Friday, December 31, 2010

Core Story

"Prompt: Core story.

What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Bonus: Consider your reflections from this month. Look through them to discover a thread you may not have noticed until today.)"  (Author:  Molly O'Neill)

Gratitude and Joy have been my core story for the last few years.  Which is fun - because I'm currently reading a book by Brene Brown, "The Gifts of Imperfection" - that talks about how people who live with joy are people who practice gratitude.  So true.  I couldn't agree more.

A couple of years ago, after going through a health scare, I realized how blessed I am with my life.  My family, friends, home, church, etc, etc.  I had things to be thankful for everyday.  Even the dark, ugly days.  There was - and is - always something to be thankful for.

I started this blog as a way to record my thoughts and experiences - and to remember to write out the things I am thankful for each day.  Sounds silly to write them down - but it makes a HUGE difference in my life.  I spend my day looking around and noticing things I am thankful for.  I begin or end my day looking over the last 24 hours and thinking about the ups and downs, and recognizing the moments that made a difference. 

This practice of recording my gratitude has made me a new person.  I'm not as cynical and sarcastic as I used to be.  I don't expect the worst all the time.  I look for the good in people and situations.  Life is more fun.  More relaxed.  More joy-filled.

If I could make one recommendation to everyone I know, to help make their life more joyful?  Write down what you are thankful for EVERY DAY.  It'll make a difference.  I promise.

Happy New Year!

Things I am thankful for today:
1.  2010 was a great year.  Maybe one of the best.
2.  Looking forward to 2011 with all kinds of goals and plans!
3.  Coffee with John R.  So fun to catch up!
(This is John, looking very philosophical...  We were having a deep, intellectual conversation. Yep.  Something like that.  Ha ha ha.)
4.  The hubby and I both home for the day.
5.  Taking homemade soup to my parents (they're both sick).  A fun surprise visit.
6.  Crab legs for dinner!
7.  A quiet New Year's Eve at home.  After a busy holiday season, this is lovely.
8.  The game "Sequence."
9.  Bailey's Irish Cream.  Yum.
10.  Neighborhood fireworks at midnight!

Thursday, December 30, 2010


"Prompt: Gift.

This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What's the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year?"  (Author: Holly Root)

Sooo...  The date on this post says "December 30, 2010" but I'm really doing some catch up posts and am typing this on January 2, 2011.  I tell you this because the gift I'm going to speak of started on Sunday, January 3, 2010 and continued today.

Over the last couple of years, there have been times when I've wondered what my life is supposed to be about.  If I end up not having my own kids, what is the point of my life?  How will I contribute to the world, make the world a better place, leave a legacy?  We all ask these questions...  But I think many can answer with, "I raised good kids.  They're good people.  They'll do good things and make the world better."

But if you don't have kids...  What's that leave you with?

Last January, I was going to be home for the first Sunday of January.  At our church, our pastor does a "Blessing Service" on this day. We start the New Year knowing we are prayed over and blessed.  Since last year was the first one I was going to be present for, my pastor invited me to help doing the blessings.

The way it works, is people come forward and serve themselves communion, then walk to Pastor Penny, Reverend Terry, or myself.  They hand us a card with their names and any prayer requests they have (the names are more for visitors or in case we get flustered - for the most part, our congregation is small enough, that we know everyone's names).  Then, the pastors or I get to hug, hold hands, and pray a blessing on each person individually.

It's SUCH a beautiful way to start the year.  And it's SUCH a gift to be asked to be part of it.

I realized last year, as I blessed people one by one, that I was trusted and loved - and that's why some people chose me as the person to bless them.  And as the year went on, many of those same people have continued to let me in on their struggles - to continue listening, blessing, and loving them through the tough times.  This congregation has allowed me to do things in ministry I never thought I would do.  They let me lead them to new opportunities, they believe in me and my crazy ideas, they love me through tough times, and they walk with me in faith.

As I prayed with and blessed friends and strangers today, listening to the struggles of their lives (whether it be a job loss, parenting struggles, family drug abuse, caring for parents with alzheimers, the loss of loved ones, or simply looking for guidance), tears came to my eyes when they hugged me back, squeezed my hand, and told me I was a blessing to them, too...  That is a gift that can never be forgotten. 

Knowing that God can use me in ways I never imagined.  Knowing that I will have a legacy, I will make a difference in the world - even if it is one person and one moment at a time. 

Today was a gift.  A gift that I hope I get to replay every first Sunday in January for a very long time...

Things I am thankful for today:

1.  God's presence in my life.
2.  Not knowing how and when God will use me - the surprise is half the fun!
3.  The honor of praying with and blessing others.
4.  The wonderful blessings that were prayed on me by Kate, Penny, Terry, and Dawn.
5.  Excitement over the book group selection for January!  (I have to order more books!)
6.  A memorial service for Linda B. today - such fun listening to stories about her life.
7.  Mark telling me his plan for his $5 challenge - so fun!
8.  A 2 hour nap.  Boy did I need that!
9.  Looking forward to seeing Em, Elly, and Sam tomorrow.
10.  Ken's 85th birthday!  Amazing!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Defining Moment

"Prompt: Defining moment.

Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year."  (Author:  Kathryn Fitzmaurice)

1.  Reading the book, "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" by Donald Miller.  The idea of choosing my life story - and beginning to make choices everyday in order to live it out - has changed the way I live.  It sparked a lot of thinking and examining the things I'm afraid of - and how to get over the silly fears and insecurities in order to make a positive difference in the world.

2.  Going to the "Storyline" Conference in Portland, Oregon - based on Donald Miller's book.  I took a big risk with money, traveling with a new friend, going to a city I've never been to - all to see if I could further my understanding of the book and see if I could start applying it to my life in new ways.  It paid off!  A friendship was deepened, I fell in love with Portland, the money is (mostly) being refunded, and the inspiration of the conference has affected my personal life - as well as the congregation I work in!

