Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Two Babies

For the last several months, Niels and I have had two things on our mind: getting pregnant and celebrating Christmas with Dutch Dad and Mom. Two babies. Our baby and the Christ child.

Niels and I know that good things come to those who wait. In fact, Niels' wedding band is engraved with the words, "worth the wait." Almost five months into our marriage, I am certain that Niels was worth every minute of the 35 years, six months, and 14 days I waited to marry him.

Because of our age, we talked about our desire to start our family sooner rather than later. We were thrilled to discover we were pregnant in early October, just 11 weeks after we were married. Our joy was short lived, when we miscarried at 5 1/2 weeks. Niels has been such rock to me in our grief, allowing me my sad days and helping me remember all our blessings. One thing he said that has really helped my mindset is the reminder that God has blessed us with so much this year--travel, finding each other, the financial means to pay for a wedding and two homes all year. He had to save something for next year.

As November turned to December, Niels reminded me of this again. We thought if we were pregnant in December, we would tell his parents by putting notes in their stockings. When my period came, I was disappointed for the missed opportunity. They live 6,000 miles away and we won't see them until next Christmas. This would be their only time to see me pregnant with their first grandchild, even if I wasn't showing yet. I was feeling tired and sick all week and felt bad for not being where I wanted to be with all the holiday planning. I wanted everything to be perfect for our first Christmas together.

Friday morning when I woke up, I was bleeding. We called my OB and they said to go to the ER. It was a busy day, so we ended up being there from 11:30 to almost 9. They were a little worried about my blood pressure, which was 104/45. They took some blood and came back to tell us we were pregnant. We were shocked, excited and nervous. We're 5 1/2 weeks, exactly where we were when we miscarried on October 15.

They discharged me with a diagnosis of either a threatened miscarriage or early ectopic pregnancy. I had orders of bedrest for two days when they would check my HCG levels again. For two days my mind raced with the hope of a Christmas baby after all, and fear that I would miscarry again. In the meantime, our radio played a constant stream of songs about another Christmas baby.

Sunday morning we headed to hospital for my blood test. We waited at the lab for the results. We prayed for a big number. The level should be doubling daily at this point in a healthy pregnancy. But, much to our dismay, the number went down and we were told the baby was not viable. We're devastated, again, but we are together, and because it is not ectopic, I am safe.

Niels parents had their own troubles. Weather and customs delays caused them to miss the last leg of their flight, so instead of arriving on the 23rd, they arrived on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, their luggage has yet to arrive. But they are here and they are safe.

Last night we went to the Christmas Eve service. I was doing pretty well. The pain was tolerable for the moment, and I was able to focus on the service. But when we started singing songs about The Baby, I began to weep for our baby. Niels' mom leaned over, her own cheeks wet with tears, hugged me and said, "I'm so sorry." And after such loss, there really are no other words to say.

Losing two babies this year has changed my perspective of the Christmas story. I identify with Mary more than ever. And I understand the greatness of the Gift. I want so much to hold my babies. I want so much to nurture them in my womb. I want so much to hear their cries as they enter this world. I believe that all life is sacred, and so I celebrate the very short lives they lived.
God didn't give us the son we wanted for Christmas, but He gave us His Son. I wouldn't willingly give up my babies, but God gave up His Son, for the greater good, and the gift of That Baby is life that never ends.

sleep in heavenly peace, little ones

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Our First Co-Authorship

In my ongoing effort to learn my dear husband's native tongue, tonight we translated the poem from the beginning of my book into Dutch. So for my new Dutch family, this is for you:

- de uitbarsting-

scheiding
is als een sterke aardbeving
de wereld schud
gevoed door woede
en alle boosheid
schuld
en frustraties
zo lang broedend
onder de oppervlakte
spuit dan plotseling omhoog
in een inferno van haat
of onverschilligheid...
soms
is de wereld kalm
en je denkt
dat het schudden voor bij is
rustig
stabiel
maar dan begint de cyclus opnieuw
opnieuw
opnieuw
opnieuw
je bent vermoeid
je wilt rusten
en dat is wanneer je realiseerd
dat het schudden gestopt is
maar
er is een angstaanjagend gevoel
hangend in de lucht
je aarzelt
om nooit meer iets te geloven
je bent zo moe
en na zolang worstelen
rust je daarom
op het laatste stukje stabiel land
om ook dat in tweeen verdeelt te zien worden
twee
aparte
verschillende
delen
die nooit meer
opnieuw samenkomen
elk nieuw deel
een gedeelte van jouw
en onder je ogen
drijven ze uiteen

- Jen Abbas,
achttien jaar

And for my English reading audience:

-the eruption-

divorce
is like a trembling earthquake
the world shakes
rumbling with rage
and all the anger
guilt
and frustrations
that have been festering for so long
below the surface
suddenly spew upward
in an inferno of hate
or apathy…
at times
the earth calms
and you think
the turmoil is over
settled
stable
but
then the cycle begins again
repeating
repeating
repeating
you are weary
you want to rest
and that is when you realize
the shaking has stopped
but
there is an eerie feeling
lurking in the air
you are hesitant to believe
anything
anymore
you are so tired
after struggling for so long
and so you rest
on the one last solid patch of land
only to watch it split in two
two
separate
distinct
parts
that will never
come together
again
each new patch
supports part of you
and as you watch
they pull away.

-Jen Abbas,
age eighteen

Happy Anniversary, Dutch Mom & Dad!

Today is Dutch Dad and Mom's 38th wedding anniversary! Congrats! We love you!

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Year in Review: Christmas 2007 Edition

Christmas 2007

Dear Friends and Family,

Merry Christmas from the newly formed de Jong family, American edition!!! It’s been a pretty wonderful year for us, with a few obligatory bumps along the road of wedded bliss. Here’s the China-friendly recap:


January
2007 began with Niels and Jen on different continents, neither of which being North America. Jen was in China visiting her much loved, much missed adopted family, The Kennedys. At the same time, Niels, with growing affection for Jen, decided that Christmas in the States without Jen would be too lonely, so he headed to the Netherlands to spend the holidays with his family. And Dad was at work. Jen was still a little gun shy about the whole marriage thing (she’s head-injured, so a little slow to recognize a good thing when he’s right in front of her!) A day after Jen arrived in China, an earthquake hit Taiwan, knocking out all internet connection to the States. Literally, the ONE person in the world Jen could reach outside China was Niels. Even before Jen told her parents she was dating someone, Niels got to contact them to let them know Jen was safe in China. By the time both Niels and Jen were on American soil again, they knew there would be no more Christmas’ apart. Yay!

February
February was a flood of activity and planning. Though not officially engaged yet, Niels and Jen began planning their future together--all while trying to keep the world’s worst kept secret--starting with a sparkly shiny token on Niels’ love. Jen’s ring was purchased in February though it would be a while before it made the trip to her finger. Jen’s mom braved the winter snow to meet Niels and give her approval. She arrived just in time to check out the other big purchase of the month: our new home in North Canton, Ohio. We finished up the month by heading up to Canada to introduce Jen to many of Niels’ friends, including his future best man, Joel and his lovely bride, Carolyn.

March
Jen and Niels started the month with a weekend at FamilyLife’s marriage conference. We took the pre-married version and Niels made Jen proud by asking all the married guys for advice. We continued our tradition of travel and headed off to Europe for Jen’s first trip to Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, The Netherlands and France. She had a great time learning about Dutch language and culture through immersion, but of course, the highlight of the trip came March 20, when Niels proposed to Jen in a purple flower garden at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

April
Now that she was officially betrothed, Jen decided to finally, officially, move to Ohio. Our good friends, the Prices, were kind enough to put a roof over her head. Bailey’s too. It was an emotional trip for Jen, driving away in the Penske truck. She has many happy memories in Grand Rapids and she misses her friends very much. We try to get back up there as much as we can. Now the wedding plans began in earnest, with the most important part being our
pre-marriage counseling with Pastor Jeff. What a great time!

