Friday, November 30, 2012

Our Advent Calendar

I heard from a friend who mentioned that she loved our advent calendar, but wasn't able to do it last year.  She has been waiting since last Christmas to do it!  I love that, so I decided to re post it again here.  I just hung our mittens yesterday, so we are getting ready too.


The Tietjen Advent Calendar

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

To be a blessing

I have 15 blogs started and unfinished.  Wow.  Maybe my next project should be to go through and finish them all.  Leave nothing unsaid.

Even with that many unfinished thoughts, and some of them are really great, I couldn't come back to my blog without starting with this one.

It was just Thanksgiving, a time where many people, including us, focused on all that we have to be thankful for.  For us as Christians, it goes deeper.  It's not just being thankful to the universe or the powers that be that blessings have poured down on us.  It's not just saying "I am thankful for.... fill in the blank", but instead saying, "Father God, thank you for..... fill in the blank."  Giving him credit for the blessings that  pour down.  All the gifts that surround us.  Even when some days the blessings feel small in comparison to the struggles and pain that try and try to distract us.

Paul and I have so much, SO MUCH, to be thankful for.  It's amazing what happens to your heart when you turn it towards seeing the blessings instead of the stress and pain.  Through the course of the last year, we have endured over $7000 in car repair costs.  Each and every time, God has seen us through and somehow from somewhere, he has had his hand in helping us stay out of credit card debt to fix cars.  Our diet has put a significant strain on our budget, and yet God continues to provide information through friends and blogs of ministries that are out there providing organic, natural food at rock bottom costs.

(You have to understand that our way of living is not by some hipster/bohemian choice.  Our son's body doesn't rid itself of toxins on its own, so the more non organic food he eats, the more he poisons his body.  We either take the cost up front in natural/organic food, or at the back end detoxing him with natural methods.  Either way, for my son to have a chance of staying off meds, our diet needs to be what it is.)

We have had a year since the tornado soaking in all the blessings of that hard and devastating day.  The blessings just keep revealing themselves and we are overwhelmed by the way God moves through pain and suffering.

This month has changed the way I live.  Changed the way I talk to my kids, to my husband, in my prayers, and to others.  Living in a place of thankfulness changes the way you do life.  It's funny, when you read scripture, from beginning to end, God starts most of his passages to us with, "Remember, I the Lord your God, the one who brought you up out of slavery, saved you and redeemed you, heard your cry and answered your prayer."  Before he even begins what he wants to say, he takes a moment to remind us of who he is.  Remind us of his life giving power.  Remind us of patience with us.  Remind us of his sovereignty   Remind us of his compassion and mercy.  Remind us of his love that surpasses all other powers in this place and beyond.  He reminds us to be thankful because when we live in a place of thankfulness, we live different.  We have more compassion for others.  We judge less, we forgive more.  We stress less, and laugh more. live in thankfulness.

I spent a lot of time this month focusing on that.  I existed most of my days feeling overwhelmed by the amazing people in my life, my husband, my children, my home, my family and friends who live far away.  I am so incredibly blessed by the people I have the privileged to call my friends and family.  I am so thankful and feel so blessed by you all.

Then, the day after Thanksgiving, I received three letters in the mail.  Two were from people I know.  My first thought was, "Man already!  Who are these people that they already have their Christmas cards out!  Man they are on the ball."  But as I opened them, I was humbled by the kindness in their words saying that they were thankful for me. Thanksgiving cards.  I was speechless.  I was so taken aback by the fact that someone would be thankful for me.  This is not in a self deprecating way, but just a truly unexpected gift.  There was one letter though that came from an anonymous person.  The words and gift in that card still have the power to bring tears to my eyes and take words from my mouth.   It is so humbling to have someone thank you for sharing your life with them.  It reawakened me to continue to write my blog.

I have said before that I struggle with what to write most times in my blog because it isn't a specific place for recipes or crafts or devotions   It's just my life.  Life as someone who lives in a city with a family that loves Jesus and strives to live in place of passion and purpose.  But I realize that it is in sharing our lives together that we see Christ, we share in his gift of the "Church" and his body.  It is where we find encouragement and can give support.  It is where ideas are sparked and life becomes richer because we share it together.  I can't have you all over for supper, but I can walk through life with you in this weird way that the internet allows.

