Thursday, February 11, 2016

Collecting Memories

I recently saw a saying on my intern's desk that made me smile.  As I reflected on the simple words, it struck a chord in my heart. I think this is something I've been striving for - I just hadn't formulated the complete thought in my head.  

The phrase went like this: COLLECT MEMORIES NOT THINGS

Over Christmas this past year, Brian and I flew out to Vancouver, BC and were able to see my entire immediate family.  For some families this is normal.  For my family, it is not. The last time we all saw each other was at Brian and I's wedding. Before that it would've been my sister's wedding, and one more step back, would've been my graduation from high school. It's an unfortunate challenge we encounter.  Sooooo, let's get back to this past Christmas ...

For Christmas presents, my family decided not to buy "typical presents" for each person like we normally do.  We decided to invest our money into memories!  Each family picked an activity - then we all spent time together doing exactly that.  Making memories.  We went ice skating, had hot chocolate on the beach, saw a park in downtown Vancouver decked out in Christmas lights, and more.  We had a blast.  I'd vouch to say it was a memorable and special week for each person in my family.  

A month later, Brian and I got back on a plane - heading south this time.  Waaaaay south.  We flew to Costa Rica for my cousin Hannah's wedding.  Brian and I didn't have a lot planned for the trip.  We truly wanted to spend time with my extended family and make some new memories. We had an absolute blast.  

I got to spend precious time with Hannah.  Got to hang with other family - cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles, and meet one cousin's children for the first time. We invested our time and money into showing up.  Being there for the wedding. Spending time talking, eating, swimming, and hanging out on the beach with these people - I hold our time in Costa Rica close to my heart.  It was SO worth it.  Brian and I collected memories I hope we never forget.  

Sometimes you will never know the value of 
a moment until it becomes a memory.
- Dr. Seuss -

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Simply put, this was our year...

Exactly 1 year ago today, I was boarding a plane to see my dad in the hospital after cancer decided to attack his kidney. 

               ....And that was just the START of 2015 for Brian and I.  

It felt like 2015 moved at the pace of a tortoise.  The hope I eagerly suggested at the beginning of last year, has been what I've clung all year long:

Instead of saying, "Lord, I don't know how I'm going to do this"  
try saying "Lord, I can't wait to see how you do this".

And HE did it.  Sometimes Brian and I felt like we were barely hanging on - but God got us through.  There were a lot of challenges that came. I don't think they would've felt so overwhelming if just 1 or 2 happened.  But it felt like one thing after the other.  When one wave was done and we were gasping for air, the next wave came and pummeled us under before we could catch our breath.  This cycle seemed to happen all year long.  After 12 months of gasping and pummeling, it's been just flat out exhausting.  

As the world wound down from the old year and geared up for the new year - I couldn't help but feel a little more bounce in my step.  I wanted a FRESH START, a clean slate; I wanted to wipe out all the negatives and fill those spaces up with hopefulness and joy!

I look back and see how sneaky the enemy is.  He FEEDS on hopelessness and disappointment in ways we don't even realize.  It affects you spiritually, physically, emotionally... the battle is real folks. I know I need to claim God's promises (and do) but I don't always FEEL it.  It seems like I should be filled with gladness and joy and kindness when I cry out - but I look in the mirror and see a hardened heart, a tear filled snotty face and bitterness that has taken root in my soul.  I feel like I'm one of the most negative people on the face of the planet. Deeper still, I believe the battle is being won by choosing to believe in God's promises.  By clothing myself with joy and wielding the sword of truth.  I don't do it gracefully. AT. ALL. And I fall on my face a lot.  I lose hope in myself. I hurt others.  And I sometimes take 5 steps back while only moving 1 step forward.    

It's so easy to believe after the 10th wave that nothing will ever change.  That the dreams Brian and I have will never come true. Yet I keep clinging to the hope that God wants to see me through.

When cancer tries to attack my dad's body.  When his one kidney that's left decided it only wants a part time job.  When my mom struggles to remember things and we patiently walk with her.

When the state of Iowa does an audit and tells us we owe over $10,000 for a tax hardly any people we talk to know about!  Ever heard of Consumer Use Tax - ya, neither had we.  And when they want records 10 years back and your accountant & lawyer said to destroy records over 5 years old... when we can't prove anything from 10 years ago and get charged 66% interest.

