Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thanks a latte, Grandma and Grandpa

The last two months have been incredibly eye opening in regards to my grandparents.  And when you learn more about your grandparents, you better understand your heritage, and ultimately, yourself.

Since their car accident in October (the month of Herb being sick and tons of blogging), my 91 year old grandpa has been in the hospital, then the nursing home, then again in the hospital, and ultimately back in a nursing home.  Previous to the accident, he's been in ridiculously good health for being 91 years old - so annoying/ironic that a car accident of all things ruined his clean bill of health.  

About once every two weeks, I pick up grandma and we go visit grandpa in the home.  His eyes light up when we come in.  "Do you think I'll be going home this week?" He asks.  He tells us about the terrible coffee, the other residents who "aren't quite all there," and his frustrations with physical therapy.  Then he apologizes for complaining, he knows he could have it worse.  

Seeing their despair over their temporary separation and his fire to regain health has truly been a blessing.  I'd never seen them show affection to each other (or anyone, really) before.  In fact, in the last ten years, I've been trying to say "I love you," and hug when I leave.  It's usually received with a side hug and a "Yep, you too." It's so awkward, yet heart felt.  Now he throws his arms up for a hug and a kiss (on the cheek of course) when she leaves.

Both grandparents are Mennonite, but they go to different churches. They have functioned this way for 64 years! Grandma is old order Mennonite (horse and buggy, no electric - well for the other congregants) and Grandpa is just "normal Mennonite"  (Mennonite USA if that's helpful).  Her hair is twisted in a bun and a white bonnet that covers ears is tied in a neat bow under her chin.  He has a driver's license and a television.  They were both brought up in The Church, but neither joined before they got married.  In fact, she spent a few years working at a general store/ gas station and had a driver's license at one time.  When they married they did not join The Church, until six months later, my grandma did.  She gave up driving and modern dress in favor of cape dresses and a simpler way of life.  

I've been thinking a lot about their way of life.  Their passion for reusing and conserving.  Their self control and doing without.  I've heard the joke that Mennonites are the original "green" people, but they did it for finances, not environment.  If you ask my grandma for a bag (like a grocery bag), you might get a bread bag.  She saves the salvage edge of fabric from the bolt to use to tie up newspapers and gifts.

Today I realized when Grandma, caught between two different worlds, was raising four young children she was always stuck at home.  She didn't drive herself (Church rules), but of course wouldn't have owned a horse and buggy like other church members because her husband had a car, so why bother?  Can you EVEN imagine being at home with FOUR kids, NO internet, NO babysitter/distraction  television, NO car, NO play dates, NO connection to other mothers.  

How much of the differences in their lives and mine are generational and how much are due to religious simplicity?  

For example, today I called Grandma on my way to pick her up and told her I was stopping for coffee, and asked if she would she like a cup.

"Oh, you mean coffee that's already made, not grounds?"  She asked.
"Yeah, like hot coffee."  I replied.  The Starbucks coupon I had was burning a hole in my pocket.
"I had a cup already this morning, I think I'm good."
"Even if it's a fancy one like a cappuccino or latte?"  I was trying to convince her.
"Well, I've never had one of those, so that does sound good!"  She sounded very excited.

You've got to be kidding me!!  87 years old and never having had a latte!!!  That really put things in perspective - and again I ask - is this "doing without" generational or more to do with religion?

They are truly a unique couple and I am so thankful to still have them in my life.  I have had so many thought provoking moments as a result of their presence.  

PS - I bet I have the only grandma who wears a covering and cape dress and once confessed to loving Baywatch.  

Friday, October 31, 2014


October 31 is finally here!I feel like I just finished training for a 5k and now I've crossed the finish line, except with a lot less muscle ache.  In fact, this 31 Day writing exercise has been incredibly therapeutic for me - especially in a month filled with drama, sickness, weariness, and loneliness.  Thank you for sticking around, reading, commenting, sharing, encouraging.   My 31 Day commitment was providential, and for that I am grateful.

I love a name with nick-names. I always used to think Elizabeth was the best name because there are SO many nicknames to be had - Ellie, Liz, Beth, Lizzie, Eliza, etc.  This made it a little disappointing when we named our son Levi.  Levi is four letters, it has no nick-name.  But, alas, I LOVE the name Levi, so I wasn't going to be deterred by the lack of nick-names.

