A miniseries you won’t want to miss…

BLOG Coming-Soon-Sign-300x200

(Photo credit toolakeacreage dot com)

Recently, I’ve known of three people close to me or friends of mine, that have passed away suddenly and unexpectedly….all three were in their 40’s or early 50’s. Way too young. Who are you thinking of that passed away too soon?

We all know life is “short.” But most of us assume we will live into our 80’s or longer. When we know of people that seem to be healthy and alive one day and gone the next, we are left shocked, confused, scared, and dumbfounded. It just feels wrong. We are sad for the loss of that person, sad for the spouse or family and friends that are left to live with this void. But we also think of ourselves, our spouse, our friends and family…could it happen to me? To us? To my friend? To my sibling?  We hope and pray not.

I’m working on a large project that isn’t quite ready yet, so I’m going to be doing a BLOG mini-series in the meantime, that I really hope readers will find helpful.  It’s coming soon! I don’t want you to miss it. I promise you will be able to put the lessons learned into practice, albeit in unfortunate situations. But you could be the blessing to someone that desperately needs it. 

That is, I believe, what we are called to do. Whatever life experience you have, whatever your passion….share it with others. Whatever you’ve lived through, the tough situation, the devastating loss, the growing pains….why not help someone else going through it so they might experience a little less pain?

If you haven’t gone through anything really hard…yet…well, then, Hallelujah!  You are probably young. 🙂   Because as wonderful as life is, you will face trials, and possibly a tragedy here and there. (Let’s hope those are few and far between).

I recently saw a post (author unknown) that said, “Be the person you needed when you were younger.”  This.

I have to say, I was lucky in that when I suffered the loss of my husband, I did have many good friends around me, some that had experienced the death of a spouse. But I still want to be the person that I needed back then. I want to support, help, educate and inspire others to be there for someone else who is grieving.

For the next several blog posts, I will be tackling some of the important issues surrounding grief – specifically the sudden death of a loved one….though even people that experience an “expected” death (illness, old age/natural causes) can, hopefully, relate to or be inspired by the readings as well.

Thank you for reading this. It tells me that you care. Maybe you can relate to grieving a sudden loss, and don’t want to feel alone in what you’ve gone through. Or maybe you’ve seen others go through a sudden loss and you want to know how you can truly help someone who is grieving. This world needs you! Thank you for caring. Stay tuned. 

Volunteer Dads

You might know a widow with young kids, maybe you know several. Here’s a sneak peek into our world and why I feel compelled to talk about dad volunteers.

My husband has been gone almost eight years. I often think about what he’d be doing now if he were still here, especially things that my son and he would have done together.  As I sat on the sidelines of our son’s basketball practice a few weeks ago, my eyes welled up with tears. His dad will never be the dad volunteer coach. He won’t even watch him practice. His dad won’t be the one patting him on the back, or teaching him a new play. My son won’t look to his dad and see him clapping after that shot he just made.

But what my son does see is other dads. He sees other dads who pat him on the back, who teach him a new play. He sees other dads that clap for him when he makes a basket. It’s not his first choice, but the point is, they are there.

These dad volunteers have other jobs and are probably tired. These other dads might have other kids, and other chores to take care of at home.  But they do it. They show up, they cheer on and coach and teach not only their son, but the boy whose dad isn’t there. The boy whose dad is out of town for work, who has other commitments, or who’s sick at home. For the boy whose dad doesn’t give a darn. Or for the boy whose dad who is in Heaven.


Today at my son’s second basketball game, I found my eyes welling up with tears again. I almost lost it. I was hoping the people next to me just thought I had something in my eye. Both eyes….continually for 2 minutes.  

It happened when my son got a rebound, threw it back up and made it in – swoosh! His first-ever score at a critical moment in the game. To say he was pleased is an understatement. I wish I would have had the camera on so I could relive that moment…but I hope to remember it in my mind forever.

It wasn’t just my son I was watching, however. I saw how happy he was but then I heard the roar of cheering from the three coaches on the sidelines of my son’s team. My eyes welled up with grateful tears for those guys that were proud of my son.  They cannot possibly understand what an impact they are having on my son, who doesn’t have his dad. Once or twice a week when they give him a high five, or tell him he’s doing a good job…it means the world to him (and me).

