The exciting adventures of the Hillson family.

The exciting adventures of the Hillson family.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Back from sabbatical...

Well, it has been a WHILE.  Still a crazy household; still eight of us; still very, very blessed!

We are coming up on the one-year mark celebrating our household all coming together to make the most unexpectedly loving and supportive family I can imagine.  Let's be honest.  I didn't think we'd last this long--oh, I'd hoped, but there have always been little doubts: "what if we get in a fight?" "What if we move?" "What-if? What-if?" But here we are! Happy, healthy, and on the precipice of some awesome new opportunities!

Just to get up to speed, here's a few things you might have missed:

Let's start with one of our biggest joys and smallest people.  Bethany is potty-training! Almost three kids all toileting themselves... Amazing!! She is so quick and decided she was ready. It's only been a week and she's made it with very few accidents (one particular one during which I ended up with a poop-covered hand, but let's not focus on those times). Baby girl is growing up! Awww, Beffers.  Our biggest trial as a family happened to revolve around her, too.  I have a feeling we will write more about this later, but we had the biggest scare regarding her health and some lumps found on her neck; it was definitely a time of fervent praying, tears, and lots of stress-eating. However, God is good and faithful, and He pulled us--specifically Kasey and Elven--through a crazily emotional roller coaster.  For now, however, we can say that Bethany is a healthy, happy, and basically potty-trained two-year-old!

Jorma and Elven are working their tails off. I'm teaching. But, we all have similar schedules and get the opportunity--most nights--to have family dinner! And Kasey is working hard as ever being Super-Mom to her kids and Master of All Things Edible in the house. Over the past months, we've developed a lot of systems that make what we have WORK! One of those things: Kasey is in charge of food, meal-planning, etc. And she does a darn good job at it! No complaints here! I love having a cooking wife at home (haha).

And boundaries. This is a hard one.  We basically love each other and want to spend all our time together, but we've learned that isn't always the most conducive to family time, marital relationships, or really our relationships with one another.  We need separate, individual family time, which is something we've started doing twice a week.  This small schedule tweak has made a big difference! Schedule! Yes, we have one of those, too.  A whiteboard does wonders for our family schedule and meal planning (thanks, Kasey--you're awesome!).

And, in a nutshell, here we are.  We are all amped to continue our quest to be healthy, and live in a way that puts others before ourselves (love God, love others!).  Hopefully Kasey and I will jump back on the blog wagon, so we can continue the great conversations we started with those few readers (Hi Mom!) from before; we love those questions, emails, calls! This post is to get us back in the swing of things and get y'all caught up to speed on our crazy happenings, but you can be on the lookout for more interesting reads as we gain momentum (and inspiration)!

Good to be back!


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Loving God on a Tuesday ((Psalm 52))

 ----A dad and his sons were wrestling, and as they finished the sons were trying to convince their dad that he was loved more by them, rather than him loving them more. 

It went on to say God, our Father, is the same way. He loves us more than we could ever imagine. We always praise and say, "I love you." God is constantly whispering, "I love you more."----

This really touched me today. I think about my love for my kids and our relationship, and God loves ME more than I love my kids. It made me smile just thinking about the unfailing love that he has for us. I have issues with feeling unloved a lot, so this was an amazing reminder of His never ending love!!!

~ ~ ~

I love that story.  It's so hard to imagine how much God loves us... and to then accept that He loves us that much.  It's also hard for me to feel worthy of such love, but God is constantly reminding me that when I say I'm unworthy or worthless, I'm telling Him that He's wrong and His creation is unworthy.  We've been created to be His glory, and he's made us beautiful--for the purpose of glorifying Him.  He has really been showing me in the last year that He has created me for His delight, and He wants me to be filled with joy.  He made His sacrifice because of this deep >>UNFAILING<< love He has for us.  Where our love is imperfect, and we have trouble showing it all the time, His love is SO perfect, and He loves us when we feel unlovable.  He even loves us when we're doing wrong.  And He is so patient... waiting for us to come to our senses and back into our relationship with Him.

It has been so awesome--yesterday and today--feeling like I'm back with my God.  I've been totally ignoring Him (well, mostly ignoring Him) for awhile, and I forget how unbelievable it feels to be walking with Him and trusting Him for the little things in our lives.  Ah...  blessed contentment.  He is so amazing!

