Sunday, December 6, 2009


oooh boy....i've been very delinquent here haven't i? why don't i just MAKE the time for me and sit down to type? i love it when i do why don't i do it more often? so it's nights like these - when everyone is all tucked into bed (including my dear man! :)) when i allow myself the time to sit and think....sometimes that gets me into some BIG trouble....and other times - it's just a very nice quiet peaceful time.

thanksgiving went well...over at mom and dad's in allendale then onto my brother's family's house that night. i'm so glad that they don't mind talking about seth. i've always loved talking about him. i do realize though how awkward some people feel....maybe that's what a part of starlight ministries is suppose to do - educate people about what grieving children and families need. one of those needs is to talk about the loved one who died....say their name.....bring them up in conversations.....tell us the memories they have of us to keep them alive. i'm not's just another one of my thoughts.

last week we had our first prayer walk for starlight. what a night! i was incredibly nervous/excited about the night....and it was all i could have dreamt for.
we had 3 groups of people praying in each of the rooms that we'll be using at church. praying for the children, their families, the facilitators, the volunteers, greg and was amazing to see this ministry be 'baptized' as greg put it. i'm so anxious to start in january! i can't even imagine the emotions that will be going through me that first night....all i know is that i want it everything that God wants it to be....that's my biggest prayer.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

TO GOD BE THE GLORY's a week later...and God has been faithful once again. why do i even question that...His faithfulness? i don't know if i actually question it, or if i'm just surprised when i see/experience it once again. He IS of the many, many lessons i've learned more in these past 2 years. He wants to restore my soul in this valley of death...and restore it He has - daily....hourly.....sometimes by each moment.

i can't believe it's been 2 years seems like last month. so many many painful yet precious memories. family and friends coming together to support greg and bring love around us. so many difficult decisions made...and yet God was everywhere. some have asked us in these last 2 years - where was God? i'm so glad to say - EVERYWHERE! He not only knew what was going to happen that day...but he was living that day with us...crying with us...He was EVERYWHERE.

the 3rd was harder for me...i had forgotten that last year it was the same. i think that the 3rd will probably turn into my deep grieving day - a day of 'what ifs'...a day of 'i wish'....a day of 'i miss'. the 3rd is turning into the day where my heart wound is scratched wide open and the bloody pain flows deeply. it's a day when i relive nov. 3, 2007. i hate flashbacks....i hate those terrible, horrible memories. but it is just one day that i miss our son deeper than any other. i went with my dear, dear friend - charissa - to the cemetary. we sat next to seth's grave for nearly 2 hours...remembering, crying, laughing, was such a precious time. it's times like those where you see God's faithfulness once again - this time through a friend.

the 4th, oddly turning into a celebrating day. i don't mean that to sound wrong, it's just....that's what it felt like - a day of celebrating that our seffers is in Heaven with his Heavenly Father and enjoying his life now. it's a day when i can honestly say brings me joy. to know that our #1 job as parents is know that we had helped our child to Christ...pure joy. i can imagine him so very clearly in Heaven. Heaven is so very real to me now. we started the day by speaking to 700+ students at Unity Christian High School's chapel service. because of how seth died - in the midst of the unity community - we really wanted those students to know that no matter what circumstance God leads you to....He is going to lead you through. i kept hearing God tell me....'tell them to look for me...look for me in their troubles and trials because I am everywhere'....i hope that we were able to convey what God needed them to hear.

from there greg and i went out for breakfast and then visited the cemetary. still is a haunting and yet utterly beautiful place. to know that someday we will be raised from that very spot next to seth is just indescribable....His faithfulness once again. we picked the kids up from school and took them to the cemetary in which we watched them have fun running around and chasing the little ones. 'should we be having this much fun' one asked? 'oh yes, honey....seth is having fun-why shouldn't we?' 'this year is better than last year....last year everyone was so down' that's how i want it for them - to be joyful when thinking about where seth is at right now.

we then went home and had brupper (breakfast at supper) - one of seth's favorite meals - including a whole platter of sausages! the kids even milked it out of us to have coffee since 'seth loved coffee, mom!' after supper we put the little ones to bed and then greg and i and the 5 older kids sat in the living room and opened seth's trunk and went through it. it was one of those times when as a mom you look around the room and you try to memorize it because it is so very special. 'look what seth wrote in his journal!' 'i can't believe that tanner wrote that!' tears...laughter....quiet....smiles....peace. such peace. we went through his entire trunk and then had a ginormous mess to pick up - but it was ok...bring on the mess.

so the week is done...and i hope like 2 years ago....that God was glorified in what we did to remember our little God be all the glory....amen and amen.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


how can i do can i do this week with all the reminders? my heart just hurts tonight. my heart misses my boy. i so desperately want to hold him again. i want to land one more kiss on his little head. i just want to hear his voice. oh, how i would give anything to break up a fight between him and caleb or luke right now. tonight in church we watched steven curtis chapman's video of 'when love takes you in' hurt to watch and to listen to the words.....'when love calls you home'...seth was called too early...too young....i didn't have enough time with him Lord...i wanted more time.....i just wanted more time. i know that he's experiencing more love than i could have ever have given him....but i wanted to try...i love him so's probably why it hurts so much.

i was singing to ben before putting him to bed. i was doing fine....until i started singing 'Jesus loves me'...oh did the memories come flooding back. this time me singing to a boy in a bed....with tubes coming out his nose...and him not singing back. tonight ben started singing with me....oh how i wish that seth would have just sat up in that bed and started singing with me...all i have now is the memory of me singing to a child who was already gone. oh how i ache for the day to be with him and hearing him sing back to me....come back Lord....please come soon....heal my broken heart.....but until then as i always say at the end of every one of my prayers now 'give seth a hug for us and tell him we love him'....until we can tell him ourselves again someday.

