• How Hand, Foot, and Mouth Made Us Closer.

    We had a wonderful family filled adventure planned for Labor Day. My family is all at a distance, so when we get together it's an exciting treat. We were going to head to my brother's cattle ranch and hang out for the weekend. We were excited to go. I had food in the freezer ready to pack in a cooler, 2 pack-n-plays in the back of the car, a tank full of gas, and our bags packed. 

    Two nights before we were supposed to leave, Marylane was up all night. Total fluke, right? She'll be fine in the morning. The next morning came and she was a BEAR...crying and crabby. That evening during dinner she was shivering and feverish. Maybe she could be fine by morning and we could still go? Nope. The next morning brought an 102 fever and misery. More sleepless nights. More crabbiness. And now with blisters on her little hands and legs we know she has Hand, Foot, and Mouth. 

    I was looking forward to time with my family where they could enjoy my babies and I could watch for a second instead of being so IN it every minute. I was expecting life giving conversations and the comfort of my parents. I was expecting home cooked meals instead of thrown together ones that I usually put on the table [or eat from the kitchen counter, if I'm honest.] I spent Friday crying. I know, sick kids just come with parenting but I was tired, I was disappointed, and my expectations were not met. The weekend was hard and I had a hard time regaining perspective.

    And then we realized something.

    In all the disappointment and unmet expectations, Jason and I solidified something super valuable. We are in this TOGETHER. When you get married, that is what you are signing up for, right? Yes!- but it doesn't happen without hard stuff making it true of you. After many nights not sleeping, a sad wife and crabby kids our only option was to depend on each other and do it together. We took shifts in the night so we could each get a couple hours of sleep. We met the needs of our kids and of each other. Between tantrums and crying we were able to eek out some important conversations. We encouraged each other as we figured out what comforted our uncomfortable daughter. [Mostly Daddy's arms.] We figured out what refreshes each other. We spent an entire long weekend just as the 4 of us. Usually there's activities with friends, church to go to, a lot of in and out and running around. But we slowed down and the 4 of us just took time for each other.

    In all my disappointment I needed the power of the Spirit. Jason and I took moments to pray for His limitless, immeasurable power to sustain us. And He did. Last night after we put the kids to bed, we were crawling our tired bodies into bed, the disappointment had subsided, and we realized that we felt closer to each other.

    Stuff doesn't happen without other things also happening and in our case, Hand, Foot, and Mouth led to a closer family. I wouldn't choose to have it again, [and we are PRAYING Roux doesn't get it] but I'm grateful for what it gave us.

  • Two Words to String Together

    Windows open
    Outside drizzles
    Sleeping baby
    Lazy dog
    Curtains swaying
    Pretty words
    Grateful heart
    Apple Oreos
    Falling leaves
    Phone calls
    Clean laundry
    Fresh sheets
    Sweatshirt weather
    Blessing God
    Rocking chair
    Hot coffee
    Writing letters
    Love notes
    Generous community

    With few minutes to string more than two words together, I'm grateful for what I have and who I have to do it with. This is the beauty that is today.

  • A Baby Story

    I've been painfully inconsistent with writing this year so far. And I'm guessing I'll continue to be as I put into practice some new ways of living life. The miracle of the life strapped to me currently has been made evident in many ways. At every turn starting before she was even conceived we've been asked to entrust her to the Lord, and it's been our great privilege to do so. 

    We prayed and asked God to give us a child. We prayed consistently and hard and after nearly a year we began the adoption process believing that perhaps this would be how God would choose to expand our family. We started and finished the process in a few months. Our anticipation was through the roof. We knew of a set of twins who needed a family and the only thing holding us back was my background check approval from the state of Georgia.

    We waited for months and I filled and re-filled out the same paperwork multiple times. We were confused by the process and didn't understand what was going on in Georgia, yet trusted the Lord. We waited as long as we could and then the twins were born and our opportunity was lost. In the meantime I found out God answered our prayer in a different way. I was pregnant.

