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 16, 2011

A new blog for a new season - come join me at

September 5, 2011

A Decade of Change

The decade of my 20s has been marked by transition.  I turned 20 the same year, actually just 6 days after, terrorists drastically impacted the way we, as Americans, were going about life.  Talk about a day the world changed in a matter of minutes.  I'm also talking about big and small, monumental and subtle changes in my personal relationships, living locations, responsibilities, career(s), ways of thinking, and so much more.  My 20s have been filled with life-altering decisions and the world around me has been changed at a frantic pace in many ways.

As I reflect on many of the various transitions, some stressful and others purely fun, some a combination of the two, some difficult to wade through and others easier than expected, I wonder if it's possible for the decade of my 30s to be marked quite the same way as my 20s were by change.  I'm guessing there will be another theme (along with more change) over the next 10 years. As I ponder all of the change that has occurred in my life and in the world around me in the past 10 years, I am profoundly grateful because as Gail Sheehy said, "If we don't change, we don't grow.  If we don't grow, we aren't really living." Looking back, a lot of 'changing', 'growing' and 'living' has been happening in this life and while some of the changes have been more negative than positive, all of it has been instrumental to developing and growing me physically, spiritually and emotionally into a (hopefully) more mature person.

Some of the transitions/changes from the decade of my 20s ...
I developed a greater appreciation and love for my parents and siblings - I developed deeper friendships with people who are still influencing and so very important my life - I worked at Camp Spofford for a life changing summer - I was an RA for a year during which - I fell in love with my future spouse - and during that year I grew a lot in my understanding of my identity as a child of God - I graduated from college - I became a married woman - I survived and passed my senior piano recital - I became an aunt, sister-in-law and daughter-in-law - I became an employee of several different places (all tied into things I was/am passionate about) - I learned how to create a budget and what finances are all about (at least somewhat) - I joined facebook and survived a decade of crazy social media developments (yep - I didn't even own a cell phone when I turned 20) - I became an official resident of Minnesota  - I helped put my husband through grad school - I taught close to 200 students piano at Keyboard Kids - I started my private piano studio - I led numerous church bodies in worship of our great God - I was privileged to do my 'dream' job at Bethel, coaching and developing student worship leaders - I became a homeowner - I survived child birth - I became a mother (!!!!!) - I experienced loss - I learned how to share my home with people other than my immediate family -  I said goodbye to my childhood home in PA when my parents moved to MN - I enjoyed a few months of my entire Ridder family (parents and both siblings) living in MN - I was extremely blessed to live 3.8 miles from my parents for almost 4 years -

And these are just a few of the things my very pregnant self can process right now ... many of the above things are still in process and will continue to be ...  thinking about everything I learned during the decade that I was birthed into the 'adult world' of 'independence'... is ... slightly overwhelming, fantastic and yet a little bit terrifying. So much has been entrusted to me over the past decade.  I am blessed beyond measure.  I am grateful.  I am hopeful that in my 30s, I can continue to be a good steward/care-taker of all I have been given in my 20s.

September 2, 2011

So it's been awhile.  I have several excuses for why I haven't been blogging about my moments of gratitude (e.g. when the weather is gorgeous in MN you just have to be outside and we've also taken a number of awesome, extended family vacations this summer plus I'm growing a small baby while hanging out with my dear, extremely busy and always in motion 3 year old ... you  know ... excuses excuses) but rest-assured, I continue to think in 'gratitude moments'  and I am watching for them and trying to mentally record them.  As I've been contemplating what to do with this blog (being that baby #2 is about to make his appearance any day now and I can only imagine what life will be like for the next few months), I thought I should bring some closure to this process of self-development I have been going through and will continue to go through.   I made the decision this week, I am going to be dedicating my final posts of this blog to my '20s'.  As I anticipate turning thirty in just fifteen short days,  I have been thinking about how much life has changed for me in this past decade of my life and I have so many 'gratefuls' I'd like to reflect on in the next few days.  So, if you will indulge me, I will be doing some reminiscing and pondering while trying to summarize my 'thankfuls' from the past decade of life.  Stay tuned!

