Friday, March 30, 2012

Small things impact in HUGE ways

13 years ago was my first trip to Haiti and my life has never been the same.

Six years ago I was honored to be on the founding board of the Haiti Mission Project. Working with this team of people makes me feel humbled and honored to be apart of such Christ centered work.

Two years ago a monumental earthquake destroyed the city we love in the country we are passionate about hurting the people who have become our family.

One year ago Cholera began to rise to epidemic proportions. 500,000 have been affected. Over 7,000 have died since the Earthquake.

Today, the rainy season has begun. In all honesty, heavy rains have plagued the country for the last week and today, tonight actually, as I write this, we received this announcement:


The Haiti National Weather Service is predicting heavy rainfall on Friday evening (March 30) and on Saturday (March 31). The whole country is predicted to be affected, including Port-au-Prince. Please be careful, as flash flooding can occur, making conditions very dangerous.

Once the rain begins, the dirty and infected water washes down hillsides, overflows open sewer systems, floods and contaminates the rivers and small communities only water sources. Water carrying cholera will quickly spread and be used by children, youth, and adults living throughout Haiti, including the crowded slums of Port au Prince. Within hours and days, sewer systems, open bathrooms, garbage, drinking water, washing water, food waste, medical waste all washes together and lives in the same source. But with the water rushing and the rain washing it down stream, the people drinking from the river don't know that someone just crapped in it up the road. I don't know about you, but I feel deeply that clean water is a human right.

If you don't know, Cholera is a bacterial infection transmitted by drinking water or eating food that has been contaminated by the feces of an infected person. Many Haitians do not have access to modern toilets or working sewers and septic tanks, which helps explain how the infection has quickly become what NPR News recently called “the worst ongoing episode in the world.”

The effects of cholera include intestinal pain, severe diarrhea, vomiting and in some cases death by dehydration. In most cases, cholera is treatable by rehydration solutions, but intravenous (IV) fluids or antibiotics may also be needed. Almost essentially, clean water.

After understanding how widely the people in Haiti were effected the last two years by this epidemic, it is hard to sit back and watch, knowing that thousands are still living in tent cities and that the worst slum is sitting at the bottom of the city, where the river sources dump into the ocean. This slum being set up to the worst hit.

LinkBut we don't need to sit back. We can do something. You can do something.

The Haiti Mission Project has already established clinics ready to receive Aqua tabs. Aqua tabs are small tablets used to decontaminate water making it possible to drink and to use for food preparation. These tablets are able to be purchased for mere pennies.

Here are the tabs.

Now here is the math:

1 aqua tab will clean 2 1/2 gallons of water.

We are hoping to give 5 aqua tabs per person for the week to create clean water in the aid of preventing Cholera.

$10 will provide 300 people with clean water for a day
$25 will provide 750 people with clean water for a day
$100 will provide 3000 people with clean water for a day

If you are interested in reading about one of the doctors we are working with in the distribution of Aqua tabs you can read his blog here. We will also be working Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity along with other clinics in need of providing preventative care as Cholera cases escalate

I beg of you. If you have read this far, and this human need has touched your heart in any way, you can help by doing any of the following:

1. Please visit and donate. 100% of your donation will go to providing aquatabs for creating safe water.

2. Post the safewater logo on your facebook page and a link to the website to continue promoting this very real and current human need.

3. Tell your friends, co-workers, churches, class mates, family and strangers about this campaign. Our goal is to reach $6,000 and we can't do that without getting the word out. Remember, you aren't supporting the Haiti Mission Project., you are helping care for your fellow mankind in a country that is getting hit hard with rain that will create water sources that carries the potential to kill them. This isn't about any one organization, its about people.

4. Write an article about it, write a bulletin insert about it, write a blog about it, conduct a radio interview around it. We need all the help we can get to the word out and make sure we can meet our goal in providing multiple clinics with aquatabs.

5. Please pray. We want God to be honored in this and we would love to see the power of kindness and compassion move through people and see our goal met. We want to see people's lives saved. We want to see families whose mothers and fathers are around to see their kids grow up. Please pray that this campaign can carry an impact and that people will see the value in their dollar.

Thank you for walking with us in this. Thank you for giving.

Cough medicine and Pineapple salsa

I haven't updated about Big lately and I wanted to do so. Here is a fun picture of him helping me in the kitchen when he was 5. I love that face.

So many of you have been following our journey and I haven't done a really great job keeping you updated.

It's hard in some cases because Big doesn't really have any physical reaction in your traditional sense. There are no rashes, no throwing up, headaches, stomach aches, discoloration of skin. Nothing. Our only indicator is his behavior.

Now let's be honest, we have all paid at least a minimal amount of attention to our poop, so we know that the food we digest takes time to work its way through our system. That being said, his behavioral response is the same way that it happens anywhere from a few hours to two days after he's eaten something and can last up for up to four days till it's all out of his system. Food takes time to be digested and effect your systems.

This makes paying attention to his food, his behavior, his sleep, his transitions every day, all day exhausting.

For the last month or so I have been cautious to write anything because something deep down in my gut has been telling me that something, albeit very small, but still something is off.

If you get discouraged by the use of my vague description words, I apologize. I try so hard to find words that describe what happens when food effects my son. The words I keep coming back to are:

Hard. Constant. Fight. Push.

When something is off with Big, I can tell because his pushing back and fighting me is constant. However, it is often small things that, when, you pull that specific instance out on its own, it's no big deal. But you put it right next to every behavior he has and they are all the same, you start to wonder. When these questions/statements start coming up continually through the day

"Big, can you hear me? I have asked you four times to ________. Let's take off the angry face. Please stop your whining. Don't argue. Stop yelling. Watch your ton of voice. Sharing is a way that we show love to others."

All of these statements are things a parent says countless times during the day. My life is no exception. HOWEVER, a healthy, normal child should be able to listen at some point. A normal, healthy child should be able to make a wise choice at least once during the day. When Big is in his heightened state, any ability to make a good choice, to control his voice, to show kindness, to understand his emotions, is impossible.

The last month has shown small indications of these behaviors. However the last month has also been either mom, dad or the whole family gone every weekend. It’s been the same meal over and over again. It has been the loss of our Sabbath because we have been gone. All family time is shopping for food, preparing food, or packing or unpacking, so there have been late nights and less intentional time. All of these factors have been the reason I understand Big’s behavior to be the way it is. These are legitimate reasons.

However, something has felt off. Just a little something, but something all the same.

