Category Archives: Gratitude

Tuesday Grace Letters: Dear Rooks Girls

Mundane Faithfulness

The assignment: Write a letter of love and gratitude to someone who has made a difference in your story. A letter of thanks to someone from your past that has changed your tomorrows. Someone who has loved you well and taught you about life. Write them a letter of love and grace.

I wrote this letter in response to the assignment from Kara at Mundane Faithfulness… click the image or the link to read more letters from other bloggers and to learn more about Kara and her heartbreakingly amazing story.

Trying to figure out who to write that letter to… so very many people come to mind. My parents; my youth group leaders; my middle school teacher, Mr. Small; my high school teacher, Mr. Sanders; my husband; my children and other members of my family… those are all people who without a doubt have had an impact on my life and my story but then it came to me and I knew who it was going to be. My Rooks girls… my college friends who all landed, along with me, on the first floor of our dorm (Rooks-VanDellen) our freshman year at Calvin out of sheer luck (and a little divine intervention). Ladies… I’m already crying.

There were ten of us: Michelle, Kara, Julie, Jenny, Lisa, Sarah, Jonna, Pauline, Amy and Tracey – all strangers (for the most part – Julie I have known my entire life and while she wasn’t on our floor the first year, she joined us there sophomore year), all from different backgrounds and geographic locations and not one of us from Grand Rapids. We came to Calvin for different reasons: it was engrained in our CRC (Christian Reformed Church) blood, we wanted a Christian education, someone we knew went to Calvin and loved it, whatever the reason, however the decision was made, I know we ended up there because God knew we needed each other.

I have mentioned my First Rooks girls in multiples posts as people I am thankful for and about things/people I love. I have said they are my heart (and they are) and I have expressed my love for one gal in particular during a very scary time in her life but I can never say enough how much I love these women and express adequately in words how much they have meant to me in my life. Since the fall of 1996, not one week has gone by that I don’t see, talk to or communicate with in some way at least one of these women – I almost could say not a single day has gone by but I did go to Kazakhstan for 6 weeks during one summer and then I didn’t have the best communication opportunities. I have other wonderful, awesome friends (many of whom are reading this and I hope they know that I love, love, love them, too) and this in no way demeans those friendships that I have with my non-Rooks girls, but something about this group and the time in my life when we became friends means they are precious and sacred to me and beyond blessings in my life – no matter where they are now or how long it has been since we talked – because of them, I am who I am today.

They have seen my worst, pettiest self and still love me. They have stood by me through sadness and tragedy. They have made bad choices right alongside me and laughed with me at life’s absurdities. We have had dance parties in the hallway, endless evenings filled with conversation, desserts and Diet Coke, bridal and baby showers galore and inside jokes that make our husbands roll their eyes. We have celebrated things big and small and cuddled each others’ babies. I refer to them as “Aunt so-and-so” to my kids and I think/hope that their children and my children will treat each other like family as they get older – we have family we are born into and when we are really lucky, we get family we choose as well. Our lives can never be overly filled with people who love us. I pray for friends like these for my own children.

But their impact goes beyond moments and memories; from my favorite people I’ve learned:

  • following God’s direction and calling doesn’t always make sense
  • sometimes keeping silent is a better choice than speaking your mind
  • sometimes you need to speak your mind, despite fearing how the other person will respond
  • asking for help is okay, it does not show weakness
  • asking others how you can help them is important because sometimes they can’t ask for themselves
  • a phone call or a card in the mail for no reason is often God at work and there is great reason for it
  •  friendships take time and investment but even the passage of time will not ruin true friendships
  • I am loved and lovable and have good things to offer the world – they more than cement this knowledge
  • you can be overjoyed with your own news and at the same time be totally heartbroken for a friend who is hurt by that news
  • it’s more than okay to be ridiculous and do dumb things, to let people see you in your cozies with your zit cream on or hear you sing (out of tune) at the top of your lungs and do stupid dances that make you look less than elegant
  • Double Stuff Oreo cookies are the best
  • television shows are better-enjoyed with friends
  • real friends will still love you when you watch the same clip from a made-for-tv movie over and over again because Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s back is/was hot and, in fact, will watch with you all of those times; they will also cry with you for more minutes than you care to recall after viewing Luke Perry’s movie, “Eight Seconds”
  • judgement and mean spirited-ness have no place in friendship

Because of you, I met my husband and have my little boys. From you ladies I’ve learned how to be a better person, a better wife, a better mother and a better friend. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for you if you needed me. Thanks for taking the high school version of myself and helping turn her into the person she is today. Love you, Michelle



A comparison of sorts

Not too long ago someone popped up on Facebook that I hadn’t seen before and we friend-ed each other and sent along hello notes to see how life was going since we’d last seen each other in high school. You know how it goes, “How’s life? We should catch up the next time you are in town… cute kids, etc…” I thought nothing more of it until I started reading his status updates and they made me realize how life had taken us down very different roads, like laughably different.