~ ~ ~ 

Psalm  52

 1 Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero?
   Why do you boast all day long,
   you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?
  • David is talking to a specific person here.  I researched it, and it's when David is running from Saul (the king who wants to kill him).  David wrote this psalm towards someone who told Saul David's whereabouts... someone who was betraying David, basically. 
  • I'm thinking about the term "boasting evil," and wondering how I can be like the bad guy here.  I think, for me, it's really easy to boast--outwardly, and/or to have a sense of pride in myself--about things in my life that aren't necessarily Godly.  The world puts a lot of value on things that aren't important in the grand scheme of things.  While I can see that my situation is different than the one David is talking about, I can still see myself as someone who "boasts of evil" because there are times when I put a lot of value on possessions and relationships instead of focusing on God and what's important to Him.
2 You who practice deceit,
   your tongue plots destruction;
   it is like a sharpened razor.
  • The image of a tongue being like a sharpened razor is really interesting.  I'm imagining how a razor cuts--then how skin would heal afterwards.  Our words affect people in such a way that after we say something cutting, the person never really is the same again.  The wound has to heal, but even then there's a scar.  And, scars do fade over time, but they never really disappear.  There are other places in the Bible that also talk about our words and how important it is to use them carefully.  This is a great visual example of how words can be used violently---that we need to treat our tongue like a weapon--something that can cause "destruction."
3 You love evil rather than good,
   falsehood rather than speaking the truth.[c]
4 You love every harmful word,
   you deceitful tongue!

  • I think this description of the "bad guy" is interesting because there are two ways I'm looking at it.  1) I see the myself in the bad guy.  I see the ways in which I enjoy speaking falsehood (gossiping, in particular) and get pleasure out of hurting others (sometimes it makes me feel good to talk about how other people fail because then I feel better about myself...  in some ways, I am just as bad as the betrayer because I've betrayed God's commandment to love others, and I end up loving myself and caring more about my feelings than anyone else's feelings).  2)  I can also see this as a warning against the attackers of the world.  The devil and his workers have deceitful tongues; they want us to believe lies (like me believing I'm too guilty... that I should be ashamed of myself).  They love seeing us hurt one another, and they love to encourage falsehoods (lies), whether it's the lies we tell ourselves or the lies we tell others.
5 Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin:
   He will snatch you up and pluck you from your tent;
   he will uproot you from the land of the living.
6 The righteous will see and fear;
   they will laugh at you, saying,
7 “Here now is the man
   who did not make God his stronghold
but trusted in his great wealth
   and grew strong by destroying others!”
  • I see this part as a warning and a reminder that the evil will parish...  it's a reminder to cling to God, to find our strength in Him rather than in our wealth (earthly possessions).
 8 But I am like an olive tree
   flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
   for ever and ever.
9 For what you have done I will always praise you
   in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
   for your name is good.
  • I love this ending part.  I don't really know why he says "olive tree," but I know that God has created us to bear fruit (fruit of the spirit), and the word flourishing (growing more and more.. producing more... blooming... LIVING!) makes me so happy.  I want to be the type of person that flourishes in the way God wants me to (I looked up "flourish" and put the definition below).  I feel like the only way we can thrive like this is to feed on God's word... to get the nutrients from Him that we need.  Otherwise, we will die and shrivel up... gross.  :) 
  • (((Flourish:  to grow luxuriantly, or to thrive.  To be in a state of activity or production.))) 
  • It's interesting.  The verses I read yesterday also talked about God's "UNFAILING" love.  It's such an awesome reminder that while I'm only human and I screw up all the time... God does not.  His love is unfailing.  I pray that I will be the type of person who "always praises Him" and that I can always "hope in His name." 

~ Kasey & Megan

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Leaving a Legacy

Chester watching Jorma & I get Married.
Tuesday night, we got the news that Jorma and Johnni's grandfather, Chester, had passed away from a massive heart attack.  Unexpected.

While family relationships have been sometimes strained, and I didn't have a close relationship with Chester, a death in the family always causes repercussions; the news, the emotions, and difficult interactions ripple out to the outer reaches of the family, spilling over into their personal and professional lives.  We don't even realize how far the effects of our family's tragedies can reach.  I'm not talking about the--pardon my lacking vocabulary--"simple" effect a death has on the individuals of a family.  Obviously there will be sadness.  Obviously there will be regrets and wishes for second chances.  But the greater repercussions we don't realize are the ways in which we affect the world around us and the way our legacy will continue to evoke change in ways we never could have imagined.

When my dad's father died in 2003, I was a freshman in high school, and Dad was my basketball coach.  Grandpa Leonard was an avid athlete and educator.  He lettered in basketball, football and track when he played for Oregon State University in 1945, and he was a constant supporter of my academic, cultural, social, and athletic pursuits.  The last time I saw him, he was cheering me on at a basketball tournament.  He died mid-season, the season my team went on to win the state title. 