May
In May we made the trip to Minnesota for our first wedding shower. Niels continued to meet more and more of Jen’s family, including her adorable nephew and godson, CJ. He proudly showed the couple all his treasures with a loud, “TA DA!” We sure wish that cutie was a little closer! Also in the spring, we hosted our first houseguests, the Handys.

June
In June, we were showered again, this time in Michigan. The rest of the month was flurry of preparation for THE BIG DAY!

July
We started the month with our last shower, this one with our Ohio friends, timed perfectly to also include THE KENNEDYS, home for a month after their first year in China. We’re sure other things happened in July, but the most important is OUR WEDDING, on July 29. It was an unseasonably warm day, in the mid-90s, so we were all radiant. We have so many special memories of that day and are incredibly grateful for the guests who came from seven states and four countries (three continents) to celebrate with us.

August
Is there a better way to start a new month (and marriage) than on a sunny Caribbean island? We don’t think so. We spent an amazing week in Curacao, an island in the Dutch Antilles, just North of Venezuela. It’s described as Arizona on the beach, and we think that’s just about right. After we arrived home, our family was finally all living under the same roof: Niels, Jen and our Shih Tzu, Bailey. Bailey was a great help in unwrapping our presents, especially the tissue paper and bubble wrap. Thank you so much for the generous gifts that make our house a home.

September
Once again, we traveled this month. We took Bailey on the longest road trip of her life, to Vermont, where we witnessed our friends Sean & Jessica say, “I DO!” It was actually the second wedding we attended together, both as a married couple. The first was our friends Jon & Penny, just two weeks after ours. The end of the month found us making our first major decision as a couple. After much Thought and really cool “Coincidences,” we made the decision to spend our Sunday Gatherings at a new place, RiverTree. It’s much like Jen’s former place in Grand Rapids, so we feel right at home. Best of all, we’ve met a wonderful group of friends. One of our new friends actually told Jen about a job that was right up her alley: 5-7 hours a week at the bookstore/library. After sixteen months, Jen is employed! (And it kicks her butt…in a good way).

October
October was a difficult month for us. It started off well, with the exciting news that we were expecting!!! Our joy was short lived when we miscarried our precious one on October 15. We named her “Jo,” for Just Ours. While Jen was with the doctor, they found a 6cm lump on her right breast. It took several rounds of tests and many anxious weeks before we received the relieving all clear. Thanks, Dad!

November
American dad visited in November and helped Jen do what she’s been putting off for much too long: apply for Disability. We are grateful for the many hours Jen’s dad spent poring over legal and medical papers and making LOTS of copies, and especially for taking Jen to the office to officially file. We spent Thanksgiving in Arizona with Jen’s mom and Gramma. Niels was quickly put to work with all the “man jobs,” but he received his reward in good ol’ fashioned Minnesota cooking, warm winter temperatures, and an amazing day with Jen road tripping to the Grand Canyon. Wow!

December
As we write this, the first snow is gently falling. Soon it will be the first Sinterklaas Day for Jen and then the first American Christmas for Niels. We’re looking forward to a second visit from Niels’ parents. We figure we must have been really good for them to come over from Holland twice this year. Last weekend we put up our first tree and under it lies our first Christmas gift to each other: the 2008 updated version of CATAN!

Travel:
States: AZ, CO, MI, MN, NH, NY, OH, PA, VT
Countries: Belgium, Canada, China, Curacao, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and The Netherlands

Plans for the New Year…
• Single-home ownership
• Becoming parents
• Christmas in Holland
• Trips to…


Top 5 Things We Like To Do:
1. Play Catan, Ticket to Ride, Phase 10, and Gin 13 (Thanks, Gramma)
2. Travel
3. Be Together
4. Watch “Big Bang Theory,” “How I Met Your Mother” and “Chuck”
5. Watch DVDs on the big screen at home and at church

Saturday, December 8, 2007

My husband rocks

My husband rocks
exhibit #76,842

I'm sick. I hate being sick. Fortunately, I'm not sick and home alone. My amazing husband is here. Since I've been sick on Thursday night with this creepy crud, Niels woke up early on Friday so he could get into work early, and thus, come home early. I slept. All. Day. Long. Niels came home and I was able to wake up enough to watch The Little Mermaid with him. All typical wonderful husband stuff. But today, Niels really showed his A game.

Our original plan for this weekend was to get some things done around the house. But, knowing that what I really needed was rest, Niels got up and made me breakfast in bed. Later he brought me some nice soothing tea.

We've spent the rest of the day in the guest room (where there's a TV) resting, eating chicken soup and ice cream and watching "America's Next Top Model." (I don't know why reality tv and VH1 documentaries are my go-to shows when I'm sick).

A short while ago, I noticed it was time for me to hit the shower for the first time in three days. I was not looking or smelling my best, and yet, I'm watching "America's Next Top Model" with my husband. Obviously, I'm not feeling well. And yet, in my sickly state, my husband rolls over, gives me a sweet kiss and says, "You're more beautiful to me than any of the women on that show."

Sigh...I love my husband.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Looking for a little help from our GR friends

Greetings from Ohio,

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. Niels and I hit our four month anniversary and are loving married life. With one exception. All we want for Christmas (or New Years, or the spring, or soon) is to sell my condo. We're very grateful to have gone from three mortgages to two, but we both vaguely remember having one house payment and would like to experience those days again. We've been very blessed to keep our heads above water on Niels' income as I am still unable to work after head injury #3 last October. (And yes, I finally caved and applied for disability).

We'd greatly appreciate your help in passing the word around about it to anyone you may know who is looking for a good deal. Friends, family, co-workers, neighbors you don't like, anyone is fine with us...as long as they have good credit and are ready to buy! The condo is currently officially off the market over the winter, but we'd be glad to entertain any offers now on a For Sale By Owner basis, as we have a lot more flexibility on the selling price without the realtor commissions. (My mom is a retired Realtor and will walk us through the paperwork).

As you know, the housing market in GR is pretty soft right now and it's a great time to buy. We're very motivated to sell and at this point, really just want to break even.

As a thank you, we're offering a $300 incentive for any referral that results in the sale of our home.

If you don't know of anyone in the market right now, we greatly covet your prayers for a quick sale! Our budget thanks you.

INFO ON THE CONDO:
$135,999 (negotiable)

3783 Old Elm Dr SE
Kentwood, MI 49512

1410 square feet
2 bedrooms ~ 2.5 baths

Schools: Kentwood ~ County: Kent

Two story Bailey's Grove townhouse offers the benefits and amenities of a single-family residence, with none of the responsibilities. Enjoy this open floor plan with lots of natural lighting. The spacious kitchen features a bay window breakfast nook, pantry, lots of counter space and beautiful maple cabinets. The twenty-foot ceiling makes the Great Room bright and inviting. Each bedroom has its own full bath and ceiling fans. The master bedroom has a separate vanity, double-mirrored pocket door, and huge walk-in closet. Spacious lower level provides lots of storage space and is plumbed and ready for your finishing touch. There are many beautiful homes to choose from in Bailey’s Grove, but this home includes brand new carpet and padding, fresh paint, a furnace humidifier and plenty of upgrades. Bailey’s Grove is a popular condo community with a pool, walking paths and clubhouse. I would have stayed here forever if I hadn’t married my Ohio sweetheart.

