The Kruithof’s and Naranjo’s

MaKenzie and I have a lot going on in our lives right now but so do a lot of our friends. It’s been nice to share in the chaos, stress, fear, and uncertainty of life together. At least its nice to feel like we are not alone. It seems like a lot of our friends are either pregnant and due around the same time as us, or just recently added to their families. What’s been awesome to see lately is that most of our friends have also taken huge leaps of faith in order to try and pursue what the Lord is doing in their lives… all in scary, challenging yet exciting new ways. I know I’ve talked before about what our friends The Stone’s are doing this year (Sabbath year) but we actually have a few others doing equally inspiring and challenging things. Their stories and journeys have really encouraged us and my hope is that they encourage you as well. It’s nice to be surrounded by families who are not content with what the American Dream has to offer.Brent and Katie

 

We met Brent and Katie Kruithof last year at our first Story Formed Life group. It wasn’t long until Brent and I were lifting together every Tuesday and quickly becoming great  friends. After spending some time with Brent, it became obvious to me that he and Katie had a couple screws loose just like me and MaK – what a relief! You see, Brent used to be a very successful accountant in the Cayman Islands and he quit his great job (yeah, you read that right), left the amazing beach life and moved back to the United States to pursue a dream. He and his wife are beginning a start-up business off of the ground, called Fly Up Fitness, all the while expecting their first child. Why take the risk? Well, it’s a long story but the simple answer is because Brent and Katie both felt like the Lord was calling them to do this. They wanted to increase their family’s faith more than they wanted to increase their bank account. The business that they have started is an amazing concept and something I truly believe will be a great success for their family. Right now Brent is working on pitching to investors and trying to line up funds to launch his genius fitness product the Fly Up. They are actually currently competing in a local contest to help raise funds and are sitting in second place. If you have about 30 seconds (and love to support new business ideas and families following God’s calling), will you please vote for his company? Click here to cast your vote. It should take less than a minute and will hopefully help push him into first place. After you vote, I would greatly appreciate you passing this along and encourage others to vote as well.Naranjos

Another one of our friends, Anthony and Dawn Naranjo are getting ready to go on staff at Athletes in Action (AIA) later this summer. We met them almost five years ago and they’ve been a big part of our life ever since, encouraging and supporting us through every life event since MaK and I have been married. Anthony is taking a position with the baseball division at AIA and I believe he will have a great impact for the kingdom there. Over the last couple months Anthony has been trying to raise support in order to pursue what He believes the Lord to be calling him to do. I cannot imagine having to raise my own support and have to ask others for money, it is a very humbling process to undertake and I have been so impressed with Anthony’s humility and submission to God’s call on his life while leading his family. Anthony has a powerful testimony of coming to know the Lord and AIA was a big part of his story. They are doing a great job raising support but they still have a little bit to go. If you are interested at all in learning more about AIA, the Naranjo’s story, or supporting them financially in their mission you can email them HERE.

If you feel a leading, please join us in supporting some of our friends.

We love you guys,

Ross and MaK

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An inadequate thank you.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

While we were in Mexico we worked in a squatters village during our last day there. This part of town in Monterrey was a place of extreme poverty. While we were serving with the church in the squatters community the pastor said something to us that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. It wasn’t anything super profound or insightful and at the time I thought it was simply just a nice way to say thank you. However, what he said stuck with MaKenzie and I and we have experienced the reality of what he spoke of on a deeper level over the last several weeks.

The pastor said this, through the broken English of a translator, “Thank you for coming to help us today. I feel like Moses when the Israelites were battling the Amalekites. As long as Moses kept his hands raised to the Lord, the Israelites were winning the battle. Moses’ arms grew tired and he could not keep his arms raised, so Aaron and Hur stood with Moses and helped him keep his arms lifted to The Lord. You guys coming to help is like Arron and Hur helping us keep our arms lifted to The Lord.” I thought I understood what he was saying but to be honest it sounded like a really spiritual way of saying “thank you” and I was impressed (and slightly confused). Over the last month or so I think The Lord has revealed to me what it was this pastor was speaking of and it has been a deeply humbling experience.

