Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Lesson Learned

“The bridge of service invites us to cross over it frequently.”
~Thomas S. Monson

(This post is inspired by "Jenny's Gist".)

Sometimes the most powerful lessons are learned in the midst of some of your deepest heartache and greatest challenges.
If I had to choose one year of my life that I never want to relive, it would be 2007.

That year was a particularly difficult one for our family. What started out as an exciting year full of hope and promise quickly turned to one of despair (but not of lost faith). Shortly after listing our home on the market, we began the search for a new house--one that would better accommodate our growing family & could be our little piece of ‘heaven on earth‘ . This was not a decision we made lightly. It was a process that involved much thought & pondering, fasting & prayer as we tried to figure out God’s will for our family.

Though we definitely felt guided in our housing decisions, our house adventure didn’t go quite as we hoped. The housing market seemed to change overnight. Houses went from selling within a few days to the bottom dropping out completely. A failed closing left us as the ’proud’ new owners of not one home, but two. Two mortgages. Two home owners insurance premiums. Two sets of utilities. Two property taxes. Two HOA dues. You get the picture. Many dream of owning 2 houses, but this was our nightmare.

Our financial situation was made a little more difficult because of huge medical bills that year-- bills for emergency orthopedic surgery to repair Jake’s broken arm, surgery & physical therapy to rehabilitate Josh’s injured foot/ankle, & extra appointments & tests associated with a baby I was carrying that my dr. felt had a high probability of being born with Downs Syndrome. Add the expenses of grad school books & supplies at a private university & we were stretched really thin.

Thankfully, we had followed the counsel of Church leaders to stay out of unnecessary debt, have savings for ‘a rainy day’ and an emergency year’s supply of food in storage. Heaven knows all of those principles blessed our lives that year.

I realized many lessons that year, but most importantly, I learned about service and the difference even one person can make in another‘s life.

“God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom.”

Late that summer, we were nearing total depletion of both our checking and savings accounts. We were weighing our options, considering ‘worst case scenarios’. In complete desperation, once again, we took the matter before the Lord in prayer. I remember getting up from our knees and feeling that somehow, a way would be provided.

It was the beginning of August. After an accounting of our finances and assets, it was determined that we had enough money to pay all bills and not go into debt, for one more month. Come September 1st, drastic measures would have to be taken to stay afloat. We needed a miracle.

And a miracle is exactly what the Lord had in store…

There was a ring of the telephone. A friend of mine called to let us know a special fast & prayer had been planned for our family. It was to take place the following Sunday (not a designated fast Sunday). We were invited to join with our friends in asking the Lord for needed help & blessings for our family. As most understand, religious fasting involves going without food & drink for a specified period to demonstrate to the Lord not only our willingness to sacrifice, but to also show our absolute dependence on him. The simple fact that dozens of couples were willing to sacrifice on our behalf was humbling. I will never forget attending church that Sunday, 5 months pregnant & unable to fast myself, only to have countless friends come and give me a hug letting me know they were praying and fasting for our family that day. That was just the start of our miracle and set in motion a series of events that would ultimately result in the much needed sale of our home.

The very next Sunday our real estate agent called to say that after 8 months of our house being on the market we finally had an offer! A couple had come by and looked at the home several times in the week prior. Not only had they made an offer on the home, but they were the ‘ideal buyers’ and could close by the end of the month (meeting our much needed deadline). We could not believe this news! Josh and I immediately got down on our knees, offering up prayers of thanksgiving to the Lord for this miracle.

What I remember most from this experience is the willingness of our friends & family to help in our time of crisis. They didn’t call first to see if we ‘wanted’ their help. They didn’t worry about whether the timing was convenient. They didn’t even really ask permission. They just served. I’m not sure they will ever fully appreciate how this experience touched our hearts, our lives and our home. We fully believe that God was able to grant us much needed blessings through the added faith and prayers of our friends.

From this experience I learned I should not hesitate to serve. When prompted, I should: Send the card in the mail. Take over the simple dinner, even if they have another one on the table. Make the phone call. You never know when the Lord may be using you to bless another person.

I came across these words:

You never know when someone
May catch a dream from you
You never know when a little word
Or something you may do
May open up the windows
Of a mind that seeks the light
The way you live may not matter at all,
But you never know – it might.

And just in case it could be
That another’s life, through you,
Might possibly change for the better
With a broader and brighter view,
It seems it might be worth a try
At pointing the way to the right
Of course, it may not mater at all,
But then again – it might

We may never know what our small acts of service mean to someone else. But I know that one sister’s service on my behalf changed my life and how I try to serve others. I now believe that even the most simple acts of service are often the most profound.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bonafide Bride's Favorite Things Giveaway!!

This month, BonafideBride is providing its readers with the chance to win a prize package worth over $120 of their 'favorite things' . Go here to enter.

BonafideBride is brought to you by the lovely Kristin Polhemus, a wedding planner extraordinaire. It is choc full of amazing wedding, shower & party planning ideas.

Good luck! Contest ends December 10th!

