Zielkehut in Review (Yearly Christmas Card and Letter)

December 2013

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December 2012

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cardbackI have worn a lot of black nail polish this year. This dawned on me while staring at my severely neglected toes.  I have a six-year-old navigating life as a full time student, a four-year-old constantly flexing his strong will, and one-year-old that eats Glade scented plug-ins.  Who has time for primping toenails?

 

Living with our bundle of boys may limit my free time, but there remains an abundance of joy.  One of my favorite events of the day is when Michael and I sit on the ground and just laugh with our boys.  Even if just for a moment, we climb down off the hamster wheel of the daily grind and enjoy each other’s presence.  We have experienced birth and death this year, and more than ever we realize that life is fleeting. We are finding that whatever life brings, God draws us closer to Him and closer to each other.  Life can be black, but God steadily chips away at the darkness in us, and we discover our joy is in Him, not in life’s circumstances.

 

“In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

 

This Christmas I am thankful for a God who came 2,000 years ago to meet us right where we were, and continues to meet us right where we are today.  It is in Him alone that our Hope and our Joy are found!

 

Merry Christmas and Happy 2012!

 

And in case you were wondering…

 

Jenni

Likes

Fountain diet coke

Black nail polish

Smiling

Banana cake

 

Doesn’t like

Diet coke in a can

Wearing a coat in the car

Fruity drinks or candy

Talking on the phone

 

Michael

Likes

Egg nog (whiskey optional)

Donut dates with the boys

Old Simpsons episodes

 

Doesn’t like

Gum chomping

Ice in drinks

Red turn arrows

 

December 2010

 

“Mom, can I play a game on your computer?” a voice says two inches from my face as I groggily open my eyes and lift my head from the pillow.  Two little beings in footed sleepers dance happily around the room (Elliott is also outfitted in a makeshift superhero cape and announces that he will only answer to “Batman” today).  It is obvious they have been up for a while, excited that their queen has finally awoken.  We head downstairs and I sit in my big green chair in the corner of the living room sipping my hot black coffee.  It doesn’t have my favorite pumpkin spice creamer in it because I haven’t been able to summon the stamina to corral my ducklings to the store for the “5 minute trip” that ends up taking an hour.  A third boy bounces joyfully in utero making yet another bathroom trip a necessity. Trevor and Elliott wrestle at my feet over the “shooter” they just built, and Lily stands ferociously growling at the person shoveling snow 10 houses down the block. Looking around the room, I see all the piles that have accumulated, even though I swear I just straightened up the entire downstairs 10 minutes ago. Before I know it, Trevor is to and from Kindergarten, and he and Michael race in from the bus stop. He drops his backpack and I notice handwritten phone numbers from 5-year-old girls spilling out.  The boys take off upstairs and after a prolonged silence I decide to investigate. I find a closed door with a scribbled sign hanging outside: “Kids only allowed.  And Dads.”  I peek inside and see all the bedding torn off the bunk beds and strung around the room.  I hear Michael and the boys giggling together in their fort while watching “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” for the 5,000th time.  I bite my tongue realizing my dear husband has been out plowing snow since 3 a.m., and has chosen to play with his sons instead of sleep. I take a deep breath, look at their precious little faces and smile, declaring “Thank you, God, for these amazing blessings you have given me!”

Dramedy aside, I know you can relate.  Life is overwhelming and unpredictable, but at the end of the day I can’t help but be overwhelmed by it’s incredible blessing!

“O Lord, you are my God!  I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago.”  Isaiah 25:1

I have a husband and children who love me, and a God who cares about me so deeply that He pulls me out of my plan for my life, and into His ultimate best. God has brought me on a journey this year that I was not expecting, but I’m SO glad that He did.  In my mind, my life was going to be filled with pink ruffles and nail polish, not action figures and jokes about disgusting bodily functions.  But I have embraced God’s path for me and it is here, with Him, that I have found ultimate joy.  Every time my boys jump on my lap and tell me  “You’re my girl, mom!” my heart is filled and I am so thankful for my 3 sons.  I have LOVED my study on Isaiah at BSF this year, and the verse above sums up exactly what God has done in my heart.  He holds everything together (I don’t), and He makes everything new and better!  He has done glorious, marvelous things!

