Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Happy Heart Day!!

Ten years ago today my Dad underwent successful open heart surgery. It was two days after the attacks of 9/11. The emotions that we were all having were like a roller coaster ride all day. When I got to the hospital a little after 6am, my Mom told me that they were not sure if they were going to be able to do the surgery. To say my Mom was a little overwhelmed is an understatement. Thankfully the surgeon came in and told the nurses that no matter what was the problem, he was doing the surgery. I am so thankful for my Dad's surgeon. After the surgery he informed us that one of my Dad's arteries was 90% blocked. The artery was what they call the "widow maker". He said that the only reason my Dad didn't have a massive heart attack was due to the fact that he took an aspirin everyday. After Dad was in recovery and we knew that the surgery had gone extremely well, we were able to go in to the ICU to see him. It was only for a couple of minutes but it helped all of us to just "see" that he was fine. I walked out of that room and fell apart. I'm not sure what came over me. Maybe it happened because I had never seen my Dad like that. He was always so strong, so in control. Maybe it was relief. Maybe it was the fact that my Dad was still here, alive and well, while other families were grieving the loss of loved ones all over our country. Whatever the reasons were that made the tears flow, there was a sense of calmness and comfort that enveloped me. I was reminded again that God was with us every moment before, during and after the surgery. And this was my moment to lay my head on God's shoulder, feel his arms around me and let it all out.

Ten years have gone by and I thank God everyday for the life of my Dad. He has been a role model to his three children and 10 grandchildren and a loving and caring husband to my Mom. He is a man of integrity and faith, who has worked hard to provide for his family and has a heart overflowing with love.

"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deuteronomy 6:5-7

Happy Heart Day Dad!!

Love and Blessings,

Gifts & Blessings:
*My Dad's strong and healthy heart still beating.
*Walking under a harvest moon.
*Laughing with friends.
*A freshly painted new home office.
*My husband spending time painting while football was on t.v.
*Celebrating my cat's 16th birthday.
*Cool breezes flowing through the windows.
*A child's smile.
*Life still moving on.
*A bouquet of flowers from my mom's garden.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

Where were you? What were you doing? These are the questions I keep hearing people ask as we have been leading up to this day. Has it really been 10 years? But it still seems so raw, so real, so hard. Hard to understand how it all happened? Why it happened? And have we learned anything from what happened? Like so many others I can tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. I had just dropped my daughter Kayla off at her middle school and was driving my daughter Ashley to her high school. My son Andrew was in the back seat waiting for his turn to go to school. We were listening to KLOVE when they mentioned that a plane had hit one of the towers? Ashley and I looked at each other but we just thought it was a small plane. In fact, after telling everyone about the plane, the radio announcer played a song. I don’t think they even knew the magnitude of the problem at that time. I dropped Ashley off and headed for home where Andrew grabbed his backpack and headed up the street to go to his school. I watched him walk up the street and turn the corner and then I headed off to work. At that time I was working at a television station. As I drove across town they announced on the radio that it was a large commercial plane that had hit the tower and that the 2nd tower had also been hit. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. By the time I got to work, everyone was standing in the lobby of the station watching it all unfold on the big screen T.V. I walked over to one of my co-workers and asked her what was going on. She just looked at me with tears in her eyes. The rest of the day was a blur. When I finally made it home I just wanted to hug my husband and children. Life suddenly was to scary, to sad, to hard and to filled with death and sorrow.

Years before I had watched in horror as the federal building in Oklahoma City was bombed. I had held my then 2 year old son on my lap as mothers searched to know if their child was safe. I had watched children run from school buildings after shots from a gun had killed fellow students. I made sure that when my children went to school I told them “I love you”. Those attacks were from people who were troubled and broken. We prayed for them and for the victims and families. Those attacks, as horrible and awful as they were, were carried out by people who lived in this country. But 9/11 was different. 9/11 sent us into a fear that gripped our very souls. The people that carried out the attacks and hijacked those planes, hated us, all of us. That hatred killed almost 3000 people. Our country and the lives of the families and friends that were left behind were forever changed.

10 years ago we asked ourselves, “How do we get through this?” and “How do we go on?”. Today we continue to ask ourselves these very same questions. The wars still continue. Lives are still being lost. Memorials are still being built. 9/11 is not something that can be put back together, placed in a box, taped shut and placed on a shelf. 9/11 is a day that will remain in the hearts of everyone who watched it unfold. Whether you were running down the stairs of a tower to get to safer ground, looking at the blue sky in Times Square, were working in your office at the Pentagon or the Capital building, were receiving that final phone call from a loved one or taking your child to school, driving to work or watching it on television. Our world, our lives are different.

Did we get through it?

For some, their faith in God grew , but for others, their hatred for those who look differently, sound differently, dress differently and believe differently grew too. 9/11 brought out the best in people and the worst in people.

Did we go on?

We continue to go on and believe that somehow at sometime the fear that gripped our souls will lessen. That we will feel safe again. That the wars will end, the memorials will be finished and we will move out of the cloud of fear and into the light of security.

But that light of security can only come when we put our full trust and faith in God. God didn’t cause 9/11. But he did provide the angels who helped people get to safety. He provided angels who took charge in a commercial jet and diverted it away from our capital. It’s the God that sent angels to comfort those who were hurting with quilts, cards, prayers and anything else that was needed. And it is the God who continues to comfort us, strengthen us and guide us to that light. Where one day we will stand before Him and he will welcome us with outstretched arms.

