Not In The Stores

Here we are days away from Christmas.  Some have their shopping done, presents wrapped, shipped and waiting under the tree.  Others thrive on the last minute.  Dashing in and out of the stores, fighting traffic, waiting in line and then finding out the very thing you wanted is sold out, really never existed or just can't be found in the store. 

And doesn't that just about sum it up?  The very thing we need can not be found in any big box store.  Trust me when I say that, I mean it, remember?  Husband Jared is employed by such a store and as much as we rely on consumers for our income, the present is not to be found there. 

Yet we still love to give gifts.  I do.  I might even go so far to say it is my love language.  Said it here before, I know.  It is an opportunity to be intentional.  To spend time reflecting on the one receiving the gift.  All this showing that you care, you thought purposefully about the other.  Sometimes sacrificing in order to do so. 

Today I am asking that you pause and consider making a small gift, a sacrifice if you will allow me to say so.  I am confident that the ultimate gift is Jesus' incarnation, Gods' love come down at Christmas.  God giving us His son.  So could we maybe share some of that love with others?  Compassion has some pretty amazing options for those gifts.  Click on the link and browse their catalog.  See something?  Click on it and follow the directions.  If just 10 of you wonderful people that read this blog and visit with me here could each give $10 that would be $100 to help give Christmas to children living in poverty.  All in Jesus' name.  All for His glory. 

As a side note here, let me break that down for you.  $10 is 2 coffees at Starbucks.  One movie ticket and some change.  Lunch for one at Chipotle.  You get where I'm going with this, right?  A small sacrifice.  When you give to Compassion your dollars are stretched beyond their value.  Our child, Oswaldo, whom I've mentioned before, sent us a picture of what he was able to purchase with his birthday gift of $25.  Three new pairs of shoes, bottles of juice and chicken meat for his family, collared shirt for church and not to mention a few other snack items.  While this catalog giving is a bit different, a small gift to you and me is a big gift for Compassion.  We could do it.  Will you help me give?  Please.

And it wouldn't be the Christmas that you and I are bombarded with this time of year.  This is the ChristmasJesus followers doing as He commanded while He was here in the flesh.  Giving.   Give because you have the  joy of knowing Jesus.  Give because someone gave to you when you were in need.  Give

Thankful Thursday #116

working on a science project...DNA strand
2003. lights twinkling outside
2004. garland on the mantle
2005. homemade presents waiting to be delivered
2006. girls in the kitchen baking
2007. Face Time
2008. only 3 more sleeps
2009. only 7 more sleeps
2010. unexpected presents 
2011. the Word
2012. scripture memory

A Little of This, A Little of That

Since my Thanksgiving post I haven't said much here pertaining to the happenings in this household.  I did share Thing 4's birthday party but in between that and the visit from the grandparents so much has taken place. 
There was a baptism.   All three girl Things were baptized at our church here during the Thanksgiving service. 
Here they are sporting their "unashamed" t-shirts before entering the baptismal font
The three of them were not too keen on having their testimonies videotaped and it being shown to the entire congregation but oh my this Mama did so appreciate hearing their sweet words.  Their confident words.  Their commitment and more importantly their love for our Jesus.  I had to push down my pride more than once.  The evening was pure joy, a true gift.  Now these three are not only my daughters but my sisters in Christ.  Amen and Amen!
Thing 3 also had another big moment recently, maybe not as defining but something to celebrate nonetheless.  She has been taking an acting class with a conservatory here and to end the first semester she performed her very first monologue on stage.  To say she was flawless would be an understatement.  I may be bias but big sister isn't and her compliments made Thing 3 grin from ear to ear.  Take a look at her; calm, cool and collected on stage.  Pulling the audience in with her emotion and bringing them to tears, OK maybe that was just me.  Like I said, I'm bias. 
Excerpt from "The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams
Yes, she read the entire play to better understand the context and nature of her character
Beyond these events there have been several Christmas related appointments.  Dinner with football carpool families, impromptu dinners with friends of Things, family sledding outing, a concert and of course baking and jelly making.  Here are photos of each.
 Thing 2, Thing 3 and a sweet friend, together for our
2nd annual cinnamon roll making party
 MN Adult and Teen Challenge Christmas Concert at Grace Church
 Family Sledding at Staring Lake after our
first official snow storm experience
Thing 3 and Thing 1 weren't much for the sledding,
 but they sure did have fun in the snow with Polo
All the kiddos waiting to dig in to the homemade lasagna, scrumptious! 
Sadly, there are no photos of the jelly making, Husband Jared was just too efficient this year.  The jelly was made and the kitchen cleaned in the time it took me to write this post. Or at least the second batch was.  He rocks! 
For now I do believe you are caught up.  Or at least somewhat.  Christmas music is playing non stop, the candles are lit, twinkly lights shining brightly and we are trying to spread Christmas love however and whenever we can while we patiently await the arrival of Poppi, Nani, Uncle Jason, Aunt Corynn and Gianna! 

