Encouraged and Inspired

Twelve years ago after church, a couple...two couples actually cornered us approached us and asked us if we had considered helping with the Godteen program.  We smiled and nodded and assured them we would go home and talk about it and let them know.  It's funny how God's timing is perfect even when it doesn't seem so.   Truth be told, we had actually been thinking about it for quite some time...like 2 year or more, but we kept making excuses...we weren't sure if our long term plans were to stay in Crete, or how busy we would be, or if we could really do something like that since we didn't even have kids yet.  Two years we occasionally chatted about it when we would see something in the bulletin regarding the group. 

After a little discussion and a little prayer, we decided that being asked was God's way of opening the door that we'd been standing in front of all this time, so we said "yes" and jumped right in.  I think there was a good amount of relief from the others involved at the time.  They caught us and now the hook was in!  These other mentors did a great job of inviting us in, making us feel comfortable...and sometimes a little scared...of what we had committed to.  We felt welcome and supported and we were excited to begin this new adventure. The Havlat's, Pat Philip, and the Mitchell's...and The Andreasen's.  We were the new kids on the block...we would have the incoming freshman class...AND we would be having our first baby too, all at the same time. 

I remember having a kick-off picnic at the Mitchell's a week before we were to officially begin meeting.  We would plan to meet each Wednesday night in our home with twenty-some 9th graders.  We had sent a letter to each of their families, inviting them, and letting them know what our ambitions and expectations were.  After we had met our new group, we took a breath and nervously awaited our first real week the next week.  That next meeting was postponed because we were coming home from the hospital with a brand new baby boy the next Wednesday night.  When we finally did meet a week later, all of the kids were excited about a new baby...lots of ooows and aaaaaws.  We had instant babysitters, and in fact Jakob's first two babysitters remain a big part of our lives today. 

Shannon with Mathilda, Sept. 2003
This was a class of kids that touched our lives in so many ways.  Thanks God...for always knowing what the perfect timing is.  (Had we done more than think about things for 2 years, we would have missed out on this particular class.)  Our first three kids grew up with this group of highschoolers that dwindled from 19 to 17, and we had 17 consistently for four straight years. (We've also come to learn that this has everything to do with their parents too!)  Those other three groups of mentors continued to walk us right through things and we typically had something all together once a month, so we forged friendships with them too.  One couple in particular impacts us still today. 

I'll never forget, in fact I remember VIVIDLY two times after Jakob was born that Donna stopped by the house to see him and to bring us dinner.  I honestly can't remember what dinner was, other than delicious, but I defnitely remember dessert--apple crisp and ice cream.  She was the only one that brought us a meal.  I had no idea to expect anything like that and I admit, I was overwhelmed with gratitude.  I wouldn't dare let a friend have a baby now without taking a meal to them, especially when I remember how special and needed thier meal was for us.  Sometime later, she stopped by again on a day that was especially hard for me.  Jakob had been crying for days, what seemed like non-stop.  (In retrospect, we know that he had terrible ear infections for the first 6 months of his life without any real symptoms...when he had tubes placed in his ears at 7 months, we met a new child...a happy one!)  I had no idea what to do and remember feeling like I was going to climb the walls listening to him cry all day and all night.  He was in his swing and I was trying to hold it together the best I could.  She gave me a hug, picked him up and cuddled him a little, quieted him down and just told me it would be ok.  I was relieved a little, I mean, she must know what she's talking about, she has five kids of her own--Ross, their oldest was one of our Godteens. 

Brad and Donna with Tim and I at Tim's 30th b-day celebration.
Brad and Donna were the mentors for the junior class, so we shared time with them for the next couple of years until their group graduated and then we were without them for two years.  But lucky us...we had Ross, so we still had a connection!  We moved to Lincoln close to the end of the kids' sophomore year, but felt so connected to them that we couldn't let them go to someone else, so we came back to Crete every Wednesday evening and met in one of their homes until they graduated.  We genuinely loved each one of the kids.  I remembered Donna talking about some of the relationships that they had with some of their Godteens and at first I thought that was probably a special situation.  Over the last eight years since they've graduated, we've kept in touch with most of them...some better than others.  Facebook makes that a lot easier now.  (I have lost most pictures from 2000- 2002 and 2004-2006 of all of our Youth Jam/Godparent program groups!)

