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.

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 :) ... 

October 27, 2010


Today we visited the allergist.  Last year around this time, we were discovering things that caused E-man to break out in hives (like egg whites, peanut butter and penicillin).  We had a check up with our friendly doctor today and we didn't re-do the skin testing but she did say to keep an eye on things and try to avoid the nuts as much as possible.  E  also got his flu shot with not even a tear, frown or scowl [grateful]. The child impresses me when he gets a shot - I think I flinch more than he does!

This evening, Ross and E-man joined me for my piano lesson with our niece, Adrienne and then they continued on with me to choir practice.  Ross thought he'd have fun singing along and joining the choir this coming Sunday and all of the wonderful people at Park Free are always asking when Ross and E-man will be with me.  After Ade's lesson, on our way out the door at Pam and Chad's, Pam offered us all a piece of candy.  When we got in the car, I asked Ross what he let E-man have and he said 'a snickers' and I said - REALLY!??! (GASP! PEANUTS!) Of course, on the DAY we visit the allergist, E-man has a peanut containing candy.  Well - my grateful moment is we have not had to use the epi pen yet tonight and I don't think we will ... he didn't seem to react even a tiny bit.  He has been happy, playful and hive-free and right now he's peacefully sleeping.  Perhaps this will turn into a bigger grateful moment when we discover he has outgrown his reaction to peanut butter!  I would be one thankful mama (because I really like peanut butter and feel bad when he asks for some and I have to say 'no, you can't because you're allergic').  Here's hoping!

October 26, 2010

Good Reminder

 16Be joyful always; 17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:16-18

October 25, 2010

A Week Old - Chili Gratefuls

This 'thankful' moment is brought to you from the archives of my brain.  While driving almost 200 miles around the cities in the last 2 days, you would think I would have been quite inspired by my 'alone' time to come up with some life-altering, insightful, moments of gratitude.  Instead, I find my brain more in 'mush' mode but this shout out to friends who share their chili is a must tonight.

Last Monday night, I taught Treveon piano like I do every Monday night.  I smelled something yummy when I walked in the door and inquired about what was for dinner.  His Mom, Donna, sent me out the door with part of their delicious chili dinner.  Donna is a friend of mine from Bethel.  We were coworkers together and she is still a coworker of Ross.  What a blessing to go to teach piano and walk out with dinner and enough for leftovers!

Yesterday, Pam, Chad, Ade and Will let E-man hang out at their place so we could go to our small group for a few hours.  E was SO excited to hang out with them, he barely napped because he knew where we were going to take him after nap time.  He loves "Will-will" and playing "choochoos" and was SO pumped to spend time with them.  We spent some time hanging out with them after our small group and they shared their chili dinner with us.  Once again, I had a 'thankful' moment over a bowl of delicious chili, sitting around a table with our family.

Thanks friends and family for sharing your chili with our family! :)

October 23, 2010

Catch Up

It's amazing how a few days speed by and suddenly I realize I haven't paused to update by 'grateful moments' blog ... so here is a catch up from this past week.


I had the privilege of hanging out with some great kids on Wednesday.  I have known these guys since 2004 (when they were much younger and shorter :)).  Their parents were a part of the worship ministry I led at Salem Baptist (now Grace Point).  Since that time, we have moved to Blaine (closer to this great family) and we are all now a part of Renovation Church and I have the honor of teaching these two guys piano and their parents are great people and friends of ours ... so that's a little background.  E-man LOVES and ADORES these two 'big' boys so it was a fun day for us to get to hang out with them.  We headed down to the MN Zoo and I'm thankful for such a great place to walk around and visit with all sorts of animals.  Everyone was well-behaved and it was just a fun day for all involved that concluded with piano lessons and playing guitar hero at my house.


I had a meeting out in MG in the morning and I'm so thankful for Stephanie who watched E-man along with her girls, so I could attend this meeting kid-free.  Meanwhile, I knew E-man was in great company.

