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Learning
  • 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 Extremes

    I'm going to be speaking here from a Mom's point of view, because currently that is the view I have everyday, but I think this could apply elsewhere also. 

    I feel inundated with 2 extremes when I think about perfecting my parenting. I see both of these extremes in social media, blogs, and magazines.

    One extreme says, I'm going to be my very best and that means:

    -making the best, most beautiful and nutritious meals

    -having my kids dressed perfectly adorably, no stains on anything

    -my house is perfectly picked up

    -I'm involved in something all the time

    -I Pinterest everything, perfectly, all the time

    -I can take a cart through the bicycle aisle in Target with my kids without knocking down all the bikes

    - all of this is accomplished with washed hair, clean clothes, and a smile

    The other extreme says, I'm mediocre and happy in my mediocrity. You have seen this too, right? Parents say things like...

    -my house is a mess

    -my kids are a mess

    -my clothes are a mess

    -I'm late to everything

    -but we're happy in our mediocrity

    I GET this! Truly, I do. It's too much pressure to be perfect. WAY too much pressure. This is rooted in a desire to do a job well but knowing perfection is impossible.

    But can't I strive to be the best I can possibly be AND do it without all the pressure of perfection? Or maybe can we rewrite what "the best" looks like?

    I'm not sure completely how it's done but I have to believe it's possible, because I'm not content with mediocrity but I also can't be the list of perfect above. 

    If you've spent any time with me at all since bringing our second child home you'll see it's hard for me to go into public and look graceful. My house IS a mess. My meals are thrown together. My priority for laundry is having clean diapers. And sometimes I forget when I last bathed my children. I believe God has given me a job to do, and I don't want to do it with less than my whole self. But maybe the list of what makes for exceptional parents needs some reworking. Maybe we need to give ourselves a little more credit than calling "less than perfection" mediocrity. And maybe we all could use a little more grace for ourselves and for those around us all doing the best we can to be the best parents we can be. 

  • Highs and Lows and Mostly the Middle

    My Atlanta roommate and friend, Cathy Price came to visit. It was great! We talked our hearts out. We don't have to share specifics of life, just the heart of it. We don't have grand adventures planned because the point is being together and that's more than we could have asked for. She's water to my soul.

    We talked a lot about the highs and lows of things. In conversations with others, there is often the pressure of having either something wonderful to celebrate or some low to problem-solve. If neither the high nor the low exist, conversation is hard to continue. This is not bad. It's a fact of life.
    There are budding relationships  or failed ones.
    New babies or infertility.
    Fabulous jobs or horrible ones.
    Healings or cancer.
    And on and on it goes.
    There are often natural highs and lows that we can't control but our lives are affected by.

    But sometimes, we don't have the high or the low. Sometimes we're just in the middle. Sometimes the worst low is that the new recipe we tried flopped. Or the highest high is that we finally got a night to stay at home and catch up on laundry. And that feels pretty darn high! Not because our low is so low, but because we're living in the middle. 

    Living in the middle is challenging me to find something new to talk about. Things that matter, but might not cause the dramatic conversations we are used to.

    The middle might look like: 
    Books we're reading.
    Sermons we're challenged by.
    Skills we're honing.
    Relationships we're improving.
    It might not look like loss or victories. 
    it might just look like every day.

    And how beautiful might it be by our confidence in our everydayness, to affirm someone else's. And not only affirm it, but celebrate it, care about it, let conversations surround it. Let go of the need for the drama of highs and lows and instead embrace the middle.

  • Living Like Eternity Matters

    Our Sunday School class at church is doing a study about marriage, but really it's more about living like eternity matters. Through the 5 weeks of this study, it's felt like everything else I've been learning has mirrored the lessons. I shouldn't be surprised. The Gospel should show up in every area of life. I don't know why I'm struck when it actually does. 

    For 2 weeks I've felt like God's had His fingers gently pressing into my ribs as He nudges me to DO something about all that I've been learning and considering. As a result, I've reached out to a refugee organization so I can begin getting to know a refugee family in my community. But I can't shake the fact that it's not just about "putting in time." It's not about one night a week. It's about my whole life.

    When I am viewing life through the lens of eternity, I work like my work matters.
    I schedule my calendar like God is first in my life.
    I love because people need to see Jesus.
    I give believing it's all God's anyway.
    I'm content with the generous gifts God's given.
    I trust when it feels like sacrifice.
    I pray knowing God meets with me in prayer.
    I worship confident that all I do is to be for God's glory anyway.

    Now to live like this!

    The problem is, I don't. I think my measly coins in the offering basket or an evening spent in a way other than how my selfish nature typically prefers, might appease God. But as long as I'm just trying to appease Him, I'm never going to get to the joy of loving Him. 

    I have such a long way to go. What reminds you to live like eternity matters? 