Friday, October 30, 2009


i have a dream....a dream where i can be a part of a place that helps children in their darkest hours. a dream that when a child loses their mom or dad, brother or sister, grandparent, friend, classmate....they will have a place to come. a place where they can feel 'normal' in their grief. a place where they won't feel as if everyone is looking at them. a place where they have a hope....that life DOES get better and that God IS everywhere, even though it may seem like He's farther away than ever before. in my dream this place is safe. this place is where children look forward to coming to each and every time. a place where they begin lifelong friendships. a place where they can get mad and know that it's ok to be mad, but to learn what to do with that anger in appropriate ways. this place is filled with love. not only love from us but so much more.....a love that comes from God alone.
this place would be a bright spot in their dark times of grief and sadness.

last night my dream really started to come true. last night a group of 13 women were around 3 tables on the beginning of a journey that God had started sometimes years and years before. i was in awe when i was looking at these women...these selfless women who felt God calling them to 'let their lights shine like the heavens'. i just had to look at them. i can't explain it. it sounds absolutely absurd. but i just had to look at them and see how God had brought us all together. i stood in awe of God's work and that He is allowing me to be a part of it. i stand in awe of how he had taken 13 women from various backgrounds, various cities, various lives....but brought us together for one purpose alone. the purpose to bring honor and glory to God by helping the littlest ones of His. i just couldn't believe that i was sitting in this room watching my dream become a reality. it was so incredibly surreal. i can't explain it.

when God calls you to do something and you allow Him to work through you, it's one powerful moment. one that brings you closer to your Heavenly Father than never before. i pray that He still wants to use me in this way. i pray that starlight will NEVER be about greg and i or the facilitators or the volunteers or the board...i pray that starlight will ALWAYS be about bringing hope to children and teens. God's hope. i pray that we ALL will be 'shining like the stars in heaven'.

i have a dream......and i praise God that He's making my dream come true.

Monday, October 26, 2009


how do i do do i help the kids, who are hurting so much right now? my heart breaks at this time of year, but then to see our kid's hearts hurting so's almost unbearable. they're feeling it....the upcoming 4th. we're all 'feeling it'. one of the kids this w/e finally broke down and let it out. 'i just miss seeing him at school,mom....he should be there'. what do you say to that? what do you say to a child who is missing their sibling so badly? what do you say that will take the pain away...if only for a little while? what do you say when they admit that they are having so many flashbacks? what do you say when they are trying to say - through tears - that they just imagine the accident and seth getting hit by the car? what do you say when you can see your child struggling so much with the situation....and yet have no words? how do i take that pain away? i can't...i know that God is having them experience this right now for some reason. to make them grow? to rely on Him more? to strengthen their faith?.....for all the attempts to help them through this...i think i'm failing miserably with helping their faith.
i just pray that they will not become hard-hearted because of seth's death.

we were in meijer's last week and one of the kids saw a little boy that reminded them of seth. they said it was nice seeing him. they admitted that when they hear seth's name that it's a happy/sad. happy that someone is remembering them, sad becuz he's not here. 'i want them to talk about him, but they're afraid to talk about him'. soooo normal. the kids at school are hurting too. they don't want them to hurt more. i guess the lesson about your loved ones that have died. bring them up in conversations. tell your memories of your loved one to us keep him alive in our hearts.

during family meeting last night one of the kid's prayer request for the week was: 'be with us as seth's heaven birthday is coming up'. it's happening....another wave. to see our kids going through it so differently this year is so difficult. it's harder in some ways. the first year we expected the pain to come...this year it hit us without notice. it's not like i didn't think we'd hurt or not go through it, but it's so different this year and i don't know why.

some of the kids talk about him....some don't say a word about him. please pray for our kids. pray that they will get through this time in their lives and look back on it and see so many of the gifts God has granted us. pray that they don't become hard-hearted toward God. pray that they're going to be 'ok'. i just wish these next 2 weeks would be done....over.....finished. but i know that God has something that He wants to teach us in the midst of this. He is so faithful...i have to rely and remember that. we goes NOWHERE without Him....for He never leaves us. no matter what situations He asks us to go through...He never leaves us. He's not only walking us through difficult times....He CARRIES us through them. i do know that. i find comfort in that. i pray that the kids find comfort in that too.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


today i experienced another goodbye.....i'm beginning to really hate that word. i had to tell a wonderful group of women that i have done Bible study with for the last 12 years that i just couldn't do it anymore.....and my heart broke just a little more. this group of women have encouraged me, laughed with me, cried with me, learned with me, mentored me....and i love them all dearly. i have been feeling lately that i'm just keeping my head above water. i have been forgetting things, misplacing things, losing mind is in overdrive every day. i think a part of me wanted it that way. i wanted to be so busy that i wouldn't have to feel the pain that is always a part of me, but has been pushed aside for so long. i think that i thought if i could just stay busy i wouldn't have to deal with that grief pain.....and now is coming in such huge amounts that i feel as if i'm drowning.

it's back.....that heaviness. not nearly as bad as last spring...but it's there. i can tell seth's 2nd Heaven birthday is coming up. i'm crying more. i see seth everywhere. just this morning i dropped luke off at school and watched him run in.....he ran EXACTLY the way i remember seth running. it surprises me that i'm feeling this all again. i don't know why it would surprise me. i expected it last took me by surprise this year. my counselor said that it was a good thing that i gave up coffeebreak (my Bible study) and a few other allows me more time to do my grief work. i don't want to do it.....i don't want that pain.....i don't want those memories. and yet they are constantly with me. lisa, my counselor, said that this pain IS always there and that i may have been 'damming' it all up and not allowing little bits of it through. she explained it that i may have been not letting just a little grief in at a time.....managable bits.....but have been 'storing' it all up and now it's come flooding out again. that made alot of sense to me. she encouraged me to allow just a little bit out each day and then i'd be able to handle a little at a time. her favorite question each session is 'what are you going to do for jolynn this time?'. i think that the next few weeks i'm going to start looking through the things that we've put in seth's trunk. i'm a little surprised that we haven't gone through it as a family more than we have....we really never go through it. it's just sitting there in the living room - great footstool - but that's about it. i think it may be time for me to allow those little bits of grief through and start going through his trunk......i think that's what i'm going to do for me this time.

