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.

July 29, 2010

Can I get an AMEN?!

Tomorrow is payday!

Enough said?! :)

I have walked over 70 miles this month and still have 2 days left to collect more miles! :)

I'm thankful.

(Fun weekend ahead going to Chicago for Josh and Ann's family shower from our side of the family ... stay tuned ... the blog may not be 'current' for a few days but I promise to catch up upon returning.)

July 28, 2010

Summer 2003

July 28, 2003 was a beautiful day in Spofford, New Hampshire.  It was my 'day off' for the week from music staff responsibilities so I was heading to Maine with the camp's head of boys, Bryan, to go whale watching for the day.  We took off right after breakfast in my newly purchased Saturn Ion and enjoyed an easy drive to the coast with good conversation, laughter and music.  Whale watching is one of those things I always enjoy (as long I can get past the 'are we harming the whales by being out in their habitat' question that  lurks in the corners of my mind).  I actually had never been at this point in my life, so I was really looking forward to this day spent on the ocean in the company of a new friend.

As we were boarding the boat and beginning to locate seats for our adventure, the intercom went off asking Bryan Marvel to please return to the ticketing area for a phone call.  I can't even tell you how my heart began to race as we climbed out of the boat.  Immediately my mind went to who could be injured, why is camp calling Bryan, etc.  Bryan took the call and by the look on his face, which I will never forget, I could tell the news was tragic.  I don't even remember how Bryan broke the news to me after he got off the phone but I just remember being in shock.  The news the camp called to tell us was that Tyler Berntsen, 18 years old had been killed in a one car collision while doing a camp errand and another camp staffer Peter Johnson, 15 years old, was in the ICU and they weren't sure if he was going to make it.  I don't remember simple details like whether or not we got refunded for our whale watching tickets - I remember watching the boat pull out without us - I remember taking a few minutes to catch our breath and then getting back in the car with me driving to get us back to camp as quickly and safely as possible.

I remember mostly silence permeating our drive back to camp.  It was the kind of silence two people share when there just are really no words at all to describe the kind of pain and emotion that comes from the news of a sudden, tragic loss of not only a friend but a young-with-so-much-potential life.

I remember praying and praying and praying for God to give Bryan and all of us 'adult leaders' at camp wisdom in how to respond to the younger camp staff in the midst of a great tragedy and tremendous pain and loss.  I remember being so very aware of how God could use us to mentor the younger staff through this time of tragedy and I remember feeling the weight of how we would share our faith in God in the midst of tragedy could have a potential lasting impact on the lives of the kids who were going to be looking to us for answers the second our car door opened when we got back to camp.

I remember praying for Tyler's family.  Jeremy, his younger brother, and I had shared some good chats and laughs over the summer and I remember thinking about how this single event and day would forever change Jeremy's life.  He was now an oldest child and the way he would respond to Tyler's death would have a gigantic impact on his future.

I remember thinking back to one of our recent days off - Bryan, Christina, and me along with the music staff and Tyler, Nicole and Becca had all gone to Kristin and Mark's for the day to hang out in their very cool attic/youth room.  I remember thinking Tyler was easy to be around and hang out with and I also remember him looking forward to going to Wheaton in the fall to play ball.  I also recalled him making some great hits during the staff ball games and just thinking about how impossible it seemed that he was gone.  He was so fit and strong and athletic and I just couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that he had died earlier in the day.

I still think back about the car ride back to camp and I think about how Bryan and I both had space to process and pray away from the emotion and pain at camp. Camp was very much at 'ground zero' hearing the news and in many ways,  I think God used those hours in the car to get us ready for the next few days and weeks of ministering to the camp staff.  It's amazing how God can provide those moments to ground us in the midst of a crisis.

What I remember most about arriving back at camp were lots of tears and hugs being exchanged between staffers and a prayer service for Peter's healing and Tyler's family and friends.  I remember all of the families attending camp as our guests that week pitching in with dishes, serving meals, helping our staff take a 'break' to be able to grieve and process together.  The body of Christ came together in amazing ways that week to serve one another.  I remember the night of the 29th we went to the Marvels to hang out as a staff and it was a good time of laughter and tears and sharing and processing away from camp.  I remember singing "Comforter" with Meghan at Tyler's memorial service that week.  I remember seeing Tyler's family arrive at camp and aching for what they were experiencing.

