Sunday, July 25, 2010

Dutch Bingo (kinda)

We continue to meet a lot of wonderful people here in Grand Rapids. Today we visited Sherman Street CRC and while dropping Alex off at their nursery ran into Mark and Rachel Vanderwerf and their son, Owen. I was tipped off to the fact that Mark and Rachel were coming to GR for Mark to attend seminary at Calvin by a mutual friend. So I was on the lookout for them and while we were signing our kids in to nursery they said their names and we said ours, she mentioned she was reading this blog, and voila, instant friends. So they came over for blueberry pie this afternoon (which Jessica had artfully prepared the day before with fresh blueberries from our Fulton St. Farmer's Market visit on Saturday -- providential?) and we got acquainted. It was a wonderful visit and I think we'll get along just fine! I hope they agree. =)

As if that weren't enough, on our way out the door from church this morning, and literally as we were walking out the door, I here someone call my name -- "Michael?" I turned around and there was Matt Jeltema. Matt and I got to know each other during my Admissions days at Dordt when we were doing a big database conversion. Matt (a top-notch IT guy at Calvin) had been involved with the software we were implementing and he and I met at a conference and forged a relationship and he was great help to me during Dordt's conversion process.

Anyway, I hadn't seen (or even talked to him, really) in several years and he still remembered me and I him. He and his family live in the neighborhood and have been going to Sherman Street CRC for several years, so he invited us to stay for a church potluck and we got the chance to catch up. It was great.

And the icing on the Sunday cake, this afternoon some neighbors invited us to a church cook-out at their church, Boston Square CRC, which is about six blocks from our house. So we took them up on their offer and joined them for supper after the Vanderwerfs left. Again, we met some great people there including a man who was raised in Sibley, Iowa -- just a mere 20 miles from my hometown of Worthington, MN and just 40 miles from Sioux Center. Not to mention the fact that when I was in admissions at Dordt I recruited his niece.

So not quite Dutch Bingo in the classic sense -- I'm not related to any of these people that I know 0f -- but still, it's pretty hard to go anywhere and not find a connection to someone. Sometimes I feel like the Kevin Bacon of the CRC (

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Getting Organized

While we spent last week getting the house organized, getting boxes unpacked, and figuring out where everything is or should go, this week is being spent on all the other stuff that comes along with moving a family of five 700 miles.

First things first, getting renters insurance. I found a pretty good agent in town (my brother, Mark). He probably over-charged me, but I can call him at 3:00 in the morning with a claim, so it's all good.

We are also busily navigating the complicated world of health insurance. We were able to register the kids for a program that is administered through the local YMCA that provides coverage to children. It's good coverage and we're happy to have been able to qualify for that -- it's a load off of Dad's mind.

That leaves Jessica and I and we are looking at options with an agent that my brother put me in contact with as well as some government programs. It's very complicated and I can see why people get frustrated and confused by the process and with all the options.

Today we had a meeting at Zachary's new school with the principal, Ashanti Bryant. He is a super guy and the meeting went very well. The Grand Rapids Christian School system is going through a number of changes right now so the school building itself is a mess. We learned that his teacher will be Mrs. Boerma and there will be 26 students in his section. We also found out that for the first time the school will be offering a hot lunch program for all five school days. Previously, they offered it just on a few days of the week. So, that was good to find out -- we aren't used to packing lunches everyday!

We've also had the opportunity to catch up with friends and family in the area. On Tuesday night, we had supper at my cousin's house with his wife and three kids along with my brother and his family, and last night we spent a few hours and the home of Stephen and Khara DeWit. I talked about Stephen in an earlier post as someone that was in our youth group when we lived in Sioux Center.

I've also been able to find a few hours this week to start some of my studying. I've been reading a book on hermeneutics (biblical interpretation) for my intro to seminary class in August that I've been thoroughly enjoying.

Oh, and on a much lighter note...a word about the water here. Grand Rapids has naturally soft water so no water softeners here. It also means that I can wash my car with the hose in the driveway (which I did earlier this week) and it hardly leaves any spots! Any of you who know me well, know how big a deal that is to me...I like a clean car! Chalk one up for GR water.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The weekend

This past weekend was really our first one here. Last weekend, of course, we were still getting moved in. On Saturday, we got a call from our old pastor at Hope CRC in Hull, Michael Koetje. We were good friends with them when we lived there and he is now a pastor in Grand Haven about 45 minutes from here. So we went to see them and their three kids to get reacquauinted.

They took us to the beach at the CRC Conference Grounds (yes, that's a real place) complete with it's own campground, cottages, mess hall, conference center, and beach front access. It was a beautiful day on the lake and the kids had a great time playing together. We had supper with them and came home. Oh, we stopped at Meijer on the way home and bought Zach his second new bike (identical to the first) and locks for both him and Bethany!

