Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Chloe's Make-A-Wish Trip: Yellowstone Bound

We've barely had time to catch our breath after returning from Lighthouse, but tomorrow we're Yellowstone bound!

In true Make-A-Wish style, we'll be picked up at our house in a limo and transported to the Grand Rapids airport where we'll be flying to Chicago and then on to Jackson Hole, WY. Thanks so much to Erica in the Michigan Make-A-Wish office and Dana in the Wyoming office for putting together an amazing trip for our family!

Here's our basic itinerary in case anyone has any additional recommendations of must-see stops along our route. We'll try to write a few posts while we're traveling, but probably most photos will be on our Facebook pages in case you're interested (C & K). 

Thursday, August 1 - Staying at Signal Mountain Lodge in Grand Teton National Park.

Friday, August 2 - Exploring the Tetons and then heading into Yellowstone. We'll be staying at the Old Faithful Inn tonight and and Saturday night.

Saturday, August 3 - Visiting the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center and more Yellowstone stops.

Sunday, August 4 - Heading towards Mammoth Hot Spring and the Roosevelt area for the Old West Roosevelt Dinner Cookout. Staying at the Canyon Lodge.

Monday, August 5 - Taking a scenic cruise on Yellowstone Lake and then exploring the lakes area. Staying at the Canyon Lodge again.

Tuesday, August 6 - Today we'll be heading out of the park and staying at the Chico Hot Springs Resort.

Wednesday, August 7 - This is the official end of the Make-A-Wish portion of the trip, but we decided that since we were this far west, we might as well extend our trip. We'll be staying an additional night at the Chico Hot Springs.

Thursday, August 8 - We're hitting the road and heading toward Rapid City, SD. When looking for a spot to stay in Rapid City, we happened to find a hotel with an indoor water park. This is what Chloe seems to be mentioning the most at this point! :>)

Friday, August 9 - Visiting Mount Rushmore and other sights in the area. Recommendations?

Saturday, August 10 - Flying back to Grand Rapids.

Someone mentioned to us that our return to Lighthouse was well-timed in terms of reminding us why we're taking this Make-A-Wish trip. While I can't say a day goes by without something reminding me of our family's journey through childhood cancer (will it always be this way?), it has been good to be reminded of what we went through as a family and how much we have to be thankful for. Yesterday while posting on our family blog, I happened to notice Chloe's POP video that our friend Tim Hackney put together for us. The video is an amazing blessing to be reminded of that time in our family's life and to appreciate how far we've come since then. I'll add it below as a gratitude to God and to all of those who have supported us on this journey.

Starlite Shores - a Lighthouse-type retreat here in West Michigan

If you read our reflections of our week at Lighthouse Family Retreat, you know that it was a blessing to us and, hopefully, to others. It seems that we have another opportunity to serve at a similar retreat. Last fall, we felt nudged to start something similar to Lighthouse in Michigan. When we approached the director of Lighthouse, he connected us with the Diekevers family, who volunteered at Lighthouse and who felt a similar nudging. We have merely encouraged them and given them our perspective and they have practically moved mountains to make this happen. They have started Starlite Shores Family Camp, which will be held August 19-25 at Camp Geneva here in Holland. They have 20 families living through childhood cancer who will enjoy a week on Lake Michigan. 

We have been asked to serve and are excited about this opportunity. Acknowledging that we have already raised support for a week at Lighthouse, we have been asked to raise half of the support required to serve. We will need a total of $1,225.00. It is hard to ask for funds again, and we do not ask for an additional contribution if you already contributed to our support for Lighthouse. Several people mentioned wanting to support our trip to Lighthouse, but we achieved that goal so quickly that they did not have the chance. 

If you feel led to contribute financially, to our support for Starlite Shores, please make out a check to Fair Haven Ministries and send it to our address, 150 W. 14th St., Holland, MI 49423. We will keep track of our support and turn it into Fair Haven.

- Christa

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

LFR 2013: Christa's Reflections

It is hard to find words to describe our experience this year at Lighthouse. I tried to take some time in the middle of the week to note our activities and I couldn’t even remember what we had done the day before! It was a whirlwind, a busy whirlwind full of laughter, sunshine, activities and connecting both with families living through cancer and families there to volunteer.

Before the trip, I did not know what serving would be like. Would it feel exhausting in comparison to our restful experience the year before? How would the kids do, after always going to the front on the line and remembering a week of ease? Martha and Henri rose to the challenge. They gave their all to Caden. From the moment they met him, they engaged him. They were willing to play tirelessly, moving from game to game. They truly enjoyed being with him. Chloe is a little young to understand this kind of selfless service, but she did enjoy serving breakfast with me each morning. More than that, she became a symbol of hope. Early in the week, several of the parents of children with cancer had heard our story. A few parents connected with me early on and asked me about our experiences. They watched her run and play, full of vibrancy. She was something to hang onto in the midst of chemo, blood transfusion, sickness and exhaustion.