There are so many memories from summer 2003 ... so many ways God showed up to be "the healer of our hearts" (one of our songs from staff choir that summer).  God was very present in so many ways and I'm thankful for the memories of how faithful God was to each one of us during a really tragic time.  Those memories are some of the ones I'm reminded of when I need to 'recall his works and wonders' and ground myself in God's goodness.  The summer of 2003 was an amazing time of spiritual growth for me on multiple levels.  It was a time of learning new truth and being reminded of the truth I knew about God through daily sermons and time in God's word thanks to daily chapel services.  It was a time of seeking God's will for my life and my relationships.  It was a time of learning how much I felt called to mentor 'younger than me' people in their faith walk and to help students be okay with asking tough questions about their faith in God.  It was a time of unplugging from cell phones, email, computers, technology and simplifying life.  It was a time of making brand new friendships.  It was a time of putting into practice the idea of ascribing worth to God in the midst of tragedy and pain because He alone is worthy.

Tyler has not been forgotten.  I am thankful my memories and lessons I learned during his final summer on earth will hopefully remain with me until I see him again in heaven.

July 27, 2010

Swim Lessons and Storm Clouds

I am thankful for swim lessons and the good daddy-son bonding time it has been for my boys.  The price was just right through our county/school district and it has been good exposure to 'lessons' for E-man. I am thankful for being able to borrow Maizy's cloth diaper we have been using as our swim diaper to save us some money on those swim diapers! :) I'm grateful for the opportunity E-man has to get used to being in water through these lessons and our neighborhood pool.  Here are some pictures of him from tonight!

Waiting for lessons to start

Working on his life jacket skills :)
Kicking up a storm
Climbing out of the pool to practice jumping back in!

AND STORM CLOUDS!  I love storm clouds - they are so amazing.  On our drive home tonight this is what we were watching ... 

July 26, 2010

Miles and Camps!

So I am currently a mile above my highest monthly total since March and I have 5 more days of walking to go!  Woohoo!  I'm thankful for a July filled with lots of sunshine and I'm thankful for the many friends I've shared walks and talks with over this month.

Also - a random thankful ... next week Ross is going to be speaking to the junior high campers at Trout Lake Camp.  Originally, we decided I would come up Tuesday after teaching piano on Monday.  Today, as I looked over my piano teaching calendar, I realized I had blocked off next week so I'm free to go up and hang out with him earlier!  Woohoo!  I'm really looking forward to hanging out at Trout with Ross and the campers and E-man and I'm not going to lie - I'm really looking forward to someone else preparing our meals for a whole week!

Ross is also headed back to Bethel tonight to speak to the women's volleyball camp happening there - I'm thankful for lots of great speaking opportunities for Ross to share the love of Jesus with all ages and stages of people.  I am thankful he has NOT been bored one bit this summer with all of the college students gone for the summer.

In the mean time - I have much to keep me busy and I'm thankful for lots to do for lots of fun events coming up in our family and friends' lives.

(Side note - today is my nephew William's birthday and I'm thankful for him and his dimpled smile.  He is always up to something and I love his mischievous grin.  Happy 4th birthday "Will-will"!)

July 25, 2010

A Good Kind of Tired

We have had a really full weekend.  I don't mind being tired when it's from a lot of fun events.

A few highlights from the weekend ...

E-man had his "July" date with my parents and went to Teddy Bear Park in Stillwater and had a sleepover with the Ridder grandparents Saturday.

While he was having a blast, we took a nice walk on a beautiful Saturday and then came home to get ready for to leave for a wedding in Baxter, MN.  One of Ross's students was married near Nisswa yesterday - it was a beautiful wedding, very Christ-honoring and fun!  Her uncle owns Rafferty's pizza in Nisswa and he catered the reception so it was a pizza reception!  VERY FUN! :) While we spent more time driving to and from the wedding than actually at the wedding, it was well worth it.  Ann was in the wedding and Josh was an usher so we got to hang out with them a bit, too.  We also sat near Ann's parents and it was fun to chat with them during the reception.  I'm thankful for the chance to get to know my brother's future in-laws a bit more! I'm also thankful for our safe travels to and from the wedding.

