Saturday, December 7, 2013

2013 Recap

I guess you could say we finally joined the semi-green and eco-friendly world of less paper Christmas cards/letters, but you might as well know, it was FAR easier to fit our escapades in this space versus an itty bitty 5x7 sheet of paper. Not to mention make 100+ cards by hand every year... :) 

So without further ado, here is the Verkaik Variety 2013 edition. :)

I will begin with our spunky blonde! She began 2013 as an 8 year old and is very excited to turn 9 in almost a month. She absolutely loves to learn! Her current future profession is that of a Geologist. (Her teacher has a passion for everything Michigan!) She is also learning what it means to care for an animal. Prince Emmett aka Dr. Emmett Brown is her pet lop-eared bunny. When one thinks of fun pets, bunny doesn't generally cross your mind. (But when your mother inists on not picking up dog-related bombs in the yard... this is one of your few options.) Anyway, this one has quite the personality! He is litter-trained and is affectionately known as the Hopping Cat. He is very intelligent and loves to steal pretzels right out of the bag as you eat them. (Literally sticks his head in and snatches one then leaps away to hide and eat his forbidden prize.) Needless to say, he is a much-loved/fought-over member of our home. :) When she isn't reading or taking care of Emmett, Chloe enjoys being a second year Brownie Girl Scout. Together we've marched in parades, earned badges, camped-out and just plain had fun! It has been fun to see her grow in the way she sees her friends. Third grade began as she dealt with the "girl-drama" that occurs when BFF's get split in different classes: learning to pray for the person who hurt you, not returning meanness for meanness, and being honest about how they hurt you. Lessons that as her mother were difficult to watch and not step in to protect her. Lessons that I was able to hug and help her walk through; knowing they would only get bigger as she does. Lessons that have helped her to walk taller and know God is her helper in every situation. 

Next is our blue-eyed boy. He began 2013 as a 6 year old but cannot wait to have the much anticipated "7th Birthday Friend Party"!  His current future profession is Army Pilot. Michael's teacher just chuckled when she talked about how serious he is and how she tries to joke with him. He is a thinker. His mind is constantly turning and wondering. Some of his questions range from: "Does Yoda have a sister?" to "How do you make an X-Wing fighter, Daddy?"  "What is infinity times infinity?" to "Does God ever get mad at us?" and my favorite, "What was the grossest thing you did on your wedding day, Daddy?"  (He is determined to never kiss a girl. Because who would ever want to, for real?!)  As his mother, I laugh. That boy will have a line of girls following him when he gets older. He tries so hard to hide his sweet, tender side and be macho around his friends, but even the bunny chooses him over Chloe much to her dismay. His tender heart spills over into his questions about God and his simple understanding of theology. I never get tired of hearing him tell me what he observes and believes. His mind works just like his father... trying to understand and logically piece things together as he does his Legos. If only life could be that simple. :) He builds elaborate creations, ships, planes, Star Wars fighter jets and doesn't really care a whole lot where the unused blocks end up. His main goal is to fill up his new Lego display shelves that Daddy made! When he isn't cleaning up his Lego mess, he enjoys indoor soccer. Saturday mornings give me a bit of time to think and write while he runs and learns techniques as they play. It was fun to watch him break out of his shell as he stole the ball and helped to make a goal for his team. 

Definitely not least is our brown-eyed boy. This little man began 2013 as a 4 year old in diapers and half way through the year, he learned that he needed to "force push" like Darth Vader and he could be a big boy like Michael. :) It was party day in our house, let me tell you!! Every time I do a load of undies, I just smile and thank God for His perfect timing. Jonny was able to start preschool in September with his beloved Mrs. Parrott. (Every person who asked him if he was in school from August to October knows her name!) He only goes 3 mornings a week, but that first Tuesday when he didn't have school, he went through withdrawl begging me to take him to see Mrs. Parrott. :) She just grinned at conferences when she talked about him. He loves life! Every little thing he observes or hears is deemed worthy of joyous celebration. He loves to engage his imagination and build with his Legos for hours on end: making "guys" and planes and figuring out how to best create what he sees in his mind. It is truly a joy to take him places and see the wake of smiles as we are heard and observed. Many people have enjoyed our Jonathan Michael - Gift sent from God. Even as I have struggled with some difficulties he has, I rejoice in the fun our family has as a result of God's sovereign plan through this little boy. (At the very least, Mike and I share a lot more laughter as we retell his anecdotes!) My favorite example of this is last night as we were singing "My God is So Big". I stop singing certain words and he fills them in. I absolutely love to hear Jonny singing of how there is nothing our God can't do... but my favorite line he says is "the mountains are His, the rivers are His, the stars are His 'candiwork' too!" I just squeezed him close and laughed. You certainly are His 'candiwork' Jon! 
Then there is us. Life has been full this year. I keep waiting for it to slow down a bit, but it never does. 

From January to August, our main floor has been in various stages of construction. Mike and his dad did a fantastic job expanding our mudroom, reducing our half bath, tearing the kitchen down to studs and then completely remodeling it, laying tile and wood flooring, finishing with a simple yet beautiful mission style trim. Mike also built a gorgeous counter-height oak table and took some local clearanced chairs and created a beautiful table/chair set. 

Around the middle of June, I left for a 10 day trip to Liberia, Africa. The back story to that is found hereThere is another post talking about my pre-trip thoughts. The follow-up article is slow going... so many emotions to process and put into words. It was an amazing trip full of complex moments and feelings. Some of the huge questions/problems we wrestled with involved Western Culture meeting African Culture. Neither is right or wrong but learning to think before acting as an American is very very difficult. (Do you know how to consciously think about every breath you take??! It was like that.) 
Then July had us looking back 10 years since we put on those rings and said "Forever... by God's grace!"  I sometimes feel like a veteran considering the disintegrating marriages around us, but most days, I just feel inexperienced in the face of life with a family and balancing the important things vs the trivial. Keeping your relationship fresh in the middle of signing homework agendas and listening to daily reading homework; not to mention mediating disputes while making dinner. It requires patience, persistence and
 complete reliance on God's grace. It's no wonder God uses the marriage relationship to describe His relationship to us!

When we aren't wading through the daily of life, Mike and I organize the weekly Food Pantry at our church. God has provided a great team of volunteers that rotate each week and serve faithfully. It's been really neat to see our church begin to take ownership of the needs they see! 

I also lead Chloe's Brownie Girl Scout Troop. We meet twice a month. It's not easy to put in the time necessary to do it well, but I have had the privilege of seeing the girls grow in their understanding of each other as well as meeting and working with some other great Girl Scout leaders in our community. 

I'm also enjoying volunteering at the kids school. It was strange at first to be on the other side of the teacher's desk, but I enjoy the relationship and camaraderie shared with each of their teachers. I am so thankful for such a great school district! The wonderful ladies in the office boldly play a local Christian radio station. God has provided such amazing teachers each year, but even so, I get to pray with my children for their teachers and remind them each morning to stand for Jesus in the way they act; especially when they are hurt by others. 

As I end this December-Thanksgiving edition of the Verkaik Variety, our minds can't comprehend how much we have to be thankful for. I can make lists upon lists and yet never come to the end of how much God has given to us. Especially you, our family and friends, thank you for wanting to see what the Verkaik family is up to these days! 

As you are immersed in the Christmas season, keep fighting the good fight of balance and living in the moment and seeing the important things versus the things you pinned on Pintrest. I will be fighting right alongside you. :) 

Thankfully anticipating Christmas,
The Verkaiks