    At 8 weeks of pregnancy I started bleeding. It was my 35th birthday. We anxiously contacted our doctor and waited all day long before we could be seen. When we got there they did a few checks but wouldn't do an ultrasound until the following day. It was a tearful 24 hours. When we finally got to have our ultrasound we saw her heart beating strong and the Lord chose to preserve her. 

    Our agency would still allow us to adopt a newborn up through the first trimester of pregnancy so we continued to wait and pray and see what God might do. When our window was closed, and I was 12 weeks and 1 day I contacted our agency to let them know we'd need to pause the adoption process due to pregnancy. I kid you not, the very next day we received confirmation that my background check was approved and our homestudy complete. God made His plans completely clear. We would not be adopting a newborn at this time.

    Throughout the pregnancy we received word of 2 other children, both 10 months old who at different points needed loving homes to come into. We were able to have our profiles shown because they weren't newborns, and they'd be over a year by the time our little would be born. We bathed both situations in prayer anxiously hoping that God would bring into our home exactly who He wanted us to raise. In both instances the birth family chose other families to love their children. 

    At 22-ish weeks Jason and I were driving to watch the Nebraska-Minnesota football game at a restaurant and a woman rammed us from behind. Our car was totaled. Her car was too. We'd found out just 2 weeks before that we would be having a girl. We stood on the chilly sidewalk praying, very anxious about the life of our girl. The ambulance came and said we'd need to go to the ER to have the baby monitored. We sat in the labor and delivery room listening to her heart beating and the cloudy sounds of her movements, and they were some of the sweetest sounds we'd every heard. We also watched the Cornhuskers beat the Gophers. :) 

    At 32 weeks at our weekly dr. visit our doctor felt my belly and let us know our baby girl was breech. We'd been through a bit already so nothing much came as a surprise. We headed home and tried pretty much everything you could find on the internet to get your baby to turn. All to no avail. We scheduled a c-section for March 16th. There was an end in sight! We couldn't wait to meet her. The week before at another regular check up her heart rate was dipping. After 40 minutes of monitoring they let us leave, but told us to come in if anything changed. Well, things seemed fine so a week later we woke up early and headed to the hospital for our scheduled c-section. By then I was contracting every 12 minutes and with every contraction her heartrate would drop in the 50's. We had about every staff member in our room at one point or another. Our doctor wasn't responding to pages so another doctor came in to sign consents and prepared to do the surgery. Jason and I relived this memory later and shared with each other that he kept praying, "God, You are my rock. You are my rock. You are my rock" While I prayed from my hospital bed, "Lord, I trust You. I trust You. I trust You."

    Our doctor arrived at about that time and we headed to the ER. I'll save the gory surgery details, but 40-ish minutes later we came face to face with our beautiful daughter. She screamed her pretty little face off and with tears streaming down my face I finally got to see this tiny miracle.

    Throughout our hospital stay we dealt with loss of more than 10% of her birth weight and some jaundice and finally we were ready to be discharged. On the final checks our nurse spent a little longer than usual listening to her heart. She pulled away from Marylane and told us she had found a heart murmur. She called our pediatrician immediately. They then ordered an echo cardiogram to happen in the next hour. Again, we were waiting to see what God might be doing in the life of Marylane Raleigh Lempola. It felt like she'd already overcome so much to make her way into our family. We bawled waiting for the technician to arrive.

    Jason stood over her holding her tiny hands the entire time the echo was happening. It was supposed to be 20 minutes, and an hour later he still was bent over her tiny self talking to her. Finally the technician finished but said a cardiologist would have to tell us the results. A few minutes later our angel of a nurse slipped in to tell us that they hadn't expedited the results, which meant it wasn't as serious as it could be. After another couple hours of waiting a doctor called into our room to let us know it is a VSD murmur and would most likely heal within the first year of her life. We will be meeting with a cardiologist in May to go over the results and have her checked again to confirm what the technician found. 

    Every morning Jason and I pray together thanking God for Marylane's life and asking direction for our future and family. Once she's 6 months old we can have our homestudy updated and we can again pursue adoption, which we intend to do. We're certain that it will require the same trust that Marylane's life has required. But we're excited to see how God grows our family and us through this process. 

    Thanks for bearing with my LONG and drawn out story. It's lovely to have it down all in one place. It reminds me just how present God has been with us. 

