Cultivating a Life of Gratitude

I am committing myself, during 2010, to attempt to cultivate a greater awareness of how much I have to be thankful and grateful for by sharing my daily findings and musings with you. It is my hope that by blogging about gratitude, I will be more aware of what is going on around me in my life, my family, my friends' lives and our world.

December 31, 2010

Ridder Christmas

I'm thankful my Mom's Christmas wish to Santa came true and that we were able to have one day with Jake, Jill, Josh, Ann, Mom, Dad and the three Manders under one roof to celebrate Christmas together.  We typically do brunch as our big meal, but because both Ross and I had worship leading commitments Sunday morning, we enjoyed a yummy roast beef dinner together before beginning our gift opening.

We ate delicious food thanks to my Mom's good cooking.

First, we start by getting our stockings and opening them.  Lots of great treasures are always sure to be found inside like candy canes and chocolates from Regina's, knives from the Amish, etc. :) 

After stockings are enjoyed, we move on to gifts.  Dad is usually "Santa", passing out a gift to each person during each round.  At the Ridder's we open one gift at a time, each person taking a turn.  It's fun to see what each person is opening and often much laughter can be heard because of various funny comments or gifts.

Some favorite gifts of 2010:

Jill got a food dehydrator!  I only wish I lived closer to taste her yummy creations.  

My Mom made Ross a puzzle through Walgreens photo center out of a family picture.  

This fire engine actually shoots water!

Ann displaying her new shoes.  I also got boots and Jake received a pair of Tom's.  It was a 'shoe' year!

Josh got a "Cocoa-Motion" machine.  

Mom's pretty much lovin' her new 'plush' snuggy from my Dad.  

My Mom found a mug for Josh that says "Living with a Norweigan builds character" which is funny on many levels for these two and lots of laughs were had by everyone when he opened it.

We asked Chad, Ross's bro to sketch my parents' homes in PA and MN.  I think they liked these special gifts and my brother even got teary at the 421 Merion Drive picture.  

We also did a white elephant (plus a $10 gift card) exchange that brought some more good laughs. 
Here was the winner gift that is now the 'new' 'thing to hide in each others' homes' - we do have funny traditions! :) 

After gift opening, some people rested, some people took a walk, later in the evening we played games and ate more Christmas cookies and snacks.  It was a wonderful day.  I really am quite thankful for my family and any time we ALL get to spend together!

Sunset at the end of our walk.

Telephone pictionary.

Well, it's almost 2011 so I'm going to wrap this up for tonight.  Thanks Ridders' and Manders' for a fun Christmas season!  

December 28, 2010

Over this past Christmas weekend, as we celebrated with our various family members and enjoyed good food and fellowship, I realized our family has several 'traditions' we partake in over the Christmas season.  I am thankful for these traditions and the memories of Christmas-past that accompany these traditions.  I'm also thankful for the chance Ross and I get to establish 'traditions' for our immediate family.  Here are some of the traditions I am thankful for and I have been reflecting on the past few days:

1.  We attend and/or lead a Christmas Eve service at church in honor of Jesus' birthday.  This year,  as the worship leader, I was mostly in charge at Park Free, and with Dad's help, he put together a series of readings from a past Christmas Eve service at FBCN for us to use.  So the familiar readings and reflections were a part of our celebration.  Here is a picture of me, Mom and E-man after church.

2.  We then went to Mom and Dad Ridder's house for tacos.  The eating of tacos has become a 'tradition' over the years.  Mom and I were talking about it and she said it was an 'easy' meal to put together when Dad and I had to be back and forth between services, etc. at FBCN.  So it's kind of just become 'what we do' and Ross loves tex-mex so it works out great for us to still partake in this meal with them.  After dinner, we helped Mom get the Monkey Bread all cut up and ready to go for the morning and then comes another MAJOR tradition of Dad reading C. Clement Moore's version of "The Night Before Christmas".  Here are some pictures of us participating in these traditions again this year!

3.  Here is a picture of the table at my house all set for Christmas morning breakfast.  This year, we hosted this event (usually Mom and Dad host this one and when we lived in PA Mrs. King and Creed always joined us - I still miss sharing the morning with them).  The meal has definitely become a tradition of Monkey Bread, grapefruit, Quiche Sylane and homemade hot chocolate.  It was different to not be all together with the Ridder siblings on Christmas day, but it was nice to be able to break out our fine china and to have Jill, Jake, Lexi, Mom and Dad over for brunch and E-man's opening of his gifts from us and Jill and Jake.  

E sporting his new wild shirt over his PJs and his new Twins backpack!

4.  After nap time, we headed to Diane and Jerry's to share Christmas dinner with the Manders' family.  We also opened gifts.  One tradition with for the four cousins, is that they exchange gifts.  It was a fun time of being together as a family.  We always attempt a picture but getting all four kids to look the same way and SMILE at the same time is near impossible.  Here is our attempt:

These next two aren't really 'tradition' pictures as much as they are just special memories of 2010.
I just really love this girl - she's my only niece and this year, I feel extra blessed with the privilege of being her piano teacher.  We have shared many photos over the years on Christmas Eve - it's hard to believe she's 7!  
The grandsons' playing Geotrax with Grandma.  So cute!  

