Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Holiday Happenings

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

We have had some fun holidays this year.  But - we will ALWAYS ALWAYS miss Les.  Seems like holiday church services are what hit me.  He was always involved in some way - singing, praying, speaking, serving communion........ Those are such precious memories for me.

 We had a full table on Thanksgiving.  That's a bit unusual for us since we don't have a lot of extended family here.  This year was an exception and it was great!  My Alaska nephew Mark, his wife Sarah and their son Levi asked awhile back if they could visit over Thanksgiving.  Um, yes please!!  After they decided to visit, my Iowa sister (Mark's mother) also decided to visit.  Thankfully, it was my year with my kids AND my Wenatchee brother's year to be here at Thanksgiving.  We ended up with 23 at my table!  So fun.
Alaska people
My girls and I had our third annual Christmas-shopping-in-Seattle weekend in December.  My niece Rachel lives down there, and she recently had baby Abby.  Our first stop was to meet baby Abby!  She was a chunk at 6 weeks old!  We missed Lily - she's in kindergarten - but had a fun visit with Rachel & Abby.  Come visit soon Rachel!

Seattle shenanigans - girls only, no boys allowed!!
A friend and I went out hiking on a nice day in December - prob the last sunny day before the rains came.  And now we have very cold temps and snow on the ground!  This is a fairly difficult hike but it's local and the views are stunning.
Raptor Ridge
For the Christmas holiday, my kids come on Christmas morning.  We have caramel rolls and open stockings.  Then we open presents.  Then its hustle and bustle to get Christmas dinner on the table.  My son-in-law Brett did a great job helping get the prime rib cooked up just right.  Such a treat!
Again, we had a full table.  We had Wiersma's,  Kooistra's, and some guests.  It was a busy day and I was pooped at the end of the day.  My heart is full tho, and I'm so thankful.

On the eve of Christmas Eve, I visited my friend Steve (and his wife Glenda!) who was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  We had a great visit - I can't wait to go back!  That same day I visited my friend Tom, who has ALS.  He was a good friend of Les'.  When we first met Tom about 3 years ago, he was walking and talking.  He was still walking and talking (although both were much slower) at Les' funeral.  Now Tom is in a care center and cannot move any of his limbs.  He cannot talk.  He uses his eye gaze device to spell out sentences.  (Weird thing - the eye gaze device SOUNDS just like Les' - brings back some memories!!!)  Tom is handling this disease very gracefully.  He and his wife Jen have two beautiful little girls, they are now 5 and 7.  Spending time with Tom is good for my soul.  It brings back many memories (feeding tube, suction machine.....) but it puts my world back in to perspective.  My devotional this morning worded it so well (from Jesus Always):  "My loved ones often fail to enjoy the riches I provide because of an ungrateful attitude.  Instead of rejoicing in all that they have, they long for what they do not have.  As a result, they become discontented."  And our sermon this last Sunday was on JOY.  Joy is not a giddy, excited feeling.  True joy is a "persistent gratitude of the soul - it staves off despair"  The good news of a Savior who is Christ the Lord is the source of this joy.  AMEN AND AMEN.

I will chose thankfulness and I will chose JOY.  Jesus is the reason for this season.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

October Madness

The month of October was a crazy one.  I was gone every weekend, plus a whole week to California!
That's makes for a busy life.

October also brought sadness.  I lost a very good friend, Carl.  He and I had gone on 3 youth group mission trips together back about 18 years ago.  Him and his wife Renee became dear friends of ours.  He was diagnosed with a very rare disease 6 months ago; sadly, he succumbed to this disease.  I was not home when he passed away, and I am very sad I didn't get to say goodbye.  We had a wonderful celebration of his life on Saturday.  It's so surreal to sit with Renee and realize we are both widows!  Craziness.  You will be missed Carl.

Sweet memories!
 Another sweet friend of mine, Jill, recently lost a stillborn baby girl.  Jill also lost a 6 week old baby girl 10 years ago - I cannot fathom that this happened to her again.   Please keep Jill and Renee in your prayers - these losses are so hard.

I traveled to two weddings in October.  The first one was in Bend, Oregon for my friend Kay's daughter.  I haven't been to Bend in several years and it was really fun to be back.  It's SO beautiful there.  My friends Doug & Lu let me ride along with them - I'm grateful for that!  We had so much fun at the wedding, and the entire weekend.  I spent an afternoon with my fun cousin Lori; I visited with her daughter Michelle for a bit.  It was a great weekend!

