the mom who works.

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mak and girlsWhen we started this venture as family it looked a whole lot different than it does today. Ross was home, full-time with the kids, while I was working 50+ hours a week at my full time ecommerce gig and (trying to) balance an independent design firm on the side. I will never forget my first drive back to the office after having the twins. We had three little girls at home, our oldest a fresh-faced one year old and two tiny three month olds, with a more-than-capable dad taking care of them. I made my trek on the highway to my cubicle space to begin my role as full-time working mom. I got off the highway for the office exit and was getting ready to turn right onto the side street into our office complex, extra strong coffee in hand. Clear as day I heard in my mind (and heart) “Yeah, do this and this only. Work is what you’re good at. Being mom is not.” I wish I could explain exactly where this lie was coming from – probably a mixture of insecurities and lies I believed about myself, but it was so direct that it started a stirring in my heart. I told Ross about it when I got home and thus began our adventure to finding this “balance” we call family/work life. I find myself in this struggle even today. Spoiler alert: I haven’t found the answer yet.

What does it mean to surrender your life to loving and training your children fully, working to provide for basic needs and keeping a healthy environment that offers love, stability and nurturing in each parent role? I am learning more and more that this unique balance is just that… unique to each family. I remember distinctly just three years ago making the decision with my husband that I would be going back to work full time after the birth of our second/and third child(ren) and he would be working as full-time dad because that is exactly what our life demanded in that season. Or, in our belief, what God has asked of us for that time. A season that was just as much necessary and a part of our story as any other and one that we desperately needed to forge this path we find ourselves on today. What I didn’t realize at the beginning of that season was how incapable I actually believed myself to be at being mom. Those words I heard on my drive back to the office that day ended up being a lifesaver rather than a label. They stuck with me and forced me to decide if I agreed or disagreed with that stigma.

The stories and choices that accumulated to lead us to today are really innumerable. There are moments, days, weeks where I hear that lie so clearly and choose to believe it… you’re not capable, go back to what you know, what you’re good at. And still other days, where I choose to believe a much different story. One thing I am sure of, I will never be fully capable or sufficient in my pursuit of both work and family life on my own strength. I attend a women’s Bible study every Wednesday morning and an older woman said something a few weeks back that has stuck with me almost daily. She said she felt like the Lord challenged her to examine her life and find the “good” she did. After she accumulated her tallied list, He reminded her that any and all good that was produced out of her was a direct result of the Spirit of God working through her. Not on her own strength – accomplishment – ability- sufficiency… the list goes on, but because she chose to trust a Sovereign God who was working in her weakness and teaching her to trust. I cling to that hope. Not because I am weak and believe I need a scapegoat to define who I am as “mom” or “working mom” but because I know my identity as a daughter of the King. That might sound trite but I’ve never fully understood exactly what that entails until the last few years of my twenties and man, was it a game changer.

So… I’m mom. I’m wife. I’m daughter, sister, friend. Entrepreneur, artist and designer. Lover of style, music and family. And the umbrella that holds these extensions of who I am and defines each role uniquely different in each season of my life is this – a daughter of a King Who knows me better than I could ever know myself and calls out each unique part to strengthen, discipline, love and direct me.

Working moms – keep hustling. Your strength and commitment is beautiful. I know it’s not easy and the battle rages inside of you each day, whether your 150% convinced you should be at the office/working or longing to be at home. I feel like I’ve been in both places – and each are unique. There’s purpose in each season, walk faithfully where you find yourself today.

Stay-at-home-moms – dang. I always judged you and here I am with you. Do not, for one second, neglect the value or purpose of where you find yourself today. My friend Elizabeth just challenged me today to recognize the responsibility and purpose of THIS moment, not neglecting the value of the mundane, self-sacrifice but rejoicing in the opportunity to serve our children in the here and now (I’m repeating that to myself right now, definitely not my mantra for today).

The in-betweeners – I’m with ya. I don’t know what the balance is for each of us, it’s so different but it’s exciting. Praise God for being able to treasure these baby years and also work together with our husbands to provide for the family we’ve been blessed with, and/or pursue passions that bring more life to our everyday. Who needs sleep, right? 🙂

– MaK

 

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It’s been awhile.