3.  One of the biggest things that has, so far, been lived out because of the conference is our congregation's willingness to do the "Living a Better Story" challenge - another way of making a positive difference in the world!  Each person that was in worship on one Sunday was given $5 to make a difference in someone's life.  We've heard about 30 stories so far - and it seems to just keep inspiring people to look outside themselves and see the needs of our community and world!  So cool.

This has been the year of thinking about what I want my story to be...  and looking at how I can achieve it.  There's more work to be done - but I think I'm on a postive path!  I can't wait to see what happens next!

Things I am thankful for:

1.  Donald Miller - his writing inspires me to be a better person.
2.  Stories - they make the world go round!
3.  Courage to share our stories - it's how we learn and grow.
4.  People inspiring people inspiring people inspiring people...
5.  Taking risks.
6.  Dinner last night with my friend, Marnie.  So fun!
7.  Mariachi bands.  Too funny.
8.  The hubby got to take our nephew, Brandon, snowboarding for the first time last night - and they both made it home in one piece!
9.  Travel shows.  Makes me want to go visit more amazing places!
10.  Today, Brandon was so worn out from last night's snowboarding that he and Bailey needed a nap...
11.  Bailey made all kinds of nap-buddies this week!  Evan enjoyed her company, too...
12.  Safe travels home from Milwaukee.
13.  My own bed!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


"Prompt: Achieve.

What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today."  (Author: Tara Sophia Mohr)

Connection.  I'm hoping, in the next year, to find ways to connect to my family, my neighborhood, the community I live in, my work community, new and old friends, and to the larger world.  I want to deepen relationships, form new relationships, and find ways to continue bringing kindness and respect into our world.

I've started some small steps this past year - and am ready to make this the focus of the new year!  I'm looking forward to laughing with new friends, listening and empathizing with old friends, being inspired by the wonderful people that surround me, and continuing to be amazed at how we affect one another - and pass it on!

Here are 10 steps I am taking to begin living with a deeper sense of CONNECTION:

1.  Boom Boom cards!  An "intentional kindness kit" - very cool.  I'm starting it this week!
2.  Beginning a new volunteering position at The Listening House.  I'm so excited!
3.  Looking for a yoga class - good for the soul, body, and hopefully meeting some new people in my community.
4.  Looking for a book group that meets in the town where I live.
5.  Re-joining Weight Watchers.  (I have to admit, the meetings do have a sense of community for those of us struggling with similar issues!)
6.  Being intentional about seeing friends and family on a regular basis.
7.  Being intentional about continuing to reach out to our neighbors - a spring party of yard games and BBQ may be in the works!
8.  Continuing to find new connections through the blogging world.
9.  Being more intentional about talking with strangers!
10.  Continuing daily reading and writing on this blog - it challenges me to think about and be grateful for the life I have and the choices I make...  It gives me the courage to put goals and desires into words - and make plans to acheive them!

So there we go!  CONNECTION is my word of the year - and my goal of the year.  And I think my 10 steps to getting there are my 10 things I am thankful for today!

What is your goal for the year?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ordinary Joy

"Prompt: Ordinary joy.

Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year?"  (Author: Brene Brown)

The first thing that popped into my head?  Sledding last winter.

I had arranged for a few of my youth group kids - and their parents - to go out to lunch after worship and head to a nearby sledding hill one Sunday afternoon...  Fully intending to let them have all the fun.

I did part of my growing up in Ohio winters - wet and slushy.  Dad would take us sledding occasionally - and besides being terrified of going down hills at fast speeds and not being able to control anything about the experience until I was thrown into the snow...  It was cold.  And wet.  And yucky.  I hated it.

Then we moved to Southern California and I figured I would never have to endure the ickiness of sledding again.  Thank God.

Nope.  We moved to Minnesota a year and half later.  But, I'm pretty sure I got out of every sledding adventure through junior high and high school....  I don't remember sledding through those years.

And I know I never went sledding in college.

So I thought I was done worrying about it.  Until I planned this silly day with my youth group kids.  What was I thinking?  Well...  I was thinking I would be the chaperone - there to keep everyone safe and warm and in good spirits.  And take lots of pictures.

But then the parents decided to join us.  And my hubby.  And I should have known I was doomed.

We weren't there 15 minutes, when I started being pressured to go down the hill.  I held my own for awhile - until little Tommy offered to let me use his sled "because you can steer it the best - and it has brakes!"

Oh.  All right.  I jumped on.  Hubby and I went down the hill together - and I screamed the whole way.  I'm sure everyone else on the hill thought, "who's the crazy lady?!"

It's me.  Just little ol me.

Guess what?  I LOVED sledding!  We went down a couple more times...  Until I couldn't climb UP the hill anymore.  And last Christmas, "Santa" brought my hubby two sleds so we could do it again!

Such a silly little thing.  Something I spent years dreading and avoiding - because of silly little fears and insecurities.  I think that one day on the hill sparked a tiny bit of courage in me - that managed to follow me into other situations throughout the year...  Other silly fears have started to "melt" too.

That alone is worth a huge amount of JOY!

Things I am thankful for today:

1.  Good peer pressure.
2.  The generosity and compassion of young boys.
3.  Taking risks.
4.  Screams turning into uncontrollable laughter.
5.  Getting a lot done on my mother-in-law's kitchen project.
6.  The hubby and I working well as a team.
7.  Getting to see Renee and Matt, from college!
(Pizza boxes?!  Long story...)
8.  Getting to meet Fernando - so fun!
9.  Ginger ale.
10.  Hot showers.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Soul Food

"Prompt: Soul food.

What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul?"  (Author:  Elise Marie Collins)

That one's easy!  Indonesian food in Amsterdam opened a whole new world of food for me!

On our first night in Amsterdam (after a very rough morning of no sleep, not being able to check in to our hotel room and nap or shower, and a rainy day - so not much sightseeing to keep our minds off no sleep!), we were about to go out to dinner with a group of people from our tour group - and were recommended an Indonesian restaurant down the street.  After our experiences so far that day, I wasn't sure that I was up for trying something quite so new to my taste palate or stomach already...  But decided, "what the heck?!"

