Wednesday, August 29, 2007

First Month of Forever

Today is our one month anniversary!!! Lots has happened in the last 31 days, and it's still easy to say I'm thrilled to be Mrs. Niels de Jong.

In honor of our first 31 days of marriage, here are top 31 reasons I love being married to Niels:
  1. He is a godly man, worthy of my heart and definitely worth the wait!
  2. He cracks me up. We laugh a lot!
  3. He appreciates the little things I try to do for him--be it Rasta Pasta or burnt pancakes. (I cannot make pancakes for the life--and a lifetime of trying--of me!)
  4. He loves our dog, but he loves me more. And she knows it!
  5. He protects me by serving as my advocate and by helping me learn my limits as I continue to heal from my TBI.
  6. He provides for me. Though he encourages me to do what I love, he supports the fact that right now, I love being Suzie Homemaker.
  7. He comforts me. God gives me just the right words to say when I need it--and He listens to God to say it.
  8. He's a human GPS and loves to drive, making him my ideal travel companion. And he loves to travel!
  9. Even when I might disappoint him, he can still see the heart behind my good intentions.
  10. I love to hear him sing bass at church.
  11. He's teaching me Dutch so our kids can be raised bilingually--ik hou van jou, mijn liefje!
  12. He is a peacemaker and an agent of healing in many ways, with many people.
  13. He loves my family.
  14. He loves my friends.
  15. He has an amazing, loving family. And I can still stay that after hosting them for a week before our wedding!
  16. He makes good decisions (most of the time) and helps me make wise decisions (all the time).
  17. He was patient enough to wait for me to see what a great catch he is!
  18. He's so stinkin' smart.
  19. He shares my addictions for Wiki, Google and books.
  20. He makes me a better person.
  21. He takes care of me on my bad brain day, and looks out for me so I have fewer bad brain days than I did before I married him.
  22. He's more accepting of my quirks and faults than I am.
  23. He has hope--even when I don't--that my ability to write will return.
  24. He has made my priorities his own.
  25. I love the sense of partnership I have with him, that whatever we face, we face together.
  26. Since our engagement, we haven't had a single big fight, and when we have disagreed or disappointed each other, the "love bank" is still full enough that we can quickly come to a resolution.
  27. He shares my love for creating rituals and traditions.
  28. I love the amazing vows he wrote and made on our wedding day.
  29. This the only the first of a lifetime together!

Happy Month-iversary, Sweetie!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Friday, August 24, 2007

More Pictures!

Click here for pictures from Niels' dad.

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

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bailey still loves me!

While Niels would say that Bailey has become HIS dog. I present the above documentation as evidence that she still loves me!

Jehovah Jireh on Guitar!

This is a great guitar version of one of my favorite worship songs.

Jehovah Jireh

Jehovah Jireh
My provider
His grace is sufficient for me
(for me, for me)

My God shall provide all my needs
According to His riches and glory
He gave His angels charge over me
Jehovah Jireh cares for me

oh yeah, I just learned how to post videos on my blog. Stay tuned for more.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

One Year Later...House STILL For Sale

It's been a year of incredible changes, but I realized tonight that one thing that hasn't changed is that my condo is still for sale.

Niels and I are keenly aware of this fact, especially as we're on the Jehovah Jireh plan for paying our bills this month!

We're very grateful that we are no longer paying for his apartment, and that we have found renters to help offset some of the costs of the condo. However, it would greatly help our budget to have the place sold.

If you know of anyone looking for a great home in Grand Rapids, please spread the word! You can learn more about it here. Even better, take a peek inside here. Regardless of where you live, we'd appreciate you joining us in prayer that God would quickly unite my home with its new owners.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Remembering Dave

Dave Heilman
June 3, 1971 - October 10, 2003

I made the switch to Gmail about a 18 months ago. Now that it's free, I haven't cancelled my AOL account, but I only check it every few weeks.

