Thursday, September 1, 2016

When the coffee gets bitter

I've had a revelation in the past few weeks: Life is not about me.

It doesn't get much more ironic than writing "It's not about me" in a blog that's purpose is to gain attention, but hear me out: 

In late July, while at annual training for a couple weeks, my hubs started having extreme headaches. They were so bad, he would curl up under a desk and try to sleep rather than leave his office for lunch or breaks. This continued even when he got home, which is when he started to experience nausea and extreme stomach pain as well. We finally contacted the doctor when I noticed he was looking rather jaundice. 

At his 2nd doctor's appointment within a few days, the doctor looked at us and said he wanted to admit him to the hospital right away. One of his blood tests was supposed to register between 33-70. His was 1,000. Suffice to say he wasn't doing very well, so we left for the hospital with his head hurting and my mind racing. It was a pretty rough 5 days in the hospital for him, with plenty of pain meds, a CT scan, a spinal puncture, x-ray, ultrasound, lots more blood tests and little sleep. I mean really, do you need to turn on the light at 4 a.m. to deliver a towel? But I digress...

Throughout the stay, we had some wonderful visits from friends and family and when I wasn't tracking down someone to change an IV bag or get him some more morphine, I was answering e-mails and texts to update people on his condition. 

On day two, he started to get worse quickly. This was also the time when the visits and communication slowed down as people were giving us some space. While he tried to sleep off the pain, I sat next to my book, journal and phone, also known as my boredom busters. I had already written until tears formed and Candy Crushed much longer than any person my age should. My book sat opened to the first page for about 20 minutes until I gave up re-reading the first paragraph. I was finally forced to mentally face what was going on and was trying desperately to keep it together.

It's moments like this I purposefully try to avoid. Instead of finding hope in Christ, I often try to push aside my thoughts and stay busy so I never even have the opportunity to worry for too long about the unknown future. This, however, was my breaking point. I sat on the floor outside room 506, head in my hands and praying harder than I've prayed in a long time. I felt helpless and completely scared- but tried to act okay as nurses occasionally passed by. It was at this moment that God showed up in an awesome way: my phone screen illuminated.

"Psalm 55:22- Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken."

My aunt couldn't have had more perfect timing in texting me this verse. I had been battling with whether or not to pray for God's will. I really didn't want God's plan if it lead to something I didn't like.

Over the next few days, I can't say I dwelled on this too much. I occupied my mind and stayed busy. My hubs started feeling better and ended up getting released to go home three days later. We still don't know what caused this and he's still struggling with headaches, but only at a fraction of the intensity they were before and much more rare.

I don't say this to brag about how God answered my prayers. I know it could have gone the other way and God wouldn't be any less involved or loving for it. I say this to explain how happy I am that God is in control and I am not.

This phrase had me less than comforted while we were in the hospital, but over the last month, I have come to a few conclusions as to why this is an incredible thing:

1. Life is not about me, or about my husband. We are an incredibly selfish society, but the sooner we realize that God doesn't owe us a happy or content life, the sooner our struggles seem smaller and we can focus on the fact that we are here to glorify Him. We are a speck on the timeline of eternity and our time here on earth would be so much more impactful spent glorifying Him than it would be worrying about ourselves or pursuing our will separate from God's.

2. God loves us. It says this countless times in the Bible. I've experienced it countless more. He may allow us to go through some awful circumstances, but His heart breaks with ours. He sent His only son to die as payment for our sins- what more proof can He give that He wants us to experience an amazing eternity?

3. God is with us. Even if this situation had taken a turn for the worse, I am never alone. Any situation seems a little less daunting when you have someone muddling through by your side. I saw evidence of this every time He prompted someone to call or text or visit us.

So while it may be painful and bitter, as life can tend to be, I do take comfort in the fact that God is in control. I can say that now, with my husband recovering, and have said it when things didn't take a turn for the better. It's a beautiful thing to belong to a loving God who focuses on little ol' me- and to have a ridiculous number of family members in Christ there to support us. I can't thank you all enough.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Arlus - A Memoir

I feel a profound sense of gratitude for our veterans and soldiers throughout our nation's history. While I always admire their sacrifice and willingness to serve, it becomes magnified through the remembrance of how our country was founded. When we celebrate our great nation through the power of unity, thanking God for our freedom, singing songs of commemoration and even watching the glittering explosions of fireworks, my heart is completely filled with a sense of pride. Even when our nation is struggling and faltering, we can push this aside for the sake of looking back at everything it took to make America what it is today. 

I have mentioned in the past how important this is to me, as I have a husband who serves in our military, as well as two grandfathers who served in the Korean war and in WW2. I am so incredibly proud to look up to these men in their strong foundation in Christ, as well as in their service of country, which is why today's post is especially dear to my heart. 

My dad's father, Arlus D Brady, passed away in 1997. I was pretty young, but I remember him well for his ornery attitude and absolute love for those around him. Sunday lunches with grandma and grandpa after church were a treat, and it's memories like these that built my childhood. 

I wish I had gotten to know him better, but I feel like he gave me that opportunity this year. Arlus kept some brief journals and plenty of mementos, from his birth in Wyoming in 1913 to his memories with family in his last years. In January of this year, my mom asked me to create a memorial of sorts that would combine these items in one organized place as a gift for Father's Day. Without my dad's knowledge, she gave me a box of photo albums, scrapbooks, letters during the war, etc., and I began to turn them into what would soon become my grandpa's memoir. 

