Friday, June 24, 2016


Eight years ago today, I said goodbye to Julie. She was leaving on a hiking/camping trip with a group of students through Angel Tree ministries.

What I didn't know is that I was saying goodbye to Julie for a lot longer than a long weekend. The trip was cut short when Julie and one of the students were taken by the currents of the Temperance River.

It's funny how memory works. How selective it is, leaving seemingly random bits of the story to be recalled. I remember what I was wearing that last time I saw her. I walked outside where she was walking in from the parking lot and the wind caught the skirt I was wearing and she said something about it being like Marilyn Monroe over the air vents in that iconic photo.

I remember seeing the whole team of adults who were going on the trip standing inside the church, holding hands in a circle and praying.

I remember my phone ringing two mornings later, earlier than I usually got phone calls. And Julia's voice on the other end telling me what had happened. And saying, "Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh," over and over because it was all too unbelievable. Unimaginable.

I remember walking into church that morning and glancing over at the receptionist's desk. Her desk. I'd glance in that direction every time I walked in the door for a long time, always half expecting to see her face. Always crushed when the reality hit me that I never would again.

I remember the whole staff sitting in a big circle in the chapel. Telling Julie stories. Crying together. I remember walking through the planning of her funeral. A task I'd completed a few other times because it was my job, but never like this. Never for a friend.

I remember seeing her face in the casket at her funeral. And thinking, "That's not Julie. Julie isn't really here." Because everything that made her Julie was gone. The life, the personality, the grace. Her shell was left, but it wasn't her.

And now it's eight years later, and she's still not here. But we remember. I remember the sweet young woman who made me laugh. Her passion for photography and American Idol, for good food and deep friendships. And how she wouldn't drink out of a water bottle because she read it could give you smoker's lips. See? She's still making me smile.

Julie Steiskal
July 28, 1978 - June 25, 2008

Friday, June 17, 2016

June Top 5

I decided to lighten things up around here, at least once a month, and give a little list of things I'm enjoying at the moment. So without further ado, here are my top five things for this month.

1) Starbucks Iced Passion Tea

We Minnesotans endure some long, cold winters. So when summer comes and the weather gets nice and warm, I crave cold things. Popsicles, ice cream, anything frozen and sweet. Now if my waistline and pocketbook didn't protest, I'd enjoy a frappuccino/cooler/frappe every day. Instead I indulge in those about once a month and reach for THIS AMAZINGNESS in between. I'm not a coffee drinker, so this past winter I discovered a love of hot herbal tea, including Passion Tango tea at Starbucks. And LO AND BEHOLD, they also make it iced and it is SO GOOD.

2) Love Beyond Reason by John Ortberg

A few weeks ago, I was searching online about books about God's love and decided to go with this one because I've loved Ortberg's stuff in the past. And I have not been disappointed. He's a very easy author to read, and the content is fantastic.
An excerpt from the first chapter:
"We are all of us rag dolls. Flawed and wounded, broken and bent. Ever since the Fall, every member of the human race has lived on the ragged edge. Partly our raggedness is something that happens to us. Our genes may set us up for certain weaknesses. Our parents may let us down when we need them most. But that's not the whole story. We each make our own deposits into the ragged account of the human race. We choose to deceive when the truth begs to be spoken. We grumble when a little generous praise is called for. We deliberately betray when we're bound by oaths of loyalty. Like a splash of ink in a glass of water, this raggedness permeates our whole being. Our words and thoughts are never entirely free of it. We are rag dolls, all right.
But we are God's rag dolls. He knows all about our raggedness, and He loves us anyhow. Our raggedness is no longer the most important thing about us."

3) Grey's Anatomy

I had never watched this show until I binge-watched it this past school year during Will's naps. I'd sit and crochet and get sucked into their world. The most recent season comes out on Netflix TOMORROW and I will try to make it last longer than a week. ;) And then I'll be all caught up and have a new show to watch in the fall!

4) This Good Word Podcast

I'm a workout DVD junkie, but by the time the snow has melted and the sun is up nice and early, I am dying to get outside. So I've been walking in the mornings before Will wakes up and it's one of my favorite things ever. I have a pathetic lack of music on my phone, so I've started listening to podcasts while I walk. I decided to start with my friend Steve's podcast "This Good Word" and I've enjoyed every single episode. Some are just him, but he also has some awesome interviews (Sarah Bessey and Seth Haines were two of my favorites). I'm almost caught up (he posts a new episode once a week), so I'll have to expand my podcast world pretty soon.

