Thursday, October 30, 2008


last year at this time greg & i were getting ready to go away for the weekend. a very NEEDED weekend away. we were going with his brother and wife for our yearly weekend together. i was so excited....time with greg, no kids, adult conversation, just a time to relax. never in my wildest dreams did i know that the next day when i would be bringing the kids to where they needed to be i would be saying goodbye to seth for the last time. i remember it like it was yesterday. i brought the girls and luke over to mom and dad's in allendale - as usual seth and luke were arguing in the van on the way there. i remember losing my cool and yelling at them to stop. oh if i could just take those words back now. i didn't want seth's last words from me to be angry ones. i never dreamed they would be.

as we were leaving our house (caleb, seth, and andrew stayed back with our babysitter - keri....she is a JEWEL!) we were saying goodbye to the boys. we had gotten them some movies to watch and andrew and caleb were setting them up to start watching their "marathon".....but it was seth that hung back to say goodbye. i think back to that moment now and wonder - did God allow him the insight to say goodbye? i think actually it was a gift more for us than for him. i hugged him and tried to grab a kiss from him and got his usual 'fight' to not give a kiss. "stop, mum!! ugghhhh!" and then his infectious sweet little raspy laugh. i actually had forgotten that moment all together up until a few hours ago. i've tried all year to remember the last time i said goodbye to him and couldn't remember.....yet another gift. greg did his usual 'tickle-him-down-until-he-caved' hug. "i don't give, dad, i don't give" laughing so hard he was probably peeing his pants just a little! :) greg knew his tickle spot and used it mercilessly.....another gift.

and then we said goodbye. oh how i ache to run back a give one last last kiss. oh how i ache to hold him one last time. to hear his voice again. i'm not sure if i've ever written about the last time i DID hear his voice. it was actually last summer....some may not believe this story, but my mother's heart chooses to believe that God can provide anything that we need. i was out on the deck early in the morning trying to do my devotions. the one for the day was about listening to God and if you're not hearing Him you're not listening enough...not quiet enough. so here i am sitting in this chair, eyes closed repeating to myself "think on Him, think on Him, think on Him" then they came..... "hi, mum" "i wonder what i'm going to fix for supper tonight?" "hi, mum" "boy did greg look GOOD this morning going to work!:)" "hi, mum" "i wish that i wouldn't be eating so horribly right now" "hi, mum"....... all of these phrases coming to me and each time i would just say over "think on Him, think on Him, think on Him" (those of you who know me know that my mind can go in about a million different directions at the same time!). but the phrase that kept coming back at least 5 different times was "hi, mum" i was hearing seth. i thought to myself that i was just saying that to myself, but after the 5th time i thought that maybe, just maybe God was allowing this to happen so i let my mind go....

"hi, mum" oh, buddy i miss you so much! "i say hi to ya every day mum!" oh, seffers, and every day i end each and every one of my prayers with ....and give seth a hug from us and tell him we love him" to which i heard as CLEAR as if he were alive and saying out loud to me "i KNOW mum" like....would you PLEASE stop asking that becuz it's bugging me!!! :) but the sweetest part of this time that God gave me was as i was sitting there.....eyes closed and soaking in my conversation with our little guy....i literally FELT him crawl on my lap and sit there giving me a last time. it could have been abby right there on my lap - that's how real it felt! do i believe that God could enable seth to give me one last bet i do. (and i KNOW that seth is in Heaven becuz he would have NEVER willingly give me a hug!! :)) do i believe it truly happened? my mom's heart needs to believe that it happened......another gift.

today is a sweeter day.....a bittersweet day, not such a heavy one. i'm thankful for that. i'm thankful that i can hold on to the promise that i WILL see our seffers again and i WILL be able to hug him again. i dream about that time alot. until then.....Lord, give our seth a hug for us and tell him we love him. (no, buddy....i'll never stop praying that prayer)

Monday, October 27, 2008

I CHOOSE......

at the times when i feel the most alone....God surprises me again and again. this morning ben woke up at 5am. i fed him and then couldn't get back to sleep. i sat down with my Bible crying out to God saying "give me something. give me anything. just make this pain end. make it go away." and He delivered - boy did He deliver (why am i so surprised? He never ceases to amaze me) He gave me this verse: Psalm 71: 20-21 "though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. you will increase my honor and comfort me once again." i've written this to so many people who are going through trials, but today i read it with new eyes. today it was for me - only for me. 'you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.' that's exactly where i feel - in a deep dark pit. but i choose to cling to His promise of restoring my life. i choose to cling to Him. i choose to press on..............