Today may we remember those whose lives were lost and thank God for his comfort, strength and redeeming grace and mercy.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Time keeps marching on!

I’m not even sure how it happened. How time just kept going on but I didn’t stop to write about it. 6 months. 6 months since I last wrote on this blog. Did I think about it? Yes. Did I make attempts to write? Yes. Did I read other blogs from other writers? Yes. So why has it been 6 months? I can’t even really explain it. All I know is that I wanted to but found myself thinking that I didn’t have anything worthy to share. I guess you could say I had writers block? Or maybe… just maybe…I didn’t feel I could do it well enough anymore. Maybe it’s because doubts started to creep into my mind that I wasn’t poetic enough like Ann Voskamp or witty and funny enough like Melanie aka “Big Mama” or insightful enough like Lisa Whittle or raw enough like Sarah Markley. These are a few of the blogs that I follow. I love reading about their daily lives. Anne’s words flow like spun honey. Golden and sweet and you find yourself just wanting more. Big Mama makes me laugh on a daily basis with her stories of Texas, her daughter Caroline, her husband P and her best friend Gulley. Lisa Whittle always makes me think about myself and the world around me and Sarah Markley is just so raw with the truth. The truth, that’s what stopped me in my tracks when I started to think about why I haven’t written. It isn’t how I write or why I write, or even if I am good enough to write. Writing on a blog is about sharing the truth, the truth about yourself, your life and your family with others. And maybe it’s not even sharing with others. Maybe it’s just sharing the truth with yourself?

So here it is... the truth of the last 6 months of my life.

March found me turning 46. 46 years of living, breathing, laughing, crying and being me. Well sometimes me and sometimes trying to find out who “me” is? Did it make me sad to turn 46? No, not really. It’s like the line in Steel Magnolias when Truvy says to Shelby (who has found the early stages of crow’s feet), “Honey, time marches on and eventually you realize it is marchin' across your face.” The best birthday present I received was my nephew returning from Afghanistan for a little R &R. As time was marching across my face, he had been marching across Afghanistan. It was so good to see him and we were able to have a big family dinner to celebrate before he had to return. March also brought two little boys into the lives of my brother and sister-in-law that I will at some point write about, but not in this post.

In April my baby turned 18. Now that made me feel old. Andrew informed me on the day of his birthday that I no longer had any children, that they were all adults now. Maybe in their eyes but not in mine. They will forever be my babies. Time might be marching on but somehow they all seem to march back into the house for something; food, advice, money, laundry, etc… I led the women’s retreat at the church camp at Lake Okoboji and it was such a great time. This was the first year that I was the only leader. I had 4 other women (God bless them) who helped with the details of decorations, supplies and support but it was basically me leading the weekend. On Saturday evening we were notified that there was some pretty crazy weather headed our way which was not happy news for me. I’m a tad bit afraid of storms. So I found myself periodically going back to my room, checking the weather on my laptop and praying to God for a little help. Thank God we only had rain, thunder and lightning where we were but a town a few miles to the east of our hometown was struck by a tornado that devastated parts of it.

Earlier in the year I had been asked to be on a leadership team for a new young women's ministry connection group called Wings and we had our first meeting in May. The group is a break off from the Compel Women's Conference which is held every January in So. Sioux City Nebraska. We meet monthly at our local Art Center and it is a way for young women in their 20's to connect with others. It has been so rewarding and the leadership team is made up of some incredible women. May also brought my babies high school graduation party and a trip to our cabin in the Black Hills. It also brought more water than the Missouri River could hold and we came home from the cabin and helped move my in-laws out of their home in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota. It was so surreal. People all over this small community were scrambling to find shelter, storage units, sandbags and people to help. As we drove into the community we waited in long lines as they were letting huge trucks filled with dirt go ahead of others so they could build a levee along the river front. The South Dakota National Guard was called in and Black Hawk helicopters transported huge sandbags to areas along the river to help hold back the water. As we helped to box, bag and put items into a huge semi-trailer parked in their front yard, the looks on my in-laws faces and those of their neighbors was of complete helplessness and fear. Everything they owned was going to be stored on a trailer that would be parked somewhere in a lot to keep the contents safe. I remember taking some of their more personal items to my van for us to keep at our house, looking up and down the street and saying to God, “Why is this happening and how are we going to get this all done?” God answered. People started showing up from my father-in-laws former law firm, employees from the court house where he had been a judge and friends of my brother-in-law. And then a mother and son who didn't even know us showed up. They had read on a Facebook page that had been set up to help with victims of the flood that we needed help. Every single one of them were angels sent from God. Within a few hours we had moved everything out of the house and locked the trailer.

The waters spilled over the banks in June and from Montana, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and states farther south, cities, towns, farmlands and interstates were flooded with water. The water continued to rise and the lives of everyone were changed. But June also brought an incredible experience for me. I traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska to go to a Lifeway workshop on women’s ministry and to a Beth Moore Living Proof conference. I had been wanting to see her for five years. I had heard her speak on the program, Life Today with James and Betty Robison since 2006 and had read some of her books. It was during one of those programs that I heard Beth say, “If you want to hear the voice of God, you need to close your mouth and listen”. That’s what led me to the lake shore one April day in 2006 where I allowed God to speak to my heart. That moment with God changed my life and placed me on this journey that has led me to new opportunities to serve Him. So when I got the opportunity to see her in person, I jumped!! I was not disappointed. I had met two sisters, Lelia Chealey (who also has a blog) and Michelle Jane, at a conference in January who had invited me to stay with them when I went to Lincoln. They were part of the planning committee and because of that I also was able to be a prayer encourager at the conference. That meant that I got to sit in the front row. The FRONT row!!!! I cannot tell you how exciting it was when Beth came out as Travis Cottrell’s band started the worship time and she sat right across the aisle from me. I could have touched her but I don’t think her security guard would have been very happy about that. Tears started to flow from my eyes. It was an incredible weekend and one that will forever remain in my memory and my heart. My husband and I also celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary June. May I just say how much I love this man!!! He is my biggest fan. He still makes me laugh and when I get all fired up about something he'll let me vent and then gives me a look and a word that calms me down. It has been a roller coaster ride that I hope we can stay on for a long, long time.