Monday, November 22, 2010

{Because 'Enquiring' Minds Want to Know}

Last month, I turned 35. THIRTY-FIVE. That's freaking old. Time to get a 'real' will in order. Although I still feel 21, numbers don't lie. So, in honor of being 35 years young, I thought I'd record some things for your reading pleasure.

35 things you may or may not know about me…
1. I’m secretly shy.
2. I love the smell of men’s cologne.
3. I find inspiration in great quotes, poetry, heart-felt stories and the written word.
4. Music moves me.
5. I am the worst Spanish speaker in the world.
6. I like watching scary movies.
7. Halloween still thrills me, especially dressing up in costume.
8. If I could, I would still go trick or treating.
9. I love setting a pretty table.
10. I wish I was as patient as my mom.
11. I love party and event planning!
12. Creating invitations is my favorite part of party planning.
13. I often think/plan/organize in themes or analogies.
14. I love getting a good bargain, but I wouldn’t call myself “cheap”.
15. One of the best free gifts is a foot massage.
16. One of the best paid treats/luxuries is a pedicure.
17. I could drink hot chocolate year round.
18. I complain too much.
19. I miss teaching.
20. I can’t wait to go on a cruise.
21. I love seafood.
22. I have a funny (o.k. weird) liking for stinky baby feet.
23. I could spend hours in a craft or scrapbook store.
24. I can throw a great spiral (football).
25. I lack dancing skills, sadly. (My college roommates can’t say I didn’t try…hard.)
26. I am the worst hummer around. Don’t make me do the humdinger challenges in the game Cranium if I’m on your team, unless you want to lose.
27. I love people watching. I could do it all day.
28. I would go crazy without my computer.
29. I want to take photography lessons, or at the very least, figure out how to really use my camera.
30. I wish I had taken advantage of the years of piano lessons I took.
31. I want to learn to play the guitar.
32. I dream of one day being able to sew anything I want!
33. I am a terrible green thumb.
34. I love being social.
35. When I’m really stressed, you’ll know it because I’ll either A.) get sick or B.) break out in a cold sore. I'm fighting A.) right now and on the verge of B.) .

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Reflections of...

A Modern Day Fairy Tale

(Click pictures to enlarge. Photos courtesy of Leah Polhemus.)

Once in awhile, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale. This past weekend, Josh and I found ourselves smack dab in the middle of one.

It’s not every day that Josh and I hop aboard a plane, leaving our 4 children behind (yes, even the baby) to head to New Jersey to attend the wedding of a couple we’ve never actually met in real life. But, this couple is no ordinary couple and their story is no ordinary tale.

Meet Adam and Kristin (a.k.a. 'Cinderella' and 'Prince Charming').

Adam and Kristin share the kind of love that fairy tales are made of. (Read their story here.) While their relationship has not been void of trials and hardships, & they've suffered the highs and lows common in every relationship, they already realize what most couples spend a lifetime trying to figure out:

“If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently…”
~F. Burton Howard~

To observe them, is to see a union formed by Heaven itself.
Three years ago, I met Adam while we worked together in our spare time on a web based advertising/marketing business. We became fast friends as many of our core values and beliefs were in synch. I was impressed by his integrity, amazing attitude towards life, his willingness to always put others first and his absolute love, concern and adoration for his then girlfriend, Kristin.

While the website that originally brought us together as friends eventually succumbed to the spiraling economic times, Adam and I remained in contact, updating each other on life every few months; him sharing updates on his relationship progress with Kristin (he had been saving money for an engagement ring), and his real job as a NJ State Trooper and me sharing the latest and greatest about motherhood and marriage to my prince charming, Josh.

Fast forward a couple of years to March 2010. My brother and I had decided to join forces and open up our own web based business, similar to the one Adam and I had worked on together previously. Immediately I knew that our business needed Adam’s strengths and personality if it were to be as successful as we hoped it would be. Adam eventually succumbed to my peer pressure and joined with us as one of our site administrators. He has been such a blessing and asset. Our business has grown because of his careful attention and presence. However, more importantly, as I have come to better know Adam and Kristin this past year, my appreciation for them and the kind of relationship they share, has grown.
While in the thick of their wedding preparation, Kristin’s father suffered some major medical setbacks resulting in a massive heart attack and ultimately leaving him in a vegetative coma. Just a few short months before their marriage, she and Adam were forced to lay aside their massive to-do lists, personal agendas and visions of a perfect country wedding to be at her father’s side, helping him fight for his very life.