I'll continue my 'tradition' thankfuls re: the Ridder Christmas tomorrow.  For now, I'm calling it a night!  I've got a LOT to be grateful for this Christmas season!  

December 15, 2010

Catching Up Gratefuls

I have been neglecting my blog the past couple of weeks.  There has been a lot going on in our lives and much of this has caused blogging to get knocked down the priority list. However, I have still been collecting various moments and memories in an effort to continue cultivating gratitude in my life.  Here's my effort to catch up a bit on my 'moments of gratitude'.

1.  I am so thankful for safe travels for me and my family in all of the amazing snow and below zero temperatures we have been having in Minnesota.  I have had 2 incidents of my car (the saturn) not starting/needing a jump and they both happened in places where I was safe and could get warm and thankfully Ross was close by enough to come to my rescue.
2.  My Mom and I baked Christmas cookies starting back in November and it has been such a blessing to have a lot of our baking done for the holidays.  I go 'shop' in her freezer when I'm in need of cookies to share/eat.  Baking early on has allowed us to enjoy doing other fun things and I think made the baking less stressful and more fun because we were so far out and not under the other 'pressures' this busy season can bring.
3.  I have been enjoying being a part of MOPS this year at Grace Fellowship Church.  We had a Christmas tea this past Monday to celebrate Christmas and the end of this semester.  I was in charge of helping to create the center pieces and I think they not only turned out well, but all of the women really pitched in to make their tables absolutely beautiful.  Every table brought china and goblets and much more to create their own really amazing table.  It was neat to see it all come together.  I have been blessed  by the "Mom" time this Fall and I'm looking forward to continuing with MOPS again in January.
4.  This past weekend, we drove up to Fargo to visit Josh and Ann.  Jill and Jake also happened to be in Fargo this weekend because Jill was serving as a bridesmaid in a friends' wedding, so we got to see them for a few hours, too.  It was fun to see Josh and Ann's place and hang out with them in Fargo.  We did have to cut our time short in order to come home before the 2010 Blizzard hit the Twin Cities, but thankfully we enjoyed time with them and made it home just as the first flakes were starting to fall from the sky.  Unfortunately, we missed out on the Manders' Christmas gathering in Osakis, but we were thankful to be safely tucked inside our warm home and not traveling on the roads.  I am also thankful for how blessed E-man is to have so many 'fans' in his life and for him to get some quality time with them.

5.  Today, E-man, my Mom and me went to visit the 8th floor at Macy's.  They put up this kind of weird (weird as in if you are afraid of clowns, etc. you might find the elves to be kind of creepy) display you walk through  called "A Day in an Elf's Life".  We decided to go during a work day before all of the kids are out of school and that was a VERY good decision.  We road on like 16 escalators, and walked right up and into the display with not a single line in sight.  There were very few people near us while we were walking through which was nice for my little man's sight lines of everything.  Here is a picture of me and E-man near the 'singing' woods.

At the end of the display, you can go visit Santa and we weren't sure how that would go with E-man but we decided to give it a try ... and ...

NO TEARS!  Santa asked him what he would like for Christmas and E-man responded "Toys!" so Santa asked him what kind of toys and he said "CARS!"  It was very cute and I was actually quite impressed E-man did not melt into tears.  After our journey through the 8th floor, we headed down to the Lower Level in search of some replacement goblets for my crystal.  After locating those and getting a fairly good deal on them (minus the shipping fee because they didn't have them in stock), we headed up to the 12th floor to the Sky Cafe and enjoyed a DELICIOUS salad bar and lunch (thanks Mom and Dad!).  It's a neat room, with a view of the city and good, fresh food.  So our first trip to Macy's 8th floor with E-man couldn't have gone better and it was a very fun memory-making day.  For these memories and so much more, I'm grateful!

December 5, 2010

Prayer Warriors

Tonight I received my monthly 'send me your prayer requests' email from my Mom.  At about the same time I was opening up my blog to begin my post for the night.  I was just starting to think about what to reflect on today when I got the email.  What great timing for a blog inspiration!

I have many prayer warriors who regularly pray for me and my family.  I'm very thankful for these people. One example from my band of warriors is a group of women my Mom has prayed with for a very long time.  A few of the women have moved away from Newtown, but still exchange prayer requests - specifically for their families/kids - each month.  So, around the first of every month, my Mom sends each of us kids an email asking for prayer requests and then she passes them along to these faithful women of prayer.  I'm so thankful to know they are consistently keeping us in prayer and have been doing so for many many years.

