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BELIEVE and a Giveaway!

It’s cold. It’s winter.

IT’S ALMOST CHRISTMAS!

And in just a few days, it will be another thing.

our seventh wedding anniversary.

I think this is the perfect time for a little give away to my lovely friends on this blog! So here it is…

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A Christmas Light Canvas.

Read a bit farther to understand why I chose the word BELIEVE and to see how to enter the drawing to win.

I hope that this winter finds a glow in your heart. The privilege to BELIEVE. even when it’s hard.

A bit over 8 years ago, my Big Guy and I met for the very first time.

I from the East.

He from the West.

Just in case you didn’t know, I LOVE a happy, fuzzy romantic love story. One of our first ‘run ins’ was at the bottom of a Rocky Mountain foothill under a gorgeously lovely moon that was edging the frigid clear night with it’s impossibly soft warmth…..

a perfect set up for some heart sparks to fly.

Instead, I was bleeding red all over the front of Steve’s grey jacket and was convinced that every breath would be my last. That’s what happens when the most lovely innocent toboggan ride with girlfriends ends abruptly.That’s what happens when barbed wire meets face.

Cruel cold steel wired across flesh. And scars were created. It was ugly. And scary. And not at all what I planned.

I don’t believe in omens but do I believe in God’s omnipotent plan for our lives. Sometimes, in my wandering moments, I wonder if God was trying to tell us something way back then. That He makes beauty out of bloodshed. He keeps us breathing when we have no strength left to keep going.That life doesn’t always make rational sense.

Exactly a year after that accident, my heart had come a long way. I was learning trust and love and commitment and laying down silly notions and ideas. (yeah. i’m still working on that stuff:)

One thing was bigger then ever…those lovely heart sparks were flaming higher and hotter then ever! We were getting married!

December 7, 2006

The day I thought I would die.

December 7, 2007

The day I promised my life to the best Big Guy in the world.

happy happy wedding day!!!

(i laugh to think of all the near disasters that surrounded even that day)

The ironic thing was, the year before, I had gone west to teach a tiny school and carve out time with my Heavenly Father and try to figure out some hard questions of life. I wasn’t interested in guys.

But girls will be girls.

And when that true Love steals into your heart no matter how much you try to deny it….well, lets just say I was honored and thrilled!

It’s been seven years. There’s been bloodshed in our hearts. But there’s also been warm hugs that take in all the pain. So much love that pain morphs into beauty.

So many wonderful moments and happiness.

But we still live in a fallen world. As long as we are here, we face it.

Sometimes its hard to BELIEVE.

When I want my way and I don’t want to play fair and I am sure we are heading for disaster. When I let ridiculously small unimportant everyday things turn into a monstrous block wall. When I bang my head against it and wonder why it doesn’t budge. When I misunderstand.

It’s hard to believe.

When life hands me things I never asked for and warps my confidence that God is good. All the time.

It’s hard to believe.

When I don’t know what will happen next in life and it feels like your stuck in the waiting room. And you don’t want to be there.

It’s HARD to believe.

When others hurt and you can’t take away their pain.

It’s hard to BELIEVE!

I never would have believed my life if you had laid it out orderly for me while I was packing my bags for Montana 8 years ago.

It has been so wonderfully GOOD and GRAND!

But it’s also been brutally hard.

(Don’t we all have our own hard battle to face!?)

It is my life. And I embrace it.

Because I believe!

And that’s all because of God, my loving Father, who has PROMISED

(FOREVER AND ALWAYS NO MATTER WHAT)

to keep me and never leave me.

My husband. My amazing wonderful Big Guy that has taught me to trust and love and given me a safe place for my heart to come home.

My angel cchildren in heaven

the Wee One we never met,

Kierra Raine.

who’s name is music to my ear

longing in my heart,

hope in my future.

Kobe Xander

who amazes me

challenges me

calls me Mom.

and I love like crazy.

I believe

because God has put so much love and peace and hope in the midst of the blood and tears.

I BELIEVE!

So here’s my wish for you this Christmas.

The chance to experience God.