Thankful Thursday #115

1093. advent challenges
1094. tears cried together
1095. sweet phone calls
1096. 9 more days
1097. joy, unspeakable joy
1098. projects completed
1099. first snow storm
2000. squeals of sheer thrill sledding down the hill
2001. writing assignment
2002. Christmas cards arriving in the mail

It's All About Giving

And isn't it really?  The Christmas season in it's entirety,  centered solely around giving.  God the Father giving His only Son, himself in flesh, to the human race so that we may have eternal life with Him.  Redeemed.  Yes, I do believe so.  And I do so love giving and since that is what we are called to do I feel a list stating simply exactly what I do love about giving appropriate for this season. 

1.the look on the receiver's face
2.spending time choosing just right
3. surprising
4. random presents revealed in different manners
5. twinkly lights as the backdrop for all this giving
6. sharing time
7. sweets baked with love and out of love
8. making a difference
9. not store bought
10. impactful shopping
11. the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing
12. did I mention surprises?
13. thoughtfulness
14. sacrificial giving
15. sharing resources
16. pretty paper tied up with bows
17. full heart
18. generosity
19. body of Christ
20. smiles

So there's a top 20 for you.  Just a beginning really.  Much to list, much to be grateful for.  Maybe during this season of Advent, preparation for the best gift, the gift that means love came down, you just might be inspired to give in a way you never have before.  If you are I encourage  you to follow this link, gift catalog, to a different sort of giving.  Compassion's way of giving.  A reminder that it truly is all about giving. 

Then if you feel so inclined, leave a comment and share how you are giving this season, or what giving means to you, or just maybe your favorite gift idea from this gift catalog.  I'm all ears, waiting with my coffee, steam rising and hands cupped around the mug.  To this season and all that it brings. 

Thankful Thursday #114

*abandoned train car, Franklin, TN
1083. quiet mornings to myself
1084. seeing Thing 2 rise to the occasion
1085. deep heart sadness
1086. a community that rallies and prays
1087. having him know without having to say any words
1088. sweet hugs from Things
1089. room full of girls holding one another up
1090. late night laughter from the family
1091. sisters
1092. brothers

Wild Ride

Thing 4's birthday happens to coincide quite closely with Christmas.  The day after actually, Boxing Day.  It also happens to be his year for a party and his choice was Nick Universe, so we planned ahead to celebrate early.  That meant a trip to Mall of America, a few of  his buddies and some roller coasters!  We began with cake at the house, presents and then we were off.

I think he might have been singing to himself here?
 The boys had mapped out their strategy, were pumped full of sugar and ready to scream and holler to their hearts' content.  And that they did.  They raced through the theme park and conquered some fears.  Some one's first time upside down, another boy's first time on a big roller coaster.  So much fun.  And even more enjoyable to witness from the park bench where I sat and waited for four energy packed boys to race towards me, spilling all the details of each and every curve,
hill and downward spiral. 

We did manage a quick break for dinner at Johnny Rocket's, burgers and shakes of course.  A short stop to check out some impressive Lego sculptures and then more talking and boy antics around the table.  Dinner was inhaled and then it was back to the park for this lot.  Thankfully no food was lost during this outing and I must say these four knew what they were doing,
 more like experts in this arena. 