December 4, 2010

Christmas Ornaments

As we started to crack open the Rubbermaid tubs of Christmas ornaments, in order to decorate our fresh, deliciously pine scented Christmas tree, nostalgia overwhelmed my senses.  I have so many favorite ornaments.  Ross is learning that I have about five to ten ornaments I alone am allowed to place on the tree each year.  Our tree is 'decked' with tradition, memories and meaningful gifts.  My parents have passed on to me all of my Christmas ornaments they loving picked out and purchased for me each year of my life. They continue to 'gift' ornaments to us each year and we have also tried to be intentional in our travels and life together, to pick up an ornament that will remind us of where we have visited or what milestones have occurred in our family.   I also often receive hand-made ornaments from piano students.  We have a full, 8 ft Fraser Fur this year and it's a good thing.  If our tree was much smaller it would probably look a little overcrowded.  I took some pictures to share with you a few of my favorites and to give you a sneak peak into why these ornaments are all such very special treasures to me.  I am very grateful for my collection of Christmas ornaments and all of the memories we get to sift through each year as we decorate the tree.  (SIDENOTE: I will confess, we are about to purchase a new camera as our gift to each other for Christmas, because our Canon Powershot has either been dropped one too many times or she's just giving up (planned obsolescence anyone?) so please do not judge me by the quality of my pictures.  Currently, everything other than the focal object appears sharp ... grr ... you'll get the idea though! :))

Jack Frost painting the windows is a Ridder Family favorite from Hallmark, 1983

Joy -I love word ornaments :), gold-ish square one - OC, NJ with Santa in a lifeguard stand from our 2009 trip to the beach/Ethan's first vacation to the ocean, and at the top of the picture a choir director of penguins, Hallmark, 1998
 Santa and his reindeer actually move and circle the house, 1986
 Real glass ornament from my Great Grandma Addleman (Mom's side)
 This place, Bethel University has impacted each person in my family in big ways!
 Chili peppers are a memory from my sister-getaway weekend to Santa Fe 2010 and the M is from my Manders in-laws!
 The Windmill is from our family missions' trip to the Netherlands in 2001 and the peach is from our trip to Atlanta, GA this summer!
 My boss and her kids gave this to me as a Keyboard Kids, Inc. memory.

I really did allow them to put on quite a few ornaments - here is proof! 

My Mom also contributed in another way to our tree.  She quilted the beautiful tree skit under our tree.  
There is so much love, thought and care represented in this one tree - it is truly a blessing for which to be thankful.  

December 3, 2010

Friday Gratefuls

1.  Ross went back to work today!
2.  I had a day to 'catch up' on life around my house and clean in preparation for Christmas arriving at Baltimore Street!
3.  E-man refused his nap but remained fairly pleasant despite the lack of sleep.
4.  I was able to spend time with 11 day old Teigan and her Mama today - what a treat!
5.  Snuggly newborns are good therapy.
6.  Ross and E-man rescued me by jumping my car at the gas station when Lily died in the middle of our snowstorm.  Thankfully, she died at the gas station and not on a snowy, dark road!
7.  The tree is up, the lights are on, the mantle is decorated ... more decorating to come tomorrow.
8.  I'm anticipating a weekend of Christmas preparations and looking forward to it!
9.  Ross is feeling 90% healed at this point!
10.  Cold, dry snow is VERY sparkly and kind of fun to drive on :)

December 2, 2010

Turned the Corner

Ross turned the corner yesterday ... after 1 surgery, 3 ER visits, 2 nights and 2 days in the hospital and countless pills and IV meds consumed, I think he's on the road to recovery.  He's planning to go back to work tomorrow and he made tacos for dinner (while I was teaching) and he even suggested we go out and get our Christmas tree tonight.  I think his energy level is almost back to normal and his pain is almost gone.  THANK GOODNESS!  :)

November 29, 2010

Confessions of my Gratitude "Fail"

Selfishly, this has probably been the worst Thanksgiving holiday I have ever experienced.  After almost a year of working on my 'gratitude' in the every day situations of life, my Thanksgiving week has found me crabby, irritable and without words for this blog. Isn't it somewhat ironic that during the week our country has set aside to 'give thanks' I have very little to say?

Here's the situation.  In the past 5 days, I have sat in the hospital waiting room for 17+ hours.   I have spent numerous minutes waiting to pick up various prescriptions for my patient every other day since Wednesday.  Wednesday, surgery day, I was prepared to sit and wait for a long day, but I wasn't prepared for how long his post-surgery recovery took and how much pain he was in when we left the hospital, leading me to call the church I work at to have them find someone to sub for me leading worship for the Thanksgiving Eve service I helped to plan. Our Thanksgiving Day, while wonderful to be with my parents, consisted of E-man and I hanging out with my family while Ross slept fitfully, in a lot of pain on their couch.  Rather than decorating the tree and getting out Christmas decorations, Black Friday found me in the ER all day long, attempting to get Ross's pain levels under control after a terribly painful night for him.  Thankfully, we were able to be together with the Manders' clan on Friday evening for a bit which was a welcome break for me/us from the hospital and for me always feeling the burden of being responsible for Ross. Saturday was a little better (at least we were at home and I got some wash done, picked up some groceries and visited a beautiful brand new baby and helped out her parents for a bit - and we had dinner out with some great friends).  Today, after church,  Ross's pain levels spiked again, bringing us back to the ER two separate times.   Here I sit ...