  • Pride, Humility, Receiving Help

    Jason and I got married! It was just a tiny bit over a week ago. We're busy getting settled in Maple Grove, Minnesota together. TONS of friends and family came around to make the wedding happen: Making crafts, folding bows, arranging flowers, handling the cake, singing songs, traveling long distances, coordinating, showing up when it might have been uncomfortable, removing stitches, giving gifts, preparing food, setting chairs, cleaning up, providing beds, doing hair, counseling, making pancakes, getting people in pictures, letting me borrow precious possessions, praying, crying, encouraging...

    I don't know about you, but it is difficult to receive this much help. My drive for independence makes it extremely challenging to allow others to go out of their way on my behalf. I would rather struggle to do it myself than to admit I need the help or expertise of others. 

    It's a ridiculous show of my pride. And every time another person has come to my rescue, I realize the truth of their humility. They do not feel the need to prove how above the tasks they are, or to bow out because they'd rather not be involved. Instead, they lovingly put their own needs aside for mine and jump in to help in any way possible. 

    There are many things I've learned through 4 short months of wedding planning, but number one, is how much I need the generous friends and family I have in my life. I don't know how I became so blessed to have such selfless people around me, but I'm incredibly grateful. In my quest to need no one, they graciously and patiently showed up in every way imaginable and their presence continually reminded me how independent I am not, how humble they are, and how far I have to go in learning to release the proud assumptions that I'm good on my own, when clearly I am who I am because of them. 

    I wish I knew how to adequately thank everyone who gave so much. Generosity is so amazing, because there is no earthly way I could possibly and completely repay everyone who gave so much. All I can do is receive it and be grateful. I hope and pray some day I'm given the opportunity to show an ounce of the generosity the people I love, have shown me. 

    [Cathy Price let me borrow this picture from her.]

  • Hurting and Healing

    I moved to Atlanta in 2004 when I finished college. I moved to help with a new church in Little 5 Points. I invested deeply in the community for 2 years, and then for a lot of complicated reasons, the church closed the doors. It was devastating. There was a lot of guilt involved, and certainly, heartbreak.

    I started attending a little church in my neighborhood to work through the hurt and loss. Every Sunday I would sit in the back right corner, far away from other people and cry. I wasn't resentful. I wasn't even that angry. I mostly just needed the space to be sad over what had been lost, and let the presence of God comfort my hurts. I sat in my little corner for a year. I would drink my coffee with my head down, crying inconspiculuously through communion every week, as the flesh and blood of Jesus worked in my heart. I found God and healing here.

    I still worship with this body of believers. There have been a lot of good and hard moments. Things have happened that I have not understood. Friends have left and friends have joined. The church has injured some of its own, and healed many others. 

    When I have wanted to leave at times, I've been prompted to stay. When I've wanted to quit serving, I've been given tasks to do. When I didn't know if I'd be able to use my gifts, I've been asked to serve in ways that are meaningful to my soul. I've found love, friendship, healing, and grace in those seats. It is downright miraculous.

    I've been thinking a lot about how God built the church with no Plan B in mind. The Church is THE way God chose to continue the incarnate work of Jesus in the world. If you're like me, there have been times we are tempted to call it quits when it comes to church. It's hard and we want another option where it might not be quite so hard. We are hurt there, so in our pain we want to walk away. We want to find some place where they might not hurt us. And there are even times we would be justified in doing so. It's possible that the people of God have treated you in ways you're certain God never would. 

    It's the wonder of the Body of Christ. We're a crew of people blundering through life. We make the best decisions we know how, and some of them turn out to be absolutely dreadful for others. Yet somehow, as we take time to remember the gift of God, in Jesus' blood, we find healing and wholeness.  In that very place of injury and healing, God still chooses to visit and perform the work that pleases Him. I can't comprehend it.

    It's not a coincidence that God asks us to remember His body through communion and then to practice it each week with the body of believers He's surrounded us with. We need His Body and the grace found there in order to nurture His body of believers. It's impossible otherwise. We all make massive mistakes along the way that can turn believers away from our Father. And that is a reason to grieve. And miraculously, that is also the hope and wonder of the body of Christ, because He heals us in that exact same place.