goodbyes are so difficult....and yet they also mean a new chapter.....a new journey.......a new calling perhaps. goodbyes allow me to see where God wants me to go from here. that's my challenge now.....see what God wants me to do from here. i know that starlight is a major piece of this new journey....and i am so very excited to see what God does with it. lisa asks me what do i do for me....starlight 'does it' for me. i LOVE working towards this goal that God has led Greg and i. i feel purpose.....i feel excited......i feel scared......and yet i feel exactly where God wants me to be.....and that is the only place i want to be. so saying goodbye to my wonderful Bible study this morning was one of the harder things i've done recently.....and yet i believe that God has exciting plans in store for me......and i can't wait to truly dedicate my time and energy to where He leads.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


i feel it coming again....and it surprises me. that heaviness is creeping back onto my heart and that makes me so scared. last spring it was unbearable....i can't go back to that spot. i hate what seth's death has taken from me. from the obvious to those that i'm just learning about. i've always said that fall is my favorite time of year. i loved it.....the colder weather, the leaves changing, cozy feeling inside the house, football games....everything about fall - i loved. it's not that i HATE this time of year, it's just that instead of all good things that i can see fall brings equal parts bad. i see death. trees dying.....leaves falling......dead trees.....brown corn. i see a cemetary with brilliant colored trees and a family surrounding a grave. i see heartbroken children and family. i see pain. i FEEL pain. i hate what seth's death has taken from me.... a part of my life where i found such joy. this sounds so depressing. some days aren't so isn't one of them.

i'm having so many flashbacks lately. i can tell his Heaven birthday is coming up.....and these feelings surprise me. i expected it last year....this year it's back. i didn't expect it to come back. why is that? it's not as if anything has changed in a sense.....seth is still gone, i'm still here with a huge hole in my heart. but then i think....there are MANY things that have changed. so much hope this year where i didn't feel last year. purpose again....that feels feel like i have purpose again. God has been working so greatly in our lives in this past year. how can i feel this way when He has been with me the entire way? it sounds like i'm being ungrateful....i hate that. sometimes i feel like a little kid who didn't get what they wanted for christmas and then sulks about it for days. what is up with that? i wish my faith were stronger so i wouldn't feel/sound so ungrateful. i guess i'm just a work in progress.

days like today.....i need to see the beauty in God's creation and see it as His faithfulness instead of seeing what i DON'T have. seth is SO much better off right now. i need to see the temporary separation for what it is......temporary. we will see him again. God is good....i can say that with complete confidence....even through this sorrow....He is good. He's proven that so many times in this past year. i need to cling onto hold onto realize that the same arms that are carrying me through today are the same ones that are carrying our boy.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


it's been exactly one month today since i've last written. what a month it's been! school started and we haven't stopped since. caleb has been completely saturated with football and his first year of high school. grace started soccer and is hating school since her BFF isn't in ANY of her classes. abby is getting used to being in middle school and is doing great academically. luke has had NO bus notices, but did already have a detention. he is trying very hard, though! andrew is enjoying being 'top dog' in the elementary school and tries to figure out new and interesting ideas to prevent himself from having to read ANYTHING. lydia is going to school in the afternoons on Mondays through Thursdays and is ALMOST potty trained (YEA!!! no more terrifying screams coming from her after she poops!!!). and ben is home screaming 'eat' whenever he enters the kitchen! our life here is far from quiet.......and i love it! (usually...)

greg is still busy as ever at the office/hospital. this summer he was on the search committee for our church to find a new youth pastor. THAT was a busy committment!! so between work, committee work, and around the house projects he my superman!

and myself. where ever do i begin? i've started seeing a counselor. wow....that's hard to admit. 'supermom' mentality and all. i guess it was just mom's turn to take care of herself. it has helped .........alot. to know that i'm NOT crazy.....priceless! she keeps asking me what i'm doing for myself to which i usually reply with the typical 'when another couple hours are added onto a day....THEN i'll do something for myself'. she doesn't usually like that answer so i had to start wondering what i COULD do for myself......and i realized - i like writing (blogging to be more specific). it helps getting all those thoughts that are tangled up in my head down onto a screen.......makes them look so much less overwhelming. so here i am.....trying to get back into it and trying not to think about ALL the other things i should be doing instead. this is good......this is good for here i sit and type.

i have had such amazing devotions lately. each time i think......i should get that on my blog. so i'll just share a recent one. this devotion was about not understanding God's ways. it reads:

perhaps there is something in your life causing you to question God. do you find yourself saying, "i d not understand why God allowed my loved one to be taken. i do not understand why affliction has been permitted to strike me. i do not understand why the Lord has led me down these twisting paths. i do not understand why my own plans, which seemed so good, have been so disappointing. i do not understnand why the blessings i so desperately need are so long in coming". Dear friend, you do not have to understand all God's ways of dealing with you. He does not expect you to understand them. you do not expect your children to understand everything you do - you simply want them to trust you. and someday you too will see the glory of God in the things you do not understand. J.H.M.