Ohmygoodness.  It was fabulous!  The tastes of curry, coconut, warm spices, peanut sauces, and exotic smells - I loved everything I tried!  Throughout the rest of our trip I looked for similar foods - but nothing came close to that first night.

When we returned to the states, I started looking into where I could get similar food and found that Indian cuisine was probably the closest I was going to get in my city.  So, one night out with a friend, we went to an Indian restaurant in St Paul.  I ordered cocount curry shrimp - and was in Heaven!

Mmm...  my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

We go out for Indian food regularly now.  I even get little Indian meals at Trader Joe's when I'm really craving just a little.

I've always been adventurous with food - but now I'm ready to keep trying various ethnic cuisines!  I know there's a little Vietnamese place in town that gets rave reviews from friends of ours...  That might be next on the list!

Things I am thankful for today:

1.  All the things we learn and share with other cultures - including food!
2.  An adventurous stomach.
3.  Taste buds - so many wonderful sensations through those little guys!
4.  Travel.
5.  Recommendations from friends and strangers.
6.  Going with my sister-in-law to look at bridesmaid dresses - so nice to be included!
7.  Our nephew's help with a big project at my mother-in-law's house.
8.  Our niece trying on a flower girl dress - too cute!
9.  Apples to Apples - such a fun game!  (We played after breakfast this morning!)
10.  Kayla's birthday!  Happy day little sis! 

Saturday, December 25, 2010


"Prompt: Photo - a present to yourself.

Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you."  (Author: Tracey Clark)

This is me, in Alaska, this summer.  I was visiting my sister in Anchorage and we took a day to go picnic in Hatcher's Pass.  It was a bit of a dreary day - but sometimes I think the gray sky can make the greens of the grass and trees "pop"!  This place was beautiful in an eerie way - I loved it!

We had our picnic and went for a walk - exploring and laughing at the funny little animals we found along the way.  Fin, my niece, was in her element - stomping in puddles, picking up sticks, leading the way.

It was a great day and I wanted to capture my happiness - so I turned the camera on myself.

I love exploring new places, living in the moment, finding beauty in the gray days, and spending time with those I love.  I like this picture of my big smile - it's how I want to live!

And today is Christmas!  We left my parents' house bright and early this morning to head to Milwaukee to celebrate with the Hubby's family...  Off we go!

Merry Christmas!

Today I am thankful for:

1.  Christmas!
2.  Cinnamon rolls.
3.  Coffee.
4.  Being organized and ready to go.
5.  Having a blanket, a pillow, and my dog to nap with in the car.
6.  Playing "Apples to Apples" with the in-laws!
7.  Cheese and crackers.
8.  The kids' anticipation at opening presents.  Too funny.
9.  No work.  No calls.  No computer.  Nice.
10.  Bailey's Irish Cream.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Everything's OK

"Prompt: Everything's OK.

What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?"  (Author: Kate Inglis)

Well, today is Christmas Eve - and is there a better time to truly believe everything will be alright?

Tonight at church we will sing old hymns and carols, we will listen to people sing solos of "Holy Night" and "What Shall I Give?"  We will laugh with the children, think about what that night must have been like so long ago as the pastor shares a story, and will stand in awe and reverence when the candles are lit and we sing "Silent Night."

There will be hugs to friends we rarely see, laughter with friends we share our weeks with, tears from those who struggle with this time of year, and heartfelt "Merry Christmas!" being said - with a twinkle in our eyes.

After church, the hubby and I will head to my parents' house - where there will be delicious appetizers, sugary goodies, a fire in the fireplace, a candle lit to remind us we are missed when we are not there...  We will exchange presents with "Ooooos and Aaahs", hugs and thank yous.  We'll call my sister and think of those not with us...  And we'll be grateful for the blessings of family and friends.

I can't think of a better time to take a look around and realize that everything will be alright.  Celebrating the gift of God's love in human form.  Celebrating community, friends, and family.  Celebrating the big and small blessings that surround us everyday...  Everything IS alright - better than alright. 

Life is good.

Merry Christmas!

Today I am thankful for:

1.  Breakfast with my hubby and Amanda!
2.  A day off with the hubby.
3.  Being finished with ALL baking for the year!
4.  Our church.  It's the only place I wanted to worship this year.
5.  Being called "The Glamour Couple" at church - now that's enough to make me laugh out loud!
6.  The enthusiasm of little kids on Christmas.
7.  Skyping with the Bilchuks!  (Singing Jingle Bells 30 times, and Fin's "It's not over yet!")
8.  New Boggs boots!  (Good job Hubby.  Thanks for helping him, Em!)
9.  Being there for a friend when needed - even if it's just to give her a hug and stay with her for a bit.
10.  A REAL fire in the fireplace...  It smells so good!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Name

"Prompt: New name.

Let's meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?"  (Author: Becca Wilcott)

 Oh dear.  No idea.

When I was a little kid, I wanted the name "Penny."  Every time the neighbor kids played house or Barbies - my character was always "Penny."  (I bet my boss would find this funny...)

Then, as I got a little older, I wanted the name "Sam."  I loved the character "Jo" from "Facts of Life" - her tom-boyish, no-nonsense way of dealing with life. So, I wanted a cool "boy's name" too.  I picked Sam because I liked "Samantha" too.  (And eventually, one of my best girlfriends in college was a cool chick named Sam!)

But slowly...  I started realizing that my name wasn't as stupid as I originally thought.  When I was younger, I thought "Megan" was such a childish name (and could never imagine myself as an adult with that name!)...  But sometime in my 20s, I decided it fit me.  Friends have called me "Meg" and "Megs" and I like both of those nicknames - but all in all, "Megan" fits.

No need to change it.  Not even for one day.