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Thinking about resurrecting the old blog and stumbled on this final post that I wrote and never published back in September of 2014. MaK and I found out we were pregnant with Salem Christian when I wrote this… although, at the time, we were just a few weeks pregnant with her and didn’t know her name or face just yet (I was still holding out for a boy)…

**Unpublished Post from September, 2014**

DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT A PREGNANCY ANNOUNCEMENT, JUST A LEGIT OLD POST FROM 2014. SERIOUSLY.

I haven’t written a post in almost a year. Why? Well, a lot of things have changed over the last year and although there has been much to document, I just haven’t been able or wanting to sort through it all. When I started blogging I wanted to do it so my kids had something to look back on, to see how God has been faithful in our families life. I hope this post is a testament to Gods faithfulness over the past year. So this is what’s been going on over the last year in the Dykstra household.

At the start of 2014 we decided as a family that it would be best if MaKenzie came home from providing for the family and spent her time providing in a different way. That’s right.. Full on, full out, full-time mothering. MaKenzie left her job at Housh Inc, and the plan was for me to start working. Now all I had to do was find a job. We felt strongly that The Lord was leading us to make this change for our family. The reasons were many, but I won’t get into the details. The main thing that I want to document is that we felt The Lord asking us to make this change, so we did. As January and February passed I could not find a job. It was scary, confusing, and a little frustrating as we watched our savings dwindle and no certainty of income in site.

As the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months God provided for us in unique and creative ways neither one of us could have seen. I got side jobs, we got a huge tax refund (a benefit to having 3 kids in a year), people have given us money for no reason, we moved into another families house and rented our house out, bought an apartment building, and I have finally found a job.

This year we have lived In a state of unknown. We’ve been down to almost zero in our bank account several times but God has always been faithful, He has always provided, and He has never let us become over taken by our circumstances.

There’s been moment this year where I’ve questioned everything. Why did we do this? Was this from The Lord or was this from Ross? Am I leading our family into destruction? Are we going to be over taken, and although all of these things play through my mind daily, I believe we are living the story God wants for our family.

We have had one of the best years of our lives. Although the of money has been great, the joy of provision has been greater. Even though parenting three kids under two has been difficult, the joy of our children is greater. Even though this is not the story I would write , the testimony that God is forming in our life is so much better. We have learned that trying to live a life surrendered to Gods ways is HARD!!! But it is indescribably better than anything else.

As you well know if you’ve read any of my previous blogs, MaKenzie and I have decided to let God decide how many children we will have. So, it should come to no surprise that we are expecting our 4th child in February of 2015. 4 kids in 30 months:) I don’t know how everything will work out. Our days are long, hard, demanding, and sometimes overwhelming but as I look back on this last year I can see how faithful God is and no matter what comes our way, He is working for our good. I would rather live His story for our lives than be trying to come up with it myself.

– Ross

dad life.

Dad_DaughterI haven’t written a blog post in awhile and that’s mostly due to the fact that every day is the same. Wake up around 4, hold a baby until 6, feed the twins at 6, Maebyn wakes up at 8:30, feed Maebyn breakfast, feed the twins again, feed Maebyn lunch, put Maebyn down for a nap, feed the twins again, Maebyn wakes up from her nap, feed Maebyn a snack, feed twins again, MaK gets home from work, feed Maebyn dinner, feed twins again, put Maebyn to bed, feed twins again, space out on couch, feed twins and hope to go to bed for a couple hours…. And repeat.

Ross and MaebynThe day to day adjustments have been hard and taking care of three kids is not easy but by far the hardest thing that I’ve learned through these last couple of weeks is I no longer have a life outside of my family. I know this is a season of time but the complete surrender of anything going on in my life has been the hardest part. I know it’s because I have a lot of selfishness inside of me but one thing is for sure, selfishness is getting rooted out of me day by day. All I am is dad. Caretaker of our three kids. Before the twins, it was difficult, but I had time and energy to do things that I wanted to do. I had energy and time to work out, spend time with friends, do Bible studies, and run errands. Now, the sheer task of keeping everyone fed takes up most of the day. God has been slowly stripping me of things I’ve tried to find identity in other than Him. In fact, this has really been going on my whole life. I want to be attractive, a person people consider wise, interesting, influential, a good dad, a good husband, and every time I’ve tried to build identity in those areas on my own accord, the Lord has graciously stripped me of my striving. I know my true identity lies in being a son of the King, my heart just has a tough time deeply believing it. I’m constantly pulled the way of the world.

twins 10 weeks oldWith the birth of the twins, I’m constantly being asked “how do you do it?” Amongst many other comment of astonishment about our circumstances. Every time I hear one of these comments I cringe, because of my insecurities and because of a lot of the undertones that come along with them. “Don’t you want to work?”, “Why doesn’t your wife want to take care of the kids?”. Even though people may not be saying or even thinking these things, I do. Being a stay at home dad is isolating. I don’t have much to talk about with other guys because our day to day lives are a lot different. People may think I’m doing the right thing but ultimately, I don’t feel respected. And we all know that it’s too easy sometimes to fall into the trap of making our “feelings” our reality.