    It's been 8 years since I first sat in All Souls Fellowship. I sat there this Sunday, in that same healing and hurting church, crying through every song, through the body and blood of Jesus, and through conversations with friends who have felt a lot like family. I sat in my seat with the deepest gratitude, too meaningful to know how to name.

  • A Morning for Gratitude

    It's a week with a lot going on. Every spare moment is filled with something that I'm excited about doing, but also is pulling me in lots of different directions all at the same time. I have mentioned before that I spoke a life coach a couple years back and she changed my life. I love life coaching because you set forward looking goals and work towards those goals. There's no getting mired in the past because you're looking forward, to what will be. 

    In our coaching sessions, we were dealing with my bad stress management. One of the many wonderful and helpful processes we worked through together, was to determine a list of things to do when stress was getting the better of me. One of those things is to practice gratitude. 

    It seems contradictory. It seems that taking the time to be grateful would cause me to get even further behind. But even if that IS true, the attitude adjustment is worth it every time. So this morning, I'm grateful. 

    I am grateful for understanding friends who get a little bit neglected when I'm running all over the place.

    I am grateful for a home to be at home in at the end of a long day.

    I am grateful for co-workers who give pep-talks to each other when we're feeling a little down.

    I am grateful that I get to see Jason [my man] in 5 days.

    I am grateful that somehow Georgia July has eased and it's beautful and cool.

    I am grateful that all God wants to accomplish, He still gets to accomplish. It rests on Him and not me.

  • A Weekend In Savannah

    For work we do a series of events, one of which is a conference in Atlanta in the fall called Plywood Presents. It's a bunch of people gathering in one place to talk about how they can find and execute solutions to old problems. There's about 600 people there, the event takes a bit of planning. Last year after the event, Jeff, my boss, sent me to Savannah by myself for the weekend to regain some energy. I had never vacationed alone up to this point, this was my first experience of hanging out for an entire weekend in a different city completely by myself. 

    The weekend consisted of reading a lot, writing, dreaming about what my future could look like, romping on the beach, and going to bed ridiculously early. I turned off my phone, stopped checking email, and spent the weekend alone. And it was glorious. 

    Here are a few thoughts about a solo weekend:

    -The ocean is beautiful, but be prepared to suddenly have paranoia that you might drown and no one will ever find you. Swim in the ocean anyway. Just don't drown.

    -Laying on the beach consists of a lot less paranoia about dying alone. [Bring spray sunscreen.]

    -Be sure to take long morning walks with a cup of coffee thinking of nothing at all except how beautiful the clouds look in the sky, how magnificent the boats are in the water, and how thankful you are to be taking your next breath. 

    -Wander aimlessly for as long as you want, whenever you want.

    -Take advantage of the inspiration. Grabbing paper and a pen was the way for me to capture bits of the muse while I was regaining energy. 

    -Don't be afraid of silence. It's so rare. 

    -When it rains, sit at the window and watch it pour. 

    -Go without a plan. Don't put pressure on yourself to see certain things, be certain places at certain times, or regulate a schedule. Just be there and take in the time as it comes.

    -Sit at scenic restaurants for longer than comfortable and enjoy every bite. Nevermind if the waiter seems sympathetic, what they don't know is that there's no where else you'd rather be than at their table watching boats on the water by yourself.

    -Take long showers. No one is waiting behind you to get in, so enjoy every single minute you'd like to of a long luxurious shower.

    -Read something that doesn't make you think too hard, just for the pure entertainment of it.

    -Give thanks a lot. Give thanks when you're laying in bed just waking up to the morning light. When you're taking your long luxious shower, as you're enjoying your coffee and taking in the clouds. As you're laying on the beach or romping in the ocean. When inspiration strikes and you're enjoying beautiful things, when you're wandering aimlessly, when you get lost in the new town, give thanks then too. Thank God for His goodness and grace. This is all a gift. Every single bit of it. 

    A World Full of Things I've Never Done Before.

    First 3 Firsts


    Seven: a different kind of funeral.