this makes so much sense to me.....the part about my kids not having to understand everything. how many times haven't i said to them 'because i said so'. i always HATED my mom saying that, but in light of this devotion - it just makes sense. i AM glad that God has allowed me to see Him everywhere. some people have asked us 'where do you think God went when seth died?" and i can honestly tell them...."no where....He never left". i am so thankful that we don't have a bitter heart, that we ARE able to see that God is working in our lives even in death, and that He is using us in so many different ways that were never possible if seth hadn't died. i'm so glad that i can honestly say 'thank you, God.....not for taking seth from us for a while, but for letting us see some positive things come from it.' i never thought i could get on this side of a loss this big and be able to say that...........ONLY by the grace of God.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


the night before the first day of school. it's still so hard to believe that we're going to be bringing caleb to his first day of high school tomorrow - I remember high school!!!! he's a cool cucumber - not nervous one bit....'it's just another school year mom!'....yea right! we'll see how early he gets up tomorrow morning - that'll tell me how nervous he is!! it seems as if i was just laying out his clothes for preschool. now he's taller than me, driving a car, playing football, and heading off to high school. i kinda miss my little boy. i wouldn't trade him right now for anything though.

first day of school brings so many emotions in kids. i miss the fact that abby won't have seth with her as she starts her first day of middle school. i think it's affecting her more than she even realizes herself. she's so tired again lately....her cue that she's going through a grief burst. how could she not? thinking to herself i'm sure that 'i bet seth would be loving having his own locker too'. if you think about her, could you say a little prayer for her. i'm even dreading that first day of school somewhat. i would always get them on the bus and then follow them to school and watch them get off the bus. (my mom would laugh at me so much for that!!) i would take pictures of them next to their friends and leave them to start their day. last year was horrible. one less picture to take. i hope that this year is a little easier.....

Monday, August 24, 2009


so another miracle has just been experienced in the van wienen household. we got word last friday that the IRS has APPROVED our 501(c)3 non-profit application. Starlight Ministries is an official organization! the miracle part of this is that our lawyer had told us not to expect any word from the feds until the earliest october and then after that expect a few more months of addressing the questions that they will have about the application. our hope was that all would be finished by the end of the year. well......our God is a HUGE God.....5 weeks after submission - our approval arrives!!! our lawyer told us that in all the years that he has been doing these, not ONE has been returned that quickly and not ONE has come back approved on the first submission!!! Our God is an AWESOME God!! talk about reaffirming to greg and i that we're hearing correctly what He is asking and that we're on the right road (at least for once!!!! :):)) so thank you for all the prayers - they are working!
we are planning on training our facilitators in november with a start date of january. the first 2 deliveries of seth bears have been done and we were given a list (from mike matthyse) of all the area funeral homes that are interested in participating in the seth bear project. is this really happening?!?!?!? at times it seems like just a dream! i just can't believe that it's all coming's unbelievable to watch God work it all's the most amazing feeling to be able to see God at work and then be a little part of His plan. praise God from whom ALL blessings flow!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


it was a year ago today that we left for guatemala to pick up our new little girl. wow! what a difference a year makes! so much has much has changed.....for the better! so many memories of many memories of her adjusting to us and us to many things to be thankful for!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

BACK IN THE SWING OF THINGS that word! we got home last saturday from being gone for 2 weeks. 2 weeks is a VERY LONG time in the van with a screaming 18 month old! WHAT WERE WE THINKING?!?!?!? actually, ben didn't do too badly, just some tense times when he was refusing to sleep and needed it about 100 miles before that! all i can say is that dramamine is our friend! yes, i admit it....we drugged our child......the first time i felt INCREDIBLY guilty. the 3rd time.....not so much!

it was a vacation that was filled with laughing, crying, staying up super late, driving, eating, playing a gazillion games of monopoly, driving, playing with the kids, white water rafting, driving some more! did i include driving? all i know is that about 1 inch on the atlas is about 2 hours of driving time!!!!! everything out west is big! i'll include some more pictures of vacation, but for now i'll let the kid's own words of what their favorite part of our out west adventure was:

caleb: "probably the grand tetons and hiking up to the waterfall"

grace: "our apartment at the cabin"

abby: "grace....wasn't mall of america your favorite??!?!"

grace "oh yea.....put that on my list too!"

abby: "my favorite part was the grand tetons and jenny lake"

luke: "playing pranks on the girls!!!!" (and MANY were done to both boys and girls!)

andrew: "going on the rides (at mall of america), the tv in the cabin, me and jonah's own bed,
going on the hike, seeing that water spray way into the air, seeing a moose, oh yea and
riding that boat over that lake (taking the ferry across jenny lake), trying to see the
bear at the cabin, riding in jonah's van"

Saturday, July 25, 2009


yesterday we made our way to the lower loop of yellowstone and saw old faithful. what an amazing work of creation! on our way through yellowstone we were able to see a bald eagle, bison, coyote, elk, and on the way home a moose! i was amazed at how much of the park has been damaged by wild fires. i wasn't expecting that.

today is a lay low day. we're preparing for tomorrow when we make our big trek to the grand tetons. i was able to finish taking the kids' pictures outside today. the kids are doing great except when luke stepped into a 4 X 8 piece of EXTREMELY sticky paper to prevent ants from getting past....he stepped into it ACCIDENTALLY of course. he then continued to spread the sticky mess throughout the entire house!!!!! UGH!!!! to which andrew followed suit and ACCIDENTALLY stepped into it too - yea right! oh i was so upset!! it was nearly impossible to get that stuff wiped off! the boys are needing a routine and that's why we decided to stay around the cabin for today.

we're planning on doing white water rafting on monday....really looking forward to that!
it's been a week since we left....i can start feeling the homesickness settle in just a little....i'm such a home body!

