Thursday, December 27, 2012

Welcome to the annual Westphal Christmas Letter 2012, aka the letter of the T-shirt sayings.  As our family and friends, we hope you are blessed and encouraged as we share some of our Christian journey with you.

Tim is a growing eleven year old boy and if you haven’t seen him lately, your first words will be, “When did you get so tall?”  He is fun loving, likes to play games, and read books.  He played soccer this year and attends Cadets at the church down the street.  He is earning his “Knots and Lashings” Badge.  His t-shirt may say “Got books?” on the front and “Got rope?” on the back.  He will probably be embarrassed about anything I write about him in this letter.

Sarah is nine and a little shy on the outside, but she’s working on it.  She has a great sense of humor and enjoys books, drawing and playing pretend with her brothers and neighborhood friend, Abigail.  She played soccer this year and enjoys attending GEMS at the corner church.  She is great at spelling and reading and telling stories.  Her t-shirt would probably say “I am smiling on the inside” on the front and “I am secretly a ninja princess warrior explorer” on the back.

Lucas is a seven year old charmer with a lovely smile.  He is full of action, songs, and more words than you can imagine.  He loves being a junior cadet at church.  He loves to play games, and is likely to say almost anything.  His t-shirt would say “My parents never know what I am going to say” on the front and “Do you believe in God?” on the back, since he regularly asks this question to almost everyone he meets.

Marcus is a seven year old singer who loves not only action, but also a good game of chess.  He is rather loud and loves to share his opinion.  He likes being a junior cadet and despises anything he thinks is “babyish.”  He loves to play blocks and army guys and sword fights out in the yard.  His t-shirt would have an arrow pointing to the twin next to him with the words, “He did it.”  On the back, it might say “I’m so embarrassed”.

I am the daring, intrepid, courageous home educator.  My T-shirt may say “By Day—Simple Homeschooling Mom.  By night—Simply Sleeping.” (and you were expecting….  Ninja?)  The back of my shirt would have a large lizard and state, “Iguana be like Jesus!”

Ryan is the hard working Dad.  Early mornings are his specialty, and as of January 1, 2013, he will enter the world of “small business ownership”.   It will be a year of transition for him (and our family) so please keep us in your prayers.  His T-shirt may say “New business-keep praying”.  The back would probably say “Let me ask you a question”.  He has been teaching youth at church and asking them  questions about faith.

In other news of the year, we enjoyed a family vacation to the Great Wolf Lodge (an indoor waterpark) in Traverse City, MI.  The kids enjoyed three different Bible schools this summer.  We spent time helping Grandma Bing (my mom) while she recovered from foot surgery.  Sadly, Ryan and I both lost great aunts this year—my Aunt Nina, and his Aunt Joan—who are missed by their families.  We also welcomed a great nephew, Benjamin VeNard, son of our nephew Erick and Brigitte.  We helped raise money for the Foundation Fighting Blindness at the Vision Walk in September.  Changing eyesight makes for new challenges, and “because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed.” (Lamentation 3:23)

God Bless your family this year, and stay in touch.
The Westphals, 127 Port Sheldon, Grandville, MI 49418  667-1449

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

This is the stuff that drives me crazy….song by FrancescaBatttistelli.  Love this song, even though the word “stuff” in a song seems weird…