And believe.

It’s something we must each do for ourselves.

Let me assure you. He will meet you and love you and forgive you.

He delights in you.

Just believe.

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So here’s the deal.

This is a white canvas done in Silver script and snowflakes with 50 lights. It measures 16×20 in. and has easy access to the Christmas light’s plug.

Leave your name in the comments below to enter this giveaway. The winner will be announced on Monday, December 8. 

I will contact the winner for their shipping address and you should receive it in no time at all :)

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Easy Christmas Light Canvas

To my friends who wanted step by step directions on making this super simple Christmas canvas…

Here are the supplies you will need.

16×20 in. white canvas

(available at Michael’s and other craft stores)

string of Christmas lights

( I used a 50 mini light string. you could try 100 count but it may be ALOT of lights! :)

Xacto pen, utility knife, skewer, or sharp knife

(to poke a small hole)

Silver Sharpie

Hot glue gun and glue

Lettering

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The first step is to decide on a word you love. You can put it anywhere on the canvas. Center, off center, top, bottom, left, right..you get the idea :)

I have seen this done by using a lovely scripted word sticker. If you don’t feel steady in the hand today or have a lovely word on a sticker, you can always pop it on.

If you are free handing your letters, it may work best to start in the middle of the canvas with the middle letter(s) so it is spaced evenly. Be sure to use a pencil for the first script so you can make adjustments.

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Finish out the word until you have it like you like it.

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Now comes the fun with your silver sharpie.

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be creative and add your own personal flair. There are so many fonts you can choose from!

Now flip the canvas around, hold it up to the light, and do a light, rough trace of the letters so you know where NOT to place your lights.

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Now you are ready for your light placement. Try to stay away from ruining the script.

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This part is a bit awkward so do it how you like, but this is the best way I found. Start up in the corner with your string of lights. Make sure your ‘plug in’ end will be at the bottom of the canvas. (Unless you want it elsewhere:) Make a small dot with your pencil in the upper corner where you will place your first light. Take your next light and place it a comfy distance from your first. Do not stretch the string of lights, or it will not fit nicely in the canvas. Jot a number at each hole so you can easily place your lights in the same hole later without trying to remember which order they fit best in.

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Stagger the lights instead of going in straight rows to get a more creative look. I put some of mine in the middle of the lettering and also as close to the edge as possible to give it more ‘light coverage’.

After you have worked your way to the bottom,, take your SHARP and poke a little hole in each pencil dot.

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You should have 50 holes. Now flip the canvas around  and draw a snowflake over each hole with your silver Sharpie.

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No two snow flakes are alike, you know :)

Now you are ready to poke a light through each hole. If you numbered your dots this part will go much faster :) Push each light through it’s hole. It should look something like this when you are done.

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I like to use my hot glue gun and glue each light into place so it doesn’t pull on the canvas, and it STAYS where it should. I had no problem with my glue melting later when I turned the lights on, just in case you wondered…like me :)

And here you’ve got the front…

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and lit up…

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and up close :)

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Happy crafting!

This was one of my favorite projects. EVER!!! :)

I’d love to see a photo of yours!

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Focus on LIFE

So maybe I’m repeating myself.
But when your husband brings you flowers on a cold wintery day…(he is THE BEST!)

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And a friend stops by to give you a hug and make sure you are ok…
And you had just minutes before been sitting,watching a “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” music clip and tears were stealing down your face as you felt the loss this world has portioned out into your plate.

Well, I just had to share a tiny bit of heart here. Because right now I feel like I’m eating a big bite of unsalted undercooked Lima beans.
Gritty. Tough. Just yuck.
It’s rather awful because I have so much good going for me-gifted from my Father.
I seem to forget that big fat steaming fresh doughnut waiting at my elbow with the equally tantalizing coffee.
The cold Limas consume me.

I forget the joy and blessings life has served me when I get so focused on the loss.

You have a loss too. I just know you do. A broken promise. A dysfunctional family. A traumatic childhood. A great heartache. A love that is so big and strong it aches for the hurt of those in your life.