And as is bound to happen, I thought about how these things occur… how two people end high school both as class officers (he being our president and me being treasurer) and almost twenty years later in the span of a week he is having a private dinner with the President of the United States and partying at the same event as Jay-Z and Beyonce [both true stories and not exaggerations] and I am carting my kids around to swimming lessons and camping [also true and far less glamorous]. And that is not at all to say that I would want his life, or am jealous of where he is and what he is doing (okay, a little “jealous” because, Sasha Fierce people), but it is really to note how anything is possible in life. Anything. And the choices we make in what school to go to, who are friends are, where to live and what priorities to have make the difference in where we end up – no matter where we start out. Two roads indeed diverge and we choose one or the other at every juncture.

yearbook_classofficerSenior year class officers (left) and junior year (small inset on right) – humorously, all the same people two years in a row, mostly because I think our class was too, shall we say, lazy to elect new people (clearly we were not so intimidating that others wouldn’t run, to wit: the photo on the bottom right is also me and yes, I am wearing a turtleneck, denim shirt and a scrunchie on my arm. I am Michelle Fierce.)

Yes, I had that momentary twinge of “wouldn’t it be nice to have dinner with the President?” Because, hello, he is THE president and I am only human. But just as quickly as that thought came another one reminded me that his life wouldn’t be the life for me. Sure I was the girl who did everything in high school but now I’m the girl who does what she wants and there is a difference. And Mike is living the life he wants and making the choices that will take him where he wants to be (which I believe I can safely say is not at swim lessons and sleeping in a tent). But different isn’t better and different isn’t worse, it is just different. So instead of maybe being a bit jealous, I can be a whole lot more happy that it takes all kinds of people to make the world go round (and be super proud of where life has taken people I knew way back when). I can also take a moment to remember that just because someone’s highlight reel on Facebook is pretty fabulous, doesn’t mean they are any happier or better off, they are just living a different life. And good for them… it gives me a glimpse into an alternate reality and it is my choice to be thankful for the reality that is my own.

yearbook2And because my search for the class officer photo also uncovered a couple other gems from the yearbook I thought I should post them here for your viewing pleasure. Above is a pic of me and my friend, Josh, decked out for the Homecoming pep rally. And because I was also the yearbook editor, I wrote the article that is featured on the page – I was totally that person in high school, the over-achiever. I’d be apologetic about that, but I’m not really sorry. I was also the girl who was on winter homecoming court my junior year (below). And, yes, Mr. Junior has black painted nails; he’s now all grown up, married to a girl we went to high school with and has two kids.


Appropriate thanksgiving…

ememby_rejoice_deut12_7We’re on a good streak right now and I’ve often heard that when things are going well, we often forget to give God the thanks and attention He deserves. We’re real good at complaining, asking for help or lifting up our anxiety and concerns to Him, etc… so I want to take a moment to give God His due in all this. Certainly His hand has been in all these things going on (which, I realize begs the bigger question of where His hand is in things when they are not going so great; the great problem with pain and evil. I’m not about to get in a theological debate here, but I will say, He’s there in those things, too.) and I am so thankful and full of rejoicing in knowing He has guided our path all along the way.

In the span of the last few days my dad has gone into the hospital with chest pains and returned home after having a stent put in, feeling way better than he did before he went in, we closed on our new house (quite possibly our forever home) and found out that all is good with the sale of our current home (the appraisal came back at value and with no additional repairs). Thank you, God. I feel overwhelmingly blessed and lucky. My dad reminded me that God helps those that helps themselves – not sure I wholeheartedly adhere to that thought since I believe He also helps those who cannot help themselves – but I do agree that we have to do our part in things (God wasn’t going to sell our house without our cleaning and packing – not that He couldn’t, just that He maybe wouldn’t; and if my dad hadn’t listened to his body and taken himself to the ER, things could have taken a very bad turn), but that without Him, it all would not have gone as smoothly and as low-stress as it has gone (despite my useless worrying). God’s timing is perfect, but it is not always ours (if it was, for sure Simon would be working first shift by now) but He sees the bigger picture and brings it all together so much better than we ever could have imagined. There are often lessons to be learned along the way and sometimes those lessons rather suck, but without lessons, we would never learn. So I’m thankful it’s not my problem to figure it all out, but it is my job to listen to His voice as best I can, give credit where credit’s due and enjoy the blessings He’s bestowed.

