to the father of my children

You’ve been a dad for almost four years now. A great, amazing, wonderful dad.

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Yesterday was Father’s Day and it was my joy to make a big deal out of you. 🙂 Because being a really amazing father in this day and age is a BIG DEAL. Being a dad who loves his kids, teaches them important things, looks out for the well-being of their soul, spends quality time with them, loves their mother with a fierce and kind love, shows them what a godly man is and does: that is a big deal.

And I’m so grateful that all of those things are so very true about you.

Thank you for loving Jackson and Taylor and the children that haven’t yet joined our family. Thank you for looking to the future and planning financially for our family.
Thank you for taking the kids on adventures, whether in our backyard or miles away.
Thank you for consistently spending time with them in the Word, on their level, and instilling in them a passion for Jesus and worshipping him.
Thank you for playing with our kids. For hitting balls and pushing swings and climbing hills and hiking paths and chasing them until they scream with glee. I love watching you play with them.
Thank you for making your walk with God a HIGH priority, so that you have the wisdom, strength and grace to be a wise, strong and gracious daddy.

I am so blessed to be on this parenting journey with you. I am so glad that the love of my life is also a wonderful father to our children. I look forward to more years of this crazy, awesome, wonderful adventure called family life. You are so much more than a gift to me!

 

on this day…

i have this thing about certain dates that stick in my memory. I love “on this day so and so many years ago” type stuff and certain events in my life are no exception.

This day, seven years ago. I can remember exactly what my day looked like and what I did. I think its probably because I was falling in love.

I was visiting Minnesota after a long, long absence and spent the majority of my time here with one Kyle Puelston. On Valentines Day of 2005, we were just friends and met up for a day at the Science Museum with his three little sisters. I brought him a caramel macchiato from Starbucks, since I’d been trying to convince him that it rivaled his beloved gas station brew and gave the girls some token candy. 🙂

my heart was pretty much gone over him…my resolve to stay “friends’ was fading fast. Though we wouldn’t start dating for a few more months, that week in Minnesota sealed it for me. He was it. There was no one else for me. I was in LOVE. (Capital letters, if you missed that.)

and seven years later, I can say it’s still true. He’s the only one! Happy Valentines Day, my K.W. Take my hand now, we’ll run forever…

christmas memories 2011

its the day after the day after Christmas. 🙂 Jack is happily playing with his new train and tracks in his bedroom wearing his new, self-described “jumping pants” from Grandma Char and Grandpa Rick. His awesome handcrafted work bench is downstairs and he wants to watch a “moomie” (Planet Earth) that Kyle got for him.

Christmas through the eyes of a 2.5 year old is far more fun than merely through my own. He made it so fun to open gifts and his repeated “Oh WOW!”‘s were priceless. On Christmas morning, we drove home from church and Jack fell asleep. He was all cute in his new puffer vest and dapper hat, clutching a stuffed teddy bear. If I hadn’t been driving, I would have snapped a picture, because I just want to remember these moments. They are slipping by more quickly than I want them to!

Jack loved moving the Advent star on our advent calendar and lighting the candles each night when we did our devotional. He said many a “Merry Kiss-mas!’ and would always say that as we said goodnight. It was great fun to give cookie plates to our neighbors and wish them a “Merry Christmas!” too. When we had a Christmas party with our friends the Sullivans and Gulbransons, Jessica made a birthday cake for Jesus and Jack LOVED singing “Happy Birthday” and blew out the candle with joy. We talked a lot about baby Jesus in the manger and the stable, in spite of the stupid dog eating our “gingerbread nativity”. I think he is “catching” that Jesus is the reason for this wonderful season.

the strangest part of the Christmas season of 2011 was that we had NO SNOW! Super odd. I can think of one, possible two other brown Minnesota Christmases I’ve experienced in my lifetime. Hopefully this remains an anomaly and not a typical event! I miss the snow. It’s the one thing that makes winter pretty. However, I am NOT complaining about the warmer temps which have accompanied the snow famine. Last year the snow and cold came early and often and stayed far past it’s welcome. We just need snow by the time we go to Lutsen to ski in February. Please and thank you, God.

We attended several different musical events this Christmas and Jackson loved them all. His favorite Christmas song was “The Little Drummer Boy”, which incidentally was MY favorite Christmas song as a tiny kid. I called it the “Pum-pum Song”. Jack especially notices violins in music or when he sees them being played. It comes out “why-o-lin” when he says it, which is totally adorable. 🙂 I wonder how young is too young to start music lessons? He is so interested in playing and singing and everything musical.

The family events were plentiful and wonderful. I’m so grateful, once again, that we live within close driving distance of both sides of our family. We made cookies and shared cookies, gave gifts and received gifts, played games and enjoyed many cups of coffee. Taylor was fawned over, held and adored. Jackson was made to laugh, giggle and said “STOP IT” when things got too exciting for him. oh silly boy. His aunts and uncles love him to bits.

