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.

August 31, 2010

Pay Day!

I'm always grateful when pay day roles around as it comes once per month at Bethel.  After a crazy wedding gift/shower/wedding travel season during the month of August, I was way ready to see Ross's paycheck come into our account and thank goodness, just like clock work, it appeared today.  I'm thankful for direct deposit and the reliability of his income and place of work.  They are always on time and we never have to wonder if it's going to show up!  I realize not everyone has that same kind of reliability these days which makes me thankful for what we can count on during 'these economic times'. :)

I'm also glad we were able to spend some quality time with Jill and Jake tonight.  We went out for dinner and then spent time with them this evening.  They are easy to 'chill' with and it's always good to have some time together - so thanks Jill and Jake for sharing your evening with us!  We love you guys! :)

Wedding Weekend #2

We had a blast at Josh and Ann's wedding!

Everything went so smoothly and all of the planning paid off (grateful).

Here is a list of some of my 'grateful' moments from the weekend.

-Everyone experienced safe travel (We had family and friends coming from ALL over for this wedding.  Josh's best man, Peter and his wife Sarah, experienced a tired blow out in IA and we're thankful they made it safe and sound.)

-The weather was gorgeous all weekend.  We were able to do outdoor pictures on Saturday like Ann wanted!

-The photographer was SO kind, flexible, easy-going and pleasant to be around.  Seriously - if you have been around the opposite kind of photographer you know how annoying they can be ... Joe was fabulous and really added to the whole day with his personality!

-The actual ceremony really was a testimony to God's faithfulness and love in both Ann and Josh's lives. My Dad did a great job and I think everyone was touched by how personal his 'charge' to them as a couple was ... so special!

-E-man was able to get a good nap thanks to Josh and Ann being flexible with when E showed up for pictures and Angela watching him while the rest of the family was doing pictures.

-E-man made it down the aisle, running, winging the ring-bearer pillow around, did a little jump and roar at the end of the aisle, ran to the guy who was bringing him to the nursery and clapped for himself - so in turn - everyone clapped for him - it was so funny and he did great in his tuxedo.  

-We had so many special friends from PA and family members travel long distances to support our family.  It was really fun to see them all and celebrate with them.  I think they all enjoyed watching
E-man dance the night away :) ...

All in all, this past weekend was so fun and we are so happy for Josh and Ann Ridder! :)

August 25, 2010


Honesty time - I do not like going to the dentist and having my teeth scraped by metal objects.

Gratitude time - I'm thankful it only comes around once a year and I'm thankful for health insurance to cover the 'cleaning'.  I'm thankful I've never had any cavities!  I'm glad I survived another appointment and don't have to go back to the dentist (barring any unforeseen accidents which my teeth are involved in) for another year.

August 23, 2010

Weekend in Review

Hello friends!

These next three weeks are going to be crazy so I will be slacking in the blogging about my moments of gratitude but I wanted to share some of the major points of gratitude I have been thinking about since Friday.

Friday morning dawned as a beautiful, busy day.  I knew I had a lot to do to get out of the door and be on my way to Atlanta, GA for the weekend.  In the midst of entertaining E-man, getting myself ready and finishing packing, Ross called to break some amazing news to me.  The head of the Bible department called him Friday morning to offer him a position teaching an Intro to Bible class this fall.  THANK YOU LORD!  Summer is always an interesting time for us financially and with all of these weddings it has become even more interesting.  God has provided just enough each month which is incredible but knowing  he has a class to teach this fall, on top of me going back to teaching my normal piano schedule (plus 3 or so new students) and continuing to help out at Park Free - relief is in sight for our budget!  While this does mean Ross is really under the gun to get his syllabus complete and books ordered for his class, we are very thankful for this last minute opportunity.

I am also thankful our travels were so smooth on Friday even though as we were descending it was lightning all around us.  We made it onto the ground and off the plane (many times they will not allow the jet-way workers to do their thing in the lightning but we were able to de-plane!).  We made it safely to the Bevan's home in the midst of a crazy thunderstorm.  We saw several cars who had hydroplaned and being on unfamiliar roads, I was even more grateful to arrive safe and sound.