What was more memorable for me though was the car ride home in which a lively game of "Would you rather" was played.  Questions such as, "would you rather lick the floor of Wal-Mart or the road?" and then one of my personal favorites, "would you rather kiss Taylor Swift or Selena Gomez?".  Oh yes, that happened.  While I was a participant in the game I chose to pass on that one.  These boys were pure joy and such a treat to listen to and chaperon.  

It's Beginning to Look Alot Like Christmas

Once our house guests had left us last weekend and we all had time to catch our breath I began pining for the Christmas tree to be in the house.  Get it.  I know so punny.  I just can't help myself, it's like non stop laughs around here.  So Husband Jared and Thing 4 obliged and rescued our Christmas containers from storage and we, meaning I, set about filling the house with festive music, a little movie called Elf and one rather plump artificial tree.  Due to our highly active social calendar, insert laugh here, see what I mean?  I mean our Things' social calendar, we waited to decorate said tree until the next day.  And decorate they did.  I sat back and watched the four Things open their ornament boxes and ooh and aah and show me as if I had never seen them before.  Then they would ask why this one or why that one and what the significance was.  And then lo and behold Thing 4 melted my heart.  He looked at me as he was decorating and asked what would Dad and I do when they were all gone.  Excuse me.  Is someone leaving?  He went on to explain that when him and sisters were grown and maybe had families of their own who would decorate the tree and with what because they would have all their ornaments.  What about the angel, will you let our kids put the angel on when their big enough?  Um, what does a sentimental sap like myself say to that blue eyed boy?  Yes of course, through sniffles and tears.  If God intends for you to have a family I hope we can carry on these traditions.  I think, or maybe that's what I wanted to say but my lips wouldn't open.  I don't mean to be dramatic about this, ok maybe I do a little, but with Thing 1 a sophomore already and Thing 2 right behind her there is much talk about the future happening around here.  Sometimes this Mama just wants to close her eyes and make it all stop.  Then alas, I come to my senses, or so I tell myself and open my eyes to see this.
 and this
and this Thing almost tall enough to reach the top of the tree

and these crazy four Things that never fail to make me laugh

Thankful Thursday #113

Opryland, Nashville 2006
Whoa, who are those kiddos and how in six years did they change so very much? 
1073. twinkling lights on the Christmas tree
1074. stockings hung
1075. telling stories of past ornaments
1076. woolly socks
1077. siblings that make me laugh
1078. Christmas cards
1079. brown paper packages, yes tied up with string
1080. Advent season
1081. turkey leftovers 
1082. just learned piano playing

Alot of Stuff

So as not to pass over any event as trite I am going to designate this post Thanksgiving only.  There, done and done.  This year we decided to stay  put up here in the great North for the holidays.  No driving for us.  Little did we know Grandpa Ron and Mema were thinking about a trip to celebrate with us.  Nice.  Add to that the three girl Things' baptism, a post for another day, and they were in.  Which lead me to planning a feast not just for our six, but the eight of us.  A task I love.
The Things and I planned our menu, grocery shopped and set about to bake and prepare the day before.  Here we are in the kitchen, diligently stirring, chopping and mixing.
 Notice the no shirt-apron look, it's how we roll around here
My girls and me
Just for posterity's sake, Thing 4 made the corn casserole this year, Thing 3 was in charge of pumpkin pie, Thing 2 cranberry sauce and most of the chopping for stuffing, etc., Thing 1 pecan chocolate chip pie.  Me, everything else.  With the exception of lefse, that is Mema's specialty and a few of the Things pitched in to help her once again.  There is nothing like fresh lefse on Thanksgiving morning.
I let Mema take the reigns in the kitchen while Husband Jared and I headed out for a run on a rare but totally appreciated 60 degree day.  I am nothing but determined to be grateful for all that comes with living here in winter's domain. 
Our morning was slow and sweet, just the way I like them and that run propelled me into gratefulness I wasn't quite prepared for.  It was wonderful.  We came home to Things and grandparents sharing snacks, watching football and playing cards.  Once the table was set and the side dishes had cooked we sat down to enjoy the meal and read all the thankfulness that overflowed from the "thankful tank" this year.  Among the tops were Jesus, and all the family time we've spent together during this fall season.  What gifts to remember.