For me, it’s the loss of my dreams of a perfectly healthy baby girl. Way back over three years ago. The trauma of a screaming infant. The ‘temporary’ of our lives and the expected unexpected in her life. Missing out on lots of Kobe’s baby days because our daughter needed us. Hurting when she hurt physically and grieving for the joys she could never experience in this life. Being her voice and advocate and cheerleader. Watching and holding our breath over her development and lack of coordination and strange movements. When we just wanted to enjoy her and have a happy carefree life. The last years have taken more out of me then I understand. I feel robbed. Cheated. And underneath that I feel selfish for feeling robbed when it was my daughter that had to suffer. But she was part of us. What hurt her hurt us, and I’m back to the age old wondering of what God is actually working to accomplish here in this mess that is called grief and disappointment.

But I cringe at my own words. Because while they are true on one awful level, they are also totally counteracted on the next. And the pain becomes tremendous gain. I have been given a priceless gift to be the Mommy of an angel daughter. Our little girl made me look at life through a totally different window. She brought so much beauty through the pain. So much peace through the tears. So much love to our Kobe. So much Kierra to our lives. So much courage in a messed up world. I am more certain of guardian angels that stand beside our children then I ever was in my life. I ache for her and her amazing beauty. Her radiant smile.

I sat and held Kobe as he tried to open his tired sleepy naptime eyes and I knew without a shadow what I needed to do.

Focus on the gain
Instead of the pain.

I have so very very many blessings. A wonderful husband. A darling three year old. Friends. And all the things that make me comfy in life. I choose to thank God for that.
Joy is a choice.
I choose it for my heart….and pray that it reaches my eyes.
So my friend….

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Life is all about perspective. Focus. What we choose to dwell on until it becomes our identity. While I never want to lose that ‘Kierra part of me’, I also need to let go of the hurt and let the beauty we were so extremely blessed with for three and a half years fill my days and change my perspective.

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Like the song writer I sing in my soul…
“And I said to myself ,’what a wonderful world’!”

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2

A Solo Date

I am sitting by myself in Barnes n Nobles for the first time in years, or maybe in all of my history :)
I brought this…

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And bought this…

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And looked at this…

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Something to eat
(Chocolate)

Something to talk to
(Sometimes my journal is my best therapist :))

Something to do
(Create cards from Michaels clearance rack :))

Something to hope for
(A gorgeous cookbook and a positive note from wheelchairs)

I helped Steve do a lawn job this morning and now I’m having some “quiet, do something relaxing, ” time while he mows another lawn.

Kobe is coming in to town later today with friends. Bless their kind hearts for watching him this chilly morning!

Sometimes when life hands you uncontrollable (or common everyday the same) events, the best thing to do is take some time out and rest awhile in your own space. Maybe that is a coffee shop, a book store, (ME!) a garden, a long hot bath, or an art museum.

Take a bit of time to be kind to yourself. Sit and honestly ask yourself how you are doing. You can even have a conversation with yourself in your journal. Just like you would for a friend.
What would you tell your friend if they were having a rough day?

“I believe in you.”
“You are loved.”
“It’s OK to hurt.”
“Here. Cry for awhile.”(as you hand her a box of tissue)
“Gods not going to let you go. “
“He won’t love you more or less by your honesty.”
“You are doing a good job in life.”

How about telling yourself the same things?
If you are anything like me, you are your own best critic. (Yep, I’m sure someone else has the original to that quote :) ) but honestly. We are so harsh with ourselves at times. We forget that by being honest with ourselves we can be honest with others. That taking time to understand why we are hurting is more valuable then beating ourselves up because we snapped at our children (again!) for some minor bit of childishness.

Often the “straw that broke the camels back” is actually not the problem. It’s something else that carries much more weight at the root of the load we are carrying. While we can give our burdens to Jesus, and rest on Him, we are still faced with all the elements that make up life. Family. Work. Decisions. Friendships. Grocery shopping. The list goes on. It gets much more complex. Sickness. Wandering souls. Disappointments. Death.

