Tag Archives: Birthday

The Latest 11-22-2015

Madison has her wings!
Our birthday girl!

Today is our daughter Maddy Kate’s 24th Birthday!! I have to send a shout out to her. Madison has diligently focused her life on graduating from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in December. Between school and flying the friendly skies, she’s been such a busy girl. We’re so proud of her and can’t wait to see where God leads her in her impending new stage of life. :-)

It seems like I’ve been unusually haphazard with posting the last couple of weeks. To be honest, the switch back to regular time from Daylight Savings Time has thrown my body off more than usual this year. I’ve always been a morning person, but I’ve been having a hard time pulling myself out of bed in the mornings and so I’ve missed a few mornings.

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Wendy and I enjoyed celebrating her brother, Lucas’ Birthday at Hickory Park in Ames. We also had the opportunity to meet his fiancé, Brooke, for the first time. After dinner we got a tour of the Greek Orthodox Church that he is helping to fix up in Ames and the parsonage where he lives with a couple of other guys from Iowa State.

My friend, Matthew Burch, and I were scheduled to present our More Than Conqueror’s men’s conference at Westview Church in Waukee on Nov 13-14, but it was rescheduled due to a tragic death in the Westview family and the funeral that had to be scheduled that Saturday. We’re looking at a date in January or February. Stay tuned.

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Pella’s Tulip Court for 2016.
Me with my fellow judges Doug and Chad. We were three of about 30 or more judges for the evening.
Me with my fellow judges Doug and Chad. We were three of about 30 or more judges for the evening.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to be a judge for Pella’s Tulip Queen. We got to meet each of the 13 ladies for a brief personal interview. We then judged their presentation before the Tulip Queen and her court were announced at the end of the evening. It was a great experience, and I was amazed at the amazing group of capable young ladies. Any one of them would have represented our community well. It was hard having to see eight of them be disappointed, but so proud of our 2016 Hollandse Magdz.

Speaking of Pella, a shout out to the boys’ football team who won their second State Championship in a row on Thursday night. Wendy and I had to record the game, but we stayed up late to cheer them on. Well done, boys!

Even though the men’s conference got cancelled, I had plenty of opportunities to speak this past week. I gave the morning message in the Auditorium at Third Church last week. On Monday I left at 4:30 a.m. to make the four hour drive to Sioux Center where I presented two training sessions for a client. Then drove home. Long day. Then on Wednesday evening I spoke to the high school group at Third.

We headed to Theatre Central’s production of Lion in Winter on Thursday evening. A few of the cast members were in Ah, Wilderness! with me back in 2013 and it was fun to see them on stage.

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On Friday night Wendy and I had our Open House and Stock the Bar party here at VW Manor. Murphy’s Law struck and Iowa got pounded with our first snow storm of the season. We forged ahead with our party and were pleased at the number of hardy souls who braved the elements to join us. We got the chance to meet several of our neighbors whom we had yet to meet. Our house was packed, and the bar definitely got broken in. Of course, Wendy had an amazing spread of snacks and desserts and everyone had a good time!

The Latest 11-01-2015

The week started with three days on the road for me. I was in the Twin Cities for a couple of very long days of coaching and training presentations. On Wednesday I drove to Sioux Center for another presentation before arriving home late.

We had a full social calendar over the weekend. On Thursday we met friends Cyndi, Doug and Holly at George’s to partake of Pella’s legendary pizza. We then headed to Pella Christian High School for their performance of West Side Story. It was a great show and we were so impressed with the quality of the choreography and how maturely the leads handled the intimacy between Tony and Maria.

We also had a full house on Thursday. Taylor returned from travels to California and Colorado, along with a couple of days working in Des Moines. It was great to have her back home. Wendy’s mom was also in town to spend some time with grandma and attend a couple of events. She spent the night with us.

Friday we headed to Des Moines. We stopped to spend some time with my folks at their apartment. It was so good to have some time to just sit and chat. Dad was sore from a fall he took a few days before, but they continue to enjoy their home in the retirement community and we got the low down on all that was going on in their world.