Ever since we received the news that our girls have TTTS we have seen an outpouring of love from family, friends, acquaintances, blog followers, and most surprisingly, people we don’t even know or have any connection to. From receiving emails, Facebook messages, phone calls, dinners and letters, one thing has been so clear to us… we weren’t the only ones on our knees for our girls. It was deeply humbling to have people thinking of us and praying for us on a daily basis. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such an outpouring of support in my life. MaK and I would often talk in awe about how shocked we were that so many people felt called to pray for us, geesh. It seemed like every single day we were being encouraged by one person or another. I don’t know why but this deeply confused me. How could people care so much for our little girls and for us, even some who were complete strangers? I don’t have a great answer for this question but I do know that God used everyone of your cards, emails, gestures and calls to speak encouragement into our lives in a time where we desperately needed it.

I guess the real point of this blog post is that MaKenzie and I want to say thank you. Thank you so much, we truly do not have words to explain how much your kindness and prayers have meant. You were our Arron and Hur during this battle in our lives. You helped us keep our arms lifted to the Lord and we hope you also celebrate with us in the Lord’s victory. There were many times where our arms were tired but your encouragement and prayer helped us keep them up. We can not say thank you enough for the support. I know I’ve said it before but it was so humbling to hear over and over again how many of you took us to the Lord in prayer. Those prayers were priceless to us and appreciate them more than you will ever know. Thank you for joining in on this story God is writing in our lives. This was a great reminder to MaK and I of what the church is suppose to look like, many parts of the body, working together to encourage one another and glorify the Father.

All glory be to God.

Ross and MaK

Back from Mexico

Ross_and_TueyWe got back from the Back2Back campus in Monterrey, Mexico, early Sunday morning and I’ve been wanting to post about how our trip went but hadn’t been able to pin point exactly what I wanted to say. It was great to be able to go on this trip with MaKenzie but we both sure did miss our little baby Maebyn. Funny how your life changes from checking facebook or email in your free time to watching (and re-watching) the same videos over and over of your kids when you’re away from them. Even though MaKenzie and I were together on this trip, our family still felt separated. Although we greatly missed our daughter the trip was great and we experienced a lot in the 5 days we were in Mexico. I couldn’t help but see her face in the faces of the kids at the orphanages we visited and my heart broke over and over, thinking that they did not have a parent somewhere out there who was missing them like I was her.

While we were in Mexico our days were pretty planned out for us. Some days we worked, some days we played with kids, and some days we did both. Our main work project consisted of laying a concrete floor in a new building that was being constructed as a new MaK_Ross_Mexicoorphan home. We worked tirelessly and managed to lay 50 yards of concrete in 115 degree heat (yes, you read that right… 115 heat index one day). It was tough work to say the least but it felt good to be working and working with a purpose. It was also fun to spend some time with MaKenzie’s co-workers and get to know the people she is around everyday in the office. She’s lucky, they are a great bunch and tons of fun. All in all, it was just fun for us to serve. Isn’t there something about rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty with hard work that makes the end of the day that much sweeter? MaK had a big impact on the children and the adults there. She did not do or say anything that made that impact, it was merely the fact that she was pregnant, in a vulnerable state, and still willing to serve and work alongside of us. She did everything we did and did not sit out of anything – despite my asking millions of times for her to slow down. The Lord greatly used this act of servant-hood to speak to the people there. Everyone we came in contact with couldn’t believe that a woman, pregnant, much less pregnant with twins, would come and help serve them. I think her act of merely “going” really showed the people of Monterrey love and that was really humbling to see. She’s got a pretty cool testimony from the whole experience too, God worked in some powerful ways in her own life.

