The Bollen Alley

life with our little family of three… and almost four!

we’re off and away…

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Well, we’ve officially been Texas residents for over a month! I can’t believe it. Total whirlwind. While the last several weeks in Arkansas were precious to us, I knew that finally getting here would be a relief of sorts. When you pray and plan and dream and worry and pray some more (and some more and some more), finally seeing all of it come to fruition has been wonderful.

When we left last month, we knew two things: where we were going to school and where were going to live. We didn’t know much more… jobs, insurance, pediatrician, neurologist, church… people. We also hadn’t sold our house in Little Rock. So many questions. But let me tell you a story…

Within the first week, the Lord provided dependable renters to move into our Little Rock home. They’re Christian leadership students with a ministry called Downline, and the deal is guaranteed to cover our mortgage for the next year. Also within the first week, the Lord provided Daniel his first job. Not a glamorous one, but it’s income, it’s on campus, and he’ll be allowed to study during any downtime.

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I say the first, because He provided a second job a week later. Daniel is officially a Starbucks barista! If you know Dan at all, you know his love for people and his love for coffee. So besides pastoring, this is basically his dream job. (Unless someone paid him to hunt and watch the Razorbacks, of course.) He loves it, and did you know that Starbucks provides health benefits (among many other perks) to even part time employees after 90 days? In the meantime, we’ve been accepted into Medicaid. Tindell’s epilepsy meds – covered! On top of that, the doctor at the Seminary’s campus clinic has a background in pediatrics. We see him for no more than a $25 copay. Thank you, Lord!

Beyond Daniel’s jobs, we’ve also had family and friends very generously bless us financially during this time. We are so humbled by this… who are we that so many would give of their own hard-earned resources?? To those people – thank you for allowing the Lord to work through you in our lives. Thank you for your sacrifice and love. We are in awe!

We began visiting churches right away. Considering there are at least 2.4 gajillion in Fort Worth, we knew we needed to get started! Lucky for us, just 2 weeks into the search, some new friends invited us to their church home (shout out, Ashton and Julie!) and we knew pretty quickly it was the place for us. The people were welcoming and sincere, the teaching was Biblical and challenging, and the worship was engaging and Christ-centered – all things we learned to appreciate while at The Summit (I mean, they even had wood pallets on the stage… wink, wink, Summit fam!).

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Second to sending our families back to Arkansas, visiting churches was the most emotional transition for me. I think God knew how much we needed – I needed – to find a place to dive into quickly. We just know so deeply in our hearts how important it is to be a part of a healthy community of believers, as a family unit and as individuals. For relationship, discipleship, accountability, service and support, learning and growth. I was hungry for it. Side note: To anyone reading this who may be struggling with the burden of this life and this world – if you aren’t involved in a church family (and I mean involved… not just showing up for service Sunday morning), find one. It will be like a healing balm to your soul. It is for me.

IMG_7649On the topic of community, our apartment is part of a 6-unit building, filled with families with young children. It’s Seminary housing, so everyone is in school. This whole thing has been like going off to college again, but with kids in tow! We’ve had a blast getting to know all of our neighbors. I think it’s a rare blessing to be surrounded by so many like-minded people on such a similar journey at this point in life. We’re doing our best to take advantage of the incredible opportunity!

At this point, we still need to find a neurologist for Tindell Bear, and we’re still solidifying our enrollment in Medicaid, then will transition into traditional insurance in a couple of months (so. much. paperwork.). We’re also praying and exploring some income opportunities for me that will still allow me to stay home with the girls, as childcare isn’t a healthy option for us right now. However, in summary, we’re doing well. We’ve gotten off to a great start. The peace that comes with knowing you are exactly where God wants you to be is precious, and amazingly reassuring during the difficult moments. The transition can be scary, but living in the place you’re called is so worth it. He has proven so faithful, as always.

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for us. Thank you for bearing with us during all the craziness that was this summer. Arkansas, we miss you. Texas, we look forward to knowing you!

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the simplest prayer

Honestly, I’ve never felt more powerless in my life. My baby girl just lie there, arms stiff and trembling, her little hands clenched. Eyes panicked, teeth grinding, breath shallow… All I could do was stand there, trying to comfort her calmly and not completely lose my mommy mind, as her lips and nose started to turn blue.

