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.

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!