 The family gathered

Our table
 Mother and Son
Card playing that took place morning, noon and night
We had originally planned on a walk around the bluffs and to the creek but the weather had a different agenda.  The rain, then sleet and finally snow came falling and the wind was blistering.  A nap on the sofa was a much better option.  After we rested and talked and laughed some more we enjoyed pie and coffee and some card playing.  Then off to bed for an early morning rise.  For what else but shopping!
 To round out the family Thanksgiving experience us girls, Thing 3 excluded, woke early, made coffee and hit the icy road ready for crowds, Christmas music and fun! And that is exactly what we had.  A few hours of line free shopping at MOA and Mema had taken care of all the Things' Christmas presents and even admitted to rather enjoying her shopping experience.  You must understand Mema and I are not terribly fond of shopping but mix that up with two excitable Things who can navigate the mall like no body's business and we found ourselves laughing the time away.  Memories made.

 The boys and Thing 3 had gone bowling and were ready to share their scores and highlights of the morning as well.  So we did and then we were all set for a friendly game of Catch Phrase.  Or not!  Our family, Hanson 6, is extremely competitive, shocking right?  Needless to say the game was not without arguments and questionable points and belly laughter.  All for the sake of the game.  It is always a hoot to listen to your children describe something from their perspective and then even better when the four of them are on the same wave length and don't even need to use words.  It was as if they had their own secret language.  Interesting.  For the record though, the parents and grandparents won, and the Things had dish duty that night.  After our trip to the movies.  A full day for all of us and one we won't soon forget.  Thanks Grandpa and Mema for making the trek up here and spending a few days making memories with us. 

Thankful Thursday #112

A view from a dear friends' home in Urla, Turkey...missing them and that place, but ever so grateful for our time there
1063. family visits to celebrate important stuff
1064. everyone in the kitchen, helping
1065. hearing thankfuls from the thankful tank around the table
1066. an outdoor run in shorts
1067. snow the same day
1068. a new warm coat
1069. movies and snuggles
1070. three girls who made a life changing decision on the eve of Thanksgiving
1071. sweet sounds of Things and Mema and Grandpa
1072. phone calls and Face time and talking with far away family

Love, Thanksgiving and Letters

I know I've said it here on the blog before and those of you who know me in real life must know by now I have an affinity for the written word.  It must have started with my mother.  Whom as far back as I can remember wrote letters and cards.  In fact she had a box organized by month with birthday cards, thank you cards, etc.  She encouraged me to have a pen pal, a cousin in Michigan.  We would write back and forth and when we moved away from my first child hood friend in the first grade I was told to write to her.  And I did.  More than the actual writing, which seems to be a lost art these days, is the thought, the time and the love that flows onto the page when penned.  Letter writing seems to be in the midst of a revival though.  Lest you think letter writing is not for you, I encourage you to watch Hannah Brencher and listen to this young woman share her story.  Teary eyed I made it through the entire video, so moved that I sat down to write what else but a letter.

The very next thought I had after viewing the video and reading some of Ms. Brencher's writings was how unmistakably powerful words can be.  Whether they are random notes found by strangers, thought provoking billboards, articles from your favorite magazine, a few paragraphs on a friend's blog; There is a realness and vulnerability to sharing life in that way. 

Which brings me to how incredibly thankful I am for words.  For letters written past, present and future.  From historians, theologians, friends, family members, love letters and those sweet, innocent letters I receive from my Things now as a Mama.  Pure thanksgiving.  To say I was inspired by the clip above isn't completely accurate.  I did experience joy in her words, in the mission field she chose and the impact it is having.  And don't we all have that capability?  A note in a lunch box?  A letter to say thank you?  Birthday card? An I miss you card?  A letter to say you matter, I believe in  you, let me share my joy.  Go and write in your penmanship and let someone know just how much you truly care.  Yes, even a stranger. 