From the folks place we headed to Kev and Beck’s for a little Friday night happy hour at their place. As always, we could have stayed and talked all night, but we had special festivities to attend. We headed to Cafe di Scala in the Sherman Hills neighborhood of Des Moines to surprise our friend Chad for his birthday dinner. The V.L.s, J.P.s, and V.W.s gathered to usher m’boy into his final year of his 30’s.

Chads Birthday at Cafe Di Scala
JPs VLs and VWs at Cafe Di Scala
Wendy Jen and Shay
Wendy, Jen, and Shay at Cafe Di Scala

Cafe di Scala is a contemporary Italian restaurant located on the main floor of a palatial craftsman style house in the old neighborhood. The atmosphere is warm and inviting. The food is amazing, and the selection of wines was not only unique but also created exquisite pairings with the food. Since customer service is my vocation, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the service was the best I can remember experiencing in Des Moines.

The Pella Pub Crawl Crew
The Pella Pub Crawl Crew

The evening had been full to overflowing, and yet we weren’t through! Our friends Kevin and Linda had been messaging us all night from their impromptu Pella Pub Crawl.  By the time we returned to Pella the Pub Crawl crew (including Vandy, Rob, Robin, and Chris) was at Kaldera. We joined them for a night-cap and it was the perfect end to an amazing evening of family, friends, food and fun.

I worked a good part of Saturday as I was behind from my travels earlier in the week, but Wendy and I enjoyed watching both Iowa and Iowa State football teams emerge victorious. It was our first trick or treat evening in our new neighborhood so I donned a little ghoulish make-up to greet the kiddos. It was so fun to see the number of parents who got all costumed up with the kids. There was a Knight and Lady, a cowgirl, and an awesome scarecrow escorting his sweet little Glenda the good.

Trick or Treat!
Trick or Treat!

After the trick or treating was over, Wendy and I drove down the road to visit our friends Matthew and Sarah for a glass of wine and some late night hors d’oeuvres. We ended up staying much later than planned, but with daylight savings ending we got an extra hour of sleep! ;-)

Today was blessedly routine, starting with CBS Sunday Morning and our regular time of worship. We came home to watch our Vikings squeak through with a win and now hope to watch the Royals win the World Series before bed tonight.

Where’s this Story Headed?

When Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, he said to them: “I am now one hundred twenty years old. I am no longer able to get about, and the Lord has told me, ‘You shall not cross over this Jordan.’
Deuteronomy 31:1 (NRSV)

Last night on the way to dinner with friends, Wendy was sharing with me about a podcast she listened to by Donald Miller. The crux of the message was, what story are you trying to tell with your life? She expressed a desire for the two of us to spend some time in conversation about the story we want our lives to tell. I’m looking forward to that.

In less than a half-year I will hit the big 5-0. I’ve never been one to stress about birthdays and aging. It is what it is. I’m less concerned about the number of my years and more concerned with what I have done with the days I have been given, and with my purpose in however many days I have left. Nevertheless, when you reach certain waypoints in life’s journey there is a natural tendency to recalibrate your position.

Where have I been?
Where am I now?
Where am I going?

In today’s chapter, Moses is approaching a monumental waypoint in life: the finish line. Moses had an amazing life. Saved from genocide as a baby, he grew up in Pharaoh’s courts. He was a murderer and a wanted man living life on the lam. Despite his human shortcomings both moral and physical, God called him to confront his past and unite his people. He stood up to Pharaoh, led the people out of Egypt, and then established an entire nation. He gave the nation organizational leadership structure,  a thorough set of governing laws, and a monotheistic national religion unlike anything humanity of that day had ever seen. Not a bad resume for one man looking back on his life journey What a great story.

Today, I’m thinking about my own story. I’m mulling over the chapters that have brought me here, and thinking about where I want the story to go from here.

So, what’s your story?

chapter a day banner 2015

Top Five Beauties

We have a long standing family dinner tradition at our house. There is a book the girls gave me when they were young called “If…”. It is a book of discussion starters that all begin with an “If.” Last night we gathered to celebrate Suzanna’s 19th birthday (Is she really 19? I thought it was just 18. Where does the times go?) and Suzanna wanted to do “If…” questions.

