About Debbie

Jeff and I have been married for elevent years. We have had many adventures - Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Thailand, and Tanzania, Africa where we climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. Our most recent adventure is children. This has been a journey of trusting God through challenging times and not letting go of hope. We have been pregnant four times: one premature birth and infant loss (read about Caleb's story), Jack which required 4 months of bedrest, one early miscarriage, and Parker which was another difficult pregnancy. I hope as you read this blog your faith will be strengthened and you will understand that no matter what is happening in our lives, God is good, faithful, and worthy of our trust.

RV Road Trip: Part 2

Ok Part 1 was very detailed about our trip excursions, but I promise I’ll answer more of your RV questions at some point.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park: After hours and hours of flat South Dakota, all of a sudden there is this amazing terrain. Deep cavernous rock, tall boulders. It really does feel like you are on a different planet. We parked at the Visitor Center, always with an eye out for “RV Parking,” and saw a park ranger in the parking lot with a huge skull in his truck. He told us it was a bison skull they found in the wilderness area and had to hike one mile back with it. It weighed around 100 pounds!

After some bathroom breaks and water refills, we grabbed a trail map and headed back to the main trails we wanted to hike. RV Bathroom Tip: we tried not to use it. We had to get gas every 4-5 hours anyway, so most of the time we used gas station bathrooms. We hoped to only dump the tank of the toilet once. So as much as possible we did not use the RV bathroom.

Notch Trail

At the Badlands we hiked the Door, Window and Notch trails, and a prairie dog town. The Notch trail was longer and required climbing up (and down!) this wooden ladder. The scenery was always amazing!

After hiking at the Badlands, we drove about an hour and parked at a truck stop near Mt. Rushmore. Sleeping at truck stops is hit or miss. Sometimes its calm and quiet. Other times it is loud and bright. This night was windy but we didn’t even realize that until the morning when we walked into the truck stop to use the bathroom and get breakfast, and the wind was blowing us sideways! I’m not going to lie, I was not excited about driving the RV through this wind, especially knowing we had some twisty mountain roads ahead. Thankfully we left early enough that the roads were pretty empty. Every time the wind blew me into another lane, no one else was around. Yes, the wind blew me into other lanes. I had such a tight grip on the steering wheel that my hands hurt when we arrived. I have never experienced wind like this before!

The wind was no joke.

Mt. Rushmore: The trails were closed at Mt. Rushmore because of recent snow and ice, but we were still able to walk past all the state flags on the paved path. We took the obligatory pictures, marveled at the stone carving, and headed to the gift shop. I asked the park ranger about driving routes to Custer State Park, our next destination. She informed me that the RV was too big for the route I intended to take, and also that part of the highway was closed down due to overturned semi-trucks who got blown over in the wind. Yikes! We found a route, made our purchases of National Parks patches and coins, and got on the road again.

Begging Burros

Custer State Park: Custer has a road that goes through and around the park called the Wildlife Loop. We drove half of that slowly, while checking out the bison, more prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, and the famous begging burros who come up to your car windows looking for food. We fed the burros slices of an apple and then supplemented with crackers to keep them around longer. We tried to alternate days in the trip with hiking and rest. So after hiking at Badlands, today was more restful driving through Custer. The kids loved seeing all the wildlife. Even though we saw hundreds of bison, it was still exciting to see more bison.

My husband is the photographer. Nothing gets in the way of a shot. Apparently the photogenic bison were on my side of the RV.
The Mammoth Site – how many mammoth bones can you find?

We detoured off the Wildlife Loop to check out Wind Cave National Park, which had just opened up their cave tours again, however we didn’t make it in time for that. We did a short hike on top of Wind Cave and read signs explaining the history. After a short time there, we ventured on to The Mammoth Site. Basically mammoth bones were discovered and a structure was built around it so visitors could see the mammoth bones in place. It is an active dig site and people were digging while we visited. Some bones they leave in place and others they take away for more research. They have found bones representing more than 60 mammoths! It was really a unique and amazing site to see.

Are you keeping track of all we did in just a few days? So far we are only two days into the trip and we have been to Badlands NP, Mt. Rushmore NP, Custer State Park, Wind Cave NP, and The Mammoth Site. Next up: back to Custer to climb a mountain!

