(A Very Large) Blessings these Weeks: 12.26.2014 and 12.31.14

Merry Christmas to you and yours! We were busy celebrating hope come to us and Love dwelling with us last week, so I'm playing a bit of catch up with my blessings list here... and posting on the wrong day, no less. Oh well.

 This will be a big one- we're so blessed! 


Of course, the biggest blessing came to us 2,000 years ago- Jesus Christ, Son of God, who came to humble himself, lived a sinless life, and then died so that we may have life! 


Back roads and new routes, quaint little towns


The blessings of lasting friendship, great conversations, and pizza


The best chip dip in the entire world, goofy dogs, and seeing family


Hotel hot tubs! 


Bunches of little Italian great aunts and -uncles, kisses on the cheeks, seeing cousins after many years, and too many cookies


Family history

(Picture by my aunt- thanks for posting all those pictures, Aunt Cathy!)


Stories from Grandma and Grandpa and laughing together


Some new "goldfish" to join our household- and these ones don't even need to be fed!


George Bailey, Zuzu's petals, and family traditions... and oh, the food!


Presents we couldn't wait to try out...


This fearless little girl who came to the farm to pick out a Christmas kitty... and had a lot more fun, too! -- Up at the very top of the grain leg, on the swing, and hanging out with some steers.


Our fireplace cranking out the extra heat


Deer hoof prints right outside our door


My Pandora Christmas station blaring in my office, Peppermint coffee creamer, and little tubes of lotion for dry typing hands


Celebrating new chances, new opportunities, and a New Year!

Happy New Year! It's my prayer that in 2015, we'll all be able to find more peace, live more joy, and discover blessings in unexpected places. 

Until next year!


Blessings This Week: 12.19.2014

Our fireplace is nearly finished! Just a couple of cosmetic things left to do... but that hasn't stopped us from using it (every night this week)! 


Come, Immanuel: Perfect Peace

I've often heard the phrase, "the peace that passes understanding" or "the peace that makes no sense" as part of a benediction or a prayer.

I like that idea.

Of course, in my own life, "the anxiety that makes no sense" is much more a reality. I like things to be planned and prepared. I like my lists and my schedules.

But God changes our plans pretty often, doesn't He?

Mary is a young lady who is betrothed- she's probably making wedding plans and working on preparing for her new life as a wife. She's got plans- a big wedding, marrying her Joseph, having lots of babies and living out a nice life in her little town of Nazareth.

And then she's visited by an angel. Suddenly, her plans are thrown out the window. She's now going to have a child, Joseph will probably divorce her, her family will be disappointed and hurt, her friends probably won't believe her, she's even at risk of being stoned to death for getting pregnant out of wedlock. Nothing will be the way she had hoped, the way she planned.

She responds with a question- "How will this be?" (reminding us that it's okay to ask questions from a place of belief- she knows it will be, but she doesn't understand the mechanics of it all)- and then says...

“I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” 

Now that's peace.

I don't want the peace that comes from rigid planning and holding on to control. I don't want peace that's dependent on my own emotions, my own actions, or my own expectations.

I want a Mary kind of peace.

Because, you know what? Even though we won't have our plans change the same way Mary's did, God changes our human plans. A lot. And we have to trust that God knows what He's doing, and that He will work all things for our good.


{Late} Blessings This Week: 12.12.2014

... and I'm late putting out my blessings this week, but better late than never!


Christmas lights on our porch (I usually come home from work just in time to see them turn on)


Having a surprise birthday party last Saturday in our hometown, surrounded by dear family.


Toddler "Happy Birthday"/"Twinkle Twinkle" mash ups


Pretty nails and hair- and a morning of pampering with my mom-in-law


An afternoon of making cookies with my mom

... and this little sprinkle helper. 

Rearranging the living room... and Trevor's chair adjustments


Fog that freezes on tree limbs


Candles that smell like pine

What blessings have you counted this week?


Come Immanuel: Hope of a Savior

**This post contains affiliate links**

Where do you start reading when you begin the Christmas story?

I typically think of the Christmas story as beginning in Luke and going from there. It's the traditional way I've sort of "done Christmas."

This year, though, our church provided us with an Advent devotional. And the first reading was from Genesis.

Here at Camp, our youth weekend theme for the Fall season was "Epic." The kids went through a curriculum that invited them to see the full story of the Bible- that the Bible is full of epic stories, and that, in fact, the whole Bible is one enormous epic story.

Christmas is the same way. 