When we sell off 90% of our business and everyone keeps asking what were going to do.... when we don't even know.  We just felt God told us "now's the time to sell".  When you encounter a co-worker daily who has ripped you down to shreds and still takes punches.  When your boss is gone a lot because his family is going through the ringer.  

When decisions can't be made because they're too stressful. Or when you feel like you're at the bottom of the totem pole for things being planned. When communication simply sucks and hurts people in the process.  When you see your spouse being taken at the knees by somebody questioning his character - and you KNOW he is the most loyal, upstanding person around.

These are a few of the waves from 2015. It seems when I say them out loud, they aren't "that bad' compared to loved ones being killed by terrorist, children not eating and awful disasters like earthquakes and flooding happening all around us.  Simply put, this was our year.  This has been the thick and thin of it.

I can still say I am thankful for how God has changed me. How He's grown me and that he continually turns His face towards me and offers me kindness.  I am being refined in His fire and pray I make it out a lot purer than I started.  And that I can keep saying, Lord, I can't wait to see how you do this.

"Even your battles can serve you well if you trust God to train you in them"
- Susan Larson-

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Cabin in the Rockies

Brian and I just got back from one of the most relaxing vacations I think we've ever had.  We got a cabin nestled in the Rocky Mountains with a fire place as our television.  It was one of those trips where there wasn't pressure to get out and go see this, or go do that.... we could just BE.

In those moments of allowing ourselves to BE we were able to let down our walls.  To get away from the everyday hustle and bustle - to get out of the routines we put ourselves in.  And as we slowly unwound, our hearts calmed and we paused.

We drove up mountains, took hikes, watched nature and ate way too much salt water taffy.  We had heartfelt conversations and asked each other the hard questions people seem to keep asking us....  Are we going to have kids or not?  Are we going to build a house or a shop? Are we going to move somewhere else? Are we going to start another business? And you know what, we still don't have the answers. But WE DO KNOW where we are currently at is where we're supposed to be.

Our hearts have not been called out off the path we're on. Do we feel that might change? Absolutely! We can see God's hand guiding us to some "future change" .... and neither of us has a clue what it is going to be. But we do know it's not right now.

Brian and I celebrated our anniversary this past weekend too. November 13 marked 4 years!!!!  I can truly say that Brian makes me a better person.  He is so strong and grounded.  This year has been HARD for us.  There is no doubt about it... but through it all Brian has been my rock.  And I've been his at times.  The ONLY thing that has kept us going is HOPE.  Knowing and believing, no matter how hard we try, we're not going to make it.  But we always know God is going to get us through somehow.  And HE does! When one of us couldn't see the light of hope, the other has been able to.

Amidst all the hard questions, and salt water taffy consumption:) we took a few picture too.  Here are a few for you to enjoy....

Friday, October 2, 2015

Light In The Dark

When I was in high school, there was a boy in my class who consistently told his little sister she was fat. And trust me, this gal was the furthest thing from fat!  She hardly had an once of fat on her.  Yet over time, she began to believe what she was being told and ended up with an eating disorder.  To this day, I don't know what possessed the big brother to do that.  Maybe it was control, insecurity or some other messed up tactic satan likes to use.

Since moving to Iowa, I've encountered a "big brother" of my own (not my real bother... but you get the drift).  Over the past 6 years my "big brother" has slowly chipped away at pieces of me. Over time gaping holes have developed.  Just like the sister began believing she was fat, I have stopped believing in my self. I've stopped believing I am a kind person.  I stopped believing I am adequate and worth getting to know.  My words have become twisted and used against me.  I've come to believe I am better off hiding myself from people than exposing them to the insignificant, hollow and twisted person I've become.

This past week, my "big brother" swung a chip at both my husband and I.  That ladies and gentleman - did me in.  I've gotten used to the swings.  As awful as they are, it's become normal for me.  When the combo hit this week, it cut DEEP.  I started to feel like Humpty Dumpty and wasn't sure if anybody could put me back together again.  I hurt so bad.

Out of a very small and insignificant place, I sent an email to some family and close friends asking for help. I asked them to pray.  To pray with me for peace in my situation, for quietness in my heart and for my confidence to be put back together.