Thursday, July 23, 2009


i was hoping to have written each night about our out west adventure....HA!!! what was i THINKING!! i had forgotten how much WORK it is to take 2 little ones on vacation! I'M TIRED!! i need a vacation from this vacation! actually it has gone quite smoothly so's just logistically moving 9 people in and out of hotel rooms each night, making sure each are dressed with the appropriate child's clothing each day, and handling two little ones who are WAY off schedule! lydia has traveled well so far.....ben on the other hand?!?!?! let's just say dramamine is my best friend!! it doesn't help that he's teething his eye teeth right now as well.

anyway, last saturday was our big push to orange city, IA. i know all the jokes about corn and iowa, but it didn't ready me for the unbelievable beauty to see acres of corn for as far as the eye can see. it was really quite beautiful. the other thing that i didn't know was that iowa has wind farms as well. talk about majestic beauty in those ginormous white arms stretching to the sky circling around and around!

sunday we met up with a wonderful family that we met in guatemala when we were picking up lydia and they were picking up their son. it was so good to see them again and all of our kids hit it off great. we hope to be able to meet up with them again and meet in the middle. (sorry, heather...i tried to upload your picture, but i wouldn't let me!! :(

monday we were up and out early so that we could put in some miles to see the badlands and mount rushmore. the badlands were explained perfectly by our neice "it's like one great big sand castle". the kids just about gave me a heart attack when they went so close to the edge to just about falling off. it was gorgeous in a dry, sandy, brownish sort of way. we got to rapid city and then went to a dinner show at fort hayes (the movie set of dances with wolves). cool set, ok food, horrible kids (greg and i ended up in the van with the younger two before the show ended). the older kids liked it though. after the show we were let out in time to get to mt. rushmore and see the lighting ceremony. i ended up in the van with the 2 little ones (they had finally crashed), but i was able to see rushmore from the van. completely amazing!

tuesday was bear country. very cool to see bears in front of our cars. the elk were huge! we then drove onto devils tower. it just amazes me the things that God has created. i've never seen anything like it. it was incredibly hot and we decided to just drive past it instead of drive up to it. then came the road that never ended....212 from devils tower to billings.....the road that NEVER, EVER ended!! that was a long haul. the only interesting thing was that there are some HUGE bugs in montana!! we nailed them all i think! we ended the day in billings.

wednesday brought us to our home away from home....big sky, montana....the most beautiful place on earth. this morning i woke up before everyone else and sat out on the deck and watched the sun rise. between the cool air, the pine trees for as far as the eye could see, the mountain range growing from deep browns to pale blues, hearing the creek rushing by, the birds waking up, and spending some precious time with my Heavenly Father. it's seth's birthday today. and i'm missing him more today than usual. it's normal i'm sure, but today God spoke to me in psalm 23. i've read and memorized that chapter since i was a little girl, but today the verse that says "He leads me beside quiet waters He restores my soul"

popped out like i had never seen it before. i don't know if it was being next to the creek and listening to it...but it just spoke to me in a way that i've never heard it before. it was if God had ordered everything together this morning for me to read that verse. (doesn't He do that every day?) i felt so reassured that He wanted to restore my soul. heaven knows my soul is in need of some restoring. so seth's birthday is almost done. we ate pistachios (one of his fact we found cup fulls of shells in his closet after he died!), looked at his abc book, talked about how much he would have loved it here, and went out for his birthday supper. i so much would rather he be here in person. my heart aches for him at times.....but God IS restoring my by day. and today He's doing it in the most beautiful place on earth.

Friday, July 17, 2009


1 van packed to the gills......9 bins of clothes.......1 trailer filled with bikes.......7 very excited kids.....2 very tired parents......1 big empty hole......25 gallons of gas........5 bags of chips.......69 pages of trip tiks......4000 miles ahead of us........1 mom with no hair.......9 sweat shirts packed.....112 diapers(hopefully enough!)....... 2 bottles of benadryl......around 54 hours on the road round trip.........55 dvds......montana here we come!!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

OFF TO MONTANA!! (soon...)

96 bears assembled and ready to deliver.......350 support letters sealed and ready to be sent.....starlight stuff on to packing for MONTANA!!! we leave on saturday and just can't wait. i've never been out west before and am very anxious to see God's creation and beauty. i can't wait for the road trip (i LOVE road trips!). i'm excited to spend time with my brother and sister and their family (they're coming with us too!). i'm just ready for a change. with all the excitement i still feel anxious....sad?.....reserved? i'm not really sure, but just off a little. we will be celebrating seth's birthday in montana. i'm a little disappointed that i won't be here to visit his 'doorway' (i just finished reading a book where a mom had lost her infant daughter to a genetic disorder and they call her grave site her 'doorway into heaven'. i absolutely LOVED that reference! so i think from now on i'm going to look at seth's grave not as an ending, but a beginning for him. a doorway in which he ran through 20 months ago.) i'm nervous as to how to 'celebrate' this year. i don't want it to be just another day and yet i don't want to 'ruin' the time out there for everyone else. i'm still thinking about what to do. i finished seth's ABC scrapbook.....maybe i'll take that with us.....i'm not quite sure yet. donna (my sister-in-law) suggested we go up to the tallest hill/mountain to get the closest to him and let go balloons....maybe that's what we'll do. either way....he will be so missed. this is our first major vacation without him and i'm feeling such mixed emotions. i just hope the day goes well, that we have fun, and that i don't ruin it for everyone.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


i can't believe that starlight ministries is truly becoming a reality! we've worked on SLM for the last 6 months and last night it really hit me....this is really happening.....and i stand in awe.

i had 13 amazing women come over to assemble our first batch of seth bears. kath made a beautiful cake with our logo on it!! what a great surprise! thank you so much kath....i LOVED it!
we needed to cut the tags, string the tags/stars, and tie them onto the seth bears. we also had some folding the family letter and stuffing envelopes. these will accompany the seth bear and is for the parents -explaining what the bear is about and telling them about SLM. it took only 45 minutes to get it all done! it was just unbelievable as i watched everyone helping us make our dream a reality. a HUGE shout out 'thank you' to all you who came! so the first set of bears are done and will be delivered sometime next this all a dream?!?!?! all i can say is that God is such a BIG God. never in my wildest dreams would i have ever thought this could all happen - and it has...and i stand in awe.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


well....i'm here a time in my life where i am attempting to show our little girl the joys of 'pottyhood'. all i have to say is.....i remember why i didn't like this part of child rearing! summer came - no school - no schedules - time to get down to business - bring it on!