RV Road Trip: Part 1

If we are friends on social media, you have problem seen pictures from our recent spring break vacation where we rented an RV and drove to South Dakota and Colorado to visit several National Parks. People keep asking questions and wanting to know more, so here’s a little update starting with what it was like to drive an RV.

First, driving an RV feels complicated… not so much the “driving” part but everything else you need to know about it. Our introduction to the RV by the owners took an hour. I still had questions but hoped Jeff was paying attention. Ours was 32 feet long and 11 feet tall, which meant we were too big to drive through some of the tunnels and mountainous roads near Mt Rushmore. Thankfully we knew this BEFORE we tried to drive there. Driving an RV takes focus and planning. It is a huge vehicle!

Let the driving begin!

Second, driving an RV is slow… slower than cars or trucks. We had read online, and the owners recommended, that we stay around 60-65 miles per hour. Not a problem for the first hour that I was getting used to driving. But once I realized that we were going to barely – if at all – make it to my niece’s wedding (Stop #1), I started to push the speed. Driving to Wisconsin for my niece’s wedding was a normal drive that I’ve done hundreds of times. It usually takes around three hours – in a car. However, we left about 5 hours early just to be sure we had plenty of time to change into my dress and the guys’ suits when we got there.

Lunch break: McDonalds in the RV

We successfully made our first stop at a gas station and then grabbed McDonalds for lunch. Eating while driving seemed challenging, so I ate quickly and then hopped back in the driver’s seat. As we were getting closer, and the time of the wedding was approaching, Jeff decided he’d put his suit on so he was ready to help the boys. Thankfully we made it in time, parking in the street near the church. Driving on highways is no big deal. Driving through towns is much more challenging. You have to remember to take turns extra wide, watch the rear to not hit curbs, give other cars extra space, and hope that there’s somewhat of a decent place to park when you arrive.

Walking from the far end of the parking lot at the wedding reception. RV Parking requires a hike.

After the wedding, we changed into comfortable clothes, put the boys to sleep in the bunk beds, and headed west. The plan was to drive until I was tired and then find a truck stop to sleep for a few hours. Jeff decided he’d try to sleep while I was driving so he would be able to sleep later. There was a bedroom in the back with a queen size bed, just past the boys’ bunk beds and the bathroom. In front of that was a small kitchen, table & benches where we ate meals, and opposite that was a couch. Of course above the “cab” (driver’s seat) was also a bed and tv which was a fun place to hang out.

I went to sleep in Minnesota and woke up in South Dakota. Perfect!
South Dakota is so flat you can see for miles! Definitely saw more cows that cars.

Those first few hours of driving were difficult. It was dark, raining, sleeting, snowing, and icy. I made it about 4 hours before finding a truck stop in Minnesota to park and sleep. We parked from 12:30am to 3:30am when Jeff got up and drove us into Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Sleeping while the RV was moving was challenging. It wasn’t quite the same as the movement that puts babies to sleep in cars. More like trying to sleep through an earthquake and feeling like you’re going to fall out of bed. In fact, after that first night, neither child wanted to sleep in the top bunk if the RV was moving. I woke up at 7:30 in South Dakota and took over the driving while Jeff slept. After hours and hours of flat South Dakota, we finally arrived at the Badlands National Park.

What were the boys – ages 8 and 5 – doing during this time? Mostly watching movies and playing games on their Kindle Fires. They are good travelers and didn’t mind all the hours driving. It was definitely more fun in an RV!

First Stop: my niece’s Wedding! By far this was the best we looked all week, and the cleanest! Haha!

More to come! Next up: exploring the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, Wind Cave, The Mammoth Site, Custer State Park, climbing a mountain, and Garden of the Gods.

Memorable Weddings #2

Since it is still our anniversary month, I’ll sneak in another memorable wedding post. If you missed my first one, go back and check out that story.

Jeff and I at the wedding

My cousin Erik was getting married in the summer of 2006. I drove from Wisconsin, picked up Jeff in the Chicago area (we were dating at the time) and we made our way to Ohio, where the bride was from, to join the rest of my family for the wedding. Erik and I are the same age and grew up together, and I became friends with his wife, so I had the honor of being a bridesmaid in the wedding. I think it was my third time being a bridesmaid in 2006 and each dress was a similar style but different color. Erik & Mandy’s summer wedding was a lovely yellow.

