30 Days of Thanks, Day 20: Snapshots

One thing I really, truly love about my husband is that he takes photos.

And he doesn’t just take them… he takes t

hem well. He always thinks to capture moments when I’m busy living them but not recording



Today, I am really thankful for this snapshot.

Three lifelong friends, ten kids, and laughter so real and

so true that my sides still ache nine hours later.


A couple hours with two amazing women who will forever hold a special place in my heart is something I am so incredibly thankful

for today.

And I’m even more thankful that we got a snapshot of it.




30 Days of Thanks, Day 19: Endings

Yikes, it’s Day 19 already?

Seems like this is going fast.


Truthfully, when I think of endings, I think of death. And I don’t necessarily want to talk about that so I’m not going to. :)

Last week I shared a little about my grandma and how she wasn’t doing well following a he

art attack.

Today I got to visit with her a little, and I noticed something.

First of all, she’s doing ok, so thanks to those of you who have prayed for her.

But she is 91…and so, whether she goes in ten years or in ten days, she’s in the ending of her life.

Visiting her tugs a little at my heart. She doesn’t hear as well

as she used to. She moves a lot slower. She needs a walker.

But today…there were good tugs on my heart, too…the kind that make me appreciate the end of a person’s life, especially when that person can take time to share stories that are full of history and legacy.

She told me stories today I had never heard before. For almost an hour, I sat and listened to her talk with my mom about things I never knew…about her siblings, about her family, about her kids, about the old, white farmhouse that holds so many memories.

I felt like a sponge as I soaked up their conversation, not really saying much myself.

When we got ready to leave, I noticed a picture of Grandpa A in his navy uniform that I had never seen before.

(My grandpa passed away before I was born.) I asked her about it because she has never talked about him much. She just smiled and told me that it had been out for awhile.

I made sure to tell her I thought my grandpa was pretty good looking.

I loved her response.

She got this young, girlish, sparkle in her eyes, and nodded. Yes, he was, she told me.

I loved that moment.

It’s one I’ ll never forget.

I was blessed to have today.

A peek into the life of someone I love who is in her ending.

But one who has completely lived and loved since her beginning.


30 Days of Thanks, Day 18: Beginnings

I suppose it’s a little ironic that I’m blogging about Beginnings today from my hometown, Creston, Iowa.

I was born here, raised here, and spent the first eighteen years of my life here.

It’s a small town…I think at its largest it was around 10,000 people; now it’s closer to 9,000.

Tobin and I were just talking about what people do for fun here. When we come for a visit, there is a lot of down time. Especially when we’d visit for 1-2 weeks during summers between Indonesia, we had to find creative ways to occupy our time. We’d go running, we’d go to the park and play bocce ball, we’d play cribbage, we’d visit my brother at the Coffee Shack, we’ d go to Walmart.

Really. (And everyone knows how much I adore Walmart. :P)

We laughed because we found ourselves at Walmart twice today…and joked that it’ s what people do this time of year for fun. I’m not sure that’s true…but there were a lot of people there. :)

The local high school is around 400 students, which isn’t tiny. There are plenty of opportunities for a high school student, especially if they are athletic or musical, and I even took advantage of a few of those when I attended there.

In a small town, everyone knows everyone, and that can be a good thing and sometimes not. However, another observation I had today was the stunning realization that I’ve been gone almost as long as I lived here. Because of that, I don’t run into people I know as often as I used to.

Growing up, small town life was all I knew, but I always longed for something…



I left home at eighteen and never really came home. There were/are visits, but this isn’t home.

I used to resent growing up here; I am slowly growing out of that.

Because this is the place I began, and while it’s not all I always dreamed of, it’s part of who I am. And I choose to take those pieces of my beginning and be just that.

Because we can’t choose our beginning…but we can choose what we do with it.

Thank you, God, for beginnings.


30 Days of Thanks, Day 17: Coffee

Ok, today I’m abandoning serious, deep thoughts.

Though coffee

is serious business, folks.

A good cup of coffee can start a day off perfectly; and a bad one can ruin it.

We don’t want that now, do we?

I could just end this post now by saying you should go here to get your coffee, but even as an employee of that place, there are other good coffee places out there, too. Though I really like Firefly.


Coffee really became part of my life when I worked at Caribou the year before we went overseas.

I mean, I drank it in college (what college student doesn’t?!) but it was there that I really learned to appreciate the finer points of pulling the perfect espresso shot, the proper amount

of froth for a latte, and what a true macchiato actually is. (And for the record, folks, it does not involve caramel sauce, though that IS tasty stuff!