This morning was an early morning as I got up to go lead at Park Free.  I am really enjoying my time leading the community there and Bob preached an insightful message about spiritual warfare.  Ross was able to go with his brother to Mill City Church and help introduce his brother to a bunch of fun people there and E-man went to Renovation with my parents.  It's weird to think all three of us were in different awesome churches this morning.

After church, I headed to my parents home and we had lunch with their Renovation house group.  It's always fun to hang out with church friends and eat yummy food.  Thanks for inviting us Mom and Dad!

I am also thankful for a nice long nap and a quiet Sunday evening at home.  We have a busy week ahead preparing for lots of different fun celebrations, swim lessons every night, hanging out with special friends and more!

July 23, 2010

Closet Full of Clothes

This afternoon while Ross cleaned bathrooms, I sorted through my part of our walk-in closet.  I have SO many clothes.  I have working woman clothes from 2007 until I got pregnant with E-man (let's face it, even if they fit they aren't really in style anymore!).  I have a couple of sizes of clothes from the transition of having E-man through now.  I have all different seasons of clothes mixed together and then I have one portion of the closet dedicated to 'dress up' clothes I'm keeping from high school and college days.  My Mom kept a bunch of her stuff (she actually hand made a lot of her clothes in the 70s) and I always enjoyed dressing up in her clothes, so I have kept some of my favorites aside for the same reason.  

As I was standing there looking at all of these clothes it got me thinking about why I am so attached to 'things' - why is it hard to actually put clothes in the give-away pile.  I think of the money it took to buy them, the hours of work that paid for them, the size I was when they fit, why I liked certain pants, certain outfits Ross bought for me, an event or wedding something was purchased for, etc.  I suppose there are lots of memories that go with our clothes, but what is amazing is that they can sit in a closet for MONTHS and never be needed and (gasp) not even be missed or thought about ... however, suddenly, when I go to get rid of them I have a little bit of a hard time parting with them.    It makes me question were my heart is ...

 19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

So, I'm thankful I had a little bit of time today to sort through my earthly 'treasures' and give some of them away.  It's good for my heart to have to go through the exercise of 'letting go' and being reminded of what is really important.  It's kind of interesting because on our walk after the closet purge, I told Ross I have been thinking a lot about Camp Spofford recently because we're coming up on the 7th anniversary of the death of Tyler Berntsen, a fellow camp staff member the summer I worked at Spofford.  Thinking about him this afternoon and how brief our stay on earth here is, reminds me again of what little importance our earthly 'treasure' really has ... and of what great importance the state of our heart is for eternity.  

July 22, 2010

Yum.  These are delicious.  I'm a sucker for citrus flavored desserts and these definitely hit the spot.  They are also easy to make.  I enjoy food and I'm thankful for a new recipe!

Our family is also thankful for friend's who have gardens and share their produce with us.

July 21, 2010

"My Do It"

I'm mostly grateful for the new saying that has arrived in our home during the past week or so.

"My do it!"

This is our 2 year old's way of saying "I can do it"or "I want to do it".

It's an expression of independence which is healthy and good.  I know it might get old, so I'm documenting it right now for my readers and saying I'm thankful he is up for the challenge of 'doing it myself' and expressing this to me on a regular basis.  

July 20, 2010

List Tuesday

I am thankful for ...

-Toddler Story Time at the local library and E-man no longer being afraid of the librarian's puppet!
-Money to buy groceries and yummy produce being 'in season'
-E-man knowing "Shanty" at the bank we go to when we deposit Renovation's money each week and being so happy to receive his lollipop from her
-Toddler nap time
-Productive wedding planning with Josh and Ann both yesterday and today
-Yummy sloppy joes for dinner
-Being able to watch E-man at his second ever swim lesson tonight!
-Movie night with friends and snacks and Zac Efron :)
-Productive order of service planning for Park Free this Sunday
-Another fun day to look forward to tomorrow
-TAKE FOUR by Karen Kingsbury waiting to be read tonight!