Thankful Thursday #111

fun on the swings, love those smiles
1053. thing 2 finishing dinner for me on a late work day
1054. thing 3 baking cookies for a friend's family
1055. sweet time sharing deep with a friend
1056. forgiveness from a friend, a sweet gift
1057. thing 4's surprise note on my phone
1058. thing 1's excitement for her job interview
1059. menu planning for a Thanksgiving feast
1060. knowing it's only a season 
1061. learning again and again
1062. LOVE


Heavy heart after a fitful night's sleep.
What's ailing you my daughter.  Why won't you say.
How do I uncover what lies beneath the surface. 
We throw around words like authentic and genuine, community, and yet emptiness is what fills.  The elephant in the room.  Am I the one blocking.  Do I build the walls.  Have shattered expectations. 
Place my trust, my fulfillment in man.  In idols.  Things that do not live eternal. 
Sure I pray.  I seek.  I knock.  Am I relentless though.  A wild at heart desperate for the gospel, the man behind the gospel.  Jesus. 
Do I give life in my relationships.  Or am I the one that takes and doesn't give.  I desire to give and give more.  Serve like never before.  In small ways.  Unexpected and deliberate always. 
Does the Spirit lead.  Is peace found in the Life giver Himself.  Not in the world that surrounds. 
 I hope.  I cling.  I am down on my knees.  Here is where I beg for my soul to be invaded.  For my heart to break over what breaks His.  For the head knowledge I know to be true to be felt throughout.  Felt so that it pours over.  A life lived well.  Radically pursuing a God I can not see. 

Thankful Thursday #110

1043. dishes cleaned by Husband Jared
1044. hot coffee in my hands on a cold night
1045. prayers answered
1046. a mess of wires in the basket
1047. clean sheets
1048. blank calendars
1049. music loud in an empty house 
1050. dreaming big
1051. awaiting family visits
1052. sweet words spoken

A Melt Down

How to begin this post?  I am reflecting on an incident that took place with Thing 3 on Friday night.  More like all day Friday but that is not necessarily important.  I have thought about this, prayed about it and now I felt compelled to write about it.  Because that my friends is how I process best. 
Let's begin with the back story.  There is a special opportunity at our church that presents itself once a month to junior and senior high students.  A chance to put others before self and experience life on the streets of our city.  For the record, I have never pressured or prompted our Things to serve in this capacity, this is something they have taken on as their own.  So, this month is the junior high students turn, which is where Thing 3 comes into play.  She requested I sign her up and notify her leader that she would like to attend said outing and serve.  Great.  Done and done. 
Only come the scheduled day we encounter reluctance.  And not just passive I don't really want to go but a definite attack of the spirit.  Any excuse possible surfaced, I'm tired, I don't feel well, and my personal favorite, none of my friends are going.  Now let me tell you, Husband Jared and I had responded in kind all day.  You are going, you made the commitment, let's move on.  It wasn't until an hour before that this all came to a head.  Standing in the kitchen Thing 3 began sobbing.  This girl tends to have a dramatic flair but this was very out of character.  My initial response would have been to let loose on her, unleash the proverbial parenting nonsense and then I felt the prompting and it could not be ignored.  That is after my threat of taking certain privileges away and seeing the shoulders drop and the heaviness enter her and then it became crystal clear more was at stake here then just a night of serving.  I took a step back and a rather deep breath and looked into her heart. 
We talked.  Females are social, relational creatures by design.  Upon learning she would be on her own in an already uncomfortable situation she resisted.  She understood this night was not about her or her friends. It was serving.  Taking on a servant's heart and being the hands and feet to those that don't know.  A Great Commission.  I had no words, the disappointment had struck and I wasn't sure I would be speaking words that would make her soul stronger.  So I prayed and asked for them.  And I still didn't have them.  I let her off the hook and sent her upstairs.  Note:  another fine parenting moment goes down in the books.  I thought after the first prompting that I had it.  I clearly didn't. 
Thing 2 entered the equation and talked to her and I tried effortlessly to listen.  She said something that stirred Thing 3 and they both bounded downstairs and I received an apology.  Seems as though missing out on other activities wasn't worth not going.  I prayed her motivation might be turned from the thought of her comfort and social calendar to those that would cross her path that night.  I forgave her and in that asked for her forgiveness too for losing it and not seeing straight.  It happens and more often than I care to admit. 
There we were.  In the parking lot and her ready to go.  We stopped for a moment and prayed.  Prayed over the night, the leadership team the students, we prayed for safety and opportunity and we asked the Holy Spirit to rain down on them.  On all of them.  I prayed for her, Thing 3, that she would know Jesus better because of this  and that her heart would break for what breaks His.  I thanked Him for allowing me to be her Mama and for the gift she is.  We asked for forgiveness and accepted His grace, offered again and again.  Then she left.  And not more than two hours later I received this text, "Thanks Mama for making me come tonight, I love you."  Still brings tears to my eyes.  A sweetness that I certainly did not deserve and one I am grateful for all over again. 
The night ended and when we picked her up we heard all the stories of the people she met and served and all the laughter and fellowship she experienced.  And here I sit on a Monday morning thinking about the lesson I learned in all of this.  Our Father in heaven deals with this repeatedly in my relationship with Him.  He calls me into sanctification.  To His holy presence.  Walking with Him and following His commands.  Obedience at it's purest.  Yet I resist.  Over and over again.  Too many times to count.  I don't want to serve.  I fool myself into thinking that what the world offers is better.  My comfort should come first.  I know better than He.  Obviously not my friends.  In all transparency here can I just get an Amen?  I know only what He has allowed me to know.  And in my quest to know Him better than more is revealed.  Only then.  Full surrender is what He's after.  Mind, body, spirit.  All I can do in my humanness is fall on my knees, ask for forgiveness and accept His grace that He freely gives.  Then I can offer that to others.  Not because I love Him so much or I am capable in my flesh but because He loves us infinitely more than we can fathom. 
That is when I can say to Thing 3, I love you and like our Jesus I am more concerned about who you will be in five years than your temporal happiness and comfort in the now. 