5) Avocado toast

It took me a while to jump on this bandwagon, but now this is one of my favorite quick lunches. I'm the only person in my house who likes avocados, so I often have half of an avocado in the fridge. Sometimes I also have leftover bacon, which takes avocado toast to a whole other level. :)

Friday, June 10, 2016


The Belmont Stakes horse race is on tomorrow night. I've talked before about how that event transports me back to the year we lost Charlie.

When I cleaned up my blog a few weeks ago, I changed my "profile picture" over in the righthand column. For almost four years, that photo was this:

And while that seems like a happy enough picture, I can still remember the behind-the-scenes well enough to know that it wasn't. I mean, sure. I was eating Punch Pizza and celebrating Dan's birthday. But that's about as far as the smiling went.

That woman was mere days post-miscarriage. Still in shock, still angry, still physically wrecked.

That woman was certain she was broken. Surely two post-first trimester losses in a row meant something was seriously wrong with her. Babies don't just die. At some point in a pregnancy, you should be safe. Except they do. And you never are. Broken. Convinced her first two healthy children were complete flukes and coming to terms with the fact that another living child might not be in the cards for her family.

That woman was embarking on what she'd later affectionately refer to as the summer from hell. Her marriage was kind of a mess. She'd "celebrate" her 10th anniversary a month later, but there wasn't much celebrating past the over-priced dinner and the "happy" Facebook posts.

But that woman was a mother, both to her living children and to her sweet babies in heaven. She was a daughter. She was a wife and a friend. And those truths, those identities, would carry her through that summer and beyond.

Four years ago tonight, I was empty. Physically and emotionally empty. No more baby. No more tears. No energy. No life. No hope.

But the night became morning. The summer from hell didn't last. The empty places were filled. Filled with love and light. Filled with hope. Eventually filled with new life.

So to my sweet boy, no more than an ounce in the palm of my hand, your tiny, brief life still had weight. Your name will be spoken by this family for years. Because you're ours. You'll always be ours.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

This is the work

In looking for some verses for my gallery walls a few months ago, I ended up knee-deep in "inspirational quote art" on etsy. And while I can stomach few, most of them annoy me. I'll take a funny meme over an inspirational quote any day.

I mean, come on. That's funny.

Maybe it's just that I'd rather laugh at inane internet stuff than make my brain think about anything deeper than what I should eat for lunch.

One such "inspirational quote" floating around right now is this:

It's nice, right? It's one of those quotes that makes you stop and go, "Oh, yes. So true," and then you magically appreciate the little minions in your home just a little bit more. Or not.

I think what gives me pause with this particular quote is that it's hard for me to believe. I know my children are important and I love them all to pieces, but what I do day in and day out doesn't always feel like important work.

I was a teacher until I had Jackson. After a couple other jobs, I decided to stay home after I had Leah. And I'm so glad I did. But sometimes there's a little part of me that is pretty sure I left the more important work in the classroom. Or that I could be doing so much more somewhere else--anywhere but my own kitchen or living room.

But that's a lie. I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be, doing the most important work of all.

And moms? So are you.

The mom working the full-time job AND holding down the fort at home? So is she.

The stay-at-home mom entertaining toddlers for hours on end and washing dishes in her spare time? So is she.

The single mom working two jobs and still giving whatever she has left to her littles? So is she.

The homeschooling mother of seven, taking on the roll of mother, teacher, housekeeper, chef, and more every single day? So is she.

We're doing things that don't always feel important. Packing lunches, cleaning bathrooms, driving kids to baseball practice, nursing a newborn every two hours around the clock.

This is the work.

Rocking babies to sleep, patching holes in jeans, baking cookies, reading books.

This is the work.

Flipping pancakes, watering the seedlings that came home from school last week, sweeping the crumbs off the dining room floor for the third time today, making beds.

This is the work.

Buying end-of-the-year teacher gifts, bathing toddlers, cooking macaroni and cheese.

This is the work.

And someday we'll miss this work. We'll be back in the workplace or adjusting to life as an empty-nester. Because...

See? There's an inspirational quote for just about anything! But really--before you know it, you'll be hosting your son's graduation open house and reminiscing about the fact that he was JUST starting kindergarten.

So take heart, moms. We're doing the most important work. Right this very minute. Don't believe the lie that these little lives are distracting us from anything more important.