After I sent out that message, I began to received emails and texts back.  I was told I am not a horrible person. That I am kind. That I am being prayed for. Every. Single. Message. I cried. Because I can't believe those words for myself. I was completely humbled. There are people who see me as so much more than I can see myself.

Despite this brokenness, I have one feature about myself that runs pretty deep.  When used right, it is a strength - I am stubborn.  My stubbornness has helped my believe there is HOPE. There is hope because I believe in a Savior who promises to be my refuge and strength. Who promises to lift me up when I am weary.  There is HOPE in chains being broken and strongholds being loosed. I serve a HUGE God.  I can't handle the situation I'm in - but HE can.

One of the messages I received today said this.... "my hope is that God brings to light what needs to be brought into the light".  I couldn't have said it any better; THIS is the prayer of my heart.

Deep down inside - I want to be alone.  I don't want to let anybody else in. I don't want to hurt anybody else.  I don't know if I can handle doing something wrong to them.  And I don't want others to see me how I see myself. YET, even DEEPER STILL I know those are lies straight from the pit of hell.  Does that mean a quick snap of the fingers and I'm not going to believe them?  Probably not. But I will keep trying.

I am praying for LIGHT.  Light is the absence of darkness. I need light in the dark places in my heart.  I need light brought to this whole situation.  I need light to shine on and in my "big brother".  In the place we meet, in our interactions and in all those affected by it.

If you've made it to the end of this blog, I'm guessing you either know me or you've been able to relate to this story somehow.  No matter your story, I pray you find a ray of HOPE.  It may be small, but cling to it.  Send a message to people to help you see it. And be stubborn enough keep looking when all seems to go dark. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Dream Come True

This past weekend, Brian and I drove out to Rapid City, SD and started a new "adventure".  We bought a pick-up camper!!!!  We did some touring through the Black Hills and Custer State Park.  Then settled in for the night at by the Pactola Reservoir and spent our first night camping (in our camper).

As we drove up to Pactola, I kept having flashbacks to the first time I drove past this lake.  It would've been spring of 2009 -- when I was moving from Washington State to Iowa. I started the long drive in the Pacific Northwest, picked up my cousin Hannah in Seattle and the two of us drove my packed-down little Corolla to the Heartland.  Along the way, we decided to jump off I-90 and hit up Mt Rushmore.  As we ventured down our little detour, I remember coming across this beautiful lake and thinking "I want to come back and camp here someday".  

 MARCH 2009

When Brian and I drove up to Pactola, I realized that THIS was the lake I saw 6 years ago with Hannah!!!!  I had not remembered the name at all.... but the setting was unmistakable.  My heart was captured by the beauty of the lake and scenery just as much this time as it was the first time. 

MAY 2015

Both experiences seem to be a launch point of sorts.  When I was moving to Iowa, I wouldn't have dreamed it would take me 6 YEARS to get back to that lake.  And 6 years ago, I wouldn't have imagined I'd be coming back with a HUSBAND and our very own pick-up CAMPER!  This weekend continued to affirm me that DREAMS DO COME TRUE.  They don't always come in the order we think they should or as fast as we'd like them sometimes; but they DO happen.  Even dreams that you almost forgot about and realized in the moment that it's become a reality.

I have a long list of places I'd like to take our little camper.  If I could, I'd drop everything right now and go travel... but alas, I know the timing is not quite right. It will happen one place at a time and maybe one day it will happen for a chunk of time.  I know I will find myself on future adventures and probably have some more unexpected dreams come true along the way. Looking forward to more #oordtadventures in the days to come.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


March 26, 2012 - it was a bitter sweet day in the Franken household. It is the day my grandpa went to meet Jesus.  Today marks 3 years.  

I've been thinking about him a lot lately and remembering the legacy he built-up and left behind.  I can honestly say Grandpa was one of my hero's.  He was filled with passion, made prayer a priority and truly wanted MORE of Jesus each and every day.  He was not perfect by any means and is probably the most stubborn person I've ever know.  BUT he knew what he believed and overcame adversity on so many different levels.

I started this journey down memory lane a few weeks ago, as I was reading the book Unbroken. If you have not read the book (or watched the movie for you non-readers:), the book takes place in WWll and centers around men who were captured and placed in Japanese POW camps.  