Listing comments...
Non-smoker
Well-kept condo with vinyl & brick exterior
New carpet and padding installed August 2006
Most rooms freshly painted in August 2006 and November 2007
Furnace humidifier installed summer of 2004
Private entrance and deck
Master bedroom includes private bath, WIC, ceiling fan, and double-mirrored pocket door
Cathedral ceiling with fan in Great Room
Upgraded maple cabinetry throughout
Upgraded window treatment throughout
Spacious unfinished basement with daylight windows
Sheetrock attached garage with remote
Professionally landscaped
Underground Sprinkling
Snow removal and lawn care provided
Association Pool

View floor plan and photos at:
http://www.planomatic.us/g/o/3783oldelmdrse.html

and here:
http://picasaweb.google.com/embracegrace/ForSale02

Thanks, Mindy for the great idea of posting this message on her blog. GR bloggers, spread the word!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Our first Christmas tree...

We have a little 'rule' in the De Jong household that there will be 'no tree before the turkey'. Back when I was living in the Netherlands it was even stricter since we had the celebration of Sinterklaas on Dec 5, so the tree never went up until after that day. But since turkey day has passed we decided it was time to get our tree. Our first tree as a married couple and our first tree in many, many years for both Jen and me since before this year we never home during Christmas.

We got Bailey, Miles (Jen's car) and a few spider cords (American Translation: bungee cords) and went to Lowes just down the road. We looked at a few Scottish Pines, but decided on a beautiful Douglas Fir. We got the trunk truncated by about 2 inches (so it can absorb the water and nutrients better) and 'installed' it on the roof and secured it with the bungee cords for the short drive home.

At home we moved one of Jen's Amazon bookshelves downstairs to make room for the tree. Once done we put the tree up and started decorating with our symbolic first ornament; a little car stating 'just married' with our two names, followed by ornaments of our initials and a little glass angel representing Jo.

[more to come soon, watched the Vikings demolish Detroit..., but pictures are up...]

Thanksgiving 2007 in Arizona


The wonderful feast of Thanksgiving. This year we particularly looked forward to it since we were going to Arizona to celebrate it with Mom and Grandma Manthei. Weirdly it isn't our first Thanksgiving together, that was last year over a wonderful dinner at our friends - and then home of Jen - the Prices. The other event we celebrated together last year was the Harvest Party organized by our friend Tony. To show you how small of a world this great place is... his parents live in Arizona.

-- THANKSGIVING DAY
To ease the travels we decided to travel on Thanksgiving Day. Since we left from Akron Canton Airport we only had a 10 minute drive to the airport, which is nice if your plane leaves at 6.50am. We left on-time and after watching some DirecTV on our Frontier flight we arrived in Denver at about 9am where we had the best possible connection. We got off the plane and I dropped the bags in front of the podium since our next flight was departing from the next gate... Jen quickly ran to the bathroom and when she got back our rows were called to board so we weren't in the terminal for more than 10 minutes. Nice !!

The fight to Phoenix was only 2 hours and we filled it with playing some Phase 10. Great game to play while flying. For those interested: the 'Game-master' kicked my behind... Yes, Jen won! (Jen says, "Three years of game therapy have paid off!") Since we didn't check any baggage we were able to get straight to our Super Shuttle after we landed. With the time-change it was barely 10am. Always nice to fly west-bound. We informed Mom that 'the eagle had landed' and - after driving by the city where our friend Tony grew up - we met up with Mom and Grandma at the Dell Web Memorial Hospital in Sun City / Surprise.

On the way to Wickenburg (our destination for the weekend) Mom and Grandma were acting like professional tour-guides and after learning about the 'upside-down' river the Hassyampa River we got to Wickenburg quickly in Grandma's awesome car (more about that later...). We were a bit hungry, but ended up going shopping at ALCO. Apparently some of her daugthers told Grandma that she needed a new TV. So before I knew it I was transformed into Mr. SME. That's Subject-Matter-Expert for the non-acronym inclined among us. She got a nice Flat Screen that we installed quickly. Bonus: Grandma made excellent Belgian Waffles and the new TV was showing Green Bay kicking some Detroit behind... On three TV's at Grandmas. We also got her a new remote. One of those all-in-one' devices, but it didn't work as nice with all the other 'toys' Grandma has. But the TV works fine...

At 5pm we were invited to a nice Thanksgiving dinner at the community center. We were far-and-away the youngest people there since Mom and Grandma live in a 55+ community... We really enjoyed our table-guests and before we knew it we were talking away about me being from Holland and that we got married only 4 months ago. We had a great dinner with all sorts of things, but the funny thing was that our plates looked like the prison-kind... Didn't make the dinner any less enjoyable and tasty, just funny... ;-)

After dinner we went back to Mom's house to watch a movie, but around 6.30pm (local time) we were 'done'. We had about 5 to 6 hours of sleep the night before and had been up for 14 hours by that time so even though there were about 5 great movies on we couldn't get ourselves to watch any. We ended-up in bed by 7pm. When in Rome.... Oh sweet sleep, thou art a Man's best friend.

-- FRIDAY
The next day was our relaxing day. We planned nothing and got up around 10am. Still in Rome, but we ARE on vacation... We got some breakfast and decided to head to the pool. It is late November and for folks from (North-)east of the Rockies outdoor pools in late November don't usually invoke 'warm-and-fuzzy' feelings, but here in the Valley of the Sun it was a perfectly acceptable proposition. The water was even heated... but at 72F / 21C that was only a bonus. We did some exercises from the Aqua Aerobics classes and after about 30 minutes we 'retired' to our book (Niels) and the inside of our eyelids (Jen)... on the side of the pool in the sun... Gotta love AZ.

After being at the pool for a few hours Mom came to check-up on us since she had lunch prepared. Lunch evolved into playing Gin 13. Turned-out to be very similar to our Phase 10 game so we beat Mom every which way we could... sorry, Mom. It's that Game Master thing again. Around 2.30pm we went to visit Mom's other 'son' Bart. Bart is her horse (Palomino???) who is boarded at a range on the north-side of Wickenburg off AZ-93. This was my 2nd time seeing Bart (1st time was in MN over Memorial weekend). He looked beautiful and after feeding Bart we walked over to see some roping. Pretty interesting from a 'city-slicker / dude -perspective.

Around 4pm it was time for dinner with Grandma. Mom decided it was time for some good ol' Minnesota 'Wild Rice Soup'. If this was a test I guess I aced it since I devoured three cups... LOVE that stuff... It is a bit filling so the rest of the dinner took a bit of hit for me, but you can feed me that soup anytime! Since daylight was running out and we wanted to check out the 'letter-rocks' we went for a walk in the desert during sunset. That is one of the most amazing sceneries to enjoy when walking. My beautiful wife and me, seeing the sun set behind the mountains in the background. Before our good friend the Sun decided to call it a day we found the letter rocks and after finding the 'Manthei-family' section we added our 'Jo' just above Grandpa Leo and changed 'JEN' to J&N'.

The photographer in me couldn't let the opportunity pass by to take some nice sunset pictures. Having a camera without a tripod and manual setting proved to be a bit challenging, but the end-result - after some experimenting - wasn't all that bad. Guess that tech-thing called 'Image Stabilization' actually works. One thing to notice... it does get rather chilly in the AZ desert in November so we made our way back to Mom's house where an evening of playing cards was in our future. We decided on Gin 13 again. We had a lot of fun. Mom liked the wine as much as the game so the conversations were rather 'lively' and Mom lived-up to her nickname 'spring-butt' as she couldn't stay at the table for more than 5 minutes at the time. For those interesting in the score... well, we played 4 full games and between Jen and me we won them all!! Around 10pm we called it a night since Saturday was our AZ-travel day.