Sunday, October 26, 2008


the heaviness has really taken me by surprise. i can't explain it except.....heaviness. it feels as if a huge weight is on top of me pushing down and making my heart just hurt. it just feels heavy - grief does. i don't know if that makes any sense, but it's the only word that describes my mood lately. the pain of losing seth is so overwhelming at's just heavy. i was telling a friend that i see myself on one mountain and i need to get to another one, but the chasm that i have to go through to get there is just too great.....the pain to much.....the energy in order to get there - i just don't have. i can so relate to David when he cried out to God "how long o Lord, how long?" it feels as if it's been forever.

i just wish nov 4 would come and go. be done with it. get it behind us. i'm hoping that this is the hard part and that the actual day isn't as bad as what i'm least that's what people have said....that's what i'm hoping and praying for.

God has blessed me so much with greg. he's such an amazing husband...puts up with me when i can't put up with myself. he just sits and holds me and lets me cry....i am so very blessed. i just hope that i am there for him.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


whoever said that grief was like waves hit the mark......dead on. it's just the intensity of those waves that surprise me at times. there are those little "ankle biter" waves - times when i think of seth and have a bittersweet memory of him. and there are those times when they are tidal waves. a tidal wave hit this morning.....head on.

abby and luke were going on a field trip today and they were going to be outside most of the day so they were going to need their hats/mittens. luke was looking through the baskets of them and proceeded to dump them all out looking for a pair (lovely.....let the winter ritual of losing mittens begin already!). he grabbed a pair and ran off for the bus - leaving behind of course a mess of mittens and hats. i sat down to start sorting them all ...... then is when i saw it......seth's royal blue detroit lions hat. it was the hat he ALWAYS wore in the winter. (see above picture....i couldn't get it to move down here) i could see him in it. i could hear him complain that he had to wear a hat again. i could smell him. i just want to see him in it again!!!!

grief IS like waves.......some you're able to breathe through.......and others you just feel as if you're drowning. my sister emailed me a beautiful verse in Isaiah 41: 10, 13 "so do not fear, for i am with you; i will strengthen you and help you; i will uphold you with my righteous right hand. for i am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; i will help you". it's such a beautiful picture of never being alone - even when it feels like you are. i like the part where He says that He will not only help me, but strengthen me. i don't feel strong today....but i have a hope that one day that strength WILL come and i pray that God alone will be glorified for it. today's tidal wave?......i felt like i was i couldn't i didn't want to do this 'grief' stuff any more....but i wasn't drowning. i see that now. God was breathing for me....breathing into me a new strength. strength that will get me through the next wave and the next and the one after that. to GOD be the glory!!! amen and amen.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


i know it is. i feel that it is. i hear that it is. i know that the 4th is coming .....and i'm dreading it as much as i was dreading seeing seth for the last time. i can just physically feel it coming. tears are just below the surface. patience with the kids is gone because i'm so on edge. i'm so very tired - always so tired. it's that emotional tiredness. that grief tiredness. i'm so scattered and yet so focused on what's coming in the weeks ahead.

it's still the little things that catch you off guard that hurt the most. little things like shoes. a few weeks ago we were sitting in church. we've now put lydia and ben in the nursery. i love that and i hate that. i love it because i can get something out of the services again and i hate it because we're back to just 5 kids in the bench with us. it was this one Sunday when i looked down at the boys on the other side of greg and saw only 3 sitting there again, but this time luke had his feet up on the pew in front of us and he was wearing seth's old shoes. i physically gasped and then sat forward to peer on the other side. i don't know what i was looking for....did i count wrong, was seth really there and this was all just a horrible, horrible nightmare? little things like shoes brings it all back to the surface for me.