The book took about 5 months to complete as I deciphered his handwriting and researched the timeline of his life. Having only edited for grammar and a bit of chronological re-ordering, his words are truly his. It's an incredible feeling to have been the copy editor alongside my grandpa as I really got to know him like I never have before. To read the letters between my grandparents as they went through years of war and separation was absolutely incredible. 

When the project was finally done, even I was surprised at how well it turned out. did a fantastic job with the printing and it looks absolutely professional in a way I didn't expect. My dad was in tears when he received it and has been perusing it since Father's Day. It's been a lot of fun to discuss the contents with him for the last few weeks- especially since I caught a lot of glimpses of my dad's personality through reading grandpa's words. 

The best part of this is that mom purchased extra books so each of us get a copy, and as each grandchild is born, they will get their own copy of their great-grandpa's legacy. 

The book includes postcards, photos, maps, comics, cards, landmine flags, tickets printed in German, handwritten letters, articles, journaling and even a letter from General Patton! 

My favorite part is by far his letters to my grandma. They were so in love and I was privileged to witness them stand by each other's side until death did them part. 

I know not everyone was able to face their memories of the war, but if you have any clippings like what my grandpa left behind, I would highly encourage you to take the time to record them. It's pretty amazing to see it in published form. From his birth certificate to his last words of "To God be the Glory," his and my grandma's legacy will live on for generations. 

I only wish that Arlus and Ruby were able to see how much of an impact they have made. Although I'm guessing God might let them know. :) Have a beautiful Independence Day and take a moment to thank God for our freedom and for those who worked so hard for us to have it. 

If you would like to purchase a copy of this book, it is available here. If you get a chance to read it- please let me know! It would mean a lot to me to know that his legacy is reaching even more people. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Is this Heaven?

No, it's Iowa! But good guess. ;) 

It didn't take long after moving in to our new place for my energetic, hard-working hubs to build a raised garden bed for all the produce he had in mind for this fall. We're big fans of produce and, while I can't keep a houseplant alive, he has two green thumbs. He decided to plant quite a variety with hopes that some of it would flourish, but just about everything flourished, so we now have a little bit of everything popping up! 

These photos are a tiny bit dated, as they are almost ready for picking now, but I wanted to give a good reference to the "baby" phases of the plants so I can post the finished product in a while. 


Rhubarb (only good for pie!) 



Sunflowers (just for fun)

Local geese were curious about what I was doing! 

Some peppers gettin' jalepeno business!

Yellow squash

And raspberries! 

I've been told not to eat raspberries for the first few years, but I took a risk and tried one a few days ago and it was delicious! So, it very well could be poisoning me or something, but it was worth it. :) 

We're pretty jazzed to try out everything! We also have red and green bell peppers, pumpkin, watermelon, green beans and tomatoes (gross). Any suggestions for some fantastic garden additions? I'm thinking the next level should be a cherry tree! 

I have to add that I'm completely amazed by the hub's talent once again. The raised garden beds have been wonderful for our "crops". They really help with weeds and you don't have to bend over so far to check their progress. Plus, he rigged a soaker hose to wind throughout the beds and put that on a timer so each plant gets the right amount of water each morning. HUGE time saver! 

I hope you all have a beautiful weekend- I can hardly wait for Yankee Doodle Pops tonight! It's a must-do in Des Moines for Independence Day! We all gather on the lawns surrounding the capitol building and listen to the Des Moines Symphony while eating amazing fair-type foods before the fireworks finale. It doesn't get much better than that. :) 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Ryan + Brittany Engagement - Valley Junction

While not the focus of today's post, let me start off by recognizing Memorial Day. I am eternally indebted to those who have lost their lives in fighting for my freedom and I do not take that for granted. As a military wife and the granddaughter of a WWII veteran, this is extremely important to me and I truly thank God for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. 

I admit I am also truly thankful for a long weekend. Life has been on full-speed for the last few months and I made a serious dent in my to do list today! The final action of the list being to get some photos up of my beautiful cousin and her new fiancĂ© , Ryan. 

I'm so happy they asked me to shoot their engagement, and I get to shoot their wedding this fall! I loved getting to know Ryan a bit more and seeing how much they love each other and truly have fun together. They made it so easy to take pictures since they were constantly making each other smile! It is pretty amazing to be a part of this when I feel like it was only a few months ago I was taking her senior photos! 

We ended up having a blast exploring Valley Junction and even ended up visiting the place where he proposed. It ended up being a beautiful day in spite of the crazy wind! They were both fantastic sports about it and were up for anything! 

Now I can hardly wait for their wedding in September! 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A puzzling toy

I have to brag a little bit. Not about myself, but my amazing hubs. The other day he started showing me wooden toys out of the blue. I was wondering why on earth he was suddenly so into researching this when he mentioned he wanted to make a toy for our niece, Anaelle. 

First of all, that is adorable. I love that he thought of that. Second, as soon as I agreed that it was a great idea, he started working on it and had it done the next day! 

I was so excited, I wanted to post up some photos of it really quickly. He will probably want me to give the disclaimer that he already has thought of ways to enhance it, but I think it is downright amazing! 

He even cut out her initial as one of the shapes! 

When she is old enough, I bet she'll have loads of fun with this! Perhaps too complicated for a 3-month-old at the moment, but she'll get there! ;) 

Now my hubs has the woodworking bug and I'm starting to create a list of things for him to make! Let me know if you think of anything cool he should try to tackle!