Taking quite a few strolls down memory lane with the Bevan's reminded me of what a blessed person I am ... I had some of the greatest friends a girl could ask for during the junior high and high school years. When Mr. B began teasing me within minutes of walking in their door, I knew it was going to be just like old times.  We shared story after story with Ross about different 'Em, Andy and Bryant' moments (along with other people, too).  We laughed a lot and even though I hadn't seen them in 6 years it felt like I had just come home after a brief 'trip'.  It was so great to be together and I am SO thankful for the friendship of Bryant and Carlin (their kids) and others from my church youth group.  I am also thankful for the many sets of 'parents' I had around me during those years - the parents of my friends - who were watching out for me and providing opportunities for good safe fun to be had - opening their homes to us, feeding us, etc.  It was good to 'remember' the blessing of friendships which have helped form me into who I am today as a friend.

The Bevan's were gracious hosts and helped us plan our day on Saturday.  We toured CNN and visited the Atlanta Aquarium - both well worth our time and money.  I am always thankful for opportunities to learn new things and experience new places.

Saturday night we headed to the wedding rehearsal at the beautiful Little Gardens venue.  It was great to meet Kim's Atlanta friends and Luis Miguel (her groom).  Kim also put together the most thoughtful 'welcome' box for us.  She is a very talented gift giver and it reminded me of how neat our friendship is and I'm thankful for that girl! :)

Sunday, the Bevan's gave us a walking tour of Roswell, where they live.  It's super historical and eclectic.  We walked for a couple of hours, enjoyed a Mexican lunch and then headed back to pack up and get ready for the wedding.

It was SO steamy and hot on Sunday ... I have never sweat so much from just being outside ... but I am thankful for shade, cold, clean drinking water, paper towels and an air conditioned house to 'take a break' in between rehearsing and the wedding.  I'm thankful for the violinist - Daniel - who was SO easy to work with - we literally ran everything once and I think it went well during the ceremony.  It was an honor to be a part of Kim and Luis' international wedding.  I usually always tear up during a wedding and the moment I was most teary was during Kim's reading of her personal vows to Luis - at the end of them, she spoke to him in Portuguese and it was very beautiful.   I'm only sorry we couldn't stay for the reception. What an amazing celebration and party Kim put together!  I'm thankful for her friendship and I'm looking forward to visiting them in Portugal in the near future.

Our trip home was super smooth, too.  We were so fortunate.  We needed to get home last night because Ross had a big training day with his student leaders today and everything went just as planned.

We made some great memories in Atlanta, GA.  I'm thankful for the opportunity we had to be there to celebrate and enjoy a new city together!  

August 20, 2010

Favorite E-man'ism's

I'm thankful for E-man's amazing language development.  It's so fun to listen and watch him learning ALL of the time.  Here are a few of his latest ...

"I don't like dis, take it off!" (In reference to his Tuxedo for Josh and Ann's wedding)

"Nooooo ... jammieeeeees!" (He hates getting out of his pjs when the time comes each day)

First thing he says to me this morning when I went to get him out of his bed "Mama, play catch?!" We got all set to play and he says "I need helmet".  He promptly went to find the salad spinner bowl for his helmet.

He sings all of the time - often during almost our entire walk through our neighborhood and usually it's about joy and Jesus and a lot of other topics I can't quite 'catch'. :) Often in the middle of a song he will pause and sing "READY SET GO!" and then the volume of singing gets louder.  Then as he wraps up one song he will say to himself "anoder one? okay yeah, ready set go" and off he goes singing again. Too funny!  He is very good at spotting every park on our walks and likes to remind me "Mama, I wanna go park"

"TB?" (TV - he still enjoys an episode of Sesame whenever he's allowed) "Wanna watch Elmo - right dere (meaning on the computer)."

His favorite Bible story characters are "Moses" and "Big Moses" (our Bible shows him as a baby and a man :)), "Daniel",  "Da-bid" and "JESUS!"

You should hear his french language development - oh my oh my!  Ann and Josh have been working on this with him - "Bon jour!" and a few other phrases are normal to hear from him.

I came home from a meeting a the church I work at and E was sitting in his chair eating lunch chatting with his babysitter.  He looked at me and said "Mama, work? Mama teachin' piano kids?" I was floored! I told him I was at work but working at the church.