July brought a week at the Blueberry cabin in Minnesota. Blue skies, relaxing, blue lake, relaxing, family time, relaxing, kayaking, relaxing, floating on rafts, relaxing, smores, relaxing…. Need I say more? It also brought my nephew and hundred’s more soldiers from Iowa home from Afghanistan. Thank you Jesus!! July also brought temperatures over 100 degrees and the weather reporters were trying to fry eggs on the hood of cars. I am not kidding people, it was HOT!!

In August I took a group of ladies from my church to the Women of Faith conference in Omaha Nebraska. What a weekend!!! Mandisa rocked, Amy Grant performed, Patsy Clairmont made me laugh until I cried and I got to hear Lisa Whelchel (Blair from the “Facts of Life”) speak, which was just too cool. My daughter Kayla went with us and we made a little weekend out of it. Since she got married last October we haven’t had a whole lot of me and her time, so it was so nice to have that opportunity to have her all to myself. Thankfully the Missouri River waters started to recede in August so we were able to move my in-laws back into their home this past weekend. Their home was spared of any water damage and it was a much happier experience than in May. They are slowly getting everything back in order while deciding to let go of some of their “stuff”. It is surprising how much stuff we can accumulate when we hide it away in drawers, closets and storage rooms. The aftermath of the flooding has started to make its appearance. What was once a beautiful river front is now marred by fallen trees and debris and the bike path that runs alongside the river is broken and parts of it are washed away. The mud, silt, grime and mold now reside in many of the homes. And for some, there is now the question as to whether or not they will ever be able to move back in.
So, that’s how the past 6 months marched along. With a drum roll, trumpet blast and clanging cymbals, every moment being heard, felt and cherished.

It’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.

And by the way…a little L’Oreal eye cream does wonders for “crow’s feet”. Just saying!!


One Thousand Gifts
 - new friends and old friends
 - water receding
 - my husband
 - birthdays
 - laughing
 - time spent with family
 - hearing the Word
 - a cabin in the woods
 - floating on a raft
 - kayaking
 - air conditioning
 - sweet corn
 - my nephew coming home
 - time

Monday, February 28, 2011

Rhythm makes all the difference

I had the great privilege to preach at our church's Saturday evening and Sunday morning worship services this past weekend. Saturday evening as I started to speak I could feel that I just didn't have the rhythm down. As I spoke I kept praying over and over in my head, "God help me get the rhythm" and soon he delivered and everything went well. Sunday morning before worship I prayed to God, "Please let me have the rhythm as soon as I start speaking the words that you have given me." God once again came through and I was able to give the message from Isaiah 49:8-16a (NLT). God will never leave you hanging!!

Here is the link to the video of the sermon.


Finding the gifts in the midst of chaos

This last week found me with a busy schedule of composing a newsletter, sitting at our dining room table writing a sermon, leading the last session of my Thursday night women’s Bible study on “Grace” and praying on what God’s will was for me as I had been invited to be on a leadership team for a new young woman’s ministry and accepting the invitation.

Saturdays around our home have a routine all to themselves. Clean the house, shop for groceries and wash clothes. When you add in preaching at the Saturday night and Sunday morning worship services it begins to be overwhelming. By Saturday my nerves were thin, my patience barely there and the muscles in my neck and shoulders knotted.

My husband on most Saturdays helps with the cleaning and grocery shopping and this Saturday was no exception. The only problem with this Saturday was that I was not my normal self. Every time he offered to do something I felt myself tense up and respond with a bit of an attitude in my reply. Each time it happened, I would pray to God for calmness and to change my attitude. It was only when I started to look at the blessings and gifts that God surrounds me with, did my attitude change. As I dusted the coffee table in the family room I went to my knees, bowed my head and started listing God‘s gifts:

* for a husband who not only loves and supports me but is willing to share in the daily chores of our home
* for the energy to do the work that needs to get done
* for food that fills our cupboards and refrigerator
* for the water filling the washer and the humming of a dryer
* for God’s words that flowed from my pen to the paper
* for a sermon that is written, typed and ready to be given
* for the grace that God gives freely

As the gifts started to flow from my mouth I felt the peace of God’s presence envelope me and joy began to fill my heart.

But as quickly as peace and joy came in the afternoon, stress of reality arrived that evening. Our son who is 17 and who recently purchased his first vehicle, decided to come home after curfew. As the minutes ticked by, my disappointment and anger grew. “God give me strength, keep me calm and let me handle this with grace.” When he finally got home and we had a “discussion“, I settled back in bed but found myself tossing and turning. Tonight of all nights I needed to get a good nights sleep. How was I going to be able to preach if I was yawning through it? I prayed to God, “Where is the gift in this Lord?” Once again I started counting:

* for a son who is home and in his bed
* for my husbands hand rubbing my back
* for clean sheets and a pillow to lay my head on
* for our home and the family that has lived and breathed life into it

God’s grace was given, God’s grace was received and God’s joy filled my spirit. Sleep returned and dreams were dreamt. Eucharisteo always precedes the miracle.