It's easy for me to chunk the Bible into smaller stories with neat labels-  one is "Noah and the Ark," one is labeled "Creation," one is "Christmas," one is "Easter."

But in truth, all of these stories fit together.

They all point to the same thing: that God wanted to be with us. That humanity fought and fights against Him and seeks to control and overpower and have things our own way. But God kept pursuing us, kept loving us, until finally He sent His Son to live in human skin and then to die for us so we could be with Him forever.

It's an incredible story. 

And it doesn't begin in Luke.

The hope of a Savior starts way back in Genesis. It's easy to focus on the singular event of a virgin birth, of tiny baby Jesus and stars and stables. And somehow, I think focusing on the Nativity alone takes away so much of the majesty of that moment.

This wasn't just a new, miraculous baby.

This was the long-awaited Savior. The One who was sent to be God with us, the fulfillment of God's plan to redeem humanity. All the hopes of history were born of this miraculous gift. This is the hoped for Savior.

(The whole "starting Advent in Genesis" thing isn't new, and it's also the basis behind the Jesse Tree. If you're looking for an awesome Jesse Tree resource, check out The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas, or Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas- which looks like it would be great to use with kids.)

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Blessings this Week: Thanksgiving Edition

Happy Thanksgiving!!

My small group has been going through a book called One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp.

I'd recommend it, especially if you read it slowly. I think that's the only way to read it, really.


The challenge presented through the book is to list a thousand blessings, small and large. (I wrote more about the book and what it's meant for me in my post Counting Gifts). And I've been sharing some of those blessings through this little blog.

It's been a life change. It's been a soul-healing change.

And I'm not even close to writing down one thousand gifts.

One of the things that I enjoy about the book is that the author shares the gifts in her own life. It helped me to see the little things, to notice the tiniest of blessings. It helps to have an example, you know?

So, in honor of Thanksgiving, a time when we stop, count our blessings, and give thanks to the Creator of all who has given us all good things, I thought I'd share more of my list from the past few months.

Sunshine through the laundry room window

Early morning snuggles

Prayers offered by many

Crunchy walk to work

Little girl squeals from the playground

Plaid jacket

Cracks in old hardwood floor

Pink wispy sky

Surprise hugs

"Ping, ping" of recycling day

Fireplace crackles

Order from chaos (organized binder!)