I realize I am a lucky lady, surrounded by some strong male father figures that are the next best thing to having his dad here. (My brother, dad, father-in-law, neighbors, cousins, cub scout leader, teacher)… Take my cousin, who has already attended a zillion cub scout events and meetings with his own boys, selflessly commits to take my son to cub scouts each week. He cares that much about my son; my husband would be amazed and equally grateful.

Every once in awhile I take my son to cub scouts and last week I got to witness the leader teaching my son to use tools. It was hard. That was my husband’s thing. He loved tools and was so talented at using them. I’ll be honest….I pounded my fist at least once against my leg in frustration that his dad wasn’t doing this. Not now, not next year, not ever. But thank God for these incredible mentors that are teaching my boy these skills. Thank God that these dad volunteers give their time, talent and encouragement to all the kids, not just their own.

Grieving people: This will happen. These waves of grief, even when you are sure you are doing really fine. Not just months after the death, but for years…….you will never be “ok” with the death and there will be times when the grief resurfaces and you so wish they were here. Hopefully, though, after the fist punch to the leg, the sobs in the shower, or shaking of the head….you can find gratitude for what and who God has left to care for you and youd kids.

Today I am grateful for the dad volunteers that have stepped up and continue to step up. Please tell a volunteer dad that they are having an impact way beyond their intentions. My son may not truly understand the impact of these strong role models until he’s a bit older, but I feel like the hole in his heart is being filled in an incredible way by these volunteer dads.

The day mom swore


I don’t swear but once or twice a year – seriously. I made a strong effort once I had kids to not say anything I didn’t want to hear repeated. I am not one of those people that think it is cute or funny when toddlers swear. Sorry if you lol’d when your precious little one dropped the F bomb when grandma was over, and then shared it on Facebook. 

It doesn’t offend me when others swear, per se, but I think it is overused in television shows and movies. It has lost its shock factor.

My son claims when he turns 18 (his rule) that he is going to swear all day long. Like the forbidden, he can’t wait until he’s free to say whatever he wants.

When I got frustrated last year with Christmas lights getting tangled while I’m trying to create memories, my son asked if I was about to swear. Nope. Not even close.

When I yelled at the cat for peeing on my bed, the cat’s devoted caretaker warned me not to swear at him. I didn’t.

But yesterday, after a long day of nerves (mine) and months of anticipation…it happened.

My heart broke for the six kids at my son’s school who have been working for months, giving up their Thursday evenings, half day and some Saturday hours to express their creativity, building skills, problem-solving, script writing, public speaking and teamwork. While their presentation for a multi-school competition was strong, they didn’t place in the top 6…or even have their names mentioned. My torso, that was almost lifted off the bleachers while I held my breath waiting to hear their names, slumped down. My eyes shot to the kids whose spirits and bodies, too, slumped down in disappointment.

Don’t get me wrong: I do not believe any other team didn’t deserve their placement. They probably did. I am also not “that mom” that believes every child deserves a medal for showing up, that is not real life. I want my son to experience defeat from time to time to keep him grounded and better prepared for the real world. He’s already experienced a whole lot of loss in his life and has learned to bounce back with his head held high. He’ll be fine despite his discouragement in the short-term.

As we walked to the car following the awards ceremony, I tried so hard to look at the positive and not be a sore loser. But I was honest, too. I told my son that I am really shocked and disappointed that their score was not better, because I was sure they deserved one of the top spots.  My son asked me if this situation was worthy of swearing. My immediate reaction was “no.” After I heard the click of the safety buckle on my toddler’s car seat, I placed the umbrella stroller in the back and said, “Well, maybe.”  By the time I sat myself down in the driver’s seat and took a deep breath I said, “Yes. Yes it is.” ….

“Damn it! You kids deserved better!”

My son’s eyes welled up with tears and I told him it is ok to cry when you are sad or disappointed. It’s ok. It’s ok to let out that frustration temporarily, in the right environment. We agree that we waited until we got to our car, didn’t make a scene, didn’t doubt anyone else’s ability, and didn’t blame others. We knew they did a great job and did it on their own; their ideas, their words, their work.

What have you experienced that made your heart break for your kids? Have you made it ok for your kids to be frustrated, cry,  or express anger…in the right environment?   When have your kids witnessed you as a human being that had hurt or frustrated feelings? Did you handle it well or not-so-much?