The other wedding was my nephew Derek's.  He married sweet Marina - a beautiful wedding!  This wedding was in Seattle so we spent two nights down there.  My sister Becky & family flew up for the weekend and we all stayed at the same hotel.  I drove down with my parents - they spent one night and left shortly after the wedding.  I'm so happy for these newlyweds - they make such a great couple.
Siblings!  Missing Sharon...
I spent a weekend over the mountains watching my sweet niece Gretta Claire play soccer for the purple panthers - her senior year!  It was a tough game and they won!  I stayed with my niece Dani on this weekend.  Always fun to stay there and get woken up at 6:30 with a latte delivery to my room by her two little girls and their dog Murphy!  I drove over with my parents - they don't get out of town much anymore.  Dad didn't feel super great so we left a bit earlier than expected, but still a fun weekend.  The drive over the pass was beautiful.
Watched Natalie play soccer!!
Always a fun time in Wenatchee!
My annual trip to California happened in October.  My niece Jenae is also a senior so it's my last year to be 'auntie nanny' while Becky and her husband Darrell go on their fall work trip.  I've been doing this for about 10 years or more.  I will miss it!  I watched Jenae play a couple of soccer games.  My nephew Mitchell came home for the weekend - he's a working guy now - I was so glad to spend some time with him.  I stayed a couple extra days to spend time with Becky after she got back from her trip.  We got a great hike in and I watched her coach her JV volleyball team.  The weather was in the 80's and I soaked it in!!

California hiking
A couple weeks ago a friend convinced my to play hooky from work and go on a hike.  I had just got back from California and should not have gone (work was waiting!!) but I am so glad we did!  It was a beautiful fall day, probably in the 70's.  We had a great hike with a magnificent view of Mt. Baker.  We had snow on top of our hike - the fall colors were stunning on the drive.  I was struggling with the loss of Carl and it did my soul good to be up in the mountains.
"Go rest high on that mountain - son your work on earth is done"
I am staying home in November.  We've had some snow and cold weather already last week - I'm not quite ready for that!

Losing Carl brought back lots of memories of the process of losing Les.   Every loss is different, yet so similar.  However, being more than two years out, I can say that life is good, God is good,  and I am choosing JOY.  God has provided peace in my heart and I continue to be blessed with family and friends who encourage me - and keep me busy.  I am thankful.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Kooistra Strong to Stehekin Part II

A year ago, some friends and my girls hiked with me in to Stehekin.  We did it in memory of Les being gone for one year. You can read about our walk to remember here.  Some time after the hike, my son said, "Mom, I'd like to do that hike".  Well then.  I guess it's kinda like child time passes, you forget the pain.  So I said OKAY!!  But decided it would be family only.  I've had so many people say they would like to do this hike, but I thought it would be fun with family only.  I put the word out, and over the next months our team came together.  I know there were family members who REALLY wanted to join us, but the timing didn't work.  We ended up with a team of 11 and we hiked over the Labor Day weekend.

Start time 6 AM at trailhead!

I want to talk about the team members.  I'll start from oldest to youngest (me, of course, being the oldest of all!!!)  These people all mean so  much to me.

My sister Sharon is 3 years younger than me.  She lives in Iowa so was not able to train on mountains.  She would walk gravel roads for many hours.  But the most amazing thing is that she had a liver transplant 20 years ago.  The fact that 20 years later she was hiking with me for 18 miles is just so amazing.

My niece Emily (aka my third daughter) joined the hike last year and joined again this year with no hesitation.  She is in great physical shape and I'm so glad she joined us.  My son Kris was the instigator of Part II.  He had just come back from 10 days in Alaska a couple days before our hike.  He shot a caribou up there so hiked many miles with 120# on his back - packing out the meat, etc.  He was still pretty tired from Alaska starting out this hike - but still managed to run the last few miles.........  We were glad to have him along since he was the only one with a gun AND a sling shot.  He saved us on the trail by killing a chipmunk with that sling shot.
Nothing to do with our hike - this is in Alaska.  His dad would be so envious and so PROUD

Limping to the end!
My nephew Adam is also from Iowa (he is Emily's brother).  He committed right away to join us.  I was surprised, and so thrilled!  Adam has very bad knees but was willing to put up with that pain to join us.  He kept us laughing the entire weekend he was here.  It was such a joy to have him along!!

Brett, my son-in-law, was our last member to commit.  I'm pretty sure he had a great weekend with us!  He was an energizer bunny (as always!) and was usually our FAST pace setter.  He went in with NO training but did great!  He was pretty tired tho, and I think all these young males had a bit of respect for all of us ladies for hiking this last year!!
the boys!!
My baby girl Leslie joined us again.  She is a very busy mom and wife so doesn't have tons of time to train, but she powered through!  The journey would not have been the same without her along.  My nephew Sean lives in California, and he also committed right away.  He is training for a "Tough Mudder" so he's in great shape (and rocks an amazing moustache).   He took a bee sting for the team. So so glad he flew up for the weekend.
SO thankful these two were with me!
My daughter in law Hannah joined us.  She was a bit "iffy" because she was 18 weeks pregnant at hike time.  But Hannah is a very strong and determined mama and she hiked this like a champ - I admire her so much.  She also took a bee sting for the team!
Dealing with bee stings
Our youngest hikers were my two nieces Jenae and Gretta.  They are both seniors in high school and VERY busy.  Gretta is playing high school soccer right now for Wenatchee - she played a game on Saturday and hiked on Sunday!!  That is amazing.  Jenae is my California girl - she flew up for the weekend.  Love love love these two girls.  They have amazing hearts for Jesus and they will do amazing things in the future.
Aunties and nieces

Lunch time

My friend Kay hiked with us last year.  Her husband wanted to do the hike this year, so they committed to hiking over Labor Day.  We ended up hiking opposite directions - sharing cabins and swapping cars at trail heads.  It worked out so great!  All of us who hiked a second time thought the second time was easier.  I for one felt much better physically (I was a bit sick last year and so nervous) and was able to enjoy this hike more.