In Indonesia, coffee became even more important.

Yes, I drank it every morning…it’s kind of necessary for surviving life as a teacher.

But it also became that thing…when I needed some girl time, we’d all go out for coffee just to talk and laugh.

When Tobin and I went on a date, it almost always included Starbucks. We’d take our cribbage board with us and play a few rounds while sipping our usual…an iced Caramel Macchiato for him, a skim  hazelnut latte for me.

When I was having a bad day, I’d get Becky and we’d hop on a bike and go down to Starbucks (or Excelso…mmm, I miss that place!) for some caffeine, some laughs, some tears, and some heart-healing.

Even here, coffee is kind of what helped me fit in. It was only after going out for coffee with a few different friends that I finally started feeling like I belonged.

And my job and making connections through that is helping, too.

So whether I was being serious or not when I started this post is debatable.


But, I AM thankful for coffee.

I’m thankful for a lot of other things, too, which you can read about here, at my new post for the Patch.


30 Days of Thanks, Day 16: Unexpected

When we moved to Illinois, I expected a lot of things.

I expected…to only be here until Tobin could find a job in Minnesota and we could move home.

I expected…I would never like it.

I hoped…I was wrong.

The first few weeks lived up to my expectations. My life was baby-baby-baby, and the only time I even stepped outside was to either let the dogs out or to go to Target to get more necessities for setting up a house.

All that changed on a Monday night about three weeks after we moved in.

There was a knock at our door. A neighbor was stopping over to invite me to a Bible study at her church that Thursday morning. Really, I’m surprised she didn’t run away because she got quite the greeting from Andre and Sam. :) I was feeding Mae when she was here so I couldn’t even say hi to her.

But she had sent a nice note with directions to the church, letting me know she’d love for me to come if I wanted to.

I hesitated…because this?

Was not what I expected.

But I somehow found some courage and let Tobin talk me into going over to talk to her Wednesday night. I’ve never told her how nervous I was about that. :)

We ended up talking for over an hour.

And that night, I let it enter my mind that maybe I could like it here.

She gave me and Maelie a ride the next morning. I was overwhelmed when I walked into the room…there were a lot of people. But there were also?

Twin baby girls, three weeks older than Mae.


I think I needed a little reassurance, not just for me, but for Maelie, too.

I loved these women immediately, though it took me a few weeks to actually talk. But I kept going back because I felt safe. And, because I hoped that maybe…maybe…they’d want to be friends.

God shattered my expectations with this group of women, who I am now blessed to call my friends. We laugh, we cry, we have good times, we have girls’ nights out sometimes…they are so much a part of what makes my life here happy. They made it ok for me to get out of bed in the morning and smile because I knew Thursday was coming, whether it was one day away or six. (And I wish I had a picture of them all! I’ll get one. Soon.)

God shattered my expectations with this group of women, who I am now blessed to call my friends. We laugh, we cry, we have good times, we have girls’ nights out sometimes…they are so much a part of what makes my life here happy. They made it ok for me to get out of bed in the morning and smile because I knew Thursday was coming, whether it was one day away or six. (And I wish I had a picture of them all! I’ll get one. Soon.)

God shattered my expectations even more with my neighbor, Kris. He gave me more than some one in the neighborhood who was willing to reach out to the lonely new girl on the block. He gave me a dear friend, a fellow coffee-lover, a texting-buddy, and also something I hadn’t even realized I needed.

Someone to love my daughter, too.

In all of my expectations, I hadn’t realized that Maelie would need people, too…that she would need to be loved even more than I did.

Kris and her husband, Jon, are now Maelie’s godparents. I will even admit sometimes that I think Mae loves them more than she loves us. But that’s ok…because they are such a blessing to us. :)
We truly love it here and are so thankful for the people God has placed in our lives. We couldn’t have chosen a better place to raise our daughter…and let’s be honest, we didn’t choose it….and I know we’ll always be thankful for that.

I’m so thankful that God, knowing all of my expectations, chose to give me Unexpected instead.



30 Days of Thanks, Day 15: Adventure

I am truly thankful for adventure…

The kind that makes my heart pump so fast I didn’t know it was possible to beat at that rate. The kind that fills me with terror and thrill at the same time.

The kind that makes my heart ache…and rejoice at the same time.

I’ve talked a lot about my travels on this blog.

Tobin and I are very passionate about seeing the world and not only seeing it but changing it as well.

But I rarely talk about the trip that started it all…the one that made my heart burst with love and bleed with pain.

When I was in college, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Peru with some friends.

I saw it as an adventure…a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a corner of the world I’d probably never have the chance to experience again.