Thank you so very much for reading this gosh darn bleeping post. I appreciate you. 🙂


Taking turns: not just for toddlers


(Photo courtesy of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, PBS dot org)

My little family has been practicing the concept of “Taking Turns” a lot lately. I am really quite astonished at how this should be applied to so many more situations than just  kids fighting over the laser mouse toy that drives the cat wild. We all need to take turns.

Are you a giver or a taker? Do you give more advice than you take?  Do you give more lectures than taking the lesson?  Do you give your friends an earful more than taking turns and letting them vent for a change?

Do you have to win every argument with your spouse? Are you choosing your side of the family to spend time with over his side…again?  Are you the ringleader in your small group and plan all of the events?

In your phase of downsizing, is it just everyone else’s belongings that are getting donated, sold, or trashed?  Are you in a rut with recipes and sick of deciding what to make?

To all of these I say, “Take turns.”

If you are a taker, be a giver. Resist the urge to report first about your life. Bite your tongue when wanting to “one-up” your friend’s story. I know you can, but don’t do it this time. If you are a giver, try being a taker once in awhile.  Think of what you talk about with your friends. Ask about them and give them the spotlight. If you are normally the sounding board, tell them a story about you for a change. Ask for prayers for yourself instead. Take turns.

When you know you are right, but it is not that big of a deal…take turns. Tell your spouse you love them and don’t insist on getting the last word in. Let them have a turn at being right.   Take turns about who you spend the next holiday with. Make it someone you haven’t seen in a long time or invite someone who is alone. Take turns in letting your kids decide who the next batch of cookies is for. Who, in their minds, do they want to bless?

If you are the planner of your friends or small group, step back and let them know you want to give someone else a turn at deciding what to do. In your bible study when you want to answer or tell a story, keep quiet this time. Take turns and let the quiet ones come forward. (If you are quiet long enough, someone else will speak).

Take turns at cleaning out closets and look in a mirror – that person has a lot of excess, too. It’s not just about too many toys. It’s expired makeup, 25 jars of candles, clothes that don’t fit, and shoes that hurt.

Take turns at being the creative genius behind dinner. Let each member of the family decide what’s for dinner one night. Then just make it. Trying to decide what to make is much harder than actually making it.
Take turns. Give and take. What can you do in the next week to take turns? It’s important for toddlers to know that we all can get our turn. It teaches patience and treasuring the time when it’s our turn. There is a time to celebrate it being our turn, and then we get to bless someone else when it’s their turn. It shouldn’t always be about us or about it being our turn forever.

With what, this week, are you going to take turns?

The un-fun resolution

Resolution-schmezolution….maybe you make them, maybe you don’t. Maybe you’ve kept it for these first two weeks, maybe it didn’t last.

This blog may not be funny, clever or cute. But it’s important. Here’s one resolution that I am begging you to do – It’s a three step project:


  1. Discuss.
  2. Make an appointment.
  3. Complete the process.


We talk, we think about it, we get opinions from others, we talk some more. “Discuss” is even better, indicating a two-way conversation. Now that’s what I’m talking about. Discuss when you’re not tired, when you’re not mad, and on a few different occasions. Don’t let this project end with just talk or discussion.


Make an appointment with a professional that will help you document the important decisions and think of things you did not.


Complete the process – put it in ink, get the signatures on paper, pay the fee, put it in a safe place and tell close friends where it’s at.


What are you talking about, you ask? What? What?


Your will. Your spouse’s will. Your parents’ will. God forbid your childrens’ will (if over 18). Not just your “Last Will and Testament” but a living trust, guardianship, estate “stuff.”  See, I am no expert in what all you need. But you need IT.


I was lucky that my husband Kevin and I did create our wills, and had discussions in the process. It was easy then because we were young and healthy. Death was a far, faraway place and time so it wasn’t that painful to talk about. In our case, sadly, it wasn’t as far away as we wished. But, having a will done and having had some discussions made it a slightly less complicated process in a time that had enough complication already.


I hope death for you, too, is a far, faraway place and time.


But, I beg of you – do it now, so that later on it’s already done. And if you have done it, update it!  Maybe you’ve had kids or more kids, or had kids leave the nest and things need to be adjusted. If you are married, do you and your spouse agree on whom should care for your children if you both are gone? As your parents get older, are they the right choice? What about siblings or best friends?