    Eight and Nine

    Ten-The Break In

    Another First [a little out of order] 

    A Weekend In Savannah

  • Another First [a little out of order]

    At Thanksgiving last year, I was flying back to Atlanta from Lincoln Nebraska, my hometown. I got delayed 30 measly minutes. It's never enough to make much of a difference, but this time, it caused me to miss the last connecting flight out of Minneapolis. It meant I couldn't fly out until the next day and I was going to have to foot the bill for a hotel, because somehow, without a cloud in the sky on either end, it was weather related.

    I sat waiting for the shuttle to the hotel and stress threatened to steal my peace. I decided to take a second to pray. I said, "Lord, I do not know what good you have planned for me, but I'm not going to let this get to me. I'm going to trust you."

    I hopped on the shuttle, got 6 hours of sleep, boarded a plane the next morning and hit the ground running at work. A few days later I decided to check this dating app thing I had. There was a cute man who started talking to me and we were enjoying each other's conversations. The point of the app was to meet people near you, so when I saw that he was a good 900 miles away I asked if he was traveling for work. He wasn't. "I live in Maple Grove MN," he said, and loves it up there.

    I figured that would be the end of our conversations. I thought we would both decide long distance is too hard and move on with the rest of our lives. But for some reason, we kept talking. He called a few days later and our first "date" was a FaceTime conversation. He even wore a tie to make a good first impression :) Maybe a month after our first phone call he bought a plane ticket to visit me in Atlanta. By the end of that weekend visit we both knew we didn't want to let each other go.

    It's been a whirlwind of flights back and forth, meeting families, lots of FaceTime and phone calls. 

    Fast forward to last weekend [but slow fast forward or you'll miss the whole thing. We've only known each other since Thanksgiving, remember.] I had a work event Thursday evening I was preparing for. At just the moment I was going to leave to pick up 2 of my colleagues to join me for the event, my roommate called to tell me our alarm had gone off. With our history of break-in a year ago, I raced home to see if there was someone in our house. 

    I had only SORT of thought it through. I got in the front door after parking my car for a fast and easy exit, and the alarm wasn't going off. Also, there was a big bouquet of flowers in the entry way. I was so confused as to why someone would break into my house to leave me flowers. I was trying to figure it out for a solid 2 minutes, just staring at the gorgeous flowers.

    Finally, from the kitchen, I heard a sheepish and familiar voice say, "hello??" Jason was sitting there all the while worried I had mace in my hand and if I came around the corner to see a man sitting there, that he was going to get a face-full of it.

    I came around the corner and gave him a gigantic hug, still expecting to have to race off to the work event. I think I said something like, "I'm so happy to see you. What are you doing here? I have to work." He assured me he had taken care of all of it. In fact, he'd roped in several of my friends for an airport ride, for the work diversion, and the fake house alarm. He proposed pretty much right then and there. I, of course, said yes, because I can't imagine being without him now that I know the wonder of him. My friends generously threw us an engagement party, and we spent the rest of the weekend wedding planning and registering before he had to fly back to Minnesota.

    All along the way there has been assurance after assurance that we are the man and woman for each other. Through dreams, affirmation of friends and family, fleeces we placed before the Lord only to have Him graciously and patiently confirm them again and again to both of us. We're so thankful!

    We'll get married on October 11th in Atlanta, and then make the move from Georgia to Minnesota. This entire year so far has been an extension of all the firsts I started last year. Only this time, they feel orchestrated by Someone else, and I'm so thankful for God's hand on Jason and me. Neither of us have planned a wedding before, so I'm certain between now and October we're going to have a lot of stories to tell.

    Thanks for your love and support! We're overflowing.

  • Ten-The Break In

    It was midnight and I was sound asleep. My roommate was slated to come in the door any second so I hadn't bothered with the alarm. She had mentioned meeting with a friend to talk about some new furniture for our living room, so when I heard what sounded like a lot of shuffling around downstairs I expected that the next morning I'd come downstairs to find a room too full of furniture and nothing more.

    Until I heard a man's voice.

