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.

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.)