It was a productive meeting, clarifying my role and how I can help another church out in the area of 'worship' and I'm excited to be consulting with Woodridge's IMPACT worship ministry for the next few months.  Upon arriving home, I was grateful to spend some time with Stephanie and Mel - a rare treat since Mel is a busy first grade teacher, but MEA allowed for us to sneak in a little time together.  I also was/am in the middle of a new (to me) author discovery - Brandilyn Colins.  Think Terri Blackstock - similar in that they both write 'Christian' suspense/crime/fiction.  These books are page turners and part of why I've been slacking on my blog writing.  So this week, I've been enjoying these books.  The best part about discovering a new-to-me author is that she has LOTS of books out so I can take out a whole 'series' from the library and not have to wait for her to publish another book.  I so enjoy when this happens!


Friday found me and E-man shopping with my Mom.  She's looking for stuff to help complete some new decorating/room changes in their house.  I was looking for lamps for the living room.  With it getting darker out, sooner, and some of our lamps being broken by a little dude or colored on :) ... it was time to complete a lighting upgrade.  I found some great brushed nickel lamps at Penney's and with my mom's coupons I got three lamps for 65 dollars!  Woohoo!!  (THANKFUL!)  I also decided to forgo doing some chores for reading out on my deck in the afternoon because it was so beautiful out and the weather people are predicting cold temps and rain for several days in a row.  I did manage to sneak in a few chores after enjoying my book for a while and getting some good vitamin D.  I'm thankful for Ross who supports me fully (whether I'm cleaning, reading a book or playing with E-man).  Yes, in the picture below, E asked Ross to read this cookbook to him.

We also enjoyed some good food and fellowship at a birthday party for Jeff, Christin's husband (our former roommate).


FAMILY TIME! :) I'm always grateful for this and I'm looking forward to some Philly cheesesteaks while rooting for the Phillies tonight!  Baseball is something else that has kept me from my blog this week during the evening hours.  (See, I've had some pretty decent excuses :)).  I'm grateful for a fun-filled week during which a lot has been accomplished.

October 18, 2010


E-man and I are have been 'back at it' as far as adding miles to my mileage chart this month.  We are aiming for 60+ this month - hopefully the weather will hang in there with us!  Yesterday while on our walk, E said "Help me, hold me, etc." and I asked him what was wrong and he said "freezing!".  WOW!  Who knew he could describe feeling cold or even say the word 'freezing'!? :) I'm thankful for that little man's word development.  New words in complete sentences blow me away almost daily right now.  This morning I decided to be proactive to the freezing comment from yesterday (even though I didn't think yesterday felt very cold, he DOES just sit there while I work up a sweat pushing him along).  So here is a great pictures of my little man's creative outfit this morning on our walk ...

For the record, he's wearing an awesome hat, gloves, sunglasses, a windbreaker type coat AND a hooded sweatshirt.  

Below is a picture of where our walk took us on Friday with our former roommate, Christin!  

I'm SUPER grateful for a beautiful October and lots of walks with fun people!  

October 15, 2010


There is a theme going on in my spiritual heart and soul right now.  It feels like the messages that are shouting loudest to me are about faith.  It just so happens I started doing the Bible study "Believing God" with Beth Moore a few weeks ago.  She started off with the challenging statement that 'the biggest thing paralyzing our country right now is the lack of belief that God is who He says He is and that God can do what He says He can do!' The biggest theme in my conversation with one of my spiritual mentors, Mrs. B, when I was at home in PA revolved around whether or not we have faith in God to provide for our every need.  Yesterday, a close friend sent me to this church's website  It's one of the fastest growing church's in our country, located in Charlotte, NC.  The messages from this pastor are challenging and very much calling us to evaluate what kind of "faith" we have in God and whether or not we are actively living in 'audacious faith'.  I listened to two of the teachings today and just went through one of their 'live' worship experiences online (amazing, cutting edge technology for the Church).  The theme continues and the way pastor teaches really resonates with me.  I appreciate his questions that take God's Word and cause it to come alive His people.  We'll see what God will continue to speak to me in regards to my faith in Him and what He is doing in our lives.  I'm thankful for this 'theme' in my life right now.