At the end of the day, I’m exhausted, MaK’s exhausted, Maebyn is exhausted, and the twins are wide awake. Hah, funny how that works out. I don’t know how long this season will last and to be honest, the biggest blessing in all of this is that each day is hard enough on its own so looking to the future isn’t even on my radar. The Lord is teaching us many things through this season. I wish I could say we are walking through it better, but sometimes frustration with our kids, each other, and ourselves seems to be the theme of our day to day routine.

I guess at this point of the post there is supposed to be some sort of culmination into how all this corresponds to a bigger, better purpose… well, it does. Right now it’s hard to make sense of it or even understand, for that matter, how it all “works together for good” but I know that it does. I think that is one of the biggest issues our family is facing with this new normal – recognizing that feelings and beliefs can often be very contradictory and we meet at a crossroads of letting one or the other win. Insecurities, mundane routines, exhaustion… all fight with me to trust my feelings. But I’m trying to rest in the confidence of my beliefs and what I know to be true.

Romans 8:26-28 (The Message)

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

– Ross

Living on the other side of a miracle

The Dykstra TwinsI haven’t written a blog post since the twins were born and that’s due mostly to the fact that I’ve been trying to sort out my thoughts, change in daily routine, and the many emotions that go along with living on the other side of a miracle. The night the twins were born MaKenzie and I were so happy, we were so thankful, and our hearts were overwhelmed with gratitude towards the Lord for the miracle that was the twins healthy birth. However, three days after being home the only emotion I was feeling was frustration. Lack of sleep, change in routine, and living in complete chaos has been overwhelming at times and I’ve felt my heart lean more towards frustration than towards gratitude. I’ve been ashamed of how quickly I’ve forgotten about the miracle that has happened and how quickly my circumstances effect my feelings. I desperately want to be grateful for what the Lord has done but I would be lying if I said on a day-to-day basis the frustration doesn’t win out most of the time.

Dad and The TwinsLast week I started reading through Exodus again and one thing began to stick out to me very plainly. As I began to read, I noticed that the Lord was directing the steps of the Israelites to the very last detail. It says in Exodus 14 that God led the Israelites to the Red Sea when He could have taken them around it instead. He did this so His glory could be shown through parting the Red Sea. After the Israelites walked through the parted Red Sea, they sang songs of praise to the Lord for His protection, guidance, His glory, and unmatched power. He delivered them with an unforeseen miracle and the only response was praise. However, three days later the Israelites come to a place without water. They instantly began to question Gods leading because they were thirsty. Really? God just parted the Red Sea and killed their enemies and they think He’s going to let them die of thirst?

SistersIt seems ridiculous but as I read through these stories I began to relate more and more to the Israelites condition. They just witnessed a great miracle three days ago but still their life circumstances were uncertain, scary, and led them to a place of wondering if God was really going to provide for them. I couldn’t help but feel like I’m living in somewhat of a similar state. I’ve seen the mighty hand of God at work, I believe that He is going to see us through, and I know that He is going to provide. However our life circumstances are real, they are overwhelming, and I wonder if they are going to overtake us sometimes. As I read through Exodus I was reminded that God never left His people. He was there before the Red Sea. He was there as He parted it for them. He was there when they were thirsty. He provided time and time again. He didn’t take away the tough circumstances but always provided in the midst of them. As MaK and I move forward our hope is that we don’t miss the provision in the midst of our circumstances.

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And those who hope in the Lord will not be put to shame.”

Romans 5: 4-5

I hate not sleeping. It’s hard not to have a routine, and it doesn’t seem like this phase of life has an end in sight, but as we walk through this season of life our hope is that the more uncertain life becomes the more room there is to hope in the Lord. We aren’t walking through this season perfectly… at all. In fact a couple weeks ago I think I told each girl, including Maebyn, to shut up at the peak of my frustration one night. Not exactly a high point but we keep moving forward hoping in the Lord. He is here. He parted our Red Sea and He’s here in our thirst as well. Hopefully tomorrow I don’t forget that again.