On Sunday, we went to church at Alger Park CRC and got to hear Stephen DeWit preach a wonderful sermon on Adam and Eve. He was in our youth group when we were youth leaders at Faith CRC in Sioux Center. So we got to catch up with him and his wife, Khara, as well, which was great. In the evening we went to Seymour CRC, which has been in the community a long, long, time. It was a wonderful old building.

There are just so many options here, picking a church home will be challenging. I'll dedicate another entry to that at a later date, but suffice it to say that in four Sunday worship opportunities we've been to three different churches and have yet to travel more than 1.5 miles from our house -- it's crazy!

As promised, here are some pictures of the new house and some of the neighbor kids.

The back deck:

The main floor looking for the front window:

The front of the house:

Zachary's Room:

Bethany's Room:

Bethany playing with the neighbor girls, Trinese and Kalise, on their Slip-n-Slide:

Alex in his swing hanging from the apple tree in the backyard:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Settling In

Well, we've got most of the boxes unpacked and have got things set up pretty well, if I do say so myself. Jessica has done a great job telling me where to hang things and I spent some time yesterday getting the basement and garage organized. One thing we can't do anything about is the's been hot here this week and we no central air in the house is going to take some getting used to.

Jessica and the kids got invited to a pool party earlier this week which was really nice. We were able to get some 'insider' information about schools, churches, and activities for the kids which was nice.

In my last post, I talked about the neighborhood being great, and it is, but we were also introduced to the realities of living in the city when Zachary's bike was stolen out of our driveway on Tuesday afternoon. We has just gotten it the day before with birthday money from Grandpa and Grandma. The place where we bought it didn't have locks, so we said we'd get locks later -- big mistake. Less than 24 hours later, it was gone. Both his and Bethany's were in the driveway but only his got taken. After talking with some moms at the pool party, Jessica learned it's been a common occurrence in the area lately and we'll just need to be vigilant. So now, we keep the bikes locked in the garage unless we are outside or riding them.

On a more positive neighborhood note, I also talked about finding a boy for Zachary. Two days ago, a little boy named, Cope (he's 10), who lives across the street invited Zach to come over and play. I think he and Zach will be fast friends. So we are thanking the Lord for that.

Today was Zachary's 11th birthday, so we took in the GR Museum (he's a big fan of museums) and discovered Yesterdog. Yesterdog has 6 things on the menu and they are all hotdogs with different toppings. It's a dive and the hotdogs aren't that great, but it's an iconic place so we can say we did that too. Not to mention, the price is right...the most expensive thing on the menu is $2.10!

One thing to to be in prayer about right now is Jessica's back. She bent over funny today when picking up Alex and pulled something pretty good. We're hoping it's nothing serious and will heal up quickly.

Tomorrow I'll try and get some pictures of the house posted.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

We Made It!

I'm happy to report that the Lord blessed our journey and we arrived in Grand Rapids safe and sound last week Friday afternoon at around 4:00. The trip was long but uneventful. The kids traveled great, both the van and truck ran well, we had great travel condidtions, and I didn't hit anything. Oh, and as an added bonus all of our stuff made it with nary (sp?) at scratch.

When we arrived my brother, Mark, his father-in-law, Kevin, Jessica's parents, and a seminary student came to help us unload and clean. Kelli, Mark's wife, also has a bunch of groceries for us when we arrived which was so wonderful. On Saturday, Mark and Kelli came to help us again and she brought even more food. It's going to be fun living closer to them.

We are finding Grand Rapids a wonderful place to live so far. It's quite convenient to have Target, Wal-Mart, Meijer, and just about everything else all available in town. The neighbors have been very friendly. We've received some muffins, a garden zuchinni, and even a post for my broken yard fence since we've arrived here. I've even had my first visit with a Jehovah's Witness already!! =)

The kids are making fast friends with the neighbor kids as well. In fact, as I type this, they are playing at the park down the street with a few of them. Lots of girls again (just like our Sioux Center neighborhood) but we're hoping Zachary finds some friends soon too. I've got some pictures already, which I'll have to post later.

We visited Plymouth Heights CRC on Sunday and found that very welcoming as well. They are very community/neighborhood focused which is cool. It's less than a mile from our house and it seems to be a very friendly. Their current pastor is on a sabbatical right now and won't be back until the fall. So we'll see where we end up, but that was a good start. There are lots of choices here!

The house is working out well. We've got the kids' rooms set up as well as the kitchen and the living room. The office is still a mess and we are just starting to put a few things up on the walls. The basement and the garage are next on the list too. When we are arrived the house was not very clean, so we had to spend a fair amount of time wiping down cupboards and bathrooms which we were disappionted about. But now we know that is passes the Jessica inspection too, which is (in my opinion) the gold standard.