Our family is currently in the midst of a season of change and I know it will bring some growing pains, but it’s the trials in life that make us stronger and condition us to do the hard work that can lie ahead. We are also entering a season of thanksgiving and are able to give thanks and recognize that we are so very blessed. Hopefully we are doing that without it seeming like bragging because that is the furthest thing from how I feel… all this goodness was not of my own doing and I didn’t receive it because I did anything right but because I have a good Father who gives good gifts. And it’s a beautiful thing.


Toi, from Life of TOI, is participating in “Blog every day in May” from and I am loving the prompts and her posts, which makes me wish I were participating, but realistically that is just not happening… but I am going to get some inspiration from one of the prompts from last week…

10 Things That Make Me Really Happy

  1. Great family days where you get to the end of them and you can just smile thinking about all the fun that was had. Mother’s Day was one of those days for us.
  2. Spending time with my girlfriends – my Rooks girls from college, my other college friends, my MOPS friends, my small group friends – nothing refreshes the soul like talking with friends.
  3. Afternoons at the beach
  4. Creating – whether it’s crafting, doodling, graphic design, cooking
  5. Reading – magazines, novels; hard cover, soft cover, on the Kindle, on my phone
  6. Sunny days that are cool enough to have the windows open with a cool breeze coming through.
  7. Live music – in a coffee house, praise band at church, concerts
  8. Really good food, especially Mexican or Tex-Mex
  9. Things that make me unexpectedly laugh
  10. Good hair days

Speaking of hair – it’s almost the day when I’ll be getting my hairs chopped off to donate. Check out my hair board on Pinterest and come back here and let me know which short haircut you like…


Cha- cha- changes…

Well, things are in the works, many, many things… as predicted/anticipated, 2013 is the year of change. Our house officially goes on the market Thursday and today the realtors came, staged the house and took photos (which I am super excited to see because the house as never looked so clean and neat, like really ever) and we have our first showing tonight. Last Wednesday Simon and I went house hunting for the first time and found our dream house, which we made an offer on, an offer that was subsequently accepted that afternoon. We are not time-wasters or huge comparison shoppers, we know what we like/want and when we see it, we have no problem committing to it. I call us efficient; this way of life doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for us.

Since we made the deal I have not looked up any other houses online and I removed all the handy home search apps from my phone; barring any huge surprises, we have found our home that is seemingly perfect for us for where we are in life and what we hope for our family moving forward. I do believe you know when you find your place, you know it is where you can envision your family and when you find it, you don’t ignore it (especially in our current housing market where homes are literally on the market for hours before they are unavailable). And the fact that Simon and I were able to agree on a home, that is in itself a miracle and answer to prayer; we are both what you might call stubborn and opinionated, which is great when we agree but not so great when we are opposed.

Our realtor felt strongly that our finding a home to move into was going to be more difficult than selling our house, which is why we opted to move forward with purchasing prior to selling our current home. I am keeping my fingers crossed and saying many a prayer that this is indeed the case and that we will get a quick offer. I’m trusting that God led us this direction because it is the least stress-free, but I also know that things aren’t always neatly wrapped up. So if you think of it… send some happy thoughts and prayers our way for a quick sale, preferably at asking price, because that would be a nice bonus.

So, we have the house thing underway which is a bit of a big deal and will in all likelihood mean that Liam will be changing schools come this fall – we could leave him at his current elementary school but when he found out he could ride the bus to his new school, he quickly said that was where he wanted to go because he “would just make new friends on the bus.” Love my buddy and his go-with-the-flow attitude. He also wanted to be sure he could still have play dates with his BFFs from his current class. Sure thing.

My business partner also left a package on my desk this weekend letting me know I had a new job title: President. So there’s that.

I look back at that list from just three months ago marvel at the answered prayers. Simon hasn’t yet moved to first shift (there is still hope and I am still hopeful) but the rest, taken care of. God is good. Life is good. Other questions arise and other things come up that need to be prayed over or dealt with, but there is no doubt about it, change… it’s a coming. Lately I’ve been really feeling like a grown up. Funny how that happens. Most days I feel like I’m just pretending. Anyone else with me on that one?

And in case you were wondering, here’s a pic of our new house… hopefully I’m not jinxing anything by sharing it!