May 22, 2011

Gratefuls As Of Late

1.  Health
2.  Safety
3.  Good Endings
4.  Anointed Teachers and Inspiring Worship Leaders
5.  A Husband who sacrifices for me and serves me so unselfishly
6.  Maternity clothes on loan from several girlfriends
7.  Protection from harm
8.  Opportunities
9.  The Bible (I'm almost done my 90 day reading plan!)
10.  Spring storms (because it's not SNOW!)
11.  Feeling Baby Number 2 move around more and more
12.  My almost 3 year old - pure joy emanates from him!
13.  My 16 piano students and all of their solid performances despite a chaotic tornado-filled beginning to our afternoon recital.
14.  Walking trails, parks and most of our day time temps hitting at least 60
15.  People who give hand-me-downs or buy clothes for E-man

I am so extremely blessed - for these and many more ... I'm thankful.

May 7, 2011


I think hitting 73 degrees and having a sunny, warm day ALL day (with no rain or snow!) is a major thing to be grateful about ... so there you have it!  I'm so thankful for the 4 mile walk we took this morning and the family BBQ we attended this afternoon and the maternity shorts and shirts I'm borrowing from a friend that got some use today.  YAY!!  Now if only I could maintain my gratitude about other things in life ...

April 22, 2011

I'm Forever Grateful

... for the cross ...

"Amazing Love, how can it be, that You my King would die for me?
Amazing love, I know it's true!  And it's my joy to honor you ..."

April 20, 2011


8 a.m. - heavy, wet snow
12 noon or so - snow stopped, gray afternoon
5 p.m. - skies clearing (able to see blue sky but whacky storm-like clouds gathering)
8 p.m. - drove into and through pea-sized hail

Here is my simple moment of gratitude in the midst of a crazy Spring weather day ... as we were getting into the car around 5 p.m., Ross showed Ethan how one of the blossoms on our tree was opening up.  There were even leaves!  I'm grateful!!

April 18, 2011

Piano Families

I work with MANY amazing families every week.  Being a piano teacher that goes into peoples' homes could be intimidating for some, but I find it to be a source of joy and many times it really helps me get to know my students on a different level because I understand more about who they are as growing people and the family they come from because they invite me into their personal space each week.

I have 13 families I work for/with each week and I cannot even begin to share with you how incredibly blessed I am by them.  I will try but I will inevitably leave out many important things.

First - I really and honestly can say that I don't have a student who I dread teaching each week.  During different seasons, some students can be more challenging than others but every kid I work with is a genuinely NICE, teachable younger-than-me person.
Second - The parents of these students are so supportive.  Not only have they done a fabulous job raising kids who are responsible, respectful and teachable but they encourage their students and many of them do hands on practicing with them as needed - that's AMAZING!
Third - They pay their monthly bills on time - I have no outstanding balances or awkward situations - I mean really - that is incredible.
Four - They pass my name around to other people considering lessons for their children.  What a great compliment and I do NOT take this kind of advertising for granted!
Five - Often, I will be offered a drink (I will turn it down these days because of the baby sitting on my bladder :)) or the use of their bathroom (especially when pregnant I appreciate this very much!).  I have received treats or parts of meals that are being baked or cooked in the kitchen while I'm teaching and many wonderful cards and notes from students that I save.  One of my favorites came from Rachel (who is now in high school).  It must have been at least 4 years ago, she drew her and me at the piano having a lesson but we were wolves!  Amazing! JUST TONIGHT I received a Chicco car seat and base from a family who is done using it with their youngest adorable boy.  What an amazing gift!  With E-man, we would just transfer the car seat between cars. Definitely do-able but this will be SO smooth to have a car seat and base in BOTH cars.  Thank you!!

I am so blessed to have this kind of employment and the Lord was good to remind me of all of the MANY blessings I receive in various forms from the families I work with each week (as I am slightly freaking out about not having 'maternity leave' pay this time around).  It's so worth it and I wouldn't exchange what I do and who I  work with and the time I get to spend with E-man because of these families and their students!! Thank you amazing parents and students!!