1st few days....NO SWEAT!....she 'just decided' on her own that she was going to do this. WOW! i thought I was GOOD! trained in just 3 days?!?!?! hand over that 'greatest mom on earth' award! (NOT!!!!) then i fell FAR from my throne....and screwed up potty training for the rest of this adventure.

lydie had the peeing part down....dry for hours.....dry for nap time....what a great girl! then it happened....the smallest, hardest, roundest little turd......right in her pants. OK, no problem, no fear...just a little speed bump. take her to the bathroom and clean it up. lydia is on the pot to finish her duty and i take her little 'deposit' from her pants and dump it in the toilet while she was on it. World War III broke out! she went THROUGH THE ROOF! i basically had to PEEL her off the ceiling! it took the next 25 minutes to calm her down. stupid move 'greatest mom' (NOT!!!)

fastforward 1 1/2 weeks....she refuses to go.....ANYTHING! she thinks that if she even has to pee that she will have to poop too! so she holds it.....and holds it....and literally HOLDS it in! usually we find her on the floor.....legs crossed and doing the little 'potty dance'. 'do you have to go potty, honey?' NO!!!!!
ok....i veto that answer every time and put her on the pot. so she still is doing the little 'potty dance' on the pot until she can't hold it any longer and then it comes....the flood of the hoover dam. (truth be told, i am a little concerned about UTI's coming down the road for her!)

as far as her doing number 2? long CAN a 24# little girl NOT poop? it's just downright FUNNY watching her try to 'push that little poop back on in'!! so tonight it's time....i'm just going to MAKE her poop (1st wrong turn!) lydia on the on the floor. me turning the light on and off and trying to have her say the words....lydia looking at me like 'WHAT are you trying to do to me here?!?!?' doing the 'this little piggy goes to market' rhyme (i'm trying to get her mind off that fact that she's on the toilet and then just let gravity take its course....yea right!)....lydia still doing her little dance and REFUSING to just let it fall! going back to my cheerleading years 'push it out! push it out! WAAAYYY out!!!! (ok....i'm getting desperate i KNOW!)...lydia at this point starting to pass the worse gas and yet refusing to let it go. i have nothing else....nothing....i'm outta tricks.....outta ideas.....a little girl miserable...i give...she forcing NOTHING out tonight....diaper on....child in bed....

i go and check on her in 2 hours and am met at the door with a WALL of aroma coming from her pants....this is the great adventure (NOT!)....tomorrow is a new day. :)

Thursday, June 11, 2009


when i think of our seth.....these are the memories that i have.....

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


i'm asking for prayers....i need help out of this pit i'm in....i can't seem to get out by myself.....i feel like i'm hitting rock bottom with no way out....i need to see Light again.... i'm asking for prayers....i have no energy.....i'm just tired.....always tired.....i just want me back.....

Friday, June 5, 2009


the following is the speech that i gave in our church a few weeks ago. talk about NERVE RACKING!!! God is good....i made it a result several people want to be involved with Starlight Ministries, the Sunday school next year is going to be raising money towards seth bears (since most of them knew seth), and we received 2 donations!!! all in all....God was glorified and we were very encouraged to keep pressing on....

i have a story....not one i ever wanted.....but one i feel God wants me to tell. This part of my story begins 18 months ago....on a sunday afternoon....when we had to say good-bye to seth for the last time this side of Heaven. for those who don't know....on nov. 4, 2007 our 10 year old son died after he was hit by a car while crossing 44th street. he spent his last few hours with 2 of his brothers and our wonderful babysitter, keri. she had taken the 3 of them to her brother's soccer championship game. after the game they were going back to her car when the boys ran on ahead through the first road on 44th. keri called to him to stay in the median and wait for her. seth continued running through the first lane of the 2nd road and then paused in the middle of the road. after waiting for a split second he took off again....running faster than ever. it was at that point when the car hit him and he died the next day. everyone at the accident saw it that way....greg and i choose to believe it happened another. we believe with every ounce that seth didn't just decide to finish crossing that street. we KNOW that at that point is when he saw his Savior for the first time....face to face....calling him home. what parent could be more proud of a child....than to know that the last act on this earth was one of obedience....for when seth was called Home....he didn't walk......he ran......right into the arms of God.

since that day we have been comforted in so many different ways. many.....MANY..... of those ways were from all of you. the outpouring of love and support from our Ridgewood family was more than we could ever have dreamt. in so many ways we were comforted by you:
......the hundreds of cards,
.....the 6 months worth of meals brought to us,
.....the 2 months of school lunches made for our other kids so that i wouldn't be reminded every day i was making one less,
.....the friends that came alongside us during that week and kept the house going when we were living in a state of shock,
.....the hugs given - when there weren't any words to be said,
.....the pats on our backs or hankies given to us during a service when we were brought to tears once again.
each and every way we were comforted. for that we will be eternally grateful to you. we've said before that God has asked us to walk a very deep and dark valley.....but we were never asked to do it alone....for you all were right beside us comforting us along the way.