and yet it's in church where i feel such peace. this morning was a perfect example of how our family at church has come around us and grieved with us....they making sure that we know we're not doing this alone. greg was at home this morning since he was up all night catching babies. so the kids and i and the 5 kids sitting in the pew. i was doing just fine until we sang amazing grace. the last verse has always choked me up...."when we've been there ten thousand years. bright shining as the sun." this time, though, i fell apart.... just a little bit. so here i am trying not to make a scene and yet feeling so alone without greg and all of the sudden i feel a hand on my shoulder from a dear 'sister' of mine. a few minutes later another hand, this time with a much needed hanky. it reminded me of my grandma's hanky's - it was almost as if grandma was there encouraging me and telling me that she was not only with me right there, but telling me that seth was ok too. i can so picture grandma with seth. i picture that the day seth entered Heaven - grandma would have been one of the first to meet him i'm sure. she'd cup his face with her hands and tell him "welcome Home, sweetie, i'm your momma's grandma and i'm so glad to finally hold ya myself!" (i wish you all could have known my absolute beautiful soul). all from a silly little hanky. our family...our Ridgewood family surrounding us with their love yet again. we are so very blessed.

the other day i had a devotion that was just the picture of our grief. "james vernon mcgee says that when a shepherd seeks to lead his sheep to better grass up the winding, thorny mountain paths, he often finds that the sheep will not follow him. they fear the unknown ridges and the sharp rocks. the shepherd will then reach into the flock and take a little lamb on one arm and another on his other arm. then he starts up the precipitous pathway. soon the two mother sheep begin to follow, and afterward the entire flock. thus they ascend the tortuous path to greener pastures. so it is with the Good Shepherd. sometimes he reaches into the flock and takes a lamb to himself. he uses the experience to lead his people, to lift them to new heights of commitment as they follow the little lamb all the way home." i pray that that is happening. we've told the kids several times in this last year that for some reason God had this happen in their lives. we don't understand it yet, but maybe someday they will. seth's death will have shaped their lives in such a way as to hopefully bring glory and honor to God. that's my biggest prayer....that through all of this pain that we've endured - that God is glorified. i remember saying that in the hospital a year ago. i needed to know that we could glorify God even when He chooses to take a child back. i needed to know that I could glorify God so that way i know that my faith was secure.....was true. what selfish thinking that is! i was worried about my faith. when will i ever get this right?

it's coming......the 4th is. people have asked what we're going to do. i'm not sure. i don't know what's the RIGHT thing. i don't think there IS a right thing. all i know is that i pray in whatever we do we will be able to honor seth and glorify God in such a way as to make them both proud.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


i've never posted twice in one day before, but the kids said the sweetest thing tonight while cleaning up from supper. luke was playing peek-a-boo with ben and he said that "ben is the best player of that game ever, mom!" to which andrew answered "yea....he wins every time!" oh i just LOVE what they come up with at times!!


some of you may know us well enough to know that we have had multiple different bedroom arrangements in our just takes us about 5 years to finally figure out which one works the best!!! when we moved into our house we had 4 bedrooms upstairs (still do) one being a larger one. then about 2 1/2 years ago greg and his dad finished off 2 more bedrooms downstairs. i had a friend ask me once about every arrangement we had and at the end of the conversation i had to just laugh.....we spend more time moving these kids' STUFF around than we do enjoying them where they're at!!! so, let me give you a little look into the "van wienen's house of musical rooms".