The twists and turns are too numerous to list as they have fought and continue to fight with the insurance company to cover the very care that could help her father recover from his massive ordeal. Unfortunately, the needed coverage was not granted and the much prayed for brain rehabilitation treatment has yet to be performed. And with just a couple of months before her wedding remaining, sadly, Kristin learned that her father would not be the one walking her down the aisle at her wedding, nor would he have the privilege of giving his first-born daughter away in marriage. He would not escort his daughter to the dance floor and lead her in the first dance or give her a parting kiss on her cheek before heading off into the sunset with her prince charming. This realization was devastating, but in typical Kristin and Adam fashion, they would not let this tragedy define them or create a wedge between them. Their faith would not falter and their resolve would not weaken. Suffice it to say, their love for one another & their faith and trust in God has trumped every sadness, overcome great heartache and further strengthened a relationship that many couples will spend their whole lives trying to build. Their carefully chosen wedding day--10-10-10--would still go on.
Needless to say, when the invitation was extended to attend their wedding, I told Adam I would move heaven and earth to be there. Thankfully, Josh, the love of my life, saw the significance of this invitation, the specialness of this couple and granted my wish to see the fulfillment of a fairy tale.

We just arrived home from a whirlwind wedding weekend and are still pinching ourselves to make sure we were not dreaming! Adam and Kristin’s wedding was just as beautiful as I imagined it would be, and they are just as incredible in person as they came across when only an internet cord connected us.

Here is a masterful depiction of their beautiful farm wedding via this highlight video. It tells the story of not only their love and their beautiful day, but the story of a father’s love on a day he would have given everything to be a part of.
(Pause the music on my playlist and turn up your volume.)

.kristin and adam..the dress from endless wave studios on Vimeo.

Thank you Kristin and Adam for not only teaching us what true love is about but for reminding us what true love looks like. We love you and know great happiness will continue to be yours.

Jen & Josh

Saturday, October 16, 2010

October 7-11th

(Click photos to enlarge.)

Josh and I had the amazing opportunity to go on a somewhat 'spontaneous' trip to the East Coast last weekend after receiving the invitation to attend a friend's wedding in New Jersey (separate wedding post coming). We decided to take advantage of the kid-free weekend and tacked on a few extra days so we could visit Ammon (Josh's brother) and enjoy some leisure time in New York City.

After arriving late Thursday, we spent the night at the Marriott Fairfield Inn, close to the Newark Airport, opting to take the train into the city the next morning. We hit Manhattan around noon on a gorgeous Fall day with no predetermined agenda and enjoyed casually strolling around the city. (After just coming off of an exhausting Disneyland trip, the casual approach and pace of this trip was just what the dr. ordered.)

We were giddy as we realized this was the first real kid-free trip we've enjoyed since our last trip to NYC 4 1/2 years ago. We couldn't believe we could actually hold hands, sit by one another at the restaurant & even steal a kiss or two without at least 2 children in between us. It was magical.

**Important note to all our friends & family: We gladly accept invitations to any and all 'adult only' functions from here on out, especially if it requires an overnight stay in a far off location.

Some of our favorite things we did included:

1. Seeing the Broadway Play Mamma Mia (storyline set to ABBA music). Entertaining & fun, but not one I'd spend the money to see again.

2. Dinner out at Bar Americain (a Bobby Flay restaurant). Amazing food! Best filet mignon I have ever tasted!

3. Visiting Josh's brother, Ammon & having him show us some of the delicious local places to eat & sightsee. We enjoyed a great lunch outdoors at Rue 57 on Friday and another fabulous lunch on Saturday overlooking the water at The Frying Pan. We topped off the food fest with dessert at Billy's Bakery, sharing the most ginormous piece of red velvet cake you have ever seen.

4. Shopping on Canal Street. 'Louis, Chanel, Coach. You like Miss?' Ha ha.

5. Beautiful views of the New York skyline and the World Trade Center/Financial Disrict from the Milennium Hilton Hotel where we stayed while in the city.

We love NYC and can't wait to return!

How did we trick our kids into manual labor and good behavior for 2 months straight? Simple. Sheer bribery and a little help from

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E.
(Don‘t pretend you didn‘t just sing that.)

Call us crazy, but we did just that. Boy was life grand during the months of August and September. With the promise of the ultimate 5-day trip to Disneyland & California Adventure riding on their every move, my kids didn‘t dare say a cross word or let a scowl pass their lips for fear that said trip might be revoked. They happily did their chores (ok, “happily” might be a slight exaggeration. But hey, at least they didn‘t totally revolt) and treated each other as all good little boys and girls should (with the exception of the occasional 'he hit me' or 'she‘s bothering me'). After all, this was no ordinary trip to Disneyland at stake. This trip we decided to go 'all out'.

Highlights included:

* 3 days at Disneyland, 1 day at California Adventure, 1 morning at Downtown Disney
* World of Color water & light show
* Getting pictures and autographs of dozens of Disney characters
* Lunch with all of the princesses at Ariel’s Grotto
* Halloween Time--Disneyland was all decked out for Halloween
* Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Trick-or-Treat Party the night of Jen’s birthday
* Aunt Mari visiting
* Dinner with Aunt Mari and Uncle Chris at the Rainforest Café in Downtown Disney
* Visiting a live show of Playhouse Disney
* Tricking Josh into going on the Tower of Terror with Jacob.
* Jacob braving his first upside down roller coaster (California Screamin’)
* At least one ride that Josh was on breaking down each day that we were there.
* Jacob being selected as a jedi during the Jedi Training Academy