Ross

They’re here.

twins bornAbout a year ago, MaKenzie told me that we needed to start a blog because she thought it could make us a little extra money. At the time I didn’t really understand blogs, why people followed them, or why people would get paid for writing their opinions. Nevertheless, about 4 months after MaK begged me to give it a try, I wrote my first blog post. The only thing I wanted this blog to be was something my kids could look back on and see how God has been faithful in our family’s story. I am so thankful MaK pressed me to do this blog, the events that have taken place over the last 9 months have cemented a testimony for our family and for our three baby girls that God is in the details and He can be trusted. Monday night was the beautiful ending to a long but satisfying 36 week and 3 day identical twin pregnancy.

We walked into the hospital at 6:30 am on August 12th (just one day after Maebyn’s first Leaving the NICUbirthday) to start MaKenzie’s labor. Our team of specialists decided that given risk and circumstances with the TTTS, it was time for the girls to come out and induced labor was the route we were taking at 36 weeks 3 days pregnant. Throughout this entire pregnancy there has been countless situations where MaK & I just plain did not know what to do or what decision to make but we’ve desperately tried to seek what God was telling us to do. Sometimes it was very clear and we felt Him very near to us, and other times it felt like taking a step in the dark, completely unsure of whether we were making the right choice or not. MaKenzie labored hard all day long and at about 6 pm the pain and contractions were becoming more and more intense and it looked like we still had a long ways to go, she hadn’t progressed from the 4 cm dilation that we walked into the hospital with and I could tell her spirit was weakening.

I remember thinking maybe we made the wrong decision to have an induction, maybe we should have waited for labor to come naturally, maybe we screwed this entire thing up and made the wrong choice… MaK desperately wanted to have a vaginal birth and the longer the day carried on the more it seemed like she may have to have a c-section. She got her epidural around 6 pm and at that point we both mentally prepared to “settle in” for the long hall which could possibly lead to a c section. Around 7 pm our doctor came in and broke baby A’s water. I’m not a pro at labor stories, so here’s the gist… within 40 minutes contractions were so intense MaK assumed the epidural had not taken and was having difficulty talking through them. She asked the nurse if it was possible for the epidural to “not have worked” because of the pain she was in, this question prompted the medical staff to check her progress again. Within that short hour she had reached completion (10 cm) and Baby A was literally getting ready to make her appearance. Our nurse threw scrubs at me and 3-4 nurses rushed into the room to hurry and wheel MaK into the OR before the first baby decided to come out on her own (all multiples pregnancies are delivered in the OR because of the risk potential). They were in such a hurry they nailed MaK’s hospital bed against the door on the way out, we laugh about it now but at the time … no one was laughing 🙂 Long story short, in about 2 and a half pushes the twins were here. The sound of the two cries was almost too overwhelming to handle. The girls were here. Alive. Safe. Healthy.

the twinsTruette’s skin was much paler than her sister Larkyn’s. Her umbilical cord was smaller and she weighed over a pound less than her “little” sister – True was born about 1 minute before Larkyn. The doctor reminded us that this was the effects of TTTS and not to be worried immediately, she would be checked out in the NICU as soon as possible. We were so thrilled when we found out, just three days later, Truette was ready to go home from the NICU and we could officially start our new “life” as a family of five.

When MaKenzie and I were trying to determine the names for the twins, we looked back on what this journey has meant to us and both decided we really wanted to give each girl a name that meant something and held significance, so that they both would remember and never forget what happened even before they were born. The name Larkyn means “to be crowned in victory” and the name Truette (our little “True”) we wanted to represent truth. Together, the girls names tell the story of what we believe it really means to be “crowned in true victory”… a display of God’s direct intervention and healing touch when all else around pointed to an inevitable loss. We wanted their testimony to be shared. Living in Cincinnati, I’m sure Larkyn is going to hear, “So, your parents are big Reds fans? Is that why they named you Larkyn?”  My prayer is that this is her response (MaK and I disagree slightly on the opening statement, but we won’t get into that here)…

“No. Every member of my family is a devout Detroit Tigers fan!! My name is Larkyn because before I was born, I was supposed to die. You see, I have an identical twin sister and we were diagnosed with twin-to-twin-transfusion syndrome and given very little chance of survival. But, my family and I serve a God who heals. He healed my sister and I, and together our names mean to be crowned in true victory.”