  • Share The Same Pillow

    Last weekend Jason and I went to Woodland Trails Bed and Breakfast to celebrate our first anniversary. The weekend was magical. We paddled boated on a pond, we drove golf carts through  530 acres of trails, we found a spot on the St. Croix River and just sat and threw pebbles.

    I learned that in the north there are snowmobile crossings on the highway and if you drive a car in rural Wisconsin you'll stick out like a sore thumb among pick-up trucks and 4 wheelers. There was no doubt we were out of towners.

    But the best things I learned from the weekend happened unexpectedly at a romantic anniversary dinner. The bed and breakfast made us reservations and paid for our meal at a restaurant called Tesaro.

    When we were seated they asked our special occasion. We told them about our 1st anniversary and next thing we knew, the couple from the table next to us hobbled over. Maynard and Marlys were celebrating their 67th anniversary and THEY wanted to congratulate US. Next, another couple came in celebrating their 50th anniversary. We 3 couples all congratulated each other and I decided to ask them for their words of wisdom in staying married for so long. After all, when would we ever encounter such an opportunity again?

    Maynard touched Marlys' elbow and said, "Communicate well and say thank you often." Marlys and agreed and added, "Forgive each other." The next couple told us to "Go to bed as friends and share the same pillow."

    Maynard got out a camera and snapped our picture and asked for our address so he could send it to us. They finished dessert, then Maynard ushered Marlys out the front door he was holding for her.

    It was an unforgettable meal. I felt the entire weekend might have happened for that very moment of the 6 of us meeting each other in rural Wisconsin. Our hearts came alive in being seen and cared for in such a beautiful and meaningful way.

    I've snatched a corner of Jason's pillow for myself every night since.

    Updated 11/23/15. Today I went to the mailbox to find this sweet letter from Maynard and Marlys. What a sweet gift this Thanksgiving week.

  • A Year and 9 Things that have defined it.

    I can't believe it, but Jason and I have made it an entire year together, living in the same home, making life in Minnesota, and blending our worlds. Sometimes it's felt like the fastest year of my life and sometimes it's felt very slow. [In a good way.]

    These are 9 things that have defined our first year together. There are probably more, but these jumped to our minds the most quickly.

    1. Sometimes we anticipate something to be SO hard that it ends up feeling sort of easy. For all the advice we received and time we spent preparing for a very hard first year, it has gone a whole lot more smoothly than either of us thought it would.

    2. A couple minutes spent chatting in the driveway with neighbors is totally worth the friendships gained. It's worth it not to just close your garage and front doors when you get home from a long day of work, but actually to spend time investing in those relationships.

    3. Hospitality doesn't have to be fancy. Speaking of said neighbors, our best times together have been over burgers and hot dogs at a folding table in the garage. We don't have to get hung up on everything being "perfect." We need to prioritize relationship over perceived perfection.

    4. Jason and I are not spontaneous. We were salivating over our spontaneous friends' decision to jump in the car with their 2 kids and drive to Duluth for the day. We were bemoaning the fact that we would NEVER think of that on our own, let alone DO it. Then we decided that we're the kind of people who would rather choose a quiet day at home, and that's ok too.

    5. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. There have been certain things [like the way we eat or do laundry] that we've just had to decide to join the other in. It might mean a few extra pounds, or one more laundry basket than the other person understands, but some things just don't matter enough to disrupt relationship over. 

    6. We have a Sunday night business meeting every week. We talk about:
    -what we did the week before
    -what we're doing the week ahead
    -what is our budget for the week  
    -what was a high from our week 
    -how we can pray for each other.
    We depend heavily on that 15 minutes to get us on same page for the week.

    7. We start every morning together. No matter what, we get up together everyday. It means going to bed earlier than Jason would like and sometimes I have to get up earlier than I would need to, but starting the day praying for each other has been an unexpectedly beautiful blessing that is more than worth a couple more minutes of sleep.

    8. We challenge each other to reach beyond mediocrity. From finding a new job to exploring new places or from disc golf to spending time reading together, we challenge each other to try new things because the other person loves them. 

    9. Our Church has become a place for us to serve and be served. And it didn't even take very long. We found out that if you show up, you'll be invited to join in the work God is doing. We're thankful to get to be a part of it, and for the place of welcome we've found there. 

    What a year! We're thankful for wise people in our lives who set us off on a path that has made this first year truly peaceful and full of bliss. 

  • A Year of Rest

    I had the privilege of hearing Richard Swenson talk about Margin while I was in Atlanta at Plywood Presents. I continue to mull over his talk. Choosing margin is a continual struggle of mine, but I realized as he was talking that it's maybe the first year in my adult life that I could say I have margin in my life. 