Merry Christmas, and here’s to a new year filled with God’s blessings and surprise twists and turns in life!

Love, Jenni

~Follow our adventures at www.zielkehut.com~

December 2009

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Last year at this time, I was still “the new guy” at work.   My job requires me to work outside, and I remember the fear I had of working outdoors in the frigid weather.  Just thinking about working in sub zero temperatures gave me the chills.  To make matters worse, I work in the water department, which meant I would probably get soaking wet and become a solid block of ice.  Everything was new to me, and I was unsure of what to expect.

When January hits, it will also be the beginning of something new.  2010 is surely going to bring our family a healthy dose of joy.  There will be birthdays, anniversaries, parties, family, and friends.  Along with the delights of the coming year, we will find gloom.  We will endure bruises, tears, sickness, and loss.  This is nothing unique to the Zielke family.  You and your family will have your own ups and downs in the coming year.  We have hope that our future will be bright, and that our delight will outweigh our darkness.  We also look back on the last year to reflect on our pain and see how it grew us, to remember our pleasures and be grateful.

As a family, we have been tremendously blessed in 2009.  We began a search for a new home, which has become more epic than we would like.  We made several offers on homes, which obviously did not work out for one reason or another.  We finally found a house that was perfect and would surely be ours.  To make a long story short, we put an offer on that home, moved out of our rental home, moved into my parents’ home, waited several months to hear back about our offer, found out we did not get the home, moved out of my parents’ home, and moved into a new rental home.  In what was certainly a frustrating and trying situation, we have seen the hand of God working in it.  We continue our home search, trusting in Him to guide us where to move and when.

The fact that I even have a job is a great blessing.  I recently accepted a new position at work, and will move to the Geneva Wastewater Plant as soon as my current position is filled.  Yes, I will be working very closely with poop, but I assure you, it is not as gross as it sounds.  In itself, the move is not a promotion, but there is an opportunity to learn a new field, and a better chance of career advancement.  I enjoy my job, and I look forward to transitioning from licensed water operator to licensed wastewater operator.

Working two jobs has been a learning experience for Jennifer.  She has had to balance the care of our two boys with the care of three other children, and has done it with tremendous grace. Taking Trevor to preschool and both he and Elliott to various appointments throughout the week is enough of a challenge, but when you throw in another child or two, it becomes mission: impossible.  Have you ever tried fitting three car seats, a stroller, and your sanity in a Jeep Liberty?  It just wasn’t built for that.  Maybe 2010 has a minivan in store for us.  I’ve heard that those things have a hidden compartment for misbehaving children.  Wait, that was me who said that to Trevor and Elliott.

Trevor Norman is enjoying his second year in preschool.  He constantly amazes us with his razor sharp memory, and his bright mind.  Puzzles are a favorite activity of his, and he is able to complete 100 piece puzzles without assistance.  If you were to take a single piece of any of his puzzles and show it to him, he would know which puzzle it belongs to.  Trevor has a very kind and loving heart.  He is very quick to hug you if you are crying or kiss me if I just exceeded the weight limit and fell through the top bunk and cut myself on a splintered 2×4.

Elliott Job is a different story.  Suffice it to say that his kind and loving heart, while it is there, is not so obvious.  Elliott will often make it his goal to hold in a smile, when you can tell it is ready to pop out.  He is often content to play with his toys by himself, as he avoids the other children and their childish endeavors.  Building towers out of blocks are Elliott’s favorite activity.  If this were an SAT preparation, you could say, building towers is to Elliott as doing puzzles is to Trevor.  When he finishes building his tower, he exclaims, “I build tower, I build tower!”  Soon after, he plays Godzilla and knocks it down.  The cycle then begins again.

Galatians 5:14 says, “For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself.”  This past year, as I look back, has been a growing year for our family.  Trevor and Elliott are continually growing and changing, which is both exciting and challenging.  Jennifer and I have been especially challenged through our church, The Orchard. Our purpose has been magnified, and we are trying to be continually growing and learning what it means to love without condition.

We are thankful for each and every one of you who took the time to read our story!