One of the questions that came up at the table was if you had to choose the most beautiful person in history, who would it be? That’s a tough question because we don’t tend to know a lot about historic beauties other than from artist’s depictions and then the person’s beauty is highly dependent on the quality of the artist. Then there is the subjective definition of beauty. We immediately think of physical beauty, but if we’re talking about spiritual beauty then the likes of Mother Theresa are going to the top of the list. Such are the interesting discussions that the “If…” book raises around a dinner table.

So, here are my Top Five beauties, which has more to do with what I find beautiful than any kind of objective standard of beauty. Four of these came up at the table last night, and I can’t argue with any of them though they are all relatively recent as history goes. They are also all women. There were male names that were bandied about at the table, but this is my list and as beauty goes, there is not a man that can get anywhere near the Top Five, perhaps the Top 100.

(in alphabetical order)

 Laetitia CastaLaetitia Casta


Audrey Hebpurn

Elizabeth HurleyElizabeth Hurley

sophia lorenSophia Loren

Grace_Kelly_1956Grace Kelly


Birthday 2015

The 49th birthday does not call for a particularly memorable experience. It’s a pre-cursor to a “big one” with a zero on the right-hand side. Still, a birthday is not to be wasted, and I had an enjoyable one.

I worked ahead this week so I could take my birthday off. I slept late (for me) and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with Wendy. We readied ourselves and headed to Des Moines mid-morning to run some errands necessary for our fiesta birthday party planned for Friday night. I was excited to get a Face Time video call from Maddy Kate who was at Venice Beach in California. Always nice for a land-locked Iowan to catch a live shot of the Pacific on his birthday! ;-)

We took my folks out for lunch at the Market Grille for lunch and enjoyed conversation, returning back to their house for even more enjoyable conversation. Adjustments at the Chiropractor followed as well as more errands before meeting Kev & Beck for some birthday cheer at Nick’s. Taylor tried incessantly to get a Face Time connection from Scotland, but we were never able to get through to her :-(

Wendy and I celebrated with our first Iowa Cubs game of the summer. It was a GORGEOUS evening at the ball park. Too bad the home team couldn’t give me a birthday “W.” We actually headed home with things tied after the 12th inning and listened to the I-Cubs drop the game in the 13th on our drive home.

My birthday party came on Friday night. Wendy slaved away all day making Grandma and Grandpa V’s lemon cake and a host of Mexican dishes for our fiesta celebration. We so enjoyed having Kev & Beck, Chad & Shay, and Matthew & Sarah join us for a wonderful evening of food, drink, and wonderful conversation together.

Another year falls into memory, and I look ahead to the final year of my fifth decade on this life journey. Praying that it is filled with life, love, and unforeseen blessings!

Wendy’s Birthday: Conspiracy & Celebration

Today is Wendy’s birthday, but the celebration began on Friday with a birthday celebration in Des Moines. Well, technically the celebration began this past summer when the conspiracy of her birthday gift began. We had gone to attend the Des Moines Art Festival this past July with our friends Kevin and Becky, but there was a torrential downpour that afternoon. So, we headed to the “other” art show in town that weekend in the Varied Industries Building of the State Fairgrounds.

As we made our way through the displays we happened upon the booth of Mark and Patti Monroe Mohrenweiser from Brighton, Michigan (www.beyondletters.com) who specialize in encaustic and mixed media art. Encaustic is an ancient technique in which colored pigments are added to hot beeswax and then applied to a surface. It creates a beautiful, etherial look. You should know that Wendy is a tactile person, and it kills her not be able to touch the art at a museum. She wants to run her hands over the texture of the artwork and feel the artist’s brush strokes. When Mark invited her to run her hands over all of the artwork and feel the texture of the wax, Wendy was in heaven.

And then, from amidst her tactile heaven, Wendy saw the angel. On a field of sheet music the angel was stretched out across a stone pedestal, her head buried in her arms, in full lament. Wendy’s reaction to the angel was both immediate and emotional. I stood behind her and witnessed it. I thought she was going to cry standing there. I knew that there was something in the artwork that was connecting with something deep inside of her. She would have gladly stood and stared at it (and ran her hands over it) all day.