They finally admitted him overnight around 11 p.m. last night.  I guess we're still in the waiting game to figure out what's going.  I've been trying to collect 'thankful' moments in the midst of everything that's been going on and hopefully I'll be able to share some of those with my blog in the near future.  Off the top of my head I'm incredibly thankful for our families and friends who have helped to care for E-man and me during the various times we have been in the hospital.  I am thankful for medicine to ease Ross's pain although I wish someone would figure out what's causing it rather than just 'managing' it.  I am thankful for the prayers of many and for a little guy who so easily goes with the flow and cutely asks me "Is Daddy happy?" He's trying to understand what's going on with us!  I'm thankful Ross stayed in the hospital overnight last night because I came home and slept really good because I knew he was in good hands.

 "Be thankful in all circumstances, 
for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:18

November 25, 2010

A Song and a Story

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

This song has been floating around in my head for a few weeks as I prepared for Park Free's Thanksgiving Eve service.  I just felt like sharing the lyrics on Thanksgiving day was appropriate!

Here is my E-man story for Thanksgiving 2010.  Last night, I was getting him ready for bed and we were talking and getting ready to say prayers.  I asked him "E, what are you thankful for today?" He confidently and quickly exclaimed, "Jesus!"  I told him how great I thought that was and I questioned, 'Is there anything else you are thankful for?' and he very sternly replied to me, 'No!  That's enough!'  It took all of one second for me to realize how profound what he said to me was ... Jesus is enough - He's more than enough!  What a precious reminder - out of the mouth of babes ... I'm thankful for the deep spiritual truth E reminded me of last night.  The idea that Jesus is enough for 'all of me, for every thirst and every need,  You [Jesus] satisfy me with your love and all I have in You - is MORE than enough' has been a life changing truth for me since college because of various circumstances and E-man's words brought me back to the time when I first had a major revelation about whether or not Jesus ALONE was enough for me and  these thoughts will be something for me to ponder anew in the days to come.  Thanks buddy!  

November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Week Thoughts

We have been so busy with good things the last few days.

Sunday afternoon (after the ice storm) I was able to spend some time with Stephanie and Mel.  We were trying to treat Mel to a pedicure for her birthday, but the THREE nail salons we went to were not open (even though they usually are on Sundays).  So, we ended up chatting at Starbucks for a bit which was much needed with some big things going on in our lives.  After that, Ross and I went to Harry Potter because my parents were treating E-man to Curious George Live!  He had a blast and we enjoyed the movie.  Monday brought MOPS, teaching and normal life.  Tuesday found E-man and I at the Children's Museum with friends in the morning, hanging out with Krista in the afternoon, teaching in the evening, Ross rehearsing at Cornerstone and a surprise visit with Josh and Ann.  In the midst of all of this, one of my biggest thankfuls from the past day is that Teigan Lin Hardy was born to Mel and Kyle.  Mel is one of my closest girlfriend's and I just am SO EXCITED TO MEET a brand new 'niece'! :) I'm thankful Mom and baby are doing well.

Today, I am sitting in the surgical waiting room, catching up on my blog writing while Ross is in surgery for his kidney stones.  Last night I had expressed to Ross that I was feeling overwhelmed because our house kind of 'exploded' with these busy days we've been having and as I came downstairs to get ready to take him to the hospital, the whole kitchen area was beautifully cleaned up.  Ross is the best - I am so thankful for him - even on the day he's going into surgery - he manages to serve me by helping to get our house under control.  He also let me sleep in and he took care of E-man while I got ready.  Like I said - he's amazing.  Hopefully I can work on showing empathy and compassion  to him while he's recovering the next few days.

I've been reflecting on what I'm 'thankful' for this Thanksgiving season and I realized I'm grateful for this  blog which has 'held me accountable' to how I view and think about my life.  Knowing that I have a place to express 'gratitude' in my every day moments has really grown my perspective and my thoughts about how gratitude can impact how one thinks and in turn how one lives and expresses thanks on a daily basis - to family, friends, and to our great God.    It has given me fresh eyes to recognize my feelings of 'entitlement' that are based on the culture around me and my own self-ishness rather than God's truth about who I am and the world around me.   I have much to be grateful for even while sitting in a hospital waiting room the day before Thanksgiving! :) May you find ways to express your gratitude to those you love and to the God who has provided for you during this week where we hopefully find time to focus on ' giving thanks'.

Over Due - Weekend Reflections

So we had an ice storm in Minnesota from Saturday night through Sunday morning.