A moment that stands out for me was when I cleaned our family’s condo. Every morning while the   family ate breakfast, I sneaked into their condo, made beds, started laundry, did dishes and in general,  tried to create an inviting space for their return. It sounds like work, but, as my dad says, “the best kind of work is that which does not feel like work.” The work felt to me like a double blessing. I felt joy as I cleaned and straightened, imagining the peace they might feel as they returned to their room after lunch, ready for a rest. It was fun working with the goal in mind of making it the best week possible for a family who had been through what we had been through. At the same time, I felt gratitude towards the Snell family, who did this for us last year. As I cleaned and folded laundry, I thought about how they had done this for me! It was like receiving their gift all over again.

Monday, July 29, 2013

LFR 2013: Henri's Reflections

     I loved playing with Caden, Sissy(our 2 retreat kids), Dalton, Logan and others. I thought it was fun playing nine square, a game that is a 3 by 3 grid raised on poles where you have to hit the ball over the poles. It was fun because I teamed up with younger people so they could be king. It was nice to have kids my age and other ages. I thought it was fun to have a pool and a beach across the street.

     I enjoyed serving the family's because it was good chance to get to know them. I did that by bringing them drinks, help holding the plates of the younger kids, and making beds. My favorite part of serving them is that we went and turned down our family's beds at dinner.

LFR 2013: Chloe's Reflections (in photos)

I was swinging like a hammock.

These are two of my new friends, Cici and KayKay.

I was playing soccer with a child from the Daraja Children's Choir from Uganda that stopped by to sing with us one day.

...and then we had a popsicle.

 Brooke, Railey, and I were playing volleyball before Luau night.

Every night the volunteers got together for Nightcap. It was a time to sing, pray, and talk about our day. Most nights I fell asleep.

Mama was on the breakfast team so I helped to serve muffins. 

Brooke and I were serving doughnuts.

I was in the talent show.

Me and Brooke.

Me and Railey at the dance party on our last night.

LFR 2013: Kip's Reflections

"On the other side." That's how our family became known upon our return to Lighthouse two weeks ago. The return was a comfortable and easy transition, especially after vacationing at the same condo complex at spring break. Yet, I think Christa and I were both surprised by the emotions that accompanied our return and the frequent sharing of our family's journey through childhood cancer. In the end, I think it was a good reminder for us how far we've come, how blessed we are, and how much hope we can provide to others.

It's hard to compare our experience this year as a volunteer family with our experience last year as a retreat family. Last year we were served with the intention of giving our family a week at the beach without having to think about anything. This year, we had the opportunity to give the Garcia family the same thing. It was great to see our entire family jump in and take joy in serving, cleaning, and playing with Caden, a five year old fighting leukemia, and his sister Coralyn. Yet, the opportunities to serve didn't end just with our assigned retreat family. Often heading out onto the grassy field and kicking a soccer ball around or playing nine square with a younger partner gave another retreat parent a break as well. 

One of the best parts about being on the volunteer side of things was hanging out with the kids during Flip Flop, a time when retreat parents got a chance to spend time and share stories together. I was one of six volunteers assigned to the Guppies, eight boys ages 5-8, seven of whom were from retreat families and four who were cancer patients themselves. Our first morning was a little rocky figuring out how to keep everyone engaged, but once we got rolling it was a great time. Each morning we'd spend an hour at one of the pools and then spend another hour playing games or doing a craft. Last year as a retreat dad I couldn't figure out how the volunteers knew my own kids so well, but now that I've been on the volunteer side I understand that the chunk of time together each day helps to build those relationships. 

LFR 2013: Martha's Reflections

     I loved playing on the the beach and in the grassy field with all of the kids, retreat family or not. I made a bunch of new friends who I am still keeping in touch with. I think that I was way more active than if I had been just vacationing because I was pouring all of my energy out into little Caden and all of the people I was having fun with and getting to know better. It was fun playing at the beach and hanging out with the other volunteer kids that were my age the day before the retreat families came. On that day, we were all filled with energy and anticipation as we prepared ourselves and everything else for the retreat families.

     I served the families at Lighthouse in lots of ways. My favorite way was pouring all of the energy I had in me into the kids when playing soccer or Nine Square or Frisbee with the younger kids. If Caden wasn't there, I probably would have sat in the shade under the tent the whole time. Instead, I was asked to play soccer with Caden. He kept me up on my feet a lot. Another way I served our retreat family was during mealtimes. At every meal, the volunteer families were the last to be served. While our retreat family got there food, we either snuck up to their condo and made up or turned down the beds, or we helped them get all of their drinks and held plates for the kids' food.

Monday, July 15, 2013

LFR: Day 1: the fun begins

We arrived here in Santa Rosa Beach, FL yesterday afternoon and spent the remainder of the day getting settled and getting to know other volunteer families that we'll be serving with this week. 

This morning we had an orientation meeting and time to hang out until "our families" (the retreat families that we'll be serving this week) began arriving. We're serving the Garcia family this week who have a five year old son and a one year old daughter. 

Please join us in praying for the Garcia family this week. Pray that they'll have a wonderful week as a family--playing on the beach, enjoying the sun, and being reminded that God cares about them, loves them, and is in control.  

Martha and Henri play soccer with Caden. 

It was luau night for dinner tonight. 

A little reunion with a few families who were a part of Retreat 7 last summer.