I had no idea that this adventure would be life-changing in so many ways.

I left for Peru early on a Saturday morning with five friends. After a long layover in Dallas, we flew overnight, landing in Lima around 5:00 a.m., just in time to catch an in-country flight to Iquitos, where we were met by several missionaries who drove us to our home for three weeks.

A houseboat.

Yes, you read that right.

We stayed on a two story houseboat during our time there. It was SO cool!

Pardon my immaturity.


We spent the first week in the city of Iquitos, making connections, visiting schools, talking to students, and possibly my favorite…hanging out with streetkids.

Eladio was one of my favorites.

He had a sweet smile that hid the pain in his eyes.

I could tell he wanted nothing more than to just be loved.

I never knew his entire story, I never asked. We just took the chances we had to love him…to buy him extra food when we could and to let him shine our shoes…to the point of ruin. (Really…though it took me years to throw those sandals away.)

Our last two weeks were spent traveling on the Amazon River, visiting villages, sharing songs, stories, leading a week-long VBS, and most importantly…learning to open up and let these people see Jesus.

My heart broke to see such poverty…but rejoiced in knowing that so many of these people knew the Father and that while their earthly possessions were few, they truly had everything they needed.

It was hard to go.

It was hard to see this come to an end, to leave it behind when there was so much left to do. To wonder why I was leaving this place I loved to return to the land of plenty…which I didn’t want.

Eventually some of those feelings have faded into the background, and we’ve been on many adventures since the time I spent in Peru. I’ve seen pieces of the world that make me smile…and pieces that make me cry. Parts that are memorable and parts I’ d like to forget.

That adventure in Peru…led to many more.

And my life motto,

Attitude: The Difference Between Ordeal and Adventure

still rings true.

No matter where Tob in and I go, we choose to f

ind the adventure in it.

Thank you, God, for adventures.


30 Days of Thanks, Day 14: Change

Haha! 😀

I literally did laugh out loud when I thought about what I get to write about. Then I wondered why I even made it a topic…isn’t “Change” the story of my life


In all seriousness, I’ve been thinking about change

and how it so often becomes blessings through tears.

Yesterday Tobin and I had the privilege of sharing our life in Indonesia with some people at our church.

Of course, to prepare for that, we had to hash out a few things and watch a couple different videos…which brought back so many memories.

And just this morning, I was looking through some photos…more of the same…

And I felt that familiar ache in my heart.

I’m not sure why it’s so hard to move from one phase of life to another, but it is.

Memories don’t just disappear, friendships don’t just go away…

Love doesn’t just die.

Leaving our life in Indonesia was as big a change as we could have possibly experienced, adding the fact that we were about to become parents and move to a new city, too.

Can I be honest? I still hurt over the loss those changes brought.

But I still smile, too…because I like to see the blessings that came through that change, even if there were

a lot of tears.

And there were.

I love my life now, and Tobin and I have said repeatedly that we would love to stay here and let this be home.

What scares me? Is that I know we need to be sensitive to God’s will, and the very real possibility exists that He may ask us to do something else…something involving more change.

We’d do it…but that doesn’t mean it would be easy.

Change is tough, and giving thanks for it is even harder.

But today, I’m thankful for it…and the places

it has taken us.

Especially to this place.


30 Days of Thanks, Day 13: Be

Sometimes I’m jealous of my daughter…and any little kid, really.

They haven’t yet learned what it is to be self-conscious.

I love it that Maelie just spends her days being whatever she feels…she has crazy moments, crabby moments, smiley moments, cuddly moments…and moments when they’re all rolled into one mood that I can’t effectively describe. But she’s herself, and I just love to watch her. :)

Let’s be honest.

Don’t you all just want to go crazy sometimes? To go run around in the rain, having the time of your life? To belt out a song in the grocery store

? To wear that way- too-

cute hat and not care what anyone thinks?

Ok, I admit...I do those things sometimes...but definitely not without thinking about what others
might be thinking of me.


I guess my point? Is that there is such freedom in being able to throw away the whole what-other-people-think-of-me stuff and just be me.

A couple weeks ago we were at our church’s Octoberfest, and there was a little boy there who was just awesome.

He loved…LOVED…the live music, and at the end requested for the band to play Roll Out the Barrel.

And when they did, he just danced his little feet away, and it was the most precious thing ever.


I think he became one of my heroes that day.

I’m not saying I should go share my (lack of) dancing skills with those around me, but hey.

We all wish we could be a little less self-conscious, right? 😉

I’m usually pretty good at being me.

..and I’ m usually content with how God

made me.