Stuff.  How much is enough?  I got in a great discussion with my Dad this week (he’s really good at discussions, and will often linger on a topic long after you are finished with it).  I shared about teaching my kids generosity.  This means they can choose to give away their gifts. 
“Any gift?”  my dad asks. 
“Well, I suppose I reserve the right to say No, but a gift is a gift.  If they want to bless someone with it, I don’t want to deprive them of that.”
“But what if it’s valuable?”
“All gifts have value,” I countered.  "I give gifts to the people I love because I love them and I want them to enjoy something.  But once I give it, it doesn’t belong to me anymore.”
My dad was thinking, I could tell.  He spoke after almost a full thirty seconds, “I mean, what if it’s a collectable or something?”
This reminded me of a story.  I told my Dad of the woman I observed at a garage sale.  She was picking up all these Precious Moments figurines and angrily carrying them out to her car.  “Can you believe it?” she was saying, “I gave these to my daughter and she wants to sell them for $3.00 each.” The woman was very angry.  So I asked my Dad, “Did she have a right to be angry?”
“Of course,” said my Dad, “those are worth money.”
“But they were gifts, Dad,” I said, “not investments.”
“Well,” he said, “some gifts you just have to keep.”
“Then they aren’t gifts,” I concluded.
I could tell he was really thinking this one over. 
I added one last thought.  “Shouldn’t a gift be something you give someone and then they choose what to do with it?  They can put it in a box for twenty years or display it or toss it next week.  It’s only stuff, right?  I gave it because I love them, not to get anything back.”
He was still thinking.
Why do we “give” with strings attached?  Why are some people bothered if their grand-daughter never wears that nice sun dress or your aunt keeps that nice planter in the garage, of all places?  Have we truly given a gift?  Were we truly generous?  What about when we give other gifts—time, money, food?  Do we want for our thank-you card?  I want my kids to be generous.  How do I communicate that?
So, tonight I read my friend’s blog about giving away her possessions, 12 things a day or 84 items in a week.  Although it sounds tough, it turned out to be surprisingly easy for her.  I vaguely wondered how many of those things were gifts…like my dad, I am still thinking.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Painting on the Wall

A picture paints a thousand words.  However, words can also paint a picture.  A friend is painting her wall.  She is painting words.  She is painting words that paint a picture of her family.  Perhaps she will surround it with portraits.  Her guests will read her wall and know what is important:

We're the Grahamcracker Crew...
We do death before dishonor
We do NOTHING before coffee
We do popcorn balls at Christmas
We do Brunch ALOT
We do RELATIONSHIP not religion
We do courage without the roar
We do THINGS. Yep. We're thing doers.
We do forgiveness & Do-overs
We do giggles & grins
We do sufficiently creepy
We do soccer AND NASCAR without a feather duster
We do friends are family
We do NOT judge
We do auld lang syne
We do Metaphoric Lint
We do Common Courtesy
We do LOUD really well
We do movie quotes
We do 3 o'clock Tea
We do God's Love in ACTION

I want to do this.  I want to define how we do family.  I want words like these on my wall to remind me that I am DOING family with my family, that I am not alone, that I have chosen to follow God.  I want what we do and why we do it to be seen by all I meet, painted on my hands and face, in the things I do and the things I say.  I don’t just want it on my wall..I want it in my heart.  Like David in the Psalms, I sing out, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”  I want the “wall” of my family to say, “We DO God.” 

The last three letters of family are ily.  “I love you”.  When you think about your family, your spouse, your kids, what do you DO?  What is your corporate attitude toward life?  Make a list.  What is painted on the inside of your heart?  Paint it on the wall if you’d like.  Be funny, be thoughtful.  Above all, be true. 

We are TEAM Westphal
We do relationship and not simply rules
We do VISION instead of sight
We do going on ADVENTURE
We do FORGIVENESS and friends
We do encourage, UPLIFT, and edify.
We do games and BOOKS
We do laughter loudly
We do learning
We do USE WORDS if necessary
We do listen and LOVE
We do teach and learn
We do GOD

This is what is painted on the walls of my heart,  pinned on the pinterest of my brain, and posted on the facebook of my soul.  This is my post, my family mission, if you will.  Look, see, and find the Christ we love at the center of our family.  God is the ILY, the “I Love You” in our family. 

This “We do” list may not end up on our wall just yet, but it is in our minds and hearts, and in our words and actions.  What we do must match up with the wall.  Actions may speak louder than words, but there’s harmony when they match. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Elisha Cooper, children's book writer/illustrator, spoke to a group of older school children about the craft of book-making at our library today. He drew for the children and shared how he created wonderful books about dogs, cats, and ordinary things. My daughter, (budding illustrator that she is at 8 years old), and I were thrilled to join the listeners. He shared how one of his art teachers had him attach his paintbrush to a long pole and paint from about 8 feet away. He said, "It helped me learn to use my whole arm." It changed the way he painted. I kept thinking about this as he went on to answer questions from the children. From that distance, his perspective would shift; he would have to look at the whole picture while working on just a part of it.
I need to do this in parenting my children. I need the "whole picture approach." I need to avoid the tunnel vision. I need to "paint from a distance."     for more, click here.