Monday, February 21, 2011

God's gifts and blessings

It takes the eye to see and the mind to know and the faith to feel all the blessings around us. Those gifts from God that we sometimes overlook when we are hurried and frenzied. Those gifts that over time can add up to a life of joy, if only we look for them and focus on the light that surrounds each one. God's gifts are given freely, as is his grace and when we thank God for those gifts and his grace in our lives, then our souls and our spirits will radiate the joy that only can be received from God.

Today I receive these gifts from God with a thankful heart:

~ the song from our resident cardinal and his mate
~ the light shining on the sanctuary cross
~ a cup of hot coffee on a cold morning
~ snowflakes gently falling from the sky
~ the life of a friend who is now with her Lord and Savior


Sunday, February 20, 2011

A New Path

For the past 9 months I have felt God leading, calling and directing me to work in Women's Ministry and not to become a Local Pastor. At first I was hesitant because this is not what "I" had planned. You see, for a long time I have felt God calling me into ministry and for more than three years I have been focused on becoming a pastor in a church. I graduated from the School for Lay Ministry, completed all of the requirements of becoming a Certified Candidate and went through the various interviews and meetings, so I believed that the path that I was on would lead me straight into the pulpit of a church. But as many of you know God has a plan for us that takes it's own twists and turns and we find ourselves doing something completely different than what we had envisioned.

So over the past few months I have continued to lead women's retreats and I started a Thursday night Women's Bible Study and I have loved every minute of it. I now know that God's path is the right path for me. Every morning after I do my devotion and read my Bible, I pray to God that he will lead me and guide me down this path that he has intended for me, I pray that he will bring people into my life who will help me and to open the doors so that I may go through them without any obstacles or challenges.

Yesterday, I received a call from an acquaintance who wanted to discuss something with me. She has been working in women's ministry for the past few years and I have respected her work for quite sometime. I couldn't wait to hear what she wanted to tell me and I wasn't disappointed. She told me that God had placed my name on her mind along with a few other women who she is asking to be part of a leadership team for a new ministry she is starting. I can't really share much about it because I haven't given her an answer yet but I was so excited that she called and asked me. I'm taking this week to pray about it before I give her my answer.

Please pray that God will place his answer on my heart as to what I should do and please pray for this new ministry. It is a ministry that will touch the hearts and lives of women in this area, will help women grow in their faith and their relationship with God and will help to give them the support they need in their lives.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Sign of spring!!

On Thursday afternoon when I arrived home after work, I got out of my van and heard the most wonderful noise to my ears. A sweet chirping sound. I looked up at our tree, then to the neighbors and finally I fixed my eyes on the tree across the street. There, high above the roof tops perched 5 big orange breasted robins, singing there sweet song. I could not believe my eyes. I have never seen a robin this early, let alone 5 on February 17th!!! I just stood there staring up at those beautiful spring awakening birds and listened to their sweet melody. I go absolutely crazy when I see my "first robin" of spring. I called Dave and proclaimed that I had seen five robins and then texted my kids. I am so happy that I took the time to look around and see God's gift. What a blessing.

And today when I arrived home, there sitting in our front tree, was a beautiful cardinal singing his sweet song to his mate who was perched in our neighbors bush. Spring is definitely upon us and with it brings the warmer temperatures, green grass, light weight jackets, daffodil bouquets and a smile to your face. I do realize that the weather forecast is calling for a chance of snow on Sunday, but God has definitely given us a taste of spring.

These are just a few more gifts that I have added to my list of One Thousand Gifts. What gifts have you found? I would love to hear from you.


Monday, February 14, 2011

One Thousand Gifts

I started reading a book by Ann Voskamp titled, "One Thousand Gifts". It is a wonderful book that I highly recommend if you are searching for the joy in your life. Ann reflects on her farming, parenting, and writing life. This book is a beautifully practical guide to living a life of joy. It invites you to wake up to God's everyday blessings. One of the ways that Ann shows us how to rediscover the joy in your life is by making a list of everyday gifts from God. The dare that Ann gives the reader is to reach a list of 1000 gifts. It doesn't have to be fancy, perfect or pretty. She started her list on the back of a sheet of paper that one of her children had drawn a picture on. She soon found herself using a small spiral notebook that she could take anywhere. Most days her spiral notebook sits open on the kitchen counter where she jots down the gifts she encounters while being a farmers wife, a mother and an observer of life. When we receive God's blessings with gratitude we experience joy in our life. I thought that this was a wonderful challenge. So today I started my list. Here are the first 5 gifts on my list I am grateful for.

#1 my dog wagging her tail
#2 a red lit candle in the middle of the table
#3 the melting of the snow
#4 cat whiskers
#5 hot coffee

Today I am passing on this dare. Can you find 1000 blessings or gifts from God in your everyday life? There is no deadline or urgency to finish your list, you can take as long as you need to reach 1000. Let me know if you accept the dare and we can travel on this journey together.


Happy Valentine's Day!!

26 yrs., 6 months and 7 days ago I met the young man that I would marry. I had just finished helping my friend, her mom and other family members make mints for her wedding when her fiancé and his friend came over to see if we wanted to go out. That young man walked in, sat down and I instantly said to myself, “I’m going to marry him.” I knew before we had even been introduced. Before I had even heard his voice, I knew that one day he would ask me, “Will you marry me?”