The grieving people left behind often ask, “what would (my loved one) have wanted?”  I wish I knew if he would be ok with me selling his tools….Who should her jewelry go to?  There will still be some questions like that, but have the discussions now.


Pay the money for an attorney or service that will do this right. Maybe set aside some tax money for it. Get quotes and advice from others on economical but wise professionals in this area. It hurts to pay for something that isn’t fun and immediately useful – but this is important long-term.


Get that “Last Will and Testament” done so that when His will be done you know you’ve eased the burden of those left after you are gone.


(Photo courtesy of the odessey online dot com)
Come back again next time for a happier blog about rainbows and ponies…(or something cheerier). But for now, thanks for reading and seriously considering getting this done.

The un-magical Christmas


(Photo credit Lazulo.com)

This is a great Christmas. A nice, fun, relaxing Christmas. But it’s not “magical.”  I didn’t put up any outside house lights, so I am the Scrooge neighbor in between two other Magical Houses.

I put up about ⅓ of the decorations that I normally do – mostly due to my toddler and the kitty.

It’s Christmas Eve and I’m not scurrying around setting out a plate of cookies for Santa, leaving carrots for the reindeer or even mentioning Santa’s name.

About 95% of the shopping was done online,  it is 99% wrapped and mostly under the tree.

But there’s not much “Magical” about this Christmas. I haven’t watched one single Christmas movie with my kids. We haven’t read any Christmas books.

We did go to a fantastic church service that renewed my faith that God has a purpose for me and I just need to trust, follow, and let my purpose help & serve others, shining God’s light along the way. (Thank goodness church didn’t tell us we needed to be Magical).

I didn’t make a special Christmas meal today nor do I have plans to tomorrow. We had waffles tonight and I’m thinking Mac N Cheese tomorrow.

I’m just feeling “meh” this year.  I know I’m not alone in this.

I’m grateful, I’m blessed, I’m happy. But I’m also tired. And it’s ok to not be Magical this year. It’s really ok.

I’m thinking maybe next year I’ll be magical. But this year, it’s ok to just be. Be what we are, where we are, whatever that looks like.

I may be tired, but I’m not stressed. I am lucky to be where I’m at and have both kids at home with me, healthy and happy. My house is a mess and it’s not bothering me. (Maybe because I’m tired).

My hope for all of you this Christmas….is you accept where you are — and make the best of it.

Maybe this year things have changed for you. Maybe you broke tradition, by your choice or it was forced upon you. Maybe you’ve had to limit the spending or see an empty chair at the table this year. Maybe the kids are doing their own thing this year and it’s just a little quieter. Maybe you’re hoping things will be better next year.

Maybe this year you feel more blessed than ever. Maybe things couldn’t get any better. Enjoy it and appreciate it, and thank God for it.

Whatever your situation this year – magical or marginal – I hope you are able to enjoy every moment and focus on the positive, important things in life. We are all here for a (Magical) reason….Jesus Christ. We do have a purpose, talent, and gift from above and we are all loved…deeper than we can comprehend.

As long as you make the best of where you are, without comparison to what the world tells us we need to be buying and Pinterest-ing, I hope you can be at peace this season.

Love and blessings to you all….


Let it go….let it go!

I’m singing that tune tonight because I’m trying to make myself obey it.

Are you trying to tell yourself, “Let it go” to something trivial in your life? There has GOT to be something you are getting all anxious or annoyed about…that doesn’t really matter. In the grand scheme of life…it doesn’t matter. Deep down you know this.

You see – my son just handed me his grade from a project we both worked on. (I have written this sentence 5 times to avoid ending in a proposition and they all sound wrong. I apologize to anyone who is offended by this faux pas. I am asking you to “let it go.”) 🙂

About a month ago, while my son was home sick from school, we were given the details of an assignment that was coming up. It was creating an animal of your choosing out of cardboard, painting it, decorating it, etc. At the time, we completely blew it off, because we had three+ weeks of sickness in our house.

Five days before it was due, I was surfing through emails and panicked when I saw the reminder about the project. Thanks be to God, my mom was staying with us for a few days which allowed us more time to work on it.