Yes, We Can

As a momma, I am often my own worst naysayer. Or as I like to think of it, there are little naysayers in my head telling me what I can’t do. These little guys remind me of small yellow minions who aren’t quite getting it right. I try to keep them in line, but every so often, they run rampant, telling me “you can’t write, you can’t parent, you can’t “wife”, you can’t…..While “staying positive” sounds good, have you ever tried to pin down one of these minions?

As a family, we watched “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” last night. My mind was still on my self-doubt as I cuddled my boys. “There is no try, there is only do or do not.” Yoda’s voice to the young Luke reminds me of this struggle we all face. I can’t simply “try” to be a good momma, I must succeed.

 Thankfully, I do have the force. No, not the mysterious mitachlorians that abide in everything and hold us all together…blah…blah…blah…and no “freeze-ray” to get my coffee in the morning. I mean the real force of the Holy Spirit available to me as a Christ follower. That mysterious voice that says, “This is the way, walk in it (Isaiah 30:21).” It’s the part of me that tosses scripture arrows at the minions. Yes, I am one of those. I apply my Christian worldview to everything from minions to Star Wars, to life in general.

 Scripture shows up everywhere. “Let your yes be yes and your no be no (Matthew 5:37),” and the ever encouraging “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).” My own understanding, often minion-filled and full of wimpy “I’ll try”s….can be overcome. My children must know this reservoir of the force is available to their young Christian lives as well. My husband recently reminded me of this wonderful song. “Yes, we can.” So the next time the minions of “you can’t” are wreaking havoc in your life, fling a few arrows and enjoy the music. Yes, We Can

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The OMG phenomenon. It bothers me. I probably shouldn’t be shushing little kids at the park but one young lady’s repeated use of OMG almost pushed me over the edge recently. I admit it, I am one of those moms who feel language is of utmost importance, but this phrase irks me in so many ways. I asked my friend what she thought, “Oh, I hate it,” she replied, “but you can’t parent other people’s kids.” Yes…but…what if this little girl was wandering the playground repeating the “f” word. Surely, then, some well-meaning adult would have explained the inappropriateness of her words, or as some of my relatives would have shouted in my childhood, “Hey you! Watch your mouth!”

Yet, we are so tolerant of OMG. Does its prevalence somehow make it more palatable? It’s not so bad, after all, right? I suppose I should be happy they are at least thinking of God. After all, I am not overhearing cell phone calls with people saying, “oh my Buddha,” or “oh my Allah,”. See, even the heathen OMG users know who’s in charge, right? I mean everybody uses it. (My mother’s sarcastic voice from my teenage years announces in my head, “and if everyone jumped off a bridge, you would to?”)

Is no one willing to call it a sin? In today’s Christian community, that’s judging, right? And judging is wrong, right? The book of Titus is a call to follow truth, regardless of what is going on in your society. Titus 1:16 states, “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” I think when Christians use OMG they are denying God with their actions.
I have yet to find a good op/ed piece critical of the OMG phenomenon. Perhaps I am reading in the wrong circles. Perhaps I just need to “get over it.” Sigh.

I talk to my children about it. That it is really God’s name and names are important. My seven year old says, “Well, I wouldn’t like it if people kept saying, “oh my Mark!” I would think they were talking to me even if they weren’t talking to me. That would bug me.” Yes, it’s inappropriate speech, but more than that, it’s WRONG, especially according to the standard of the God I serve. It’s sinful to use God’s name is such a crass, disrespectful manner. (oops, I used that S-i-n word again. That makes my “I’m a Christian, I love everybody” part of me cringe). “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” Exodus 20:7, also known as the second commandment. Apparently, society at large has also outgrown this commandment while I choose to keep it and have my children keep it as well.