Be Of Good Cheer,

Michael, Jennifer, Trevor, Elliott, & Lily

December 2008
Dear Family and Friends,

From Texas to Illinois, 2008 has been a roller coaster of activities and emotions for our family, which I am sure many understand.  In the past year we have sold a home, lived in three other homes, said goodbye to some of the people closest to us, reunited with loved ones, and started a brand new chapter of life.  Sometimes I stop what I’m doing and just watch my little boys in action, and I get a glimpse of the sanctity of life.  They are continually growing and changing physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.  It is such a joy for Michael and me to be a part of that.  Thank you for all your love and support of our family!

Trevor is a three-year-old whirlwind of pure joy and zest for life.  I have found that I have a lot to learn from him.  Trevor lives life in the moment, not one step behind or ahead.  We love to watch Trevor embrace his role as big brother.  He is always ready to protect and defend Elliott.  He also feels it is his duty to entertain his little brother by gently tickling his belly or pretending to chase him.  He has a deceptively sweet, sensitive spirit and thrives on praise for doing the right thing. His bold personality is very independent and he absolutely loves going to preschool with his friends!  It is with mixed emotions that I have realized Trevor is no longer my baby, and is quickly becoming my boy.

It is amazing and humbling to see how God wired our children differently.  Elliott is a one-year-old version of Michael.  He has the most mellow personality and just smiles while he sits back and watches Trevor in the spotlight.  I love Elliott’s quiet and contemplative spirit.  His smile beams with joy, and he loves to imitate us and make us laugh.  Though he is quiet and sweet, Elliott sure can hold his own!  He makes it clear that Trevor may not steal his beloved “Hippo” from him or all craziness will break loose.  Little Elliott especially loves Michael and gets very excited when he gets home from work to wrestle and play.  He brings my heart great joy!

Michael has been working for the water department in the City of Geneva since May.  Everyday I tell him I would honestly die if I had to do what he does.  Either that or I would cry all day long.  I admire his humility and perseverance.  Whenever I hear him get called to come in during the middle of the night to plow snow or fix water main breaks in the -100 degree weather, I thank God for the husband that I have.  Also, because he makes me laugh when I see him walking around the house in his long underwear ready to go into work at any minute of the day!

I spend my days with toddlers and preschoolers.  Three days a week, I care for more than just my own!  I love to have play dates with my close friends on my days off.  I find my sanity in even just sharing a cup of coffee with them amidst the day-to-day craziness.  There are definitely times when I feel the overwhelming nature of life.  Caring for my family and all of my other responsibilities can easily become complete chaos.  I am learning to focus on Jesus, in whom my identity lies.

“Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover      your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Matthew 11:28-30 The Message

I know that it is in this sweet surrender that I will become a better wife, a better mom, a better everything.  When I have Jesus first, all else falls into place.  So this Christmas I am celebrating Christ’s birth that made His death possible, that made His resurrection possible, that made my life in Him possible.  My life filled to the brim with joy, peace, and fulfillment in Him.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you…Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for there is a reward for your work, says the Lord…
there is hope for you future.”
Jeremiah 31:3, 16-17 NRSV

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
With all my love,
Jennifer

zielkehut-christmas-carda.jpg Christmas 2007

The sky is clear and blue.The warm breeze is gently rustling the leaves.As I get in the car, I realize quickly that I need to turn on the air conditioner.No, this is not the description of the Zielke summer vacation, it is December in San Antonio.Admittedly, it has seen its share of cooler days, but an eighty degree December day still seems strange to me.

Another year in the Zielke household is coming to a close.This year has been a good one, filled with many blessings.Our newest gift is named Elliott.He was born on September 21, and is growing quickly into a linebacker.He is already learning that his daddy is hilarious (did I mention he is smart?) and always smiles at his jokes, which may sound a lot like babbling nonsense to the untrained ear.He also loves his mommy, but I have a sneaking suspicion that she is blackmailing him by monopolizing his food source.He is very considerate of daddy’s sleep time too, as he only asks for mommy at night.What a great kid!

Trevor Norman Zielke, or Tefor Noman Geeky, as he says it, is surely the funniest two year old that has ever lived.Nacho Libre is one of his favorite movies, just ask him what his favorite animal is.He does some of the strangest things that make you wonder what the heck is going on upstairs.He is tremendously bright as well, and has mastered counting to ten, learned all the colors of Skittles (original flavors,) and knows the lyrics to “Go Cubs, Go,” among other great achievements.His sensitive heart is very evident as he does not like to be corrected, and quickly says sorry with a hug and kiss.Fetching Mommy a Diet Cherry Coke and Daddy a Diet Dr. Pepper from the refrigerator brings him true joy, but he will easily be offended if we do not drink it right away.