But lo and behold, they still happened.  Lee.  Schmevi.  Lovee.  And even Leave.  

Leave - what a weird name to be called, but it happens, actually quite often.  Sometimes Schmevi even turns in to Schmeave.

When I read the writing prompt word today, I thought not of exiting or the singular word of the plural form of the things falling from the trees.  I thought of my Leave.  This kid is my everything.  I love the way he hugs now that he is child size (not baby-sized).  His arms wrap around my neck and squeeze tightly as he plants  a sweet kiss on my cheek.  He nuzzles his face into my neck and shakes it back and forth really fast.  He calls it a snuggle.  When he reaches for my hand, we hold whole hands now, not just fingers.  The other day, I realized that I am more used to the feeling of Levi's hand in mine than Herbs.  This is endearing, but it reminds me I need to hold Herb's hand more, too.

His questions spill out of his mouth at an alarming pace.  Why did that happen?  Why do you think that happened?  Who made that happen?  Who made that?  Why did God make that?  The questions are endless, but Herb reminds me that this is how Levi learns about the world.  Herb is so patient as a daddy.  He answers every question completely, intelligently, leveling with the four year old.  I can hear him explaining the different between our physical heart and the heart that wants to love people and do good things as I type.
He is our little news man and theologian.  Completely fixated on the rocket explosion that happened Tuesday night, he had to stay in from recess at school on Wednesday because he was too busy telling the class every detail about the rocket fire and didn't finish his work.  Last month, he corrected his teacher on the presence of the Trinity in heaven - when someone asked if God and Jesus both live in heaven, the teacher answered yes, and Levi said, "Actually...they are the same person."

Come to think of it - my little Leave is actually a little Herb.

I have been so blessed in the last ten years.  I have fallen in love twice and that love has been returned to extremes I will never be worthy of.  These two are the reasons I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I can leave everything in God's hands.  He has been so faithful.  He always will be.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Tonight I sat in a meeting with seven other amazing women who love Jesus and we ironed out details for next week's women's retreat - Girlfriend Getaway!  Girlfriend Getaway (GFG) is a retreat designed for women of all denominations and ages, as an time to be refreshed and restored in the Lord.  I wrote about it earlier this month, when I invited you to JOIN us!

The is the fifth season of GFG, and each year the theme is different.  This year the title is "First Things First: Becoming Better Balanced."

I love that I never know exactly what Cindy is going to teach about.  She gives us the general guidelines of each session, in order for those of us planning to chose thematic music and just be prepared for what God is doing in her heart, and eventually ours.

Honestly, I'm a little nervous about hearing this topic because I KNOW my priorities are whacked.  I know the ratio of prayer to Netflix is way out of proportion.  I know I am not always a great steward of my time.  But I also know Cindy will deliver truth in love and if I'm already feeling a little bit of conviction about the topic, God definitely has some work to do in my heart.

First things first...I am going to wrap up this post and go spend some time with my hubby.  First things first... I am going to pop out of bed earlier and start my day off the right way (quiet, coffee, Bible) and not be the last one to roll out of bed.  First things first... I am going to bring my concerns to the feet of Jesus instead of calling and texting and airing my concerns and grievances to social media as my first line of defense.

If you're interest in joining me at the Girlfriend Getaway Conference next Saturday, November 8, registration is open until Monday at midnight.  Visit for registration or more info.  Tell me if you're coming - I'll save you a seat.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014


"When I came out of Jen's belly, did she name me Levi?"

Whoa, that was a big question, springing from no where.  I am not sure why the matter of a name rocked my world, but to date, that was the hardest question for me to answer Levi concerning his adoption.  Maybe it was because there are parts of his story that I want to be so careful to paint in a positive light.  Maybe it was fear that he would ask what his given name was and then insist to be called that instead.  Maybe a combination of both.

Choosing my words carefully and speaking slowly, I responded.  "Actually, no, she didn't.  When Jen asked me and daddy to be your parents, we gave you the name Levi.   Herbert Levi."

"Oh, what was my other name?"  He asked, so innocently.

I told him, and he just said, "oh, okay," and then I quickly followed with, "Do you know why we named you Herbert Levi Suereth V?  Your name represents your family.  When you join a family, you get a new name."

