Book Review: Dear Grandchild, This Is Me

On my mom’s side of the family we’ve been so blessed by what we know as “Grandparent Books” – labors of love created about my great-grandparents, grandparents, great-aunts and uncles, telling their stories. These binders are filled with photos, stories (from interviews if possible), copies of awards and achievements, etc. They are amazing and true keepsakes.

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However, not every family has someone willing to go to all that “trouble.” Maybe that describes your family. If that’s the case, Dear Grandchild, This Is Me may be the PERFECT solution. This compact book is FILLED with prompts, questions, places for photos, a family tree, and SO much more that I honestly wouldn’t have thought to ask my parents. And, it will be in the grandparent’s handwriting!

Every page is colorful, thoughtfully laid out, and filled with great content. It’s so much easier to start with a prompt than with a blank page, and they have great questions to answer!

Family history is SO important to document, especially the personal side of it. Stories and wisdom need to be shared from generation to generation, and Dear Grandchild, This Is Me is truly a perfect way to do it. Our children’s grandparents just may be receiving a copy of this in the near future 😉 And, honestly, I want to start filling mine out for my future grandchildren (even though that’s at least 18-20 years from now).

You can buy a copy at most online retailers – here’s the Amazon link.

I took pictures of a few of my favorite pages so you can get a glimpse.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

 

Book Review: The Jesus Who Surprises by Dee Brestin

img_8482The Jesus Who Surprises: Opening Our Eyes to His Presence in All of Life and Scripture is an excellent study – one I enjoyed from beginning to end.

The author looks at the entire Bible to show us glimpses of Jesus where we may not expect to see Him. She masterfully shows that the Bible is indeed one connected story, one of hope, redemption, and love. She also approaches important topics like suffering, and she shows how those things produce a joy like none other (something I know from experience). I thoroughly enjoyed this study and repeatedly found myself excited and encouraged by her words. That isn’t something I can often say.

Here is one of my favorite quotes:

When we realize that the Lord is in control, a peace comes to us, despite the suffering. We realize that this shaking is temporary and that we have an inheritance that can never be taken from us. (Page 123)

I especially loved – and learned from – the third part, looking at Isaiah and what is in store for us. She summed up the whole study so well in the last sentence:

My hope is that seeing this same story from Genesis to Revelation will give you great confidence in the reliability of the Scriptures and the truths they hold. For the Jesus that surprised the two on the road to Emmaus, and surprises us in our everyday lives, is not at all finished surprising us.”

Dee also challenges the reader to see Jesus at work every day – something I’ve practiced for years thanks to missional training I received. He is always at work, you just have to see it. This practice alone can significantly change one’s perspective.

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This beautiful study can be done individually or as a group. Dee provides thoughtful questions to encourage a deeper study of Scripture at the end of each chapter.

I highly recommend this book and I look forward to reading more of her studies.

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I was given a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

More Than Just a Stove

On December 25, 1989 I was given a handmade stove from my great-grandparents. I would be turning seven the following week and loved to pretend to cook, so my wonderful great-grandparents (Irvin and Vera) used their talents and skills to lovingly craft this perfect little stove.

They even had the foresight to make the knobs teal – one of my favorite colors now.

Last week we moved the boys’ room around and created space to add things like the stove to their play area. Tonight we introduced them to it and they played with the food in it (we need dishes still but at least we have wooden food!) for about an hour.

When I see this stove (which came across the country, thanks to my parents, so that my children could enjoy it, too), I am reminded of the rich heritage from which I come.

I am so blessed to have known my great-grandparents (in particular, I knew Great-Grandma Vera very well; she lived down the street until she went to Heaven when I was 18).

I’m so grateful that they took the time to create something that I could pass down to my own children. How many can say they have something their great-great-grandparents made?

I pray that our children will cherish their family history like Brennan and I do. I pray that when they have families of their own they will remember to tell their children of the love that has been passed down for generations.

And I hope they take care of this stove so that their children can enjoy it, too.

How We Make Small Spaces Work With Toddlers

img_8335You may remember that our home is currently split into two separate apartments. We currently occupy the first floor and the basement; while someday we hope to make it back into one house and utilize all of the space for our family, for now we make it work and I think we do it fairly well.

It takes creativity to have four people live in approximately 700 sq. ft. (plus the basement), and it takes some time to figure out the best way to arrange things. We’ve been here 2.5 years and I’m still always thinking of new/better furniture arrangements. 🙂 Everything must be multi-functional in order to live comfortably.

