LOG is a special retreat for my husband, Josh, and myself (Catie). Our life together is only because we met at LOG #5. We attended our very first retreat in December of 1998. He was a sophomore from Watervliet, MI and I was a junior from Elkhart, IN. He was invited to LOG by his sisters, who were invited by friends that attended the Math & Science Center at Andrews University. I was invited by friends I met at the Presbyterian Youth Triennium. We were friends for a little over a year and began dating in the spring of 2000. As of this year, we’ve been together 19 years and just celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary; Terry was the officiant at our wedding.
We live in Holland, MI where Josh works as the Operations Manager at a non-profit addressing food insecurity and provides life-skills educational classes and coaching for families in the community. I am a dance teacher and just opened my own dance studio this summer. In both of our work, we often take an open approach, hoping that others will experience the grace and love we find through God, and initially, in our experience at LOG.
Josh and I have four children, ages 20, 13, 12, & 11. When I was in my late teens, I was told I would not be able to have children due to reproductive issues. Because of this, since the beginning of our relationship we knew we’d grow our family through adoption, which we were completely fine with. Unexpectedly, we were surprised to learn we were pregnant with our first child 9 months into our marriage and two more came quickly. We still felt a calling to adopt and in 2014, we began the process of adopting out of foster care. In December of 2014, Sierra, our oldest moved into our home and, at the age of 16, joined our family permanently in 2015.
As you can probably imagine, parenting a teen has it’s ups and downs. We found out after Sierra’s adoptions that she was one the longest cases in Michigan’s foster care system. Settling into a more stable family life was a challenge in many ways. One way we hoped to help Sierra catch a glimpse of unconditional love was to sign her up for LOG. We drove down to LOG #83 in the spring of 2016 and dropped her off. We were full of excitement and she was nervous – experiencing similar feelings to those we’d initially felt years ago. As we drove off, we prayed Sierra would know for herself, through the weekend, just how valuable and loved she was (is) as a person. Josh and I came back for Agape and as joyous and emotional it is to experience as a participant, we were not prepared to experience it as a parent of a child who’d been through so much. Sierra’s face radiated joy as she sang and hugged new friends. It felt, as if in those moments, she truly felt peace. Agape was a beautiful and overwhelming experience for the three of us. It’s a memory that we cherish and often think back on.
Sierra now lives on her own in another town in Michigan. We talk monthly and support Sierra to the best of our abilities in spite of the distance. Though our relationship isn’t exactly as we all had hoped, when Josh and I first began the adoption process, we knew we wanted to be available as a family for our child throughout their lifetime even if the few years are rocky. Loving others requires trust, grace, support, openness, and forgiveness – all values we learned through our time at LOG 20 years ago.