October 14, 2010

Fire Prevention (Wednesday Grateful)

So on Tuesday, I lit a Harvest Spice candle right before my piano students arrived.  When I arrived home from teaching some other students, I noticed the candle was still lit and the house was smelling spicy and warm.  I proceeded to watch 'The Good Wife' with Ross and I got myself a glass of water before going up to bed.  I remember thinking about blowing out the candle at various points during the evening.  

Fast forward to 2:39 a.m. - E-man is crying to let me know his nuk is no longer in his crib.  I open my bedroom door to go replace it for him and my nose is hit with Harvest Spice scent so strong it can only mean one thing.  

I run downstairs to see a very very low flame (thankful!!!!) still burning.  Obviously, I neglected to blow out the candle.  Since the wick is very short, the flame was barely flickering but still ... scary moment in the middle of the night.  

I'm very grateful our house did not burn down (along with the 4 others in our row!) and that we were safe and sound.  Boy did our house smell good for quite some time!

Cabot Cheese

At Costco today, I came across Cabot cheese - claiming to be 'the' Vermont Sharp Cheddar.  Our neighbors on Merion Drive in PA, the Alborn's, spent lots of time in VT and would bring home these BRICKS of cheddar and share the wealth with the neighbors.  It is the most delicious cheddar cheese ever ... I'm not kidding.  It totally beats WI cheese ANY day.  (Sorry Ann!)  It comes in this green cardboard box and it is SO yummy.  Anyway, when I glanced at the cheese in Costco today, the cheese decided I couldn't pass it by and so it literally jumped right into my cart! (GASP!)

We tried shredding it tonight to go with our tacos and ... oh my ... it is the same flavor as the stuff we used to get from the Alborn's.  DELICIOUS.  My cheese taste-buds are so grateful tonight!

October 13, 2010

Tuesday Reflections (A Day Late)

We're back in a routine on Tuesdays.  Our routine includes (weather permitting) a walk first thing in the morning, getting ready time, story time at the library with Arnold the puppet who E has decided is worthy of an elbow bump (this has taken awhile ... you know ... puppets are scary creatures), checking out a new stack of books, and a run to the bank where we visit Shanty and Rimma while dropping off Renovation's weekly deposit in exchange for a lollipop for E.  Yesterday we added a trip to Bethel for a brief lunch with Ross-man.  I'm grateful for productive Tuesday mornings - I think both me and the 'little' are enjoying the 'routine'!

October 11, 2010

Monday Gratefuls

[1] breakfast at MOPS [2] great tips on the importance of teaching our kids to 'work' [3] adopting another Compassion child - a girl - from Tanzania [4] gorgeous weather [5] Piano students who practice [6] Mom watching E-man and making dinner for my boys and sending home extra for me [7] catching up with a close friend even if for a few minutes [8] coming home to see a box house Ross made for E-man

October 9, 2010

Extended Birthday Celebrations

Tonight we went to Axel's Bonfire Grill because with our rewards card, they send you a birthday 'gift' worth up to 29 dollars (for an entree') good for the month following your birthday.  So I enjoyed the most expensive item on their menu, a filet with smashed potatoes and green beans - YUM!!  I was telling Ross how weird it was this September to not eat ANY birthday cake (for various reasons cake was not a part of any of our celebrating).  I grew up eating at least 3 birthday cakes and a pie from Sept 17-Oct 3 each year because of our family birthdays.  So, Ross went to my parents house tonight to watch the Twins' came and unbeknownst to me, while we were at Target tonight, he bought a yellow cake and chocolate frosting, and he baked if for me at my parents' house.  He just walked in the door with my surprise birthday cake.  It's never too late to celebrate! :)  Thanks Ross! :)

October 8, 2010

16th Birthday

So one of my favorite stores is having their 16th birthday and I happened to be shopping there today with my birthday money.  I have their credit card and because it was their 16th birthday, they were giving SIXTEEN points for every dollar spent.  Without going into all the details of how this worked out, the summary is: I ended up coming away with just about as much 'rewards' money as I spent because of their current birthday celebration deal.  CRAZY!  LOVE IT!