Family weddings out of town are always fun when you stay in the same hotel. My sister and I shared a room, while Jeff and my brother shared another room. Cousins, aunts and uncles, my parents, and my sister and her family were all there as well, so I’m sure we had late night talks in the hallways and laughed too loud for the people in the hotel not related to us. Sorry!

Jeff being a good boyfriend by holding my purse and saving some sodas for our drive home. I’m pretty sure my uncle told us to take them.

The rehearsal and rehearsal dinner went great. Everyone was having a wonderful time. Then the morning of the wedding came. The power in the hotel went out, which meant some people had trouble with their alarm clocks and were almost late to the wedding.

But the first issue I remember, is Erik knocking on my hotel room door asking if I have any CDs. Yes, this was way back when we had music on compact discs and not on our phones, or even easily accessible on the internet. The DJ and his wife had just divorced and the wife took all their music. Not only was this his first wedding since the divorce, but he didn’t have much music to play. Thankfully, since I had road tripped from Wisconsin, I had brought my entire CD collection. I wish I had a picture of this, but imagine the big black leather cases with pages of CDs inserted. I had 4 cases.

With the music issues mostly handled, I moved on through hair and makeup and I was ready and at the church. Now I have one thing I do in every wedding that I get to stand up in. I privately ask the bride and/or groom if they’re sure. I remember asking Erik, since he is my cousin, “Are you sure you want to marry Mandy?” He smiled and said he was positive. Then I asked Mandy. She looked at me like I was trying to break up the wedding. “Hey, I’m sure if you’re sure,” I told her. Mandy said she was positive she wanted to marry Erik. Great! Let’s get going.

Notice the seam popping open

The ceremony is a success and next we have pictures. I realize that my dress seems to have popped at the seam on the side. These bridesmaid dresses are always pretty but not the best quality. It wasn’t a hole all the way to my skin, but the seam popped enough that it was visible. I pulled the pin out of my flowers and used it to hold the dress together enough for pictures.

We had a few hours between the ceremony and reception so I changed out of the dress back at the hotel, and Jeff and I went on a search for a sewing kit. No one seemed to have any. Finally we found a dry cleaner. “Do you have a sewing kit we can buy? Or can you fix this dress really quickly?” The nice lady had nothing at her store to help us, but then remembered her personal sewing kit in her purse. She graciously gave it to us. Jeff sewed my dress back at the hotel (I have no sewing skills) and we were off to the reception.

The reception was fun. But the recently-divorced DJ drank too much, and let everyone make a speech. As he held the microphone out for me, I looked at my cousin thinking “Are you sure you want me to do this? I have a lot of embarrassing stories about you I could share.” He gave me the go-ahead-nod, so I did share one embarrassing story but that’ll have to wait for another blog post.

It was a wonderful, memorable wedding. Happy (almost) 15 years Erik & Mandy!

Memorable Weddings

Today Jeff and I celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary. Feels like just yesterday, until I start looking through pictures and see how much my nieces and nephews aged. My niece, who was a flower girl in my wedding, is getting married in just a few weeks! We had a virtual bridal shower for her yesterday and recalled a few funny wedding stories. In honor of our wedding anniversary today, I thought I’d share some memorable wedding moments Jeff and I have had together.

The first was in 2004. My best friend from high school was getting married in the Chicago area. I was a bridesmaid in the wedding, but I lived in Wisconsin and I was taking high school kids to Young Life camp the week before the wedding. Eventually we figured out that I could hitch a ride with a Young Life group from Michigan who would take me from camp in Minnesota and drop me off *sometime* and *somewhere* in the Chicago area. Jeff would pick me up and take me to my parents’ house. To make matters more complicated, I was still suffering from a bad concussion and head injury. And it turns out, taking high school kids to a week long camp of fun and adventure is not the best mix with a head injury.

Me half asleep as all the bridesmaids are getting ready for the wedding.

My fellow Young Life leaders carried me onto the bus at camp because I couldn’t walk on my own. Hesitant to leave me with strangers, they made sure to tell the other leaders to take good care of me. Our bus departed only to run into more complications. Some mechanical malfunction sidelined our bus for hours until a second bus was able to pick us up. This delay meant that instead of arriving in Chicago around 8pm, I was going to arrive at 1am. Thankfully Jeff didn’t care and still drove to pick me up. Note: Jeff and I were NOT even dating at the time.