I briefly explained maiden and married names, drawing similarities between my former last name and his cousins on one side of the family, and his last name being shared with family members on Herb's side.

I reminded him of a shortened version of his name story and the long standing tradition of Herbert L.  I told him for the first time why we changed his middle name (all the other Herberts are Herbert Lawrence) to Levi.

Levi means united.  

He let the Herb story sink in, chewed on my Levi definition, and then asked, "What's united mean?"

"Honey, it means that Daddy, you and I were all three different people from three different families and now God brought us all together and we are one family now.  We are united."

United in love, even beyond our family of three, carrying on in to our extended families.

Recently, at a bridal shower for one of Levi's aunts, another guest asked me how I knew the bride.  I never know in those situations how to respond.  Has Jen shared about Levi's adoption with this particular person?  Ironically, the room quieted when the question was posed.

"Well, I..." I stuttered.

Jen's mom (Levi's grandma) jumped in, "Michelle adopted Jennifer's son, but we've all adopted her."

I am united in something so much bigger than myself.  And that is the beauty and the blessing of family, whatever that looks like.


She reached for his hand.  "Oh, you're right there?" he said, surprised.  His peripheral vision couldn't sense her presence in the recliner beside his hospital bed.

"I'm right here," she assured him.

Her bonnet, untied, rested on the counter beside the sink in the hospital room.  Her stockings and shoes were neatly tucked into the corner.  His plaid shirt and loafers were in a hospital belongings bag, hastily thrown in the corner by me when she decided she would spend the night and the nurse brought in the recliner for her to rest on, too.  She too is recovering from the same car accident that is wrecking havoc on him.

The room was dark, dimly lit by a lamp I recognized from Ikea and the screen of the heart and blood pressure monitors.  The beep of the machines has become a calming sound to me, familiar, reassuring.  It sends me in to a state of mind where I am strong, task driven, and calm.  What's the next step to take?

He laid in bed, covered to his chin, tucked in under blankets, wires, and love, but still writhing in pain.  She rubbed his feet, I took a turn holding his hand and rubbing his arm.  The air was heavy, and yet the most sobering sight was the moment she resigned to her chair, removed her day bonnet, and replaced it with a night handkerchief.  Settling in for the night, she reached for his hand, and he realized she was right there.

Tonight they would spend together in the ICU, not like the previous ten nights separated one being at home and another being in rehab care.  Tonight she would be there with him while his pain slowly subsided, giving in to the morphine.  Tonight she would hold his hand and reassure him that he was not alone.  Tonight she would stay by his side until the morning when he awoke.  Or the middle of the night when prodding needles arrive to measure his blood cell volume.

Tonight I watched my grandparents be vulnerable like I've never seen before.  Tonight I prayed for peace and comfort and healing like I've never asked before.  Tonight I thought about the morning Herb asked me to be his wife.

Hooked up to a dialysis machine through a tube in his stomach, he gently coaxed me awake in the guest room at his parents house.  It was fall, and much like the last few weeks have been, that year we had been spending much time together listening to the drone of beeps from hospital monitors.

"... it's morning, and neither one of us will look great right now, and if we can love each other with messed up hair and bad breath, we can love each other anytime...I want to spend all my mornings with you."

Tonight I freeze the image of Herb waking me up, asking me to be his wife.  I flash to our wedding day, tearfully promising in sickness and health.  Tonight I looked at two people who have been loving and caring for one another for over six decades, literally living out "in sickness and health" and promising to be there when they wake.

Monday, October 27, 2014


I am so excited about today's word - FREE!  Free is one of my top five favorite words in the English language.  It gets my heart racing and feet grab the thing that is free.

Today's free thing?  A new kitchen table!!

The "Before" Picture - 60" round, medium oak pedastal table.  3 adorable kids.
It's been a long time since I shared any house related projects - in fact, it's been a while since I got to tap in to that part of my brain.  This project was so therapeutic for me today.  The weather was beautiful (so we could go outside and enjoy it while painting), the project was fairly quick (two hours with a preschool helper), and it was something easy enough that Levi could (kind of) help.

A few weeks ago, Melody offered me a free kitchen table.  Formerly her kids' home-school table, she knew I was kicking around the idea of replacing my rectangular table with a round one.  This table was a thrift find by Melody's mom, passed on to Melody, and passed on to me.  Thanks Melody and Denise! The round table fits SO MUCH better in our kitchen.  And I finally have space for a high chair (when the time comes!).