This is what I have learned over the last month:

  1. All natural Pineapple Salsa from Trader Joe’s still has sugar in it. I didn’t realize that until we had eaten Mexican Lasagna two days in a row and I prepared it for their sitter.
  2. Their All natural cough medicine from the Co-op that has lists of names I can’t pronounce still uses Soy and Gluten. But you have to research the names in order to find that out. I’ll be honest, due to the constant checking labels, there are times where I just take names “all natural” for granted, especially if it comes from the Co-op where things feel the most natural and best for you. I still take those labels for face value, and you can’t. YOU CAN’T. You have to be diligent in checking and looking and researching. It is tiring, that’s why I let this one slide, and I now know different.
  3. Sweet Potato fries from Trader Joe’s also have sugar in them.
  4. When using different salsa and stopping the cough medicine I have seen changes in Big. We are still dealing with our transition out of a crazy schedule into normal routine, but he has the ability to cope. He didn’t before. We don’t have to remind him to do things 20 times before he does it. I can’t tell you what that means! On the right diet, Big has the mental capability to hear me, to listen, and to respond. He still gets cranky. He still doesn’t like to share most of the time. He still whines. BUT, he has moments of making good choices. He hears me and will get his shoes on and get dressed without it being a fight. Without complaining.
  5. Its hard to post this because he/we are still human. I like to have a couple weeks go by with this “regular” behavior so I know it’s not a fluke. I can tell it’s not a fluke because he hugs me again. He will look me in the eye. He can remember the rules and do chores without me needing to ask.
  6. I know some of you might not agree with me that food plays this huge important role in our lives and behaviors, but there is NO way you will ever convince me of that. I see constantly with myself and my children the way food has changed our lives. The right kind of food. I have also seen other parents start to monitor their child’s intake of sugar and then they are amazed at the difference. It often doesn’t take much, but even small changes can make the world of difference.

For your sake, I would love to figure out a way to communicate more effectively the change I see take place in my children when they eat right. Food not only fuels them, but gives them the opportunity to live life. I see Big’s relationship with his siblings and with me struggle. I see our whole family hurt. I see that Big wants to choose different, but its almost like he can’t. Food takes over and takes away his ability to make healthy choices.

I understand. I GET IT. Food is only piece. Schedule, parenting, discipline, school, family, emotions, it all plays a part in our choices. I GET IT!

But why don’t ever give any thought to food being a piece of that puzzle? And if we are looking for a way to help our children be the best version’s of themselves, than why don’t we look at just one piece of the puzzle and make some changes to that one piece.

I bet you would be surprised, just as we were, to see how strong a role food plays in your ability to live life to the fullest.

So, Big is doing great. We continue to discover all sorts of new things to create a healthy, satisfied family and life.

Thanks for walking with us.

If you have other insights, I would love to know about them. We continue to learn and grow and share as we go along.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Forevertron

I love those times when you can see a physical representation of a spiritual experience.

For over 10 years, Paul has wanted to take me to the Forevertron Art Park in WI. A couple weekends ago, all the stars aligned and we were able to go. Paul and I are big lovers of art, and we frequent galleries whenever possible. Going to multiple galleries and the sculpture gardens here in the twin cities was actually our first date.

Here is a shot of the main attraction, Forevertron

This is my favorite shot we took.

We spent most of our time looking around and enjoying the experience with the kids, so our pictures aren't the greatest. If you want great photo's please check out the link below. Also, all the amazing details that make up the Forevertron are listed below.

Here is an excerpt when researching about the Forevertron:

Dr. Evermor's Forevertron, built in the 1980s, is the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world, standing 50 ft. (15,2 m.) high and 120 ft. (36,5 m.) wide, and weighing 300 tons[1]. It is housed in Dr. Evermore's Art Park on Highway 12, in the town of Sumpter, in Sauk County, Wisconsin, United States.

The sculpture incorporates two Thomas Edison dynamos from the 1880s, lightning rods, high-voltage components from 1920s power plants, scrap from the nearby Badger Army Ammunition Plant, and the decontamination chamber from the Apollo 11 spacecraft[2]. Its fictional creator, Dr. Evermor, was born Tom Every[3] in Brooklyn, Wisconsin[disambiguation needed ] and is a former demolition expert who spent decades collecting antique machinery for the sculpture and the surrounding fiction that justifies it. According to Every, Dr. Evermor is a Victorian inventor who designed the Forevertron to launch himself, "into the heavens on a magnetic lightning force beam." The Forevertron, despite its size and weight, was designed to be relocatable to a different site—the sculpture is built in sections that are connected by bolts and pins.[2]

In addition to the Forevertron itself, the sculpture includes a tea house gazebo from which Every says Queen Victoria and Prince Albert may observe the launching of Dr. Evermor; it also includes a giant telescope where sceptics may observe the ascent. Dr. Evermor's art park is home to scores of other sculptures, many of which relate to the Forevertron, such as the "Celestial Listening Ear" and the "Overlord Master Control Tower". Other large-scale sculptures include gigantic insects (the "Juicer Bug" and "Arachna Artie"), the "Epicurean" bellows-driven barbecue train, "The Dragon", and "The UFO". The most numerous sculptures are the "Bird Band and Orchestra" which includes nearly 70 birds ranging from the size of a child to twenty feet tall, all made from scrap industrial parts, geological survey markers, knives, loudspeakers, springs, and musical instruments, among other salvaged materials.

Tom Every says he takes pride in allowing the original materials to remain unaltered as much as possible, using their original forms in new juxtapositions to create his aesthetic. While he himself is not often available for tours of the art park, the site can generally be accessed from passing through the surplus store adjacent to it, Delaney's Surplus. Mr. Every also created much of the installation art for the House on the Rock, including the world's largest carousel.

If you want to read more, check out this article from PBS (which is great!)

One especially inviting aspect of this park is the field of Song Birds.

The field of Song Birds were all created and designed around an instrument. The heart and soul of each piece has its heart beat in music displayed in a unique way. It's beautiful and worth a slow walk around to appreciate each piece.

Here is my favorite. (We had each person stand next to their favorite piece after exploring through the song birds. It was fun to hear the kids reasoning behind why they were eliminating certain pieces.)

Here is the largest and most intimidating piece in the field of song birds, and the boys favorite. Isn't it stunning and amazing!

It was very spiritual for me to walk around and see bits and pieces of metal, car scraps and radiators and instruments and bowling balls all designed in a whole new way. Something that would normally be thrown away was created into a new artistic expression. Dr. Evermor sees past what others see. He sees something new out of what can't be used for it's original purpose anymore. He can imagine and dream something broken into something that inspires life. It can be hard for me sometimes to push past what is. To see past what was broken.

I often think that one of the greatest tools used to keep people from living freely in Christ is the guilt over what they have broken in life. To just see the strangled pieces. The hurt that they have done to themselves or to others. To see trust broken. To see relationships damaged. To see mistakes that can't be undone.

For some it's addiction, or abuse, or lying and cheating. It could be divorce, death, disease, or hospitalization. It could be obesity, or impaired mental and emotional health; it could be a natural disaster, or a shooting or car accident. It could be disappointment, resentment, anger, sadness, or pain.