He sang the entire song "We Fall Down" into the microphone at Park Free the Sunday they came to church with me.  I had been practicing that one at home during the week and he nailed it.  He calls it "Holy, holy"

We're working on the please and thank you issue - he knows the words but more often needs prompting of when to say "please" ... he'll get it! :)

I just asked him what some of his favorite things are (totally no leading) and he said "Church!" and "Holy, holy"!  Haha!

"I need help!" "HEEELLLLLP" etc.

He's got lots of Psalty the Singing Song Book episodes memorized - even down to the dialogue.  There is this one part where Psalty is talking about giving Blooper a bath and EVERY TIME E goes "I like baths!" until I acknowledge I heard him.

August 19, 2010

Good Reminders

I have heard a couple of great messages in the last week ... good challenges about how we're doing in the area of love and thankfulness from a Christ-follower's perspective.

Ross's latest sermon preached at Renovation Church  - love

Dan's latest sermon preached at Park Free - thankfulness

August 16, 2010

I Thank You God!

What a cool, low-humidity day!  After a fun weekend of camping and being in nature and participating in church activities in meaningful ways, on my walk with E-man this morning, this song kept playing through my head.  Below is the poem it is based on ... I learned this arrangement by Gwyneth Walker in Woman's Chorale during my Bethel years.  It's beautiful and it portrays my feelings of this morning better than my words are able to describe.  

"i thank You God for most this amazing" 
by ee cummings:

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

August 12, 2010

Brain Overload

I have a lot to be thankful for after many great conversations that have occurred this week but I am kind of on brain overload in a good kind of overwhelming way so I've been slacking on my gratitude blog.  So - I'll just say I'm really thankful for all of the friends in my life who I have chatted with this week - some new and some old.  I'm blessed and I am loved and I am looking forward to the future although I'm not sure exactly what it entails - with God leading and guiding, it's sure to be an adventure.  I hope I can be obedient and in tune with where the Spirit is leading our family.

Here's my prayer tonight ... thanks Dave Lubben ... :) (Side note: It's a beautiful song you should listen to on itunes if you don't know it.  Promise you won't regret it!)

I want to be, where you are.
I want to know, who you are.
So when you call my name, 
I'll say to you "here I am."
I'm listening Lord, speak to me.

I want to see, how you see.
Change my heart Lord, and make me holy.
If there's anything in my life,
That doesn't honor you tonight.
I'm listening Lord, speak to me.
Speak to me..

August 10, 2010

Shoreview Farmer's Market


I'm thankful for the numerous Farmer's Markets there are in Minnesota.  I enjoy buying MN grown produce and I am grateful to be able to support the farmers who sell their goods at these markets.

Today I went to the Shoreview Farmer's Market.  It was SO busy and SO SO SO hot.  I spent 14 dollars on all of this produce PLUS 2 lbs of hormone free, family raised ground beef.  What a great deal! :)

August 9, 2010

"Millions of Peaches ..."

Anyone remember that song?

I am thankful for delicious, juicy peaches and a mom who knows how to can and lives near by so we can work together on projects like these.  I *think* I'm learning a lot about canning each time we do it so hopefully one day if I have to do it on my own I 'can'! (Ha.)

Slicing, de-pitting, and skinning peaches

E-man helping me bring up more peaches from the basement

Soaking/cleaning them before skinning them

We now have 28 large jars of canned peaches.  While we think I may have been cheated out of 2 bushels (I was given two boxes that actually equal 1 bushel but I paid for 2 bushels ... hmmm)  they are so yummy and they were perfectly ripe today so they were easy to work with ... I'm very thankful for the delicious results we'll get to enjoy this next year!

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot ... 

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and do good while they live.  That everyone may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all their toil - this is a gift from God."
Ecclesiastes 3 

August 8, 2010

What a weekend!

Saturday dawned with a long list of things to get accomplished - shopping, baking, making, decorating, cleaning, getting ready to host Ann's personal shower/bachelorette evening at my home all with E-man in my care as Ross was still heading home from Trout Lake.  Needless to say, I didn't stop moving until about 11:30 last night and then there was a huge lightning storm that kept me up for awhile.  I think everyone had a great time and there was lots of laughter and good food and fun presents.  Ann has super sweet girlfriends and it was really fun to celebrate Ann and Josh's upcoming marriage together!  I'm grateful I was able to be a part of this fun night.