No Photos

Well there are no photos of all my Things together in their costumes and not even one photo of Thing 3 in her costume.  Nada.  Zilch.  Not even one of her with her friend.  Can you believe that?  When I asked Husband Jared that question his reply was, "absolutely".  You see, in my defense, we had a house full of people.  And while I do love the house being full of friends and food and laughter I was a bit off my game.  There were two boys that were so excited they could hardly stand themselves.  All geared up in the morphsuits they were hoping, fingers crossed and all, that they would be able to brave the neighborhood on their own this year.  Sans parents.  Um excuse me, but when did my baby grow up enough to trick or treat by himself?  Alright then, the boys received clearance from both sets of parents and they hit the ground running.  Literally.  I did manage to snap a photo of them before chaos ensued.  Take a look and if you understand the premise behind these morphsuits please explain.  I just don't get it.  Regardless these two, Thing 4 on the left and his buddy on the right are what we refer to as the "boy wonders" and they rocked the morphsuits.

I suppose I should share a photo or two of crew we had at our house, at least to begin with.  We ended the night with more than we started with and like I mentioned above, no photos of Thing 3 to be found.  Still puzzled by that one. 

Let me explain.  We, well I, made two crock pots of chili, one red, white, I baked some mini corn dog muffins, had a friend bring over her famous apple cider and we proceeded, oops, I, proceeded in inviting over friends and neighbors.  Said friends and neighbors have small children and in the photo they are all preparing themselves for trick or treating.  Costumes, gloves, hats, coats and of course plastic pumpkins for carrying the candy.  It wasn't until all the littles left with my big Things that I took a deep breath.  Then another friend of teenage daughters and I looked at each other and really exhaled and realized that it was quiet.  That's when we quickly grabbed another bowl of chili and sat down for some grown up conversation.  I had forgotten what it was like when my Things were that age.  All the preparation and excitement and non stop activity and all the needing of  Mama.  While I loved that stage and sometimes miss it I am so grateful for how good it was then and how good it is now.  

All of this excitement and chaos and littleness consumed me.  I was taken with it.  I tried to remain a welcoming and helpful hostess through it all and yet I was too distracted to take photos of my own Things.  Way to go Mom of the year!  I do however have a few photos of our pumpkin carving that took place the night before.  The Things chose, cleaned and carved their own pumpkins.  No help required.  Maybe a few nods of approval or encouraging words, that was all.  They did a fantastic job if I do say so myself.  Take a look for yourself.