Things I am thankful for today:

1.  Open Sanctuary last night - I was asked to do a special one for people who needed a little quiet time during the holidays... so I did.  And no one came.  Oh well - it was a peaceful night for me!
2.  Finding comfort in yourself.
3.  Em had a baby boy yesterday!  Welcome to the world, Sam!  (And, oh, how I like that name!)
4.  Amanda's visit tonight!
5.  A fun night out - great food, great company, great music, and a picturesque snowy night!
6.  I love being in the city on a snowy night...  So pretty.
7.  Amanda and my hubby get along so well.  So fun to hang out with them both!
8.  A wonderful night's sleep.
9.  Loving this time of year.
10.  Tomorrow is Christmas Eve!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


"Prompt: Travel.

How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?"  (Author: Tara Hunt)

A few years ago, this would have been a sad question for me.  I've always loved to travel, and for a few years... there just wasn't much happening.  But this year was a fun one!  A couple of trips for work, and a couple of trips for fun.  That's what I call a well-balanced year!

In March, we spent ten days traveling through Amsterdam, Belgium, and Paris. 
(Windmills in Amsterdam.)
(Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium.)
(A wine-tasting in Paris.)

In June, I went on a mission trip with my church to Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota.  (Including a drive through the Badlands and a stop at Wall Drug!)

In July, I was fortunate to go visit my sister and her family in Anchorage, Alaska.  I can't wait to get back again in 2011!

In September, I went on an amazing trip to Portland, Oregon with a friend - a spontaneous trip to attend a conference hosted by a favorite author.  In many ways, it's been part of a shift in my life...  A trip I wouldn't have missed for the world!

And in October, the hubby and I took a quick weekend to Minnesota's North Shore - a little camping, hiking, and sight-seeing in one of my favorite places!

For 2011, this is what is planned:

1)  My sister-in-law's wedding in Milwaukee in May.
2)  A Family Reunion on my Dad's side in Colorado in June.
3)  Another mission trip to Rosebud Reservation in July.
4)  Hopefully, another trip to Alaska in August.
5)  A trip to the "Blue Like Jazz" movie premiere in Portland in the fall?
6)  And for our passport stamp?  A trip across the border to Thunder Bay Canada...  maybe.

Sounds like a great year to me!

Things I am thankful for today:

1.  The ability to travel.
2.  The memories of new places and great people!
3.  Learning new things about culture and life when you're able to experience new places, foods, customs, and people.
4.  Safe travels.
5.  A job that provides the resources for traveling.
6.  Friends and family that have the same curiousity and sense of adventure!
7.  The ability to pack light and smart.
8.  Being able to see a place on tv or in a movie and say, "I've been there!"
9.  The excitement of looking forward to new trips.
10.  A trip to Milwaukee coming up this week to see in-laws and old friends!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Future Self

"Prompt: Future self.

Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead?"  (Author: Jenny Blake)

Oh dear...  I've never been very good at imagining these past-present-future time continuums...  But I'll give it a try!

Dear Self,

Man, life sure does go by faster as we get older, doesn't it?  I used to think that was an cheesy sentiment...  But now I'm realizing how true it is.  It seems like yesterday I was playing Barbies with my next door neighbor; too anxious to fall asleep on Christmas Eve for fear of missing Santa's visit; dealing with the ups and downs of junior high politics; going on a first date; leaving for college...  Meeting the love of my life; experiencing my first "real" job; getting my first apartment; getting married; establishing a home.

When I was a kid, I was never really able to picture any of that happening...  Like that was someone else's life, but mine would always stay the same.  And yet, I couldn't wait!

Now, I'm all grown up.  We're all grown up, I guess.  You have another interesting five years ahead of you - but you'll be fine.  You've been through some pretty big ups and downs in your life - and you always make it through with the love of family and friends, and a faith that sustains.  Keep doing your gratitude journal daily - that will help when things get rough.  Spend as much time as you can with those you love - you never know when they won't be there anymore...  And keep taking risks - from where I stand now (5 years later), you've made some great strides!  You have new interests and hobbies, new friends, and have traveled to wonderful new places!  Mike and you are loving life - so enjoy every moment.

In fact, choose to make memorable moments.  Don't let a day be too ordinary to remember it.  Be silly.  Exude joy.  Take risks.  Dance.  Laugh.  Cry.  Give.  Starting with New Year's Day - do something crazy.  Make it memorable....  As I write this, I know you'll do just that.

And last but not least - take care of yourself.  Body, mind, and soul.  Allow yourself to be who God created you to be - flaws and all.  Stop struggling to be things you are not - no one is perfect.  Enjoy your own gifts and talents, accentuate the positive, and love yourself - as God does (and so many other people!).  You're worth it.

Merry Christmas, Megan!
An Older and Wiser Megan...

Things I am thankful for today:

1.  Remembering to bring gifts and cookies to work!
2.  Our staff Christmas lunch - so fun!
3.  Butternut squash soup.
4.  A gift of a little dish that says "I am blessed" - so sweet!
5.  A good meeting.
6.  Book Group Christmas dinner!
7.  Laughter.
8.  Origami - so beautiful!
9.  More sweets finding their way to my desk...  Oh the torture!
10.  Texting with my dad about Christmas.  Cute.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Torch

"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.  Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."
--Albert Schweitzer

"I have never had the chance to thank some of the people who have jumpstarted my life when I needed it most.  An art teacher who taught me to play guitar, my godmother who knew I was in love.  Who are your people?  A parent?  A character in a movie?  A stranger?  Even a pet?  They may not even know what they have done for you, and maybe it's not something that bears directly thanking them.  We can still give thanks in a profound way for the facets of our lives that simply would never be possible without these singular, special people.