July 19, 2010

Comfy Bed

I have always loved our bed ever since we purchased it back in 2004.  It's a queen size pillow top but it's not too soft and the only time I've ever been uncomfortable in it was when I was very ready for E-man to be born.  Our bed was one of our first big 'furniture' purchases together and it was worth EVERY penny.  Tonight I'm looking forward to going to bed early, reading a bit, and sleeping a lot and I'm thankful I can!  Good night!

July 18, 2010

Take Me Out to the Ball Game!

Ross and his brother Chad are playing baseball together this summer.  It's a 28 and older wooden bat league.  I'm thankful Ross made the team and I'm glad he is really enjoying being back on the field this summer.  I enjoy going to the games when they are closer to home.  Their 'home' field is only about 15 minutes away and there's a nice park for the kids to play at so it makes for a fun night - especially if the cousins are there, too!  Here are some pictures from their game tonight and I'm happy for them because this was their second win!  Go Dodgers!

Chad pitching!

Loyal fans!

Go #10!

2010 Team Pic!


Red speck is E-man running after the game, but I basically chase after him the whole game and we both sleep really good after these nights. :) 

    Photo op after the victory and lots of running by both guys. 

Delayed Saturday Post Because ...

The Tornado sirens went off in my county for about 45 minutes last night.  They started blaring right at bed time ... so down to the basement we went. [Side note, I usually blog in the evening after E-man goes to bed but last night everything was little bit 'not routine' :)] Ross thought this kind of silly I think because he's a MN boy so he actually stayed on the main level watching the TV reports while I hunkered down in the hallway reading library books to E-man and receiving texts my family a few miles away who were in their basement and reporting the news updates to me.  Me and E-man read about ten stories and he played with a few toys we brought down, too.  Thankfully the tornado stayed about 2 miles north of us but that was the most scared I've been in about 2 years.  The last time I remember being in the basement because of a bad storm was about a few days after E-man was born and Jake and Stephanie and maybe my Mom were over?!  Jake and Ross stayed upstairs that time too and all of the girls plus baby E-man went to the basement.  Here is the really funky sky right at the end of the storm.  

I am thankful we were safe and sound and I'm always thankful for the reminder of how powerful God is through experiencing the power that exists in His creation ... storms like last night definitely give me some perspective!

July 16, 2010

Team Jacob

So ... I am thankful for date night!  We haven't been on a date since our wonderful Arizona vacation and our life is about to get very full with wedding season rapidly approaching so we asked Grandma Manders to watch E-man and we went to a matinee (for FIVE dollars each - love it!) of Eclipse (best of the "saga" so far and I think I'm Team Jacob EVEN THOUGH I know how it will end ...) and we used a gift card some students had given me to Axel's.  YUM!!!  We had some good conversation, Ross was able to watch the Twins beating the White Sox, we even splurged for dessert thanks to the gift card.  We had a great night out together.  I'm thankful for matinee movie prices, a generous gift card and a husband who is always fun to 'date'. :)

July 15, 2010

Welcome Home!

I am thankful my parents are home!

I spend a decent amount of time with them and I missed their presence while they were having an blast touring the National Parks.

Since they've been home, they've treated me to two meals, fed me and E-man dinner at their house, and Dad watched E-man while Mom and I went dress shopping for her mother-of-the-groom dress for a good chunk of the day today ... it's also fun to see them loving E-man so much.  He really is great and it's always refreshing to view his 'antics' through their eyes.

While I know they were sad to see their amazing vacation come to an end (understandable!) I'm glad to have them near-by again!

Wednesday Thankfuls

I am thankful for a friend who doesn't even notice when I show up to our ice cream date wearing ...

and when I said to her, "Angela, look at my FEET!"  She said, "Your toes are super cute!" 

To which I said, "No, look again at my shoes! (Gasp)!"  I didn't realize I had two different sandals on until I was walking across the parking lot to The Village Scoop and felt the unevenness between the soles of my sandals.  Yeesh.  :) 

I'm also thankful for a friend who enjoys ice cream like I do ... 

and for a friend who shares her life with me in a very authentic way.  It was again good for my soul to be with you, friend!  I appreciate a friend who isn't embarrassed to be with my mis-matched self in public. :) Thanks Angela for spending your Wednesday evening with me at The Village Scoop. 

