Archive for April, 2015

Not exactly Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but my weekend is going to be tremendous. And because it will be so amazing, I started it a day early. If you’ve read any of my blogs (don’t do it now – in fact, find some better reading material for yourself. Dr. Seuss comes to mind), you know that I’ve been trying to get beyond my little world and explore things I’ve never done, or said I’d never do, during the month of April. Well – today’s April 30th. Do or die day.

There were a bunch of things on my list that I never got to. Eyebrow waxing, for one. It can wait. In fact, seems the thick eyebrow look is trending right now and I’d hate to bring it down. I also never got to a Zumba class. Tried to find a DVD for in-home use, and the local public library is woefully lacking in the Zumba category, as in…none. This naturally segues into my desire to learn how to bake bread. The library does have how-to books on bread making, but since both Don and I are watching our calories this month, it is a good thing it never happened. Just the thought of homemade cinnamon rolls causes ninja pounds to jump on my scale. I wanted to pick up garbage along the nature trail, serve lunch at a homeless shelter (actually – I have done this, just not in April), and eat veggies only on Meatless Mondays. Didn’t do any of these either. Nope, nada, zilch. But now I have a great list started for another month of “new things.”

What I DID accomplish – shorter list, but felt good, nonetheless.

Ran another 5K – through Hiawatha – finished 6th in my age group (though I was bested by two women in their 60s). Still work to be done here. My running adventure will continue.

Signed up for a public display of an art piece. Scary. I’m not an artist but I decided to go for it. It’ll be on display in Cedar Rapids’ NewBo district through the summer. Thankfully my name is only on the back so no one will really know which one is mine, except for you guys, since I’m posting a picture. Don’t tell.

2x2xU My Tree

Ate fish tacos for the first time. So good. Proceeded to make them at home. Very good. I’m a believer.

Had an authentic Chocolate-stuffed Almond Croissant from Croissant du Jour. Well, part of one. Which was probably a good thing since it was awesome and I’m sure it had more calories than I’m allowed in a week. I will definitely do that one again and take my guy.


Lastly, today in fact, I tried sushi for the first time. My two wonderful girls took me. They are old hands at sushi selecting and eating so I knew I would be safe. I specifically asked for one selection to be raw fish, because really, why brag about eating sushi if it’s all just rice rolled around a vegetable? Where’s the bravery in that? So one was raw salmon, one was shrimp & yam, and another was crab-something. All delicious! We had great crab rangoons too – creamy REAL crab filling – hot and oozy. Swoon-worthy. I’d definitely recommend Sushi House to anyone wanting the sushi experience without a huge price tag. My favorite part? Having Tristen and Ellie with me to explore this new thing together. They are beautiful women and I love them.

I’m certainly noticing a trend in these last few paragraphs. I seem to like food. A lot. But I guess if I keep running and working out at Curves, I’ll be okay with it.

So my big weekend continues tomorrow…road trip to Ames to see my boy. I’m expecting a superhero or two to show up, along with more good food. Of course.

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Sometimes grief comes like a hurricane – a huge tsunami of emotion that engulfs and destroys everything. It swirls and chokes and blows and destroys – leaving only shells in its wake.

Sometimes grief is as a still small voice, a whisper of a memory, a glimpse of remembrance. Maybe it only takes the aroma of a familiar casserole, a drive through an old neighborhood, a picture of a birthday party, a holiday or anniversary, a common name.

Often grief is agonizing but as time passes it can transform into a familiar presence. Years away, it creeps back only occasionally, sometimes bringing guilt, but more often leaving a beautiful taste of what was, but will never be again. A taste to savor, not with regret, but with smiles and a shadow of happiness once again.