My grandpa could've been one of the people written about in this book.  He was born and raised in Indonesia (back then it was called the Dutch East Indies) and became a captain in the Dutch Army.  During WWll he was captured and placed in a Japanese POW camp. He survived the hellish conditions and eventually immigrated to the USA a few years after the war was done. To the day my grandpa died he would not throw away any food.  

Growing up about 700 miles north of my grandparents, I would only get to see my them a couple times a year.  It may not have been often, but each time it was treasured.  My sister and I would share an upstairs room when we'd stay at grandma & grandpa's.  In order to get from that bedroom to the rest of the house, we'd have to walk through grandpa's office area.  A picture that is ingrained in my memory, is grandpa sitting by his desk EACH morning having quiet time with the Lord and praying.  On numerous occasions I would stop (being the inquisitive child I was), and ask him what he was doing!  He would ALWAYS take time to answer me.  9 out of 10 time he would say he was praying for each of his grandchildren - including me.  That we would love Jesus and marry someone one day who would love us and love Jesus too.  

My 6 year old brain soaked in what he said.  As the years went by, I would hear the same statement.  Soon, I was heading off to college and those words continued to stick with me.  I remember one point in college I was ready to throw in the towel on my faith.  I didn't understand why God had allowed some horrible situations to happen to me... I was angry and holding on by a thread.  I look back now and know without a shadow of a doubt that my grandpa's prayers helped get me through that time in my life.  I knew he was sitting at his desk every morning begging God to real me back in.  To shower unconditional love on me when I could hardly love myself. I am happy to say, I came out of that period in my life holding on.  My faith is strong and continues to grow.  Years later, I married an amazing man who was an answer to prayer - he loves Jesus AND me.

As grandpa aged, he started to have memory problems.  He would become frustrated a lot easier and would tell the same story over and over again.  But not once did he loose his faith.  He would beg God to take him home; to end his earthly suffering and be able to walk through the gates of glory.  As the years went by, his mind focused on heaven more and more.  If you would ask grandpa "how are you doing today?", he would lift up his hands, put them together (like you were going to place something in them) and reply by saying "you know what this means?" and it was the same answer every time "I'm in God's hands."

As I remember grandpa today, my heart is so full of joy.  I can see his smile and hear his laugh... I know, in the deepest parts of my soul, that he is having the time of his life worshiping with all the people and angels in heaven.  His legacy is living on.  His passion, his perseverance and even his stubbornness (unfortunately that gene runs super thick in the Franken blood).  

Thanks for all your prayers and loving me well Grandpa.  Today I am not able to go put flowers where you lay... but I hold you close in my heart and remember the hero you've always been to me. 
John Everett Franken 
June 6, 1921 - March 26, 2012

Monday, March 16, 2015

New Beginnings

Were to even begin.  The past few weeks have been like NO other in the Oordt household.  After 20 years of serving this community, a big chunk Oordt's Landscape Management went up for sale.  Last Monday, Brian and I sold the maintenance division of OLM.  Yep, all the lawn moving, landscaping, snow removal... it's all gone.  So what did we keep? We decided to specialize in just seeding and irrigation.

It has been a week of processing, saying goodbye and transferring stuff over.  Brian and I had been feeling God poke and prod us for the past couple years to sell, but every time we thought about it.... we got a "not yet" answer.  So we held on and kept plugging away.  The last 2 months we felt the confirmation to move forward. 

Countless people have asked Brian, "what are you going to do now?"  Well, to be bluntly honest, we have NO idea.  All we know is God said "now's the time", we listened and we'll see how HE provides.  Sure we're looking at different options, but nothing is set in stone. 

It's crazy to think, but in the midst of all the unknowns - we KNOW we're doing the right thing.  Is it easy letting go of everything? No.  Sure, somethings are easier than others BUT we have that special peace that surpasses all understand. And peace like that come from only one person - the Holy Spirit.  We know it's not just "the end" of an adventure, but it the start of a new one!

As we move forward into whatever the future holds, we ask you to keep us in your prayers.  That we would continue to seek the desires of God's heart more than our own.  That we would have the strength and discernment to make the best decision for us as a family. And that Brian would find fulfillment and passion in this new adventure. 

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9