It's been hot here this week, so we had to invest in several fans since the house doesn't have air, but they are doing a good job of keeping us cool.

All in all, we are off to a very good start here. Thanks for the well-wishes, prayers, help and support along this journey. Continue to keep them coming and I'll do my best to keep you all posted.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Last Night

It's late here (almost midnight) and Jessica just asked me if I really needed to do this now. I said, "Yes". If I don't write about all this now, there'll be a hole in the story. So I'm blogging when I should be sleeping.

We've had a busy but good last few days. We had a great time with the extended family in Missouri. The weather was gorgeous and it was a lot of fun to catch up with some of those family members who I hadn't seen in ten years. We all enjoyed each others company and the kids got along great which was such a blessing.

I could (and maybe will) say alot more about that trip, but today was a big day for us. Today was our last full day in Sioux Center. It was a day filled with errands, last second arrangements, LOTS of laundry (says Jessica) and packing. I also had my first experience driving a 26 foot truck. All I can say is, stay off I-80 tomorrow and Friday!

Actually, they make it pretty easy these days. The truck has air, automatic transmission, a CD player and cruise control, but it is a beast of a vehicle to drive. And man, did we pack that thing to the gills! People asked me if I thought I would have room for everything in there and I replied, "I don't know, I've never seen all of my earthly belongings stacked in one place before."

As it turns out, we didn't have quite enough roon. Thanks to some fantastic help from my Dad, brother Paul, and good friends Dave Heynen and Chad Van Ginkel, we came close though. We had to leave a few things behind that my parents will take with them when they come out to see us in August.

So tomorrow morning, after breakfast with my parents and my grandmother (who still won't get her garage back) we'll say our goodbyes and hit the road. Pleae pray for safety and good weather. It's quite disconcerting to know that all of your earthly possessions are traveling down the road at 70 mph and any number of things could go wrong. So we are, as always, trusting in the Lord and doing our best to be careful.

We also had to say a few tough goodbyes tonight. Several of our friends stopped by to say see ya and wish us well. We hugged, we cried, we laughed, and then we waved saying that we'd see each other again and promising to keep in touch. I sure hope we do.

I said goodbye to my brother, Paul as well. It's been such a blessing to have been able to live near him and his family all these years. We are sad to be moving further away from them and from my parents and we wish it didn't have to be that way.

At the same time, we're looking forward to being closer to Mark and Kelli and to Jessica's family as well. It's hard to know how to feel about all of these changes. i guess, I'm still clinging to the fact that I'm very convicted that this is what I need to be doing right now. This is what God is asking of us, and even though it means some challenges, we are heeding his call. Let's hope it still feel that way when school starts in about six weeks!

Sorry this one got so long, but a lot has happened that I wanted to share with you. This will be my last entry from Northwest Iowa. So I'll post again once we arrive in Grand Rapids and get internet connectivity established.

Until then, thanks to everyone who has prayed for us or helped in any number of ways with this transition (meals, packing, watching kids, rides to Sioux City)-- the list is endless. You've all been an important and meaningful part of our lives. The day has come and we couldn't have done it without you.

See you in Grand Rapids!

P.S. I'm not proofing this, because it's long and it's almost 12:30 in the morning. So forgive the errors...I'm sure there are many! Thanks for suffering through them. =)

Friday, July 2, 2010


As of today, I am officially (voluntarily) unemployed. I said goodbye to my co-workers, cleaned out my desk, and turned off the lights on this phase of my life. When people asked me if it felt strange to leave, I have to say that, although saying goodbye is always hard, the strangest part is that I won't be going back to a regular job for at least three years. After going to work nearly every weekday for the last twelve years, not having a new one to go to on Monday will feel strange. I know that soon enough, school will be my work, but it still isn't the same.

To 'celebrate' my new-found freedom, we are making a long weekend trip to Branson, MO. My dad's family is having a sort of family reunion at a campground on Table Rock Lake near Kimberling City ( which is about 30 miles or so from Branson, I think. My parents were supposed to join us, but my mom is having some issues with her gall bladder right now and isn't able to make the trip. But we had it planned to go and the kids are excited so we are still going. I'm excited too...I'm going to be seeing a bunch of cousins that I haven't seen in many, many years and it will be good to catch up with them. Plus, the weather looks promising and we'll get to break in our new tent that we bought for Christmas last year. No to mention the fact that it's a great way to spend the 4th of July weekend.

We're leaving early tomorrow morning and we'll be back Tuesday night. Then Wednesday afternoon I'm going to Sioux City to get the 26-foot Penske. We'll load that up Wednesday night and hit the road for Grand Rapids on Thursday. It's getting close.

Talk to you after the camping trip...have a great 4th of July holiday.

Oh, and for all you World Cup soccer fans...way to go Holland!!!