What only lasted a few minutes felt like eternity… but eventually her little arms weren’t so stiff, her teeth stopped grinding, and her color returned.  It wasn’t her first seizure, but I doubt they’ll ever be any less terrifying. It didn’t help that these were different than the others. Plus, this was her third seizure since the evening before (that we were aware of), and they were getting considerably worse. Thankfully, Daniel was already on the phone with me when the seizure started, so he was immediately on his way home so we could head to the ER.

As I held her while we waited, limp and essentially unconscious (a state called “postictal”), all I could do was pace my house and pray.  You’d think after what I had just witnessed, I’d have a LOT to say, but it was the total opposite. I had nothing. There was just one word that came to my lips… “Jesus”. Over and Over. Just a pleading, begging…  “Jesus”. The simplest prayer.

A few days later, I was scrolling my newsfeed on Facebook and I came to this post from one of my favorite female Christian authors, Lysa TerKeurst.  She said,

“Today, in the midst of all you have going on… stop and whisper, ‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.’ Just a whispered breath formed in the wholeness of His name carries all the power and mercy and wisdom and grace we need to handle what we face.

I couldn’t believe how perfectly she nailed what I had just experienced. All my heart knew to do in those moments when I felt so completely powerless, was to call on the name of the One who is all power. Jesus, the ultimate Savior, our Immanuel – “God with us”.  I needed God to be with us. Right there in my little foyer.

And you know what? He was. I found comfort, peace, strength. Was I still upset? Yes. Was I still scared? Of course. But with every whisper of that precious name, I remembered,

  • my God is faithful! “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
  • My God is Healer! “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.” Matthew 9:35
  • and that no matter what might happen, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.

Maybe you’ve been there, maybe you haven’t. That helpless, powerless place where you have nothing, not even words.  I’m hear to tell you,  you have Jesus. And that’s the only word you need.

“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” John 14:13-14

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life lately: part two

IMG_9281As a kid, whenever I would get a new diary, I always felt compelled to write a ginormous first entry all about the current happenings of my life.  As if the diary couldn’t possibly understand anything about my life if it didn’t have the full backstory and all the details. (I know. You’re so surprised I could be that dramatic.) Well, I’m pretty sure I’m writing these updates out of that same compulsion…  so, just bear with 12 year old Jess for a smidge, will ya?

Last post, you heard all about our sweet-n-sassy first born, Tindell Jane. This time, it’s all about her SISTER… that’s right, we are thoroughly pregnant once again and it is another baby girl.  One of my favorite blogs, Young House Love, once posted a “State of the Uterus Address”. HA! Clever, no?  Consider this exactly that. Here are answers to questions I get most often:

When are you due?  December 8, although Daniel is convinced I’m going to go into labor in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner. (Silly boy, doesn’t he know there is a VERY important game coming on the next day? Baby girl and I talked… she’s going to stay put until we win. And until I get aaaaall my Christmas decorations up.) According to my countdown, that leaves us with less than 60 days to go!  (Cue panic attack…)

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Are you glad it’s another girl?  Heck to the yeah!!! Just the thought of all the stuff we get to use again, from the clothes to the pink bumbo, makes this mama oh-so-happy. Beyond that, I really am looking forward to seeing my sister-girls grow up together. We are praying and praying and praying for their relationship.

Won’t they be really close in age? Well… yes. 22 months or so!

Was that on purpose? Well…. as much on purpose as it can be! We hoped and prayed that our kids would be around 2 or 3 years apart, knowing that it poses certain challenges in the early years, but hoping that the benefits later in life make it worth it.  The Lord heard our prayers and blessed them!

Is Tindell excited? That’s the thing about having them so close; we’re not sure how much she understands.  But, she can tell us where “Sissy” is (my belly… sometimes hers!) and likes to kiss it and say “aaaaw”.  We try to talk about “Sissy” a lot… her room, her clothes, her toys… with the hopes that it will click when baby girl is actually here.  Any suggestions for helping her adjust well are more than welcome!

How are you feeling?  Overall, really good! I’m blessed to be one of those women that truly enjoys being pregnant. However, I can’t honestly say this pregnancy hasn’t been quite as simple as the last.  The main difference being that I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes at 25 weeks pregnant. I also waddle more. It’s annoying.

What do you have to do for the diabetes?  I check my blood sugar four times a day and (usually…) eat a carb controlled diet. So far, my levels have been really good, so we’ve had no reason to even consider insulin injections. Baby girl is growing right on target as well, so at this point we aren’t worried about her coming out super huge (which is always a concern with GD babies). If you’re feeling really curious about GD and what causes it,  this page from the ADA gives a great synopsis. (Spoiler alert: hormones. You can just about blame any preggo woe on those little buggers.)