Even though Wendy’s birthday was six months away, I knew that Wendy needed to own this painting and it needed to hang in our new house. The real trick was how to make it happen. I needed a team of conspirators. The following day I snuck up to my office after church to call Mark and make a deal with him over the phone. I then called Taylor and asked if she could make a secret run to the fairgrounds to pick up the artwork. Taylor was living with Kevin and Becky at that time, so I brought them in on the conspiracy to secret away our lamenting angel until December. It was a long wait. As Wendy’s birthday approached I realized that the special artwork needed special wrapping and I’m terrible at wrapping gifts. So, I dropped of the artwork a couple of weeks ago with the ladies at Thistles florist here in Pella to do a special wrap job for me.

We headed to Des Moines for Wendy’s birthday celebration on Friday. She got a massage and we checked into a hotel room for the night. We headed to Django with my conspiratorial allies, Kevin and Becky, for her birthday meal and we opened a bottle of our favorite Warburn Estate shiraz  (which is now seemingly impossible to procure and only opened on very special occasions). I couldn’t hide the huge, beautifully wrapped box, of course, so Wendy was intrigued all afternoon and evening what was in it. After dinner we retired back to Kevin and Becky’s where Wendy opened her gift. I was so glad that it worked out for Kevin and Becky to watch Wendy open it since they were an integral part of making it happen. Wendy was stunned when she saw it, and I loved watching her surprise.

On Saturday we continued with Wendy’s birthday wish list which included breakfast at Cracker Barrel and a matinee movie. We went to see Big Hero 6 and thoroughly enjoyed it. Back to Pella late in the afternoon to prepare for an evening with our friends Kevin and Linda who had invited us, along with a two other couples, over for some Christmas cheer.

I needed to shave and shower before we headed to the party. When I got out of the shower I went to tell Wendy that I was out of the bathroom and it was her turn. I couldn’t find her anywhere. When I did finally locate her she was sitting curled up on the floor in the living room staring at her lamenting angel. It made me happy.

Weekend Marks Beginnings and Endings

The VL Boys took me to Court Ave Brewing Co for dinner, then to an I-Cubs game for my birthday.
The VL Boys took me to Court Ave Brewing Co for dinner, then to an I-Cubs game for my birthday.

It was a full weekend for Wendy and me. The end of Suzanna’s high school career came on Friday with her last day of school and subsequent choir concert Friday night. Mom and Dad Hall came down from Boone for a visit and attended the concert with us on Friday night along with Grandma VH.

Wendy and I celebrated Suzanna’s accomplishment on Saturday morning with a breakfast at the Windmill Cafe and some special gifts to mark the occasion. We spent some time over breakfast talking about all that Suzanna has experienced and learned this past year. It was ironic that she finished her last high school class on Friday and then went to work at her first job on Saturday night. She’s going to be working at Kaledera restaurant. One chapter ends and another one begins.

The VL boys wanted to take me to an I-Cubs game for my birthday and we did that on Saturday night. It was a gorgeous evening and we dined at Court Ave Brewing Co. on their sidewalk before scooting over to Principal Park to watch our beloved I-Cubbies drop a back and forth affair to Round Rock.

Sunday morning was senior brunch for Suzanna at church as the church celebrated all of the seniors wrapping up their time in the youth group. Upstairs in the church auditorium, where Wendy and I worship, there is new thing happening and I was asked to share a short message and help start the launch.

Wendy and I then headed to our first I-Cubs game on Sunday afternoon. The season is about six weeks old, but it’s the first time we’ve been able to get to a game and we’re looking forward to several more afternoons and evenings watching our boys of summer.

Dinner with mom and dad VW last night at Bravo! We were celebrating Mother’s Day a week late and enjoyed a wonderful meal and time with the folks. We then finished the weekend at Kev and Beck’s along with Taylor who is living with them as she prepares for grad school in Scotland in the fall. A few glasses of wine and a long evening of wonderful conversation.