-- SATURDAY
Today we decided to explore the beautiful surroundings we found ourselves in. Mom gave us a number of things for us to check-out. We walked over to Grandma to get the car. She is really proud of that car since it was the last car Grandpa and her had before he passed away almost 4 years ago. We started with a drive to Yarnell. On our way we took a beautiful drive that slowly climbed up from the valley into the mountains and gave us same amazing Vista's. Sorry nerds, we are not at Best Buy looking at computers, but enjoying the wide and panoramic view of the desert from the side of a mountain. Pretty amazing stuff. At the top of the mountain lays Yarnell. A small town known for her 'Stations of the Cross' depicted outside on the side of a mountain. Good exercise for both body and soul. Also would have been a good spot to have a jacket since a mountain town in the morning was a bit cold... The term 'brrrr' was used... a lot...

The next leg of our journey was towards Prescott. Lots of twists, turns, uphills, downhills, mountain views, valley views... I loved it. Jen, on the other hand, was a little less enthousiastic about it since she's a bit prone to car-sickness so by the time we arrived in Prescott we stopped at a local Safeway supermarket to give here some terra-firma time and we got some goodies for the rest of the trip. We got some baby-carrots, crackers, a Snickers bar and a loaf of French bread. We also got a little snack-present for Mom plus a 2L bottle of 7-Up. Since we had some empty waterbottles we made good use of the 'value' of a 2L bottle over the smaller ones.

Prescott is nice town with a very Alpine feeling coming in from AZ-89 and a very mid-west / western feeling downtown. It is also growing like crazy into Prescott Valley. I don't know, but building towns in the middle of a desert seems a bit odd given the scarce water resources in those environments, but alas. A little after Prescott we took the exit to AZ-89A towards Jerome and Sedona. To make a long story short... I have a new favorite 'winding road'. It rivals the best European mountain drives. Gorgeous.

One of the highlights was the former ghost town of Jerome. It used to be a mining town with a population of 15.000 at its highest earlier this century, but after all the mines closed this little town on the side of the mountain dwindled its way into oblivion with a meager 50 people remaining untill the hippies and later the artists took over this beautiful little village. With its location entirely on the side of the mountain it has a very European feeling to it. Building-style, road layout, location, it was all eerily familiar to me and reminded me so much of the small European mountain villages in France and Italy that I immediately felt 'at-home'. I feel that Jerome probably feels more European to me than Quebec City.

Decending further down the mountain to Cottonwood we made our way towards Sedona and its red rocks. What a neat little city. Nestled into the Oak Creek Canyon, surrounded by those amazing red rocks. It is also the location of the only McDonalds in the world that doesn't have yellow arches because the town council decided the color wouldn't match the surroundings. Instead they are turquoise. We stopped at a local bookstore checking out some local books and took a picture of the 'EU Deli' surround by the red rocks. Since we don't really care for all the New Age stuff that Sedona has plenty of, we went on into the Canyon. Well, I did. Jen took a little nap...

While my beautiful wife was checking out the insides of her eyelid again, I enjoyed another beautiful mountain drive (the Naturalist in my was having a great time!!). The end of the canyon ment another drive up the mountains and a great vista at the end, but since we were only half-way I decided to drive on to our next destination; Flagstaff.

Flagstaff
was made famous because a certain highway runs straight to the middle of it and it's located close to a world famous landmark and National Park. The road is Highway 66 and the park is the Grand Canyon. After driving on US-66 for about 5 minutes we took the US-180 towards to the Grand Canyon. That road goes up to 8000ft in elevation and in the winter months gives access to both Nordic and Alpine skiing. Yes, skiing in Arizona... About 45mins later we ended-up at our final destination on the north-bound section of our trip; the mighty Grand Canyon!!!

This is my first time seeing the Grand Canyon 'in the flesh'. I've seen so many pictures and video (including those from my parents on their trip to Vegas a number of years ago), but now I was there myself and with Jen. We again sorely missed our jackets, but with a good sweater it worked. We walked down to the first viewpoint and guess what... Dutchies!! Yep, it doesn't matter where you go in the USA, there are always Dutchies to be found. In May in northern New Hampshire on top of a mountain pass, on top of the WTC in July (when it was still there....) or at the Grand Canyon in November. We're everywhere... Yeah!

After the required photo-ops we checked out the Visitors Center and the bookstore (called 'Bookstore and More'). We found an awesome gift for one of our Bailey-sitters and left around 4.45pm to take the drive to the east-entrance/exit of the park. During that drive we stopped a few times to take in the Canyon at sunset. Absolutely stunning!! Pretty hard to take nice pictures too, but once a get a good one, it's absolutely beautiful.

Since it was now 5.30pm and we left at 8.30am and had to get back to Wickenburg we decided to take the fast-route (US-89 south to I-40 west to I-17 south to AZ-74 to Wickenburg) and only 3 hours later (with a stop at Wendy's for some dinner) we where back where we started some 13 hours and 450 miles ago.

I can honestly say that it was one of the best days of my life... Mountains, driving, spending time with my wife, the Grand Canyon, meeting fellow Dutchies, on vacation, just loved it. Thanks God for creating such a beautiful place to explore and enjoy.

-- SUNDAY
After a day like the one we had yesterday we decided to 'stay-put' today and after a good night sleep and some breakfast we went to church with Mom and Grandma. It was my first Catholic service that I can really remember and it was very different from our regular weekend gatherings. The service itself is very liturgic and structured, but some of the songs were actually pretty recent. Unfortunately the priest did not appear to have a good day since his message on purgatory was delivered like he either didn't believe it or he was just generally not enthusiastic about it. After Church and soul-feeding it was time for some good body-feeding at lunch in a local restaurant. I saw that they had Country Fried Steak (European translation: Schnitzel) so I was good!

One thing Jen and I were hoping to see today was the Minnesota game. We found a local sports bar that was showing the game. During the 2nd half Mom joined us and were able to witness Minnesota give the Giants one of the worst losses in while. Eli Manning will probably wish to erase that game from his memory, but it gave the Vikings a decent shot at the wild-card race.

Feeling good about the outcome of the Viking game Mom gave us a little tour of Wickenburg. She showed us a few places she looked at before moving in to her current home and drove by another ranch she was looking at last year to board Bart. One of the interesting things about Wickenburg is that all the houses are either the Pueblo / Adobe style houses or single-story ranches. Not a single two-story house to be found. Local building code perhaps?

Sunday-night dinner was chicken and wild rice followed by Pure Country, a movie with George Strait. Better than I thought it would be. We topped-off the evening by another round of Gin 13 and packing for the flight home tomorrow. Yep, time to leave the sun and Arizona behind again tomorrow. Sigh...

-- MONDAY
Since our flight left at about 10.50am, but our Super Shuttle was to pick us up at 7.30am at Dell Web Memorial - and since Grandma had a cataract appointment at 7.45am it was a pretty early rise for us. Luckily we packed everything the night before. The drive to Phoenix was beautiful. Pretty quiet and we were able to see a good ol' AZ sunrise on our last day!

We were at Dell Web around 7.15am and said our goodbyes and following some last-minute photos with Grandma we played some more Gin 13 until the shuttle arrived. We continued our game until we reached the airport. The hour-long drive seemed a lot shorter this way. After a quick bathroom break we checked-out the airport bookstores and magazine stands until it was time to find our gate.