Brokenness comes in all shapes and sizes. People wear it differently wherever they go, and thus making it impossible to see sometimes. It can come out at judgmental, or fear, or OCD, or short tempered, or irritability. We become afraid of others seeing that we are broken, or weak, or all used up. That we actually could have life left to live but feel lifeless. But it's there and we all have it. We can either let it sit there, suffocating our existence, stealing our joy, or we can own it and see how God takes us on a journey to turn it into something new and amazing!

Brokenness can stay broken. It often does if we hide it, or run from it, or ignore it like body odor. But broken it remains.

Or, it can be given new life. It can be healed. It can be beautiful.

Do not be afraid of the road or the work that it takes to move from broken to beautiful, from old to new.

I loved visiting the Forevertron, it breathed peace into my broken places.

Have hope today. Beauty is in there.

Monday, March 26, 2012

It has to start somewhere

Let me start by saying that I am exhausted. My five week stretch of speaking weekends, vacation, and having company have caught up to me.

My husband is also exhausted.

My kids are just trying to keep up.

All this leaves us little energy to love each other the way I think we truly want to and the way God desires and command we do.

This evening my husband and I had an issue with the way the other person was handling bed time. Silly, I know, but when your energy is zapped and people don't behave the way you are willing or expecting them to, it gets irritating. So we irritated each other.

I am usually a pusher. I don't like confrontation so I push through the issue till things are better. Tonight, I decided to own my fault, apologize, and sit on the basement stairs and just cry.

Sometimes a good cry is what makes it all better.

I had a phenomenal weekend. Truly, maybe one of the best all year. And then reality came, as it always does.

So I sat on the stairs and just wept. Wept for no reason and wept for real reasons. Wept for real hurt and wept for unjustified anger.

As I sat there, I just cried and thought, "why?" Why does this feel so hard? Why can't we be nice to each other? Why does no one in this house have nice words for each other, including myself? I'm not even proud of the way I am speaking to my kids or my husband. Why did we do this to ourselves again? Why did we think we could pull this off without coming out the other side wounded? I cried for all those questions and for the questions I didn't even know how to ask. I pleaded with God to give me something. To speak some of truth into my heart to help me gain wisdom.

As my heart started to settle, I heard two things:

Spiritual Warfare is real. As my husband and I discuss parenting issues, we sometimes find ourselves on opposite sides of issues. Some of that has come up recently (that's another post) and all of a sudden I saw how we were just kind of at each other about small things. It resonated with my heart that Satan (forces, whatever) was trying to keep us divided instead of forming a strong team to lead our children in their walk with the Lord, each other, and the community. We have let our prayer time together, our family meeting and snuggle time fall to the wayside due to the schedule of the last month. All of these things together weaken us as a family and makes feeding on our weakness even easier. I am not usually one to immediately think of Spiritual Warfare, so the fact that it was first thought made me pay attention. I knew immediately I needed to go and pray with Paul.

The second thing that came to me was actually my own words that I spoke to the youth this weekend; it starts with you.

I don't know about you, but I HATE when my words come back to bite in the arse. As soon as I heard it, I tried to fight it.

I don't want to be the one to change their attitude to inspire everyone else in my house to be better. I don't want to try to be humble and see my mistakes and not someone elses. I don't want to give up being cranky while everyone else gets to be. I am tired and I want someone else to do it.

I want someone else to reign in their feelings and try to be better. I want someone else to take a breath and wait before they speak. I want someone else to start thinking of others. I want someone else to serve me. I want someone else to give up their selfishness.

But the words were: It starts with you.

Forgiveness starts with you.
Love starts with you.
Patience starts with you.
Serving starts with you.
Mercy starts with you.
Self Control starts with you.
Laughter starts with you.
Playing starts with you.
Goodness starts with you.
Joy starts with you.
Understanding starts with you.
A good attitude starts with you.

It starts with me.

I couldn't escape it. I know it's true. It starts with you. With me. And I just challenged 500 youth and adults to live this way because I believe and know it to be true. But in the midst of the challenge of life and in the moment of weakness and tiredness, it is hard to hold onto that inspiration. To let that truth move me to action. To let that truth be bigger than my weakness. To let that truth be bigger than my frustration. Bigger than my hurt. Bigger than my pride. Bigger than my control.

That truth needs to move me into selflessness.
That truth needs to move me into love.
That truth needs to move me into humbleness.

Paul and I usually only conflict when we are tired, empty and have nothing to give to the other person. This is where we are.

This is where I need to step up the most. To love him when we have nothing to help move us out of this place. To not let the hard part separate us.

We all have a choice. Its hard. But I am going to try, because I challenge you to try.

It starts with you.

It starts with me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A year of learning

I have confessed to my husband and received his forgiveness. If you know us, you know this is not unusual.

Tonight's dinner did not go as expected. (Leave it to my kids to eat a pretty terrible meal anyway praising me for loving them and cooking so they can eat. I sometimes worry about their culinary palate; eating off the floor, out of the dirty kitchen sink and from the garbage. You can judge me now, I deserve it.)

However, because it was far from tasty, that left my husband with nothing to eat. In our house we have primarily moved to all fresh fruit and veggies and ingredients to make food, but not convenient food that is just on hand to snack on. I was on my way to the store anyway to wrap up my out of town grocery list to make my children their meals before I leave on Thursday. Before I left, Paul and I discussed the food in the house and how it is difficult for him because he doesn't want to be a burden on me.

He proceeded to tell me that he feels guilty eating the organic naturally raised beef or chicken knowing how expensive it is and that our kids need it and he doesn't want to take it from them. He NEVER complains about a meal, but I know he doesn't enjoy them all. He always eats what is in front of him because he knows I have spent time researching it, making sure our children can eat it, shopping for it, preparing it, and then I will clean up all the dishes that I used to cook it. He continually supports me focusing on the kids and steps to the sidelines.

This evening though I realized just how much I have stopped thinking about my husband and his needs and wants in regard to food. When I was at the store this evening I realized that I haven't even put him on my radar in almost a year. For almost a year, I haven't thought about that he probably misses some of his favorite snacks and canned food. I made a choice for him by not getting it because I knew what was better for him. And in truth, that is not my choice to make for him.

After I grabbed the last few items I needed to make the meals for the kids for the weekend, I literally had to stop in the middle of the store and think, "What does Paul like to eat?" So I went to the cracker isles. Oh the cracker isle how I have missed you. I picked him up a box of Sundried tomato Wheat thins, one of his favorite with cheese and summer sausage. After that, I went and grabbed a whole stash of his favorite Campbells soup so that he had ready meals whenever he fancied them. On my way to the canned soups, I passed those pre-made pasta side dishes that you throw in a pan for five minutes and its done. He enjoys those and they were 10 for $10.

I had this flashback to my coupon days. To looking at food as a game. How much could I get for as little as possible, with some fresh fruit and veggies thrown in. As I put those 10 packets of Paul's easy side pasta into the cart I was struck with how far my ideas and opinions and knowledge of food has come and how much I left my husbands wishes or desires to the wayside for his better health and that of our kids.