Jeff picks me up. I warn him that I couldn’t walk myself onto the bus and he may need to carry me. We manage. He takes me to my parents’ house where I fall into bed exhausted and trying to get a few hours of sleep before I have to get up, get my hair and make up done, and manage to walk down the aisle.

Jeff and I at the wedding

Thankfully the next morning I was feeling much better. I did tell another bridesmaid friend about my walking issues, but I kept that a secret from the bride. Certainly brides don’t need to worry about their bridesmaids on their special day. The wedding was beautiful, I made it down the aisle without difficulty, and we enjoyed celebrating my friend.

I have more memorable wedding moments to share, but I got caught up looking at old pictures and now I’m out of time to write more. Stay tuned!

What I Didn’t Have

A poem for Caleb’s 10th birthday

I didn’t get to bring you home or rock you to sleep

I didn’t get to play with you or tickle your little feet

I didn’t get to walk with you or teach you to ride a bike

I didn’t get to bake you a cake or learn what you would like

I didn’t get to hold your hand as we crossed the street

Or teach you to play soccer or take you to the beach

I didn’t get to watch you grow or see what you would do

I didn’t get to celebrate the amazing things you’d do

But

I didn’t have to hear you cry or bandage a skinned knee

I didn’t have to yell at you for climbing too high in the tree

I didn’t have to punish you for fighting with your brothers

Or take away your toys because you didn’t share with others

I didn’t have to comfort you after a broken heart

Or watch you struggle with schoolwork and have to restart

I didn’t have to watch you fail, with dreams set aside

I didn’t have to watch you suffer in this broken life

Your whole life lived in a moment as you passed from our world

You leave me with empty arms but an overflowing heart.

What Will You Do With Grief?

My husband, Jeff, and I with baby Caleb. February 24, 2011

Tomorrow, February 24, 2021, will mark 10 years since our first baby was born and died. By the time we realized something was wrong with the pregnancy, I was already in labor but only about 20 weeks along. We had a few brief hours to prepare our hearts for the fact that our baby would not survive. Even if you had days, weeks, or months, nothing can truly prepare you for the loss of your child.

In the days that followed Caleb’s death, the question became what will I do with my grief? I had no choice in the life or death of my son. But I did have a choice with grief. Would I let it consume and overwhelm me, bringing me to a place of negativity, fear, and solitude? Or would I find a way to let grief motivate me to be more compassionate, to find the good despite the sadness, and to find joy in what I have been given?

Through God’s grace, I chose the latter. I’ve shared Caleb’s story countless times, writing about him here, talking about him at Bible studies, retreats, and fundraising dinners. I have sat with friends, or friends of friends, who have faced similar losses and we have grieved together. I found a ministry that I didn’t know existed or was needed until I was thrown into it. Just last week a friend texted, “Help! My friend just lost her baby. What do I do?” Although I hate that anyone has to go through the loss of a child, I am glad that I can help in some small way. For me, being able to help others is what continues to give Caleb’s short life meaning and purpose.

Parker (5) and Jack (8)

Now I have two boys, ages eight and five, who certainly keep me busy and entertained. I often post pictures of our adventures on social media. Sometimes people will comment that I’m a good mom. While I appreciate the compliment, I try to point out that I only post the good stuff 😉 But, if I’m being honest and a little less humble, I am a good mom. It isn’t so much about the fun vacations we take our kids on, or the gifts we buy them. I’m a good mom because I play with my children. I’m involved in their lives everyday. I have many friends who’s kids play mostly on their own, and that’s great! But for me, I know what it’s like to want to play with my son and not be able to. I know what its like when grief steals your dreams. That same grief motivates me to enjoy the life I have, the ability to play with my children, to make normal life feel like an adventure for them.

I have a few friends who have faced significant loss in their lives. The few I am thinking of each lost a sibling. Those friends are the ones that comment on Facebook, send cards of remembrance, and are the first to try to comfort others who are grieving. They know the pain of grief and it has motivated them to be compassionate to others.

Unfortunately, we will all face grief in our lifetimes in some manner. How will grief transform you? I definitely have moments and days (like today actually), where I just want to sleep and cry and not play with my children. But more often, I can choose to find joy despite the sadness, to share comfort with others who are grieving, and to enjoy the life God has given me.