    And that's when it clicked that what I'd actually heard was someone kicking in my front door. I tried to set off our alarm on the house, but I couldn't figure out how and by that time I decided my next best option was to call 911. I went back to my room to grab my phone, hit 9-1-1 and at that very moment one of the men and I looked at each other as he started up the stairs to rifle through our bedrooms.

    He yelled, "OH  s*$?/!!  Somebody's home" and the 3 guys ran out of our house. With mine and Cathy's laptops, a box of tablecloths and some sharpies. I'll never know why the tablecloths and sharpies. All the while those big dummies are snatching our things, I ran into the spare bedroom so I could see out of the front of the house, I locked the bedroom door, and stood on top of the bed. [I'm not very rational in distressing situations, as you now know.]

    The police came in 3 minutes. Which was about 2 minutes too late. Those guys had made a run for it, and I'd say I never saw them again, but I'm pretty sure it's our lawn boys, who we didn't see for a few months after, but are now back begging to mow our lawn. [We politely decline their offers.] 

    Cathy came home shortly after to a house full of police officers. One of them decided to dust for prints, to no avail. They searched the neighborhood and then asked if there was a strapping young man we could call to fix our door for us. At 2 in the morning. Cathy looked at me, then looked at him smirking and said, "Well, what's YOUR name?" He kind of laughed, got a screwdriver, and took out the lock so we could at least completely close the door.


    The next morning I wanted to be afraid. I wanted to start thinking the worst about my decision to live in my neighborhood, and make the choices I do about living in the city. Then my friend Josh came over to help replace the lock until we could replace the whole door. As he was figuring out how to fix the door he said, "You guys get to choose. If you want to be afraid, you can be. Your house got broken into in the middle of the night, and you could choose to be afraid. Or you could choose not to be."

    The choice was that simple. What were we going to do with had just happened. After 5 close friends also had their homes broken into, they all made the same choice as Cathy and I. We chose to learn to take extra precautions, like closing the front blinds to our house, and having the alarm set even when we're home, and then we went on with our lives a little more wiser to the truth of city living. 

    I learned that fear caused by paranoia and "what-if's" in many cases, is a choice. And I don't have to choose it. I also learned once again, how powerful gratitude is in overcoming fear. When I began thanking my Savior for saving me in this situation too, I learned to trust Him more than doubt. Once again He had protected me, and this time I was very aware of Him.

    A World Full of Things I've Never Done Before.

    First 3 Firsts


    Seven: a different kind of funeral.

    Eight and Nine

    Ten-The Break In

  • Month 9: Boundaries

    boundary wall

    [You can catch up on the other months here]

    Month 9: Boundaries
    Fruit of the Spirit: Peace
    The Goal: Begin putting boundaries in place
    The Rules: **Say no to 1 thing every week. Work 45 hours a week. Structure my time outside of work. Begin being disciplined again, instead of allowing the chaos of others to influence my own internal peace.
    The Outcome: I did pretty good! I was happier at work, and have a different perspective. I'm battling a little guilt associated with it, but I'm enjoying the new boundaries.

    One year and 4 months later as I read through this, I have to admit feeling a lot of shame. In a lot of ways the good boundaries I put in place, I have compromised again. It feels a bit like divine intervention that this is what I've come to write about at this point in time, as it's something I'm struggling with all over again. I also find it interesting that the outcome of sticking with my boundaries was guilt inducing, BUT now that I've not stuck with them, I'm also feeling guilt and shame. 

    Isn't that the way it goes? I've noticed consistently through my experiences and really ANY time I set my mind on doing something, that I face opposition. It might be me self-sabatoging, and it might also be the enemy working against me to keep me from becoming who I want to become. 

    I told a friend of mine recently that sometimes sticking to boundaries can be as exhausting as just breaking them. It looks like this time I have broken down, and instead of fighting to stick with them, I've caved under the pressure.

    I'm sure this is a topic I'm going to have a bit more to say about, but for now, I'm going to sit with the reminder that sticking to boundaries leads to greater peace. It might be hairy getting into the rhythm of boundaries, but it is far hairier working my heart out of the frenzy of a chaotic life.

    And I'm hoping spending some time reflecting on the things I've learned in the past that it will begin to shape my present.