BR #1: flag room - due to red, white, and blue colors.....upstairs
BR #2: frog room - due to the rain forest frogs making their way onto the
BR #3: flower room - used to be the play room and now since has become the flower
room for obvious reasons.......upstairs
BR #4: the big room - no real cutesy name...........upstairs
BR #5: sports room - becuz of the inability to even SEE the colors of the walls due to
the vast number of sports posters plastered all over!.......downstairs
BR#6: the water room - becuz it's been flooded at least 4 times in the last year
(ENTIRELY different story!)......downstairs

as mentioned before #5 and #6 just entered the equation 2 1/2 years begins our story...

BR #1: Caleb - promised for him before we even started building
BR #2: Seth & Luke - lasted for an EXTREMELY short period of time. something about not
wanting to hear about "seth is wearing my underwear AGAIN" or
"luke is stealing ALL of my stuff!"
BR#3: play room for the same EXTREMELY short period of time. became seth's room and the
toys were banished to the basement
BR#4: grace and abby - living together in utter harmony (although i'm sure there were fights -
they were just over powered by the boys!)


BR #1: caleb and andrew - since caleb went to russia with us and we thought andrew would
know him the best. right AND wrong! putting a 4 year old in with a 3rd grader turned
out to be one of our not so good decisions......
BR#2: luke and andrew - even WORSE decision than putting andrew with caleb!!! talk about
2 personalities that DO NOT mesh!

DECISION TO ADD MORE ROOMS......for familial survival

BR#1: luke - since he wanted the window seat which we later found out the little bugger would
sometimes crawl out of the window onto the roof to retrieve balls/frisbees/what not
that the boys had thrown up there! therefore, luke didn't last too long in that room
BR#2: andrew - when the frogs came into being.
BR#3: grace - "FINALLY i get my OWN room" was the chant for months. also when the
flowers were painted on the walls
BR#4: abby - big room - all alone and miserable!!! WE CAN'T WIN HERE
PEOPLE!!!!......she was so lonely. about that time we knew that lydia was going to be
coming so we told her that she would go in with abby - bought us time
BR#5: caleb - and the sports posters went up and up and up and up and up
BR #6: seth - no water at that point. he ALWAYS was looking at liscense plates on cars trying
to find all the states. he would drive us CRAZY on road trips!! so we were in the
process of collecting liscences to put on his wall when he finally confessed to being
scared of his room (took him an entire year to be able to tell us this!) since it
reminded him of the orphanage. gives us GREAT reassurance - that we're
building rooms that remind him of his orphanage!!! reminder to self - hire the
next part of the basement to be finished!


BR#1: seth - in his more nightmares
BR#2: andrew... quiet with his frogs
BR#3: grace.....still in "heaven" with her own room
BR#4: abby.....lonely yet hopeful
BR#5: caleb.....sports and smells (not the nicest smelling room! - teenagers!)
BR#6: luke.....calls himself "bigger" than seth since he was in the basement (what next!)

to which we told happy that you all have your own rooms will NOT last becuz we don't know what God has in store for the future. God must have been laughing becuz it was about then that we found out about Ben!!!!!!

well.....this has gone on WAY too long and you've probably gotten so sick of hearing about our bedroom woes. suffice it to say abby and grace are back together again (thoroughly enjoying the new loft that was built in their room - if anyone ever needs an AMAZING builder call Bruce Tebben at.....:)). and the rest are enjoying peace and harmony in their own rooms.......for now!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


it's quiet today. that's good and bad. i have such a migraine that just doesn't seem to let up. had a dentist appointment today and i feel horrible for the tech - she was telling me everything that was wrong with my teeth (God bless her...) and i just felt my eyes just welling up. she could tell i wasn't handling it well and she said she felt bad "i didn't want to overwhelm you" she didn't - it's just the day. she told me "it's time for mom..." it just struck me...."it's time for mom...."

i left the appointment and fell apart in the van. these last 11 months greg and i HAVE been focusing on making sure the kids are ok, taking care of ben, bringing lydia home. we have said many times that the time we were dreading the most was after lydia was home and things settled down a little felt as if it would be THEN that we'd have to really deal with seth's death. we have 2 different pictures of our family on the fridge. one taken this time last year and one taken after lydia was home. i look at those 2 pictures and am amazed at how TERRIBLY different they are. last years picture.....6 kids - older, active kids. this year's picture....7 kids - young, old....and one gapping whole missing one of our children. so much change. so many blessings. so much pain. so much joy. how can a family experience such polar opposites at the same time? how can i look at the kids and be filled with such joy and yet have a such an empty pit in my heart at the same time?