The flight home was pretty uneventful with only a slight delay in Denver, but otherwise not much happened. We played some more cards, Jen slept some more, I read some more and at about 6.30pm we were back in - a rainy - Ohio. One of the good things about coming home after a trip is to see Bailey again. Makes the post-travel blues a lot easier.

All-in-all, a great trip. Thanks Mom and Grandma. Hope to see you again soon!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Just Ours

Niels and I just returned from one of our favorite places, the VV B&B in Grand Rapids, MI. We had planned to visit my old stomping grounds a few weeks ago, but attending a shower for one baby and the dedication of another was a little too much for me in the days following our miscarriage. So we rescheduled our fix for this weekend.

One of the things I miss about GR is the local radio station. On Saturday mornings, I would sleep in, dozing in and out of consciousness as I passively listened to the weekly recap of Focus on the Family. Niels and I both like to have a radio on as we sleep, so I adjusted the dial before we fell asleep on Friday night.

Our small group is studying "Sacred Pathways," based on the book by Gary Thomas. The general idea is that we all connect with God in different ways. For example, for some, being in nature draws them closer to God. For others, being outdoors draws them closer to bug bites and allergies. I've often joked that God speaks to me through sleep. Most of my book was written when I was awakened in the wee hours with an inspirational thought. I'd drag myself down the hall, type up my thoughts as they came, and trudged back to bed. The next morning, I'd read what I wrote as a reader, not the writer, in grateful amazement. I overcame countless blocks that way.

My mind has been whirling with lots of thoughts lately. Mostly due to my health. Applying for disability. Losing our baby. The biopsy on my right breast scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday).

Saturday morning, God spoke to me through the radio recap. The first segment was on adoption, a way by which Niels and I are excited to expand our family when we become eligible. (Agencies rightly want to give newlyweds time to solidify the foundation of their marriage). The second segment was on divorce, obviously a topic close to my heart. And this segment brought me peace because I felt comforted that I had done what God called me to do, and now, as I focus on my health and marriage, God has raised up others to continue the ministry I was doing. The third segment was about a couple who lost their baby at six weeks, same as us.

Niels and I have talked a lot about grieving our little one. On one hand, we don't want to fixate on it, but we also want to be realistic about our loss. We wanted this baby. We're ready to have a baby. We love this baby. One of our good friends is due the week before we were. We're so happy for them, but it is difficult not to make comparisons as we visited with her this weekend. Grief is grief, and it always comes in stages. My friend's due date will be bittersweet. We know that, but we also love our friend enough that we'll find a way to celebrate in the midst of our sorrow, even though we don't know what that will look like yet.

I realized this weekend that my delayed immediate grief may be related to the fact that on the day I was miscarrying, the doctor found a lump in my right breast. I've had ultrasounds and mammograms and a surgical consult and so far, the doctor hasn't been able to rule out cancer. So tomorrow I'll have a biopsy done. It sounds wierd, but my baby and my breast lump are almost one in my mind. The same ultrasound technician looked for our baby and found none, and examined my breast and found a lump. We're optimistic that we'll have an all clear by this weekend, but there's a possibility that I may not. But getting that answer will make an end to the "miscarriage and cancer scare" segment of my life.

Niels and I think that if I hadn't been pregnant, we wouldn't have found the lump. If we wouldn't have found it, we wouldn't have had it checked out. It's a 6cm lump, so it's grown (growing?) pretty quickly. Maybe our baby sacrificed his life for ours. We'll never know for sure.

As I listened to the couple who lost their baby, I felt God tell me it was time to give our baby a name, to make him (or her) real, to have a way to talk about him as the person we hoped he would be, without having to say miscarriage or losing our baby. I woke Niels up and almost immediately we agreed on a name. Jo. Just Ours.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

American Dad is here!

After three months of wedded bliss, the honeymooners are starting to be social again. This weekend American Dad is here. He arrived yesterday after starting very early in the morning in Minnesota. One missed flight and luggage reunion later, we were on our way to the de Jong Resort and Spa.

We started Dad off by showing him our new church, where Niels and Dad hung out in the tech room and Jen continued learning the ropes in her new job at the bookstore. After the service, we came home for some yummy beef stew and Dad's initiation into the cult that is Catan.

After that, Dad enjoyed his Christmas gift to us, a very nice infrared sauna, while Jen and Niels crashed.

This morning, Jen slept in while the boys went back to church to run lights for today's service. When they get home, it's off to the Inventor's Hall of Fame, just up the road in Akron. From there, it's lunch at Damon's where we hope to catch the hapless Minnesota Vikings or the surprising Packers on one of the screens not reserved for the Browns or "Super Bowl 41 1/2, aka the undefeated Colts v. the undefeated Patriots.

Then it's probably nap time for Jen and guy time for American Dad and Niels as Niels picks Dad's brains on how to conquer all things mechanical around the house. Our small group is coming over at 7 and Dad will have a chance to meet some of our "little off" friends.

Monday Niels is back to work. This is neuro week for Jen, with appointments with her new Ohio neurologist, physiatrist (rehab doctor) and a follow up with her neuropsych who will tell her the results of her six hour test in September. With American Dad's background in rehab, we're hoping he can help us with Jen's Social Security application.

American Dad's headed back to the not-yet-frozen tundra of Minnesota on Tuesday night.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Little Off

It's Sunday night and our small group just left our house. We have been so blessed by this new group of friends. Their friendship has been so meaningful to us, especially in the last few weeks. Most of all, they have been a picture of God's grace on us as a young couple.

Several weeks ago, we were back in GR sending off another family to the other side of the world. In addition to wishing them safe travel in their new adventure, we visited most of our favorite GR spots, including Jen's former church, KCC. It's no secret that Jen has missed her old gathering spot, but this time, the longing was a little more intense. As we talked about it, we realized that as much as we have enjoyed being part of our house church in Canton, we longed to be part of a larger community. Being at KCC that weekend crystallized our desire. We had been visiting a church in Canton, but after a time adjustment with our house church, it had become more difficult to attend regularly. We realized that we felt something was missing if our weekend didn't include a Rivertree service.

When you attend a large church, it can be fairly easy to slip out and away. When you attend a small house church, the decision to worship elsewhere is more difficult. It's hard to articulate a sense of being called away because it feels like a personal rejection of those we love. We began to pray in earnest that God would give us clear direction that our desire to make Rivertree our church home was God's leading.

God answered loud and clearly. One weekend, our house church participated along with Rivertree in a project called iServe. Rivertree closed the church doors one Sunday and instead organized work projects throughout the city. Rather than talking about serving the community, we served.

Our group met at a local park with some others from the church. We weeded. We planted flowers. We mulched. We picked up trash. And we painted a swingset. Niels and I were especially excited about the event because our biggest apprehension about joining Rivertree is that we didn't know anyone there yet. In fact, the house church was everyone Jen knew in Canton! We prayed that if God wanted us at Rivertree He would show us by provided us with some new friends that Sunday.

As soon as we got there, we were asked to fill out some paperwork. Jen made a comment that she didn't know Niels' cell phone number because it's saved in her cell phone as "Sweetie." A young couple nearby heard us and laughed with us. They introduced themselves and we ended up working together most of the morning. Before they left, they told us about their small group (Thrive groups, in this case). We promised to check them out the next night.

The next night we visited the group and met some others. We felt immediately welcomed and at ease. Niels really hit it off with the tech guy from the church, which answered a prayer we've had for him to find his place to serve. This same guy casually mentioned, without knowing anything of my background, that the church library/bookstore was looking for someone "very, very part time." Niels and I looked at each other and smile. We were home.