April 17, 2011

New Modem

This may seem really silly, but I am SO THANKFUL for our new modem which has literally been sitting in it's box since it arrived at the end of January.  This weekend, both Ross and I were feeling fed up with the speed of our internet connection (circa 1997 dial up).  So, I decided to was time to complete the set-up process (sort of dreading a long phone call to India if I encountered any issues).  Well, once again I was found to be very grateful for the 7 easy steps I had to follow.  Within 20 minutes we once again have lightning speed connection.  Thank goodness! :) Perhaps the faster connection will inspire me to blog more often ... I suppose the jury is still out on that one.

April 5, 2011

"Do you see the beautiful clouds, Mama?"

I'm thankful for the my little dude who is learning to 'see' all that God has created around him when we go on walks together (outside!!!!!).  Today he asked me the question, "Do you see the beautiful clouds, Mama?" sort of out of nowhere.  It was adorable and I was impressed with the use of the adjective 'beautiful'.  The clouds were white, puffy, fluffy, various sizes and textures and very neat to watch today as I was pushing him along.  It was also warm and sunny (I think we climbed all the way to 54 where we live today!).  Today I am grateful for the reminder to look around at all God has created, which, let's be honest, is especially fun to do in the Spring time!! YAY!! :)

March 31, 2011

Conversations Like This ...

I am thankful for the time I have been gifted to have conversations like this ... and that my little dude asks great questions that are fun to chat about ...

(Scene: I am walking into E's room to greet him after his nap.  He is still snuggly under his covers when he asks ...)

E: "Mama, will you sleep here with me?"
Me:  "Sure buddy!"
E: "Can we talk a little bit?"
Me:  "Absolutely! What do you want to talk about bud?"
E: "What's my little brother gonna look like?"
Me: "Well I'm not sure.  What do YOU think he's gonna look like?  Do you think he might look like you?"
E: "No, he's gonna look like Uncle Joshy!"  (sigh ... so precious!)

(Side note:  We will not find out what gender of baby we're expecting until end of April/beginning of May :))

March 30, 2011


Sometimes (especially when the forecast for where I live is predicting the snowflakes for the next 2 days) it really helps to have really fun things to anticipate.   Last summer (minus a trip for just Ross and me to AZ) we stayed mostly close to home.  Summer in MN is gorgeous and we celebrated a few awesome weddings, but I really missed going to the beach (NOT the lake beach, the ocean beach).   I am thinking of creating a large paper chain to count down to our family vacations this summer.  You see, THIS summer, we have 2 really fabulous vacations we are planning for (saving for) and looking forward to very much!  Early in the summer we will be heading to CO with the Manders' family to enjoy God's creation in the mountains and a wonderful timeshare thanks to one of Jerry's relatives.  A few weeks later, my parents booked a shore house for 2 weeks in OCNJ!!  AH!!!!  I can hardly wait.  With piles of snow starring at me through my windows in these last days of March, summer is a season I am more grateful for than usual (even if it means tornado season is on its way).

March 28, 2011

Thawing Out

So about this time last year (or maybe a month earlier) I remember writing a post similar to this one.

As I have been rather grumpy about our snow and cold temperatures, I was reminded in church yesterday, about how God desires for us to be CONTINUALLY grateful (even about the weather).  It's funny because on Saturday, I watched as the thermometer climbed to 37 degrees and since the boys were not home, I decided to go on a walk, because 37 is pretty toasty for us right now.  It was beautiful (albeit a tad on the chilly side).  As I was walking, I realized I was thankful for how this weather is delaying the start of tornado season in MN.  I am also thankful the cold temperatures are slowing down the flood waters, too, which is hopefully helping out many people who live in the flood zones of all of the rivers.

Today, as I was walking back from the clubhouse/doing my walking inside on the treadmill, I heard several birds chatting back and forth and a robin flew right in front of me.  If those aren't sounds of spring, I don't know what is!  So, I am making a choice to be grateful for the chorus of birds that sang to me as I walked home this morning.  While I might not yet be able to play at the park with E or feel the warm sun on my skin or do all of my exercising outdoors, God does provide those little signs of hope through his creation.

March 17, 2011

Baby #2

Today I am thankful to be able to share the news that we are expecting Baby Manders #2 on Sept. 17, 2011 which just so happens to be my 30th birthday.  (For many reasons, as long as the health of baby is great, I would love for this child to make it's grand appearance BEFORE that date.)