Because this was labeled a “family project” I really dove in.  I basically led the project with a controlling agenda and let my son help. Hey, if my name is going to be on this, it has to be impressive. Sadly, these were real thoughts going through my head. Towards the end, I really thought it was good. It wasn’t museum quality, but I raised my eyebrows a few times, impressed with what I, I mean we’d, done with only three days of actually working on it.

And then, I saw a few photos on Facebook of the other kids’ (family) projects. I was stunned. I’m serious – these could be featured in a museum! My jaw dropped and instantly I felt like our tiger project stunk. I started seeing flaws that I hadn’t noticed before. The scale – oh the legs are too short! I ruined the face! Worst of all, I complained in front of my son.

But my son – he loved our project. The tiger was his idea, and he didn’t hate the visit to Michael’s to pick out the paint colors and marbles for the eyeballs. He liked painting it and told me several times he thought we were doing a good job on it. He never once changed his tune when he saw the other kids’ projects on Facebook. It didn’t even phase him to compare his project to theirs.

So why was I having such a problem with it? Maybe the other moms spent more time on it. Or, maybe they did it in two days instead of my three? Maybe they had more help. Or, maybe they didn’t. Maybe they ….  aren’t me. And these moms…I really like them. They weren’t bragging or doing it to compare to others. Why was I twisting it into an opportunity to feel bad about myself?

So, when I saw the grade “we” received…..all I could say to myself is, “Let it go.”  Let go of the guilt and the disappointment in myself. I did the best with what I had. Shame on me for introducing my son to ugly comparison, when we were already proud of what we’d done.

For what reason do you need to tell yourself “Let it go” today?

Maybe it’s wrapping presents in floral paper since you ran out of Christmas paper, telling your kids to wear their dirty jeans again since you didn’t do laundry, leaving the toddler’s crayon masterpiece on the wall, or  letting your spouse win an argument tonight for the sake of peace…..let it go.

So, pals, join me tonight: Let. It. (whatever “it” might be). GO.


I had been trying to “let it go” ever since my son turned it in and there was nothing more to be done. Now, I can for sure. ……….. Even the extra credit was earned. BOOOOOOOM!




Where would I be?

Giving Thanks. Being grateful. Appreciating what we have.


Here’s another way to look at Thanksgiving:

Where would I be without you?


Ask yourself these questions… and then close your eyes and get a visual of the person you are thinking of:

Where would I be without my spouse?

Where would I be without my children?

Where would I be without my close friends?

Where would I be without my parents?

Where would I be without my siblings?

Where would I be without my good health?


Are YOU without some of these?

I and many of my friends are going without this year. We are without our spouse or one of our children. We’ve experienced the loss of parents, best friends or the death of a sibling. Some friends are facing a scary road ahead with tests and trials, procedures and surgeries.

Here’s the saving grace: God.

Where would I be without God?  Where would YOU be without God? 

Personally, I’d be depressed, confused, lost, hopeless, negative, unappreciative and selfish.

For me, I’ve learned about struggles, losses, promises and blessings in the bible, from church, from speakers and from music.   Similarly, I have struggled and I have lost loved ones. I’ve also felt God’s reassurances that he will carry me, and felt overflowing blessings upon me and my precious family. I know I won’t understand why everything  has happened…this side of Heaven. I can stop asking “Why?”….and know that someday it will make sense. For now, I look for the multitude of blessings and not for what’s missing. 

Where would I be without God?   

I appreciate what I have because I know tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. I have hope because even if there is no tomorrow for me, there is a forever in Heaven. I have faith because I’ve seen blessings come to those who trust His greater plan. I try to do for others and give to others who have less than me because it’s what we’re called to do. I can sleep peacefully at night and wake up gracious in the morning because God’s got me and you. Whatever lies ahead –  He knows about it and He’s got a perfect plan specifically for each one of us and will protect us and bless us along the way.  My prayer for you, is that you feel the same comfort and promise that only He can provide. 

Where would I be without God?

Today,  I am saying more than ever: thank God I never have to find out.

Deteronomy 31:8  It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.


Take a listen to the song that inspired this blog: Citizen Way’s Where Would I Be Without You?  Where Would I Be Without You?   (It’s super upbeat –  Listen while you are trying to wake up, doing last-minute cleaning before guests come over, prepping in the kitchen, or grab one of your family members by the hand and start dancing to it!)