Normally this kind of weather would freak me out because I have a 25 minute drive I do on Sunday mornings to get to the church I am leading worship at and who wants to drive on ice?!  Not me - I know enough about ice from living in PA - we had some amazing ice storms back in the day.  

Rewind: A few weeks ago I had planned to take 'off' this Sunday from Park Free because I needed to make a trip out to Medina and Delano to do some worship consulting/observing of services at 2 churches out there.

This is one of those times I cannot simply chalk up all of this to 'coincidence'.  I believe God provided for my safety through some of the plans I had made a few weeks ago, and instead of having to make the trip, fearing the black ice on the roads, I was able to stay home with my boys.  My observations at these churches will happen another Sunday.  My Mom even called to encourage us not to make the drive out to those churches (because that drive was going to be 45 minutes on a good day).  She usually remains very neutral about stuff like this so her call also confirmed that we should stay put. (PLUS the news reported 53 accidents at 7:30 and by 8:30 there were 250+ accidents.) So, very peacefully, we decided to stay in and attempt a trip to Mill City (only 20 minutes away) later in the morning.  Well ... we got in the car, pulled out of the garage, turned the corner (still in our neighborhood) and slid in the curb.  Needless to say, we didn't go to church on Sunday and we were thankful to just stay in ... although I will say I always fight with my 'responsibility' strength when staying home from something I said I was going to do. Ross, on the other hand, is so chill and relax about decisions like this one.  I'm grateful to have his perspective in my life.

A super 'thankful' bonus was that Park Free ended up canceling their services because the parking lot was like a skating rink.  So, during a week when I thought I had three service orders to prepare (Sunday the 21st, Thanksgiving Eve Service and Sunday the 28th) I was able to push the 21st service order back to the 28th and then I only had to finalize the Thanksgiving Eve stuff.  YAY!

It's one of those times I feel grateful for the eyes to see God at work in my life.  I'm thankful for his provision and protection.  

November 19, 2010

Random Friday Gratefuls

1.  Burnt saltines
2.  McDonald's Playland and $1 sundaes at 10 a.m.
3.  Creating turkeys out of kid-sized hand tracings, feathers and pipe-cleaners
4.  Perspective
5.  New family pictures arriving on CD today
6.  Family movie night
7.  A 3+ mile walk on clear sidewalks with beautiful blue skies and sunshine
8.  2 out of 3 service orders for the next week are complete
9.  Warm chocolate chip cookies (and a helper who likes to 'dump' things)
10.  E-man drawing circles and faces

November 18, 2010

2 Years Ago

(Taken May 2, 2010)

Maizy Hope Johnson arrived in our world 2 years ago today!  She is 6 months younger than E-man and such a joy to be around.  She is sweet, polite, and likes to go on long walks and sometimes hold E-man's hand while in their separate strollers.  She has become much braver over the last months at the park and she really likes playing with things that buckle.  She likes books and will try just about any vegetable in the world.  Maizy helped me realize it was time for E-man to learn his manners when she had sign language mastered for please and thank you and she says our names so cutely.  She also knows that her dad and Ross work at the same place and you should hear her talk about 'work at Bethel'.  She is now a big sister and I think it's so fascinating how different the two girls already are - it will be fun to watch them grow up together.  I just love her and I'm thankful we get to journey together with her mom and dad in this crazy parenting adventure.  Happy Birthday Maizy-girl!  We love you!

(Taken recently)

November 16, 2010


Today our wi-fi has been running SLOW for some reason but if I turn that around in my head ... I am grateful for a normally speedy internet connection that allows me to get a lot done in just a few short minutes.  I am thankful for websites that load within in seconds, being able to keep open several windows at once and for no dial-up tone!  I am thankful the internet is now a 'monthly' fee rather than the old days of getting so many 'minutes' per month to be online through 'AOL'.  Does anyone else remember the good ol' AOL, dial-up days?!  My first name was EMRID on Instant Messenger and AOL email.   I remember 'burning through' our family minutes and being urged to hurry up and being accused of running up our bill once our paid for minutes were out  ... we had the internet in our home around the time of Junior High ... isn't that crazy to think about?!  OH MY!  How times have changed.  The more I think about how slow and expensive things used to be (we're only talking about 15-18 years ago) the more I'm thankful for how fast our computer runs even on a 'slow' day! :)

November 15, 2010


I am thankful that God's grace is greater than our need - greater than our sin.  His grace is greater!  (Inspired by the choir anthem at church this weekend and a service focused on repentance/grace.)