I had one of those moments this week as I took an extra long walk over my lunch hour. I wandered farther than usual and found myself on a sidewalk outside Cargill, a grain plant here in Cedar Rapids. Seems a funny place to experience that touch of grief, doesn’t it? But for me, Cargill’s semi-truck parking lot holds quite a few happy memories. Memories of taking donuts to my dad as he sat in line waiting for hours to dump his truckload of grain. You see, my dad was a truck driver and he’s been gone for 12 years now. He lived in northern Illinois and for many years, drove two to three times a week (sometimes even twice a day) to Cedar Rapids, the grain truck capital of Iowa. Sometimes he went to Quaker Oats, sometimes Cargill on the river, but more often, the Cargill plant right off  Interstate 380. He was often in line by 2 or 3 a.m. so he could get his load dumped and be back in Illinois in time to load up once again for another trip to Cedar Rapids, or the Illinois River, or any number of farms in the area. He was a well-known and well-loved driver. He worked hard to be the best he could be at his job, backing his semi-trailer into the tightest of spaces and always making sure the farmers got the best service available. He had an amazing memory, knowing hundreds of farmers, plant workers, waitresses and fellow drivers by name. Way before anyone had heard of Map Quest or Google Maps or even GPS, my dad could tell you the best route to get from Point A to Point B…and it usually didn’t involve any interstate driving.

Sometimes my dad had to sit in that line of semi-trucks for hours waiting, waiting, waiting. He couldn’t go anywhere, just in case he needed to move forward, so he’d give me a call to let me know he was in town and we’d head down to see him. The boys and I would crawl up into his truck and dive into that Donutland dozen. I always brought coffee with plenty of sugar packets for Dad and small bottles of milk for two small boys who adored their grandpa. Sometimes the wait for him was long enough that he could actually leave the truck and we’d drive quickly to the downtown McDonalds for a literal fast-food break. Once in a while Cargill would shut down before his grain was off-loaded so he’d get to stay over night at our house. I’ll never forget the proud looks on those little boys’ faces when their grandpa drove up and parked his semi-truck cab in front of our place. He was always up and gone long before sunrise but I knew I’d get another call telling me he made it back fine, “thanks for letting me stay and for supper” and “I’ll see you again soon.”

You never know when the memories change from painful grieving to sweet remembrances, but they do. And you’ll never know where you’ll be when it happens. Could even be on a warm spring day, standing on a cracked sidewalk across from a smelly grain plant surrounded by diesel fumes and truck drivers.

With Grandpa 1


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It has been quite a wild ride as I contemplate the variety of Sundays I’ve spent doing ministry with Don. We began our married life together in a large church working in children’s & Christian Ed ministry. It was new for me. As a single woman I had only sung in choirs & on worship teams. But I embraced the opportunity to learn new things and work alongside my new husband. 

Soon we were moved to another state – to another large church. Within a short period of time I found myself moving into women’s ministry – as the leader! It was terrifying and I was usually overwhelmed with anxiety. Once again I was learning on the job. Looking back I can see God’s hand at work even though I had no WM or leadership experience. But I plunged into it trusting God’s leading and guiding Holy Spirit. I found myself directing Bible studies, teaching the Word and speaking in front of large groups. In the meantime came kids and all the resulting activities. I worked in the nursery, back a bit in kids ministry, missions ed, hospitality areas, homeschooling the whole time. It was a crazy, wonderful, wild roller coaster life. 

Much like a roller coaster ride, it came to a sudden stop and our next stop was interim pastoring at very small churches. Once again the Lord began the stretching of my comfort zone. I found this tiny church needed a worship leader. What a joy to minister with my sons as we lead this small group of believers into the presence of God. They didn’t mind my lack of a perfect voice (or pitch) but saw a heart willing to serve wherever God had planted us. I ran sound, made coffee, created PowerPoint slides for worship, greeted visitors, prayed for needs. 

Now we find ourselves part of a missions base in an Iowa field with ministry encompassing live-streaming prayer & equipping sessions, refuge & restoration ministries. I’m back to running sound, operating a camera, counting offerings, praying for others, and still making coffee. I’ve gone from wearing dresses with heels to jeans and sweatshirts. Brown hair to gray. No kids to two amazing adult sons. Through it all have been constants: God is omniscient. He knows what He’s doing and I trust Him to place me where I can thrive, and grow, and serve others. Another constant: Don loves me and gives me support no matter what I’m doing. Lastly I found that if I’m willing, I’ll always have someplace to pour myself into. 