When I look back on that day of August 7, 1984, I smile. I smile at the naïve young woman I was. I smile at the confidence that I had in a relationship that hadn’t even begun when I had so little confidence in myself. And now after more than 25 years of marriage I still know. I know that he loves me and I know that I can trust him with my whole heart. I still have that same confidence in this relationship that I had on that day.

It hasn’t always been easy but it has been worth every minute of the time, work, love and sharing that has been put into it. In the beginning everyday was a day of exploring who this person was who woke up beside me each morning. Sharing our dreams, our likes and dislikes. Figuring out what worked and what didn’t. Smothering each other and then knowing when to give the other space.

When our kids came into our lives, our relationship took a back seat as we were figuring out who these children were and how we all fit together (with one bathroom). We would have stolen moments of a quick kiss in the hallway as one of us would be running to help a child with homework, while the other was going to go change a diaper. Dates became rare occasions where we would steal away a couple hours to go and be “big people” but would end up talking about the kids. As the kids got older their activities had us driving in all different directions until we finally found ourselves back home ready to collapse in our bed, only to have it all start up again the next day.

And now we are headed into the realm of “empty nesters”. Our youngest child will graduate from high school this May and head off into the world to find who he is. No longer will we need to steal away to have time together or have a stolen kiss. After 25 years of raising children we find ourselves exploring once again who we are as a couple. It is exciting this new journey that we are about to take. A journey that will lead us to one day taking slower steps, silver hair and memories of a lifetime together.

Through it all God has been with us. Giving us strength, perseverance, comfort and assurance to face each new day. He has been our rock. He has sheltered us through the storms, guided us through the dark valleys and rejoiced with us in the celebrations and blessings.

On this day I not only celebrate the love that I have for my husband, but also the love that I have for God.
1 John 4:16 (NLT)
“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.”


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Happy Birthday Dad!!!

Today is my dad’s birthday and I feel so blessed to have him in my life. My dad is very special to me and that is what I would like to share with you today. My dad has taught me to play fair, to treat people with respect and to take pride in your family, work and life.

My dad was a teacher and coach for over 40 years. My favorite place to go was to the school he taught and coached at and to hang out in the gym during basketball practice. I loved the smell and the sounds that bounced off of the walls. I loved watching my dad teach and instruct his players and my dad took great pride and joy in his teams. These boys who participated in football, basketball and track became an extension of our family. And even today when my dad is out he will sometimes run into one of his former students or players and they will reminisce about their former teammates and games or how my dad made an impact in their life.

Many times when my mom, sister and brother and I sat in the stands, the fans around us would say things about my dad when the game wasn’t going quite the way they wanted it to. But my dad always told us to just ignore their comments, so we would sit there biting our tongues and praying that they would stop. When the referee would make a call that we all knew wasn’t fair or true my dad never lost his temper but remained composed. He never wanted his players to see him be disrespectful because he wanted them to learn respect. He wanted to be a role model for the players and his children.

Family has always been very important to my dad. Although his coaching would take time away from us, my dad never made us feel that we came second. He instilled in us the importance of being a provider for your family and for taking responsibility for what needed to be done.

My dad has always been a spontaneous person and there were many times when we would just go for a drive on a Sunday afternoon with no destination in mind. It was time that we would spend as a family without any distractions.

Perseverance has been a theme in my dad‘s life. As a child my dad contracted polio that affected his leg muscles. And although this meant that he would have struggles during his life he never let it stop him. When he was 16 his father passed away and my dad became the man of the house for my grandmother and his two younger brothers. And in 2001 open heart surgery may have slowed him down for some time but he came back stronger and with more energy than before.

My dad instilled in me a love for nature. In the 10th grade as he listened to his biology teacher talk about a beautiful place in Minnesota, a dream of building a cabin began. When I was in the 6th grade our family purchased a camper and we would go camping in Minnesota for weekends and family vacations. 20 years ago my dad’s dream became a reality when he built a cabin on Little Blueberry Lake. Swimming, fishing, roasting marshmallows, chasing raccoons, bike rides, and long walks are memories that my family and I will have for the rest of our lives.

When I have needed his support, advice or encouragement he has been there for me. When I have felt frustrated or overwhelmed he would give me a hug and tell me everything would be okay. He is a man of strong faith and taught each of us to have faith in God and in ourselves. My dad has always been there for me and I know that he would do anything to help his family. He is a wonderful father-in-law to my husband and a loving, caring and supportive grandfather to my children. He is a man of integrity, loyal, protective, wise, faithful and a loving man and I am proud to be his daughter.

“And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching.” - Titus 2:7

Happy Birthday Dad!!!
I Love You,

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

First reactions

Last evening my husband received a call from our “tax guy” informing us of how our taxes came out. Dave happily told me that we would have to pay in a very, very, very small amount to one and get back a little from the other. I should have been happy, but my first reaction was to ask why? My husband told me that because our daughter got married and we decided not to claim her on our taxes, that also meant that we couldn’t claim her education tax credit as well. And we also have only one child living at home now. I said, “Well that’s not fair” and went about cleaning up the dinner dishes.