November 14, 2010


With our small group, we are reading through the book "Parenting Beyond Your Capacity" (thanks Kim!). I highly recommend this book - it even comes with great discussion questions for a group 'study'.  One of the main points of the book is to emphasize the importance of intentionally having mentors in the lives of your kids because inevitably a time will come when they will need to talk to someone/seek advice from someone other than you (as the parent) and the book encourages you, as the parent, to be strategic and active in helping to set up those people in your kids lives so that you know and trust those people when they do get the chance to speak into your kids' lives.  Talking this through with Ross and our small group, I realized once again, how thankful I am for the mentors I have had in my life.  Many of these came from First Baptist Church of Newtown (Grace Point) in PA - Sunday School teachers (Mr. and Mrs. Weber, Chris), small group leaders (Rachel, Donna, Kara, Amy, Carlin, etc.), worship team members (Scott, Barb and Lisa), babysitters (Rachel), etc.  Some of these people were teachers in school (Mrs. Hall, Mr. Rhodes, Mr. L, Mr. Bogle, Mr. San, Mr. Zwart) and private music instructors (Mrs. Sweetsir, Mrs. Benjamin).  Others came from families I babysat for (Julie Petsis, Ruthie Keating), neighbors or friends' parents/friends' of my parents (Dorold, The Ames, The Elys, etc.). I don't mean to leave anyone important out, either! :)  I still see several of them whenever I go home to PA and they still ask me great, relevant questions.  I appreciate that my parents trusted these people to speak into my life as I progressed through the teenage years.  I am thankful for the 'therapy' sessions/piano lessons they paid for with Mrs. B for so many of those years.  I am thankful for the community I grew up in because I realize I had/still have an abundance of people who were looking out for me and helping to encourage my moral and spiritual development.  Perhaps some of the richness of my experience comes from having lived there from age 3 until I graduated from college (minus the months spent at college). I believe a lot of the richness comes from real, authentic friendship, rooted in the love of a Christ-centered community that was growing in their faith while learning to deeply care for other people.  So thank you to my parents and thank you Newtown/First Baptist ... I realize how rare a community like the one I grew up in is and I am so thankful for it and I pray E-man can have an experience similar to mine somehow!

November 13, 2010

It's Coco-Motion Season!

Today started with many things on my agenda.  Events like attending a brunch in Northeast Minneapolis, going with friends to get pedicures, and having a girls night recipe exchange became 'plans interrupted' by a heavy snowfall that began overnight and fell until around 1 or 2 this afternoon.  We probably have close to 6+ inches of very heavy, very wet snow.  The plows were very slow to get out and several of my friends' husbands who did venture out early this morning, recommended their wives not go out due to the sloppy conditions.  I am still very much a Pennsylvania girl at heart when the snow falls.  While I have MUCH improved my snow driving skills out of necessity, I am used to the entire world coming to a gigantic halt while everyone shovels out.  Needless to say, I'm still getting used to the Minnesota attitude of 'no amount of white stuff will keep me from (you name it)'.   I have been fighting a cold/cough - so it was actually a welcome excuse to stay home all day, nice and warm, drinking hot chocolate (especially yummy if made in a Coco-motion machine) and hanging with my boys even though I was looking forward to my event-filled day.

I ventured outside long enough to document E-man's first 'play time' in the snow and to get a little mad about a certain someone throwing snowballs at me.  :) The snow was perfect for building a snowman! :)

November 12, 2010

2 Books

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Power of Half by Kevin and Hannah Salwen

These books are making me think and I'm always grateful for quality 'thinking' material.  The Help I finished reading this morning and The Power of Half I'm in the middle of ... both I will be processing for awhile ...

November 11, 2010

Cell Phone Picture Gratefuls

Special time/Date with my son
His love of books (thanks Mom, for the cool book!)
Puppy from Beans and Jake has become a new bed time friend.
He can safely climb just about any ladder with very little assistance and that makes playing in the park even more fun for both of us!  I'm continually grateful for his desire to be outside, playing at the park.  

Belated Wednesday Grateful

Our weather in Minnesota has been absolutely stunning the last few days.  Our highs have been in the mid-to-high 60s and even though the sun sets by 4:45 or so ... the warmth is always welcome because it's delaying the inevitable deep freeze to come.  I'm grateful for lots of time outside and a schedule that allows me to stop at a park or  to take a long walk.  While this may seem weird, it was kind of neat to have a thunderstorm with lightning on Wednesday night, because that also indicates how warm it has been ... even though for snow lovers I'm sure they are wishing for some of the white stuff ... I am grateful for the warm sun!

November 9, 2010

New Birth

(Warning ... Just because I have a title that includes the word birth, please do not assume I am pregnant or announcing that I am pregnant in this post.)

I have been thinking about this subject since Sunday at church - well - really I've been thinking about it for a few weeks as I prepare and pick out songs for the congregation I help to lead in song and as I attempt to be thematic in doing so I've been mulling over the idea of being 'born again'.  I know most 'modern' churches have moved away from thematic-type worship services (and using the term 'born again') but I think thematic services of worship are SO meaningful and rich for a community who participates in song, scripture and teaching all around one topic for one hour.  I believe the Word is more likely to 'stick' if it is creatively supported through the other elements of the service  Whoops - I just was on my soap box for a few sentences - back to my post ...