"Gratitude functions best when amplified through action.  Even if I never do get back in touch with that teacher, I have a chance to pass that spark of creativity to someone else who might be aching for it.  I have a chance to spread the flame in me to others who feel like they're just going to smolder and sputter forever.  When my spark goes out again one day, as I'm sure it will, I can trust that someone will come through and help me reignite it."
--Mina Parker, from "Less is More"

Things I am thankful for today:

1.  A productive work day at home.
2.  Catching up on my blog!
3.  Emergen-C.  I'm really fighting to stay healthy for the week!
4.  Updating our anniversary book - kind of fun to look back at our last 2 years of marriage.
5.  The hubby's excitement over the snow - and working a half day so he can get snowboarding!
6.  Being interviewed for a local paper about our "Living a Better Story" at church.  Cool!
7.  Fresh snow - so pretty!
8.  Finishing the baking.  Nice.
9.  Wrapping the hubby's present - finally!
10.  Getting "the darkest night of my life" out of the way tonight!  (Ha ha ha - the lunar eclipse and the winter solstice fall on the same night - for the first time since 1638.  Crazy!)

Sunday, December 19, 2010


"Prompt: Healing.

What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011?"  (Author:  Leoni Allan)

I think this blog continues to be a source of healing for me...  A place to record what I am thankful, to write down thoughts and feelings about things currently happening - or things I am looking forward to in the future, to reminisce about the past and record memories, a place to laugh and cry, a place to make new friends and connect with old friends, a place to begin discussions about the meaning of life - and keep them going!

All of these things keep me from being cynical and negative about the things that challenge me. When things get rough, I force myself to look on the bright side - and life does get easier!  When I'm down, someone always comes through to cheer me up!  When I look back on old posts, I'm reminded of all the amazing things I have been privileged to experience - and realize what a great life I have!  I'm reminded of the beautiful people in my life.  And sometimes, it's even a way to remind myself of the faith that sustains me.

For many, the idea of a blog seems silly and self-promoting.  For me, it's been a tool towards growth and gratitude - and love of life!  It's a reminder everyday to sit down, count my blessings, and record those moments and things I've learned that I don't want to forget...  It's a gift to me and for me - and it heals me bit by bit everyday.

Things I am thankful for today:

1.  Our church choir's Christmas performance - nice work!
2.  Doing a nativity scene scavenger hunt with the little kids at church - too funny!
3.  My confirmation class - so fun!
4.  Going to see "Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" - I loved it!
5.  Lunch with a youth group kid and my hubby - very fun!
6.  Buying our dog her Christmas present...  Ha ha ha.
7.  The final presents are wrapped and sent.  Uffda.
8.  Making reservations for a fun night out on Thursday.
9.  Watching "Toy Story 3" - I didn't cry!  But it was cute - and good.
10.  More snow is on its way!

Saturday, December 18, 2010


"Prompt: Try.

What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn't go for it?" (Author: Kaileen Elise)

Hmmm...  Something I wanted to try in 2010 was eating more whole foods and less processed foods - and we've been having a lot of fun experimenting with this!  We bought a bread machine and haven't purchased bread from the store since last February.  So cool!  I can now make several kinds of sandwich breads, yummy dinner rolls, a nice pizza crust, and many recipes for all kinds of sweet breads and dessert breads ready to try!

In this endeavor to eat more whole, local foods we've also discovered the joy of visiting the Farmers' Market every week.  It became a regular Saturday morning adventure to head into St. Paul for the market - getting our veggies, meat, and dairy for the week.  I loved talking to the vendors, bumping into friends, learning about the ways foods are grown - and where, and I loved finding new recipes to try so that we can use up our fresh produce!  The whole thing was a learning experience!
(A whole meal straight from the farmer's market!)

The last part of our fresh food adventure was learning to can.  I spent many days this summer canning strawberry jams (my favorite is Strawberry Vanilla - Mmmm), blueberry sauce (From blueberries I picked myself!  That was a new experience, too!), three kinds of salsa, and a jalapeno jelly!  It's all delish!  I can't wait to try new recipes next summer!

So last year's "try something new" ended up turning into LOTS of new things - and new things that I will continue to do, and to build upon.  So fun!

As for this coming year...  My goal is try lots of new "social" things.  My hubby and I are on a mission to get more involved in the community where we live and make more friends that live closer to us and are interested in similar things.  I don't really have steps laid out to accomplish this yet...  But it is our goal!  We'll see where it takes us...  I'm sure there will be some good stories along the way... 

Today I am thankful for:

1.  The ability to get lots done!
2.  A hubby who helps do errands while I bake.
3.  No headache today!
4.  Hugs when I'm frustrated.
5.  Delivering cookies and presents to Em, Jeremy, and Elly!  So fun!
6.  Getting to see Em's parents!
7.  AMAZING Christmas lights!  You can see this tree from across the river!  Whoa.  (Mom - you MUST go see!)
8.  Leftovers for dinner. Perfect.
9.  Another night to cuddle by the fire.
10.  Talking about the future.  So fun!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lesson Learned

"Prompt: Lesson learned.

What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?"  (Author:  Tara Weaver)

I think I was surprised to find out that I can lead and inspire other people through talking about my own challenges and actions!
I don't exactly think of myself as doing anything unusual or having a life that is anything but ordinary...  Yet, at work (at a church), when I talk about pushing myself outside of my comfort zone - other people tell me that it inspired them to do something similar! When I share a challenge I made for myself to reach out to others in a practical way - I hear stories of other people being inspired to do the same!  When I share my own ways of talking about faith and living with faith - I'm surprised to learn of other people seeing what works for them, and then reporting back to me!
It's been a wonderful year of feeling validated for all the ways I try to "put myself out there" in order to lead, teach, and grow.  For the first time, I don't feel like just a kid anymore - I feel like I do have something to share, I am worth listening to, and I LOVE the challenge of figuring out the best way to go about it!
My lesson? It's cool to be a grown-up.  Ha ha ha.  It's easy to look at birthdays and new years as another step to getting older...  More responsibilities, more problems, more ickiness.  But, I'm happy to be the age I am - because with it comes experience, wisdom, and having stories to share.
I like being a person that has a life to share - and always seeking people to share it with!
Things I am thankful for today:
1.  A year of growth.
2.  The realization that people see me for me - and trust what I have to say!
3.  A morning of rest.
4.  A day of baking, baking, baking!
5.  Choosing to stay home tonight.
6.  Cozying up by the fire after dinner.
7.  The hubby's help with Christmas prep!
8.  The hubby telling me to stop for the night, and relax.
9.  Emergen-C.
10.  Loving who I am and where I am at this moment in my life.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


"Prompt: Friendship.