    Boundaries and Peace

    Everything I know about boundaries


  • Thanksgiving Thankfulness Top 10

    When my family all gets together I always write a top 10 list for us. My mom always makes us a book of pictures after our times together and includes the top 10 lists, so we have them forever. [They're laminated, of course.]

    I spent the last week with my family in South Dakota. I'm sharing my top 10 list with you as well! 

    1. My nieces and nephews didn't know I was coming, so getting to surprise them by being there. I've never been fought over quite like they did while I was there, and it made me feel so loved :)

    2. Going ice skating on the farm.

    3. My first hunting excursion with Wes. We didn't get anything, but that was ok. 

    4. Sawyer was learning the books of the Bible and in his version it went something like this: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Letters...

    5. Watching the Cat Stampede. I've never seen anything quite like it. [Video Below]

    6. My sister made me my most favorite jello salad. As ridiculous as it sounds, it is exactly that delicious. She is too good to me.

    7. Getting to see sunrises and sunsets everyday. This doesn't happen in Atlanta.

    8. All of my neices and nephews wanted to watch a video with Papa and Nana on the iPad so they all circled up around them. It was a pretty awesome impromptu photo op. [Picture above.]

    9. My parents going to great lengths making sure I got to see everyone I wanted to see, and didn't miss anything.

    10. Tea parties with my neices.

    Honorable Mentions:

    -Learning that as much as my brother's kids like baked beans, we probably don't want to be around them when they've eaten them.

    -Hudson's poems

    -Teaching Faith a song on the piano.

    -Coffee with a good friend.

    -Runza with my brother and Don & Millie's with my aunt and uncle.

    -Long walks.

    -Wrestling matches in the living room.

    -Being woken up in creative ways.

    -Gingerbread house building

    And lots lots more. 



  • Thanksgiving Dinner a Little Early

    Yesterday we had Thanksgiving meal for our team at work. I work with refugees who have fled their countries because of conflict. They create products out of old billboards and coffee sacks. The 7 women working in the bag shop are mentored by 7 women who have a passion for helping them learn English, and just being good friends to them. So their mentors came for Thanksgiving too, along with some of our board members. It was a full house with familiar smells, laughter, pie, and eating way too much.

    We all sat at one very long table. Jeff explained Thanksgiving to our refugee friends and then in typical American Thanksgiving fashion, we all gave thanks. All of us, in our bumbling words trying to make sense of what our hearts were overflowing with went one by one around the table to share the good we have been given.

    The common thread? We were all thankful for each other. We are thankful for friends, for community that feels like family, and for a good work being completed. We were all thankful that the people we were sitting beside are the exact people who we want to be sharing this year of learning alongside. For some of our refugee friends this was the first Thanksgiving Dinner experience, but it's definitely not their first rodeo at teaching me what gratitude looks like. I'm thankful to see the world through their eyes; with full and grateful and open hearts. 

  • 2 Takeaways.

    My sister and I just finished reading a book by Tim Keller called "Walking with God through Pain and Suffering." It's one of the best books either of us have read in a long time. I'm not going to do a book report, though. I'm just going to tell you my 2 takeaways.

    1. "He gives us what we would have asked for if we had known everything He knows." -Tim Keller 

    Keller probably repeated the quote in half of the chapters of the book, but we didn't mind. It was so powerful, we loved having the reminder. When hard times come, all we know to ask for is that God would take it away. But God, in His goodness and wisdom, gives us what we would have asked for if we had His knowledge. We have our miniscule ant-in-the-grass perspective, meanwhile God knows who we will become at the end. He gives us what we would have asked for if we had known everything He knows.

    2. Thinking. 

    In the midst of pain we might want to turn off our brains along with anything that might make the pain more accute, but that is precisely the time to use our brains. Those are the times we need to tell ourselves the truth about God and ourselves. He is a strong tower. We need to remind ourselves to hope in Him, that even though we feel abandoned, He is present. In the words of the Psalmist, "Why so downcast, Oh my soul? Put your hope in God." He told himself the truth even as he was having difficulty believing it. It's also the time to dig deeply into His Word. Night time inspirational devotionals won't cut it. We need to DIG. We won't be satisfied with less. We'll only be satisfied when we know Him deeply.