the week following seth's death is a blur to me, but there are some very vivid memories that God has gifted to me. one was on the day of seth's funeral, that night greg and i fell into bed and were finally able to talk over what had happened that day. at the end of that conversation i remember saying to greg that i felt as if God was working in my heart for some reaon...that He was stirring something. greg said that he felt the same way. we chucked it up to grief and just tried to press on. the following months we were still feeling that sense of working....a sense of calling. we knew that He was at work becuz it was the same feeling he gave to us just before asking us to adopt....we're NOT adopting least not now! but we knew that He was preparing us for something else.

in the last 6 months, He has made His calling very clear. greg and i have begun the process of starting a non-profit ministry to comfort grieving children who have experienced a death of someone in their lives.
...we want to provide a safe, Christian place for children who are on their own grief road.
...we want to provide a place where they will feel comfortable expressing their grief.
...we want to provide a place where they will be with other children who are also grieving - to know that the feelings they are feeling are 'normal' for their situation.
...we want to provide a place to comfort these children in the same way we were comforted by all of you.

we are calling it starlight in memory of our seth - for whenever i told him i love you to the moon he would always reply 'and to the stahs'. and light....for we tell our kids that we don't get why God had them lose their brother....but one day they will be lights to someone else.

part of this ministry includes a partnership with the area funeral homes. we will be supplying them with what we are calling 'seth bears'. our hope is that each child who is beginning their own grief road will be given one of these bears. it's a way to begin that healing by providing just a little comfort in form of a teddy bear. along with the seth bear will be a letter explaining what starlight ministries is about and inviting them to join. this if just one way that we feel God has called us to minister to these hurting and grieving children.

i wanted to tell you my story today for several reasons. the first was to publicly say thank you to all of you for being by our side and helping us to press on in the midst of our grief.

another reason is to let you know how God has been working in our lives in regards to starlight ministries and to invite you to become involved if you feel called. that may be helping jayne in the kitchen, maybe delivering our seth bears, or perhaps becoming a facilitator. we ask for your prayers....we are truly very much out of our comfort zone.....but right in the middle of His hands. the same hands that received our son 18 months ago is leading us still today.

finally i wanted to tell you my story so that i could say on this side of a loss that God ALONE be all the glory and honor and praise.

Friday, May 29, 2009


i finally found some time to share what we did for memorial day.... i think i'll do a picture diary of a day in the life..... we started the day with the jenison parade. it was THE MOST relaxing parade that greg & i have had EVER! you ask why?....well....only watching after 2 little ones who were completely restrained the entire time, the older 5 taking part in other floats of the parade,
no 'back up guys!' or 'move down guys so you're not in front of everyone' or my all time favorite 'would you all just SHARE your candy?!?!?!' (yea, like THAT's ever going to happen!!). all of that combined, greg and i had a delightful morning! caleb and grace were on the ridgewood vbs float....grace in all her glory with her bff, and caleb on the actual float pelting everyone he knew with candy! abby, luke, and andrew on the school 'float'....luke and abby did a great job handing out things. the only way we allowed andrew to go was if he was actually IN the bus and not riding next to it!!! he had fun anyway.

after the parade we told the kids that we were going to have SO MUCH FUN.....working outside finishing up with the stones! you can imagine the van full of moans and groans to which we replied (as any parent says in response to this reaction from their kids)......'come on guys, it's not gonna take long if we all pitch in together' ....followed by the ultimate bribe.........'AND if you do good and don't argue - we'll take you all out for ice cream!' that bribe used to work so much better when they were younger! so we moved stone......and more stone.......and more stone!!!!

the job was FINALLY finished!!!

so....true to our cream for all! (after it took only 6 more hours of work! it's amazing how deceiving the size of the stone pile was!)

....some are just too cool to smile! :)

after ice cream we went to the cemetary to bring seth's planter to his stone. WOW! i didn't realize how busy the cemetary could get.....i was truly amazed.

...the kids made me proud...they had to clean seth's stone off! something is
rubbing off on them!!! :) all in was a GREAT Memorial Day!

Friday, May 22, 2009


i made it through....that wave was a tough one. it felt the exact same as the 'big one' before seth's first 'Heaven birthday'. i struggle at times to see that it is actually a grief wave. having so many other responsibilities with the kids and the house i didn't see this one coming...i think that's why it was especially tough. mother's day was horrible. we were camping at the same place we camped at before seth died. in fact, that was the first time i was there since the accident. i so remember the last time we were there: it was actually only a few weeks before he died. it was THE BEST weekend with greg's family and our kids. the weather was perfect, the kids got along, it just seemed like a great weekend. i treasure that weekend. so being there on mother's day was difficult. i saw seth all over the place. i struggle at times with seeing my glass half empty rather than half full in regards to my grief. so many times i ache to hold seth again and at the same time i am so blessed with the 7 that are still with us. God has been faithful, though. throughout this last wave i truly have felt like he was just carrying me through. i felt a little bit like being on a raft in the water and just going up and down, but never going under. it was like God's arms were my raft and He wasn't letting me go through this rough water alone. it amazes me - His faithfulness.

one of the things that keeps me going is Starlight Ministries, Inc. we are official and we're heading toward some really neat things happening. we're going to be ordering the seth bears soon. the Seth Bear Project is part of SLM in that we are providing teddy bears to the area funeral homes to hand out to any child who is starting out on their grief journey. These bears will have a little medallion around it's neck with seth's picture and then the SLM logo on the other side. a letter about Starlight Ministries will be provided to the parents inviting them and their children to our groups. i LOVE this part of the ministry. to know that seth's memory is living on and that hopefully it will comfort children at the same time just warms my heart.

i wanted to share our logo. hopefully it portrays that even through grief there is still hope.
we are ordering our stationary, business cards, and the medallions next week. it all seems so unreal! i'm planning on going to st. joe to lory's place (which is a center that does grief support for children - just not Christian based) and receive the facilitator training. i'll be able to bring all the supplies home to then turn around and train our facilitators. if anyone is interested or becoming involved with our vision for Starlight Ministries....we would LOVE the help!