So so fun to meet on the trail!!
 The weather was very hot, but we started early (no rain!!) and ended by 2:00.  Stehekin is such an amazing place.  We had no smoke the day we hiked, but watched the smoke roll in the next morning.  We had smoke all the way down the ferry ride of Lake Chelan and all the way back home to western Washington.
Almost finished!
End of the trail!  No injuries!

Breakfast in Stehekin
Yes, #kooistrastrong took over the back of the ferry once again

Until next time Stehekin!!!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Guadalajara 2017

Thirty-five beautiful girls, age 6 to 17.   Twenty precious boys, age 3 to 17.  These ninos all live in Guadalajara, Mexico at an orphanage called Emanuel Foundation.  My church has been involved in this orphanage for about 15 years.  Our youth group goes every summer.  Our new youth director, Chris, asked me several months ago if I would think about going along.  I went with some teams 15-20 years ago - we went to Tijuana with the YWAM program - I think I went 4 or 5 times.  At first I didn't think I wanted to go, but then God convicted me with a couple different things.  I said yes.  I am so glad I did!
Our group plus the ninos!
We stay right on campus at the orphanage.  It is run by Hilario and Melanie, who just celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary.  They have huge hearts for these homeless kids.  Hilario also has a huge heart for prison ministry because he himself was in prison many years ago  He became a Christian in prison and now works hard bringing the gospel to several prisons.

The first several days we stayed at the orphanage and basically hung out with the kids.  We ate with them, played with them, ran a VBS a couple of days for them and entertained them.  We joined them at their church services each Sunday.  Hilario also has a weekly service for the neighboring community and then hands out food to these people.  That was a pretty cool evening!  We also spent one evening downtown and handed out food to some homeless people.  We performed our dramas there and a few of our kids gave their testimonies.  We visited three prisons and did the same format - our dramas and a couple of kids giving their testimonies.  No pictures since we couldn't bring our cameras in, but we had some great experiences in those prisons.   Several different evenings, some of the older ninos gave us their testimonies.  It was absolutely heartbreaking to hear what some of those precious children have endured.   They were so brave, and now they can say they have hope in Jesus Christ.

Performing a drama at church service
The beach after the Chapala prison
 We also did a few work projects around the campus  My group of five girls painted some brick walls.  A group painted a mural, and other groups did miscellaneous repairs.

Feeding the ninos "And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."  Matthew 10:42
We got to take part in a pinata birthday and a quinceanera for a girl who turned 15.  That was so much fun!  So much dancing!!
Pinata party
Pastor Chris crowning her!
Our two translators were Miguel and Salomen.  They are nephews of Melanie, who runs the orphanage.  They live in a different city, but every year for the past 5 years they come while Sonlight is at the orphanage.  This week would not have been the same without these two young men.  They have such a strong love for Jesus, a love for this orphanage, and a love for the Sonlight community.  We will miss these two so so much.

LOVE these two!
It's hard to put into words my feelings after this trip.  It was difficult - no doubt about that.  We had only cold water.  Twice the girls dorm had NO water for a day.  We had clogged toilets.  SO MANY MOSQUITOES.   We needed lots of patience to deal with "Hilario time."  When he would say we were leaving at 9, that ended up being 9:30 or 10.  He kept changing the schedule - every day.  So many unknowns.  But our kids were troopers.  I never heard ANY complaints from these teenagers.  They were so great spending time with the ninos - just loving on them.  Our team got along the entire trip - no drama!!!  Some awesome moments:  the worship at one of the men's prison with a handful of Christian prisoners.  A couple of women prisoners who were crying after our presentation.  The joy in the nino's faces the entire 10 days - all the tears and hugs when we had to say good bye.  There were so many great memories.   These teens were the hands and feet of Jesus!!

I came home to the news that Kris and Hannah had had to put Les' dog Hank down.  I feel so bad that they had to do that themselves, and yet I am relieved that I wasn't there.  Hank had moved to Kris and Hannah's when Les was sick because he got too stressed out over everything going on here.  Hank was so good with baby Dallas, and my two grandsons.  So patient with them!  Dallas told me Tuesday night that Hank was with Jesus and "Pa", in heaven.  You will be missed, Hank!
Final resting place