This was first experience painting a sizable piece of furniture, actually maybe painting any furniture.  After reading lots of tutorials, I was sold on wanting to re-do this table using Chalk Paint.  Chalk paint is awesome for distressing with a sand block and requires no prep-work (no sanding, stripping).  Name brand chalk paint is $35 a quart, plus the cost of wax.  I went the DIY route and made my own chalk paint using paint I already had mixed with Plaster of Paris.  I paid $8 for the plaster, and I could easily do 12 more tables with the amount I have left, which is good because now I want to chalk paint and distress everything I own.  Office desk and kitchen benches, I'm looking at you.

If you're looking for the recipe, check out this link: DIY Chalk Paint Recipe

I haven't completed the project - the table still needs a coat of wax or poly or shellac.  We'll see what the hardware store in the back of my dad's work van has to offer.

I am so happy with the way this turned out!  I am just waiting to find the perfect chairs to go with my table (let's hope they're free on the side of the road).

In case you're wondering where my kitchen table went, don't worry, I didn't get rid of it.  It was a gift from my bridesmaids.  It is in the basement being used as a sewing table.  But I do have another small kitchen table I'd love to pass on if anyone else needs one - yes that means I have three kitchen tables in my small townhouse right now.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Feeling alone sucks.

Feeling alone while you are literally always surrounded by people is even worse.  I know that is the reality for far too many people.  We grow tired and weary and need refreshed, and often that refreshment comes in the form of other people.

Someone taking time to sit down over coffee and really ask how you day was.  Someone driving insanely out of their way just to pop in and say hello.  Someone laying down their own agenda and to do list just to take time to visit.

Today I was the recipient of a visit that completely lifted my spirits.  And at the same time I can think of at least three other people who could definitely benefit from the blessing of a visit.  Oh, that I may see beyond my own weariness in order to be there for someone else.  That I may lay down my own burdens long enough to help someone else carry the load for a while.

Because wherever two or more people are gathered together, that is where God is. A strand of three is not easily broken.

This song has been on my heart for the last two days.  This morning during rehearsal, it made me reach my breaking point.  Lord, I need you.  I hope if you're in the place of weariness, this song can be an encouragement to you.  And I am praying that you don't feel alone.

Because you're not.

Saturday, October 25, 2014


I am, by default, not an "outside" person.  I think it probably goes hand in hand with being nonathletic - when I was a kid I would choose a book, craft, TV show, or a round of Barbies before outside play every time.   However, I've noticed in the last few years a pretty solid pattern of my mood being affected by the weather, or rather, the seasons.  I don't realize it's bad until spring hits, and Herb says that every year I become bubbly and say, "I didn't realize how blue I was feeling [during the winter] but now I feel great!"

As much as I don't love "playing" outside, I do realize my need for vitamin D and the sun and the fresh air.  Also, I have realized the direct correlation between toddler napping/bedtime and time spent outside playing.  
But, can I be honest for a minute?  Some days we never go outside.  Those days, especially when they are beautiful, feel like a total waste to me.   I have no excuses except myself.  I get so wrapped up in what we need to get done inside or what errands need to be run that I have gotten very lax in taking advantage of our fenced in back yard.  Levi is also old enough now to know he wants and needs a play mate.  There's no more sending him out to play alone for a bit while I prepare dinner (again, the yard is totally fenced in and I can see him from the kitchen).  So, there's also laziness playing in to the scenario here - cause, you know, I'm not an "outside person."

I want to be.  I love the smells, the sun, the breeze.  It is so refreshing. I love the way Levi lights up with energy and excitement in the back yard. In fact, I have never enjoyed taking care of my yard until this year.  Levi and I worked together at planting a garden and had great excitement looking for red tomatoes.  Today the whole block was outside working on the leaf situation, and it was a nice sense of community (Levi was motivated by the leaf pile that awaited him).

I think part of the enjoyment of this spring/summer/fall has been how loooong and cold last winter was.  When the snow finally melted and the sun returned, it felt so new and refreshing, in fact, I can't believe we're winding down already.  Back to the early sunsets and cooler temps.  