Since that night, Niels and I have spent many nights with our new friends, watching movies, worshipping, and serving together. Niels is now the master of lights on the tech team. Jen is now EMPLOYED at the bookstore. Two of the women have been especially good friends in the last two weeks, going to the doctor with Jen and checking in on her, especially in the first few days after the miscarriage.

Because the group is very tech oriented, they made a video of themselves. They showed it to us that first night. Jen's previous small group, in GR, had a tongue-in-cheek name, The Zeros. This group is a little off. They are. we are. We're home.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What Makes a Mother

Last night I was looking at a site for others who have experienced miscarriage and found this poem. Niels and I are doing pretty well emotionally, but this had us both in tears:


WHAT MAKES A MOTHER?

Written by Jennifer Wasik
In memory of Zachery Wasik.


I thought of you and closed my eyes
And prayed to God today
I asked "What makes a Mother?"
And I know I heard Him say.

"A Mother has a baby"
This we know is true
"But God, can you be a Mother,
When your baby's not with you?"

"Yes, you can," He replied
With confidence in His voice
"I give many women babies,
When they leave is not their choice.

Some I send for a lifetime,
And others for the day.
And some I send to feel your womb,
But there's no need to stay."

"I just don't understand this God
I want my baby to be here."
He took a deep breath and cleared His throat,
And then I saw the tear.

"I wish I could show you,
What your child is doing today.
If you could see your child's smile,
With all the other children and say...

'We go to Earth to learn our lessons,
Of love and life and fear.
My Mommy loved me oh so much,
I got to come straight here.

I feel so lucky to have a Mom,
Who had so much love for me.
I learned my lessons very quickly,
My Mommy set me free.

I miss my Mommy oh so much,
But I visit her every day.
When she goes to sleep,
On her pillow's where I lay

I stroke her hair and kiss her cheek,
And whisper in her ear.
Mommy don't be sad today,
I'm your baby and I'm here.'

"So you see my dear sweet ones,
your children are okay.
Your babies are born here in My home,
And this is where they'll stay.

They'll wait for you with Me,
Until your lesson's through.
And on the day that you come home
they'll be at the gates for you.

So now you see what makes a Mother,
It's the feeling in your heart
it's the love you had so much of
Right from the very start

Though some on earth may not realize,
you are a Mother.
Until their time is done.
They'll be up here with Me one day
and know that you are the best one!"

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Love and Loss

Niels and I are approaching our three month anniversary! We love being married and are so happy that God has brought us together, though it would have been nice if He would have done it about a decade earlier! We've become homebodies, with hardly any of the travel that defined our courtship days.

We view our first year of marriage as sacred as we are learning what it means to be one and develop our own family rituals and traditions. One of our favorite rituals happens at bedtime. Niels' dad gave Jen a Dutch children's Bible, mijn eerst bibel. Each night we've read a chapter in the Bible, allow Jen her daily Dutch lesson, as well as ending the day with God's word. Then Niels gives Jen a top 5 list of things he appreciates about her. (Jen's friends will recognize this exercise as she has often asked them to list a few things they appreciate about their spouses). And then we pray together and share our day. Last week, we finished the children's Bible and started the "real" Dutch Bible. With Niels' parents coming in December for their first American Christmas, I'm hoping to be able to carry on a more significant Dutch conversation than "hello" and "good night!"

This past week, we've also faced our most difficult challenge as a married couple. Before we had a chance to formally announce our pregnancy, Jen miscarried on Monday, the 15th. It's been a painful week, both physically and emotionally, with some additional complications that are still being addressed. We were looking forward to our June baby, but we trust that God is taking good care of baby DJ for us.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Goodbye Tabby

Yesterday we received the very sad news that Tabby, the much , four footed best friend of Jen's nephew, CJ, was put down. He was 13. My brother, Chris, had Tabby, a chocolate lab, when he met his wife, Kelly. Kelly had a chocolate Cocker Spaniel, Tyler. My first memories of Kelly revolve around the love she had for those dogs. She would make them little outfits for each holiday (and even some just for fun). She taught them the greatest tricks. Never mind the basic shake, roll over, and army crawl. They had a little treat apparatus that they could manipulate--on command--to get their own treats. They were so well behaved.

When Chris and Kelly's miracle son was born, Tabby and Tyler greeted this newcomer lovingly and graciously took a backseat in the family pecking order. Soon they because his best friends, patiently let him pull on their tails and cuddle with them for nap time.

Niels had a chance to meet both Tabby and Tyler this spring when we were in Minnesota for our wedding shower. As soon as we walked in the door, CJ pulled us by the hand to introduce us to his friend. "Ta da! This is Tabby and this is Tyler," he said proudly in his best cowpoke drawl. Niels knows he married into a family where pets are family, not just dogs or cats, and he has adjusted well, with his new second best friend, Bailey.

In honor of Tabby's passing, Bailey and I had a special day. I took her on a car ride to run my errands. She got extra treats and extra tummy rubs, and we took a nice long nap together. I know that if Bailey was in Minnesota, she would give Chris, Kelly and CJ a big kiss to try to cheer them up. Tabby will be missed.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Welcome Clog Files readers

Welcome Clog File readers to the Forever de Jong blog. Browse around and come back often. We'll try to update as often as possible... ;-)

Niels and Jen de Jong

Saturday, September 8, 2007

official pix!

More wedding photos are now available. These are from our official photographer. There are several groupings. The first batch is our ceremony.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Official Ceremony Pictures

More wedding photos are now available. These are from our official photographer. There are several groupings. The first batch is our ceremony.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Are You Ready for Some Football???

Ahh...kickoff to the first (Thursday) game of the season is a mere twenty minutes away. I'm still recovering from the shock of living in Canton, OH--Home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame--and making it through the grocery store today without ONE sign promoting football party planning. I'm sure those reading this in Packerland think I must be lying, but it's TRUE!

Given the topic of this post, today's addition to Jen's "
Why I Love MY husband list" must be the Sony 55" HIGH DEFINITION TV we have in our basement. It's so pretty...and big...and clear. We love it. Who wants to come watch football with us?

Reservations now available at the de Jong Resort & Spa
**includes optional day trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, hosted by Mr. & Mrs. de Jong

WEEK 1: Sunday, September 9
Pittsburgh at Cleveland
Philadelphia at Green Bay
Atlanta at Minnesota
Detroit at Oakland
Chicago at San Diego

Monday
Arizona at San Francisco

WEEK 2: Sunday, Sept. 16
Cincinnati at Cleveland, 1
Green Bay at N.Y. Giants, 1
Seattle at Arizona, 4:05
Minnesota at Detroit, 4:05
Kansas City at Chicago, 4:15

WEEK 3: Sunday, Sept. 23
San Diego at Green Bay, 1
Minnesota at Kansas City, 1
Detroit at Philadelphia, 1
Cleveland at Oakland, 4:05
Dallas at Chicago, 8:15

WEEK 4: Sunday, Sept. 30
Baltimore at Cleveland, 1
Chicago at Detroit, 1
Green Bay at Minnesota, 1
Pittsburgh at Arizona, 4:15

WEEK 5: Sunday, Oct. 7
Cleveland at New England, 1
Arizona at St. Louis, 1
Detroit at Washington, 1
Chicago at Green Bay, 8:15

WEEK 6: Sunday, Oct. 14
Minnesota at Chicago, 1
Miami at Cleveland, 1
Washington at Green Bay, 1
Carolina at Arizona, 4:05

WEEK 7: Sunday, Oct. 21
Minnesota at Dallas, 1
Tampa Bay at Detroit, 1
Arizona at Washington, 1
Chicago at Philadelphia, 4:15

WEEK 8: Sunday, Oct. 28
Detroit at Chicago, 1
Philadelphia at Minnesota, 1

Oct. 29

Green Bay at Denver, 8:30 p.m.