What I realized is that I was choosing for it to be too complicated, (thinking about two very different diets, desire, and wishes for food) and thus never bought him any snacks that he loves or can enjoy. The man works so hard for us and I had taken away all of his joy in food.

So I have confessed that I had forgotten him, that his wishes or wants in regard to food hadn't even crossed my mind. I was so caught up in making food that was what my children needed and wanted that I didn't even think about Paul. But that will all be different now.

Paul and I sat down and made a list of items that he would like to have around the house again. Foods that are easy for him to eat and don't require a lot of attention by me. Even in the midst of forgetting him for a year, his greatest desire is to make it the easiest on me.

I am a lucky gal, the least I can do is buy the man his favorite crackers. It's funny, it doesn't sound that hard, but somehow, I just stopped thinking of him.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Truly a celebration

I am not sure if this is my story to tell, but I will share it from my perspective. Since my friend is a blogger herself, I am hoping she won't mind sharing a few of the details. If you want to check out their adoption story and to learn more about Amber's ministry, check out her blog here.

Amber was a fellow coworker of mine and friend. Her husband is also in the same band with Paul, 100 White Flags. I would actually call them a married couple on the road. Zac is Paul’s other half while they are away and vise versa. It’s good old man love.

Zac and Amber have been in the process of adopting a child from Ethiopia for three years. Three years! Three years of paperwork, waiting, paperwork, waiting, praying, waiting, paperwork, and more waiting. And that’s just after they finally decided to adopt. I am sure there was much waiting and praying before then as well. Waiting is by far one of the most challenging character building experiences. It breaks you, strengthens you, challenges what you believe and in the end, grants you hope. What a great way to gain strength and wisdom for parenthood. Adoption is such a beautiful, beautiful thing.

So you can imagine how excited we were to hear that after meeting their daughter Feven for the first time two months ago, they are able to go get her in a couple weeks. Well needless to say, along with some other friends, we couldn’t wait to celebrate with Zac and Amber! We have been waiting alongside them, and now it was time to be truly joyous and we get to see the child that was waiting for them, matched at just the right time, and witness God’s goodness and faithfulness to this family.

So we had to do a shower quickly in order to get them ready for their big trip. They had held off on getting most of the items needed for a baby because they were unsure of their child’s age and gender up until a couple months ago.

What was so wonderful about this shower was all of Amber’s friends were able to come and love on her. We could surround this wonderful couple and let them know how supported and loved they are. We could with our presence reassure them that they are not alone in this. That’s what I love about parties. It brings people together and celebration happens!

Even better, I got to try out some fun pinterest ideas and in order to make that happen, had a little crafting party the week before the shower with friends and wine and laughs and music. This was by far one of my most enjoyable parties. Most likely because so many amazing women were in attendance and second, this child was such a wonderful thing to celebrate.

Thank you Amber for allowing us to walk this journey with you and celebrate your long awaited arrival, Feven.

Enjoy the pics!

Here is Feven's mom Amber with her mother and mother-in-law. How great that both these mothers got to be here to celebrate! Truly, such a blessing.

Here is a banner I made for the shower. I believe the party should reflect the essence of the person being celebrated and Amber is very natural and organic person. I tried to pick beautiful fabrics that reflected her love for recycling and nature. I used double stick tape on the back of the triangles so she can pull them off and reuse the fabric to make gorgeous little outfits for Feven. I didn't want to ruin the fabric by sewing it. I think I see a great skirt mixed in there.

Yes, that is the recycle logo you see.

I had this idea and I couldn't wait to do it. This was the backdrop to the food table. I found all these pieces for Feven at the half off sale at our local Thrift store. I wanted to honor Amber by using our financial resources respectfully and support the other "R" Reuse. It was such a fun way to do a centerpiece in my opinion.

Browsing around Pinterest one night I saw someone post a photo of premade cocktails in mason jars. I thought it was brilliant, but because this was a baby shower, and I have kept DOZENS of baby food jars in the basement, it just made sense to make shot glass cocktails. Since the mama could drink, we decided to do the right way, Ethiopian punch and Ethiopian banger cocktails.

Just because it they look fun and it added to the festive feel. Plus, I love these colors together.

I have discovered that you can find decorating success by creating a focal point. I wanted a special centerpiece focal point for each section of the shower. The clothesline for the food, the banner for the drinks and cake, and here I made pinwheels to hang over the party favors for the guests. In my mind I was going to have included three smaller wheels to hang as well, but ran out of time. They still turned out great though didn't they? I just accordioned the paper, stapled them together, strung them with string, taped a button on the front and hung from the ceiling. They were bowing out in the middle, so I duct taped some cardboard to the back to keep them straight. I like them so much, I made rehang them in the kids room. Here's a close up. The key is to use great colored paper with patterns that work well together.

The pinwheels hung over the party favors. I wanted to find something that reflected Amber and didn't induce a sugar coma. So I found cheap natural planters and picked Basil as the herb to give to each of the ladies. Amber loves to garden and I figured, who doesn't like Basil? To round out the planter, I added a couple little jelly beans to the bottom and put in a cookie cutter.

To bless Amber and Zac and their love for recycling and homemade goodness, we painted Feven her set of alphabet blocks. Our friend cut and sanded the wood and ladies all throughout the shower could come and paint a block. I love this. It brings a touch of all who love the couple and baby and if its homemade, I am a big fan.

My mom loves making signs for all of our parties. This is my version in the party color scheme.

So there you have it. A super fun evening celebrating the arrival of our friends baby. We are excited to meet her after she comes home.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My Saturday

Today started with an amazing breakfast of scrambled eggs and green smoothie and slices of kiwi to celebrate good ol St. Patrick's day. My dear friend Rachel and her husband Lionel are in town from St. Louis for the weekend and were a little surprised to learn that I cook a dozen eggs for breakfast. They were probably a little more shocked when they witnessed my almost two year old daughter eat more eggs and mushrooms then the two of them combined.

After breakfast and a race to get dressed, Rachel, Lionel and I met with the other board members of the Haiti Mission Project. This is an organization that started about five years back when we kind of just stumbled into it. We were leading trips already to Haiti and it sort of evolved into this non profit that supports Haitians helping Haitians. That's what we do. We aren't out to build anything, start a clinic or another orphanage. We aren't on the ground in Haiti and we understand it would be foolish for us to know how to run things there. So, we visit the country multiple times a year, we listen to stories, we grow our relationships there, and then we speak out for those Haitians who are doing amazing work on the ground in Haiti and we find support for them here. I love what we do and we get to partner with amazing people down in Haiti.

One thing I love about working with this crew of people is how open, honest and nonjudgmental we all are towards each other. We have this really incredible healthy communication and common love and understanding for the country. We understand we are on the same side and the same team to get things done. We discuss our options and everyone pitches in to get things done. I get to be apart of this really incredibly beautiful relationship with these folks, and it is truly an honor. My time these last two years on the board has felt very small, and even in communicating my concern for my future with the organization and what I can give, I am met with encouragement, prayer, love and understanding. Being in that meeting today gave me renewed dedication to what we are doing.