Six of our Crete Sacred Heart Godteens in 2003
Shannon is Mathilda's Godmother and for years was my "go-to" person.  She helped me with the kids on a regular basis because she was going to college in Lincoln.  She's married with a family of her own now, so we don't get to enjoy her free time like we used to, but we still get to see her often. 

Shannon and Mathilda at Shannon's wedding shower
After we moved to Lincoln and let go of Crete a little more, we stepped into the "godparent" role again at St. Teresa's, but this time it was for a couple that was moving, so their class has already begun.  They were nearly sophomores when we "got" them, and by the time they were almost juniors, we were moving from Lincoln...but again, we didn't want to give them up, so we made similar arrangements to what we did in Crete.  This time though, we had five kids, not one or two or three to be entertained during our meeting times.  Valerie (former Crete godteen) would come to our house every Wednesday night to watch the kids.  Sometimes her boyfriend Mitch would come...he played baseball for NWU...the kids naturally loved him!  Pretty soon, Mitch and Val were engaged.  Tim and I both participated in their wedding and Tim is their first-born, Brendan's Godfather. 

The Lincoln St. Teresa's group in 2007.
Through the years in Crete and Lincoln and Eagle, and the two groups of godteens, Brad and Donna remained good friends.  They invited us for dinner on several occasions, and we'd sit around their big dining table while their kids entertained ours.  By this time, they'd had their sixth...in between Jakob and Joshua.  We'd talk after dinner about...EVERYTHING.  They were so real.  So encouraging.  So inspiring.  "THIS family...THIS is what I hope our family is like" I rememeber thinking.  Donna was a cradle Catholic and Brad was a convert.  We openly discussed faith, family, trials, celebrations...you name it, we talked about it.  They reached right in and grabbed our hearts and left an imprint on them.  They helped us move from Crete with their horse trailer and their two girls, probably seven and nine at the time watched out for Jakob and Joshua like it was a piece of cake!  (I totally understand that now that we have our own 7 and 9 year old babysitters)  Donna and the kids stopped by on several occasions while they were in Lincoln.  We've had the opportunities to catch up at weddings, graduations and other Catholic events that draw both of our families in, and oddly enough in other random locations in passing as luck would have it. 

Donna with Mathilda and Ben at Shannon's wedding

They are the kind of people that you just can't wait to give a long hug to and start catching up immediately.  The family that you can't wait to hear about what's going on in their lives and to share what's going on in yours.  The kind of people that would be genuinely happy if you announced your first pregnancy or your twelfth.   I understand a little more now the sacrifice that they had to make with the busyness of a big family and having a farmer's schedule to do the things that they did...that they do.  It makes me appreciate even more the time they spent with our family.

Fannie the horse...on loan for our pretend farm from the Havlats
We spent the evening with the Havlat family tonight for a "discernment celebration" for their eldest daughter who currently is planning to continue her discernment of the religious life to be a Marian Sister.  This same little girl who toted our babies around like a little mommy with her sister.  What an exciting celebration to be having!  We didn't get to talk a lot tonight because the evening was full for them with many friends and family and we were there for Amy.  It is fun to be at their house, amidst their wonderful friends, enjoying wonderful food and drink while the kids run around and play where no one is freaking out about what they could get into...it's all been kidified, and there, the kids are expected to have fun.  They are wonderful hosts to boot!  And even in not getting to talk to them a lot, we still left feeling encouraged and inspired, and armed with the next topic that wil become a discussion here soon, even though it's early.  (Dating--or voluntary lack there of it.) 

Ross...twleve years later as an adult!
They now have three grown boys...one that went to the seminary for a period of time and has since felt God calling him in a different direction, to the married life.  They have a grandchild on the way.  Two daughters,  one being called to the religious life, the other a senior in highschool and their youngest son...a sixth grader.  They're all amazing kids and I hope our kids will turn out just that way!  We left after long hugs and promises to find time when all four of us can share conversation together.  Thanks Brad and Donna...you have no idea what an amazing blessing you are in our lives.  You encourage and inspire us to be better stewards, servants, parents, spouses, people.  We love you and your family!!  I hope that someday we can offer someone the same love  that you have given to us.  We're so thankful you asked  us to be part of something so much bigger than us back in 1998!!