    The last year has held a ton of change: A cross country move, marriage, new job, Jason started a new job, getting to live near family. It's been a year of completely new experiences. But alongside all the change, there's also been space for a lot of quiet. We live on a budget so we don't go out much. I don't know a ton of people so I don't hang out much. Our lives are quiet right now.

    I know my tendencies, though. I know in the past as soon as I've felt rooted somewhere, I'll overcommit, I'll think every free night is an opportunity to fill it. I'll start new things, I'll start getting tired.

    Swenson gave a whole bunch of suggestions of things we could do to build margin into our lives. He named these specific things:

    -Tame technology, limit TV, periodically disconnect
    -Get adequate sleep, exercise, nutrition
    -Say no to non-priorities, defend boundaries
    -Control spending and debt
    -Nourish relationships
    -Use free three: Laughter, Music, Nature
    -Resist the escalation of the norm
    -Practice simplicity and contentment
    -Think deep consecutive thoughts

    Before he named these incredible challenges to incorporate margin, he said, "I know you're not actually going to do any of these things." Youch. He knows how hard it is to change course once we've set off in a certain direction. He knows how much we LOVE filling life to the brim, to overflowing. He knows how a lack of margin makes us feel important, needed, productive.

    For me this year has naturally led to creating margin in some of the ways he suggested. But I know it won't continue to be natural to maintain margin. If I don't purposefully choose some of the things he listed, I will head right back down the road of near chaos. My tendencies follow me wherever I go because I choose them. Swenson challenged me to choose something new.

    How has making a change in one of the above listed ways changed your life?

  • Conference and Conversations

    Last week Jason and I flew down to Atlanta. It was my first trip South since last October. We chose this time of year so we could attend Plywood Presents as well as spend time with friends. 

    It was time jampacked with inspiring speakers and tons of take-aways. Speakers shared stories and wisdom based on experience and research and they generously shared their learnings. In my five days in Atlanta I learned things from speakers, and then watched those things be confirmed by Moms in my life that I visited with. Here are a few things I learned.

    Blake Howard of Matchstic: Hard/Easy vs. Easy/Hard. Blake talked about how if you have hard conversations at first, the outcomes come easier. But if you have easy conversations up front without hashing out the details and having hard conversations, the outcome comes a lot harder.  Andrea is a homeschooling Mom of 3 boys. She taught me, "Start in the way that you intend to go." If you start out easily without setting boundaries and limits for your children, it's harder and confusing to the kids to turn that ship later. Sounds pretty similar to Blake's business advice if you ask me!

    Scott Hofert of Colsen and Keane: Be Bored. Scott shared how boredom in business can often lead to losing focus, but if you can purposefully allow room for boredom in your work, you can further perfect the work you're doing. I got to spend time with Andre and Joanna after hearing Scott speak. Andre sat for hours with her daughter until she learned to flip on the trampoline. She honored the process of her work, not just the celebration of learning the flip. She gave her space to perfect her play. Joanna homeschools her two kids and took them to Plywood Presents so they too could learn from speakers. They were the only kids in the room, and other kids might have been bored, but not Lincoln or Leina. They told me what they learned from their favorite speakers. Joanna let education happen through unconventional means and she expected their engagement in the process. 

    Richard Swenson author of Margin: Richard talked about how incomprehensible are bodies are, yet they still have limitations. Progress pushes us beyond our own limits and it doesn't lead to healthy outcomes. It leads to exhaustion and burnout. After being challenged by Richard, I met with Mary and watched her and her husband raising their two boys. She expressed that she feels confident of this gigantic undertaking, important vocation, high calling. She knows it's her sole job for now. While she's raising her boys to change the world, she's also pursuing her other goal of living in Benin Africa to continue the Moto business she and her husband have started, and engaging with a non-profit that her sister and brother-in-law run. She is being wise in these years to know what her goals are for this time so she can pursue her next goals when the time is right. 

    What have you been learning from the resourceful parents in your life?  These speakers and moms taught me a ton. It has challenged me as I watched them pursue their life goals in their own ways. 

  • Hard Issues, Soft Heart

    I listened to a podcast over the last week. Yes, literally, I had to take an entire week to begin digesting what I was listening to. It was on a polarizing topic, and I'm opting not to share my own opinions or the opinions of the presenters or even name the topic.

    But I will share two things I learned and had affirmed through the process of listening.

    1. Scripture pricks the heart. My heart was softened when Scripture was approached open-mindedly; Not in a way that was using texts to push a position forward, but with sensitivity to allow the Spirit to work and be alive in the Words. My heart kept growing softer and softer to the Spirit and to the way God chooses to speak to us through His Word. To hear from God I must spend time in His Word. I must wrestle with what it says. It's too easy to change positions on a topic based on the effects it may have on others or even a strong opinion someone else might have. What is MORE important and what is required of us is to hear from God. What is He saying? Where is His heart? How am I to follow Him?