I am excited for the projects we have on the table right now, projects that you will hear about soon, and I am most excited about our process of figuring out what our future looks like as an organization and as a board. The HMP is in a very exciting time and I am so thankful to be apart of it.

After the all day meeting, everyone piled into the car and we headed back from the east side to the west side of the cities to meet Paul and the kids for dinner. But this was not to be any ordinary dinner. Big had requested that we take his very special Godmother Rachel and Godfather Lionel to his favorite restaurant, the Chinese Buffet. Now I know what you are thinking, you have got to be kidding me! I know you are thinking it because I think it. Paul and I used to pride ourselves in finding amazing locally owned joints to eat at. However, with our diet restrictions, we don't venture much anymore. We know that at the Chinese Buffet by our house, they have a Mongolian BBQ station where Big can load up on all the shrimp and veggies he wants with no worries of oils or sauces.

So dressed in our green beads, we eat at the Chinese Buffet. I should mention that this weekend, two of my kids Godparents are in town, so this was a special night for us. And to celebrate Godparent time, our friend Tad dressed himself in a green kilt. Oh yeah, that's right, and I didn't get a picture. We were too busy starting and appreciating the kilt to take a picture.

The only time we could tear our eyes away was when we were in shock and awe at the amount of my food my children can consume. At one point, Big had an entire plate of shrimp, (ENTIRE plate mind you) and said, "Game on". My stomach hurt watching it.

We don't usually let our children eat gobs and gobs of food, but when at the Buffet, eat like its a Buffet. Plus we figure, we can't afford to give him that much shrimp, so let him eat it there!

After an amazing board meeting, a dinner I didn't have to cook or clean up after, my day just got better with the promise of a bonfire. And bonfire we did.

We pulled out the chairs, the drinks, the wood and we enjoyed a beautiful, perfect, bugless night by the fire. We had some more friends join us for the evening and enjoy the company of Rachel and Lionel and that just fed the fire for the party.

I took my friend up to the balcony to get a great look at the city skyline view from our house now that the home next door was tore down. That's when we noticed the two car loads of cops come running with guns drawn across the alley in the backyard of the home behind us. (No worries, all little people are tucked snug in their beds at this point.) Ironically we aren't really worried, just fascinated and curious to see what happens. Then we notice, what at first we thought was a man, but then later discovered was a woman comes walking down the alley and stands at the fence watching all the action. Curious right? The cops are looking for someone, and we are pretty sure they arrest someone in the front yard. We see two squad cars leave and an unmarked cop car pull away. Random he/she is still standing at the back fence watching and talking on the phone. The rest of our fun get together are sitting around the fire, laughing and has no clue what we just saw.

We stand at the balcony fascinated and curious to see what will happen next. Random he/she is spotted by a man in the yard and there is some yelling and language I don't want to repeat here being said. The he/she doesn't leave, but instead sits on the hood of the car parked in the alley just behind their home. A couple minutes later, the cops show up again and forces the she (we have decided its a she at this point)to leave. She does.

HOWEVER, immediately after that, a van pulls up, not across the alley, but across the street to our right and out pours a dozen men wearing black vests. Seriously, they are pouring out the back of the van like its a clown car. Now, I quickly glance over, and all I notice is the vests. This immediately takes me back to when my children and I were run down by the SWAT team this summer and I just witnessed all sorts of shaddy behavior in our back alley, so I think, the SWAT team has been called in.

It is at this point that we decide to let the rest of our guests in on what is happening. I did this by quietly shouting, "It's time to get in the house! The SWAT team is here after the cops with drawn weapons just left. Get in the house."

That is when my guests look across the street and inform me its a Mariachi band. I argued, totally confident that I was right and they were wrong, but after taking a closer look and finally noticing the instruments strapped to their backs, I conceded. I had no idea that a Mariachi band lived on the corner of our street, but now I do, and no one here tonight will ever let me forget that. I am the gal who called everyone in for safety because the Mariachi band came home. Seriously though, how many men can fit in that van and why don't they use the side doors like normal people.

But because we have drawn so much attention to the shady happenings going on across the alley, the whole party moved up to the balcony and it was from there that we watched the creepy lady walk back to the fence. Yes, the lady that was escorted off the property was now creeping back toward the home. I couldn't believe how entertained we all were for the next hour as we watched her creep toward the house, then run away when someone came by, until she finally after a gentleman left the home, this lady crept up to the house and went in the back door!

I considered it B and E since the cops told her to leave, so I, uh... called 911. The evening was getting interesting and I'm sure we all were in agreement that this was so much better than cable. Once the lady was inside, she locked the guy out! She has guts is all I'm saying. While the original gentleman said some choice words and was figuring out how to get back into home, we danced a little, sang a little, and told lots of funny stories. We also found out that our favorite pastor in the whole world was sick and maybe a little too high on meds to come for a visit.

Once the gentleman got his keys and let himself inside the house, there was nothing. No cops showed up, no guns fired, and no yelling. I'm not gonna lie, after waiting an hour and watching that lady creep around and then break into a house for drugs or stolen property, we aren't sure which, we kind of wanted some action.

But alas, maybe they all kissed and made up.

Probably not, since its been three hours and I just heard more yelling.

It was such a fun and random day. It started out with great clarity and looking at some focus coming into play with the HMP, to someone else making dinner, to major drama and excitement around the bonfire tonight.

It was so entertaining. But as fun as it was to watch, I am hoping that everyone in that house is OK.

It was a full night relishing our lives in the hood.

Once Paul and I had friends over years ago and we were watching Black Hawk Down. All of a sudden the lights went out, in a very pivotal moment of the movie I might add, and we saw sirens and heard yelling out our window. Turned out, the house next to our neighbors was burning down. We stood on the balcony and watched that action about 8 years ago. This is a close second.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I wasn't ready

I wasn't ready for yesterday.

It was the first beautiful day which means playing outside with neighborhood friends which meant TONS of request for outside toys which are buried behind building materials from the construction of our home this winter. So they just ran around the house over all the cement and nails and glass. Seriously.

There is a ton of small bits of debris in the yard from the construction and when you pair that with curious kids and apparently complete mental block, kids get hurt, things get broke.

Somehow yesterday, in the excitement of spring and our friends we haven't played with in months, the kids were really anxious to provide me with lots of opportunity to remind them of all the rules. ALL the rules. It was like there were magnets for doing stupid crap.

When it was dinner time and Paul and I were talking with the kids about our behavior outside and how even in our excitement, we are still Christians and should behave as such. We are still control of our selves. Because we weren't ready for this "How do we play outside and what are our rules" conversation, we just kept looking at each other like, "uh....was there something else?" It was a very moving, convincing family meeting. Five minutes later we found our kid breaking one of the rules.