WEEK 9,
Sunday, Nov. 4
Denver at Detroit, 1
Green Bay at Kansas City, 1
San Diego at Minnesota, 1
Arizona at Tampa Bay, 1
Seattle at Cleveland, 4:05

WEEK 10: Sunday, Nov. 11
Minnesota at Green Bay, 1
Cleveland at Pittsburgh, 1
Detroit at Arizona, 4:15
Dallas at N.Y. Giants, 4:15
Chicago at Oakland, 4:15

WEEK 11: Sunday, Nov. 18
Cleveland at Baltimore, 1
Arizona at Cincinnati, 1
Carolina at Green Bay, 1
Oakland at Minnesota, 1
N.Y. Giants at Detroit, 4:15
Chicago at Seattle, 8:15

WEEK 12 --De Jong Resort and Spa closed for the holidays.
Turkey Day, Nov. 22
Green Bay at Detroit, 12:30

Sunday, Nov. 25
Denver at Chicago, 1
Houston at Cleveland, 1
Minnesota at N.Y. Giants, 1
San Francisco at Arizona, 4:05

WEEK 13
Sunday, Nov. 29
Green Bay at Dallas, 8:15 p.m.

Dec. 2
Detroit at Minnesota, 1
Cleveland at Arizona, 4:05
N.Y. Giants at Chicago, 4:15

WEEK 14:
Dec. 6
Chicago at Washington, 8:15 p.m.

Dec. 9
Dallas at Detroit, 1
Oakland at Green Bay, 1
Minnesota at San Francisco, 4:05
Arizona at Seattle, 4:05
Cleveland at N.Y. Jets, 4:15

WEEK 15: Sunday Dec. 16
Buffalo at Cleveland, 1
Arizona at New Orleans, 1
Green Bay at St. Louis, 1
Detroit at San Diego, 4:15

Dec. 17
Chicago at Minnesota, 8:30 p.m.

WEEK 16: Sunday, Dec. 23
***RESERVED FOR AMERICAN FOOTBALL 101: DUTCH EDITION***
Green Bay at Chicago, 1
Cleveland at Cincinnati, 1
Kansas City at Detroit, 1
Washington at Minnesota, 1
Atlanta at Arizona, 4:05

WEEK 17: Sunday, Dec. 30
***RESERVED FOR AMERICAN FOOTBALL 102: DUTCH EDITION***
New Orleans at Chicago, 1
San Francisco at Cleveland, 1
Detroit at Green Bay, 1
St. Louis at Arizona, 4:15
Minnesota at Denver, 4:15

SUPER BOWL XLII
Sunday, Feb. 3
***actual games showed to be determined by the powers that be at CBS, FOX, NBC and ESPN/ABC, though the owners of said HD TV are willing to making harassing phone calls and obnoxious emails to persuade said powers to show desired games. The below list is only a sampling of our potential guests known preferences. Availability to the de jong Resort & Spa is subject to change without notice. Limited time offer. Maximum capacity: 60 people. Hurry! Supplies are limited. Expires February 3, 2008. ***

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Following Felix

Not too long ago, my mom made a comment in an email to friends and family regarding a recent disaster. The bridge collapse in Minnesota hit close to home. I grew up just outside The Cities. Someone made the innocent and common response of, "I'm so glad your family was okay." Mom was reflecting on the idea that if we truly are global in our thinking, that the unfortunate subtext of that comment is a lack of compassion for the families that are affected.

In recent years, no part of the world has been untouched by trauma--wars, genocide, tsunamis, terrorist attacks, collapses...the list goes on.

I was reminded of Mom's comment today as I read about Hurricane Felix. As of 11pm on Saturday, September 1, Felix is expected to hit "near or to the north of the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao Saturday night or early Sunday morning."

As I type this, Niels and I are in Vermont, where we just returned from the wedding of our friends, Sean and Jessica. Thirty four days ago, we celebrated our own wedding and left the next morning on our honeymoon to the Dutch Antillian island of Curacao. One of the reasons we chose this island (and there were many!) is that it is situated South of the Hurricane Belt. Sadly, the belt seems to be unbuckled this weekend.

Curacao is a stunning island, filled with history of world importance, with wonderful friendly people and a unique landscape that is both typically tropical as well as coral beach desert complete with cacti. We weren't long into our honeymoon when Niels and I started dreaming about a retirement home there.

Our prayers with our new friends in Curacao tonight.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

One Month Down, A Lifetime To Go

Niels and I were able to celebrate our first month anniversary today. Bailey was first to congratulate us--with a 4am request to see the great outdoors. After Niels was back to sleep, Jen slipped downstairs to make a surprise cinnamon raisin loaf for him (Thanks Schmidts & Dudiczs. We LOVE the breadmaker!) But her math was off, so she got the enjoy the new loaf herself.

Once Niels was off to work, Jen worked on her gift to Niels...a new name! Yep! Jen Abbas is now legally Jen de Jong, according to the Social Security office. When she arrived home, there was a nice big package from Bed, Bath & Beyond. Thanks, Basses, for contributing to Jen's culinary collection!

Niels arrived home with red roses for Jen (yay, Niels!) and Niels arrived home to a good cooking test day. Yummy stir fry (thanks again, Schmidts and Dudiczs for the wok!) with apple juice in our new wine classes (thanks, Kennedys!) We played our own version of Go-Fish/Uno with the Mahjong set Jen got in China. And for dessert, Jen made a heart shaped cake.
The night ended with the very good news that Jen and Niels' very good friend, Mark Meyer, got engaged to his new fiance, Lori this weekend. We were very happy to inundate him with our newlywed wisdom and look forward to hosting the couple when they come visit us in Canton, hoping in November for the Viking/Packer game and Hall of Fame tour. (Lori, did you know the football Hall of Fame hosts wedding receptions?!? )

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Friday, August 24, 2007

Dutch Dad's Pictures


Click here for pictures from Niels' dad.

If you were a guest, please send yours as well...don't hold out on us!

The Rose Nose

The intelligence Jen fell in love with... ;-)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The first official pictures

Our photographer, Terry Goodman, just posted the first of our wedding pictures. Take a look.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A wedding memory


This week has been so wonderful and lowkey. I've been spending my time in all things domestic. As I type this, I've got our inaugural loaf of bread rising in our bread maker. We've also been able to enjoy reminiscing about our wedding day.

Niels and I chose July 29 as our wedding day for several logistical reasons, and one very important sentimental one: it would have been my mom and dad's 40th anniversary. My matron of honor helped us make the decision. She reminded me that so much of my life has been about redemption: living my life in response to Christ's atoning work, but also seeking to redeem the hurts in my life, like writing Generation Ex for other adult children of divorce. With the prospect of my own marriage having been such a terrifying prospect all these years in the shadow of my parents' divorces, it seemed very fitting to us to redeem July 29 for our family. No longer is it a day of what could have been. Now, what a wonderful day it was, and we look forward to celebrating forty or more July 29ths together in our future.

In our ceremony, Niels and I both offered tributes to our parents, and our parents each welcomed their new children into their family. But the moment that made me most proud of my parents was when my mom and dad danced together briefly before mom turned dad over to my stepmom, Carole. It was a very symbolic moment for me, seeing my parents set aside their pasts, and for a moment, acknowledge the history that made me come to be. I couldn't have asked for a better gift. Mom has often said that she's happy that Dad found love again, which in instead, I think, is evidence of healing and redemption.