Amazon Prime saved my shopping bacon this Christmas. Hooray for free two-day shipping and great prices on the stuff we wanted to give! 🙂 I got Kyle a bunch of fun little things to “fill his stocking”, since we gave each other a night at a bed and breakfast to be enjoyed at a later date. We gave Jack an IKEA rug for driving his cars and trucks on, the Planet Earth dvd’s, finger paints, bubbles, and a puffer vest. Kyle did an epic job filling my stocking – I loved it, especially the copy of White Christmas peeking out of the top. We watched that yesterday. I love that movie, schmaltz and all. 🙂

And now 2012 is around the corner. I was pondering a year ago, as I’m wont to do, and love thinking how Taylor was just a twinkle in our eye at this time in 2010. Now she’s here and we love her so much. She has this face-splitting, exuberant smile that is just contagiously beautiful. Though two kids have multiplied my work, they have also multiplied my joy. It’s so nice that God doesn’t give me one without the other. 🙂

I consider the best gifts of the year to be the ones from my Heavenly Father. My wonderful husband, Jack, our sweet new baby girl, the ability to give much to others, a warm place to sleep and so, so, SO much more. And most of all, I am grateful for the gift of a little child that grew into a man who rescued my heart and saved my soul. Merry Christmas indeed!

five years of bliss, bumps and blessings

Five years ago today, pretty much right at this minute, I was walking down the aisle on the arm of a very handsome tuxedoed man. First as Johanna Henderson on the arm of my dad, then back down as the new Mrs. Johanna Puelston with Kyle. It was a beautiful fall day, much like this one. The colors in the trees were as bright as the smile on my face that wouldn’t quit. I was HAPPY. I mean, CRAZY HAPPY. I was marrying the love of my life! And we were going to be together forever.

Today I am still so very happy. The past five years have honestly been wedded bliss. Not without bumps along this beautiful road called Life Together, but so chock full of blessing that I cannot for one minute dwell on the brief moments that have been hard or painful. In fact, those moments have shaped and helped us in ways that the super great days can’t hold a candle to.

The first three to six months of marriage were the bumpiest. We had to learn and study each other as we lived life side-by-side after a long-distance courtship. God worked mightily in both our hearts to teach us to extend His bountiful grace to one another, to love even when it was hard and to let the little things slide. The bumps smoothed out and with great support, wisdom from those around us and lots of praying for each other, marriage just got better and better.

I was thinking today that this is probably the life I pictured four years ago when we celebrated our first anniversary in beautiful California. A house, a couple of kids (one that has yet to appear to the outside world!), a continuation of Kyle’s funky, but lovable work schedule. But its SO much better than I could have imagined. And we’re better off in so many ways than on the blissful day our marriage began. God’s grace has been working in small and huge ways to bring us to a place of deepness and maturity in lots of areas of life.

So basically – I’m blessed beyond anything I could have pictured on the day I thought was the happiest day of my life. 🙂 It’s a joy to share life with my best friend and lover. I’d do it all over again in two seconds, Kyle!

the father of my children

Yesterday, we celebrated Father’s Day. I’m totally beyond blessed to have amazing dad’s surround my life. There’s my own wonderful daddy, the amazing father of my kids and my terrific father-in-law. As we gathered at our home for a classic bratwurst, baked beans and summer salads meal, I was very grateful for these three men. They have all relied on the Lord’s help to parent their children and to provide for their families.

Jack and I made Kyle a card and Jack gave him his first “#1 Dad” t-shirt (thank you, Old Navy for making tasteful, manly ones!). Weeks ago, I gave Kyle the “Insanity” workout program because I couldn’t wait for Father’s Day. 🙂 He’s been using it and I must say…his hard work is paying off. Our afternoon was filled with love, laughter, good food and enjoying each other’s company. We are so lucky to have both our families close and willing to celebrate together.

There are many many reasons why Kyle is an amazing dad:

  • He leads his family with love, humility and grace.
  • He is willing to do the hard stuff of discipline and training.
  • He takes Jack along when he goes on runs, letting him stop and pick up sticks for the 100th time, even though the run turns into a walk.
  • He instills in our children a love for Christian hip-hop. lol. 🙂 You should see Jack and Kyle rock out to Lecrae.
  • He’s always willing to change a diaper, rock a crying toddler, soothe a hurt ego, and have a tagalong while he tries to get stuff done.
  • He entertains Jack while I get dinner ready. This is HUGE. 🙂
  • He looks after the spiritual well-being of his kids and myself. His prayers for us work wonders in the silent places of the work of God.
  • He loves adventure and is eager to show his kids the world.
Yep, I love the man. Not just for the wonderful father he is, but for the loving and caring husband he is as well. Parenting is 127% easier because we work as a team…for that I am SO grateful.

a girls dream

About a month ago, I was asked to speak at the MOMS group I’m a part of at Bethlehem Baptist Church. We were asked to share a testimony of God’s work in our lives, and when I thought about it, I kept coming back to the story God has thus far written in my life…

You can hear the recording of that morning here – I was the first one out of three women that shared. I typed it all up and read it mostly because I didn’t trust my memory and I knew I might cry at a couple points. 🙂 Yes, I’m a crier. As I shared what is most definitely GOD’s story, though sometimes I call it mine…I hoped that it would encourage and bless those who heard it and lift the Lord high.