    2. Sometimes it's time to fight, and sometimes it's time to pray. Through the process of listening and even now afterwards, I've been praying a lot about the issue. I don't have answers. I THINK I have an understanding of what God is saying, but ultimately I feel a deep need for humility. I must prayerfully approach Him and listen to what He says through His word. Sometimes I don't like it. Sometimes I want to fight against what is His best. But ultimately, if my spirit is sensitive to His Spirit, I'll go where He wants me to go. And so will you. So we have to pray.

    Doesn't it feel like the first years of walking with God? Such simple concepts. Read Scripture and Pray. Yet somehow in the mire of complicated issues and of opinions running rampant, I easily forget how active God is in my life and hard issues when look to Him. Hard issues might still be hard to navigate, but He's faithful to show up. If I'm completely honest, it feels more convoluted than when I started, but what I DO have, is a softer heart towards God. And that's a place to start.

  • Everything I Know About Ignorance

    I went on a date with a guy many years ago and as we were having a lively conversation I started to realize we weren't exactly on the same page with everything. This fact didn't bother me, except that my date kept using "we" statements about things he was saying. I felt like it was only fair to let him know that I didn't agree with everything he was saying so I told him, "You know, I think I might be more conservative than you think I am." He looked at me, paused, and then said, "BUT YOU READ." Needless to say, we didn't go on another date. I frequently laugh about the fact that according to him I couldn't disagree with him AND also be educated. It seems though he's not the only one who thinks such things.

    I've noticed in a lot of controversial areas people are quick to say, "If you disagree with me you must be ignorant." And all sides of all arguments make that same claim. Why do we do this to each other? Can't we intelligently disagree? If you and I don't hold the same opinions why does it automatically mean that one of us must be ignorant? 

    If someone is legitimately concerned about me or you being ignorant, wouldn't the nicer option be to patiently educate the other side? The problem is, we are often already educated and our opinions have developed through study or experiences. We take our disagreements as biting and condescending opportunities to say the other side is ignorant. We offer a degrading kind of pity by saying someone who disagrees with us must not be as educated as we are. Why do we all have to be "ignorant"? Why can't we just disagree?

  • Everything I know about not knowing anything

    I was reading about the financial troubles of Greece this morning. Really, I reading about this fellow's idea of how to help solve it and I was thinking, "I wonder what the repercussions would be of this." I thought I'd hear some smart people's perspectives on why it might or might not make a difference. 

    And then I realized that nobody knows how anything will turn out. We never actually do. We can make educated guesses about what the fallout or the windfall might be, we can even study historically what has happened, but the hard truth is, we don't actually know.

    I want the assurance that there's research I can do to tell me the effects of what I do before I do it. I try to plan for all possible scenarios. I have well thought-out ideas of best and worst case scenarios, but ultimately, I'm not in charge of anything. I don't manage the outcomes.

    I read a Mother Teresa quote this morning, "Give Jesus a free hand and let Him use you without consulting you."

    It's why we don't know how things will play out. We are often used without our permission. God's enacting a plan that we get to be a part of and we can to choose one of two responses:

    Response 1: Kick and Scream when our charts, spreadsheets, plans and dreams don't come about how we predict or hope. Wilt under the immense disappointment that our plan didn't pan out. Blame those around us, or be crushed by our failures.

    Response 2: Open our eyes to what else God might be up to. Take a second to feel our disappointment and then surrender to our Great God who chooses to use us without consulting us. He's up to something we might just not understand the fullness of.

    And the beautiful truth is, His use of us is because His great love for us. We don't deserve to be part of what He is accomplishing, but because He values us, He pushes us to greater things. We get to be in on His plan.

  • Learning from Opinions

    Voting for a calendar at work, a conversation with an opinionated person, listening to an educator with thoughts on the educational system, and reading a recent book have all mashed together to teach me something important.

    I don't have to have an opinion about everything all the time.

    I'm not talking about deep convictions or where a person has actual expertise to offer. I'm saying that some scenarios offer the space to have an opinion about something I haven't spent any considerable time thinking about until now. Because I'm given the opportunity, I develop my own opinions. Sometimes the truth is, I simply don't care. The outcomes aren't impactful enough to waste the time developing well thought-out arguements to back my new opinion. Just because I might be offered the courtesy of throwing in my 2 cents doesn't mean I need to. 

    Many times, I could empower someone else by trusting their educated opinions instead of developing my own about something I care little about. Sometimes my greatest asset can be to say, "What do you think? Let's go with that."

    Why do I think my opinions matter so much? Why does my ego need the boost that offering an opinion often gives? Maybe sometimes I need to slow down and consciously decide that in some scenarios my opinion is not required. Instead of offering my two cents, my greatest offering could be to trust in another's ideas. 