I am also thankful that I have been mostly feeling okay through first trimester.  I did take a nap when E-man would nap almost every day for the first tri. and my more 'icky' feeling time of day was at night (so dinner's were a little tricky).  I think I'm through most of that though!  My energy level is stabilizing somewhat and food doesn't completely gross me out after 3 p.m. YAY!  I'm thankful for those 'signs' of pregnancy though, because I know those signs usually mean things are proceeding as normal as possible.

I am also thankful for a new OB team.  I loved my doctor for E-man.  She was great but she was a good 20 minute drive from where we live and even further from where I was working at the time.  The doctor and Nurse Practitioner I am seeing for this babe are within a 5 minute WALK from our house.

E-man is very excited about this babe and we talk about the baby in Mommy's tummy often these days.  On January 1st, he asked me if I had a baby in my tummy but asked in a rather emphatic way.  At that point, it was a possibility, but I did not know my little prophet-son was actually telling me "Mommy, you have a baby in your tummy!" E-man will be almost 3.5 by the time baby is born and while I know his world will be turned upside down in some ways, I also think he'll be at a fun stage to welcome a baby brother or sister.

Perhaps this blog explains a little bit about why I have not been blogging so much - I just have not had the energy (I would often blog during nap time or later at night - both which have been my times to slepe as of late)!  I continue to travel on my gratitude journey and when I have the extra little creative 'energy' to think about blogging, I will make sure to share my thoughts with my blog.  :) Until next time!

March 1, 2011


So, one of my friends I wish you all could know, Krista, recently decided to read the Bible in 90 days. is an extremely cool website that has all sorts of Bible reading plans on it and the website provided her iphone with an ap to complete this with even greater access to the structure and organization of the plan and it provides the daily readings right on the site, too.  She asked me if I'd consider doing this with her and I thought for one second and said yes!  Another one of my good friend's, Stephanie, has been reading through the Bible and she often brings up different situations to me to talk through and so I thought between these two girls, it would be really good for me to dig in and commit to reading through the whole thing.  OH MY GOODNESS! It is kicking my tail.  The Bible (combined with the Holy Spirit) always has something new to show me, to teach me, or to challenge me with and this time is no exception.  The irony of purchasing a new color Nook and the fact that I have not picked up a fiction book since last week has been floating through my mind. However,  I think this is a good thing and I CAN use the Nook to read on Youversion since it is wi-fi.  I'm thankful for these friend's who are challenging to me to dig into God's Word and to be accountable for reading it intentionally and with vigor.  So thank you dear friends!  I love you girls! :)

February 21, 2011

Assortment of Thankfuls

President's Day, Monday, February 21st, finds me thankful for the feeling you get when something lost is found (like our brand new digital camera).  I could write a whole post on this but I'll just say I'm glad it somehow ended up in the bottom of my Mom's purse on Friday and I'm glad she decided to explore why her purse was feeling heavy today because yesterday I tore apart my brain and my house looking for the camera.

Today also finds me grateful for unexpected days of 'rest' with Ross and E-man.  BU closed all offices and cancelled all classes today, so Ross was home and after having him gone from us for most of last week, it was a treat to have a 'surprise' long weekend.  It was also nice to have MOPS cancelled and to just chill while watching the snowflakes furiously stick themselves to our world.

I am also extremely grateful that this snow (we are at 12-15 inches in our neighborhood over the past 24 hours) will NOT be around for the next 6 months.  I was very bummed to see my clear sidewalks disappear but I know it's only a matter of weeks (vs. months) until they return and that, I think I can handle.

February 18, 2011

Friday Fun

Today I am thankful for time with my family (Josh and Ann were visiting for the morning), a fun morning of riding the Light Rail and lunch with my family (fun that Dad could join us at Aurelios - yum!).  My family was up for a little adventure and they were good sports about being out and about on a chilly February morning.  They helped me deliver a car for Ross, too, so that he can bring himself home tonight when his flight gets in late (thanks for the ride!).  I am thankful for my little dude who is SO very much enjoying anything and everything related to 'trains'.  He had a blast riding on 3 different light rail trains and we even bumped into Grandpa Jerry at the end of our ride which helped our tears to end more quickly (because who wants to get off of the train - not my E-dude!).  Here are some pictures of the fun-filled morning:
Here comes "Arrow"

He was LOVING his riding experience.