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One of the things we (by we, I mean my dad) did to make the living room (which had been split in half with a wall and a door to create a bedroom) more functional was to put in french doors. In the future, it can just be part of the living room/an office and not a bedroom, but it is currently the boys’ bedroom.

Until last weekend, the living room was also their playroom (which is fine, as we do not believe children should be confined to a separate space – this is their home, too, plus, how?).

We wanted to make better use of our available space so we took down the huge crib (where Caleb had been sleeping) and added another Pack-n-Play (with a good mattress, like Isaiah has been using).

This allowed us to move their play area into their room and make it an even better living situation for us all!

We also have a reading station and a music station in the living room, as well as other bigger toys (currently these tunnels) for them to enjoy.

They carry their toys from room to room and it’s never this clean (I quickly tidied up to be able to take a decent picture!), but that’s okay. We wanted them to feel free to have fun and to play wherever they want, safely. Toddler life is not a tidy life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

While it isn’t always easy to live in a small space, it is possible, and it is worth it. It’s saving us money, helping us become debt-free, and it’s forcing us to be thoughtful about using every inch wisely. And there’s less space to clean 😉

Five

Today is Tori’s fifth birthday.

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It’s the fourth one we’ve celebrated without her in our presence, but, for some reason, this one caught me off guard and hit me harder than anticipated.

Five is a milestone. Five is an age little kids want to be (I apparently used to tell people I was five when I wasn’t). Five means kindergarten is coming. Five.

It’s hard to not imagine what she’d look like, what she’d be like.

We should be celebrating our first born’s birthday WITH her, but instead we will celebrate without her. It’s a consequence of living in a fallen world, a harsh reality of living between two gardens (Eden and Heaven), as Lysa TerKeurst has said.

It would be so easy to take the pains of this earthly existence and dwell on them, to allow them to consume us and to derail our lives. But, as Christians, we are given wise and practical advice as to how to navigate this fallen world, and in moments like these we should turn to God’s Word for that wisdom:

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

Colossians 3:1-4

“Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.” 

We could dwell on the things of earth – Tori’s absence, the unfair nature of our situation, what we lost thanks to mutated genes that caused Krabbe. But, God tells us to dwell on the things of Heaven – Tori’s eternal presence there, her healed body, her ability to live an abundant life there, the fact that we will join her someday for ETERNITY.

So that’s where we purposefully turn our eyes. Sometimes it comes easily, other times it requires faith. The root of our joy is Heaven through Jesus, so we choose to focus on what’s to come rather than on what has been.


At the Hunter’s Hope Symposium last week, one of the Krabbe -and fellow twin- mamas I greatly admire said this about her son: Jenna said that when Jackson was first diagnosed, she prayed and pleaded with God to let him live a normal life, to let him achieve milestones and do things like graduate from high school. She said she felt the Lord say that those are ordinary things; Jackson’s life would be extraordinary. 

I know the same is true for Tori. This was God’s plan of redemption all along – that she would change lives and make a huge difference in this world – a difference that will be seen in the next. He has redeemed a terrible situation and made something beautiful from it.


Whatever you’re facing today, remember that we are called to something greater and that this world is not our home. This broken, painful, earth is not our final destination. It’s temporary – and we thank God for that!

Focus on the eternal, on the things that come from God – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). When you set your mind on things above, it changes your perspective and you realize that joy comes more easily, no matter the circumstances.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

–Philippians 4:4-9


We love you, Tori, and we celebrate you today. We always will.

Why Intent Matters

Disclaimer: As always, I do not write this as someone who has it all together – I write as someone trying to figure it all out. 

I’ve come to recognize the importance of intent when considering conflict and a hopeful resolution. Whether the conflict happens in the workplace, in friendship, in family, in the Church, or in marriage, I believe it’s important to always assume the best and seek true understanding of the heart behind the words/actions.

We are quick to expect grace but hesitant to offer it. 

I’ve written before about the current situation in which I find myself because of words that were misinterpreted and actions that were made mistakenly. “Mistakenly” is the key word. My intent was never to hurt this person. One of the mistakes I made was truly done innocently, and the other was misinterpreted because of the previous mistake. It didn’t help that these two mistakes were made within the same month.

Both times my heart was in the right place, but this person seemingly refuses to consider that. I understand – and acknowledged – that I caused hurt, but I also understand that it is all a misunderstanding and have sought forgiveness and grace to no avail. I’ve given up trying to explain/prove that my intentions were good and instead have chosen to give this person space. However, all of this has caused me to spend a great deal of time researching/contemplating intent and motive, both biblically and in general, both as an offender and the one offended.