Ok, so be honest - how much time are you and your kids outside a day?  What do you do?  Any suggestions for what a mom and one four year old can do for fun outside beyond playing sports and taking walks?  What do you do to combat the seasonal blues?  Anyone want to send their slightly older kids over to play sports with Levi in our yard?

Thursday, October 23, 2014


She approached me after church with a look of understanding, followed by a hug, and then a prayer.

"I know how hard this is," she said as she wrapped her arm around my shoulders.

That's really what we all need, right?  Empathy?  Someone to understand what we're going through, someone to validate life, situations, scenarios are hard.  Someone to reassure that you are not alone.

Relationships - the hands and feet, the heart, the body of Christ - are what hold me up some days.  Support, prayer, sanity.  Thanks guys. I am not alone.

And neither are are not alone.  You are not the only one.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Poor second children.

I am not one, my husband is not one, and my son is not one.  Therefore, when another child comes in our family, that is a characteristic that will be completely unique to them.  As some of you know, in the world of the first born, you are the sun.  Everything revolves around you because you came first.  Oh, how I still see this in my personality now (oops, sorry people who have to interact with me).

Does that mean a second child is loved any less?  Oh, heck no.  In fact, to some degree I am even MORE excited to become a mommy (again) because I already know how fun, rewarding, and beautiful it is.

It's just that this time, I'm not a nervous, emotional, depressed wreck about the adoption.  

This adoption has been reminiscent to someone who had a surprise pregnancy for their second child. "SURPRISE!" said God, "This is the path where I'm leading you!  It's totally unexpected, but I'm here and you've got this!"  

It's so funny to think about where I was five years ago when I was waiting for Levi.  I had bought 60+ onesies, I had the nursery ready to go, I checked and reexamined and rearranged our baby registry on a daily basis.  With EVERY SINGLE potential situation that we were notified of by the adoption agency, I started planning our life with that baby.  I imagined what it would be like to bring that baby home, with that birthday and that birth family scenario (from whatever I knew).

This time?  So, so different.

We've had our profile shown four times.  I'm excited when I get an email from the agency with a potential situation, but I'm realistic (but not pessimistic) about the outcome.  I'm expecting to wait a while and  I COMPLETELY trust God's timing right now. I am just so content.  What a blessing that is.

The nursery is starting to get done.  We have a room that is ready for a crib (which is in the attic) and is already equipped with a dresser and rocking chair (thanks Steph!) and has some babyish art on the wall.  I'm definitely not getting the crib down until it's time - for now we have some of Levi's bigger toys hanging out in there, like a trampoline and an art easel.  I did move all of my craft stuff to the basement and set up a studio down there, so at least that is done.

I have purchased ONE outfit (seen hanging on the nursery wall), and it will stay that way till baby comes home and I know if we need to buy pink things or get blue things out of the attic.  We have made a baby registry like we did last time, but this time there are only 40 things on the registry, 20 of which are cloth diapers.  I have slowly been buying things (used) that are on the registry (hello sleep sacks and nursery specific bedding), so I actually should update that again.  I think all we need now are diapers and bottles.

Last time, I would spend hours writing down lists of names and researching their meanings.  I was too embarrassed to talk to Herb about names back then - we were different people.  He wasn't in baby mode yet, and I didn't want to seem vulnerable.  Now we talk about names with the ease that we talk about weather - it's a pleasant conversation that happens very occasionally.

Five years ago I cried a lot.  I wanted a baby so badly.  Everything reminded me of my empty arms.  This time, yesterday was the first time I cried - 10 months in to the process!  And it was probably more related to Herb being in the hospital than anything else.  As I was leaving the hospital, going out to my car, I passed a gentleman with arms full of pink gift bags and an overnight bag.  I just knew that he was a new dad returning to spend the night with his new family.  For a brief moment I got a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye grieving and wishing that a new baby was the reason for our hospital stay instead of Herb's sickness.  But like I said, I don't think that really counts, because I was already emotional about Herb being sick.  

The second time is so different, yes, but it some ways, it's so much better.

Oh, Lord.  Thank you for your faithfulness in this waiting time.  Thank you for filling my empty arms and aching heart with a beautiful boy who made me a momma.  Thank you for your provision in bringing us this far in a second adoption - a place I NEVER thought we'd be.  Thank you for blessing me with contentment.  Thank you for giving me a life partner who shares a heart for children and parenting and serving you.