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:13-14

Prepare The Turtle Formation

Nine years ago today, I laid in a hospital bed unprepared for the news I would hear. “You have to deliver the baby today but he won’t survive.” Incompatible with life. Just a couple more weeks in the womb and the story would be so different.

We held our baby Caleb, remarking on his long fingers and fingernails, and how he had his daddy’s nose. While our eyes filled with tears we knew he was home in heaven. In those moments I learned the depth of a mother’s love and the depth of a mother’s pain.


The days and weeks and months that followed brought grief, yet hope, sadness, yet trust in God, heartache, yet faith. I had family and friends who surrounded me in prayer, hope and support. It’s called a Turtle Formation.


In Bible times, when Roman soldiers were under attack they would come together with their shields – as big as doors – and huddle inside with the shields facing out. The formation looked like the shell of a turtle. Each shield was so big it would cover one soldier plus the gaps on the sides between soldiers. The enemy would hurl flaming arrows, but the shields would extinguish them.


Ephesians 6:16 tells us that God gives us armor. “Take up your shields of faith with which to extinguish the fiery darts of the enemy.”

On days like this I remember Caleb, nine years in heaven. I remember the sadness I felt. I remember leaning against the tree by his grave praying God would bring him back to life. I remember crying in the grocery store. I remember discovering that Kleenex shreds into pieces on my tear-stained cheeks. And I remember the faith-filled friends who stood by me.


Every comment on Facebook, every heart emoji, every text, every card, every phone call – they extinguish those fiery darts the enemy throws trying to make me question and doubt. Friends, your words have helped me stand firm taking up my shield of faith. I thank God for you!


Do you have friends like that? Do you have friends who hold up their shields of faith to protect you when you are hurting? When you face struggles and temptations, do you have friends to call? I hope you never need them. But I know that isn’t reality. We all need people to stand with us in faith when our faith is tested.


Be the friend who calls, who remembers, who cares. Take up your shield of faith and know that God is good, He is faithful, and you can trust Him.

The Gifts of God

At Christmas time we focus a lot on gifts. Making gift lists, buying gifts, wrapping gifts, receiving gifts. I wonder if you’ve ever had a time when you opened a gift you didn’t want. As you pull it out of the box you’re thinking, I don’t like this color or pattern. But the person who gave it to you is watching so you put on a fake smile and say “thank you so much …” Meanwhile you’re still looking for a gift receipt. At least you could exchange it…? But no. Your only option is to accept the gift. 

Have you ever had to accept something in life you didn’t want? Illness, job loss, miscarriage, infertility, divorce, death of a loved one.

About 9 years ago my husband and I were expecting our first child. But halfway through the pregnancy something was wrong. I was rushed to the hospital where the doctors told me I had to deliver the baby that night, but that he wouldn’t survive. A range of emotions and thoughts filled our minds over the next few hours as we waited for labor to intensify. But our main focus was, we didn’t have a name for this baby. What do you name a baby who will go straight to heaven?

There was one Bible story that kept coming to mind. It’s the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. They had miraculously left Egypt, survived the plagues that God sent to Pharaoh and the people, they crossed the Red Sea on dry ground as God parted the waters.. and now they’re in the desert. They were on their way to the Promised Land. It’s called “the Promised Land” because God promised to give this land to the Israelites. That simple.

Moses decides to send 12 men into the promised land to spy on it, to check it out and report back to the people what they find. These 12 men come back and say the land is amazing. It’s exactly how God promised – flowing with milk and honey, filled with the best fruits. BUT 10 men said there are giants living there. And we can’t beat them. The other 2 men said yes there are giants, but God is giving us this land. Let’s go! Those two men were Joshua and Caleb. Unfortunately the Israelites caved in to the fear that the 10 men had. They were afraid of the giants. They didn’t believe God’s promise. They doubted God. And so God said that those people would not see the promised land. The entire generation would die, except for Joshua and Caleb.

They roamed around the wilderness, the desert for 40 years, waiting for that generation of Israelites to die. Then Joshua and Caleb, now in their 80s would lead the people into the promised land.

What does this story have to do with a baby? I knew there were going to be “giants” in my future. There would be fears about having children, trying to get pregnant again, losing more children. I did not want to live in fear.  So I said to my husband, how about we name the baby Joshua? He said there was a Josh in kindergarten who punched him in the nose. So how about Caleb?