This journey has been special to our family. It has not been easy but it has driven us closer to the heart of our Lord and that is more precious to us than anything. Thank you to everyone that has taken part in this story with us. We honestly cannot thank you enough for the prayers and encouragement you have given to us, you lifted our spirits and made us feel more love than we could ever have imagined. Even though this story is unique to our family, the Author of our story has plenty more stories just like this, full of His redemption and love for His children. We are thankful to be a part of the great cloud of witnesses that stand and proclaim how great is our God.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith.”

Hebrews 12:1-2

Thank you for loving our family, praying for our girls and for taking the time to read a portion of our story.

Ross, MaK, Maebyn, Truette & Larkyn Dykstra

Believe in love.

believe_ring33 full weeks in just 3 days.

Sometimes I have to give myself a couple of minutes to allow this reality to sink in. How was it just 2 and a half months ago we were sitting in a conference room with pediatric specialists, maternal fetal doctors and other medical personnel explaining to us the grave diagnosis of our girls and the long, uncertain road that was ahead of us. Surgery. Heart failure. Growth abnormalities… those words were all-consuming. And now, about 75 days out from that meeting and just a few weeks away from our actual due date, instead of being on my back or coping with an immeasurable loss, I feel two healthy sisters kicking each other (and my right rib cage) as I type.

God’s goodness is unfathomable. My heart aches when I think of people Ross and I love so dearly, friends and family, who have lost a child(ren). I think of these sweet babies so often and pray for God’s goodness to be poured onto their families who are left here on earth to mourn such a deep loss. We love you. And your strength inspires us daily.

The girls’ story has been called – by doctors, nurses and others – a modern-day miracle. One of our RN case workers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital actually called me a couple weeks ago and her words have stuck with me, playing over and over in my mind. She told me she had personally been present for over 200+ TTTS surgeries and cases at the hospital and her hope was that Ross and I both understood fully that what transpired with our girls was truly… (that word again) a miracle. While I know this is true, I guess I’ve been in some denial thinking that I’m just not the sort of person a “miracle” would happen to. I mean, I read about these stories … share the ones I love… but to me? Our little family? No way. I actually looked up the word the other day to make sure I was conceptualizing its definition and meaning accurately. This is what I discovered:

Miracle: A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is considered to be divine. Highly improbable, an extraordinary event.

Since being pregnant for nearly two years now – yowza, that sounds intense when I type it but true nonetheless – I’ve had to switch out my wedding ring for another, looser option to fit my often-swollen hands. My ring of choice? When I turned 16, I found a ring that I knew I had to have. It’s a simple, thick, silver band with hand-scripted words across the front that spoke to me; even as an overly dramatic, hormone-drive teenager who didn’t know the first thing about love. The scripted words across the band simply say “Believe in love.” I made a promise to myself the day I bought the ring that I would give this ring to the man I would marry, the first man that I fell in love with (did you just throw up a little?). Well, my little plan actually worked. At 18, through sloppy tears and an even sloppier kiss afterwards, I handed this ring to Ross Dykstra and the rest is history. He’s worn it on his pinky since that day and before Maebyn was born last year I found it amongst his jewelry and it seemed to be the perfect solution to my fat fingers and wedding-ring-less left hand.

Tonight, I’m looking at that tarnished, scratched ring and its message carries such a different meaning in my life. The last ten years it has represented my best friend and the best guy I know, my husband and how he allowed me to become the luckiest girl on this planet by picking me as his wife. Now, though, the ring seems to have encompassed much more as it has followed me the past year or so on our family’s journey.

Believe in love.

Believing in a God who loves me more than I’m even capable of comprehending. A God that wants to perform miracles not only in big ways in my life but even in every-day circumstances. A God that operates outside of what I think is best for me and often reveals Himself through the hurt and pain this life can bring, using it to draw me closer to His heart.

Believing in a love that is surprising… A welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is considered to be divine.

I hope He gives me the grace to increase that belief in His love throughout each circumstance our family faces. Tonight, and this 33rd week, I’m believing in love very deeply when I look at my almost one-year old little girl, think of her dad who selflessly takes care of her each day and feel her two little sisters growing and getting bigger by the minute in my belly.

– MaK

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