“Just be held”…

marie and jeff

Sometimes Facebook “memories” remind you of fun/cool events. Sometimes they remind you of just how fragile life is. July 23, 2014 is a day that forever changed our family. My brother-in-law, Jeff was involved in a freak farm accident. He was trying to put out a small fire on his tractor when it started up again and drove over his back. It broke his pelvis, punctured his lung and broke most of his ribs. One of his sons, Garrett happened to be with him at the time and called 911 and his other brother and sister to come quickly. The ambulance got him to Ellendale and then flew him to Aberdeen, SD. From there, they determined that he needed to go to Hennepin Medical Center because they have one of the best pelvic surgeons in the country.  Time seemed to stand still. We were all beside ourselves waiting, hoping, praying… Would he be OK? Would he walk again? Would he remember what happened?

I drove quickly to get down to Minneapolis to be with them. I waited longer than I should have to leave, but then just got in my car and took off. I picked up some clothes for my sister, Marie since we didn’t know how long he’d be there (and she just left right from work.) I am sure to them, there are vivid images of those days, weeks and months that followed. I remember those first few hours after I got there. We waited and prayed and tried to keep people updated on what was happening. I remember them lightening up his sedation to do a neuro check and seeing the fear and confusion in his eyes. I remember him being taken out of sedation but kept on pain meds & still intubated. He was able to respond well & wanted to write notes to Marie. He asked, “where am I?”, “what day is it?” & “will I be ok for the wedding (his oldest son, Casey had an upcoming wedding)?” He wrote about 4 pages of notes, telling what happened, thanking Garrett for saving him & telling everyone he loves them. We really just handed it all over to God. We knew that there was nothing that we could do and it was all in His hands. He had surgery to put a plate in his pelvis to keep it stable, but that meant no weight on it for several weeks. A week later, he was able to be moved to the hospital in their town to continue recovery.

Caring Bridge entry from July 25th – As I sit here tonight & try to make sure that my amazingly strong sister gets some rest, I’m overwhelmed with the last 2 1/2 days. For those who don’t know me well, I’m Marie’s “baby sister” by 9 yrs. I’ve admired her for many things, her faith, her caring nature, her strong family bonds, her selfless friendship & her relationship/teamwork with Jeff. If you’re reading this, you know of Marie & Jeff .. Whether you’ve known them for a month or a lifetime, you know what a great family they are. They are close to each other, & they are all “givers”. So, it was no surprise to me that moments after people found out about the accident, their friends & family all started praying… & offering help in any way they could. They’ve said so many times, “how do we thank everyone?!” I try to remind them, that the good they’ve always shown to others is coming back around now. They’ve also said how thankful they are to live in such a wonderful community. So from them & from the bottom of their hearts & mine, thank you. Thank you for praying, for calling, for visiting, for caring.

They have felt your prayers. Jeff asks us to read the comments to him from this site. It lifts him up and reminds him how loved he is. He loves to hear from all of you. This family has amazing faith in God. They KNOW that God has been here so many times in the last few days, putting the right people in the right places at the right time. Their Pastor Justin just “happened” to be in Minneapolis this weekend for a wedding. What a blessing to have him visit & pray with the family. Too many things to list, where we knew it could only be the hand of God making things possible.

There is a song by Casting Crowns called “Just Be Held.” It is one that had significance for the whole family as Jeff went through his healing process. As painful as it is to have these memories reappear, it also reminds us to be thankful for each day. It reminds us that we really aren’t in control of it all. Sometimes we have to hand it over to God, and just “be held.”

Just Be Held by Casting Crowns:

Hold it all together, everybody needs you strong. But life hits you out nowhere and barely leaves you holding on.

And when you’re tired of fighting, chained by your control… There’s freedom in surrender, lay it down and let it go. 

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away… You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held. Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place. I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held.

That year, we all learned to be held – by God, by friends and by family. Jeff was able to heal and to make it to the wedding. We often called him Super Man since he had a steel plate in him, or “Miracle Man,” because it’s such a miracle that he is here.  Through struggles, our faith can falter or strengthen – it depends on what you are looking for. When you look for the blessings, your faith can be strengthened. When you foucus on the negative, then your faith may falter. May you chose to focus on the positive. May you love deeply & be thankful for today. Peace be with you on your journey of enough.

