the Lord, who never gives up on me!  I’m thankful He will continue to do a good work in me ’til the day I die… #philipians1:6

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom…” Psalm 90:12

Here’s to you, summer.