  • Learning from Awkward Interactions

    I found myself in a room with a person last week, who thought I had done something or at very least knew something unsavory about them that I don't actually know. She felt defensive. In turn, she shifted some blame so as I interacted with her for 3 minutes in the end, I also felt defensive.

    Awkward.

    I wanted to set the record straight. I wanted to make myself look better, but in order to do so, I would have to shift blame somewhere else. Instead, I smiled and let the person know how good it was to see them once again, forced myself to stay in my chair for a few more minutes so it wouldn't look obvious, then quietly packed up my things and left. 

    Our 3 minute conversation spiraled me into 3 hours of over analyzing the situation and what might have happened. I instantly started picking apart the persons character when I had previously felt no need to do so. What changed?

    My impulse for self-protection.

    My mom used to tell me, "I have broad shoulders, I can take it." The hours following the interaction made me wish for my mom's broad shoulders instead of my own which were slumping under the weight of my desire to self-protect. I wanted to ensure that I could be seen in a positive light. The bottom line, I want to be liked. And it's not always possible to do hard things and maintain everyone's good graces at the same time.

    My greatest goal in life is not to be liked. My greatest goal is to be more like my Savior. [Or it ought to be.]

    When my greatest goal is to be liked: 
         I have to shift blame for my failures onto someone else. 
         I can't do hard things because I'm working hard to maintain certain perceptions about myself. 
         I speak words that may not be true. 
         I have to work a little less hard so as to not step on anyone's toes. 
         I can't be myself.

    When my greatest goal is to be like my Savior: 
         I can take responsibility for my failures. 
         I have the courage to tackle the hard things that are required of me. 
         I can speak truth in love. 
         Hard work is not option, it's what is required of me, and I can do so with confidence. 
         I can be who I am because that is who God made me to be.

    The honest truth is, in my life a lot of times I look a lot like I value being liked more than I value being like my Savior. I'm working on it. I'm working on my tendencies to let awkward scenarios create unbecoming character in me. I want to be working the hardest though, at being aware of God's transforming grace in my life, and the privilege He allows me to reflect His good character.

  • Learning about Communication

    This weekend Jason and I were working on a few projects on our to do list. We didn't count on the projects taking a full 12 hours on Saturday. But nonetheless when we were done and put our feet up, we felt good about our cars being maintenanced and the new cabinet we built. Through the projects I learned something really valuable from Jason.

    Jason got an air compressor from his parents for his birthday. He had a question about how to store it and left a message for his dad. He came in and told me about it and my first thought was, "why don't you google it." But he didn't. He waited the hour for his dad to call him back before he did anything.

    This little action taught me 2 important things. 1. Although something might be faster or easier, if it removes relationship from the equation it's probably not better. I hate asking for help. Google keeps me from having to face this hatred. Jason also hates asking for help, but it doesn't keep him from investing in relationships. He takes opportunities to invest in relationship while I often seek an "easier" route. [Wow. That's hard to admit out loud.]

    My second lesson is any excuse to get to talk to the people we love is worth the time it takes to make it happen. Who cares if it's just a question about an air compressor, the effort is worth it. Even if it can only be a 10 minute touch point, a short conversation goes a long way. After moving across the country, it's been a lot of hard work to stay in touch with people I love. Sometimes it works out better than others, but it matters that I keep trying.

    I've thought about this one little thing all weekend long. How can I incorporate the people I love into small decisions I make, so when there's a big one at hand, I am used to incorporating their wisdom and opinions? 

    While I struggled asking for help, it was valuable to learn that it ultimately deepens relationship. 

    [Other learnings...]

  • Can my values co-exist?

    I was sitting in a place of learning last week and was struggling with the subject matter. I'll probably touch on it a little later on, but as I was sitting struggling, I was thinking about how easy it is to TALK about serving and loving others and how often talk doesn't turn into action. It's often because my own values bump up against each other in uncomfortable ways. 

    A life of quiet [with margin-not busy] does not equal a life of ease. It means there is space to incorporate discomfort. It means there is margin to put the needs of others above myself. 

    The value of creating margin is not solely for myself. If I value loving my neighbor but am not letting them trump my value of quiet in some instances, my values are not what I think they are. I don't get to let myself off the hook by saying my values cannot co-exist, when 1/2 the reason I value an unhurried schedule is so I can say YES when opportunities arise where I could love those around me. 

    I want to say yes when it might be easier to say no. I want my quiet to be interrupted. 

  • When things go wrong...

    The "famous" saying of my dad goes, "When things go wrong don't holler and curse, just think of the future when things will be worse."

    It was always eye-roll worthy growing up, but his silly phrase rolled around my head a couple weekends  ago when my sister's family of 6 was visiting from 9.5 hours away. My sister is my best friend so I was ecstatic for their visit. 