Soul – not “Sole” mates …


Movies, TV, common understanding of the term “Soulmate” always meant to me that we each had one. People say they “finally found their soulmate.”  Who are you thinking of right now when you hear that term?

But what happens if the soulmates get divorced, or their spouse just doesn’t “get them” or their spouse dies?  Whammo – there goes their one soulmate!  Or for those that never marry…do they not “get” a soulmate?

I am 100% sure tonight that “soulmate” does not mean “sole mate.”

My wish and hope for everyone is that throughout your life you will have many soulmates. Maybe it will be the person you marry…but it could also be the person you re-marry, or do real life with, cry with, laugh until you almost pee, the one that blesses you over and over… or your soul mates could be ALL of these. Maybe a soulmate for you is an author whose writing causes you to say “Yes, me too!” You relate, their story is your story, and you feel connected, even though you may never meet.

I remember first hearing this multi-soulmate concept while watching “Sex and the City” years ago. (I’m declaring that I loved that show –especially the dedicated friendships between the four girls. They were always there for each other with a shoulder to cry on, brutal honesty, and lots of laughter).  In one scene when they were talking about what a treasure their friendship was, and how they were tired of searching for their “one true soulmate” they decided they could be each other’s soulmates.


(Photo credit: Darren Star Productions)

Friends will come and go. God puts different friends in your life at different times for different reasons. Sometimes you have to let them go and make room for new ones yet to come. I’ve definitely experienced my fair share of lost friendships. But these soulmates that I have….incredible. They just keep calling and giving and showing up and blessing.

One of my favorite soul mate stories is of Ruth and Naomi from the Bible (Ruth 1: 16-17).  Naomi’s son married Ruth. Naomi became widowed, and then later Ruth became widowed as well.  Ruth refused to leave Naomi. They were soulmates, I believe, and did life together after hard times. The words of this song, “I’m with you,” were written based on this story. I get teary-eyed every single time I hear it and thank God for my several soulmates. I actually said my friend Jolynn’s name out loud the first time I heard it, as if it had been written about her and I.

Have a listen…and maybe a good cry if you are thinking of that friend or friends that this applies to…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHZZyNGvOVY  (Capitol Christian Music Group – Nichole Nordeman & Amy Grant).

Tonight I am praising God. I mean, hands in the air, crazy thankful for all of the soulmates that have been there for me and continue to be there for me….these friends and neighbors and family are SO good for my soul. Blessings are overflowing in my world and it makes a sometimes hard life completely enjoyable.

Most importantly, thank you to God – my ultimate soul mate. It’s deep – but He’s always there and always will be. When he can’t tangibly help me, he sends these angels that have been my soulmates to help me stand and keep standing.

Who are some of your soul mates?  Comment below and direct them to this blog – call out and thank your soul mates!

(Next week, I will return to my “Gifts” post, but due to my heart just overflowing with gratefulness, I had to write this today).

Winner ! Winner!


And….the winner is……mentioned at the bottom of this post!  

 Winner, please let me know for sure if you can attend this Friday, Nov 18th at Cornerstone Church in Caledonia. Two tickets will be yours!!

(If she cannot attend, I will do another random drawing Sunday night).

Thank you for all of you that subscribed to my blog!

It is not too late to still buy tickets for this great show….go to blessedbybrookelyn.com and you will find a link to i-tickets.  This show will be an up-close and personal event with great seats! And, the tickets support the legacy of Brookelyn Elias by providing scholarships to Caledonia High School students, providing soccer gear to Caledonia and Kentwood players, provides soccer equipment to Haiti and so much more that the Elias family is so dedicated to.

Here is my favorite song by each artist:

Chris August:  Center of It – Chris August

(But also check out Restore, The Maker, Starry Night, Unashamed of you)…..

Jonny Diaz: More Beautiful You

(Also check out: Breathe, Scars, Beauty of the cross)

******For listening to at least one of each of their songs (listed above), and commenting below which is your favorite, I will be giving away one of their CD’s, too!!   (Delivery or mailing after the concert!)

(Can you tell I just LOVE give-aways?)

MICHELE SYTSMA – you WON 2 tickets!!  They will be at “will call” this Friday!