We are so good at holding on to pieces of hurt and pain and fear. Until we break. Thankfully, that’s what our Saviour specializes in. Broken lives and hearts and people.

Today I am taking some time to sit and think about my own life. To do something I love. To get to know myself a bit better. To bring the broken to God. To have my hope renewed through Him.

Because. HE is understanding Loving Hope.
And He makes me new.
Ready to face life a bit more steadily…
Take some time off for yourself, my friend. It is one of the kindest things to can do to yourself and those you love.

2

Glory In the Hurt

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The leaf is dressed in glory.

As it dies.

I wonder if It likes the different ‘Me.’

If leaves could think.

I do believe they would agree,

the dying to their former color

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brings out the golden glory.

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And beautifies the dying.

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It is nearly 9 months since our daughter took her first steps in heaven. Since I have begun getting to know what life is like without her. Since I have been introduced to a different ‘Me.’

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The following song has spoken to me so very often. Sometimes its a bit hard to put words to my deep feelings but following the lyrics below is a bit of my own struggle to accept and embrace this new life that is ‘Me.’

“The Hurt & The Healer”

Why?
The question that is never far away
The healing doesn’t come from being explained
Jesus please don’t let this go in vain
You’re all I have
All that remains

So here I am
What’s left of me
Where glory meets my suffering

I’m alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into Your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide

Breathe
Sometimes I feel it’s all that I can do
Pain so deep that I can hardly move
Just keep my eyes completely fixed on You
Lord take hold and pull me through

So here I am
What’s left of me
Where glory meets my suffering

I’m alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide

It’s the moment when humanity
Is overcome by majesty
When grace is ushered in for good
And all our scars are understood
When mercy takes it’s rightful place
And all these questions fade away
When out of the weakness we must bow
And hear You say “It’s over now”

I’m alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take this heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into your arms open wide
When The hurt and the healer collide

[x2:]
Jesus come and break my fear
Wake my heart and take my tears
Find Your glory even here
When the hurt and the healer collide

Jesus come and break my fear
Wake my heart and take my tears
And find Your glory even here

Thanks to Jessie for adding these lyrics.
Thanks to Mike Benkert, Jim Mahan for correcting these lyrics.

I don’t know this new me yet.

She surprises me

confuses me

amazes me

angers me

hurts me.

She IS me.

And I don’t know what to do with her.

I can’t get away from her.

Just as I think she has morphed into a tidy bit of womanly,

she throws out a new curve and leaves me

dazed

lonely

confused

scared.

I can’t out think her

out sleep her

out smart her

or out last her.

So I must embrace her.

And learn to know her.

I must be gentle

and real

(not live in a dream of who I think she should be)

and honest.

Forgive her

(that’s myself I’m talking about)

Accept her.

Even if I do not understand her.

( my poor husband :)

Because God has brought her on a journey.

He has plans for her that I can only trace the very fringes of.

So I will lay out the pieces of yesterday

on my own familiar kitchen table

and give them to her Creator.

(He is a Master Chef at creating beauty and completion from messes)

The new and the old and the not understood all laid out before God.

Her loving heavenly Father who knows more about her then she can imagine.Who understands the deepest part of her that is beyond her reach to know.

Someday, she will see clearly.

“I shall know and understand fully and clearly even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God].”

1 Corinthians 13:12 Amplified Bible

Did you get that? It doesn’t say we will BE UNDERSTOOD then. It says we ARE UNDERSTOOD now. I think that means In our present moment. With our present mess of ourselves.

Rest assured today, Dear Soul!

God understands you. You may lay it all out to Him. He won’t be surprised or confused or shocked at you. He knows you already.

He understands.

He is longing to help you.

To simply love you.

To give you rest and peace in Him.

The joy of His presence.

And the hope of truly knowing and finding His fullness filling our being in heaven some glorious day!

just give it to Him.

2

The Blessedness of Bandaids

So as strange as it sounds, once upon a time, I was angry at a box of Bandaids.

A few years ago, My friend had sent me a wonderful care package, complete with food, fun, miniature animals…and a box of Bandaids for boo boos. They were cute and colorful and fun, if Bandaids can be fun.