Naming our baby Caleb was a reminder – is still a reminder – to me to not give in to fear and worry, but to stand firm in God’s promises. God didn’t promise me a baby. But there are 3 promises I want to share with you today that we can depend on 3 GIFTS God gives us. 

First, God promises to be with us. Immanuel – God is with us. Hebrews 13:5 God says “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.” When a friend betrays you, when those who are supposed to love us walk away, when the world leaves us lonely, God will NEVER leave us. When you are walking through sadness, grief, despair, God is with you.  Matthew. 1:23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means God with us.”

Second, God promises to give us PEACE. We live in a world where anxiety is a common word, a common ailment. You can get a prescription to fix your anxiety. And certainly there are a lot of things we can be worried and anxious about, IF we didn’t have God to call out to. Philippians 4 tells us that PRAYER is the antidote to worry. Verses 6-8 says “Do not be ANXIOUS about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Can you even imagine your heart and mind being so guarded, so protected by peace in Christ, that no worries, no anxious thoughts can even get in?!

The peace from God doesn’t make sense. Not by any worldly standards. When Caleb died, I was grieving deeply. Yet I had peace. When I got pregnant again months later, I should’ve been afraid and worried. But I wasn’t. God had given me peace that is beyond our understanding. He wants us to live in that peace. When we bring our worries to Him and we pray, He will give us Peace.

The third gift God gives is the promise of JOY. True joy does not depend on circumstances but on the presence of the Lord with us. This joy is not a continuous smile but a satisfaction in what the Lord has done and in his presence with us. Jeremiah 31:13 God says “I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” There are a lot of verses about God turning our sorrow into joy. Sorrow may last for a night, but joy comes with the morning. And I read all of them after Caleb died. But I didn’t understand it. How is God going to turn this despair into joy? There’s never going to be a time where I am happy that my baby died, but there is a joyful contentment that God is in control. I’m thankful for the two boys I have at home, but neither of them replaced Caleb. You can’t create joy. Getting married won’t bring you joy. Getting divorced won’t bring you joy either. Your kids getting to a certain age won’t bring joy. Your bank account getting to a certain number won’t bring joy. A job promotion, a retirement, a cure… it won’t bring joy. It might bring happiness, but that’s not permanent. 

Joy isn’t based on our circumstances. In fact, joy is mixed in with the other gifts God gives us. Joy and Peace are BECAUSE we have Immanuel. Because God is WITH us we can have JOY in any circumstance. Because He is a God who is faithful, who is good, whose love for us is beyond compare. We can trust Him. Because He is a God who loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins so that we who believe in Him can have eternal life.

Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Are you longing for the peace and joy that only He can give? Do you want God with you? Then you just have to tell Him. If you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead you will be saved (Romans 10:9). You will have Immanuel – God with you. You will have Peace that passes understanding. You will have Joy instead of sorrow. 

These gifts from God are for you. You just need to accept them.

Getting Old and Staying Young

A few weeks ago I celebrated my 38th birthday. Just saying 38 sounds old. It doesn’t seem like too long ago that I was waking up late and rushing to catch the bus to high school. Or waking up late and rushing to class in college. Now I wake up late and rush to get my kids to school. I’m sensing a pattern. Seriously though, I’m in that stage where people just say “30s” or the 15th anniversary of their 21st birthday. Why do we hide our age? What are we so ashamed of?

Most of the time I don’t “feel” 38. I walk around thinking I’m 20-something until I actually see a 20-something and they look so childlike. I’m reminded of my age when I look closely in the mirror and see wrinkles on my face, or a few gray hairs on my head (I blame Parker for that… they started to appear when he was born). I’m reminded of my age when my friends and I play co-ed indoor soccer against the recently graduated college soccer stars. Or maybe they haven’t even graduated yet. While admiring their impressive skills and high energy, our taunts turn to “It’s past your bedtime!” Or “Don’t you have to get back to the dorm and study for finals.” Or “Your mom just called and you missed curfew!” We may not have won the game, but we did make them laugh.

I’ve always felt like the young one. Maybe because I have two older siblings and I was often too young to stay up and play with them at night. I have a fall birthday, which during school years always made me one of the youngest in my class. My husband is the same age as me (he’s a few months older!). Most of my friends are within a couple years of me, give or take. So I’m not ashamed of my age. Or at least, I’m going to try never to hide my age.