I had a little heads up that the dance would take place, and I was able to choose a song that reflects my thoughts and gratitude for their gesture.

In My Daughter's Eyes
performed by Martina McBride

In my daughter's eyes I am a hero
I am strong and wise and I know no fear
But the truth is plain to see
She was sent to rescue me
I see who I wanna be
In my daughter's eyes

In my daughter's eyes everyone is equal
Darkness turns to light and the
world is at peace
This miracle God gave to me gives me
strength when I am weak
I find reason to believe
In my daughter's eyes

And when she wraps her hand
around my finger
Oh it puts a smile in my heart
Everything becomes a little clearer
I realize what life is all about

It's hangin' on when your heart
has had enough
It's giving more when you feel like giving up
I've seen the light
It's in my daughter's eyes

In my daughter's eyes I can see the future
A reflection of who I am and what will be
Though she'll grow and someday leave
Maybe raise a family
When I'm gone I hope you see how happy
she made me
For I'll be there
In my daughter's eyes

Thank you, Mom and Dad. In this daughter's eyes, I see two parents who love me enough to show me in the way I most wanted to see it.

Our Vows

Several weddings ago, I began asking my married friends for copies of their wedding vows. As our pastor shared with us, sometimes when couples write their own vows, their words tend to be more of a tribute to their intended, rather than a stated commitment of their covenant. I like to have copies of my friends' marriage vows as a way of continued support of their marriage. I use the vows to guide my prayers for them, and my conversations with them. Niels and I included our vows in our wedding program because we welcome and desire the prayers of those who know us, to keep us accountable to covenant we made. For this reason, we're sharing our vows here:

Niels’ Vows to Jen:
With deepest joy I, Niels Olaf de Jong, receive you, Jennifer Ann Abbas, into my life, that we may be as one on this day in a covenant, not just between you and I, but between the two of us together, and the Lord our God. In front of our Savior, our families and our friends, I promise to:
pray for you * love you * protect you * comfort you * provide for you * care for you * guide you * initiate reconciliation with you * forgive you * hold you * cherish you * listen to you * encourage you * and inspire you.

I will support your talents and abilities that make you unique and to lend you all of my strength to all of your dreams in order to make them our own, for the rest of my days as today I pledge not only to make us happy, but to reflect Christ‘s image to the world through our life together.

Coming together from different worlds, born oceans apart, brought together on this day in God’s perfect time, we will now travel together as we will embrace both the joys and hardships that God will allow us to face together and together experience the satisfaction of working through any and all struggles He allows.

I promise that as long as you are alive, I will never marry another. I choose to love you, and I promise to be faithful to you in heart, mind, body and spirit, from better to worse to better again, until death brings us new life.

Jen’s Vows to Niels
I, Jennifer Ann Abbas, joyfully join with you, Niels Olaf de Jong, this day in a covenant, not between you and I, but between the two of us together, and the Savior we seek to serve. In front of our loved ones, who we freely invite to hold us accountable to these vows, I promise: to choose to love you for the rest of my days as I strive not only to make you happy, but to make us holy. I promise that together we will embrace both the joys and hardships that God will allow us to face together and together experience the satisfaction of working through our struggles. I commit to creating a marriage in which our children, our family, our friends and others will see Christ in us and through us as we model His love, His life and His reconciliation. I choose to think the best of you and to follow your lead to seek righteousness over just being right. I promise that as long as you are alive, I will never marry another. I choose to love you, and I promise to be faithful to you in heart, mind, body and spirit, from better to worse to better again, until death brings us new life.

And for our Dutch family and friends.../En voor onze Netherlands familie en vrienden...

Niels' Gelofte aan Jen:
Met grote vreugde, welkom ik, Niels Olaf de Jong, jouw, Jennifer Ann Abbas, in mijn leven, dat wij op deze dag in een overeenkomst, niet alleen tussen jouw en mij, maar tussen ons tweeen, en God onze lieve Heer. Voor Hem, onze families en onze vrienden, beloof ik:

voor jouw te bidden * van jouw te houden * jouw te beschermen * jouw te troosten * jouw te verzorgen * om jouw te geven * jouw te begeleiden * verzoening met jouw in werking te stellen * jouw te vergeven * jouw te koesteren * naar jouw te luisteren * jouw aan te moedigen * en jouw te inspireren.

Ik zal jouw talenten en capaciteiten steunen die jouw uniek maken en zal al mijn sterktes aan al jouw dromen geven om ze samen waar te maken, voor de rest van mijn dagen, aangezien aangezien ik niet alleen ernaar streef om jouw gelukkig te maken, maar ons samen meer op Christus te laten lijken.

Wij, te samen gekomen uit verschillende werelden, elk geboren aan de andere kant van de oceaan, die op deze dag met God's perfecte timing worden samengebracht, samen zullen wij nu door het leven reizen aangezien wij zowel de vreugden als ontberingen zullen omhelzen die God ons zal toestaan zodat wij samen de tevredenheid mogen ervaren van het verwerken van deze vreugden en ontberingen.

Ik beloof dat zolang jij in leven bent, ik nooit een ander zal trouwen. Ik verkies om van jouw te houden, en ik beloof trouw te zijn aan jouw in hart, gedachte, lichaam en geest, van beter tot slechter en weer naar beter, tot de dood ons het nieuwe leven brengt.

Jen's Gelofte aan Niels:
Ik, Jennifer Ann Abbas, verbind mij in grote vreugde met jouw, Niels Olaf de Jong, deze dag in een overeenkomst, niet alleen tussen jouw en mij, maar tussen ons tweeen, en God onze lieve Heer.

Voor Hem, onze families en onze vrienden, die wij uitnodigen om ons aan deze geloften te houden, beloof ik:

om voor jouw te kiezen voor de rest van mijn dagen aangezien ik niet alleen ernaar streef om jouw gelukkig te maken, maar ons samen meer op Christus te laten lijken.

Ik beloof dat wij samen zowel de vreugden als ontberingen zullen omhelzen die God ons zal toestaan zodat wij samen de tevredenheid mogen ervaren van het verwerken van deze vreugden en ontberingen.

Ik verbind mij aan het creƫren van een huwelijk waarin onze kinderen, onze familie, onze vrienden en anderen Christus in ons zullen zien aangezien wij Zijn liefde, Zijn leven en Zijn verzoening modelleren.

Ik verkies om het beste van jouw te denken en jouw te volgen om onder jouw leiding naar oprechtheid te streven.

Ik beloof dat zolang jij in leven bent, ik nooit een ander zal trouwen.

Ik verkies om van jouw te houden, en ik beloof trouw te zijn aan jouw in hart, gedachte, lichaam en geest, van beter tot slechter en weer naar beter, tot de dood ons het nieuwe leven brengt.

(Since we are hoping to raise any children to be bilingual, you can also pray for my Dutch language skills!)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

We're home!

We're home from our amazing trip, but the honeymoon is far from over. I love being married to Niels!

Here's the view from our room at the Breezes resort in Curacao. What a beautiful way to start our married life!

To see a few more pictures from the week up to the wedding through our honeymoon, click here.

If you were a guest at our wedding, we'd love to see your shots as well.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Married now... ;-)

OK, still a place-holder, but we're married now !!! Check back soon for the launch of our virtual family to complement our real family.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Becoming de Jong

Since we're not married yet, please check out our progress at: Becoming de Jong