It was one of the those boxes I looked at briefly then threw under the sink in my catch it all basket that got organized once a year and nearly never used.

And I thought to myself….’I never need to use Bandaids.’
And that made me sad.

I didn’t want to look at those Bandaids. Not because of the pain and boo boo it would cover, but because of the strange absence of boo boos.

You see, Kierra couldn’t walk, let alone roll over. She couldn’t pull things down on top of her (except for the mosquito netting that she managed to tangle in). She couldn’t pinch her fingers in the cupboard door or pull the cat’s tail or get a splinter from the wooden swing set.

Her socks stayed clean. Too clean. And there were not strays (except by my own making). Some days I would make excuses to get her a fresh shirt (and some days she would drool faster then I could think). Her shoes never wore out or had scuffed toes. Because she didn’t wear them. Her jacket was never torn from a hide out in the Rose garden. Even her mittens stayed way too clean and lasted for years.

While I didn’t want her to hurt or be in trouble or pain, I wanted the glorious normal of a messy life.

I wanted something other then boring sterile hospital Bandaids and gauze pads over lab draws for her.

I wanted dirty socks and holes in pants. Tonight, after we got home from an evening with friends, I was changing Kobe . His shoes were damp. His feet wreaked of sweat. And I delightfully changed them.

I will perhaps go down in record as the first person that delights in sweaty feet and holey jeans and dirty jackets. In missing socks and a child that screams bloody murder when I extract the tiniest splinter under the very first layer of his skin. And apply a gloriously cute puppy dog bandaid.

I love the dirt under his finger nails and the toe nails that are always stubbed short. The teeth that need brushing and the drinks that are handed into two tiny grasping hands. The very fact that he still wants me to give him bites of food doesn’t even bother me that much. Because I get to feed a child who TAKES BITES OF FOOD and CHEWS and SWALLOWS!!

Some times in the middle of the day, when he takes a tumble and is howling in my arms, I automatically check for broken limbs or bad ouchies and automatically think about dropping everything and heading for the hospital.

Then I remind myself. This is not Kierra. This is not an emergency. It never is with Kobe. And in the back of my mind, in some crazy way, I miss the adrenaline rush of totally focusing on a run to the hospital…(with a non life threatening emergency of course!)

So here’s my challenge to you this week when the dirty laundry piles high and the socks are all searching for soul mates.

Thank God. Thank Him for the miracle of a mess!!
It is a blessing.

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8

Settling West

I know. This is way overdue. I have written this post countless times in my head and every time it says something different. I have so many thoughts and feelings and little moments of Aw. that I’m not sure where to begin.

Let me introduce you to our new surroundings a bit first. We arrived here in Fairfield, MT at our house on a Tuesday night. Traveling had gone excellent with clear skies and no flat tires. There was a cold nip in the air that night. Of course we had forgotten to keep proper jackets/coats out when we packed , but then again, no one expected it to snow, even in Montana, the beginning of September! We shivered in the sharp night air as we unloaded just a few things, digging for our air mattress.

My good friend Meghan had been over earlier in the day to freshen the house up. Her kids made this sweet sign for us. They even included Kierra in our family picture. I LOVE it! I still haven’t taken it down, because almost every day, Kobe happily goes up to it and points at each person and tells me who it is. Daddy, Mamma, Kobe and KIERRA! And hearing him say her name is so good, I just stand real quiet and watch him in his delighted glory.

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We crashed out on the bedroom floor that first night and tried to get some sleep for the big unloading day on Wednesday. Steve’s family lives about 2 hours from here, so they came over to help us out.

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Kobe was very happy to have some little cousins to play with! We got the trailer all unloaded into the house by lunch time, even with the unusual skiff of snow that welcomed us :) After that it was sorting and organizing and putting things away.

Our house was built quite long ago, but is newly remodeled.  It’s a two bedroom, one bath, with a full basement that could be converted into a bedroom with some love and time. So give us a bit more time…then stop over for the night when you come west :)

Our front door.