Every day is a gift. We are reminded of this when we hear of someone who died young, or when we have a friend battling cancer while she parents her young children. Each day is a gift. Each day of my 38 years has been a gift. I haven’t always felt like that at the time. Certainly not every day has felt good. But every day is filled with the hope of blessings more amazing that I could imagine.

The next time your age comes up, I hope you will proudly declare the truth, gratefully acknowledging the blessing of each day.

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

When Your Childhood House Gets Torn Down

Today my childhood home got destroyed. I say “childhood” but I spent many adult years there as well. My parents lived in this house for 43 years. When they sold the house six months ago, we knew today would come. My mom, one of my sisters and I stood there watching a front loader tear down our house room by room, and we cried. “It’s only a house,” we kept saying. But it was filled with so many memories.

When I was born, my parents added the entire second floor. I’m not sure what they were thinking doing such a huge construction project with a 10 year old, 5 year old, and newborn! I suppose because of me they needed more space. I slept through the construction. I napped right through the hammering and sawing and construction process. Which of course, has made me such a great sleeper. I can sleep through anything now – including my children calling out during the night, so my husband is probably less thankful about that!

My Dad helped with much of the construction, preparing drywall, building closets. Dad had a workshop in the basement and the garage. He fixed anything that was broken. He built a playhouse for me in the backyard that was still standing after 31 years. He also built the famous “Bope Wall of Fame” a giant bulletin board in the kitchen where Mom would put pictures. My friends always cheered when they made it onto the wall.

Friends and family were always welcome at our house. Mom frequently hosted holiday family parties. I remember my great uncle playing the piano, Nana and Granddad singing, Nintendo marathons with cousins. When family visited from out of town, they always stayed with us. We’d sneak into each other’s rooms at night to chat until Mom would come in with her trusty flashlight and threaten to separate us. For many years we had a party on Christmas Eve after church. One year my brother-in-law proposed to my sister in the family room. Of course my cousin Erik and I were young so we were spying on them until my dad told us to leave them alone.

Many boyfriends were interrogated in that living room. Some by my dad, but he had loosened up a bit by the time I started dating, which my sisters thought was very unfair. So they made sure to be at the house when I had a date. They can be pretty intimidating when they aren’t making each other laugh hysterically.

I lived in every bedroom, except the master. When a sibling would go to college, we all rotated rooms. In high school I painted my room an off-white color which I remember was made by Ralph Lauren, which seemed very fitting considering I wore a lot of polos in high school. When my brother took that room, he painted it poop brown (insert eye roll). After college, I lived in Wisconsin for three years and then moved back home while I was dating Jeff before we got married. I don’t even remember asking if I could move back home. My parents never cared about being empty nesters. They loved being surrounded by family and willingly opened their home. In fact they even agreed to let my best friend live with us senior year of high school while her family moved to California, but her parents didn’t go for it.

So many Christmas memories… our tree falling on my sister (she was ok) and henceforth had to be tied to the stair railing; sitting on the stairs with my sister on Christmas Eve spying on my parents as they put together a pool table for us; being brave with my cousin as we investigated the old closets in the basement and discovered my mom’s hiding spot for Christmas gifts! Waiting upstairs on Christmas morning until Dad has the giant video camera set up to record; sledding down the neighbor’s hill next to our house; building a ramp off the deck stairs to sled in the backyard.

There were basketball games on the driveway, soccer and badminton in the backyard. My brother and I were both brought home from the hospital to that house. All the grandchildren loved to play there, many had special sleepover trips to Grammy & Granddad’s. It was the hangout house for my friends, often because we had the best snacks. Parties on the deck which may have included a strobe light and boom box. Capture the flag games in the dark, wearing camouflage (as teenagers). Even as adults with our own houses, somehow we’d still find ourselves at the Bope house.

Our beloved house was torn down in less than an hour. It was a pile of wood and bricks and walls trampled under the tracks of a bulldozer. But nothing can tear down the love. The only special thing about that house was the Love that filled it.

My parents moved six months ago and their new house feels like home. Even though I haven’t lived there, I still feel at home. What makes it special: Love. Mom and Dad love people well. They share God’s love and they share what He has given them. A house is just a set of walls and rooms. But a home is Love.