Intention: an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result. The end or object intended; purpose.

Motive: something that causes a person to act in a certain way, do a certain thing, etc.; incentive. The goal or object of a person’s actions.

I posed a multi-level question on my Facebook page and loved the responses that I received. Here is the question: “How often do you consider intent/motives when someone has (intentionally or unintentionally) wronged/hurt you? Do you do this before you respond, or after? Do you think that intent is more important than what was done?”

And here are a few of the responses:

“I have these conversations with myself all the time when someone has done something to hurt me. I ask myself, “what is the likelihood that it was their intent to be hurtful or insensitive?” This doesn’t mean the issue is never brought up, but it does provide context that enables me to see things more clearly. One of the best pieces of advice i ever got was to assume the best about people until they prove you wrong.” – Becky

“This is a huge challenge for me. I’m married to an Enneagram 1, so I have to remember his intent is always for the greater good, but as an Enneagram 4, I’m always “But my FEELINGS!!!” and he’s always reminding me of his intent even if his message is received otherwise.” – Shannon

“Not as often as I should. My tendency is to feel first, act, then think. I am working on being more intentional about thinking about the feeling before I act on it, for this reason.” – Mikayla

“I really have struggled with this. I naturally lean towards adding in my interpretation of their actions. I’m working hard on taking people at face value.” – Alexis

“As I get older (and ideally more spiritually mature) I try to consider motives. Usually I’m better at considering them afterwards but I try to always respond in a controlled manner. I’m not always successful at this. It also depends on how close of a relationship I have with someone who has hurt me. This determines how far I’ll go to try to mediate vs just forget about it.” – Michelle

“I try and consider intent because the intent may have been poorly received by me because I misunderstood. My misunderstanding doesn’t mean they intentionally wronged me. This takes me time to arrive here because I can be quick to respond to my hurt. It’s a learning process.” – Johanna

“I think there’s always a backstory that we don’t know.” – Carla

“I think offense can be a choice, even if someone is being intentional, I can still decide to not be offended….heaping coals or perhaps, ‘let it go’. Definitely easier said than done but brings a lot of freedom when possible.” – Christa

“I find that the more spiritually fit I am, the less anyone or anything affects me. If I am restless, irritable or discontented, there’s something wrong in my spirit.” – Connie

“Intentions are always worth considering but impact really matters more than intentions. We need to own our responsibility for hurtful impact even when our intentions were not hurtful.” – Sarah

“I have come to see just how much communication improves when I take responsibility to make sure my noble intent is clear to the person I’m trying to communicate with.” – Lyndsey

“I am loving the opportunity to teach my children about perspective. About owning the mistakes we make and showing grace and understanding when things happen to us.” – Meredith

“As for the finding out that it was unintentional, it usually makes it easier to heal, unless their attitude about it is a “so what if it hurt you, I don’t care because I didn’t mean it that way” but then the hurt gravitates towards their lack of care rather than what they actually did first.” – Valerie

“Intent has the ability to change EVERYTHING.” – Amanda

“Always only afterward in retrospect. I strive to see the good in other people and I can be really naive about it. That’s not to say I’m a saint but I’ll often question myself and my motives before somebody else’s.” – Melissa

“Intention is everything. I will NEVER hold someone accountable when the consequences are not tied to the intent. However, if there is intent there, my reaction will be a bit different.” – Josh

“I don’t know that there’s one right answer. Intent certainly can be more important, but not always. Every situation is different.” – Bethany

“Intent is so important. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt (whatever it is) but seeing things from another’s perspective is key to healing and ultimately growth.” – Angie

“I think assuming the best of someone is wise in order to further maintain relationships. But, we learn in infanthood to trust/mistrust people according to Eric Erickson so it can be hard to 1) realize we mistrust others and 2) to endeavor to do better and 3) recognize when we aren’t and change our thought patterns in the moment.” – Danielle


Context is one of my favorite things in life. It’s one of my top StrengthsFinder strengths; it’s why I love history, why I love learning people’s stories. Context brings understanding and grace, because a person’s actions often don’t tell the entire story.

Biblically speaking, Peter is a perfect example. Peter had great intentions to follow Jesus but often fell flat on his face because he didn’t execute those intentions well. He had the faith to get out of the boat and walk on the water, but he also lost sight of Jesus in the midst of the wind and the waves and began to sink. What did he do? He called out to Jesus for help. His heart never wavered. He may have failed in the moment but his intentions were good and true. He’s the one Jesus chose to be the foundation of the Church (Matthew 16:18) and I think that’s telling. God doesn’t expect perfection – He expects obedience and faith.