    Then the hot water heater started leaking, the repair facility couldn't seem to get there to fix it for THREE days, my breakfast flopped, the pork loin didn't get cooked, the lettuce for salad had bugs in it, it was too cold and windy to do the outdoor adventures we had planned...

    I wanted to holler and curse. 

    I had so badly wanted everything to be perfect for my sister's family. And then somewhere in the middle of their visit I realized I was stressing over what wasn't perfect and I was about to miss out on the gift of time with them, even if things kept going wrong.

    When my expectation is perfection, it seems the universe conspires against me to remind me that nothing is ever about perfection. It's about making something beautiful from the mess we all live in. 

    What's your mess? And what's the beauty that can be brought from it?

  • Learning from a Mistake

    I don't want to have to learn from mistakes, but if I have to, I'd MUCH rather learn from someone else's. Last week I didn't so much learn from someone else's mistake so much as I learned how to take responsibility for them. 

    It was a silly mistake, really. At work,our transportation department forgot to schedule a bus for a field trip for one of our grade levels. We'd done everything right, they just forgot to order the bus. 

    What blew me away was the email I received after the issue was resolved. The lady who made the mistake sent an email that said, "It was my fault. I forgot to schedule the bus. I'm sorry."

    WOAH! I told everyone involved how brave and bold she is. Who DOES that?! She owned her mistake and didn't even TRY to blame someone else. She took responsibility and apologized immediately. I couldn't even be mad at her mistake because she diffused all the frustration when she owned up to what she had done wrong. There's no reason for drama or anger when a sincere apology is offered. 

    I learned a lot from her in that moment. When I shirk responsibility for my mistakes or try to blame someone else, I make a bad situation bigger. It stirs up unnecessary resentment in my heart as I try to find all the reasons someone else didn't do what they should that could have contributed to my mistake. And I don't give the other parties an opportunity to show grace through forgiveness. 

    One 3 sentence email blew my mind with its simplicity and honesty. Her email shaped the way I look at my own mistakes. She made an impression on me, not because of the mistake she made, but because of the responsibility she took for it.

    She's given me courage to admit when I'm wrong. She's helped me to see how much I'm shaped by taking responsibility for my own failures and that the consequences are often not nearly as bad as I think they'll be. Chances are, given how rare it is to admit a mistake, more often than not, my failure will be met with grace.

    [My adventures and learnings began here.]

  • Learning from George Ezra

    A sweet lady at work who is just about to retire brought me a cd last week. She asked what kind of music I liked because she thought I would enjoy George Ezra. She had been traveling the world, visiting her daughter and in some pub in England she heard him playing and loved him. She thought I might enjoy him too. I guess a person can read my music tastes a mile away. 

    After work I jumped in my car and pushed the cd into my car player and immediately was toe tapping, loving him too. My first thought was, "I need this forever." 

    And I realized what I've always known, I want to POSSESS what I LOVE. It's not enough just to listen and enjoy, or taste or see or feel. I want to OWN what I love; even at times what is not mine to have. I felt like a siren had gone off in my heart. I've heard lots of talk about possessing the things we love and how it's a form of worship and we shouldn't do it, but it's rare that I catch myself in the middle of actually doing it. My loving and wanting to possess the George Ezra CD was a little picture of what my heart does so easily. 

    It might seem silly, but I committed to not buying his cd. I want to exercise in this small way that I do not need to possess something I'm enjoying. I want to enjoy it for the moments that I can, and then to give it back or pass it along for another to enjoy.

    It's JUST an ALBUM for Pete's sake. I have bought 100 albums because I enjoy them. What made this different? Nothing really, except that this time I realized a tendency of my heart. And for some reason, that makes a big difference.

  • Another "I'll Never" that I'm currently doing.

    I'm sure this entire year we'll see a lot of "I'll Never's" coming true. It pains me and I have a hard time admitting them. But I'm in the middle of another one and it's causing me to learn a lot so I'll share.

    I used to lead a small group at my church in Atlanta. One of the things I valued most about the group was that we were a diverse group of people, married, single, divorced, newlywed, parents, near empty nesters, dating, not dating. We came to conversations with different perspectives because we were all in very different places, but it was apparent that we were all working to get to know God better and it made our times together really meaningful. It started because I had openly complained that there was no place for single people to be welcomed. So, as tends to happen when you complain, you're met with an opportunity to serve.

    So here's the "I'll Never." I have harped against groups that are made up only of people in the same stage in life. I don't believe church is best served when we only interact with people in the same life stage. My preferences are groups based on location because they seem less exclusive to me. I promised myself I wouldn't be part of a "young married" group if I were ever young and married. And here I find myself, in a church where Sunday Schools and small groups are based on stage of life. We are part of not one, but TWO "young marrieds" small groups.