Work_Team_AngleAfter having several days to think about our experience there was one point I felt like God kept impressing on my heart in a different way each day and that was the reality of poverty – in many different facets – that exists in our world today. In the places we personally visited throughout Monterrey, physical poverty was obvious and all around, yet that wasn’t what struck me. Beth Guckenberger, the woman who started Back2Back Ministries with her husband Todd, talked about different kinds of poverty; financial poverty, relational poverty, spiritual poverty, and emotional poverty. All I could see was the physical poverty that was all around me but as the week went on, I started to see that the physical/ financial poverty was not having the biggest impact on the children and the other areas of poverty (relational, spiritual, emotional, etc.) was really making an impact on them individually. Don’t get me wrong, we are called to serve the poor and needy and there is a big need there but I began to see how we all live in a state of literal poverty in so many areas of our life and just because it might not be as obvious to the naked eye as financial poverty, we ignore it.

As we went from one orphanage to the next and met different kids from different areas it became more and more obvious what a significant impact Back2Back was having. Children who were a part of the Hope Program and in the Back2Back sponsored MaKenzieorphanages seemed to be more spiritually, emotionally, and relationally rich. The impact of being in a family setting where there was a father and mother figure teaching these things made a huge difference into the whole development of the children. I was impressed by the development of children who have had to deal with abandonment, abuse, and neglect from the moment they were born. Was there still financial poverty there? Yes, but what stuck out to me the most was that the kids that were in the most danger where the ones stricken with emotional, spiritual, and relational poverty. These areas of poverty were all directly correlated to events that have taken place in these kids lives – events that warrant feeling angry, hurt and confused about relationships, especially their relationship with God. Whether it was abuse, abandonment, no provision, or not feeling loved they all lead to a place of poverty in their lives.

Ross DykstraI couldn’t help but feel like we all live in poverty in one or more of these areas. We live in an affluent culture where we rarely come in contact with physical poverty like in Mexico but the other forms of poverty are alive and well within every society and culture. No parent wants to pass along the burden of financial poverty to their children. This is eminent in almost every culture and especially America. We all want better lives for our kids and for most of us that means trying to pass down more opportunities for provision than what we had – or continuing the trend of tirelessly working at the cost of our family. Whether knowingly or unknowingly we pass down our emotional, spiritual, and relational poverty to our kids without a second thought. These are things that we can not always see, they aren’t valued by our culture, and it’s hard to measure so they get shoved aside in our pursuit for “a better life”. I’ve been wondering how often I excuse my own decisions and motivations to obtain something that is here and now, while making my family and children sacrifice in the process. Makes me think of 1 Corinthians 9: 25 – “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

The lasting impression from Monterrey that I pray stays with me always is that I want my family to be spiritually, relationally, and emotionally rich. I don’t want my family to live in financial poverty but the thing that I most long for our family to be wealthy in is loving one another and others from a holistic, healthy heart. To love as we have been so greatly loved.

Happy to back in America but thankful to have had the opportunity to serve,

Ross

Off to Mexico

In about 6 hours we will be on our way to the airport to start our trip to Monterrey, Mexico to help out at back2back ministries. Makenzie’s employer, Will Housh of Housh Inc., supports the Cincinnati-based orphan ministry and takes anyone on staff who is willing to go down to Monterrey each year. We decided that if MaKenzie was going to go at nearly 6 months pregnant, then I would be there too. Our decision behind us both going was we want to be a family on a mission and not just individuals coming together under the same house. So, in attempt to make the team aspect more of a reality in the Dykstra household we decided this was an experience for the both of us (and now, coincidentally, 4 of us – Maebyn will be spending 6 days relaxing with both sets of her grandparents).

We’ll only be in Mexico for 6 days but it should be an adventure. We will greatly miss our little Maebyn but we are excited to see what The Lord has for us in Mexico. It should definitely be interesting with MaK being pregnant with twins. If you think of it, say a prayer for the entire team going and ask God to use us in a way that only He can. Can’t wait to share our experiences and excited to join the rest of the Housh Inc. team in the 102 degree weather!

Til next week,

Ross

Thoughts on faith

Ross_Maebyn_8monthsI’ve talked a lot about trying to increase our family’s faith in the last couple of posts and since I can’t think of anything else to write about I’m going to ramble on more about faith. Why? Well, the reason I started this blog was to record in some way our families story. My hope is that over the next couple days, weeks, months I can look back on this post and see areas where our faith has grown and areas where we still need to have more faith. It’s a good way to remember along the journey.