Fun times with Ann and Josh!  

February 17, 2011


Tonight I would like to thank a woman I have never met.  I have never actually even seen a picture of her, but today I played the piano and sang at her funeral.  She was a woman who was very active in her community, who loved hosting people in her home over a cup of coffee and who enjoyed canning everything and anything.  Whenever I play for events like these, I never go into them expecting anything in return, and today those expectations were blown away.  I was paid very generously for one hour of 'work' and very little preparation.  I have been slowly saving for something special, a Nook Color, and today, Ruby helped me finish off my fund and contribute a little towards my upcoming CO trip, too, I think!  Wow!  Thanks, Ruby!

February 16, 2011


E-man has quite the vocabulary going and he puts together quite complex sentences for being only 2.5 (at least I think so :)).  I'm thankful for all of the many smiles these words bring to me as he expresses his thoughts about life.  Here are just a few from the past few days.

My Mom took him to McDonald's last night for dinner while I taught a few piano lessons.  Earlier in the day, he and I had talked about going to the play land to get some wiggles out.  They ended up at a McDonald's without a play land and the boy has NOT stopped saying "Sorry about that Gamma.  We went to the wrong Old McDonald's.  Sorry about that!"  (Totally not his fault but so funny!) He has continued to apologize to ME about it even after I brought him to the play land.

While playing in the tubes at McDonald's he kept running in and out and saying to me "I'm going to my workshop now!"  (runs into tubes) (runs out) "My workshop is broken." (Me - go fix it bud!)  (Run back to tubes and then back out again) "I fixed my workshop!"  (I THINK this has to do with Psalty and his worship workshop but that's just a guess.)

He also said this to my Mom last night at dinner and then to me while we were having a tea party and then later at lunch today ... "How's your day going Mama?"  (Melt my heart!)

We were out walking today (yes, outside - PTL!) and he dropped a goldfish cracker on the street and was quite upset about it.  I told him the birds were happy and would eat it up and about 2 hours later in the car he brought up how his goldfish was being eaten by the birds.  "Mama, my goldfish eat by the birds" yes babe ... it's (most likely) true.

And the Ross Manders quote on Valentine's Day ... keep in mind, I was in the bathroom and he was in a different room.  "Mama?"  "Yes E?"  "You love my daddy?"  "Yes buddy, I do, very much!"  "Mama, you love Ross Robert?!"  (Me trying not to giggle) "Oh yes - I love Ross Robert!"  See what I mean?!  He's great.  His little mind is ALWAYS going and you never quite know what's going to come out next.

This morning, at 6:30 a.m., the first thing out of his mouth when he woke up was "Mama, I like your necklace."  (Clearly, I did not have a necklace on as we were both waking up in our PJs in our bed - yes - he slept with me last night.) I'm pretty sure he was talking about the necklace Ross and him gave to me for Valentine's Day but it was so funny - the VERY FIRST thing in the morning.

February 14, 2011

I'm grateful for quite a few things today ... so I'll play catch up, list style:

1.  2/12/2011 - I'm extremely thankful for a fun-loving, deep-thinking,  service-oriented, God-honoring, care-giving, hard-working,  all around fantastic husband and dad to E-man on his 29th birthday!
2.  I'm thankful for the friends and family who helped us to celebrate Ross this weekend by eating ice cream cake, going bowling and out for pizza, calling, texting, sending cards, etc.  We are blessed to live near to such a great network of support and encouragement and to have family and friends who live far away, who take the time to help celebrate these special days, too.
3.  Date night!  WOOHOO!  Thanks Diane Manders, for watching E-man so we could go out to celebrate Ross and Valentine's Day.
4.  46 degree weather on Sunday led to my first outdoor walk-for-exercise in many months.  I don't mind the Club House and I'm thankful for the accessibility I have to indoor exercise equipment, but I REALLY LOVE EXERCISING OUTSIDE!! YAY!!!
5.  Love ... "We love because HE first loved us." Enough said?  Happy Valentine's Day.