Think of when Jesus cried out in agony, “OMG, why have your forsaken me?” We have so cheapened his Father’s Holy name. Even the classic hymn, “OMG, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the works Thy hands have made…” has been polluted. God’s name should really be reserved for God. Please consider who OMG refers to and regard him with reverence, especially if you profess a faith in Christ. Thanks.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Medicaid for Children

Whenever Mark colors in his animal for class, he always adds “scars”. He sits at the table, legs wiggling and mouth moving. There is always a running narrative during this process, such as, “This is where the hunter slashes him, uhg!, before he escaped…” “This is from a bee bee gun, bang! that did no damage to his vital organs.” “These are blood drops on the ground!” Red marker begins to overwhelm his picture.
“Mark, please don’t pound the marker tip.”
“Oh, sorry Mom. I got a little carried away.”
Yesterday, he was finishing “scarring” his fox while narrating. Then he started drawing band-aids over the scars while saying, “Medicaid! Medicaid!”
“Medicaid?” I questioned.
“Yeah, it’s a band-aid with medicine.”
“Oh really, who’s going to pay for Medicaid?”
“Oh, everybody does Mom. Everybody. Medicaid! Medicaid!” he chanted while finishing his fox.
Today’s animal was a yak. “oh, I can’ take it, ugh!” was the running narrative, “Bang! A bee bee gun. Bang! A real gun! Oh no, he’s dead.”
“Dead?” I inquired.
“As a doorknob,” answered Mark, “see the Xs on his eyes?
“What about Medicaid?”
“It’s too late for this guy, Mom.”

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Robot Children

A facebook friend recently shared this song lyric by William McDowell:
“I won't go back, I can't go back to the way it used to be before your presence came and changed me! :)” This got me thinking….and responding:
“I love this. It's the idea of ‘If Christ hasn't changed your life, have you met Him yet?’”

Does your life change if you take the Jesus out of it? Is your life the same without Jesus?
If he isn’t your life-changer, if he isn’t your “I can’t live without Him” piece of the puzzle then perhaps you haven’t really met Him at all.

I worry for these kids growing up in our churches, thinking they know and love Jesus but putting him on like jewelry and not knowing what it means…what it means to be without Him and what it means to be with Him…what repentance is, and how even good kids are “undone” without His salvation. and when I worry…I pray..

Another article I recently read is about why some “good kids” go and some “good kids” stay. Common Traits of Youth Who Don't Leave the Church. One reason for staying was “They are converted.”

I look at my kids, ages 10, 8, and 7 year old twins. Yes, they are good kids. They know John 3:16 and the Lord’s prayer from memory. They have each asked Jesus to “come into their heart”. They are Christian kids. While that is all well and good, we parents seem to think it’s a sealed deal. Our adult perspectives are permanently planted in our own walk with Christ. But as our children age into adulthood, it’s our responsibility to explore with them why we believe what we believe and challenge them to make their own choices.

As much as I would like to, I cannot prevent my daughter’s first broken heart, but I can teach her to turn to He who heals the broken hearted. I cannot MAKE her a Christian anymore than God, who fashioned Adam and Eve, would MAKE them obey him. He did not want robots for children and neither do I.

I am still learning that I cannot be anyone’s Holy Spirit, but I can pray for the Spirit to draw my children, and I can live what I believe, share what I believe, and hopefully challenge my children to accept those beliefs as their own.

A Girl's message to all Christians

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday's Five Things

1. Marcus’ laughter and dance this morning over finding the poptarts in the pantry all by himself, “Oh yeah, who’s the greatest? Oh yeah, that’s me! I’m takin’ over the world!”
2. Delivering God’s word with cookies this week.
3. The giggling of the children as they watched “Shaun the sheep”.
4. Dinner date with the love of my life and good adult conversation.
5. Reading to the kids each morning this week.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

For my cousin Elaina

Where to Go

What do you do when you feel
like you don’t matter?
When no one needs your supposed encouragement? What do you do?
Where do you turn? When friends really don’t
have time to get together or
your opinion is scorned? Where do you go?
I go straight to the source. Not the source of
the pain, not my reactions to another’s actions, but
straight to the source of the one who made me.
The one who held up the coin with Caesar on it and asked, “Whose image is this?”
Whose image am I? Who made me?
Who formed my very hands in the shape of His own?
My unique hand, all my own, all His.
That’s where I go, straight to Him.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Matt Kish created Moby Dick in Pictures, a huge project that is now a book. He dedicated himself to one piece of art every day. One piece of art (crayon, paint, pencil, etc.) One piece of art every day
for every page of Melville’s classic, Moby Dick. It’s not a short book, but a huge complicated tome
still perused in high school and college classes today for its themes of hate and revenge gone awry. It’s about obsession.