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This is from the street. We are right across from a commercial building. It’s actually a fairly quiet street during the day. Much, much quieter then Pennsylvannia  when it comes to lots of traffic :)

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These huge grain bins are just down the street from us. Fairfield  is surrounded by ranches. It’s very open country in this part of Montana so there are lots of huge grain fields. That means there is lots of wind as well! Here in town, we are much more sheltered then out on the ranches. That part is nice, but we don’t have the lovely views of the mountains from our house.

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This is our kitchen/dining room. These photos were taken over a week ago, so we have done more settling in :) Like buying a stove :)

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Our living room…still a bit unsettled here,

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and some lovely outdoor scenery for you :)

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One day soon after we moved, we were taking a little lunch break out at the old picnic table when a lady from church stopped by with a whole load of free puppies! They were looking for new homes. I am AWFUL when it comes to strays , puppies or kittens. Just ask my poor husband . We gladly took one. I even wanted two ;)…you know, so one won’t get too lonely.

Meet Griffin.

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My biggest grievance is that he howls. What could I expect from a beagle mix????? At least my son has a puppy! He is thrilled with him :)

We have been staying super busy. Setting up house is LOTS of work! Trips to town, changing addresses and phones and becoming residence. Setting up with a new bank, and a new internet company and starting a business. The things to do and see after are quite endless. Steve is working part time with construction right now. He wants to do snow shoveling, lawn care, window cleaning, landscaping, etc. We worked on a few jobs the last two weeks. We trimmed a ton of dead branches and shrubbery out of one back yard and transformed another neglected garden. It was HARD work, but so rewarding to see the wonderful difference!

Before… there was no dirt visible. This was part way into our clean up :)

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and after..

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I still can’t believe this is me in Montana going to work with my husband and taking Kobe with us.

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Where are the days of sitting in the hospital for a week, holding Kierra, talking with Doctors, chatting with nurses, meeting new people, and missing my little and big guys?

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 While I am so very thankful that Kierra is healed, today  i just wanted to go back. Maybe it was the cold and snow and overcast forenoon.

I got out my big photo book of Kierra  while Kobe  slept, and paged through it slowly. I lived in those pages all over. I remembered buying my little red tea tin at Ross one day on a hospital break when I was aching for soothing herbal comfort. It said the famous , “keep calm and carry on” in white lettering. I loved that tea tin. No matter how scary or hectic life got…i wanted to remember to Stay Calm and Carry On.  With God’s help that’s what i’m still doing. Carrying on. My tin is in my new kitchen, reminding me of my brave little girl who carried on when things got really tough in her little life.

We’ve been so busy unpacking and organizing and working, canning apple filling, and celebrating a WONDERFUL adoption (Meghan and Kenton adopted 4 wonderful kids last week!), spending time in Idaho with family, and buying a couch and oven and curtains for our windows. i think of Kierra countless times, but the sadness  doesn’t often hit me until it’s dark outside and the lights are low and I am tired.

 Today was just hard, though. I felt so much better after I took time to sit down and think about all the good times,all the smells and snuggles and things I miss about my little girl.I wanted to brush out her lovely hair and try one more time to create a braid from their impossible sleekness. I wanted to hear her telling stories at night in her bed. I wanted to draw up her 12 medications. I want to change her feeding pump bag and rip open  new oxygen tubing. Sound weird? Well, this is REALLY weird then!

I want to sit in a hospital room. I want to watch numbers on machines and listen to Enya on You Tube and hear nurses walking down the hallway. I want to see silly simple things like the oxygen and suction mounted on the wall. I want to drink bad coffee and nearly gag. I want to stay awake all night in a hospital that never sleeps. Then i want to walk out of those doors, so excited about going home and being a family again. Amazing. How you miss even hard things when they were such a huge part of your life.

Maybe That’s what happens when part of you dies.

Maybe I should be a nurse :)

On a different note, one of these days, I am going to write about some things  that are no fun when they happen to Kobe but i love them anyway because it means he is OK. and HEALTHY and ALIVE….so stay tuned :)

So long, my friends!