Lace under fingertips

Sleepy Trevor smell

Chapel time

Shared laughs in the dining hall

Her quiet elegance

Tree tops touching a pink sunset

Smell of yeast

Warm milk

Rain smell

The last leaf hanging on 

Fallen nest and new adventures

Dark curly hair

Carmelized onions

Tucker Turtle striking at food

Warm quilts

Turkeys running across the Rec field

Lights on Christopherhaus

Holding hands

Arm in arm in the car

Sparkles in raw squash

Long aprons

Perfect circle moon

Icy snow on fallen logs

Deer prints in new snow

Stories of those who came before

Excited voice over the phone

Space heater

Gently falling snow

A desk cluttered with life

The chance to try again

Putting faces to names

Just enough milk for the recipe

That comfort-smell

Warm coffee mug

Damp-leaf smell

Surprise pictures

Cold toes in warm socks

Fireplace smoke smell

Toddler kisses

Sunshine warm on my back

Help with the dishes

Clean stairs

Happy squirrel that bounded up the tree

Little boy with a temporary tattoo on his cheek

Girl giggles and fashion advice

Lanky arms wiping tables

Raindrops tapping on dried leaves

Light through yellow leaves

Rooty squash smell

Kissing his temple

Tractors in fields

Rough Trevor fingers on my palm

Farm cats on the four-wheeler tire

Miles of yellow-white corn

White country church in the middle of fields

Toast smell from kitchen

Birds chattering

Spices and pine smell

Tiny spider in the door frame

Baby's scrunched up angry face

Smooth green pepper skin

Afternoon naps

Birch trees bowing in the wind

Tiny downy feather on the sidewalk

Kids calling from the playground

Quilt folded neatly over the couch

Tunnels through mountains of leaves

My head fitting perfect between his shoulder blades

Silky Nellie-dog fur

Woodpecker in an oak tree

Comfy black sweatpants

Pine needle piles

Pear yellow

Her "success" smile

Ringlets at the nape of her little neck

Forehead to forehead secrets

Glass that looks green in the sunlight

Red speckles in changing leaves

Fat robin on the sidewalk

Horses standing peacefully in the pasture

Sunset water-coloring the lake

Nibbles on fishing poles

Acorns popping in the fireplace

Little bird perched on a rock

Tartness of apples

Warm banana smell

Bare feet on the kitchen floor

Soft hugs from gentle arms

Tiers of light from the clouds

Purple ditch flowers

Rhubarb pie from friends

Monarch flying overhead

Thousands of stars

Wing flutters

Canopy of oak trees

New uses for old things

New life announced

A paperclip pretty next to the blue mug

Ferns turning orange

Tiny white flowers

Leaf smoke acid smell

Tucker thudding down his ramp

Lavender soap on linoleum floor

Blotches of oil on his work shirts

My ring sending sparkles on the wall

Fresh from the dryer towels

Cinnamon floating in cereal milk

Dragonflies in the parking lot

Dark, heavy clouds

Spiders weaving in windowsills

The earring dangling at her jawline

Eyelashes on sunburned cheeks

Sunshine-colored soybeans

Morning light making the laundry room magical

Dragonflies dancing

The purple hostas in bloom

.... and there have been lots, lots more.

We are blessed. So, so blessed- by the little gifts of this beautiful life, and by the big gifts that shape my life.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

(Full disclosure- the link to the book is an Amazon affiliate link. That means that if you click the link and then purchase a product from Amazon, I will receive a teeny little commission, at no cost to you.)


Blessings this Week: 11.21.2014

This week brought me a pretty bad cold- complete with congestion and sniffles and coughing... so I spent quite a bit of the week in bed, and then catching up at work again!



Funny advertisements--
(in this case, for horse de-wormer... my life is nothing like I expected it would be....)

Trevor- "So, in other words, your horse is at high risk if it's alive.


Lots and lots of chicken noodle soup, and a husband who "doctored it up" for me


This little plant in my office, that despite the fact that I never (ever) water it, stays green and cheerful all the time



As a Deer

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
 I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

--Psalm 42


Blessings This Week: 11.14.2014

This week brought the first snow of the season


Hot chocolate with peppermints


Discoveries on Netflix- there's a "show" called Fireplace For Your Home- an hour of fireplace video. There's also an aquarium one, but it's less fun.


Real fireplaces waiting to be lit for guests


Lots of coffee...

To be fair, this is collection is from three days. Or, wait, two days.


These guys who barely glanced at me as I walked past

and the gorgeous sunset behind them

Happy weekend, friends! Find the blessings!


Letting Go

I will admit it.

I am a sentimental person. 

I'm the type who gets "attached" to things. 

I still have a pair of shoes that I purchased in Germany when I was a freshman in high school. I have two empty ring boxes in my dresser (one from my engagement ring, and one from my wedding band). I have a paper cup from Hardee's- my first high school job- in a box in a closet. I have a white-board from my college dorm room with a message still written on it in pink marker- it says, "I love you!! -Clare." And don't even get me started on the piles of rocks...

I get attached. 

A few months ago, Trevor and I sold a car- the Geo Tracker. 

We'd begun trying to sell it several years ago, actually. It had started acting up right after we got married. We'd stored it at Trevor's folks' home, had a friend do some fixing on it, limped it up to our new home, had another friend fix it, and had purchased a more reliable vehicle in the meantime. 

It was time for the Tracker to find a new home. 

We knew that it was running well again, and that it would make a good car for a college student or someone who wasn't going to go long distances very often- it just didn't fit us anymore. 

The problem was, I didn't want to let go. The new vehicle fit our needs much better, but the Tracker... 

See, the Tracker had so many memories in it. 

While we were dating, Trevor picked me up from Minneapolis in the Tracker. We held hands and I fell asleep against his shoulder as he drove me back to the bus stop when it was time for me to go to home to Chicago again. 

We discovered Holiday gas station lattes and drank lots of them in the Tracker. 

I threw up out the window of the Tracker when I got food poisoning. (Not the best memory, but a memory...)

We loaded the Tracker completely full and drove through a blizzard to move Trevor in to his apartment in Mankato.

I drove the Tracker every day for several months when I worked in Minnesota. And I learned how four-wheel drive actually works in those icy months. 

Trevor asked me to marry him after a trip to the Black Hills- a trip we took in the Tracker. He washed the windshield at a gas station and I remember thinking, "That guy is going to be my husband!" and feeling overwhelmed with gratitude.

See the background? The interior of the Tracker.

How could I let go of all those memories? 

I don't think I'm alone in that, really. We all keep things because of the memories they hold for us. Whether it's pictures, or a wedding dress in the closet, or a pair of shoes, a special hat, a necklace... we all hold on. 