A Girl’s Dream 

Psalm 139:16 – All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he willgive you the desires of your heart

As a young woman, I had a secret little dream that I never uttered to anyone. Mostly because it wasn’t a special dream or a big dream – it was just a simple dream of a girl. A dream that included marrying someone I had known all my life, finding a place to settle and STAY there, raising our babies near their grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. A dream of a cute little house in a small town, or maybe a suburb, filled with joy and laughter and a life that brought joy to the Giver of all Good Things. I didn’t grow up near my extended family – my parents were MN transplants when they moved here when I was 2 years old. Family vacations always meant a road trip to FL, MS or TN to see my grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. We had wonderful friends here in MN that became like family, but there was always that hole without family close by.

After high school, I found myself going off to college in Indiana and that was the beginning of a journey that would, strangely enough, or should I say gracefully enough, brought me back almost to where I started from. 

This adventure of grace took me to six states and a foreign country in the five years before I came “home”. The miles were many. The lessons were precious. And the ends of chapters were often cliffhangers, the story: beautiful.

In junior high, God very clearly called me to be a missionary to Australia. He never made it clear whether this was a life long call or a short term thing, so when He brought that call to pass in 2003, and then very clearly brought me back to the US a year later due to visa issues…I looked toward going back at some point in the near future. But God had other plans…

He dropped me in Orlando, FL when I returned to the US – 2000 miles from my MN home I had left a year prior. From there, I quickly I transitioned into a job at a camp in Washington State, working as a camp cook with a friend I went to college with.

The theme of my song during all this transition and moving across the country and back again was Joshua 1:9:” Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

And He was with me. He hemmed me in before and behind – clearly making my path before me. My Father was so faithfully by my side, leading me with His kindness and bringing me into communities of sweet believers that challenged and renewed my faith. He carried me through the lonely times of living by myself in a tiny 8 x32 foot trailer and starting over finding churches, community and the best place to get groceries. He brought amazing friends into my life that became like family when I was 2000 miles or more from home and my own flesh and blood. He provided all I needed and much more.

During this time, I received my first email from a guy I grew up with in MN named Kyle. We emailed back and forth for about 5 months and then one day in July of 2004, I woke up to the fact that I really, really liked him and I knew, with a settled peace in my heart that could only come from God, that I would marry him someday.

Two years and two months later, after a long-distance relationship and the accrual of many frequent flier miles, I happily became Kyle’s wife. I married a man I’d known since we were 10 year old kids on the playground. Our mom’s are best friends. Our families shared holidays and events. I’d known him for more of my life than not. God heard my simple dream and gave me the desire of my heart.

I moved back to Minnesota just before our wedding and for the past 5 years, we’ve lived in the same small town half an hour north of here. God gave us a beautiful home and in the same breath, an opportunity to use it for the Kingdom when a friend of mine needed a safe place for herself and her four children after her alcoholic husband abandoned them. But that’s a whole nother story of God’s work in our lives.

Today I’m no longer a weary traveler…God has given me the chance to sink some roots down – into a relationship with a wonderful man that daily shows me God’s grace, into a community, a body of believers, into friendships with new friends that have become old friends. I still get the itch to go on adventures, and God has been gracious to allow us to travel, though on a much less frequent basis than in my single years, but now my adventures are in homemaking and child-rearing. Making a game out of staying in the grocery budget and blowing bubbles for a millionth time because of the joy it brings my 18 month old once again.

Today I want to testify to the goodness of God in the land of the living. Sometimes I wonder why me? Who am I, God? Why have you lavished me with blessings and good when others I know and love are going through unspeakable grief and trials that seems to never end?

Recently I read this from Francis Chan in his book Crazy Love and it gave me some perspective.

“Maybe life’s pretty good for you right now. God has given you this good stuff so that you can show the world a person who enjoys blessings, but is still totally obsessed with God. Or maybe life is tough right now, and everything feels like a struggle. God has allowed hard things in your life so you can show the world that your God is great and that knowing Him brings peace and joy, even when life is hard.

To be brutally honest, it doesn’t really matter what place you find yourself in right now. Your part is to bring him glory…the point of your life is to point to Him.”

I’ve chosen to say: Blessed be Your Name in these times of the sun shining down on me, while the worlds “all as it should be”, and I can only pray that seeing His great faithfulness over and over in my life will sustain me should the road become marked with suffering and I find myself in the desert places. He promises that this world will have tribulation, but in the same breath I know He has overcome even the most horrible things of this fallen world. I ask Him humbly for faith to walk through whatever lies ahead in the story He has written for me.

In the end, I only want to point to Him – whether the road is sunshine kissed and flower filled or dark and rife with pain.

A girl dreamed a little dream – a big God who loves that girl made it reality. He is good.