So the theme for this past week was "What does Jesus have to say about ... new birth?"  We were in John 3  when Nicodemus asks Jesus, "How can someone be born when they are old? ... Surely they cannot enter  second time into their mother's womb to be born?"   Jesus goes on to explain what it means to be 'born again'.  Pastor Dan started off the sermon by reflecting on how AMAZING birth is and how incredible it is to actually watch a human baby being born.  I was spending time later that day with a friend of mine who is due to have a baby in the next few weeks and as I sat in her home, it again hit me how marvelous new birth is - how it is anticipated - how it is celebrated - how it is such a blessing to the whole family.  I spoke with her Dad - grandpa-to-be - who said 'I don't understand how you cannot believe in a creator God when you have witnessed the birthing process.'  Isn't it neat how God has given us so many ways to witness 'new birth' through human and animal babies being born, creation coming to life every Spring, etc. etc. etc.  I just think our God is so creative in giving us tangible, understandable examples in His creation of what He desires to do in our hearts and souls.

I'm thankful for the 'new life' God has provided me through his son, Jesus Christ!

November 7, 2010

Dinner and a Movie

Dinner and a movie just so happens to be our typical 'go-to' date night.  I don't mean to sound less-than-thankful for this kind of date.  It's fun.  I'm spending one-on-one precious time with my man. We both enjoy eating and we both enjoying watching a movie.  Sometimes, I just crave a little more adventure.

So ... this weekend we had one of our favorite Bethel girls volunteer to hang out with the little dude.  E-man LOVES Caroline.  If you're my friend on facebook, you've seen videos of him and her.  They make each other giggle and she is one of Aunt Ann's great friends.  I was hoping for adventure on this date and while this may not seem totally different than our norm, it was in a neighborhood we don't really know and WE enjoyed our night very much!

We started off by attending church together at Cornerstone.  Ross leads worship at this church the 4th weekend of every month and they invited us to come check out how it's typically led by their regular worship leader.  PLUS - BONUS - Ross and I were able to attend church together!  I was grateful to be led by a great worship team/leader and it was really nice to just 'sit in the pew' as a couple.  We then hit up Sweet Taste of Italy - YUM!  It's a delicious little hole-in-the-wall with the best sweet garlic bread.  MMM MMM - I am always grateful for a good piece of bread and this stuff is special.  THEN ... we continued on to the New Hope Cinema Grill where Inception was playing for only 4 dollars a piece.  They serve food during the movie so we ordered dessert and our minds were tickled by a very intense movie.  My apple crisp was delicious and Ross enjoyed his Sundae and then we came home - actually a few minutes after 10 (we usually are back by 9 or so - Ha!). :)

We thoroughly enjoyed our night out, exploring a different part of the cities and being together.  Even though it was 'dinner-and-a-movie' it had a whole new fun twist being in different environment - perhaps that is the key to adventure - getting out of your five-miles-from-home zone.  Thanks Caroline for being with our little dude so we could have some time 'off'.  We appreciate you!

November 5, 2010


I have a friend named Kim.  We met while attending Bethel COLLEGE.  We sang in the choir together and bonded over PB and J picnics and butter flavored pretzel balls.  We enjoyed competing against each other, playing handheld solitaire games, while on long bus tours with the choir through the heartland of our country.   She is a lifelong friend because even while I married a Minnesotan right after college and she moved to Atlanta for her career, we stayed in touch through many cell phone conversations and emails.  The love of her life found her and he just so happens to be Portuguese.  This past summer, they were married at a beautifully themed retro/travel wedding held at a plantation home in Georgia and shortly after, Kim moved to Portugal to be with Luis.  I am thankful for all of the various ways technology has changed, even in the past FIVE years.  We are able to keep in touch and 'view' each other through many various means of communication.  She reads my blog and adores E-man videos.  I was given a virtual tour of her home through video chat a month or so ago.  Technology has allowed us to continue our friendship even though a continent and ocean separate us.  So many of my relationships have changed and evolved as technology has advanced and I wonder sometimes, if those friendships would still be intact if letter writing were the main form of 'keeping in touch'.  While I appreciate a handwritten card or note more than most people, I am also thankful for the MANY ways communication happens in my daily life with people all over MN, the US and our world!  

November 4, 2010

Domestic Stay-At-Home Day

I am a 'mostly' stay-at-home mom.  However, lately, I've been feeling like I'm not home very much and when I am I have a lot of 'work' to do for church or my studio.  So today, it was a real treat to not HAVE to go anywhere.  E-man played SO nicely all day.  I was able to clean our upstairs, do the laundry, practice the piano, play, read stories, make a tent for him, clean the bathroom, and take a nap at the same time as E-man! After nap time we went on a walk, stopped at the playground and ran a few errands.  Ross came home and I finished feeding me and E-dude dinner (Ross ate out because of a work meeting) and then I baked cookies while the boys played choo-choos in the basement.  What a lovely day!  I'm thankful for a day that reminded me how much I like being at home with my little man.