More than once in Scripture we are told that the Lord knows our hearts. One of my favorite verses on this topic is this:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

If God looks at the heart, shouldn’t we?

We tend to get what we look for. If we look for the worst in people, we’ll get bucketloads of it. If we look for the best, we’ll get that.” – Karl Vaters

We all have past hurts that have shaped our view of people and of the world. It’s easy to assume that just because someone in our past intentionally hurt us that anything anyone does is also to inflict pain. But is that fair? Is that the best way to approach relationships?



This is already too long, so here are some resources I found if you want to read more.

Intent and motive are explored in several Bible passages:

Numbers 14: 40-44 (When the Israelites realized the consequences of their actions, they repented but the Lord knew their hearts and the reason behind their actions.)

Joshua 22:11-34 (Great example of not assuming that intentions are bad.)

1 Chronicles 19:2-3 (Our past experiences can make us overly suspicious of others. We should not assume that every action is meant for harm.)

From a corporate standpoint, this is an excellent article.  Here’s a quote from it:

When we make mistakes, we often blame the circumstances of the situation rather than take responsibility for the mistake. When other people make mistakes, we tend to over-emphasize the other person’s role in that mistake–we very quickly blame them!”

Here are some other articles I found on this subject:

https://www.christianpost.com/news/why-god-is-looking-at-your-heart.html

https://www.crosswalk.com/family/marriage/doctor-david/why-you-should-always-assume-positive-intent.html

https://www.christianitytoday.com/karl-vaters/2017/july/fellow-christian-assume-best.html


After all of this reading, discussion, and contemplation, I still believe that when we are wronged, we need to take the intent of the person into consideration. That doesn’t erase the hurt (and we must own our mistakes), but it can lessen it once we realize that they made a mistake. We ALL make mistakes. We are ALL imperfect. We ALL have backstories. We ALL do and say things we regret because we are sinful humans. Bottom line: We cannot hold others to an impossible standard that we ourselves could never attain. 

As Christians, we are to offer abundant grace and forgiveness because WE have been forgiven abundantly by our Lord and Savior. Who are we to harbor unforgiveness? I am not preaching here – I am well aware I am prone to hold on to resentment and it’s something I struggle with on a daily basis. That’s why I’m so thankful that God has given us His Word to remind us of the standard to which we are called:

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:9-18

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” – 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:32

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” – Colossians 3:13

The next time someone “wrongs” me I pray that I can take their intent into consideration before I respond. Was it truly done maliciously? Were they actually trying to harm me in some fashion? Has their track record really been one of causing hurt? Or am I taking things too personally/the wrong way? Because intent matters.

Considering intent can make it far easier to offer abundant grace and forgiveness instead of being on the defensive and choosing anger and hurt. One path leads to stronger relationships; the other leads to resentment and loss. Which do we want more?


Questions for discussion and contemplation: When someone’s intentions and motive are pure, yet hurt occurs, what role should grace play? When the offender is remorseful and expresses that their intent was indeed pure and good, how should the one offended respond?

Isaiah and Caleb’s Adventure List

When we started to create a “bucket list” for Tori, we knew time was short. We knew we had to cram as much into her limited days on earth as we could, and we did. We completed fifty adventures and it brought so much joy to us. We won’t know what she got out of those adventures until we get to Heaven, but for us, they were a huge deal and we loved every second.

After the boys were born I was thinking about Tori’s list and I told Brennan that we should do the same adventures with the boys (though not in just a nine month time frame – spread out over their childhood) since these are things we would have waited to do as a family if our circumstances had been ideal. He readily agreed.

Though we are doing them separately, it feels like she is a part of these memories, and we can show the boys the pictures of Tori doing each adventure as we do them. ❤️

So, tonight we did the first thing on the list: Build-a-Bear. Thanks to their “Pay your age” promotion, we spent a total of $2.12 for these memories 😊

Here’s the link to Tori’s experience there.

We tried to let the boys pick out their own animal (which we knew would be challenging because they just like to look at everything!) and we ended up choosing the ones at which they smiled the most.

Truthfully, they were more interested in the stickers they were given than the animals 😂

Seeing the wonder and joy in their eyes and hearing their laughter fills us with joy like none other.

Even though they don’t care about their new animals just yet, someday they will and we can tell them this story. ❤️