February 10, 2011

Leaving the house!

E-man has been puke free since Tuesday night around 10:48 p.m.  so we ventured out together today into the arctic sunshine.  It was great for both of us to escape our beautiful walls for a few hours.  He did have a few melt downs (not typical) and slept for close to 3 hours upon arriving home (also not typical), but we ventured out and still are puke free.  YAY!!!  Victory!  I'm so thankful that our bodies heal themselves - what an incredible Creator we have!

February 9, 2011

Practical Grateful

I think I have completed 7-10 loads of laundry in the past 5 days.

This does not mean all of the laundry is folded or put away but it's been washed and dried.

I am SO VERY EXTREMELY AND PROFOUNDLY GRATEFUL (Charlie and Lola anyone?!)  for our washer and dryer being on our third floor right near our bedrooms and bathrooms.  I'm grateful to own a washer and dryer, period.

February 7, 2011

Nothing Beats ...

Nothing beats waking up to a clean house after the stomach flu has hit your house.  Thank you, Ross Robert!  I am grateful for a husband who is not only not afraid to tackle any variety of household tasks but he often initiates serving our family in this way.  I am thankful for Ross's Mom and Dad who taught their kids the value of hard work and the practical skills of picking up and cleaning up. The gift of cleanliness always helps this girl's feng shui to balance creating a much happier home in general.

February 6, 2011

I Highly Recommend Following ...

I am grateful for these two blogs that allow me to see a different part of my family's lives than just chatting over the phone or via skype.  I'm glad you all joined the blogging world!  I hope you don't mind that I am sharing your great blogs with all my blogging friends! :)

My sister, Jill:

My brother Josh and his wife, Ann:

February 5, 2011


Ross and I are currently passing through one of those 'rites of parenthood'.  E-man woke up last night around 11:15 p.m. and threw up (eh-hem - HOT DOG sick sick sick TMI I know ... it was one of those 'all natural dogs from Good Earth).  Everywhere (Ross was still at his retreat).  I realized how grateful I am for Ross the second I walked in E's room and it dawned on me that I was on my own for this one.  I proceeded to clean his bed, sheets, carpet and the bathroom sink, tub and toilet since all of these were in his 'path'.  In between cleaning and changing PJs for both of us three times and managing a few more episodes and starting at least 1 (of many) load of laundry, I was grateful for snuggling time with my always-in-motion 2.5 year old.  By 1 a.m. when Ross got home and we cleaned up together about 2 more 'episodes', we laid out towels in our bed and snuggled E-man between us, figuring it was easier to manage the 'on the hour happenings' in between trying to catch some Z's if he was right with us.  It has been a weird day of laying around together, reading (me), watching movies, providing apple juice to the sick one and napping; but it has been wonderful to hold him in my arms as he fell asleep for his afternoon nap.  I realize there will come a time when he won't fit in my arms (he already barely does!) so, I'm trying to soak up this time (and refrain from gagging and joining the throw up party).

February 4, 2011


I am extremely thankful for Ross's job which is truly a very normal 8-5 type of job.  Sometimes, he finds himself back on campus late in the evening to meet with students but he is usually home right on time and for that I am very grateful.  Tonight, Ross is holding a retreat for his student leaders, so he will be out until very late (or early depending on how you look at it :)) and E-man and I have successfully survived our long day and evening together (with a little outing to the mall with G-ma to break up the day and take a ride on the train that runs around the mall).  I am thankful for a pleasant day with no 'uh oh' times and I'm thankful that these kind of long days are very rare for our family.  What a blessing to Ross so available and present with our family!

February 3, 2011

Still alive and grateful ...

I am still alive.

I am still grateful.

My brain has just been in a 'non-creative' mode and so my blogging has been lacking.  I would love to blame it on the climate of Minnesota in January but that is a lame excuse.  Perhaps I need to get more vitamin D, maybe that would inspire some deeper thoughts about life and gratitude.

Here is my simple thought for today ...

Today, I am grateful to my Mom.  She took the little dude for part of the day and it's so very quiet in my house with the 'why' question having left with E-man.  I have chores to do and cooking to accomplish in preparation for dinner guests and I'm grateful to know my son is having a great time with his Grandma while I check things off my list.  Thanks Mom!