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Is her nursery done? HA! Ummm… no. We’ve started the process, though! Thanks to my rockstar parents, all the old furniture is moved out and it is a lovely shade of light blue. We have lots of other plans in the works as well, and I am unbelievably excited to see (and show!) the finished product.  So, stay tuned!

Do you have a name picked out?  Oh, the name game. It’s hard to name a kid, y’all! They’re stuck with it. Forever. FOR. EEEE. VER.  All that said, yes, we’re 99% sure we have a name. Dan and I just like to do this thing where we wait to see her little face first and officially name her after she’s born.  So, I can’t tell you just yet… but, if you hang out with either of us, we would probably tell you. Or accidentally call her by it. That’s been happening a lot lately.

And that’s, that! We really are getting so excited. We’ve had LOTS of friends having little ones over the past several months (in fact, we know at least one person due each month from July 2013 through at least next January), so we’ve had lots of squishy, snuggly newborns to get warmed up with. Like I said, stay tuned for nursery updates and a maybe a few other baby related posts. It’s just what’s on the brain, my friends!

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life lately: part one…

IMG_8742As fast as a year seems to go by at this point in my life, I’ve noticed that a whole lot can happen in just 365 days.  So, since it’s been about that long since I’ve posted, I figured we’re overdue for a little update. Just a peek into what life is like at the Alley these days!

Tindell is now 19, almost 20 months old. Running around, feeding herself real food, saying actual words… all my fellow parents out there know what an amazing phenomenon it is to watch your child develop these simple skills. Now that we’re officially experiencing toddlerhood, I often feel like we’re in this crazy limbo land. She’s not quite a little girl, but not so much a baby anymore either.  It’s a wonderful, terrifying place to be… especially with your first.

Wonderful in that we have so much fun. We laugh, tickle, snuggle and play every single day. She is such a joy to us! We get to praise and celebrate new things ALL the time… a new word, a new ability. Kids learn so much, so fast at this age. The overwhelming sense of pride I get over her simplest accomplishments is indescribable. To see that pride and joy on HER face is even better! I think what’s been most fascinating, though, is watching her personality develop – and let me tell you, it is equal parts sweet and sassy, curious and cautious, independent and yet still so vulnerable.  She comes alive in front of a crowd, but her favorite place is in your lap with a big stack of books to read. Yes, the second year is truly wonderful.

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And yet, toddlerhood is terrifying at the same time.  She now has the ability to run into a busy street… and sometimes the desire.  She is curious about the oven. And the knife drawer. And a gazillion other things in this world that can hurt her, or worse.  With age and ability comes a growing need for independence, a growing curiosity, and a growing will. When she was a baby, her needs were so basic – nutrition, sleep, warmth, love.  While she will always have those needs, now she also has wants… but not necessarily the ability to communicate those wants. Or the ability to understand you can’t always get what you want. Or the patience to wait for those wants.

So, suddenly the baby we have given everything to at the tiniest little cry for the first year of her life, we now have to DISCIPLINE?!?! We have to tell no, and let cry, and try to reason with?  Lord help us, she can throw a fit. Trying to find the balance of unconditionally loving her while effectively teaching her, trying to constantly discern between moments of truth and moments of grace… it’s exhausting, and yes, terrifying.

The full weight of our biblical responsibility to discipline, reproof, instruct, and most importantly disciple is now heavily on our shoulders. Thankfully, we have godly parents, grandparents, and friends that love us, support us, and set fantastic examples. SUPER thankfully, we believe in a God who’s Spirit is a never ending source of strength, wisdom, and grace.

Truly, we are so blessed to be Tindell’s parents. I am confident she teaches us as much as we teach her. She is silly, wiggly, and wonderful, and if you haven’t met her, I hope you get to one day. She will bless you!  Plus, I can already see that the Lord fully intended her to be a big sister! (Read: this girl is bossy! I have no idea where she got that gene, of course…) Stayed tuned… Part II will be a (much shorter) update on TJ’s baby sister-to-be!

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let’s try this again…

So… I haven’t blogged for a while. Honestly, I think it was a self fulfilling prophecy of sorts. My hesitation with starting a blog in the first place was rooted in the doubt that I would keep up with it regularly. Sure, I’m busy… chasing a toddler, keeping pace with my husband, working, doing ministry, living LIFE. But after a bit of reflection, I’ve realized the real reason I stopped writing went beyond the busyness of life. Everybody is busy. The real reason I stopped writing was fear.