This morning I received an email from the mother of a friend of mine. After Dave's death, his mom and I have stayed in touch. I've been thinking about Dave lately. Several years ago, for some reason--probably a friend getting married--I started making a list of people I would invite to my wedding--should I ever marry. After Niels and I got engaged, I found the list, and of course, Dave's name was on it. Dave wanted so much to marry, and thoughts about marriage dominated many of our conversations, including our last one.

Dave's mom asked for permission to use a poem I wrote for Dave on his tombstone. I am beyond humbled and honored that his family would use my words in such a permanent way.

I re-read the tribute I wrote for Dave today and remembered my friend. I still miss him.

From October 26, 2003

Even as a writer by trade, it’s taken me two weeks to put words to the emotions stirred by Dave’s death...

I think Dave's death shook us because he is one of the strongest Christians most of us know. He was always the first one to serve, to make someone feel welcome, to help a person move, to meet the needs of those least likely to ask for help.

He was a faithful volunteer at a soup kitchen for the homeless. He arranged countless work days at a camp nearby. He went on missions trips to Albania and Okinawa.

I don't believe that Dave finished all God had for him to do, but I know that God welcomed him home with open arms and told our brother, "Well Done." I know I will see my friend again.

Dave's death is teaching me about grace. God will redeem Dave's death in ways I cannot yet see. Dave's death is teaching me to fear less and love more. I am learning to tell my friends how I feel about them without worrying about how they might respond. The important thing is not reciprocity; the important thing is that they know they are loved. I am better for having known Dave and part of his legacy is that I want others to be better for having known me.

I Weep For Us

In Memory
David Lance Heilman

I do not weep for Dave
I know he is at peace
I know he is God’s son
I know he is at home.
I weep for us
He is our friend
He is our brother
He is our son.
I weep for us
Dave’s work was not yet done.
His love was not yet spent
God’s plans were not yet fulfilled
I weep for us
Dave left us too soon.
His place at the table of our lives
Is prematurely empty
There is football still to watch
Softball still to play
Trips still to take
Talks still to have
God’s love still to share
I weep for us
Our future has been changed.
You have skipped ahead
And left us behind
Wondering why and when
We’ll see you again
We find our hope in eternity
But we weep
Eternity is still too far away
We love you
We miss you
We can’t wait to hear your giggle again.
So long, dear friend.
Your impact on our lives
Will not be forgotten.

Jen Abbas

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A wedding highlight

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.

A few new blogs

Now that I am home all day without wedding plans to create, I am relishing my new career as a homemaker. Niels has joined me in praying for the return of my ability to write. The ideas don't come as easily or as often as they did, but I'm grateful now for the time to make time to jot down my thoughts when they do come.

For that reason, I've started two new blogs.

In an attempt to return this blog to its focus on issues relating to parental divorce, these other two blogs will be a neat orderly place for me to direct my thoughts as they come.

The Man I Married

A few days before our wedding, I gave Niels' mom and dad handkerchiefs with these words, "Thank you for raising your son to be the man of my dreams." We're only two weeks into our marriage, but every day I am more amazed at the way God has answered my years of prayers. Neither Niels nor I are perfect, but he is perfect for me, and it's clear to me that God has brought us together as a way of perfecting each other.

Today I did a radio interview, my first since the wedding. One of the topics discussed was the way parental divorce impacts an adult child's views of marriage. I remember, early in my adult life, seeking perfect love. I wanted to take the risk out of loving. I was terrified of offering my heart to someone less than fully vetted and committed to not breaking it. Of course, the men I dated were imperfect, and disappointed me, and some broke my heart. In all honesty, I have disappointed those I dated, and I have broken a few hearts myself.

It took me a long time to marry, I think, because it took me a long time to learn that without risk, love is impossible. True love--the kind that is lasting and unconditional and capable of commitment from better to worse to better again--is a mysterious mix of risk and revelation and restraint. It's taking a risk to give someone the opportunity to love or reject you. It's the willingness to open up your heart, share your thoughts, merge your dreams with another. It's the choice to define another by his best moments, and to extend grace and forgiveness in his worst.