How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?"  (Author:  Martha Mihalick)

I have some pretty incredible, brave ladies in my life.  For the life of me, I couldn't think of one person who has changed my view on the world - but they have ALL inspired me this year!

Some are breaking out and trying new things - pushing themselves to take risks and push themselves beyond their comfort zones.

Some are changing the world with their compassion and generosity!

Some are choosing joy and thankfulness!

Some are making the world a better place by being amazing mothers to their young kids - my heart just breaks open with joy when I see their love and devotion surrounding these beautiful children!

Some are starting new jobs, going back to school, moving to new places, making new commitments...  It all takes courage and guts!  And they do it with grace!

I'm inspired all the time at the people I surround myself with - at the grace and joy with which they jump into life.  They continually challenge me to be a better person - and I love them for it.

Things I am thankful for today:

1.  The beautiful friendships I am blessed with.
2.  Inspiration.
3.  Finding joy and laughter when feeling down.
4.  Caroling!  Our church group went tonight - so fun!
5.  Singing - I may not be a good singer, but it still feels good to do!
6.  Long underwear - was key for comfort tonight.
7.  Coming home to a warm dinner straight from the oven.  Thanks, hubby!
8.  Bunches of red, cheerful poinsettias!
9.  Cookies...
10.  Cuddling up for a movie...  So nice.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

5 Minutes

"Prompt: 5 minutes.

Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010." (Author: Patti Digh)

1)  Finding out my church (and employer) wants to keep me on full-time!  What a relief and a joy!
2)  Nights at Open Sanctuary and the night of our Prayer Vigil - seeing the power of prayer in so many people's lives... and growing in my own prayer life.
3)  Making new friends on our trip to Europe. Especially listening to Jim and Vera's stories of how they fell in love almost 50 years ago... and seeing the twinkle still in their eyes!
4)  Spending my birthday in Belgium!  The morning in Brussels, a lunch of Belgian waffles and frites!  Having our tour group sing happy birthday to me in the square outside our hotel in Bruges.  Drinks and exploring with new friends, a quiet romantic dinner with the hubby, and getting lost in the circular streets of Bruges on the way back to the hotel...  Wonderful memories!
5)  Standing on the Eiffel Tower, looking out at the Paris lights - beautiful.
6)  Standing in the St. Chappelle chapel - as the sun pours through the amazing stained glass windows!
7)  My first Indonesian meal in Amsterdam - Yum-o!
8)  My church surprising me for my birthday with kind notes, presents, cake, and visitors...  So fun!
9)  Having my family over for an "authentic" Irish St. Patty's Day meal - so fun to prepare and eat!
10)  The many times I got to visit with my goddaughter, Elly - and how she squeals and giggles when she sees me.  Does anything feel any better than that?
11)  Spending time getting to know the farmers market this year - cooking all kinds of fresh meals, canning yummy jams, salsas, and jellies, and learning to make my own breads, rolls, and pizza dough!  So fun to have fresh food in the house!
12)  Singing "Amazing Grace" with my youngest sister, Kayla, at her last all-school high school choir concert (all the alumni are invited up for the last song).  Very cool.
13)  A mission trip to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota - a wonderful group of women, an amazing place, a lovely day spent with elementary kids tutoring them in reading, a sweat lodge ceremony, and a visit to the Badlands and Wall Drug...  Very fun!
14)  A visit from my blogging friend, Andrea - sharing Open Sanctuary with her, talking about books and family, going out for pizza, chatting over breakfast... and being sad when she had to leave!  (You just never know where new friends will pop up!)
16)  Spending TWO fun weekends with Amanda this summer!  Exploring the Twin Cities, exciting nights out, fun mornings lazing around and chatting...  So fun.
17)  Visits from Em and Elly for time at the pool!  So fun to share it with two of my favorite people!
18)  My visit to Alaska...  So cool.  Loved time with my sister and her family, loved giggling with Fin, loved seeing the beauty of the mountains, the water, and the animals!  Best moment, though?  Standing on the wildlife/glacier cruise with my sister, laughing at the cold wind and the sheer awesomeness of the experience - and probably the first day we've had for just the two of us in YEARS!
19)  Blueberry picking for the first time.  At an absolutely STUNNING farm - gardens, rolling hills of beauty, the river near by.  Amazing.  Can't wait to go back!  (And the blueberries were delicious!)
20)  My trip to Portland with Jill.  Sitting in the "Storyline" conference, listening to Don Miller speak, being so inspired and realizing there is so much more for my life, and wondering what my story is...  A weekend full of looking forward - and enjoying it with a new friend!
21)  Throwing a Halloween cook-out for our neighbors - so fun to meet each other and spark some fun new relationships!  (It took a lot of guts for me to go through with this - a great first step in reaching out!)
22)  An evening with my friend, Em, working on her Halloween costume - amidst lots of giggles and girl talk.  So fun!
23)  The hubby and I backpacking in to a campsite on the North Shore - and I made it!  It felt so good to meet the challenge (even if it was a small one).  We had a wonderful trip up to Grand Marais this fall - LOVED it!
24)  Watching a beautiful fall sunset with the hubby from Granddad's Bluff in LaCrosse, WI.  A frustrating day ending with a magical colorful sky!  Totally worth it.
25)  But the best memory of this year?  I had to give a "faith statement" during worship at church.  I wrote out my story, taking a look at where I've been and what I believe now.  I asked my hubby if I could share it with him, asking him for a critique.  I read it out loud, and when I looked up, he was teary-eyed!  When I asked him why, he responded, "You know yourself and you know what others need to hear."  He was proud of me.  That was the best. 