Fear of all of you, really. Ideas and topics would come to mind, everything from simple family updates to personal spiritual revelations, but I always found a reason not to sit and jot it down.

That sounds so dumb.”

Nobody cares to read about that.

Are you sure that theology is right?

And on and on, the thoughts would come. Ultimately, I always talked myself out of writing because I was afraid of what all of you… any of you… would think about it. You’d think after 26 years on this earth I wouldn’t care so much about the opinions of others, but alas, here we are 11 months later and not a single post to show for it. Not because my heart hasn’t longed to write. Not because material hasn’t come to mind. Simply because I was afraid of the judgement and criticisms you may or may not have in response to my writing.

So, I have an announcement to make. A personal resolution! I hereby refuse to care what you think. As a people-pleasing perfectionist, that’s difficult very difficult for me to say. However, I must declare it here now if I am to have any hope of reviving The Alley.

But, why not?,” you may ask. “My opinions are awesome! My critique is superb!” Well, my friend, while I don’t doubt that, I refuse to care because the truth is this: I don’t blog for you… not exactly.

I blog for my family… to record memories and document milestones.

I blog for myself… because writing and photography have always been an outlet and a passion.

I blog for the Lord… because He gave me that passion, and passion is a gift that should be used, exercised, and shared. He also is continually teaching, molding, and guiding me, and every so often, I feel Him calling me to tell you about it, too.

With that said, I do hope our family blog blesses you. I often tell Daniel after his messages to our youth that if even ONE student is affected, then every bit of prayer and preparation is worth it. The same goes for each post I write.  From now on, I simply refuse to write with the expectation of rejection. I choose to write with positive expectations and the hope that each of you will receive it well.

So what’s to come after nearly a year of silence? No worries… life around the Bollen Alley is rarely dull. With a another year of ministry kicking off, the most precious toddler in the world literally running us in circles, and another little “pin” coming in just 3 short months… I think I’ll find something to write you about!

Stay tuned! (No really, I mean it this time… wink!)

– J

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i’m a wannabe…

Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated by photography.  Something about the way a photo freezes time… I can just stare at one for ages, like artists at a painting. I’m actually not artistic in the slightest, but a long time ago someone told me that I had “an eye” for photography. Not sure how true it is, but it stuck with me nonetheless.

Unfortunately, I never put much time into developing those skills… just like this blog, I was hesitant.  I know SO MANY absolutely fabulous photographers. Debbie, Barb, and Jenny, just to name a few.  Y’all… they’re so legit. I feel like such a photography groupie. A wannabe. Why even try?

Thankfully, I have a husband who reminds me how completely ridiculous that is. And then buys me my dream camera, along with my sweet parents. And then signs me up for photography class. And then keeps our child while I attended said class. Man, he’s the best.

So, for the past month I’ve had a fantastic time taking a class at Bedford Camera & Video, taught by Alex Kent. It was SO. GREAT. Highly recommend them to anyone looking to learn.  Our last homework assignment was actually a little contest… and I won 3rd place! Woo hoo! Of course, what I lack in skill I make up by having the sweetest baby in the world as my subject, so that helps. 🙂 Would you like to see my final photo? Drumroll, please!

Oh, how I love my baby girl! I took literally hundreds of pictures of her as I practiced and she was such a champ.  Guess she should get used to it!! Here are a few more favorites from our little mini-shoots…

That child is pure joy, I swear. In a season where time seems to be flying by so quickly, I’m extra thankful for the ability to freeze it, at least for a second. 🙂  Now, excuse me while I stare at this precious face… for real!

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a bollen birthday

I have decided the only thing scarier than launching a blog is figuring out what the first post is going to be. Eeek! Serious? Silly? Long? Short? Decisions, decisions. Luckily, my husband came to the rescue this week with the perfect no-pressure blog food… His birthday!

Today marks Daniel’s 25th year. He’s officially a quarter-century old, and has so much to show for it. A husband, daddy, pastor, and friend to so many… I could just go on bragging forever. We started the morning with a little gift, a few cards, and a big stack of Cake Batter Pancakes (thanks to Pinterest and this lovely blog).

Conveniently, his birthday fell on a Wednesday – youth night at The Summit!  So, he wrapped up the day with some love from the Summit Student Movement.  For the past couple of days, students and leaders in our ministry have been sending in all of the reasons they love Dan so we could compile them all into a list of “25 Reasons Why SSM Loves Daniel”. There are a few inside jokes in there, but in all I think it gives a pretty comprehensive description of the wonderfulness that is my husband, so check it out! I’m so proud of him.  Thank you to everyone who sent in your reasons… Daniel appreciates all of the laughs and warm fuzzies more than you know!