During that season, my entire team felt the effect of my grandfather's death.  Both through my dad's coaching and my game, my grandfather's legacy was carried out.  I remember a specific game when we were playing our rivals, and we were up by a comfortable margin at half-time; we tromped to the locker room for a pep-talk, talking loosely, laughing, feeling confident in our ability to win.  Once we'd sat down, I could feel the quiet fury of my father building as he stepped up to address the team.  He started telling us a story about a time in high school when he was throwing the discus in a competition.  He had already beat all of his opponents by far--in two of his three throws--and he was content to not take his final attempt because he'd already won.  When my grandfather realized the choice my dad was about to make, he pushed him to the ground and reminded him forcefully that it didn't matter if he'd already won--he needed to do the best he could.  He instilled the idea in my father that it's not our opponents that matter, but that we also need to compete against ourselves to be the best we can be.  My dad got up, took his final throw, and PR'd (threw a new personal record).  At that moment, in the locker room at Dufur High School, the warmth of contentment slowly seeped away from our team, and a new fire was ignited.  From then on, our season and our team was focused on being the best team we could be. 

My grandfather's legacy went so much further than he could have imagined.  When he was playing, teaching, and parenting, how could he have ever known that the lessons he taught his son would trickle down to a 1A girls basketball team in eastern Oregon?  The 12 South Wasco County players who were in the locker room that day have a memory of Leonard, and their drive to win, their journey to a state title and to other successes in life, has been partially shaped by an ideal Leonard taught his son decades ago at a high school track meet.  Now those 12 women are out in the world parenting, working, competing, and living a life that was touched--even if for a moment--by my grandfather.  We just never know how our legacy will affect the world. 

As I'm writing this post, a song I know very well is going through my head.  I didn't plan on writing about the lyrics of this song, but as I'm singing it to myself, I feel like it's a great addition.  In the song "Legacy," Nichole Nordeman sings:

I won't lie, it feels alright to see your name in lights
We all need an "atta boy" or "atta girl"
But in the end I'd like to hang my hat on more besides
The temporary trappings of this world 

The song reminds me of the distraction of being recognized for my accomplishments and my own contentment and satisfaction with the approval of the people around me.  It can be so satisfying to know or hear that others think you're great, or that you're good at something, or even that they envy you, your possessions or your accomplishments.  But those aren't really the types of things that actually matter when it's all said and done; those aren't the things we can "hang our hats on."  The chorus of the song continues:

I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love?
Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace
Who blessed Your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy

The "You" in this song refers to God, and by my personal faith, I believe that relying on God is what gets me away from dwelling on the material, superficial, unimportant things in my life and helps me focus on serving other people .  Whether or not you believe in God, I think there is an important lesson for everyone in what I'm talking about and even in the lyrics of the song.  If we can ask ourselves the question, "How will they remember me," ("they" being the people in our lives), we can reflect on how we are devoting our lives to the important things.  Are we focusing on money, or are we focused on serving others?  Are we focused on accumulating treasures, or are we focused on nurturing relationships?  In asking myself these questions, I hope I can say that people will remember me for the service I've given God and the service I've given others.  I hope to be remembered as someone who loved everyone and took time to care, foster relationships, and help provide for the needs of others.  How will you be remembered?

(This is a link to another posting I wrote in reflection of my Grandpa Leonard's life:  "Leonard's Overalls").

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Love, Lighting & Honey-Do Lists

With a three-day weekend at our disposal, it was definitely time to kick the home-improvement action into high gear.  It's not often that all of us are home at the same time, so we decided to make the most of it.

To get the most bang for our buck, we decided to divide and conquer.  While Elven and Jorma attacked the big projects like the bathroom, garden, and backyard jungle, Kasey and I decided to focus our efforts on a back porch that required some much-needed TLC.  A few days ago, we had purchased some awesome outdoor lighting from World Market.  We were excited to give it some use, but the back porch required more attention than just stringing up some Christmas lights and calling it good.  The picture to the right shows the mish-mosh of remodeling debris, plants, cookware, etc. etc. that cluttered our porch as of Sunday morning.  With some elbow grease and a lot of determination, Kasey and I were able to create what is now a comfortable place both for our family to eat dinner and hang out, but also a place where we can entertain friends and guests.  Somehow, a household of eight just doesn't seem as crowded when you're eating outside.