God is good – no matter where I am or what I’m doing. He is the same for you. Your life isn’t about finding your perfect place and staying there forever. It’s about pressing into the grace of God, trusting Him to lead you wherever He needs you today. Say “yes” to the urging of the Holy Spirit. Go forward anticipating a new season. Awaken the adventurer who lies within you! 

Can’t wait to see the place God is preparing for me today. Wherever I am, He is already there. 

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Willie Robertson

My husband and I had the opportunity to attend this morning’s Good Friday Prayer Breakfast in downtown Cedar Rapids. It was held in the newly-renovated DoubleTree Hotel in their very large convention center…and it was packed. I’d like to think it was because the people of Cedar Rapids recognize the importance of prayer, or the significance of this day in the life of Christians, or that we love to get together with one another to seek the Presence of God. And maybe all those things are true, but I really think that today, that huge convention center was filled because the special speaker was Willie Robertson.

Unless you have lived under a rock for the last few years, most of you know Willie Robertson as the star of the cable TV reality show “Duck Dynasty.” He says he’s known more as Sadie’s dad. Sadie Robertson is his teenage daughter who competed on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” throughout the competition standing firm in her belief in modesty and purity. She seems to be a very sweet girl and I’m sure Willie and his wife Korie are very proud of her. The various members of the Robertson family are admittedly redneck, quirky, and entertaining. I first heard about their TV show from the woman who cuts my husband’s hair. My sons started watching and soon after, we did too. It’s a scripted reality show, meaning there is a definite plot to each episode though the family members don’t consider themselves actors and most notably, each episode ends with the family sitting around a large table with patriarch Phil saying grace before they eat together. Each show has a moral and it’s usually Willie who serves as narrator. Each member of the Robertson family is an outspoken follower of Jesus and has never apologized for their show or their stance on moral issues.

The other main speaker this morning was Willie’s friend, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Gov. Jindal is another strong believer in Jesus Christ and freely gives his testimony. He’s a pretty smart guy too, having completed a Rhodes Scholarship from Oxford University, specializing in health care systems. Though he has not announced a run for the presidential race in 2016, he visits Iowa a lot.

I could say a bit about Willie’s and Bobby’s remarks from this morning. And though both had great messages to the assembled Christians, I was most encouraged by something they never really said. I was encouraged to listen to two men who have gone against the established precedent and are scaling mountains formerly held only by non-believers in Jesus. You see, often we, as Christians, are told to concentrate our efforts on the church, on ministry. We esteem pastors, missionaries and evangelists for speaking out about Christ but we never acknowledge the day-to-day efforts of Joe and Janet, Rick and Laurie, Susie and Adam…those people who head out the door to work in hospitals, businesses, government buildings, or schools, or those moms who stay home every day to raise up godly sons and daughters. We’ve given up ground to our culture in past years by not encouraging our kids to reach beyond religious ministry and embrace who God made them to be – actors, congressmen, judges, scientists, teachers, entrepreneurs, musicians. People like Willie Robertson and his family will reach people for Jesus who will never enter a church or listen to a televangelist. Government leaders like Bobby Jindal have people who watch him closely…what better way to live for God than in that microscope called a presidential campaign.

I’m mostly encouraged because I can freely exhort my own two sons to pursue their dreams, no matter what they may be. Maybe it won’t be as a full time pastor, like their dad. But maybe it’ll be as a journalist who travels the globe, living for God and reaching people his mom and dad never would. Maybe it’ll be as a musician who writes songs and performs for audiences who would never listen to a spoken sermon. Push your kids to live their dreams while living for Jesus. Let’s be salt and light in a world that needs the flavoring influence of Christ.

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