SSM Loves Daniel Because…

25. His beard and hair are always trimmed to just the right length. – Joey Gormley
24. He has a great heart for God, is an intense learner, and is submissive to God and those who lead him. – Bill Elliff
23. He’s got nice legs and a really cool scar on his neck. – Also Bill Elliff
22. He has the voice of an angel. And the hair of an angel. And the eyes of an angel. Basically, he’s an angel. – Jake Scott
21. He has a heart for people and a genuine love for others… and his sense of humor and his hugs! – Donna Bean
20. He’s 25, and tells everybody that I am, too! – Layne Johnston
19. He sings the original lyrics to rap songs at Ovations… public school. – Andi Tedder
18. He’s not ashamed to admit that he is an “interstate rockstar”. – Laura Hart
17. He is super understanding and relates to most any situation you ask him about. – Elliot Jones
16 .…And he is the strongest man in the world. – Elliot Jones
15. …And he stands in the back at every church service. – Elliot Jones
14. He loves God, and will always listen when you need and ear. – David Irico
13. He is always smiling and says “I love you guys!” – Kari and Hudson Jones
12. He fought a bear and won… and by “fought a bear”, I mean “broke his neck”… and by “won”, I mean “and now he loves Batman.” – Blake Hudspeth
11. He loves Superman. – Jessica Elliff
10. He has this amazing ability to walk into a school or anywhere really and start talking to people, and they love him… they always remember him. – Hannah Troutz
9. He’s a bawling good hugger! – Pam Keeling
8. He can do anything. – Brett Williams
7. He’s my boss… – Kory Hamlin
6. His shoulder hurts when he laughs really hard. – Lauren O’Dell
5. He can’t stand the “whoa’s” and “doo-doo’s” in worship music, which is why every secular song we sing at SSM must include them. – John Scott
4. He is the most encouraging person I know. Literally makes me believe I can do anything. – Kyle Uptergrove
3. He’s the best Daddy in the history of the whole world… aside from God. – Tindell Bollen
2. Everybody loves bunnies. – Nathan Rogers
1. He’s really hairy. – Bill Elliff
Again, thanks to everyone who helped put this sweet list together. We love you guys!
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let the games begin

Hi friends! Welcome to The Bollen Alley – our family blog about life as we know it.  This has been long considered, contemplated, discussed and deliberated, so I’m super excited to finally dive in and launch. First, let me just take moment to share about where we’re at, where we’re going, and what you can expect to see here.

I always thought blogging could be something I would enjoy. I love to write, and with a degree in communication and 3 years in public relations, I’m very familiar with the sharing and communicative power that is blogging. But there was always something that stopped me – “come on, everybody has a blog“, “you do NOT have the time for that“, “seriously? nobody cares“.

It wasn’t until my extremely well loved husband suffered a severe accident (more on that later) and my Facebook page turned into a mini-blog to beg for prayer and keep everyone updated that I began to seriously reconsider starting a family site. Then our daughter was born a month later and I thought, ya know… we really should tell our story. God has blessed us way too much not to share. Why not blog it? If just one person can be blessed by it…

… and here we are.

Time was still a factor, of course. After 3 months of maternity leave (and one month caring for Dan prior to that), I returned to my full time job as a communication director for my hometown school district. A job I absolutely adored.  However, after a couple of months as a working mom, I knew my heart had changed forever.  I’m sure I’ll write more about our decision, but as of  July 1, 2012 – I began life as a stay at home mom. It may be for 6 months. It may be for 16 years. All we know is that the Lord has called me home, and I am so excited to turn my full focus on my family, our home, and our ministry. It will be an adventure for sure, which is why I knew this was a fantastic time to start the Alley – to document this step of faith and where it takes us.

So, thank you so much for joining us… I already have some really exciting things planned, so be sure to “follow the alley” on the right sidebar to be updated on our new posts by email. Give us a follow on Twitter as well!  We’ll always tweet new posts and other pics and tidbits (I’m a professed instragram addict), so there’s lots of guaranteed fun to be had there.

So, any special requests? Let us know what you would like to hear from us by leaving a comment below! Also, if you’re a blogger let us know that as well. I’d love to add you to my blogroll! Have a happy day!

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