(Disclaimer: While they have okay ice cream, the people working literally closed the shop on us at 9:15 and it's supposed to be open until 10 p.m.  They made us feel so uncomfortable we left - I wouldn't recommend it if you're looking forward to sitting inside (AWAY FROM MOSQUITOES) and enjoying conversation past 9 p.m. :) However, if you're looking for a place in the middle of 2 certain suburbs of the Cities, it makes a GREAT location to catch up with a great friend.)  

July 13, 2010

My Sister

I have one sister.  Her name is Jill.  E-man calls her Beans.  I miss her.

I am thankful I was able to spend some sister time with her this past March for a few days.  We had fun adventures in CO and NM.  But that feels like a long time ago.  I'm also thankful Jake and Jill had to make a trip to MN for a family funeral around Easter time because then E-man and Ross got to see them both.  (I don't mean to make light of Grandpa's passing at all ... but I AM grateful they had to come home to MN for a bit.)

So I'm trying to be grateful that August 28th is rapidly approaching, because they will be coming out for  Josh and Ann's wedding, but at the same time I miss the DeRaads!

I AM thankful Jill and I have been able to talk more since I don't teach at night time during the week as much.  That's a definite bonus!  We've also been able to chat during the day on the computer which also helps.  I am thankful whenever I ask E-man who loves him his first response is "Beans and Dake" ... he see's them less than most of his family but yet he knows they love him! How great is that?! :)

I appreciate my sister.  She has known me in all of my good, bad and ugly moments and still loves me for me.  We're both facing transitions in our lives and she's a good person to 'listen' and process transition with and bounce ideas off of ... she's good like that and I love her!

I recently read the letter she wrote to me when I graduated high school - the letter for my 'memory' book.  It hit me in a fresh way how much we have 'matured' in our friendship but how much is also very much the same.  

I'm grateful I have a sister.  I just wish I could see her more often.  That's fair, right?! :)

P.S. I can't wait for my parents to arrive home tomorrow!!!!! :)

July 12, 2010

ANN = RN!!


She found out today she passed her super big Nursing test and is officially an RN!!!  She also got a job on a Birthing floor in North Dakota - and while we're sad to see Josh and Ann move, we're very grateful for the provision this job will be for them!

I AM ALSO PROUD OF JOSH RIDDER!  He was a study-buddy, encourager, support and so much more for Ann while she has been studying around the clock.  Way to go Josh!  Your patience has paid off!

I'm also grateful because today I got to go out to lunch with them to celebrate their happy news.  E-man and I enjoyed hanging out with them over Noodles.  Yum!

July 11, 2010


So this week is going to be kind of a repeat of last week in that Ross is working later into the night.  This is okay and I'm grateful for the extra income it brings us, but it leaves me a little un-inspired at times because so much of my brain revolves around entertaining the toddler.  Today I'm grateful for the change in humidity starting tonight through about Tuesday or so?  I'm really looking forward to turning off the air conditioning!  I promise I'll have more interesting posts some time in the near future. :) I really am grateful for many things, I just have a little bit of writer's block.

July 10, 2010

"C" Word Gratefuls

Clean house

Chipotle Coupon

Cape Boy

Chocolate Chip Cookies

July 7, 2010

I survived!

I am thankful I continue to make it through long days.

Here is what I mean ... during the school year I teach piano three days out of the week.  This means I say goodbye to E-man from about 2:30 or 3 until anywhere from 7-9 at night.  So, during the school year I get just enough of a break for him that most days fly by and I never feel like 'shew - that was a LONG day with my child'.  (Don't get me wrong, I love being home with him but I also really look forward to doing something else and having a break for a few hours.)

During the summer, I teach one maybe two days and for not as much time.  This week I only taught one day for about 3 hours so I have seen a LOT of E-man and he has seen a LOT of me.  :) On top of that, Ross is speaking at Bethel's Basketball Camp which puts him home around 7:15/7:30 Mon-Thursday this week and next week and that REALLY extends my patience factor.  :) So I'm thankful we survived each other today and I'm thankful Ross is home!!