We started with some basic organization.  The deck needed to be sorted.  While we couldn't get rid of all the random pieces of our house that need to be stored while we're remodeling, we did manage to combine all of it into one area:  "the remodeling corner."  There you will find a wide array of tools, a door, a toilet, as well as a random set of antlers that we're not really sure what to do with.  We also had a large collection of plant and planters that we weren't really sure what to do with.  While our awesome men were busy constructing a trellis for our tomatoes to grow up (out of reclaimed wood, I might add), we came to the group-effort idea that we could also use our extra pots and planters to create a potted herb garden, rather than taking up much-needed space in the big garden.  A few 99 cent annual buds later, along with our once abandoned pots and the herb starts we'd planted last week, we were able to create a beautiful--and practical--area.  We also started some flowers from seed in planters I'd purchased last year but had been lost in the following downpours--my flowers drowned.

Most of our fixes were easy:  organizing, repurposing, a little spit-shine, etc.  The only money spent on this little project was the less than $40 we spent on a string of round-glass-bulb lights, which we strung along the outside edge of our porch roof, and a paper-lantern light for over our table.  Everything else was polished from its filthy, forgotten state or just a tidied up, replaced piece of outdoor furniture or planter.  What is important here is that we have created a place for our family to come around a table.  Our inside dining table isn't really big enough for the eight of us, and now we have a place where we can join each other for meals.  It's such an important time for all of us, and having the space finished gives us a great sense of accomplishment and pride in our home.


Friday, May 27, 2011

"Happily Ever After"

One of my best friends--of all time--is getting married... tomorrow!  Stacy and Alex are perfect for one another, and I am so blessed to be a part of their day.  Not to mention, I am so, so, so excited for them to embark on their new adventure.  God bless you two!

However, being thrust into "wedding-mode" last night at the rehearsal dinner made me realize how out-of-it I really am.  I haven't been in a wedding, or to a wedding for that matter, since the summer of 2006.  So, it's four years later, and I'm mentally past the whole getting-married part of life.  I'm thinking about home, family, working--you know, figuring out the "happily ever after!" 

Many of you will be able to relate to my subject today.  I find myself contemplating what I once flippantly referred to as my "happily ever after"--that life I assumed I would fall into so naturally after getting married.  I know others who thought they would have that end-result feeling when they finished high school, got a job, finished college, got their masters...  As a child and young woman, I never really planned far beyond the "I DO!"  Marriage was the end-result, or so I thought. 

If I've learned anything in the last four years, it's this:  life doesn't end or begin at marriage or at any other life step.  There is no end-point, no ultimate goal, no stopping point for the countless transitions we encounter.  Last year, I had the honor of being part of a Solid Rock ladies Bible study in which I heard women of all ages, from all walks of life, talk about their frustration about the constant feeling of being "unsettled," or having the feeling of being in "transition." As a recent college grad, newly moved citizen of Portland, and a fairly novice wife, it's obvious that I would relate to their concerns.  What I found interesting, however, was that each of these women were accomplished in their own rights:  wives, mothers, noted professionals, church-members, retirees.  Apparently my fervent hope for a settled feeling would not likely be found by reaching a certain level of adulthood, wifery, or professionalism.

So, that got me thinking.  When are the times I do feel settled--at peace?  My fleeting moments of peace are when I feel satisfied with where I am, content, and I'm so caught up in the moment that I can't take time to worry over, plan out, or run through the countless scenarios of how my next conversation, next day, or next adventure will turn out.  Sad to say, those moments of contentment are few and far between.  Why is that?  Why do we focus so much on what's around the bend instead of what's right in front of us?  I can't seem to stop the never-ending "what-if" machine that's always running in my head, fueling my worry, concern, and monopolizing my time. 

I wish I had a definite fix for the problem.  I believe life is short, so we shouldn't waste all our time thinking about the future--I don't want my life to pass me by while I'm busy planning and worrying.  All I know to do is pray for the discipline to "stay in the moment."  There are daily, minute-by-minute opportunities to make other peoples' lives better, to say something nice, to help someone out, to learn something new, but oftentimes I'm too busy planning or running to my next big thing that I miss the little chances that make life meaningful.  But that's not who I want to be.  I want to be the person who makes her "happily ever after" each second, who purposefully listens, takes action, and engages in life "right now."  So, today--this minute--I choose to be that person.  I refuse to plan what I will choose next.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Read the Minutes: Family Meeting I

[Kasey taps the arm on the reclining camp chair]. "The first family meeting is now in session."

Gathered around our glowing "bbq pit," Elven, Kasey, Johnni, Jorma, and Megan call the first family meeting to order.  We are not organized.  No one knows how to start, and no one really has an agenda.  What's the point then?  Everyone wants to make sure that everyone else is doing okay.  We are all individually happy, but, uncertain, we just want to make sure everyone else is also.