Later in the evening while I was working on my Bible study I started thinking about my reaction to Dave’s news. What wasn’t fair about it? The more I thought the less I could find that wasn’t fair. Why did I react like that? I should have been happy but instead I got an attitude of poor me. I started thinking of all the blessings that I have and how fortunate we are that we didn’t have to pay in a large amount to both, that we were basically breaking even. And that’s when God said to me, “Jill, you need to go apologize to Dave for your reaction.” At that very moment that I was going to go to Dave, he walked into the room with a hot cup of coffee for me to have while I was working. I sheepishly said thank you for the coffee and then said I was sorry. Dave looked surprised and asked what I was sorry about. I told him that I shouldn’t have reacted so poorly about our taxes. That after thinking about it I am very happy for the outcome. He looked at me with a puzzled look, said okay and walked out of the room and then looked back in through the partially closed door with a smile on his face.

I almost missed a blessing because I was to consumed of thinking about myself. Instead of rejoicing I chose to disregard it. How many times during our day do we disregard the blessings that God gives us?

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” - 1 Corinthians 13:6-7


Monday, February 7, 2011

Becoming Still

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Compel Women’s Conference and the scripture verse for the conference was Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Lysa TerKeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries, was the speaker and she was truly inspirational. There were so many things I took away from the conference that Lysa spoke on. I’ve read a couple of books that Lysa has written that I highly suggest you read, “Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl” and “What Happens When Women Say Yes to God”. And her newest book “Made to Crave” which is on the New York Times Bestseller list.

But what has stayed in my thoughts that I have found myself repeating over and over is “be still”. Those two little words keep playing over and over in my mind. So I’ve asked myself, why? Why “be still”? I believe the reason I keep repeating them is because I want to be still but I can‘t. I would love to lock myself away somewhere for a few days, away from my job, family responsibilities and church activities. Away from the daily grind of life and into the serenity and solitude of just being quiet. Alone. Free from having to make decisions, answering questions, refereeing disagreements, finding lost items, figuring out schedules, laundry and all of the other items on my life’s to do list. There are times when I am alone, although not as often as I would like, but even during those times when I sit in the quietness of my home my mind will not be still. I sit there and pray, “please be still, just for a few moments, let me hear God.” But my mind won’t. It robs me of the stillness with it’s cries of “you need to begin your sermon”, “you need to work on the retreat”, “you need to read over the Bible study”, “you need to look over Andrew’s homework”, you need to call your sister”, “you need to…..”

This morning as I was beginning my day, sitting in bed with my Bible, devotional book and journal those two words started coming to mind once again. But this time I didn’t protest. I allowed them to creep in and stay. I sat there as the light of morning started to peak through my window blinds and I gave in to the game that it wanted to play. As I let it take over something happened. I kept repeating the words over and over and found that I was becoming still. As I was meditating and concentrating on those two words I became oblivious to everything else around me. Closing my eyes I started to feel the presence of God fill my soul. I was still. The stillness that I so desperately wanted was now enveloping me. My breathing was slow, my mind at rest and the faint whisper of God saying, “you are mine, you are loved, you are still”.

“Be still and know that I am God…”


Friday, February 4, 2011

You Are Beautiful

I am a simple person. Simple in that I don’t have a ton of clothes or shoes, my daily wardrobe consists of a good pair of jeans, sweater and black shoes or boots. My house is tastefully decorated with classic furniture with a few antiques here and there. I cut my hair every 4 months and wear minimal make-up. My favorite place to be is sitting by a lake. My favorite date with my husband would be dinner and a movie. I love books, hot tea and sitting at Barnes & Nobles café. But I do have a confession to make. I color my hair and just last week I went and got acrylic tips on my nails. I don’t do this because I am vain. I do it because for some unknown reason (possibly because I have children) mother nature has placed a few strands of an ugly gray color throughout my head of hair and I have become extremely lazy and irritated that my nails will only grow to a certain length before they break and nail color only lasts for a day before it chips. And I didn’t even get color on the nails just the French manicure look. You see, I like my hands. I have my grandmother’s hands and she always took the time to file them and to wear nail polish and I just feel that if I have her hands I should take care of them like she did. I don’t get all caught up with the latest fashions or trends. I try to buy clothes that will remain in style more than one season.

But what saddens me is other women who are constantly searching for that perfect body, perfect piece of clothing, perfect hair color and style when in reality they are perfect just the way they are. I’m not perfect, not even close. Even though I’ve lost over 35 pounds, my thighs have dimples, my stomach has stretch marks and my arms jiggle. But I feel good, I’m healthier and to me that is what matters most. God made me who I am, dimples, stretch marks, jiggles and all.

I haven’t always felt this way though. When I was a teenager and even into my adulthood, I thought that if I was prettier, skinnier and smarter people would like me even more. I even found myself using laxatives to lose weight after both of my daughters were born only to binge once again. I knew God loved me but I didn’t love myself. I was messing with who God intended me to be. The cycle that a I had created was taking a toll on my body and my relationship with God. Couldn’t God see how badly I wanted to lose the weight? Couldn’t he see how if I just lost the weight I wouldn’t have to spend my time worrying, I could be spending it doing something better. This went on and on for years, until one day I looked at myself in the mirror and decided that I am who I am. I still wasn’t happy with me but I couldn’t keep up with the roller coaster ride I put myself on. So I went through my days being unhappy with how I looked. I avoided mirrors, hated to get my picture taken and didn’t go shopping unless I really needed something (too many tears had been shed in dressing rooms that I tried to avoid them at all cost).