When you’re loved enough…

This beautiful sign was given to me by my aunt this past weekend at our family reunion. She had gone to Magnolia Market (from the TV show “Fixer Upper”), and when she saw this, she thought of me. All because of my little blog. đź’•

I’m so blessed to be part of a big family. Both of my parents are the oldest of their siblings and are from large families. At holidays when we would get together, there was a LOT of us! I remember going to grandma and grandpa’s and having a house full. There was always lots of food and laughing and card games & very little sleep. My grandparents were married in 1940. Fast forward more than 75 years – 10 kids on my mom’s side who all have significant others, their kids and their kids’ kids & in some cases, their kids’ kids’ kids makes for over 100 people… All because two people fell in love. My grandpa passed away 10 years ago. Myles was a baby & the funeral was the same day as our wedding anniversary. I won’t forget that day, mainly because of all of the kind words people said about him. Some of us thought that losing her soul mate would be too much for grandma. They were always like two kids in love (or at least how I remember them.) They had a twinkle in their eyes, still held hands, and looked out for each other. She lived for many more years, and passed away not long after her 95th birthday. Many of us had gotten together to celebrate her birthday with her. We got the chance to tell her that we loved her in person. Even if she didn’t fully remember who we were – she could feel that she was loved… enough.

We hadn’t had a big family reunion for a few years. When I visited the Coteau des Prairies Lodge last Valentine’s Day for my sister & brother-in-law’s surprise birthday parties, the place took my breath away. It’s a gorgeous, large wooden lodge on the top of a hill, over-looking the prairie below. The first thing I thought of was, “wow, this would make a great place for an Ulmer family reunion!” As luck would have it, they had a coupon for a reduced rate on the rental of the whole lodge – and that’s when I knew that it was meant to be. The wheels were set in motion for a family reunion! We just needed an organizer & I was the gal for the job. Many months of planning, prep and spreadsheets came together last Friday, when more than 70 of us got together for a whole weekend of food, laughter & games. My sister from California even surprised everyone with a quick visit. Although I write this blog about being enough, it’s also called “journey” of enough because I’m still learning. Many times throughout the last few months, I worried about not having enough food or activities or prizes or beds for the weekend. I worried that it wouldn’t live up to the hype and anticipation & I would fall short in some area. But, I was loved enough and supported enough to make it all come together. 

Grandpa would talk about “pennies from heaven.” When my aunt Marsha passed away, we all put pennies by her grave. When grandma & grandpa were both ill, we would find pennies in the hospital or nursing home. We can all tell stories of finding  pennies or dimes (for the 10 kids). I put out a jar at the Lodge this weekend for pennies that were found – there were at least 13… More than what you’d expect to find in a remote lodge. I know they were all watching over us and they were so happy to have us come together. This weekend reminded us that we are all loved enough. Though miles separate us and too much time passes in between our visits, we can still pick up where we left off. We can reconnect & meet some new family members. We drank too much, ate too much and laughed too much… and it was just enough!

Thank you to my family for making it such a memorable weekend! Peace be with you on your journey of enough.


All of that work for a ribbon? Both of our kids are in 4H. This week was the culmination of the year – the 4H judging for the Red River Valley Fair. Cameron and I met through 4H, so we are familiar with the projects and the fair & the work that goes into it. While some of the projects were done ahead of time, there were some that we were doing the week (or day) before. It’s a great experience for them to work on something & then have to explain/tell about it.

They each entered almost 20 exhibits. From gardening to woodworking, sewing to baking, outdoor skills, ceramics and citizenship, they had their hands full. We each try to help and guide them with the projects, but the kids do most of the work. While we offer suggestions, we don’t correct or perfect it for them. Cameron helps with woodworking & outdoor skills, and I help with baking and sewing. The boys have to write out their own recipe cards for their baked goods. Myles wrote his in paragraph form. I “suggested” that he make it in a list so it’s easier to read. “No, mom… I like it this way.” Ok. I let it be. I let them pick the recipes they want to make, and this year they got creative. They both love maraschino cherries so Dallas made “cherry bomb muffins” and Myles made double cherry cookies. When they got to the judging time, the judge “suggested” that Myles make his recipe easier to read. (Mom just grinned) They got some honorable mention ribbons – Myles for his cookies, Dallas for his rhubarb and fish holder. They also came home with some reds, and I was ok with that. I don’t expect them to be perfect… I want them to try their best and learn from the experience. It’s their project, not mine. I had my 4H project days – this is up to them. While they might not have gotten all blue ribbons, my 13 & 10 year old boys have sewn, baked, painted, created, sanded and gardened. That’s what I’m most proud of. Not the ribbons, the experience.