Five hundred and forty three pages. Five hundred and forty three days. For a year and a half of his life, Mr. Kish created art every single day. Every single day, he created. Christmas, New Year’s, not feeling well, power outage, moving, didn’t matter. Obsessed by the characters’ journeys, by their stories, by Ahab’s obsession, he created.

Moby Dick in Pictures. Wow, amazing. It’s not so much the actual pictures, which are fascinating to look at, simple and multi-faceted at the same time, it’s the colossal commitment that draws us in to Kish’s world. We, human failings, with half-yearly not so resolute resolutions. We admire a man’s obsession to this book.

If only I was so inspired….not with Melville, but with God himself. With the very word of God—that I could not escape it’s daily call….not that I am creating art every day, but I am created in His image, saved by His grace to reflect His glory to mankind. I am showing Christ every day and I must be in God’s word every day. I am, in a sense, painting pictures and creating art.

As I thumb through the pages of the book, I wonder where the original art resides..543 pieces would take up quite the space…are they in galleries or does Mr. Kish have them stored away somewhere? Where are they really? Other than in the artist’s heart and here on these pages?
Where are my daily art works? Those ones inspired by my time in God’s word? What would they look like? Would they collect dust or change lives? What would Tracey Westphal in Pictures look like? Let me create this one instead, Jesus Christ in Pictures.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

This list grows longer, of books I want to read. My mind flashes to the movie, the matrix when the newly released Neo is “loaded” with Jitsu. Part of me longs for that instant experience…to know the book with no time involved as my life seems ever shorter with each passing day. In reality, it is….like a ball of yarn unwinding slowly as the knitter knits, needles clacking, creating some beautiful thing to be treasured and worn for warmth.

My ever-shortening life and my ever-increasing list. Priorities….my eyes are far too tired and daylight long gone when I happily crawl between the sheets each night. People tell me this is when they read, but I have to grab my fix in the morning, like a cup of coffee on the way out the door. A quick paragraph of Voskamp, one Collins poem (only one!), and then the day is upon me. Bible before breakfast and a morning conversation with the Lord. Matthew chapter one—How ironic that King Herod’s actions to kill Jesus actually helped fulfill Messianic prophecy…”out of Egypt I called my son”.

Breakfast, and dishes, and reading, and school, and then errands and dinner and cleanup and chores, and books and games and tucking in, and getting ready for tomorrow and a few quick minutes to type out my thoughts in the chilly sleepy kitchen.

The books pile up on my dresser. Library due dates loom. On Saturday morning, I will stay tucked in and enjoy a few chapters while the kiddos devour their weekend treat of self-serve poptarts. This must suffice. This must meet my need. The golden part of the yarn being knitted. Click clack, creating some beautiful thing to be treasured and worn for warmth.

Monday, February 27, 2012


“You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.” Mattew 5:14 the message

There it is. The reason why I exist, why I am here. I am an artist, a writer, a painter, a friend, and I have a great palette of God-colors. My paintbrushes touch everyone I touch. They brush my children, my parents, my husband and my friends. I paint at the grocery store, at the library and even at the drive-thru. What color am I using today?

Am I dipping my brushes in God’s paint or my own? My own is like water, the strokes leave a mark that dries quickly into nothingness. I start at one end of the fence and by the time I finish, the beginning is an unchanged as when I began. Why am I not accomplishing anything? Why do my efforts seem so useless? Why can’t I change anything?

Change is not my department. It belongs to the maker of the universe, the creator of color. He who picked that emerald green grass color that makes my smile begin. If I try to cover over everything with my own efforts, it all goes awry…because it is me, and not Him.