January 17, 2011


I have been really thankful that since investing in some 'fixes' on Lily (our Saturn Ion), she has started every time I've put the key in the ignition.  Especially on a snowy, 9 piano student teaching night at 7 different homes, I'm thankful she started every time I got into her today.  I am grateful for the finances we had to make those fixes and for the technicians who worked to fix her for us.  I'm grateful she is still going strong as she approaches 100,000 miles! 

(AND E-man really likes "Lily" and always prefers to ride in her and would rather not have to ride in "Greta" the van - it's very cute that he 'knows' our cars and has a preference.)

January 8, 2011

Quote of the year

Yesterday and today, I have been reading Mary Beth Chapman's book "Choosing to See" which I very highly recommend.  Mary Beth is Steven Curtis Chapman's wife and she courageously shares the story God has entrusted to her and her family.  I have not been able to put it down.  She has so many awesome quotes at the beginning of each chapter, but this one really made me pause and I've already re-read it and memorized it just this afternoon.  I'm trying to chew on it and think on it.

"Love of God is pure when joy and suffering inspire an equal degree of gratitude." Simone Weil

I believe every person knows or has known suffering in various forms and degrees.  Right now, I have friends who are wading through really difficult situations and I have friends who are celebrating times of joy.  What would it look like if we all could express gratitude to an equal degree, whether we are in a season of joy or suffering or some combination in between?

January 7, 2011

2010 Manders' 'Favorites'

We asked E-man about his favorite 2010 memories and he basically said 'choo-choo trains'  - everything has to do with 'choo-choo trains'.  He received a wooden train table for his 2nd birthday in May which has been played with for hours upon hours.  He went to the Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum two different times.  He road on Duluth's Polar Express train at Christmas.  He also got to ride two different trains at two different malls this Christmas season (and tells me just about every day we should go to the mall to ride the blue train).  He received a Geotrax train set for Christmas and we've checked out numerous books on 'Thomas' and 'trains' from the library this year.  He really enjoys 'Dino Train' on TV and talks about the 'time tunnel' ALL of the time.  We're thankful for our parents' - on both sides - who seem to enjoy providing trains for him to play with and who also took him on some of these train adventures.  It's also fun that his big cousins like to play with Geotrax and trains, too.  I'm sure I'm missing some of his 'train' adventures, too.  We think purchasing him a 'train' ornament for his 2010 Christmas ornament makes a lot of sense! :)

In comparing memories and talking with Ross, some of our favorite 2010 memories include:

- June - Our 6 year wedding anniversary trip to Arizona (thanks again, Mom for watching the E-man!).  We'll never forget our morning walks and coming upon at least one rattle snake and a few other desert type animals. It was a relaxing time in the warm sunshine and we also scored airline vouchers which helped provide for our other travel that was coming up at the end of summer.
- Weddings! - Our 2010 included numerous FUN weddings.  Ross officiated two weddings for Bethel students we have grown to love very much (Feb. and Sept.).  We also had a blast being a part of Josh and Ann's wedding and traveling to GA for Kim and Luis' wedding.  Accompanying these weddings (and a few we couldn't get to) were bridal showers (one included a weekend in Chicago), parties, etc. to celebrate these couples'.  
-Going to Trout Lake Camp with Ross (he was the speaker for a week) was a fun time for our family.  E-man got to get lots of wiggles out as it's a large camp and you have to walk a lot to get to places (like the dining center, etc.)  E especially took a liking to visiting the goats and chickens.  It's always fun to get up to Minnesota's lake country and I didn't mind having all of our meals prepared for us by the camp chef.  Yum!
-We spent a night camping with the Manders' family near Jay Cooke State Park.  We made great memories setting up before a big thunderstorm came through, splashing in the mud puddles, hiking, playing in the freezing cold pool, and hanging out around the campfire with everyone.
- We are thankful that 2010 included my parents living just miles away from us.  We enjoyed meals together often and are thankful they enjoy and love their only grandchild so much.  They are so very good and generous to us and we have many fun and favorite memories with them from this year, too.  It was also a special year of having Josh live with them until he got married and we all got to know Ann and Josh as a couple since they were at the Ridder's quite often.  Ann's graduation from Bethel and her passing of her nursing boards is definitely up there in our 'favorite' memories of this year.  It was also fun to help with all of the wedding prep stuff this year like making wedding invitations, etc.  Lots of good memories!
-In March, I got to take a super fun trip to see Jill (and Jake and Lexi) in CO.  Jill and I meandered down to New Mexico to check out Santa Fe and had lots of fun adventures.  I so enjoyed my 'sister' time and being able to spend time with them.
-I had at least four of my close girlfriend's give birth this year.  It has been fun watching them welcome number 1 or number 2 into their families and being a part of snuggling their newborn babies.
- I (recorded) walked over 451 miles this year and played in the parks in our neighborhood about that many times :).  Some of my favorite walks included Ross and other friends (Stephanie!) who helped make the time go faster with lively dialogue.
-I read at least 73 books from NY Times Best-sellers to parenting to worship to Christian fiction.  I love to read and I don't know think I can pick out ONE 'favorite' book from this past year.  
-Attending the BGC's Church Planters Assessment Center was very good for our marriage and personal/spiritual development and we're slowly working through the steps they recommended to us as we continue to seek God's will for our family and ministry.  I think we were both reminded how central the Gospel message needs to be in our lives, worship and church.  We look forward to seeing how God will continue to use this very intense but meaningful time in our lives.
-Being hired by Saint Louis Park Evangelical Free Church as their traditional service worship leader and choir accompanist has been a blast!  I started out in a more interim/temporary position but have moved into more permanency this fall.  I really do receive great satisfaction from being able to use my years of training in the worship realm.  I also enjoy having a place to actually PLAY the PIANO!  YAY!  It's been a really neat blessing to make new friends and be a part of this body of Christ.  God's doing great things and I'm excited to see how He will continue to mold that community more and more to reflect His own image to the surrounding community.  (Side note:  Leading at Park Free has also confirmed what I believe to be SO true ... the ONLY thing 'relevant' is worship is the GOD who we worship.  The style of music and the instruments used are only a means to an end.  I am so TIRED of the church trying to 're-define' worship as being 'the 'modern' music, the lights, the guitar and the guy leader'.  No offense people but really ... the trinity and the Word of God and all of it's beauty are what we need to be ascribing worth to with our congregations - beyond that it's all just 'details'.  I honestly believe a person of any age could walk into a service at Park Free and have a real encounter with God because HE is the focal point of everything we strive to do and it doesn't matter if it's piano and organ led as long as the Spirit of the Lord is present and working through the Church!! I am grateful for this being solidified even further in my heart this year.  (END a mini-soap box moment)) Ross has also enjoyed having the chance to lead worship once a month at Cornerstone church.  He has enjoyed breaking out the guitar and being a part of the ministry there - God has certainly provided ways for us to use our musical gifts this year after a season of rest in that area.
- Especially in this economy, both Ross and I have continued to be grateful for our employment.  Ross continues to enjoy his job at Bethel and I continue to enjoy teaching piano and expanding my private studio.  It is really something to be thankful for that we actually LIKE going to work and doing what we do.  We are also grateful for the help we have watching E-man from our parents'.  We have received so much support from them and we are very thankful.
-While this is not necessarily a favorite memory (although it's certainly one we will NEVER forget), I am thankful Ross made it through his kidney stone episode and I'm grateful we have insurance that takes care of a large percentage of all of the medical bills.  While we have some bills that feel a little bit uncomfortable to our budget, we're trying to keep it in perspective and continue to be thankful for coverage we have. I can now very clearly see how this would completely ruin our financial situation if we didn't have health insurance.
-We have both thoroughly enjoyed watching our boy go from 1.5 to 2.5 this year.  What a fun year it's been!  So much development has taken place in the way he talks, plays, interacts with people and expresses himself.  We are just very extremely thankful for E-man and the crazy amounts of joy and laughter he brings to our lives.  It's amazing to also see how he loves Jesus and praising Jesus and talking about the Bible and God.  What an incredible thing to watch him grow and develop in his spiritual life.  It's just really quite a privilege to be a part of his life.  We are so grateful for him!