what does my grief look like? it's like that commercial for depression...."where does depression hurt?......all over" what does my grief look like? right now it's working in circles and not getting a spitting thing accomplished. it's not being able to finish the laundry in the usual 2 stretches to 4 and 5 days. it's not feeling like cleaning my house and being bugged that it's so dirty (dirty is relative here, people - i don't want you to have an image of a cyclone hitting our house....i'm a slightly obsessive/compulsive dirty is quite relative :)) it's starting one thing and being completely distracted and starting to do 5 other things. it's having a heavy heart. it's not having any ambition. it's laughing at something one minute and then crying the next. it's looking at our kids and being so very thankful for those we have here. it's not wanting to change the kid's school pictures on the wall - knowing that one of them will stay the same. it's changing the kid's clothes over and seeing all the clothes that seth used to wear. it's having a hope and a promise that we'll all see our seffers again. it's being carried by my Heavenly Father so tenderly that at times i can almost feel His breath on my cheek. it's hearing Him say that we're not alone. it's being loved even though we don't feel like loving. what does my grief look like? a happy/sad. happy that seth is more loved than he has EVER been in his entire life and yet sad that i can't see him experience it.

i can tell that we're coming close to the year anniversary when seth went Home. i can tell that we've tried our best in taking care of the kids and their grief. i can tell that it just may be.....time for mom.

Friday, October 3, 2008


it's been a rough week. i've been following the carepages of a calvin christian sophmore who has been in critical condition all week and who passed away on thursday am. for some reason greg and i have been playing the "where/what were we doing this time last year" game. 11 months tomorrow. 11 months when our nightmare began. 11 months of broken hearts. 11 months of crying for no good reason at times. 11 months of screaming out to God "i want him back". 11 months of just aching to hold our son just one more time.

watching the gortsema family go through this week of hell, has just brought back our week from hell - all too clearly for me. my heart aches for them having to make those same grueling decisions we had to make....picking out a coffin, picking out flowers, picking out a cemetary plot, writing an obituary for seth - all so very, very wrong. wanting to be strong for the kids and yet feeling like you're completely losing it inside your own mind. my heart just aches for the gortsema family. my "heart hurt" is just stronger than usual.
the kids went to grief camp (camp compass) last saturday. they seemed to have enjoyed it. we pray that it was the right thing for them to do. that's just what started this hard week. just am thinking and missing seth more this week. the day that travis died was such a cold and rainy day and it was just a horrible day for me. i was devasted all over again. but God's timing was impecable once again. after this hard day for me, greg came home with this cute little apple basket filled with trick or treat goodies. the card (from one of greg's co-workers) read something like "wanted you to have a smile on your face again. the witch ( a darling little figurine for halloween) is for jolynn - thought it'd make her smile (which it did, mary - thank you!!). the 3 little spider rings are for the girls (thankfully not a rubber ducky!!) there were 7 flashlights on the side for the kids. but my most favorite part was the 300(!!!!!) glow in the dark necklaces. the card said that we may hand these out to any trick-or-treater so that the entire neighborhood could shine for seth. what an extremely thoughtful and caring gesture for her to remember us in this way. thank you mary!!!

then this morning...andrew needed a coat and had found one "look it mom!! it's seth's old coat and it fits me perfectly!!" all i could see was seth wearing it. i could just close my eyes and see him complaining about wearing it again "it gets in my way when i'm playing bball mum!!!!" oh how much would i give in order to hear thosee words again!! i had slumped back into the kitchen when abby came back in holding a note from a fellow JCS mom.

timing....His timing is just absolutely perfect.

He's still watching out for us. He's still right close by. He's sill wanting to cover us with His love....what an amazing God we serve!!!