I must hold onto my brush and dip into God-colors, not my own. He is the paint that never chips, peels, or water that forever quenches your thirst. Today, I submit to the greatest artist. Lord, teach me how to paint your world.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

An Attitude of Gratitude—the 1,000 blessings challenge, continued….
“Change my heart, oh God, make it ever new….change my heart, oh God, make me more like you.”
In the continuing effort of growing in Christ, my blessing listing continues:
15. Children who read and write stories on the computer.
16. A winter sunrise of color with bare branches silhouetted.
17. Children who can pour milk without spilling
18. The portent of a baby tooth fallen out
19. The smell of apple pie
20. Dancing little boys who don’t have to go potty. 
21. Hugs around the neck
22. Warm dishwater
23. Repaired left slipper
24. Inspiration

Friday, February 10, 2012

More Blessings to Count

1,000 things to be thankful for (con’t).

10. Children who treat each other with kindness and can find solutions when they disagree. I don’t want to be a referee mom, but rather an arbiter. The fine art of compromise can be learned in childhood.
11. My laptop computer that connects me to the world of the web.
12. My cozy lavendar bathrobe that keeps me warm on winter mornings in my chilly kitchen.
13. My husband’s kindness. When I was not feeling well, he brought home chicken for the family --with no complaints.
14. Friendships that enrich my life with encouragement, experience, and excitement.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

1,000 Things to be Thankful (con't.)
9. I am thankful to be a mom of twins. See article Sweet sleeping twins for details.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Count Your Blessings

8.Children who are kind to strangers: Ryan shared how he took the boys to McDonalds after wrestling practice on Monday night and Lucas gave away his matchbox car from his happy meal to another little boy.

9. A husband who encourages. On Sunday night during dinner, I was feeling a little down at all the cleanup I would have to be doing and Ryan mentioned Counting your blessings and all four kids started singing the chorus to “Count your blessings! Name them one by one…” He looked at me in surprise across the table while I just smiled. “Well, apparently, they know that one.” After supper, he looked up other old hymns and sang the words for over an hour while I cleaned up. I am counting him as a blessing, which is what this list is all about anyway.

10. Encouraging notes that come in the mail.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

1,000 Things to Be Thankful for (con't.)

7.Today, I am thankful to God for my living room….because it is a “living” room…the kids make tents, build towers, and create a wrestling ring in my living room. My Bible-before-breakfast occurs there almost every morning. We watch movies as a family, and use the computer to discover new things for science class. It may need to be repainted, and the couches aren’t new, but it is a room full of life; it is my living room.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

1,000 Things to be Thankful for (see earlier posts)
5. The deep well-meaning voice of my husband as he reads scripture out loud. To see the man I love loving the God I love is not only heartwarming but also inspiring.

6. This simple warm cup of coffee in my hands. Creamy, rich and hot as it heats me from the inside out. Coffee warms the bones and I am grateful for it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

1,000 Gifts (con't.--see earlier posts)

3. Crisp sunshine and a blue cloudless sky in January with no snow to reflect and make us all squinty-eyed.

4. Small paper triangle bits on the floor, hundreds of bits, leftovers from cutout snowflakes now taped to window glass.

Monday, January 9, 2012

One mediocre step at a time

And now….the misadventures of mediocre mom. Striving to be above average, but falling short far too often, this mom has come to the conclusion that she is not a great cook, not a great driver, not a great writer and basically, not that GREAT at anything.

She ponders this, sighing deeply and knowing she loves her God, her man, and her kids with all she’s got….even if it isn’t quite as big as what someone else has got. She’s not politically savvy, not especially witty, and especially not very good at the technical stuff, although she tries….

She’s not afraid to work hard, does the dishes, makes the meals, makes the bed, does the laundry and prays with the children almost every day….and that’s really not so bad, is it? But is it enough? Is it all there is? Should she be doing more? She’s got a good heart and she belongs to Christ, striving to please Him every day.

She realizes she is grateful for all she’s got all the time, has a good attitude about life, and loves to encourage others to do their best. She knows she is deliriously happy and blessed and wonders rarely about the mediocrity/averageness of her life, except for a few occasions where she tries to use it as an impetus for improvement rather than the path to pathetic. To be growing is the goal…stagnant is the enemy.