The leaves in MN are gorgeous.  My Mom, E-man and I drove up to the North Branch outlets today and the color of the leaves is really spectacular right now - so we're heading out to enjoy it as a family!  TGIF!

October 7, 2010

Carpet Dirt

Here is a more 'creative' post that has been simmering in my brain for a few weeks.

With the exodus of our roommate Christin, Ross and I agreed it was time to deep clean downstairs.  One of the things we knew needed cleaning was our carpet in the bedroom our roommates have occupied. Originally, I was all about paying someone to come out and clean the carpets but with our summer financial reality we decided to give it a go ourselves.  [Grateful] My wonderful mom-in-law loaned us her carpet cleaner and we got to work.  We started in the bedroom downstairs and eventually ended up carpet-cleaning our stairs and our main level, too.  Right around this same time, my parents were out of town for the weekend and knowing they had just purchased a new vacuum [grateful] and knowing our current vacuum was purchased at a garage sale in PA for 30 dollars 6 years ago, we decided to borrow their brand new vacuum [grateful].  Our vacuum literally puffs out dust when you turn it on and we figured if we're going to all this trouble to shampoo our carpets, we might as well use a decent vacuum before and after.  My m-i-l gave us good tips about what kind of solution to use - water, a little bit of vinegar and a few drops of eco-friendly dish soap - thanks Diane! :) It worked well and we feel much better about the state of our carpets [grateful].

The whole process has led me to be thankful for something MAJOR though ... here it comes ... drum roll... For all of you Minnesotans, did you know the rest of the country does not take off their shoes upon entering a home, but you, my dear Minnesotans, do?!  No matter what the state of your socks or feet (dirty, filled with holes, smelly), no matter how cold your feet might feel when the temp is negative 30 outside,  Minnesotans typically take their shoes off upon entering a home.  It truly saves the carpet from wear and tear and dirt and grime.  It's amazing.  I was astounded at how little dirt was actually in our carpets after washing them and I really chalk it up to this amazing MN habit of removing the shoes at the door.  Now, in all practicality, in the winter (which, eh-hem, lasts for like 8 months), the road salt and stones would cause havoc on floor surfaces.  It totally makes sense but it is something to be grateful about ... (even on the days when you're embarrassed by the state of your socks ... I wonder if MN sells more socks than most states since they are actually SEEN by people).

Oh ... and I must say ... I am grateful for carpet dirt because after all of this work on our carpets, borrowing the carpet cleaner, borrowing the vacuum, etc. we finally broke down and bought our first brand NEW vacuum as a married couple [grateful] and I cannot WAIT for it to arrive!!!!!!! Bring on the dirt! :)

October 6, 2010


Ross, E-man and I were out for a brief walk before dinner tonight.  What a stunningly gorgeous fall afternoon.  

As we were walking and admiring the leaves on the trees Ross said, "We'd definitely have to rake if we owned a single family home".  With that statement, something dawned on me.  All day today I had been annoyed by the loud noise of lawnmowers, blowers, and machinery.  Several times, I was trying to listen to something on my computer and the outside noise got so loud I had to shut doors and windows so I could still hear my computer.  What I missed while I was feeling frustrated was the fact that all of my leaves and lawn care was being done FOR me, FOR US!  So, as we walked, I shared my frustration with Ross and then turned into a 'gratitude' moment.  I'm very thankful for the men who take care of our lawn and leaves.  They do a marvelous job and they keep everything looking beautiful in our neighborhood.  I'm thankful I can actually see our monthly association fee being put to good work.  I'm thankful for the time we don't have to spend on outside stuff, instead we can go play in a park together or take a walk together ... for this season of our life it's really convenient to not have to do outside work.
The leaves are at 50-75% peak right now in the Twin Cities - it's gorgeous but it also means there will be a lot of work coming for all tree owners!  Thank you to our lawn service who takes good care of the outside of our house!!