    And here's the kicker: I really enjoy them both. Not because we're in the same stage of life, but because the people have been incredibly warm and welcoming to Jason and me, and our conversations are challenging and vulnerable. Being a stranger in a new place, I'm open to friendship wherever it might be found and currently it's being found in 2 young marrieds small groups. I'm finding openness in these groups that I doubted was possible after only 4 months in a new city.

    I have to earn the right to be heard, so I'm hopeful that over time I can speak into this pet peeve of mine. But in the meantime, I have a lot to learn from the individuals even while I struggle with the way the groups are put together. I also have a lot to learn about humility. Our opinions are rarely SO right in a scenario that others are 100% wrong. There's something to learn wherever we are, no matter how strongly we've been in opposition to it before. God is working in big ways to challenge my closed-mindedness and transform my heart to see that He works in us whatever ways He wants to and it's often through our "I'll Nevers."

    As an aside, we just finished studies that are based in large part, in Atlanta. It has strangely made me feel at home while we learn from Andy Stanley and Bob Lupton even while I experience some discomfort with this particular "I'll Never."

    I'm sure I'll be sharing more as the year goes what specifically I'm learning from our studies, so stay tuned.

    Other thoughts:

    *Single Hang-Ups That Have Followed Me Into My Newlywed Bliss

    *Hurting and Healing

  • Learning from Grandparents

    I'm the youngest of 4 kids, so by the time I came along my grandparents were already aging. My Grandparents have all passed away several years ago. Some of my best life memories and lessons I learned through them, though. I think often of how they spoke life and encouragement into me as I sought to know God better and make life choices that I could live with. They were always such an encouragement, showing me what it looks like to love our Savior and make hard choices. They showed me what it looks like to love Jesus and others in some of the hardest of life's moments and what it looks like to love Jesus with their very last breath. I miss them terribly. 

    I never knew one of the biggest blessings of marrying Jason would be to have Grandparents again. Last weekend we went to visit his parents and Grandma and I had the chance to spend a few minutes to  chat with his Grandma Coralyn. She told me that I was the answer to hundreds of prayers she had prayed for Jason. That little conversation was one of my highlights of the last year with Jason. Not only had she been praying for me, we get to know each other and spend time together. Someone has been praying for me for years and I didn't know it. 

    I'm so thankful I get to learn from Grandparents again. I'm so thankful they're open and willing to share their wisdom with their Granddaughter-in-law and to give me the gifts of memories to make me more and more part of the Lempola/Olson family. But more than that, I'm so thankful for the prayers of a woman who walks with God and shows me what it looks like to remain faithful in her commitment to God. She sent Jason and me a note this week asking us to pray for her and that feels like a gift too. As Jason and I prayed for her this morning I realized what an unexpected lesson this is for me. It's a gift I didn't know I could even ask for.

    Sometimes God gives us things we didn't even know we could possibly be blessed with. And it's a lesson to me in persistantly praying. God delights to answer, and we get to delight in knowing that we are the answers to prayers others have prayed.

  • Marriage, Identity, and Destiny

    I've not been married long. Just long enough for the struggles of identity to steal their way through me ever so slightly every once and so often. When I have quiet moments and my mind is left to wander, I find myself dwelling on pieces of my identity that I struggle to reconcile.

    Almost all of my circumstances have changed. I have a new name, I'm not single, I live in the burbs, I have a dog [This might be most shocking of all], we rarely go out [I used to have plans almost every night], I barely make time to read [I'm trying to fix this], I don't listen to as much sad music anymore...so much of who I was just a few months ago is on a very long hiatus at the moment and it's hard to know what to do with all of who I know I am.

    Now, I'm not complaining, just figuring it all out. It's weird, I tell you! I feel like a traitor to myself sometimes. All the transition is forcing me to realize what parts of me are actually ME and what parts are circumstantial. And some of it makes me feel like I'm an awkward middle schooler figuring out who I am all over again, and part of it makes me feel like I grew up without knowing it somewhere in the last 10 years.

    Through reading the book The Cure, one of the things I took away is that destiny means something different at different points in life. I was no less fulfilling my destiny as a single woman working at a non-profit as I am now as a married woman working at an elementary school, or getting to know my neighbors or investing in my church, or will someday [hopefully] as a mother etc. My destiny involves loving well. And maybe I'm a little confused about certain parts of who I am, but I'm absolutely certain of my ability and destiny to love those who cross my path. 

    So something I'm learning is, if I'm certain of little else about who I am, I can be certain about how I love. And really, what more am I asked to be certain of? I intend to love well, as I live out of the love my Savior shows me every day. And although intentions are good, they're not enough. I'm learning how to love well over long distances, in my own home, and in new relationships. It seems an appropriate lesson to be thinking about the week of Valentine's Day, I suppose.