The other thing I’m most proud of is the tied blankets they made for breast cancer patients. The blankets will comfort someone going through breast cancer & that just warms my heart. Pink ribbons will always hold a special meaning, for me and for the boys.

The red ribbons in sewing, ceramics and jelly weren’t the end of the world. As Myles walked away from the judges table with a red ribbon and his head held down, I knew he felt “not good enough.” We tried to explain that this is a learning experience & now he will know what to do next time. I don’t think they should all get blue ribbons, but it made me think of something. God gives us blue ribbons every day. To him we are always enough, even when we feel like it’s a red (or white) ribbon day. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that our good deeds don’t make him love us more. It doesn’t matter if we feel like we deserve a Grand Champion ribbon. He loves us as we are. Isn’t that great?! I hope you have a blue ribbon day. The creator of the universe thinks you’re enough, so why are you so hard on yourself? Peace be with you on your journey of enough.

Confessions of a “Pinterest mom”…

(Photo from recent 10th bday at Thunder Road – go kart cupcakes) I have a confession to make… I love Pinterest. If there was a job where testing out and evaluating the ideas on the site was your sole purpose, that would be awesome. Pinterest moms get a lot of flack though. I don’t do the Pinterest stuff to impress anyone, I do it because I love it. I like finding new recipes or tricks for doing gardening stuff or Halloween costumes – it’s full of ideas. Cam has even looks up kayak modifications for fishing on Pinterest. Anytime I try a new recipe, the boys say “did this come from Pinterest?!” Sometimes it just takes a spark to get me going.

Birthday cakes and cupcakes have always been an adventure. Aside from our first born’s 1st bday, (long story but let’s just say I was a paranoid 1st time mom & didn’t want to give him sugar so his cake had flax & stuff in it – poor kid) we’ve tried to make their bday cakes be fun and meaningful. Not to impress anyone else, but to see the excitement from our kids. It’s something that we both like doing – Cameron gets involved in the design and implementation of the cakes. He’s also a little more particular than I am. So his attention to detail and my baking skills make for a fun combo.

After the first bday fiasco, Dallas’ 2nd bday cake was a 3D John Deere tractor – complete with chocolate donut wheels and Oreo front tires. That was before Pinterest came around… We thought of that ourselves. Since then, there was a Bob the Builder, Mack truck from Cars, Death Star, Elmo, Ham the Pig, Sponge Bob, Minions, Dallas Cowboys star, light saber cupcakes … Just to name a few. We try to make them related to what the boys are into at the time. Myles had a Ninja Turtle bday one year. I made masks for all of the kids and made Ninja Turtle cookies and cakes. The huge smile on his face made it all worth while.

I’m not just making cakes, I’m making memories. However you do that with your kids is up to you. I don’t judge anyone who buys the stuff from the store! If you don’t find this fun, don’t do it. Your kids will be just fine with a store bought cake.

Last summer, during Myles 9th bday, I was still recovering from surgery and not feeling particularly festive, so he just had a couple of friends to a movie and lunch instead of a big party. When he said that his summer wish list included a bday party, my mommy guilt took over and I agreed. He couldn’t decide on what kind of cake to have. Since we were going to ride go karts, we went with go kart cupcakes. (Also made it easier to include his friend who has gluten allergies if I made gluten free cupcakes) He loves Minions still so we had both kinds. It was a hit.

I hope when you see Pinterest ideas, you think of some fun new things to try instead of feeling like you’re not enough. Even though I like searching through there, not all are winners – making dried strawberries in your oven doesn’t taste like candy, it tastes like mush. It doesn’t discourage me though, I just search for something new to try. Peace be with you on your journey of enough.