(REALLY though ... isn't he great!?  This is a cowboy shirt Beans bought for him and he wanted to try it on - he was already wearing his penguin boots so yes - this is quite the outfit :))

Wedding Season

I forgot to blog yesterday and there is a good reason.

It is wedding season in our family!  Josh and Ann are right around the 50 day count down with lots to do.  Ross and I are happy to help and lately that has included helping them assemble their beautiful invitations.  They have been working with Print Central and The Paper Depot and doing it themselves.  The end product looks SO good!  We started work on them last Wednesday night.  On the 4th, I started addressing the invites for the Ridder-side of the list.  On the 5th I finished addressing all but the last 3 or 4 we're still figuring out addresses for ... and on the 6th Josh, Ann, Ross and I finished assembling them and I even sealed all of the ones that are complete ... now it's just a matter of stamping and off they go!  How exciting!

I'm thankful to be living close to Josh and Ann during this season of their life.  It's fun to be together working on these kinds of projects and it is making me REALLY look forward to celebrating their wedding day with them!  WOOHOO!  :)

July 5, 2010

Good Reminders

The past few weeks, I have received some great, timely reminders about money and worry from 'Pastor Dabid' (as E-man fondly calls him) at Renovation.  If you ever find yourself thinking about money issues or you ever have felt anxious, I highly recommend clicking on the link and listening to 6/20/2010 and 6/27/2010.  Both sermons will be well worth your time and hopefully encourage you to think about your life a little differently ... I have been encouraged again to remember how applicable God's Word is for our every day life!  I'm thankful for Jesus' words to us from the Sermon on the Mount!

July 4, 2010

Weekend of Fun!

We've just continued to have a super fun weekend.  In order for the fun to continue to happen, I had to let go of my cleaning the house and errand running agenda.  Thankfully, I successfully let go of those agendas and fun was the name of the game!

Here are some [grateful] highlights from the weekend ...

Farmer's Market/Children's Museum/Cosetta's

Tacos for dinner and for dessert - fruit salsa *YUM*

A family walk to help me with my goal of 70 miles this month
A great morning at Park Free leading worship and enjoying the community within that church (I'm not gonna lie, I really enjoyed playing Patriotic "God of Country" Hymns for prelude.)
A few wonderful afternoon naps over this weekend and reading great books (finished Winter Garden by Kristen Hannah - HIGHLY RECOMMEND!)

Hanging out with Josh at the Ridder house ... eating yummy food and playing with fireworks

I am thankful for the many freedoms we daily take for granted in the U.S.A.  I could reflect on that statement for paragraphs, but instead I'll say I'm also thankful for the men and women who daily give of their time in service of our country.  I'm also thankful I grew up in an area of the country that is so rich in  'beginnings of our country' history.  Hope my readers had a fun celebration of the 234th birthday of our country!

July 3, 2010

Fun Friday

Ross had today off because although most Bethel employees have off for the 4th of July on Monday, Ross starts speaking at Bethel's Basketball Camp starting Monday, so he took of Friday to be with us instead of Monday.

The morning started off bright and early at 6:30 with Ross heading out for some guy time and me and E-man had breakfast and took an early morning walk.  It's a pretty time of day to be outside walking - we both enjoyed it!  Then we moved on to time with the girls.  Ross took E-man, Nora and Maizy up to E-man's room to play so we could have some space to chat.  It was good to get caught up a little bit on each other's lives.  I was able to snuggle Eliza for a good amount of time and I forgot what an arm work out little one's are - she's precious and it was good 'baby' time. :)

After the girls went home, we organized our meal planning for July and did a Target run for under 50 bucks for the next 2 weeks (minus bread milk and produce that might have to be restocked).  We then made a yummy lunch and everyone took a nap.

When E-man woke up, we went to Como Zoo for about an hour (right before it closed for the night).  It was deserted so it was very easy to see all of the animals and most of the animals were nice enough to be somewhat active for us.  After our trip to the Zoo we went to Chad and Pam's to help celebrate Ade and Mali's birthdays.  It's always fun to be with the fam and to watch the cousins.  I'm thankful we live near enough to each other to be able to celebrate the birthdays!

We had a really nice family day and for that I am grateful!