This morning came very quickly and dawned VERY hot and VERY sticky.  Church at Park Free was really neat.  There was a spontaneous moment during our corporate Praise and Prayer/Sharing time that tied directly into a song God had laid on my heart to do after the sharing time this week and it made me very aware of how real and active the Holy Spirit is and I'm grateful for that reminder that happened during the service today.  After church, I met up with the rest of our family and went to Applebee's for Mom's birthday and then we had DQ ice cream cake back at Mom and Dad's for her birthday.  It was fun to be together to celebrate my Mom turning double nickels!  :)

I have friends who are walking through some hard times in their life and the life of their family and it makes me realize how our family is really in a season of celebration.  I'm trying to enjoy it while being very busy and very present at the same time because I know this is a special, once-in-a-life-time season in the life of our family.

August 6, 2010

Sounds of Camp

I am grateful to be home from camp.  At the same time I am grateful for the days we were able to spend at camp as a family.  One of my biggest gratefuls of the week were the sounds I heard while walking around the camp with E-man and Ross ... here are just a few of them ...

- There is nothing better than the sound of kids cheering each other on during a competition and shrieking with laughter and giggles.
-  Teens jumping up and down and singing their hearts out during chapel time is music to my ears.
-  Camp staff teasing one another and enjoying friendship while working is a great sound.
- The sound of paddles pushing the water as campers canoed along side of us down The Hidden River.
-  Numerous campers asking E-man for a high-five or fist bump and saying "He's so cute!!"
- The silence of the woods on a very still day is refreshing to my ears.
- The sound of wind blowing through the trees and ushering in cool breezes is glorious.
- Goats 'maaaaaaing' and horses stomping and chickens clucking are sounds I don't hear every day.
- The clank of plates and cups during plentiful, yummy meal times is a blessing.
- Hearing Ross tell teens about God's love story and encouraging them to grow in their relationship with Christ was great.  
- The roar of a boat engine out on the lake makes me smile as I think about all of the fun water sports happening on the water.
- The tweeting of the birds and sound of acorns falling and the rustling of a fawn in the brush reminds me that I am very much out in nature.

I'm grateful I have ears to hear these things and I'm thankful for a God who is a creative master in giving us the sense of 'hearing'.

August 5, 2010

A Few Pics from TLC

We're having a great time as a family up here!  Ross has managed to play paintball with the kids and participate in some of their activities as well as speaking.  We're thankful for the time we've had to enjoy God's creation, camp life and meeting lots of neat counselors and campers.

One of E-man's favorite parts of camp: the petting zoo!!

Another favorite part - the campers and the worship music.

August 3, 2010

Trout Lake Camp

E-man and I are hanging out with Ross at TLC this week.  We're getting lots of wiggles out walking everywhere and we're enjoying the camp food and not having to cook this week.  We're thankful for some time away as a family.  Ross speaks once each night and sometimes has a meeting in the morning or hangs out with campers during one of their break out times but other than that we're together enjoying family time in the woods and lakes of Minnesota.  We went to Crosslake this afternoon to the community beach and we hit up Zorbaz for dinner as the camp staff tipped us off that the ham dinner tonight was their least favorite. :)

I think my major thankful for today is that I have air-conditioning in my home.  A few days of high humidity and no air makes me realize how much I appreciate the luxury of central air.

August 1, 2010

Grateful Weekend Hi-lights

1.  Safe travels on very busy summer roads
2.  Grandparents and aunts/uncle to entertain E-man while traveling for lots of hours

3.  BEANS!!  We got to spend about 12 hours with my sister Jill who flew to Chicago to join us for the fun weekend.

4.  A great shower for Josh and Ann to help celebrate their marriage

5.  Good times visiting with our Chicago-area family
6.  Visiting my Grandma Ridder in her new care-facility.  She seems to be doing so much better in the new place and when we were getting ready to take her out to dinner she said "this is going to be fun!" a few times and loved watching E-man run around.

7.  A wonderful backyard for E-man to run around in each night to get his wiggles out

8.  The gift my parents gave me of taking E-man for a few hours tonight when we got home so I could come home and be REALLY productive getting ready to join Ross at Trout Lake tomorrow.

Thanks everyone!  What a fun weekend!