Paul and I kept trying to figure out who the letter might be from.  Then we both realized, we didn't want to know.  We understood that it was the Lord giving us that encouragement we need.  Reminding us it is him who makes us great.  It is His inspiration and spirit that people are drawn to in our lives.  We are just your normal, every day folk.  He is what makes us great.  And so we press on.  We are reminded that we invite people into our lives so that we can all grow, all be inspired, all see the face of Christ on each other.

So, thank you.  Thank you for reading.  Thank you for walking with us.  Thank you for praying for us.  Thank you for being in our lives.  You all have changed me and I am so thankful for you.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Celebrating Life and Marriage

Today a bunch of new friends and I got to celebrate this amazing gal.  My dear friend Lindsey Burken.

I met my sweet friend in college and through the course of time, she has become a huge part of every aspect of my life.  Not only is she the godmother to one of my kids, but a key component in our lifestyle change and one of our biggest supporters.  She serves with me on the Haiti Mission Project board, she has a genuinely compassionate spirit.  Her soul is full of Jesus and music, and one of the best the best things about Ms. Burken is that she truly does care about the people in her life.  God uses her in mighty ways to love others.

Today we celebrated the fact that God has written marriage into Lindsey's story, she is getting married!  For so long Linds has made the most of her life, continuing school, attending concerts, traveling the country on fun trips with friends, serving and volunteering and crafting, and being the CFO of the HMP all while being a youth director. She is highly dedicated to the course of creating moment after moment for her students to fall in love with Christ.  I have long admired her persistence to her students faith life.

Just over a year ago, Lindsey met a man who, by just looking at her photo, was inspired and moved and wanted to meet her.  Just over a year later, they are getting married.  It has been such a joy to watch God reveal himself to her and Tad in a way that only a Christ centered relationship can unveil him.  God has shown them both how to love and forgive, how to communicate and understand, how to have dreams together and share a life together.  He has brought them together to walk through life and share in God's grace for his beloved.  Anyone who has been in a Christian marriage can attest to knowing God's grace to a deeper level through their spouse.  So we got to celebrate that new life and marriage today with Lindsey's wedding shower.

So many of Lindsey's friends came all the way out from Woodbury to join us in the hood for the celebration. I wanted the shower to be a collection of all things that "felt" like Lindsey.  It is second weekend of Nov. so fall was our theme, a season she loves and her mom was in town which was a huge added bonus!  We ate salads and desserts, and had wonderful drinks.  This was a game free party so it just allowed time to talk and share fun stories and get to know one another.

Here was the table spread.  It's amazing how hanging some fun cheap lanterns can heighten the excitement of the event.  It is those little touches that draws your attention to a focal point to create a dramatic effect and add to the fun.  My problem is I am obsessed with the little touches and details!

We feasted on a Watermelon/pomegranate/mint salad, Black bean chips and pumpkin salsa, Candied almond salad, and a Chicken salad with rice, artichoke and tomato and bean salad.  What I love about this is that two days ago, I notice that even after three freezes, we had a watermelon growing in our garden!  So half of that salad is garden fresh!

Also included on our menu was a gluten/dairy/corn/soy free Cesar salad and mushroom/ asparagus/tomato brushetta.