November 3, 2010


Story first ... then the grateful moment.

Ross is working at Bethel until very late tonight so my wonderful in-laws agreed to watch E-man while I went down to church for choir rehearsal.  I needed to chat with the choir director after rehearsal and knew I needed to pick him and get him home for bed.  I chatted with Ross briefly on my way back to his parents' home and I even said - I'm getting off the phone, there are a lot of cops out here tonight.  A few minutes later, within a few feet of making the turn onto my in-laws street, the red and blue lights came on and a HUGE RIDICULOUSLY BRIGHT flood light.  I pulled over and this is how the conversation went ...

Cop:  Hi. How are you tonight?

Me: Good.

Cop:  Do you know why I pulled you over?

Me:  I was going too fast.

Cop:  That's true.  Do you know how fast you were going?

Me: 40?  (I mean, it was sort of a lucky guess but I usually pay pretty close attention to my speed)

Cop:  I clocked you going 43.  Do you know what the speed limit is right here?

Me: I really don't.

Cop:  It's 30.  Where are you heading tonight?

Me:  [Sticking my arm out the window, pointing at the street I was about to turn on] Actually, I was about to turn right here to pick up my 2 year old and I'm running late.

Cop:  Can I see your ID?

Me:  Sure.

Cop:  I'll be right back.

(literally only took like 2 minutes - thank goodness for a clean, boring record!)

Cop:  I'm just going to ask you to slow it down.  We've had a lot of complaints on this road lately, that's why I'm out here tonight.

Me:  No problem!  Thank you!

Cop:  Have a good night.

There's my THANKFUL moment for the day!  I'm thankful because:
-sometimes honesty does pay off
-the cop was really kind and not scary
-it was a 'free' warning to slow down
-the whole heart-racing moment only took 4 minutes

November 1, 2010


I am so very blessed to have several close girlfriends live within reasonable driving distance of me.  I realize this is not the case for everyone and in certain seasons of life this may be more true for some people than others.  I have been blessed to spend time with several of them over the past week and as I was driving home tonight from another fun girls night out I was filled with gratitude for authentic, real girl friendships.

(Side note:  I am also extremely grateful for my husband who supports me spending time away from home to invest in these life-giving friendships.)

October 31, 2010

Lots O Fun

I am thankful for joy, laughter and in general lots of fun!

It feels like life is flying by at a quick pace but I think that's mostly because we've just been enjoying so many fun activities with friends and family.

Thursday night of this week, Angela treated me to a session at Let's Dish.  We each came away with 9 meals after about 2 hours of time at my local Let's Dish.  I would HIGHLY recommend this meal-making spot, especially if you appreciate having meals 'ready to go' in the freezer like I do!  What a blessing to have a freezer full of meals.  It was nice to go with someone who had been to Let's Dish before so she could show me the ropes.  We actually got to chat a good amount, too, and I always appreciate conversation with Angela!  Ross and I enjoyed the Pink Ribbon Chicken Stir Fry last night.  It was really tasty with great flavor and fresh veggies and ready in under a half hour with easy to follow directions on the bag (minus that I forgot it was a half recipe so I added too much water to the rice but it was fixable!).  Thank you Angela!  I can't wait to go again with her in a few months as my treat! :) WOOHOO!!!!

Friday evening found us enjoying Aurelio's with my parents and Josh and Ann.  It was wonderful to spend time with them.  Upon leaving there, I went on to thoroughly enjoy some good girl catch up time while celebrating a close friend's birthday.  It was much needed and very relaxing to be with two people who I can always trust and just be myself with - refreshing!

Saturday morning we got our family ready and headed off to the Mill City Museum/Stone Arch Bridge area for family pictures. It was cold and a little windy but I'm sure Rachel got some great shots.  We then headed back home to pick up cookies to decorate, pumpkins and carving tools and went to my parents' house to carve pumpkins with Josh and Ann.  It was a spontaneous Halloween party and very fun. Everyone got really into 'creative' carving and we ended up with a Philadelphia Eagle, Elmo, Curious George, and a few others.



Our finished masterpieces - thanks Mom for watching E-man so we could carve!

A few of the finished products on Halloween night

Saturday evening we had the privilege of watching two of my favorite little sisters.  They are so fun and E-man LOVES spending time with them!  

We also got to visit quickly with some friends heading to a costume party.  They got ready at our house - they went as a dolphin and dolphin trainer.  Very funny!  

Halloween day found us at Chipotle after church enjoying 2 dollar meals and then enjoying a nap before heading out to trick or treat at the Grandparents' homes.  Ross also walked E-man around my parents neighborhood a bit and he got really into 'trick-or-treating', asking Ross to go to more houses.  All in all - I'm thankful for a wonderful weekend with lots of fun memories made!  

Me and my little monkey!  I promise he enjoyed wearing his "Monkey George" costume ... he just isn't all about posing for the camera these days :) ...