    Both of these things change our prayers. Instead of praying for God to stop the work He's doing, we can invite Him into the pain. He's been there before. He's not afraid to sit with us in it now.

  • Stating the Obvious

    This morning in church we sang a song that reminded me of something really obvious. Seeing the good prepares my heart for God. I know we KNOW that this is what follows, but it's easy for me to forget.

    There's a domino effect with gratitude.
    First, my eyes see the good. [The first domino falls.]
    Then my heart begins to soften. [There goes dominoes 2 and 3.]
    I have new clarity about life's circumstances. [Down goes 4-10.]
    I allow room for God to be at work transforming my heart and mind. [I hear more dominoes clattering behind me.]

    God wants to have the space to move in us. He wants us to open our hearts to His transformational power, so like the dominoes falling, grace by grace, we are becoming more of a reflection of Him.

    One way we make space for Him is by acknowledging His good gifts. But acknowledgement is only the first step. As we continue seeing the good, we continue moving forward.
    -We give the good back to Him by giving to others.
    -We commit to loving Him more than loving the good we have newly acknowledged.
    -We willingly and openly allow Him to transform our hearts. 

    We can't just stop with gratitude. Our hearts won't let us! When we have eyes to see the good, our hearts are overwhelmed with the Goodness of God and we are changed. Next thing we know, we can look back and see the whole line of dominoes having followed our transformed hearts.

  • A Week's Worth of Good

    I love Ann Voskamp's reminders to find good in the little things. It's not always easy to remember to do, but surprisingly easy to find good. These are a few things that helped me see good this week. They're my version of brown paper packages wrapped up with string.

    -It's 39 days until Christmas
    -It finally got cold outside.
    -Yesterday we had a really meaningful and encouraging lunch at the bag shop at Plywood.
    -A [really small] small group this week meant we had some really good conversations.
    -Spontaneous time with friends.
    -A night with nothing to do.
    -My roommate making me laugh so hard I cried.
    -An electric throw blanket.
    -My parents celebrated 43 years of marriage.

    What have been the little things that have helped you see good?

  • 5 Good Things [and a little bit more]

    This morning I woke up feeling especially grateful. I started keeping a gratitude journal years ago. It was a time in my life I wasn't feeling especially grateful for anything, and I wanted to turn my perspective around. This last year I read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp with my sister, and she put perfectly and beautifully into words what I experience when I practice gratitude; My perspective changes.

    This has been a strange week for me and I was tempted to melt down into a gigantic fit of fear and self-pity last night. I went to bed instead. I woke up this morning feeling a deep sense of gratitude for the positives the week has held. I want to name them so I don't forget.

    1. Thursday night my house got broken into while I was in it. As soon as they realized I was home they LEFT! [with Cathy and my computers, sadly]. It could have been so much worse. All they took was stuff. 

    2. I made the trek to the Apple store to get a new computer. I plan a big event for August every year and being less than 2 weeks away, life without a computer wasn't an option. I was scared that I'd lost everything I'd been working on with my computer being gone, but Time Machine is a brilliant invention and my computer restored from the backup. AMAZING!!! I only lost 2 hours worth of work that wasn't backed up. Can you believe that???

    3. I THOUGHT I had let my renters insurance lapse which would mean that replacing the stolen computer would come out of my own pocket. I was bummed about that. And then my insurance company called and said that I didn't let my insurance lapse, and it will be reimbursed. So, basically, other than some hassle, I'm not out anything!

    4. Sweet friends gave me unexpected encouragement this week about the job I'm doing at work. It's had me feeling like a million bucks all week long.

    5. I've been working on editing a book project for work for the last couple months, and we thought it was going to be out of our budget to print. I was a little bummed that my paper-and-ink loving self wouldn't ever get to hold the book. BUT, a generous donor decided to print the book. For free. 

    And there are a whole bunch more things like friends helping fix a kicked in door, special treats left on my desk, notes from good friends, coffee on sale, my roommate making me laugh until my stomach hurts...

    When the good outweighs the bad, it's impossible to wallow in self-pity. I'm so so thankful.