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Archive for December, 2019

At the end of every year, I reflect on my most favorite moments. I always think in moments, not days, because it’s those snapshots that stick with me. I can’t recall whole days, but moments are embedded in my mind’s eye. These are only a few that warm me on cold mornings. Family. Beauty. Connection. Moments.

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The groom with his new brother-in-law

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Brothers

Ellie and Sean

The kiss

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Our auntie-niece coffee shop selfie right before we ran to catch the ferry

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Siblings – precious friends

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Liberty Bay on my last morning

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Overlooking Red Wing, MN – vacation with Don

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Precious mother-in-law Mary with her great-grandson Chase

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My best friends

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Annual NEEDTOBREATHE concert with kids (and moms)

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Sweet girls

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Meeting my favorite author Jennifer Dukes Lee…and my awkward hug.

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My very bestest friend

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My heart.

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control IGControl. Those who don’t have it, want it; and those who have it, want more. No one seems to want less control. But in reality, we don’t have the control we think we have, and certainly can’t hold onto it as we age. Control is a slippery and brutal beast. It will rip out your heart, even as you grasp at it’s greasy tail. Control will lure you with promises of riches, happiness, and popularity. But it’s a trap. Life is full of things we have no control over, and with no hope of gaining that edge.

For example, when I realized I was pregnant with my first child, I bought the book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” An avid reader, I devoured the wonderful words of advice and information within it’s 300+ pages. What the author failed to mention: My kid did not read this book before he was born. All that I “expected,” all that I sought to control, went right out the window before the little bugger made his appearance. I should have seen it coming – my labor and delivery was epic…as in awful, unpredictable, and without a shred of control. Though David was a wonderful baby, he never wanted to go to sleep. Tried everything short of allowing him to scream all night.  I will not bore you with more stories of my beautiful baby boy, but it didn’t take long for me to realize who was actually in control, and it wasn’t me or Don.

Last week we visited Don’s sweet mom and saw the awful ravages of dementia. She has no control over what she can remember or who will take care of her. Those around her love her well, but there is no illusion of control for her.

As the end of 2019 approaches, I decided to share another wisdom tidbit.

If someone else says it well, you don’t need to try to improve it.

So, as I contemplate the topic of “control,” I decided to tap into the already-published wisdom of Jennifer Dukes Lee, author of the best-seller “It’s All Under Control.” Reading Jennifer’s book was very freeing for me, filled with wonderful insights into control, how to let it go, how to hang on, and how to give it all to God, the One who controls all things. Jennifer produced a thought-provoking printable about what we actually CAN control and I have it posted by my desk. May be time to print it again for the new year.

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None of us want to have regrets in life. I want to live each day so when I look back, I can say I have no regrets. But I also realize that may not be totally reasonable. We all make mistakes. Maybe it’s as little as eating too much cake and cookies over these holidays (definitely) or sitting more than moving (maybe) or choosing my own comfort over someone else’s (probably). Maybe you’ve lived a life full of things you now regret. I hope you know it is not too late to change, to choose better moving forward, to ask and receive forgiveness, and to extend to yourself a wonderful gift: Grace.

My pastor reminded me today that our past (good or bad) does not define our future. God has a new thing for you – a path, adventure, purpose beyond anything you can imagine. Don’t allow regrets to keep you from saying “yes” to whatever God has for you. Don’t keep looking in your rear view mirror – you’re not going that way.

Milkweed seeds ready to fly

Monument to life

Reflection is necessary occasionally.

The colors of sunset – dramatic reminder of a full day

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For many years I relied pretty heavily on only one or two of my senses…my sight and my sense of smell. But my mindset has shifted as I age and I’m intentionally engaging all my senses. What a gift God has given us! The wonder of a sunset, the sound of waves on the shore, the aroma of fragrant flowers, the feel of silky baby skin, the smooth flavor of dark chocolate melting in my mouth. I hope you’ll enjoy the photos I’m including in today’s blog as I remember the sights, sounds, smells, flavors, and feel of my August vacation to the Pacific Northwest.

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Flying into Seattle at dusk.

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The intricate beauty of a flower

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Close up of small shells stacking inches high along the waterway.

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Pike Place Farmer’s Market – strings of chilies.

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The silhouette of my nephew.

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Under a restaurant pier in Poulsbo, Washington

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Foggy morning in downtown Seattle

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A sailboat floating by in the waterway.

 

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A harbor in Poulsbo, Washington

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Preparing flowers for my nephew’s wedding

Get up close or take a big step back. Big breath in, large exhale. Touch the texture of furniture, skin, upholstery, flower petals. Get quiet to hear the sounds of birds, insects, raindrops, distant machines. Get down into the grass to see each individual blade. Go to the top of the parking deck and look out over your world. Explore new taste sensations: chilies, chocolate, sweet, spicy, savory. Close your eyes and listen or smell what’s happening around you.

God has granted us an opportunity to enjoy so much more than we take advantage of. Engage all those senses – breath it all in.

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Eating ice cream with Grandpa

All dads are major influences in the lives of their children, even the bad or absent ones. I was blessed with a wonderfully kind and gentle father, who loved me unconditionally and believed in my potential way more than I did. In honor of my dad, today’s blog is devoted to five tidbits of wisdom he handed down to his children.