Today is one of those days. She reads scripture and prays it will sink deep into her psyche. She knows she is an individual and she acknowledges her maker regularly, especially on these days, these humbling hubris days when the weather is not especially all that great or all that terrible. These days will come, these days are necessary, dependable and …mediocre.

Perhaps I need my thousand things list…you know, listing a thousand gifts from God, as Voskamp does in her book of the same name….today…Every list starts with one item. It’s reminiscent of the proverbial journey of 1,000 miles beginning with one step. So today is the first step and I wonder where and when step 500 will happen.

The unknown looms, but not terrifyingly so, just looms...unknown. So I begin, one mediocre meter at a time…although I am certain, like Much Afraid In Hinds Feet on High Places, there will be mountaintops, valleys, and interesting companions along the way…

1. The ability to move my lips and read good literature to the boys. They love the Squire and the Scroll and I love its message---keeping your way pure.

2. The warm, crackly heat as it comes through the metal vents upstairs—feeling the toasty metal of the grate on socked foot bottoms as you press in for warmth.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Happy New Year --Five Things
My new year’s reso-- (not really resolutions, but just reminders)
1. Listen more, speak less.
2. Encourage, uplift, edify.
3. Obey God right away, all the way, and with a good heart.
4. Communicate the five second gospel –1. God loves us. 2. We blew it. 3. Christ paid for it. 4. We must receive it. Use words if necessary
5. React less, plan more.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Westphals’ 19th. Annual Christmas Letter 2011

Once upon a time (the year 2011), a brave and noble knight (named Ryan) set out on a quest. He was joined by his bride of many years (our 18th. Anniversary this year), and their four brave children—three young squires and one fair maiden.
The adventure began quietly enough with a commitment to education and then the brave knight wrestled his first mighty foe, the time dragon. The battle ended in the knight’s favor and the vanquished dragon gave out study time, school time, work time, church time, and family time in just the right amounts. His stalwart family proudly stood by his side as he was honored. (He graduated from Cornerstone University with a bachelor’s in business degree). The knight raised his sword toward heaven, giving God the credit and the glory for the battle’s victorious end.

The adventure continued and the knight carried the lantern for his brave wife and children as they learned part of their destiny included vision trials. (Marcus, Lucas, and Sarah’s genetic tests reveal they have Retinitis Pigmentosa, a progressive eye disease). The lantern was lit by the light of Christ and would always shine the way even as physical vision would dim for some family members. The two youngest squires and the fair maiden discovered they too, would battle the R.P. dragon, as their mother and maternal grandfather, another brave knight of the King, continued to fight regularly. They took the news well, remembering and stating “God always has a plan,” which calmed their mother’s heart. (Ryan and Tracey also co-chaired the inaugural Visionwalk in West Michigan to help raise money for research/clinical trials to fight eye disease. Thank you to all who donated).

The brave wife of the knight taught the children well in many homeschool subjects. They enjoyed family adventures, and for the first time, conquered the waters of the Great Wolf Lodge on a real vacation. The oldest squire (Tim, age 10) and the fair maiden (Sarah, age 8) also engaged in battles of the feet, where weapons and hands are not permitted (soccer). Both teams completed the season with no defeats. Squire Tim even scored twice. Knight Ryan rewarded him accordingly ($5.00 per goal).

The brave knight and his family lost a great aunt (Bertha Bezemer), great uncle (Jay Jones) and a grandfather (Bill Jackson) to the lands beyond the battle this year, and they value your talks with the King (prayers) for their families’ losses. So this brave, growing family continues to fight the good fight. They bow their heads regularly, ready their weapons, and boldly vow to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14). They also wish you and yours a blessed Christmas season and a new year filled with evidences of the King’s grace upon us all.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sunrise, Sunset

And so the sun shines forth in the morning illuminating our darkened world once again in its seemingly never-ending flow of night, day, night day and yet, He who numbers the sunsets knows my final one. Will it be today? Thank-you, Lord, for saving my soul that I may trust you with my eternity, for I and it belong to you. I am yours wholly.