(You have to understand that with the tornado last spring, everything changed here. Fences are down, houses are gone, debris was everywhere. The rules changed. The layout of their play area changed. They played different and unfortunately it meant pushing LOTS of boundaries in what is respectful and not.)

I get that in the summer we stay up a little later, but we are still in school. I also forgot that when boys play outside, they stink and they are dirty when they come inside. So in my freshly cleaned house, were three rowdy, dirty kids ready for their baths.

Oh, yea. They need to be cleaned.

Crap, I wasn't ready for this task, because now they will be even later getting to bed and not getting sleep which they so desperately need as they are still adjusting from day light savings.

I ran those kids through the bath like it was a factory for cleaning kids. Wash, rinse, lotion, PJ's, teeth.

There are dirty clothes everywhere, water everywhere, friends pounding on the door and peeking through the window still wanting to play, and my kids screaming at the top of their lungs that its time for bed.

Good grief.

Once stories were read, and prayers were said, they were all in their beds giggling and telling stories. I looked at my husband who said he was waiting for me to print our statement of completion for the bank because he just got off the phone with our contractor and the one we mailed in was blank.


15 minutes later, we have all of our paperwork printed, Paul is on a mission to get it signed by the other owner of the home, we can't find keys, kids are having issues with the bathroom, and monsters on the walls, (for some reason middle really hated his room last night and was plaqued all night long with nightmares. Not sure where that came from.) and my friend who has come over to hang out has now successfully washed and dried all my dishes.

It felt like constant reacting, or catching up or parenting on the fly all evening. I wasn't ready and I couldn't keep up. I was faced with making choices that I hadn't even known were questions. It was an exhausting night.

We need to figure out some boundaries for playing outside in the hood.

I need a plan.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Don't give up

We all have something that we want in life. Maybe it’s a dream, maybe it’s a lifestyle or an education, or a job, it could be a hundred different things.

In my experience, the thing that we want never seems to be easy to obtain. It takes work. It takes work to make that dream happen and it takes work to maintain it.

I have found though that when you work for it and you stand in the midst of experiencing your dream, it’s worth it. All the hours, the sacrifices, the struggles, all the work is worth it, and fuels you to keep working at it.

In my family, Paul and I both have dreams and we love pursuing them, and supporting each other in dreaming and doing what we can to make them come true. (Unavoidable life experiences happen, but when it is within your control to push forward, we do.) It takes a lot of work to make two dreamers content with life. Staying still when needed and pushing forward when able to do so. I would have said last year that it takes works to make our family happen in a healthy way. Now in our new year of dietary restrictions, school schedules, and living a dozen hours from family, it takes a LOT of work to make our life and dreams happen in a relatively healthy way.

Last year when I would prepare to be gone and speak for the weekend, I would do hours of writing prep, I would select my wardrobe, I would arrange for travel, I would pack my merchandise, I would make sure Paul had diapers, one meal already prepared, and groceries bought so he could just spend time with the kiddos. That was basically my checklist and it took me two days to make my dream come true.

I have found in our busy season that it takes me all week to prepare to leave for a weekend away. We have food items that are at certain specialty stores, so in one week it’s a stop at four different places to feed my family. On top of grocery shopping, I prepare all the meals ahead of time for my kids and then prepare snacks and small items for me to bring along so that I too can eat and not be a burden on my hosts. With adding good ole down home cooking, there is also our school schedule. We are not in activities yet, so we aren’t running around in the evenings, but school does mean packing the other kids up twice a day to take and pick up Big from school. It takes time. But it also means when I am gone, I need to arrange someone else to do the driving, and make sure there are notes to teachers, and directions for drivers, etc. The list goes on.

If we want to see our kids, that means being extra prepared so that you can prepare a little each day, play with the kids a little each day, pack a little each day, cook a little each day.

It would be a lot easier to stay home.

But staying home doesn’t make my dream come true. Doesn’t make what I believe God has gifted me with happen. Not working for it will never make my dream a reality.

It takes work to make dreams come true. It takes work to have intentional family time, to prepare devotions, to arrange your schedule to have quality time with your spouse, with your kids, and the Lord to remain healthy and balanced. It takes work when all that is said and done to say, now I push forward on making my dream happen. Now I get myself back in my kitchen to prepare food for my family so I can be gone. Now I get off the couch and workout so my body doesn’t fall apart and I feel better. After all that is said and done, now I write. Now I read. Now I paint. Now I play my instrument.

Now I make my dream happen.

After I used EVERY dish, I’m not kidding, every dish in my kitchen this past week to prepare all eight meals for the weekend for us while we were gone, I thought to myself, this is crazy. This is a lot of work. Why are doing this?

Then I watched my husband take the stage in front of 800 people. I love watching him play. He’s alive when he plays. He is at his best when he plays. He is connected to his soul more then ever when plays. I experience how different our family time is when we are away from home. The games my kids and I play together, and the fun we have because we get to come with dad once in awhile. And it’s worth it.

The work to make your dreams come true are worth it. Don’t give up. Keep pushing forward. Find the balance. Learn when to say no, but don’t give up. No one applauds the daily dirty work to make your life happen. Its what you do if you believe in your dream enough. The daily work isn’t to be praised by others, its for your own growth, your own depth of character to appreciate when the dream happens.

Don't give up.

In never giving up, most of what makes it so much work is putting God and family first. It’s making sure you still see your kids, you still laugh with your spouse, you still sit and read together at night. That you find time to snuggle and play. Those aren’t the sacrifices you make to have dreams come true. Make sure those things still happen cause you’ll never get those moments back. Fight hard to find the balance and never give up.

Side note: I know there are short cuts to not preparing every meal. We have LarBars for meals, we eat all fresh fruit and veggies for snacks, we eat scrambled eggs for dinner, or veggies and hummus. I cut my corners, but mostly we also value health, and want to make sure we never cut corners when it comes to feeding and training our kids about food.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Intentional Spiritual Time

This past summer at a musical festive in WI, my friend and speaking partner Pastor Henry Graf and I led a session on Dirty Parenting. Yea, you read that right. Dirty, as in the screw ups, the loss of control, the freakouts all teach us, mold us and help us get to our knees in prayer and invite God into the mess. It is a reminder that real life doesn’t look spiritual. Most of the time it just looks like a mess.

At least it does for me.

After one of the sessions, a woman came up to me and asked how I found time for spiritual fulfillment. I thought that was funny considering most of the time I am wondering that myself. I told her in the last few months I had found a good balance of accepting my reality with adjusting my expectations.

I told her this is what I wanted: Every morning wake up at least half an hour before the kids. Open my Bible, pray, journal, read, pray, cry, let go, be filled, be ready for the chaos.

Then I told her this happens maybe once every two weeks.

Then I told her this is what I strive for every week now.