October 4, 2010

Grateful Reflections [from the past week]

Background ... Ross and I flew to PA to attend Converge's Church Planter's Assessment Center.  It was an intense time of being 'watched' and questioned by very wise people.  We also had 3 personality inventories we took before arriving, so we received the results during the course of the week.  Our goal in attending this time was to see if who God has uniquely created us to be as individuals and a couple would be a good fit with and some day lead us to church planting.  Our time was extremely fruitful and we learned a lot about ourselves and we were affirmed in many ways.

We are grateful for the assessors and therapists who spent time with us all week.  We are grateful for the Ely family who hosted us and loaned us a car all week.

The Ely Family 

Barb and Keith Brown

A special friend picked us up from the airport and another set of dear friends dropped us off at the airport.  We are grateful to Grace Point (yes, my home church in PA) for hosting us for the week.  (I was personally very overwhelmed in a wonderful way by the hugs and love from my 'church family' in PA during the week.)  We are grateful for the new friends we made from all over the country.  I think one of the best parts of the week was being encouraged by all that God is doing through his people to build his Church in our country.  Both Ross and I were encouraged to remember how central the gospel is to our lives and faith.

My Mom and Dad watched E-man for us while we were gone and we were both very thankful for them.  One of the candidate couples had a 3.5 month old with them and their experience had to have been very altered by the little one being with them.  We didn't worry about the little dude one bit and we knew he was having a fabulous time going to the zoo, getting his hair cut, going to the pumpkin farm, riding a surrey at Minnehaha Falls, etc. I was thankful he missed us a bit (does a Mom's heart good) and he came running to us with a big smile and lots of hugs when we walked in the door.

Ethan and his new haircut, happily coloring in MN.  

Tuesday, before the assessment center began, I was blessed to spend time with my piano teacher from K-12 grade.  Being with her is always good for my soul.  She continues to still be such a huge blessing in my life.  Late Wednesday night, I also was able to spend some quality time with one of my high school girlfriends.  I am amazed at how God has been at work in her life and marriage and it was so good to just be together and process life a bit.  What a gift these friends are to me!

My dear piano teacher, Mrs. B! :) 

The assessment officially ended Friday mid-morning and due to flight prices, we still had a day to spend in Bucks County (thank goodness - because we didn't hardly step foot outside of the church until Thursday late afternoon except to drive back and forth to the Ely's during the week).  Before leaving town, we indulged in Meglio's pizza.  Then, we enjoyed a road trip to Ocean City (made it there in an hour and 20 minutes which is amazing).  We walked the boards, processed more of the week, did some shopping, and headed back to Newtown by the evening.  Saturday morning we enjoyed chatting with Lynn over delicious waffles and then hiked around Tyler State Park for a bit before picking up Bagle Junction on our way back to the Ely's to catch our ride to the airport.  We made the most of our few 'free' hours, too!  What a blessing this past week was to me and to Ross.  I think this past week will always be a part of our 'story' as it helped to clarify 'next steps' for us to take as seek God's good plan for our lives and ministry.

My happy place!  

Enjoying Tyler State Park

October 2, 2010

PTL ... I'm still alive!

After an exhausting but important week in the life of the Manders' I'm back ... and hoping to resurrect my blog!  I will explain more about why I have been MIA in the blogs to come but I wanted to say it's always good to come home and it was especially sweet to walk into my Mom and Dad's and have E-man RUN to give us hugs and big smiles.  He actually missed us this time, I think!  BUT he had a fabulous time with G and G Ridder (thank you!!!!!).  Thanks for your prayers (those of you who knew where we were and what we were doing :)).  God will be using what we have learned this week for a long time to come in our lives.