Megan and Jorma came into the meeting wanting to do what was best for everyone.  In private discussions, they'd lamented the idea that Kasey and Elven might decide to move out soon.  On the already emotional Mothers Day, Megan had teared up thinking about the Hillmans deciding to leave sooner rather than later.  The system just seems to work: everyone contributes, everyone cares about everyone else, and everyone gets taken care of in some way.  "It just makes so much sense for us to all live together," Jorma said.  We just wanted it to work for Kasey and Elven.  "I wish we had more room to share with them!"  We

Kasey and Elven came into the meeting fairly confident that the Henson's were still loving them as much as the day that the kids and truck-loads of stuff bombarded their calm and quiet home. They still had that little birdie it the back of their minds chirping, "Your kids are maniacs...the Henson's are going crazy...nobody can sleep in the morning with little Bethany is screaming that she wants her fifth bowl of cereal!"  After much thought and discussion, Kasey and Elven decided that if the invitation was still open to stay, they would stay. It works out so well for everyone. They both love it here, and the kids adjusted better than expected; in fact, they say they never want them to leave. As the time to start everything nears, Kasey frantically shovels down the Hershey's Kisses she brought, sweating and nervous as to what everyone will say about her child-wrangling skills, housekeeping, and worst of all her cooking. As Mommy Megan starts talking, however, the nerves quickly settle.

Johnni darts in and out of the meeting, lounging on the kids' large toy car, grabbing snacks, fixing food, poking the fire.  She is laid back, disinterested in the meeting, but, as always, willing to do her part.

The important things were covered:  money, sex, food...  apparently our basic needs are all being met!  We talked about parenting, sleeping quarters, and our ambiguous months to come.  The meeting led us into swirling spurts of ideas for the future, ideas bristled with the excitement of future possibilities. For fear of sharing too much before our family has come to any conclusions, we will leave you with the conclusion that we are all happy and excited for whatever is next.  Suffice it so say, we have a lot to pray about when it comes to the future of our family, whether it's a combined family, two families whose houses are connected by a complex matrix of tunnels, or if we return to living in separate areas.  Regardless, God has blessed us with the unique living situation we're in now, and we're very happy to continue trusting Him to help us make it work.

"How did Bethany get out of your belly?"

Another amazing fun car ride to school with Brayden. I never realized how great it would be to have to drive him to school each morning. I love that we get that extra half hour of one on one time. It really gives him a chance to get some much needed attention that he doesn't always get being the oldest. This morning he asked me a very unexpected but important question. "How did Bethany get out of your belly?"

Four years ago, when I was pregnant with Madison, Brayden was three, very smart, and very curious. Brayden and I would watch "A Baby Story," and I when the mom was pushing I would say, "That's what I am going to do to get you your baby sister." He would be very excited and ask if it was September yet, knowing that when September came, so would the baby. This was enough information to fulfill his curiosity at the time. This is no longer the case.

I looked up in my rearview mirror and saw a little curious boy with a grin and big blue eyes staring at me, waiting for me to answer. I simply said, "I pushed and she came out," hoping that we could continue the conversation at a time where I wasn't in the car fighting morning traffic. When he looked at me and said, "So you just say "uhhh" and she's out? But how? And why does it hurt?"  I knew I was going to have to go a bit deeper into this topic.

I didn't want to lie or baby it down for him because he is a smart boy, but I also didn't want to go too deep since he's only 6. I thought for a second and explained; God gave Mommies a special place for babies to come out, and that it was called the "birth canal." When babies get too big for their mom's belly, the mom has to push and push and then the baby comes out the birth canal. I then explained that it hurts because Adam and Eve made a poor choice and ate the apple in the garden, and God said as a consequence when you have babies it will hurt.

Brayden was very pleased with this answer and kept giggling. He was sitting in the back of the van pretending to give birth. He said, " I want to do that someday."  I reminded him that only mommies have the special place so only they can have babies. He replied with, "I think you should have another baby. We only have three. I want like ten." Oh, his sense of humor...

When we first moved, I was really bummed that I would have to take Brayden to school every day. He used to get dropped off at the end of the driveway, which was very convenient. I feel like it is such a blessing now having the opportunity to get that quality time in that I didn't even realize I was missing. As I was packing to move, I was so frustrated. I felt like nothing was going right. I was praying and praying for a house that we loved and would be happy in, but everything kept falling through. We were having to stay with our friends and keep stuff in storage. I kept asking myself what I was doing wrong, and I now know. I wasn't trusting God. I should have known He had an awesome plan for us. Not only did we get the house we loved and had been praying for, we get to live in it with our best friends.