Once a week I pray over my children after I put them to bed. We have read stories, teeth are brushed, our devotions and prayers and thankfulness to God are done. Then when our ritual is complete and everyone is tucked in, I pray. I pray out loud with my hand on the child I am praying for and I pour out my fears, my weakness, my dreams, my hopes, and my control. I lay down my expectations for my child and pray that God gives me eyes to see them for who they are. I pray for wisdom, for me and for them. I pray for their friends, their future spouse, and their relationship with their siblings and father. I pray for truth, for the men/woman of God they will become. I lay it all out there for them to hear. I let my children hear my heart for them and lay them back down before God almighty.

If nothing else, when they are in counseling when they are older confessing all the ways I screwed them up, they may hopefully remember that I tried. That I loved them enough to give them back to God every day. I tried.

Once a week my husband and I do our Managers meeting. This is spiritually fulfilling because it is prayer time with my partner. It is coming before God Almighty together, confessing together, gaining strength together, supporting each other, loving each other at the feet of God. This is hands down one of the most centering, balancing discipline I have.

Once a week I wake up early to journal, to read scripture and to pray. This is my truest form of honestly I can strive for. My journal has horrible confessions and crazy thoughts and emotions. It has questions that good Christians don’t ask anymore. It is my time to gain wisdom from scripture, lay down my sense of control and seek God’s counsel for the way I live my life.

I used to strive for five days a week waking up early, and when I couldn’t accomplish that and was struck by feelings of failure, I would eventually stop. Once a week is very doable if you are smart about the morning you choose to wake up early.

There are people out there who can accomplish devotional time every morning, and I congratulate you on your success. However, for those of you who can’t because your current life circumstances don’t allow it, I want to encourage you to find what works for you. Be creative, and find your vibe.

Once a week we do a family devotional and snuggle time. We read from Paul’s Bible and we just ask the kids questions about what we read. There aren’t any great activities and no the questions are planned, we are kind of fly by the seat of your pants people. Then after the Bible reading is done, we just hang out on bed, snuggle, giggle, tickle, laugh, snuggle, and hang out. It is a time to reconnect and push the pause button on life. It is full of love and therefore a deeply spiritual act.

This year, our family motto is to be intentional. When we discuss our priorities, humbling ourselves and subjecting ourselves to God’s authority needs to be intentional. If you aren’t intentional about your spiritual life, be aware that regular daily duties of life have a tendency to steal your spiritual life.

Creating these weekly ways of connecting your soul with its creator is our way of being intentional.

Four days a week I try to plug my soul back into my creator in an intentional way. The way I figure, four out of seven ain’t bad. I’m over half covered. The reason I have found success with this method is that each of my four days fills me in a different way and it looks different so it keeps my interested and forces different habits from me. Healthy habits with my kids, with my partner, and for myself.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Family meeting

We don't always succeed, but we try. We have gone weeks without a family meeting and have suffered the consequences. Life is so much better for us with a family meeting.

If you are anything like me I have a list of things I need to tell my husband after he comes home from work. Things that happened, things I'm thinking about, plans we need to make, schedules we need to coordinate. If your partner is anything like mine, he isn't thinking about those things. He isn't ready to hear all the things going on in my head. He needs some time to prepare for what's coming.

We had spent years trying to communicate in this way. Me trying to bring Paul up to speed as soon as he walks in the door, and him, trying his very hardest to balance work, the kids, projects, my wishes and desires, and his own plans. These weren't our finest moments. Sometimes work got accomplished, but mostly we were both just left feeling hurt, unheard, and disrespected.

That's why over a year ago we instituted our family meeting. Since the kids are a little older, we include them once a week in our schedule meeting, and Paul and I actually created the managers meeting.

Once a week, at a designated time we sit down and hash out all of our family business. Now it isn't necessarily the same day each week, sometimes it doesn't work that way. However, the week before we would have looked at our upcoming schedule and so we would have set our date for the next managers meeting.

In our managers meeting we start with prayer. This is hands down my favorite moment in our meeting. This prayer time allows us to refocus. To center ourselves, our plans, and our agenda. It forces us to put things in perspective. This time also allows me to hear what is on my husbands heart. Things that maybe he is struggling with that I didn't know about. I get a chance to hear his heart, his desires, his insecurities, his concerns, all the things he wants to lay on God's shoulders. It gives me insight into what is going on in his heart that maybe we didn't get a change to talk about because life got in the way. And the very opposite is true. He gets the chance to hear all these things from me.

Once we've prayed, we pull out our schedule and go through our week. We start with the most important items first, when can Paul and I get time and when do we spend time together as a family. Once those items are decided we look at what else is in our schedule for the week, the month ahead and on the cusp of each busy quarter, we look a few months ahead.

Then we bring out our notepad.

The notepad is where we have put the items to discuss for the entire week. This has saved so many disagreements, frustrations, and arguments. Instead of dumping my ideas on Paul right when he gets home or sporadically during the week, I have already put them on the notepad to discuss during our meeting. I can't tell you how helpful this is. When Paul and I come to the family meeting, both our minds are ready and prepared to discuss the family, the house, issues, whatever, it doesn't matter, we are both mentally present. Before, Paul wasn't ready to hear all the things I needed to discuss with him, or I wouldn't communicate it properly because I had already put so much thought into my ideas and I would only bring him into the discussion after I had already decided on a course of action. Waiting for the meeting forces me to think things through and how to communicate effectively to Paul and it allows Paul time to think about it and process whatever it is. (Please realize that we do talk during the week. Sometimes things on the notepad get talked about before the meeting, and often we talk about how we are feeling during our days, but the notepad frees us to leave it if we need, or force us to talk about issues when we haven't had time before hand. We aren't weirdos that won't talk to each other until meeting time. That's just strange.)

We can both put items on the notepad, it’s not a secret. Things that come up on the notepad have ranged from school for the kids, when are we going to clean out the garage, are we going to investigate new car insurance, what do we do about chores for the kids, Lu seems ready to potty train, how will we approach that, etc. Everything is up for grabs in these meetings. The best part is it makes us a team to discuss them together. We each can have an opinion and then we will together decide on the best course of action.

At the end of discussing the items on the notepad, we divide up the responsibilities and walk away with homework, or projects to be completed and reported back on the following week. This may seem ridiculous to you, but what is the point of discussing things that need to get done if no one is going to accomplish them. Someone has to re caulk the tub. Someone needs to get the oil changed, and so forth.

We end our meeting asking how we are doing individually and as a couple. It is a time to share with your partner what you are struggling with, excited about, or need from them.

Some may think that having a managers meeting once a week is extreme or just a recipe for a control crazed mom. But Paul and I do a lot of different things. We are land lords, home owners, he does freelance design work on top of his job, plus his band. I run the household, plus have my speaking career, so it is a lot to keep straight. We discovered that the weekly meeting respected our partner and our time. It created healthy conversation and turned us into a team that works together instead of tag teaming separately. Paul and I have noticed that by intentionally taking some of our time and setting it aside we grow closer together and more towards our goals.