Jennifer has been challenged this year with a newborn and a seemingly insane little boy terrorizing the house all day long.She has met this challenge head on, and is succeeding daily.Being a mother of two young boys is a serious job that takes much love and dedication.Boys are fun and exciting, but are extremely tiring especially when they refuse to take naps.The living room has become Jenni’s gym, as she exercises to her workout DVD’s.Zero vacation days per year are the reward all of the hard work Jennifer does.I am thankful that my boys are being raised by a mother who genuinely cares for their every need. Mostly, I am thankful that I get a break when I leave for work.

My year has been differently challenging. I am going to school from the comfort of my living room through the University of Phoenix, which is entirely online.Working full time, going to school full time, and being a husband and father of two boys has proven to be quite the balancing act.I like to hit the streets and go for a run to clear my head and get some exercise at the same time.I have also begun reading some of the classics in my free time as well.I have completed The Catcher in the Rye and the Harry Potter series among others, and am currently working on The Lord of the Rings.

Thanks for taking the time to read about our family.Just the fact that you got this letter means that you are special to us and we are thankful for you.This year has been 365 reminders of God’s faithfulness, for which we are eternally grateful.Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”We wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy 2008!

Love,

Michael, Jennifer, Trevor, and Elliott

Christmas 2006mjtzielke82.jpg

Dear Family and Friends,

If you stand by our front door this December and listen closely you may hear the occasional growl from our infamous guard dog Lily or maybe the loads of slobber sloshing off of our big lug Payton as he dunks his whole head in his water bowl.Or you might hear a little voice saying “woof, woof” (just Trevor talking to us), and the click clack of the keyboard as Michael finishes up his homework online.But if you listen closely by our front door you will most definitely hear shouts of celebration and joyous dancing coming from me as the end of my rigorous college experience has finally come to an end.

Our 2006 has been filled with monumental moments and precious memories.We continually look back to everyday you have encouraged us, prayed for us, laughed with us, and cried with us.Without your love and support we most definitely would not be where we are today.We are forever grateful for each of you; you truly make our lives complete.

Trevor Norman Zielke is an absolute delight.His radiant eyes and beaming smile bring such joy to our lives everyday, and he is the perfect addition to our family.We have officially completed our first full year of parenting as Trevor turned one in August.We now have a full blown toddler in the household which means toilet locks, stair gates, unidentifiable language, and continuous laughter.He loves to run and play with his neighbor friends in our cul-de-sac.Our dogs, Payton and Lily, are his best friends and the three of them can often be found romping and rolling around together.Trevor loves to make us laugh and he has no problem entertaining a crowd.He is an amazing blessing and an incredible gift.

Michael continues to amaze me everyday.Trevor and I have been blessed to have such a hardworking, persevering, humble husband and father.He continues to work 40+ hours each week on the Bible Study Fellowship campus.He also went back to school this fall to pursue a degree in E-Business (a combination of a Business and an IT degree).The best part of this year has been watching Michael father Trevor.He is an excellent dad, always ready to play, yet consistent to steer Trevor away from disobedience.Trevor adores Michael, and yes, he first said “Daaie” (but soon followed with “Mom Mom”). We all have enjoyed getting involved at our new church home which we love, (www.brcc.net) and cherish our friendships with families in our Young Marrieds small group.

As for me, I am finally coming up for air; finally seeing the finish line so close ahead.When I started college four and a half years ago, never in a moment would I imagine I would be where I am today.Everyday I am reminded how blessed I am to have a loving husband and son, incredible family and friends, and a faithful God. A wise friend of mine recently encouraged me with the verse John 1:16, “…from the fullness of his mercy we have all received one blessing after another…” We pray that you will be encouraged by that verse this Christmas, for it is by God’s grace and mercy that Jesus was sent as a ransom for us all. His birth is a blessing, for it is by His death that we might live.

May you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2007!

We love you,

The Zielkes

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