Thing 1- classic jack-o-lantern

 Thing 4 - grim creeper stencil, challenging

 Thing 2 - haunted house stencil - very challenging,
she even managed a blister and good hours work on this one
 Thing 3 - an eclectic collection of eyes and mouths, creative, inventive and entirely her
I do think that these may make up for my lack of photos from Halloween night.  Maybe?  Hopefully the Things will forgive me, we have bigger fish to fry, right?

The group left for trick or treating and then Thing 3's friend and her family joined us.  Then Thing 3 and said friend hit the neighborhood in hopes that there would still be porch lights on.  All returned a while later their bags full and a trail of wrappers behind them.   Candy trading went down and some intense negotiations took place, both with the girls and the boys.  Then in between them all.  Entertaining.  More laughter ensued, too much sugar was ingested and I think it fair to say that we all ended our night happily with our bellies full.

Thankful Thursday #109

The pumpkins on Halloween night
1033. a full house
1034. Things that help the littles
1035. fellowship
1036. new friends being introduced
1037. breaking bread
1038. Thing 2 speaking truth to a stranger
1039. real laughter
1040. learning the history
1041. inside jokes with my people
1042. laundry basket emptied, washed, folded
and put away all in the same day

Monster Dash

This past weekend in the bitter cold Husband Jared and I completed yet another half marathon, one named the Monster Dash.  The course was inexplicably beautiful and I found myself spurred on wanting to round the next corner and catch a glimpse of the nature waiting for me.  The temperature gauge was not so friendly to us on this chilly morning, a mere 25 degrees when we were on our way to the starting line.  No matter, we had our layers, we had each other and we gave each other and ourselves a pep talk that included something along the lines of , just keep running, it's only 13.1 miles, this is what you've trained for.  Or not.  I told myself that I didn't have a problem backing out should there be snow or wind or any other weather ailments that might deter me from running my best or causing injury.  And then I told myself how lame that sounded and I better buck up and get to this running business.  That we did.  Each with our personal goal in mind we hit the course and found each other at the finish line within minutes of each other.  Another one in the books and not another on the calendar until warmer weather finds it's way to this frozen land. 

 Before the race, all smiles and trying to keep warm

 After the race, with our medals, relieved to have crossed the finish line

Thankful Thursday #108

* taken outside a church in Waconia -
each flag represents a baby who was aborted...powerful
1023. a new friendship being woven
1024. dreams being voiced
1025. heart conviction
1026. family days
1027. Things that still play at parks
1028. answered prayers for brother's family
1029. surprise run in to a sweet friend and her daughter
1030. fellowship over dessert
1031. race day approaching
1032. whip cream topping hot drinks that warm on chilly days

Family Fall Day

Every year, since I can remember, we have taken the four to a pumpkin patch of sorts.  A day spent at a local farm, meandering around, exploring, finding pumpkins and enjoying the changing of the seasons.  This year was no different.  Yet this year I found myself remembering visits past and thought I would share just one photo of the Things from a previous pumpkin patch visit.
Glendale, AZ 2005
Our Saturday called for sleeping in and having a slow morning at home, a rarity in our lives during this season.  Husband Jared had promised Yo Yo donuts for breakfast which meant maple-bacon deliciousness was on the menu.  A sweet treat for sure and a promising start to our day.  We checked football scores, anxiously waiting results from our team's match and then we bundled up and hit the road.  It is a beautiful ride out to the farm, foliage lined roads, all bedecked in majestic fall colors. 
This barn was waiting for us as we pulled into the farm.  Notice the unique barn quilt.

This being our first visit to this farm we knew we had made a good choice when we read on the website that this is a family farm and has been so for thirty years.  Wow.  We missed apple picking but we were still able to take a ride on the tractor through the orchards and vineyards and learn a few fun facts.  For instance, did you know that France and Minnesota share the same latitude and longitude coordinates?  Or at least a particular area in each place do, close enough, right?  Which is why Minnesota is known as the wine belt of the USA.  Who knew?  I certainly didn't.  Although the season here is considerably shorter than in France, the soil conditions are optimal for growing grapes.  Moving on, we also learned how apple trees are grafted and grown.  An interesting tidbit that Husband Jared and I knew nothing about.  If you attempt to grow an apple tree from the actual apple seeds you will wind up with a fruitless tree with branches.  Now, if you graft a branch from the tree and attach it just right to another tree you will have an apple tree of whatever variety.  That's basically the uneducated, not the horticulturist's description.  Of course the "baby" trees are grown someplace special, transported and grafted under optimal conditions.  Of course. 