Last year it was hard to be consistent with our family meeting. We were very successful at the beginning, and then a new diet hit, I was cooking all the time and then a tornado hit and we felt lost for the next couple months. We were barely holding on. Over New's years, we both said the one thing we need to make happen this year consistently is our managers meeting. We both knew we felt better about our lives, our marriage and our parenting if we did it together as a team.

So a couple months ago I told you that this was our year of being intentional and I would tell you what that looks like for us. This is step one, and the most important to us. Now we are human, so we will most likely miss a few weeks, we already have in complete honesty. But we try. We don’t want to wake up years down the road and say, “What happened? Where did the time go? Why didn’t we pay attention more? Why didn’t we try saving more? Why didn’t we talk more?” By being intentional, we want to make the most of our lives now.

Easter Candy

I'm not gonna lie, going to the grocery store last night kind of sucked. As soon as I walked in the door, there they were, lining the aisle.

Chocolate bunnies.

Chocolate eggs.


Jelly Beans.

Now, I have two very honest responses.

The first is my emotional memory response. I see that and I think Easter! What is Easter with a Chocolate bunny in your basket? I think about some of my favorite things to eat that only come out at Easter like Cadbury Eggs, or those malt eggs that you can lick and then put on like lipstick or facepaint. My cousins and I had hours of entertainment with that one at Easter growing up. My grandma used to put together an Easter tray instead of an Easter basket. That means she would purchase one bag of EVERY kind of Easter candy and pour it out on her largest platter dressed with green grass. And in the midst of that sugar coma stood the priced treat. Standing guard over all the small treats towered the Easter bunny. The whole day was spent visiting the Easter platter and picking out your favorite treats. But you had to get their early, cause everyone liked the same things, and usually the last candy left was jellybeans. I LOVED this tradition growing up.

I stood there for a second staring at the candy aisles and I thought, oh man this is our first joy free Easter. I made Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas work, but how in the name of all that is good can I recreate a bunny? My gut told me Easter was ruined and my children would live in want and feeling jipped forever every time Easter came around. I was sad and a little depressed.

Now I know that we have been living joy free for awhile, and the cravings are getting smaller, but I haven't suffered memory loss. Just because I don't crave a chocolate bunny and the other part of my mind understand how bad it is for you, I still remember how good they taste. I still remember the joy of biting into a cadbury egg and how absolutely delightful it felt to have yummy chocolate and liquid goodness melt in my mouth. Those memories ring in loud and clear when I walk the aisles of the store.

This too must be mourned.

The other part of Easter I remember is how I ended up eating half of my kids Easter candy. I remember going to the grocery store for our weekly list, but always sneaking a bag of my favorite candy to munch on while no one was looking. I remember the more candy I ate, the more I craved. I remember feeling a slave to the sugar. I remember feeling gross after eating so much candy and chocolate. I remember the countless Easters that I didn't fit in my dress because of my addiction. I remember starting to hate Easter. I remember fearing it because I wasn't strong enough to handle it. I remember guilt. Constant guilt and disappointment in myself for not being stronger. I remember needing to start over. Everyday saying, "tomorrow will be better."

So as I had my moment of mourning, I realized I was thankful, grateful and excited too. For all the things that will be missed, there are greater ideals and principles that can be embraced . On top of all my personal baggage with food I remember the gift I am giving my children as well. The gift of health. The gift of an Easter not based on the chocolate bunny. The gift of the real meaning of Easter.

So what will Easter look like for us?

Dying Easter eggs and going on an egg hunt.

Every year on Saturday before Easter morning we do an evening devotion where we are mixing together a special cookie that sits in the oven overnight. It is a hands on activity that incorporates all aspects of the Easter story and then the kids have a treat to eat the next day. I will have to do a run through to make sure we can make it allergen free.

Easter morning means a special breakfast of fruit filled crepes and fancy Easter clothes to be worn at church. It means coming home to an egg hunt and finding Easter baskets with a couple small allergen free candies, stickers, a new book and maybe a new drawing pad. Nothing more. It means sitting down as a family and enjoying our Easter dinner. It means taking a walk together. It means doing a family devotion with family snuggle time. It means togetherness remembering the gift of life we have thanks to the sacrifice of our savior and healer The Messiah.

No Easter candy tray with the protective Easter bunny keeping watch. No sugar induced melt downs. No fights on what candy we didn't want and did want. No hoarding candy or secret eating. No extra pounds and sluggish behavior.

Easter this year will be healthier and hopefully happier than years previous.

I may need to send Paul to the grocery store though for the next month. This maybe my hardest challenge yet. I do love Easter candy.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

ND Leadership retreat

I love doing event ministry. Even more than participating in retreats, I love hanging out with teenagers.

This past weekend, was even more special for me.

More than a year ago, the ND District asked me to come and be their first female Keynote speaker and I was already speaking somewhere else, but they were patient and asked again this year. I was so happy it worked out because I haven't been to ND in quite some time, and I love that students who saw me at the National Youth Gathering wanted me to come to their local event. It is the highest compliment paid to a speaker.

Another highlight for me this past weekend was that the leadership team for this event hired Paul to do the music for the weekend. Working with Paul and doing ministry together with him is probably one of my favorite things to do. I have so much respect for his musical ability, his relational ministry and his talent for quick wit from the stage. He is so fantastic! We haven't done an event together in years, and that used to be with his band. Its hard to both be gone for the weekend with kids when we don't have family here to watch them. This was the first time we worked together at an event, just the two of us. Dear friends of ours took the kids for the whole weekend and allowed this rare and special gift. It was amazing!

This weekend was different than other retreats I usually speak at, but it made it more interesting and challenging. When I am asked to be a keynote, the theme is usually different, but the outline looks very similar. I typically present four keynote messages generally for 20-30min at a time starting on Friday night and ending Sunday morning. This past weekend, I had the challenge of presenting two 60min presentations and one 90min session. It was a great challenge and I loved because it forces me to rethink my messages. It challenges me to go deeper, push further and incorporate elements into my talks that I don't usually have time for.

My first session spoke to a topic close to my heart which is identity. Challenging students to rethink where they get their identity and then go even further and challenge how they see God. Living in a place of basing our faith understanding on false identity for ourselves and God can lead to a life of fruitless searching.

For the second hour we discussed expectations. The expectations we place on God, others and ourselves.

It was easy to present for 90min when the topic was mission and outreach. Where identity is close to my heart, talking about an organic, natural way of living out our faith in mission is my heart. It was exciting to have so much time to really dig into this on a local, national and global scale.

In between sessions, I had the joy and privilege of hanging out with the high school students. This is hands down my favorite part of any retreat. I love hearing students stories, I love hearing what God is doing in their life despite hardships and how they want to participate in making the world a better place. They allow me to see their hearts and it is such an honor to invited into their lives for even just a small moment in time.

The ND district youth team put together a fabulous Leadership training event. They incorporated student led sessions, keynote sessions and great music. It was an intense weekend, but so worth the drive.

Well done! It was a joy and honor to work with you all and I pray I have the privileged to do it again some day.