Even now, it’s funny to look back 5 months when I first started writing and see where a seemingly simple decision to trust God with conception has landed us in a place where we will have three girls in less than a year. I’m still amazed by this and if children are a blessing, we have been richly blessed this year. Although I have been humbled by this blessing, I’m tempted everyday to stare into the details of life and become overwhelmed. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times… I hate not being in control. If I look back on my life, I have some pretty strong examples that I’ve never really been in control in the first place but feeling out of control starts to grip me with fear. If I’m really honest, the root of my fear rests in the fact that at the core of me I don’t want to trust God. It’s too scary. Too risky. I don’t trust that He is good and that He is trying to train me up in His ways. I’ve had the tendency to look upon my circumstances with fear and that has downward spiraled me into some of the hardest years of my life.

I’ve always viewed faith like this – Sure, God, I’ll take a leap of faith, now God please lead me into a place of comfort and security. I see how God has honored my steps of faith but it hasn’t always led me into a place of comfort. Actually, the opposite has often been the case. I’ve often taken the lack of comfort not as an opportunity to walk in increased faith but more as a punishment for something good I was trying to do. It’s caused me to doubt and question my decisions that I knew where right and wish I had chosen the latter. And interestingly enough, years (sometimes months) down the road I can look back and see why the landing place that seemed comfort-free was exactly what my heart needed. Need examples? OK, here we go…

When I got married about five years ago, MaKenzie and I decided to live in Cincinnati. I took a job as an insurance provider and she found a job at a publishing company. Long story short, she’s found nothing but success in her career thereafter and I found nothing but failure.  For years I was mad at God. I walked in faith moving down to Cincinnati. I knew this is where He wanted us to live, so why was this happening? I started to doubt Gods plan for me in Cincinnati. I thought to myself, our family should have moved to Michigan where my dad could have helped me find a job and then things would have been better for ME. This lasted for about 3 years. It was not fun and I was not the best husband I could have been. The story revolved around me and since I hadn’t found “my calling” just yet, I was unhappy. Not a fun way to live.

A lot has changed in me over the past couple of months and a lot of that has to do with my new found title of Stay at Home Dad. However, the biggest change has been one of perspective. If I’m the center of the story then all these things I’ve discussed previously in this blog culminate into me being one gigantic failure and that’s tough to live with. However, if God is the center of the story then all these circumstances are ones in which He was trying to train, teach, and disciple me for His good purposes. This has brought me and my family so much freedom. What I’ve learned about faith is its not about taking huge leaps into the unknown hoping to come out into a place of comfort but rather willingly walking in the unknown and trusting that the Lord will train, teach, and disciple your hearts so that you can dive deeper into knowing He’s in control.

Ross

A New Adventure Starts

famThere are a lot of changes going on in our life right now and they just seem to keep on coming, one right after another. MaKenzie and I have spent a lot of time talking about the many things that we have to consider in raising 3 kids under 1. We’ve had many discussions over the past couple weeks like, what should we do for schooling, how the hell do you fit 3 car seats in one car, where should we live, should I go back to work? They’ve been good discussions but we’ve had a difficult time landing on many concrete answers. We have, however, determined one major decision that we hope has a profound impact on our families future. It’s a big one and we’ve received lots of opposition already but bare with me as I explain…

MaKenzie and I have decided to move into a local Amish community just outside of the Cincinnati area. We have not worked out all the details yet but we are thinking about moving after we are able to sell our house. We’ve spoken with the community and visited a few times to get acquainted with this “new” and somewhat daunting lifestyle we will be embracing in the coming months. MaK and I both have decided we desire to live a more simple life and raise our children free from distractions and we know we won’t be able to do this with all of the modern conveniences we now live with. This has not been an easy decision for our family and especially for MaKenzie. We are going to miss our TV (so long, New Girl and Revenge), computers and outside world connections dearly. We are not exactly sure what this season of life will look like but we are excited for a new adventure. We are accustomed to our lifestyle and it is uncomfortable to think about stepping into a new one. Our hope is that it is only something that helps our family continue to grow. I mean, geesh, at the rate going now – we could be having twins again in a year and push our number up to 5. We know there will be people who disagree with this decision and to them we say………….