And then I started reading the Bible and searching out what God had to say about beauty. I read books from women who told their stories of feeling unworthy and not good enough until they realized that God loved them just who they were. And then I really looked in a full length mirror. I took a long hard look and I decided that I would find one thing I liked about myself. I stood there for a few minutes looking at all of me and decided that I liked my eyes and then I looked at my hands and I liked them too. I suddenly felt better. It wasn’t so awful. I smiled and decided that I would do it again the next day and I did. I found that I liked my hair and I liked my shoulders. I smiled again and I started to feel better. After a few weeks I had found more things I liked about myself and not just how I looked. I discovered many things that I did well and I suddenly started feeling good. This is what led me to join Weight Watchers last May. I wanted to feel even better. I wanted to do what God had called me to do. If I was going to be in ministry then I wanted to be able to do it with as much energy as I could give. Over these last few months it has been hard. I have had my good weeks and my bad weeks but this time I don’t beat myself up over it. I look in the mirror everyday and I see what God has given me and I say, “Thank you”. Thank you for creating me who I am for giving me the beauty and the flaws.

The Christian music group Mercy Me has a new song called “Beautiful” and it was written by the lead singer for his two small daughters. Here are the lyrics.

You're beautiful
You are made for so much more than all of this
You are treasured, You are sacred, You are His

And praying that you have the heart to find
Cause you are more than what is hurting you tonight
For all the lies you've held inside so long
And they are nothing in the shadow of the cross

Before you ever took a breath
Long before the world began
Of all the wonders He possessed
There was one more precious
Of all the earth and skies above
You're the one He madly loves enough to die

You're beautiful
In His eyes

We are beautiful just the way we are. We are beautiful in His eyes.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Take My Hand

Psalm 73:23-24, "Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory"

While I was growing up there were many Saturdays that my Dad would get up and announce to the family that we would be going to Omaha Nebraska for a day of shopping at the mall. Omaha is about an hour away from where we live and back then if you wanted to go to a mall you either had to go to Omaha or Sioux Falls South Dakota. My family loved having these spontaneous family outings. On one particular day trip when I was about 7 years old, we traveled to Omaha and began a day of shopping. While we were in one of the department stores and my parents were looking at clothing in the men's department, I suddenly found myself lost. I had wandered away to look at something and when I turned around I couldn't locate anyone in my family. I suddenly panicked. As a shy child this is the most terrifying experience to have. I remember standing there and then walking one way and then another and not finding any of them. After a few moments a sales person came up to me and asked me if I was lost and I slowly shook my head yes while I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. He told me to take his hand and then he led me to the stores office, asked my name and then got on the intercom and asked my parents to come to the office to retrieve their daughter. Within a few short minutes I was safely back in my mom's arms and the ordeal was over. I was so happy and was able to enjoy the rest of the day without letting my parents out of my sight.

As an adult when I have found myself scared, lost or lonely I know that all I have to do is reach out to God, take his hand and he will lead me back to where I belong. God is always with us and when we find ourselves wandering he is there to lead us back. Like the sales person that day when I was lost, God extends his hand, leads us to safety and into the comfort and security of his outstretched arms.

I pray that you will take God's hand when you find yourself lost and that in the comfort of God's arms you will know you are safe.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy Birthday Mom!!!

Today is my mom’s birthday! I’m not going to tell you how old she is, because that just wouldn’t be lady like. But I can tell you that my mom has beautiful youthful skin and has never looked as old as the amount of candles on her birthday cake. My mom and I have always had a special relationship and that is what I want to share with you today.

When I was young and very shy my mom was my protector. When I suffered from tonsillitis during elementary school she comforted me. When my fevers got to high she would soothe me. And when I would have nightmares she would be there at my bedside calming me. My mom was one of my biggest supporters. During my teen years when I felt gawky, she made me feel beautiful. She cheered me on at my basketball and volleyball games, choir and band concerts, cheer leading and the school play. She would stay up late to watch scary movies with me even though I know she really didn’t care for them. When I had struggles with friends and boyfriends, she would give me advice and dry my tears.

But our relationship was also tested when I started to think I knew more than my mom (I have since learned that my mom knew a lot more than I ever did). My mom has said that when I was 14, she loved me but that she didn’t like me very well (I didn’t like me very much either).

But the most important moment in our relationship happened when I had to tell her that I was pregnant. I was 19, a sophomore in college and even though Dave and I were engaged I was still so scared to tell her. I felt that I had let her down. But I was wrong. My mom hugged me, told me she loved me and that everything would be fine. At that moment my mom became my best friend. She never made me feel ashamed and I know that there were times that she stood up for me when others would share their opinions. She helped me plan my wedding, set up our new home, a few times brought us groceries when our cupboards got a little empty and on the night that my beautiful daughter Ashley was born she was right there by my side helping me (and Dave) through the labor pains.

My mom has been my rock. She has been there for me when I have needed advice on cooking, housework, children, marriage and life. She has been a loving grandmother to my three children and a wonderful mother-in-law to my husband. She has supported me, prayed for me and loved me. I know that I can always count on my mom to be there for me and I hope she knows that she can always count on me to be there for her. My mom is a loving, compassionate, caring, beautiful, funny and wise woman. She is who I strive to be. She is my role model and my best friend.