I think this counts as my "Things I'm Thankful for Today" list, too...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


"December 14 – Appreciate

What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it?" (Author: Victoria Klein)

My job.

Yes, I'm grateful just to have a job in this economy... but it's so much more that that!  I love my job.

I'm the Director of Youth and Outreach at a Methodist Church - and while it's a bit overwhelming at times, I sincerely love working there.  I love the people of the church.  I love that I get to work with our teenagers - all remarkable people.  I love that I get to challenge people to step out of their comfort zone to live out their faith in new ways.  I love that I get to pray with people and for people and listen to what is going on in their lives and, hopefully, share hope with them.  I love that I get to be part of the idea team, planning team, and implenting all kinds of ministries.  I love that I get an opportunity every once in a while to preach and share my story.  I love that I get to encourage people in their spiritual habits - and offer them new ways to live them out.  I love that I continue to learn and grow in my own spiritual life as I teach others.  I love my staff.  I love having flexible office hours and a cozy office!

I love this church so much, that after 6.5 years of working there, my hubby and I finally decided to become members last weekend.  We're showing our gratitude to this congregation for all that they have offered me, by officially becoming part of the team - not just an employee! 

I definately feel blessed.

Things I am thankful for today:

1.  Having a job.
2.  Loving my job.
3.  My staff - wonderful, creative, beautiful people.
4.  All the leaders that make things happen at our church - they've taken our church from lifeless to revitalized!
5.  Our Women's Group donated 263 meals to Feed My Starving Children in my honor as my Christmas present - too cool!
6.  Book stores.
7.  The book, "29 Gifts" by Cami Walker - so good!
8.  Aveda tea.
9.  The TV show, "The Good Wife."
10.  A good night's sleep.

Monday, December 13, 2010


"December 13 – Action

When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?" (Author: Scott Belsky)

Hmmm...  I have lots of aspirations for 2011, but one of them is to get healthy again.  Is that too cliche?

I've gained weight in the past year, my headaches have been worse than they've been in a long time, I've been tired and sluggish...  This all has got to get under control!

So my actions?
1)  I got referrals to a couple of doctors and made appointments.
2)  I tried going to a Weight Watchers meeting the other night, but the power was out in the building so only current members were allowed in...  Hmmm...  Sign?  Omen?  Weird.  The plan is to try again on Monday.
3)  And finally, I'll be working to arrange my schedule better, so I'm more productive during my "good" hours and able to rest and enjoy life during the down times.

One more action item, more related to mental and spiritual health - I'm making an appointment to meet with the volunteer coordinator at a local center for the homeless.  I'm so excited to start volunteering with them after the holidays!  I do so much service work through church - organizing the groups and working to get the church involved in the community... that I rarely do any volunteering "just for me" anymore.  So, I'm VERY excited about this opportunity!

What kinds of things are you putting into action this year?

Thing I am thankful for today:

1.  A day at home.
2.  Finishing my Christmas shopping - everything is wrapped and under the tree!
3.  The store Patina.  It makes me smile.
4.  All the snow plows working so hard to clear out streets (2 days after the storm, they're still working so hard!).
5.  Nachos with homemade salsa for dinner...  Mmm..
6.  Baking cookies!
7.  The quote, "Is not amusement the very soul of life?"
8.  Jason Mraz's "Winter Wonderland."
9.  Getting excited for visits with friends over the holidays!
10.  Chatting with my funny neighbor (he was "rsvp-ing" for the party that was supposed to have been last weekend) - it was a good laugh for the day!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Snowy Day

Today was a funny day.  We had a huge snow storm last night - I think our town got 18 inches.  (The Metrodome in Minneapolis caved in, if that gives you an idea of how big a storm it was!)  So, this morning a lot of people were still digging out...
(This is our next door neighbors' house - our sidewalks were cleared by the wind, and this is where it went!)
(Our front yard - a winter wonderland with drifts up to our windowsill!)

But we had church.  We made it there.  The men spent the morning digging out the sidewalks and helping people from their cars to the doors.  I sat in my office until worship started, answering the dozens of phone calls asking if church was still on...
(The hubby digging out the sidewalk to the door!  Believe it or not, in that vast expanse of knee-high snow, there is a walkway - the trick is to find it!)
(That's the drift outside my office window - 4 feet, maybe?)

Two of my confirmation kids made it to church - and both wanted to be outside shoveling.  Crazy kids!  (One of them and his dad shoveled out a neighbor of the church and her two little kids - bonus points for them!)

The children's Christmas program was scheduled for today - we had about seven kids show up - and they sang their little hearts out!  (But they must have had a lot of excitement playing in or watching the snow the night before...  There was a LOT of yawning during their performance!  Hubby and I got the giggles.)
(Do you see that?!  Joseph's already stifling a yawn!)
(Our brave and wonderful group!)
(So cute.)

The new members were supposed to take their vows at church today - Hubby and I included (I've worked there 6.5 years, we love it, and decided it was time).  Out of the six expected new members, three of us were there.  And only 51 others in worship...  That's a hearty group!

After church was supposed to be our big "Living a Better Story" celebration - I had decorated the room last week, a simple lunch of peanut butter sandwiches with ALL the fixings was served.  I looked around the room and thought, "maybe we should do this next week..."  But NO!  As soon as I started to talk about telling our stories, people came right up to the microphone to tell theirs!  We had about ten people jump up to tell their story!  And by then, it going on 12:15pm and people had to start leaving for other plans for their day - so we decided to continue the stories NEXT week!  Too cool.  This has been such an uplifting and fun project!