And most of the time, those little things in our closets or in boxes under our beds- they're not a big deal. 

But sometimes, when we hold on to things, we prevent ourselves from moving forward.

We weren't using the Tracker. It was taking up space in our already crowded garage. And we definitely didn't need three vehicles between the two of us. It wasn't useful to us anymore. Full of memories and history, but no longer a part of helping us to move forward.

The "things" that we attribute so many memories to- they aren't any less a part of our history because we part with them. The fabric of our lives are woven by those memories- they've made us who we are. It's difficult to let the "things" go sometimes, even when we know that the letting go will open us up to new experiences. Even when we know that the letting go will be for good.

We sold the Tracker to a nice young man on a windy Tuesday afternoon. 

And yes, I did take some stealth-pictures of it before the guy drove it away. 

And yes, I did go into the house that afternoon, after watching the Tracker turn down the road and drive out of sight, and I did cry. 

I still have those memories, though. 

We may not have the Tracker anymore, but I have the memories. The happy memories, the history of my life, isn't contained in things. It was sad to see that good old car go, yes, but it was also so very exciting. See, my history isn't contained in a car, and it doesn't end with a car. 

The adventure continues. 

The adventure of our lives always continues. God is writing a glorious story in each of our lives. The characters may change, the scenery may change, the car we're driving into the sunset may change, but the story keeps going. 

We keep living out the truth of God's love, sharing it with the world, and living in the daily blessings that point us to Him. The story keeps going, sometimes even more fully and beautifully, after the letting go.  


Blessings this Week: 11.07.2014

Welcome Center candy bowl. 


Turkeys chasing each other across the yard. 


I've been so spoiled this week. My exercise-of-choice <snort> is walking, but it's getting colder... so, meet our new-to-us treadmill! The fish aren't terribly impressed, but I love it!


We also got a new vacuum cleaner this week, and I've put it to work quite a bit already. I'd show you before and after pictures, but it's too embarrassing. ; )


This little boy, who was born three years ago this week...

Happy birthday, little buddy! You're one of the best nephews in the world! Auntie Ally and Uncle Trevor love you very much! 


Butternut squash and a day off to spend making butternut squash lasagna... 


A sixth grade "Noah" reading out of Genesis. 


Happy Friday, everyone! What blessings have you seen in your life this week?


Lead Me to the Rock That Is Higher than I

Hear my cry, O God,
            listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you
            when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the
             rock that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
             a strong tower against the enemy.
Let me dwell in your tent forever!
             Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings!
 -Psalm 61:1-4

Sometimes we just need a refuge, a shelter, a place to rest.

When life disappoints
When challenges loom heavy in our minds
When it feels like everyone is against us
When we're stuck in a rut
When decisions are heartbreakingly hard to make
When we're just plain tired and worn down
When anxiety threatens our joy

And you know? It's so easy for me to hide in things that have no power at all.

I avoid that difficult conversation by just not making the phone call. I watch a TV show rather than make the decision. I turn to sweets, to working overtime, to over-planning, to the next project or the next distraction, to the things I can do, rather than really and truly finding rest in Him.

And why?

He's been my strong tower in the past, in the hard times before.

Remember those times? The times when the comfort was almost overwhelming, when the peace came like a soft rain?

He is higher than I. He knows better than I do. He's got everything in the palm of His hand.

And I rest in the shadow of His wings. 


Blessings this Week: 10.31.2014


Inventive games and kids learning about Christ


A beautiful Sunday afternoon, and playing in leaves


 with this little boy


Tandem bikes and rides through the trees



Pumpkin Spice coffee creamer.


Surprise pictures on my camera- artsy shots, and Mom selfies, too. 


 Being greeted by a clean entryway in the morning


Birthdays and little girls getting another year older!


Fireplaces and wood smoke




Happy weekend!


Apples and Trees

My mom and I are very similar in a lot of ways.

So I'm not sure what I was thinking when I handed her my camera and left her unsupervised for an hour.



Blessings this Week: 10.24.2014



Day One of Fall youth weekends--- today! 


Raindrops making that "tap, tap" sound on fallen leaves


Farm cats on four wheelers


Butternut Squash, and all the yummy recipes!


Harvest dust in the air


This article, which pretty well describes my feelings towards this blessings project. Minus 8 years or so.

I'm off to finish prepping for those middle school kids...  six hours til launch!! 

What blessings have you seen in your life this week?