"You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God." ~ 1Peter 3:4

Happy Birthday Mom!!!
I Love You,


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Faith and Hope

It’s February 1st and it is snowing, windy and cold once again. For some this is just one more day where they have to brave the frigid temperatures and get out that snow shovel or snow blower once more to clean off the sidewalks and driveways. I am blessed to have a husband and a teenage son who do a wonderful job removing the snow from around our home while I stay toasty and warm inside. I still have to get out and drive to work, walk on the icy sidewalks and clean my car off at lunch and when I leave at the end of the day. And let me tell you, it is a windy bitter cold day today!!! Here is where I have to make a confession. I love winter. I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes right now and thinking I am off my rocker, but the fact is I love every season that comes around. I love living in the Midwest where we get to experience the four different seasons. I feel blessed. For me winter is the expectation of what is right around the corner. It is the hope of spring and new life. When I am in the depths of winter I know that in a month or so I may see my first robin, the grass will be peaking through the left over snow, the daffodils and tulips will be blooming, the sun will feel warmer and the daylight will be longer. The anticipation and hope is what carries me through the darkness of the winter days, the snow covered streets and the below zero temps.

Our faith journey with God is like this. When we are consumed by the dark days of despair we have the faith in God that he will push the dark clouds away and the sun will shine. God will carry us through. When the pain of sorrow takes hold of us, we can trust that God will fill our hearts with love and joy once again. Like the hope of spring, there is a hope of a new tomorrow, a new life in Christ. We may not be able to see the changes but they are there. The birds are preparing to fly north, the sun is staying in the sky longer and the flower bulbs are getting ready to pop through the earth. So much of what God does for us is done behind the scenes of our lives. Directing, guiding, weaving and planting as we are unaware of his work. But even though we can’t see it, it is happening.

So if you are blessed to live in a part of the country that has 4 distinct seasons; winter, spring, summer and fall, embrace each season. Go outside and catch snowflakes on your tongue, breath in the cold air, walk in the snow, build a snowman, look at the bare trees and snow covered bushes and know that spring will begin on March 20th.

Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (NIV)

Romans 8:24-25, “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (NIV)


Monday, January 31, 2011

Ink Spots

This past Friday I was finishing up the bulletins for Sunday worship when I noticed that there were a few that came out of the copier with ink spots on them. My first reaction was to toss all of the ink spotted bulletins away and copy new ones or I could just get some whiteout and cover the ink and I would still be able to use them. I had already printed out all of them and the ink spots weren't covering up any of the wording so I decided to keep them. I got them all finished and placed them in their proper places for worship and left work for the day. But I left work still thinking of the ink spots.

 The topic of my Thursday evening women's Bible study that I have been leading has been on grace, God's transforming grace. Last Thursday we did an exercise using chocolate fondue and cut up pieces of fruit, pound cake and pretzels. It was yummy! I asked the ladies if their pieces of fruit had changed after they had been dipped into the chocolate fondue? They all answered yes. The chocolate fondue had made the fruit, cake and pretzels even that much better. I then asked them if God transforms us like the chocolate fondue covered the fruit? Their answer was no. God transforms us from the inside out. It isn't just how we are on the outside but how we reflect God from the inside. God's grace is freely given. All we have to do is accept it. God also forgives us through his grace. Like those ink spots on the bulletins we are sometimes covered in sin spots. But unlike the ink spots we can't just cover them up with whiteout or toss them away. Our sin spots can only be washed away by the blood of Christ and God's amazing grace. Can you imagine if we walked around with whiteout all over us so that no one would see our sins? Or if we would just be thrown out with the trash? Thankfully God doesn't work that way. When we ask to be forgiven, God washes our sins away and forgets. Wouldn't it be nice if we forgave others the way God forgives us?

"Now it's time to change your ways! Turn to face God so he can wipe away your sins, pour out showers of blessing to refresh you, and send you the Messiah he prepared for you, namely Jesus." - Acts 3:19-20 (The Message)


Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Whole New Year!!

Happy New Year to all my friends and family. Last evening we said farewell to 2010 and hello to 2011.

And what a year 2010 was. Ashley started a new job, started taking college classes and started a new relationship with someone who truly makes her happy. Kayla graduated from college, started a new job as an assistant pre-school teacher and got married to Jerod, the love of her life. Andrew continued to be homeschooled, competed in his first mountain bike race in Rapid City SD and placed 2nd in his age category and faced some life lessons that will help him to be a stronger more responsible young man in the new year. Dave enjoyed the benefits of a great job and was able to relax a little more while not getting stressed out over the little things. I was able to fill in the pulpit at my childhood church a few times this summer and fall, started a new women's Bible study and continued to lead women's retreats at my church, realized that maybe being a Pastor in a church is not the path that God intends for me to be on, sad goodbye to my nephew as he left for Afghanistan and to my sister and her family as they moved a few hundred miles away and in November gave the eulogy at my grandmothers funeral.

2010 was faced with a lot of joy, a few tears and some personal challenges for Dave and I. But even through it all God was there; comforting, rejoicing, redeeming and sustaining each of us. Praise be to God.

And now as I look towards this new year, I am once again faced with a feeling of anticipation, excitement and hope. What will this new year bring? What does God have planned for me? For this year I pray that I will have the ears to hear, the eyes to see, the heart to feel and the mind to know what God is planning for me. I will continue to seek a more healthier lifestyle. I will continue to listen for God's direction in my ministry. I will continue to seek peace in my life at home and at work. I will continue to believe in the goodness of others. I will continue to be less judgmental and more accepting. And I will try and seek the quiet moments in  my everyday life so that I may feel the presence of God and to hear his voice.

My wish for all of you in 2011 is that God will give you the love, joy, peace, hope, strength and mercy that you will need. I pray that you will seek God first before anything else and that your heart be filled with love, your soul be filled with peace, your voice be filled with kindness and your mind be filled with hope.

Blessings for a very Happy New Year!!!!