 The Things and Mama on our tractor ride
The orchard
After our informative tractor ride around the farm the Things made friends with the animals of the farm.  Thing 3 never strayed far from this beauty.  There were lamas and goats and rabbits and farm dogs and farm cats.  Animals everywhere you turned.  Old tractors and farm equipment were scattered around as well.  The Things explored and then explored some more.  Thing 1 was busy snapping photos of a green covered barn, Thing 4 pretending to drive the tractor and Thing 2 talking to the animals. 

 Then it was time to choose pumpkins.  There was a monetary limit and the Things had to get creative with the selection they had.  And with that we ended up with a wagon full of varying pumpkins, short and round, long and tall, and just plain big. 

 The Four Things, love.

Their pumpkins

Once the pumpkins were loaded in the car we happened upon a playground that was empty and just begging us to stop and play.  So we did.  There was a merry go round and boy did they go round!  Husband Jared and I ran around and around in attempts to spin the Things faster and faster. 

Love this and love my man

We spent the next moments running, catching our breath and trying not to fall over.  I do believe that Husband Jared and I were running faster than the merry go round ever spun.  Go figure.  The Things were still squealing with delight and laughing and laughing.  Which in the end is always worth it.  Music to my ears.  The adventure ended at Lola's Lake house for some grub and card playing and then a quiet ride home.  Yeah right.  The family fun continued all the way home and then through dinner time, homemade pork ramen soup, prepared by Husband Jared and Thing 4 and snuggle time all together.  A wonderful family fall day. 


Thankful Thursday #107

A sampling of fall
1013. light shadows at my desk
1014. Christmas garland in the mail, special
1015. art to hang on the walls
1016. photos of nieces and nephew ready to hang on the wall
1017. family pictures to treasure
1018. rain drops on a day off of school
1019. sharing books with Thing 1
1020. watching debates together, explaining the hard stuff
1021. brother texts and answering with prayer
1022. The Word


* a garden shop in downtown Excelsior - note the sweet little piggy hanging, love.
Just the other day I took some time to meander the streets of downtown Excelsior and find some beauty.  It was waiting for me there.  A quaint street lined with too expensive shops and antique stores.  Similar to the likings of downtown Franklin but then again nothing like it.  It did however fill an ache in my heart for home.  I walked up and down the main street and sat and took in the stillness of the lake. The trees lining the perimeter of the shore have all taken their fall color.  Spectacular hues of maroon, gold and orange reflected on the water.  Just majestic. 

And I take it all in.  Just breathe and offer thanks.  I am here and there is purpose and this is beauty surrounding.  In all the little ways I choose to find it.  It is a waiting gift. 
I continue to walk around.  Clutching my camera.  Waiting for inspiration to jump out, grab hold.  I walk in and out of stores.  Browsing.  Touching the fabrics, not really looking for anything.  Smiling and thanking.  Then I see this.  Iron and red and standing tall.  The contrast strikes me and I snap away. The shadows against the paint, the space between, the twists and vines.  Such detail. 
Still I walk on.  Looking for more.  I people watch.  A past time I so enjoy.  Watching people engage in conversations, their expressions, body language, all with depth and stories untold.  I wonder about them.  More thankfulness rushes in.  Then I see this.
A painted wall on the side of a business standing next to a garden.  Just enough to make someone stop and smile.  There is more ground to cover, so to speak and so I walk on, cross the street.  Debate on stopping at the bakery and then I don't.  I press my nose to the glass of a Scandinavian store and smile politely at the woman on the bench watching.  At the end of the street there is a theatre.  Old.  Only showing a few films.  It intrigues me.  Makes me think about the stories it holds and the popcorn and the history, maybe busier in the summer months when the weather is warm and there are boats docked nearby and people scattered everywhere. 
My time is nearing an end.  There are errands to run and reality to face.  Yet for this brief visit I found beauty.  Little gratitude clips all around.  Loveliness that was waiting to be found.