Twelve years ago, I began praying for the man to whom I would have the courage to risk my heart, reveal my soul's hidden hurts and highest hopes, and for whom I would restrain my urge to run when love was hard or hidden. Twelve years ago, I didn't know if this list of characteristics would ultimately culminate in an actual, in-the-flesh man who would become my husband, but the process of defining him was a healing one. In the twelve, often lonely, years, this list was my prayer guide for the man I hoped to meet.

Twelve years later, I've met and married the man I've been praying for, and in--at last!--sharing this list with Niels, we can both see God's perfect timing in bringing us together after so long. When I first began praying for Niels, he wasn't living in the States. He was a twenty-year-old college student in The Netherlands. More important than that, he was not yet my spiritual brother. He needed time to develop a personal relationship with our Savior, and to deepen in his maturity as a man and as a Christian.

The list is essentially the same today as it was when I first drafted it in the spring of 1995. I made one tweak in 1999 when I realized my own hypocrisy in ruling out those from broken homes. Though it was still strongly my preference--and one God did chose to grant--I realized I needed to extend the same grace to others that I was relying on for myself.

Over the years, I've shared my list with a select few, mostly women, with the slight exception of husbands of my closest friends. Others have asked for my list, either to help me pray for my husband or to help them consider their own. Now that I have married the man I've been praying for, I'm happy to post my list here:

The Man I’m Praying For…

Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart—I Samuel 16: 7

COMMITTED CHRISTIAN— His faith is his top priority. His obedience has been tested and he has been found faithful. His life and those of his male friends offer growing evidence that his character is more closely resembling that of Christ—Matthew 6:33.

HIS PARENTS OR ANOTHER COUPLE HAVE PROVIDED A MARRIAGE MODEL—A set of mentors to guide us to a joyful, godly marriage—Deuteronomy 4:9. If his parents are not married, I want to know that he has learned from their mistakes, sought to address the negative habits he may have inherited and has found an older couple to be mentors to him (3/7/99).

COMMITTED TO MARRIAGE—It is a matter of integrity that he not only avoid divorce, but that he has an enjoyable, godly marriage that our children will want to emulate. He has never been married and shares my understanding of Matthew 19.

FINANCIALLY STABLE—He doesn’t have to be wealthy, but he needs to be a good steward of what he has so that we can live on his income when the kids come—Deuteronomy 15:10

INTELLIGENT—college-educated, articulate, someone I can talk to, share ideas with and discuss books, sermons and the Bible—Proverbs 27:17

STRONG, COMPASSIONATE LEADER—A man of integrity who embraces his God-given masculinity and to whom I can submit because I know he seeks to love me as Christ loves the Church—Ephesians 5:25-29

COMMITTED TO MINISTRY—Someone who looks beyond his needs to the needs of others, by investing time and/or money to support the Church. A man who can support me in what God has called me to do—I Corinthians 15:58 & 2 Corinthians 8:7

CONFIDENT, YET HUMBLE—Derives self-worth from what God did & who he is in relation to who God is. A man who has been intentional about discovering God’s will for his life and vocation. A man who leads by example—Psalm 78:72

AFFECTIONATE—A man of whose love I am assured by his words, actions, gestures and prayers—Ephesians 5: 25-28.

MY BEST FRIEND—A man who wants to spend time with me in domestic support and in fun, laughs easily and often (and rarely at the expense of another). We have shared interests (faith, music, football, volleyball, golf, water sports, reading…), values and life goals. He is a life-long friend—Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Niels, Thank you for letting God mold you into the man of my dreams--and prayers.

Ik hou van jou, liefje.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I'm Married!!!!

Niels and I are back from our honeymoon, and slowly acclimating to married life. Our wedding day was beautiful. We should have our official pictures soon--and those who were there, please send us your shots too! In the meantime, here's one of my favorites so far: Niels and I with our goddaughter, Hannah, who came all the way from China to be our honorary bubble princess.

You can see more pictures in our Google album.

In other news, tomorrow I will be doing my first interview as Mrs. Jen Abbas de Jong. Leslie Hurst from WAFG in Ft. Lauderdale and I will be talking about my book, Generation Ex. I imagine I might have something to say to say about the wedding, as well.

The interview begins at 1pm Eastern time.