Next, Hubby and I came home to see our neighbor across the street finally digging out their home!  This is a family with a different ethnic origin - we've tried over the last 5 years to get to know them, but they've never wanted anything to do with us.  Their snow was halfway up their garage door, covering both cars parked in the driveway, it was waist-high throughout their whole yard - including over their sidewalk to the front door, and 3/4 of the way covering the front door.  I had been worried about them overnight - wondering if one of them needed help, would they be able to get out?  So when we got home from church, the Hubby took his shovel over to help the man dig out.  After only a few minutes Hubby came home and said, "Well.  We know where we stand with them."  The man told him he didn't want his help.

Isn't that sad?  When we're trying so hard to cultivate a feeling of community and neighborly-ness, we can't even help our neighbor shovel out after a huge snowstorm?  3 hours later, he was still at it...  By himself.

Later, after our naps, we went to a retirement party for one of Hubby's former employees; did a little Christmas shopping; wrapped presents; and sat by the fire... 

It's late and the shovels have finally stopped scraping outside.  Hopefully, everyone is safe and warm.  It's been an exciting - and relaxing (?) weekend.  The last big snowstorm like this was in 1991 - and it was almost 10 inches MORE than what we got yesterday!  I have to admit...  once every 19 years, it's pretty cool.

Things I am thankful for today:

1.  A hubby who likes to shovel!
2.  All the people at church who jumped in to help.
3.  All the laughter surrounding this funny weekend!
4.  A note from a friend, who's using the money I gave her for our shared dinner to do a "Living a Better Story" project of her own!  That totally made my day!  (In fact, Jill - the $5 I gave you was actually my "God money".  I gave it to you by accident and replaced it in my wallet when I got home.  I think it's been prayed over so many times that it just told you it wanted to be part of this project...  Too funny!)
5.  A reliable car.
6.  A generous husband.
7.  Talking to Emily on the phone - and Fin's love of "beautiful sparkly dresses!"
8.  A pile of wrapped presents under the tree!
9.  Egg nog.
10.  Vosges "Woolamooloo" candy bar.  Mmm...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

11 Things

"Prompt: 11 Things.

What are 11 things your life doesn't need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?"  (Sam Davidson)

11 things my life doesn't need in 2011?  Uffda.

1.  Negativity.  I'm still working on it - but even a little less is always better!  I'll continue to focus on the positive and what I'm thankful for.  (And I'll probably work a little harder at spending less time around negative people.  They wear me down more than anything else, I think!)  Life's just more fun when I don't get weighed down by the stuff that doesn't matter.

2.  Loneliness.  I'll continue to reach out to old friends and put myself in places to make new friends with similar interests.  I need some outlets for continuing to learn and grow in interesting and exciting ways (and have fun!).

3.  Any more pounds!  I need to focus on being healthy again - eating right and exercising.  Goodness.  Does this battle ever get easier?! 

4.  More "stuff."  I'm trying to think through my purchases a little more.  Where else could that money go? This is hard for me...  I like decorating and entertaining and always want more...  Instead, I need to think about where that money could go to make a difference in the world (rather than just in my living room)...

5.  Obligations.  I need to set boundaries on my time and stick to them!  My job requires days, nights, and weekends - and sometimes I forget to make time for the things that I'm passionate about outside of work.  I need to start doing this for my own sanity!

6.  Fear.  Of what others think.  Of making bad choices.  Of not measuring up.  Of not being liked.  Of screwing up.  Of not making my dreams come true - and being disappointed.  I want to live in the now - not the "what ifs."  I want to take more risks.  I want to continue making memorable moments - even if it means going outside my comfort zone.

7.  Wasted time.  I want to be better at time-management, so I have more time for the things I love.  Like reading - for FUN!  Or projects.  Or learning something new.  Or playing!

8.  Doubt.  Kind of goes along with "negativity" and "fear,"  but includes doubting myself and others.  We have several people in our lives who have, over the years, proven themselves unreliable again and again... and I find myself constantly doubting their motives and intentions these days... I don't want to be that way.  I want to find ways to trust and see the good in them first - and expect their best.

9.  Expectations.  As I read that last sentence, I thought, "maybe part of my problem is I expect too much from people."  Maybe I need to lighten up, and go with the flow, giving people room to do what they're going to do... rather than always being disappointed by their choices.

10.  Headaches.  I'm making an appointment with a neurologist to get to the bottom of my weather-related migraines.  Woo-hoo!  That alone could make my life better!

11.  TV.  I'm on a journey to make TV less prevalent in my life.  Once in a while, for a particular show, is fine, but hours of background noise and staring at a screen for the sake of being too lazy to do anything else?  Done.  TV will not take away precious moments that have the potential to be wonderful memories!

What are some of your things you could do without in 2011?

Things I am thankful for today:

1.  Well, we had our Christmas Open House canceled because we were in the middle of a snow storm...  But I must say, it's beautiful outside...
2.  Friends' notes saying how bummed they were to not be able to come.
3.  A friend still making a donation to Heifer International in our name (we were going to collect donations at our party).  So sweet.
4.  This flash mob video.  Made me smile.

5.  A clean, decorated, cozy house.  Here, let me give you a tour:
(Well, come on in!)
(Our cozy living room.)
(Fresh greenery on the counter.)
(Our nativity set.  My favorite...)
(Our fun powder room.)
(Going up the stairs.  The Santa I drew in high school.  I gave it to Dad years ago, and last year he gave it back so I could have it in my home, now.  So cool.)
(Our loft/family room.)
(The guest room.)
(Accents in the guest bathroom.)
(The master bedroom.)
(LOVE the movie, "Polar Express!")
6.  Party food - still made a yummy dinner!
(A little spinach dip with Hawaiian bread...)
(Some shrimp and Mom's meatballs...  and a baked brie cheese with raspberry sauce, and Pinoeer Woman's jalapeno poppers with bacon and raspberry sauce - which I didn't get a picture of, because we ate them too quick!  They were HOT!)
7.  Candlelight.

8.  My parents' funny photo-journalism postings on Facebook, depicting their day in the snow storm.
9.  Being snowed in.  No obligations to go anywhere!
10.  Watching the birds at the feeder again today - and on the drift of snow that came up to our window ledge!
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