God is good....all the time. He really does bring beauty from ashes.....i'm experiencing that first hand.

Monday, May 11, 2009


i'm not myself.....haven't been for a few weeks....and it just seems to be getting worse as the days go on. i'm just so overwhelmingly sad...all the time. my heart is just so heavy that i can't imagine it getting any worse and then another day comes and it's heavier still. i have no patience - zero. i'm so short tempered with the kids and with greg. at one point i just got up and left the dinner table after listening to the kids bicker through the entire meal. i got up.....screamed that i couldn't take it any longer....and went to our room. that's not me....i'm just not me anymore. and even in this 'funk' there is laughter. after i left the table that night greg said that abby quietly got up, went around to him and whispered in his ear 'hormones'! God does bring glimpses of light in this darkness that has clouded me lately. i cry at a drop of a hat. i am so tired....always so very tired. i feel absolutely unlovable and selfish....which then spirals me farther down. i just want me back. my heart broke into smaller pieces still when grace came to me and said that she felt like i haven't been happy since seth died and that she thought they weren't enough for me anymore. add lousy mom to the mix. i tried to reassure her that i HAVE been happy since seth died, it's just that lately i miss him more than usual. i tried to convey to her that she and the other kids mean even more to me than before becuz i now understand how short life is. i don't think she understood. all she sees is a mom who is not there right now. i'm just not me.....i just want me back.

i apologize for such a 'raw' seems to help a little to get things down.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


i had to share what an amazing writing assignment my neice handed in. she was given the assignment to write about one moment in moment that changed moment that will be forever in her mind. what she wrote truly captured my heart. thanks court.....i LOVE that you did's heading right for seth's trunk now! :)


We walked into the funeral home not knowing what was coming up. Not knowing how everyone would respond with what we would see. The moment it opened everyone froze. Awe filled our faces; the room was silent and awkward as we looked into the casket. The person we all knew and loved laying there lifeless with no more meaning. A broken body unbelievable small, so childlike; it hurt to look, to see someone so helpless and not being able to help him. You could feel the anguish filling the room as we stared. Little kids asking questions; they didn't understand. The tears started to fall as we finally comprehended what our eyes couldn't believe. The little blonde boy with blue eyes, so fragile, with glasses too. he had on a sweater and cords but even with clothes on you could see the broken parts on him. Make-up covers nothing. The look of his face made you feel pain as you looked at the scratches and bruises. No words can explain how our family was feeling, and what emotions were rolling across our faces. Madness, sadness, grief, questioning, plus many more feelings were there. Even with a family so big it is hard to imagine life with one less, we only had him for a little while which was enough, but wanted him longer. Even though siblings and family members get annoying, never take them for granted. Because when there time is up you'd wish it had just begun. And when there time does come to be with their heavenly father, you need to look to the future when you get to see them again in heaven. Without all the horrible pain you used to see in their face without all their suffering. And knowing their in a better place doesn't make it easy, just easier. At that moment of realization, a strange comfort filled the room. It was him, with God next to him.

Written by courtney, in loving memory of my cousin, Seth Van Wienen

Sunday, May 3, 2009


what a GORGEOUS weekend we've had! yesterday we spent most of the day outside putting out stone and cutting the grass. today was just too beautiful with the sun and the flowering trees that i couldn't resist the photo opportunity....bring on a bunch of 'awwwww moooommmmms' which i with it! :)........they'll thank me later - i'm sure of it!

Friday, April 24, 2009


yes, that time-honored tradition has come for our little ben-ben. a tradition in which they have no idea what is about to hit them. one that may or may not bring a lifetime of scars. a tradition in which mom's across this nation either look very forward to....or dread with each passing day. that's right.....their child's first haircut!!

this mom really has no problem strapping them down somehow....attempting to cut the first hair from their head. i always figure that i'm doing ok if I'M the one doing the first cutting rather than the child or one of their beloved siblings performing the tradition to their brother. so the day had arrived...........and i was prepared.

highchair - check
snacks - check
tv on the annoying clifford show - check
scissors, clippers - check
child - double check
right child - triple check

off we go.....first attempt. screaming bloody murder (from ben, not me!) and cowering away from the scissors. cooing and coaxing from mom, more screaming and cowering. ok, no problem...try another way. put on the always soothing, zone inducing, parent loving baby einstein video.

2nd attempt. first blood - progress made. able to make a few more snips before he figures out what's happening. no screaming...just MUCH cowering and now he trying to wipe away the pieces of hair from his face. hands just a flailing and .....shoot....screaming starts again. ok...getting just a little flustered, but the tradition must be finished - can't have him walking around with one side of his head heavier than the other!

3rd attempt. ok, getting a little desperate....give him cooking utensils that he's never been allowed to play with but always trying to get at. rules are going out the window quicker than the hair coming off his head!

few more clips...getting closer. almost there....bugger - utensils flying through the air, screaming reaching new decible levels, hands all over the face. mom is getting almost to the end of her tricks...but wait - one last resort. one that will work for any living, breathing male - the remote control!!!!

4th attempt. i'm getting quicker at my clipping and getting closer to the finish! almost done and ben wanting me to get out of his way so that he can see his tv work it's magic from the push of the buttons. 'get outta my way, woman!' i can almost hear him say. one last cut and.... we're .....DONE!!

so...i've just experienced my last first haircut with our children. he's still in the highchair with the remote in hand, hair all over the high chair, utensils on the floor, and MY hair still intact! SUCCESS!!!! :):):):):)