 Below is a wonderful antique dresser that a friend of mine and I saved from a garbage pile this past spring.  I love this dresser!  It typically in my room holding my jewelry  hats, scarves, tights, purses, etc.  Today I wanted to bring out so that the array of dishes would color and fun to the event.  The wide top also served the perfect place for desserts.  It was perfect!
 I found this little box at an antique store for a $1.  I wasn't sure what I was going to use it for then, but then getting ready for the party, it just made sense to throw a piece of colored paper on the bottom and lay the flat ware in it.  It was a perfect way to hold the silverware so it wasn't scattered everywhere.
 For dessert, I made a pumpkin/berry cobbler and a dear friend of Lindsey's made the sweetest vanilla/chocolate cupcakes.  There was also individual servings of cheesecake available.  Everything personalized and in perfect proportions.
 I have a learned a great little trick for serving.  Each item on the menu has its own space to live.  I served four different drinks, one hot, two cold, and one alcoholic. I displayed each drink on its own serving board with cups to give it a place of notice.  Otherwise, you just have a bunch of drinks and cups scattered around.
 Here are some of the special ladies in Lindsey's life that made it out for the shower!
 Joanna on the left helped plan and create the party.  She also served with Lindsey and I on the HMP since it's creation.  It's wonderful having friends gathered that share your heart for life, love, and ministry.
 Who wouldn't like getting a present this big!!!!
 Enjoying each others conversation and watching fun gifts being open; gifts that will help build the home of a new family.
 I have a problem throwing anything away that can be reused again.  I sat on the floor most of the gift opening folding tissue paper to give back to Lindsey so she can reuse it for her gift giving later.
 Just a fun picture of the party planners with the bride to be!
 I kind of have to say she is the sister of the groom, but Tabitha will always just be one of my very dear friends first and foremost, and it was so fun having her there!
So Lindsey and Tad will celebrate the beginning of their marriage together.  This today was a day that we got to surround Lindsey with love, and support for her new adventure.  Weddings are exciting for all the promise they hold, all the hope of a couple who will commit to doing life together no matter what.  Lindsey and Tad we are so happy and excited for you.  Thank you for letting us all be apart of this journey with you.  We promise to love you and support you and pray for you through the years as you continue to dedicate yourselves and your marriage to the Lord.

We can't wait for the big day!

I will say, I am often too busy at the party to take pictures, and most of my pictures just look like they are trying to be artistic.  I think it would be a great idea sometimes to hire a photographer to capture those wonderful parties and events in your life so you don't have to worry about the picture taking.

Or I could just take a class and do it myself.  But that doesn't help with my being busy issue.

Oh well.

Friday, November 9, 2012

To be a blessing

So every year we have a Thanksgiving tree.  Its our way of having a visual aid to remind us of all that we have to be thankful for.  It's also a really great art project for the kids and I to do together.  We work on our tree for about an hour and they get to draw, dream of ideas, cut and tape it all together.

Here is our tree!

Notice the bike lane on the road.  Clearly Middle has grown up in Mpls where bike lanes are everywhere!  Ha!  It made me laugh out loud.

Our twist this year as we, like so many others, are trying to be thankful, is that we have two different colored leaves.

The green leaves are for what we want to thank God for that day.  Notice I didn't just say, what we are thankful for, but what are going to Thank God For.  Small word change, but huge implications.  I believe scripture when it says, that every good and perfect gift comes from God.  So, if all blessings come from heaven, then its important to give credit where credit is due.  I don't just want thankful children, I want children who praise God for every good thing in their life.

The red leaves are for how we can be a blessing to others. I was thinking about how great it is to be thankful, but what if we focused on how we could be what others were thankful for?  So that is our challenge each morning.  My kids need to think about a blessing they received that day that they want to thank God for, but then I ask them how they can be a blessing to someone else.  This can seem like a pretty big concept for little people.  So each day I have the kids pick one person they would like to try to be a blessing for.  Then we brain storm some ideas of how they can be a blessing to their teacher, their friends, their sister, a stranger, etc.

I think this is a wonderful way to help encourage children to be outward focused.  To think about how we can be a vessel for joy, for thanksgiving, for love, for hope to those around us.

Anyway, I hope this post doesn't make you feel frustrated if you don't do one, or maybe you think its overkill.  You don't need a tree to talk about this, you don't need to do it everyday.  Talking about it once a week still is an opportunity to focus on how to be a blessing for someone else.  This can be done with children, roommates, friends, spouses and co-workers.

So, don't just be thankful, but thank the one who blesses you.  And if you have a little time in the next few days, find a way to bless someone else.  Be the vessel that brings a little bit more of love into the brokenness.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!