 

 

 

APRIL FOOLS!

Bahahahaha, sorry, I had to. Was I convincing at all??

Please continue the April Fools tradition and let me know how you got someone today,

Ross

Me First, Please

Maebyn's been working on her selfishness this week too. Starting with her obsessive headband collection.

Maebyn’s been working on her selfishness this week too. Starting with her obsessive headband collection.

Staying at home with my daughter and just being a parent in general has brought a lot of things to light in my life. I think I’ve mentioned it before but I’m still coming to terms with how selfish I can be. I can blame some of my selfishness on our culture, some to human nature, but most just falls on the fact that most of us at the core of who we are believe we are the most important. We believe a story that focuses around us and our needs. My dad use to remind me of the profound idea that “the universe doesn’t center around me” or, my personal favorite, “it must be a burden knowing everything.” Although I didn’t appreciate it then, I actually see that on some level during some circumstances, I actually believed these ideas and I still do even today. Hey, I’m working on it.

I’ve seen these things play out in my marriage with uncomfortable regularity. My wife is very a very diligent hard worker. She’s worked for everything and is careful with our money. I have repeatedly given her a hard time when she wants to buy things and have heaped burdens onto her for wanting certain things that I may not deem necessary. I, on the other hand, have no trouble spending money on myself, it’s actually quite easy. And I’m fairly good at it. I’ve found it’s so much easier to worry about my needs rather than elevating someone else’s above my own. I see this tendency revealed even in doing simple chores. Most of the things I do, I expect something in return. Even if its a simple thank you (or a national parade, letter from the President – I’m not picky), I’m still looking for my own self to be recognized for the things I do for others and when that’s not the outcome, I feel wronged.

What I want to strive for is doing for others just because that is what I feel the Lord leading me to do. No expectations, no need for repayment, and definitely no national parade in celebration of my feats. I’ve bought into the lie that relationships are entered into when there is something that can benefit me. I want to be someone that freely enters into relationships with people where I may not gain or receive anything and be OK with it. We all need each other and if we are only interested in our own personal gains than how can we can truly be a blessing to anyone?

The reason for this post is that ever since I started this blog random people have been asking me to mention, promote, or partner with their businesses. Obviously, my audience is pretty limited and not really that focused so I haven’t known how to respond to them. I haven’t even concocted a plan on how I could benefit from doing it, so I’m not sure how they will either. Regardless of all that, I’ve felt compelled to at least try and help those who ask for my little assistance. Paul Serra, the owner of the domain CustomOnIt.com, asked if I would mention his new website in the hopes of driving more traffic. They’re a young company, trying to gain some interest, with some pretty cool products (personalized sweatbands, anyone?). My first thought was, embarrassingly enough, what can I get out of this? I desperately don’t want this to be my mindset when someone asks for my help and that is why I’m asking you guys to check out his website. Paul is not giving me anything to write this post and I do not want anything in return. My hope is that some of you check out his site and maybe even use his services.

My wife and I had a long talk last night about what it really means to change the course of your life/lifestyle/family and how (pretty much always) these tasks seem way too big to undertake. We overwhelm ourselves with the “how”, “when” and “what” questions – thinking that we need to come to some epiphany that will propel us into endless action of “right doings”. False. At least that’s how we feel. More often then not, it’s making one right decision in hopes that it propels a bigger goal or purpose. My father-in-law always says “Just do the next right thing”.

Conquering selfishness isn’t going to happen tomorrow, but today a new friend gets a free plug. Best of luck, Paul. I wish I would have found CustomOnIt.com back in my competitive intramural dodgeball days. We totally would have had custom “Man Candy” sweat headbands.

Till next time,

Ross