  • Take care of the land.

My grandfather was a farmer, and my dad farmed with him until I was nine years old. We lived on a small acre plot of land adjacent to the main family farm, where my paternal grandparents lived. My dad loved farming, but when my grandpa passed away, my parents couldn’t afford to buy the farm, so Dad sold most of the farm equipment and started driving a semi-truck hauling grain and farm animals. But my dad always loved the land.

img_4309He spent hours in our wooded acres, cleaning up downed trees, and using the wood to heat our home. He loved those trees. My nephew recently found a video recording my dad made while walking through his beloved woods. To hear his voice again, poetically extolling the beauty and majesty of the massive oaks and elms…we were amazed at his eloquence. My dad was a quiet man, but his heart was huge. Listening to that recording revealed his passion for conservation.

  • Everyone needs some alone time.

This could easily be part 2 of the previous point. My dad was an introvert who loved people. And yes, that’s a thing. Dad enjoyed being around friends and family, but he needed to get outside or get alone for a while to re-charge. Dad drove tractors (alone), semis (alone), and lawnmowers (alone) so he could have his solitude. He told me often about having conversations with God, listening to the radio, observing nature, just soaking up the quiet without any competition for his attention. He could talk with anyone about many things, but he was most content when he could get outside, in his woods, alone.

  • Don’t cruise along in the left lane.

We just finished 12 hours of driving in the last two days. So many drivers have never learned this bit of wisdom that my dad drilled into me when I was learning to drive. People – the left lane is for passing.

  • Show up and work hard
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Though it looks as though Sean is miserable, this was a favorite activity: riding on the John Deere lawnmower with Grandpa.

My dad worked hard his whole life. He didn’t make much money, but when he left our house, he gave 100% to whatever needed to be done: field preparation, driving trucks, hauling grain or hogs or cattle, splitting and hauling wood, mowing lawn, planting and harvesting, etc. When he was an employee, his boss knew Bill would show up, no matter the weather or his health. My dad was more reliable than the U.S. Mail. And his kids learned that work ethic who have now passed it down to their kids.

  • Finish well

I had the privilege of spending a lot of time with my dad during the last few months of his life. He had been diagnosed with leukemia and I would travel to his house to sit with him to give my mom a little break from care giving. I loved listening to my dad tell stories about his young adult life. About how he first met my mom. How he thought she was the most amazing and beautiful girl he’d ever seen. He was a shy, quiet young man, but my mom flirted and joked with him and he was a goner. At least, that’s what he said. He also told stories of mistakes, regrets, errors in judgment. He was so sad about those things. My dad was not perfect. He made mistakes in his life and lived with some measure of guilt. If he were here, he would tell you the same thing. But the greatest decision he ever made was to ask Jesus to forgive him, to cleanse him and clear him of that shame and condemnation. From then on, my dad was a different man. Before his God-encounter, Dad had high expectations (for himself and his family) that were seldom met, but after he met Jesus, spent time allowing God to transform him, my dad became less judgmental, and more grace-filled. He experienced being set free from guilt. And those last few months of his life were marked with a love more profound that I had ever seen before. His love for my mom was deeper and richer. He took time to meet with the men he wanted as his pallbearers so they would know how much he loved and appreciated them during his life. He talked with me for hours about heaven, what he wanted us to do for my mom when he was gone, how much he loved me and my siblings…and how much he loved His Savior, Jesus. Those were precious times with my dad, priceless conversations I can still hear in my head. He taught me one final lesson – finish well.

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My mom and dad soon after their engagement. Mom was 17, Dad was 21.

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Hope you all had opportunity to spend Christmas with loved ones. In my opinion, family time is more priceless than any gift you could purchase.

As I prepare to celebrate the big 6-0, I’d urge you to choose family time over work whenever possible. I’m so thankful my sons live close to us and we can see them often, but I have to be intentional about visiting more extended family members.

My siblings live away from me so whenever we can get together, we celebrate and love on each other. We take selfies together. We laugh. We joke. We tell stories. We choose family.

Mary and her three sons

I’m sitting in my mother-in-law’s living room, watching her caregiver comb Mary’s hair and help her with her coat. Mary doesn’t remember me anymore. But I remember the unconditional love and support she’s given me for over 30 years. My brothers-in-law and their families are heroes in my eyes. They choose family every single day. Even when those days are really hard.

So, before distance or regrets or health issues make the choices hard, choose family.

My family

Niece and two brothers

My nieces and nephews

My brother, sister-in-law, and niece

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Merry Christmas!

I hope you are able to celebrate this wonderful holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus.

You may be surrounded by family or alone today. You may be suffering with sickness or watching someone you love going through the ravages of a disease. You may be sitting in the midst of a wrapping paper mountain or didn’t have enough money for even one gift.

Jesus is your answer. Rich or poor, Jesus came for all of us. Those surrounded by loving family & those homeless and destitute of love. Those suffering & those watching someone we love suffering. Those grieving. Those anxious & depressed. Those who have all money can buy, yet ache with loneliness and despair. Jesus loves you.

Allow Jesus to heal your heart today. Allow His perfect peace to flood your soul. He may not change every circumstance, but He’ll be with you in the midst of it. Call out to Him – He is there to meet you. He wants you at His birthday party!

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