  • Everything I Know about Juicing

    Jason sat me down one evening after work, and asked me to watch a documentary with him. It's called Fat, Sick, And Nearly Dead. It's about a man with a rare disease, who was overweight and wanted to change his life before he lost it. He chose to do it through juicing.

    We finished the documentary and high on the man's life change, Jason asked me if I wanted to juice with him for a week. I accepted the challenge. I had learned a lot about the benefits of doing a juice fast and was ready to put my learnings into practice.

    A few weeks later, we excitedly went on a massive Costco shopping trip, buying more fruits and veggies than you can imagine, and ran home to juice enough to last us a couple days. We were wide-eyed and eager.

    Well, the juice fast is maybe the worst idea we've ever had. We're considering listing the juicer on Craigslist and getting it out of our house. We juiced Thursday night so we'd have enough juice for a couple of days, and just thinking about the gross-ness we made is making my gag reflex work. 

    We made 3 juices:
    Juice 1: blueberries, spinach, apples, cucumber, cranberry [this was the best of them, but still not good]
    Juice 2: Spinach, apples, cucumber, celery, lemon, orange [it's called the green machine, or to me, the gag machine]
    Juice 3: spinach, apples, cucumber, celery, lemon, carrots, tomato [This was the WORST. Don't ever make this. It's maybe the worst thing I've ever tasted or smelled.]

    After day 1 we mistakenly thought wouldn't have been so bad, if there hadn't been as much pulp in the juice. So we started straining out the pulp, but it didn't help as much as we were hoping.

    We were strong through Friday and then Friday night right before bed I started puking up everything I'd drank. It was as disgusting coming up as it was going down. Saturday we were lethargic all morning. We finally rolled out of bed a little after 9 and cleaned our house. We went tubing with Jason's brother and nephews, which was SUPER fun, but after 2 hours of activity, we were dead to the world. We'd both been nursing headaches for days to add to our lethargy. We decided that we'd make use of our fruits and vegetables in a different way and adjusted our menu to juice for breakfast and lunch and to keep it simple. Straight up Orange juice, apple/kiwi juice, and carrot juice and eating fruits and veggies for supper. This is MUCH more manageable. We were both much happier with this arrangement. Much more doable. We kept this up the remainder of the week.

    All in all, Jason lost 7 pounds and I lost 5. It's not what we set out to do with the juicing, but we felt much better. The long of the short of it is, I don't recommend juicing, truly. I think a clean eating challenge, or a Daniel Fast is probably better than a week of juicing. Even just a water fast would be easier than choking down that nasty juice. I love fruits and veggies, but not that way. Ew. 

    So there you have it. As interesting as it sounds, I don't recommend it. We had much better luck with juicing for two meals and eating healthy for the third. And it helped us develop a plan that we can stick with for the long haul. We won't be juicing, but we won't be eating starchy lunches anymore either.

    We have found the wonder of freshly squeezed orange juice, though. That and the carrot juice are especially delicious! Just don't mix them with anything :) 

  • Learning About My Best Friend

    The other morning Jason and I were waking up early for work. It was 5:45 and COLD outside. We didn't want to roll ourselves out of bed. We'd just finished celebrating New Years and Jason had to get himself off to work. We were working up the courage to expel ourselves from our warm bed when Jason whispered to me, "you're my best friend."

    I got misty eyed saying it back. Without knowing even what had happened, over the last few months of marriage, we've started becoming each other's best friend. 

    I've been critical of others in their first months of marriage and how they isolate themselves from others. Marriage has always been a relationship that in ways, trumped my relationships with female friends. Without a husband, I often felt a little hurt that I'd lose the closeness of girlfriends and they would gain such an important friend. In our marriage scenario, I moved across the country so isolation with friends happened all at once, when we drove out of Atlanta. In moving, I have only a few friends here to spend time with. Jason, on the other hand, has many friends here in Minnesota. I've OFTEN felt guilty keeping him from them. I've seen us the same as every other newly married couple and dreaded what Jason's friends might be feeling from Jason as he and I get to know each other better. I can never replace Jason's important friends he's known his whole life before me and likewise, he'll never take the place of my best girlfriends. 

    I'm eating my "I'll Never's" as I realize we've done a lot of what I promised I'd never do. These few months spending a ton of time with each other, have been essential for Jason and I to get to know each other not only as spouse's, but also as best friends.  

    There's more and more "becoming" that will need to happen. Given the fact we've barely known each other a year, there are a million more stories to fill each other in on, and a million more stories to live with each other. But I'm so thankful as we're investing in our marriage, we're building a friendship.

    So in short, the first week of January I learned that Jason is my best friend. I also admitted to myself another of many "I'll Nevers" that are now true of me, and I'm both sorry and not sorry for that fact.