Sometimes I wish for more, but today, I’m thankful.

Thankful that he made me a chatterbox, social, coffee-loving, friend-loving-even-more, wife-and-mommy, musical ungenius, wannabe dancer in the rain, spill-my-heart-on-paper girl…and a whole lot more.

I like being me.

I hope you like being you, too.



30 Days of Thanks, Day 12: Create

In high school, I took a pottery class and learned how to use the wheel.

There was a lot to that aspect of creating, and it frustrated me. I wasn’t used to so many time-consuming steps that were necessary to creating a piece of art.

I? Just wanted to make something and finish it all at once…none of this waiting between phases stuff.

Eventually I accepted the fact that I would have to be patient in order for my piece

to turn out as I wanted.

Before I could have my crazy fun of making a mess (aka: the wheel), I had to pound the clay.

Over and over and over, to the point of extreme boredom.

Of course, this was important…a good piece of pottery can’t have any pockets of air in the clay at all.

Once that step was done, then I could finally throw the clay on the wheel, get it nice and wet, and start creating.

I began simply…and did many, many bowls, though I didn’ t keep

them all. They were easy…and didn’t require too much on the part of the artist.

But eventually, my creative juices took off, and I wanted to make a vase.

I had it in my mind how I wanted it to look, but as any good artist knows, pieces rarely turn out as you first envision them.

After many attempts, I was able to create something vase-ish.

But then it had to dry before I could glaze it and fire it.

In all reality, I think my “vase” was done in about three weeks…but it seemed like much longer to me.

When it was finally finished, I was kinda happy with it…but definitely saw ways I could improve it, and I got to work on my next project, determined to make it better.

I wonder sometimes if that’s how God feels about me. I mean, yes, He created


But He keeps working on that creati


He’ll mold and shape and put me through the fire…and do I always come out as something that brings glory to the Artis


Whether I do or not, I know my Potter is far more patient with His creation than I was with mine.

I just wanted mine to be finished and beautiful…

And I know beauty is taking a lot longer for this girl.

I love to create…and I’m thankful for chances I have to do just that.

But I’m also even more thankful that my Creator keeps patiently working on me.


30 Days of Thanks, Day 11: Seasons

Today, I’m going to give thanks for Seasons, by re-posting something I wrote a few years ago.

It’s thought-provoking and was a good reminder to me as I try to give thanks today for a migraine that has all but wiped me out. It will pass, too, though. :)

I love how endless tears and sleepless nights over a failed adoption turned into something so unexpectedly, amazingly beautiful…in the form of a little girl named Maelie.

We are so blessed.


Enjoy re ading

a little piece of our lives from not so long ago.

(from the March 2009 archives of the blog we kept in Indonesia)

I’ve hesitated posting for awhile because I don’t want to ramble on and on about the same things all the time. Sometimes God puts us in a season for awhile, and while things don’t change a lot, the lessons are still there to learn. And I am learning a lot.  Here are a few things, in no particular order.

Stillness. Why is it that we always want to move around and make noise? It seems like, in my mind, I’m always thinking of how I can do things better or how right I am about something.

God has shown me a lot about being still, resting, and being willing to be quiet and wait on Him. I can’t say that this period of being still has been easy.  There have been a lot of tears and moments of just not getting it. But learning to rest has brought peace.

Silence. (There is a difference between this point and the last one.) I am a Facebook, e-mail, communication junkie. But for the last month, I have all but stayed away from most forms of it. I check it occasionally, but I haven’t replied to most people, unless it was necessary. If you sent me an e-mail or a message, please don’t be offended if I didn’t reply. Your words probably made me cry or smile (or both) and gave me something to process. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and want you to know that it didn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated. When I can find the words, I will write you back.

Empathy. I’ve been following the blog of a friend of a friend. She and her husband lost their baby girl at 39+ weeks about a year and a half ago. I know that our situations are vastly different, but gaining her insight on grief has been eye-opening and healing for me. I, in no way, compare this loss to theirs, yet I feel that God has used her words over and over to show me that He is faithful, that He will bring healing, and that despite loss, He is still God.

Meaning. Processing this kind of pain has brought new meaning to who I want to be.

I am at an interesting point in life, anyway, with leaving the classroom, which has brought emotions that are difficult to explain. As I contemplate being a stay-at-home wife (not a mother, which I was hoping for), I have realized that I will have quite a bit of free time, and I don’t want to waste it. I have been praying and thinking about the abilities I have, and I think God’s next purpose for me is simple…spending time with local people, just building relationships. I love Indonesian people. They are beautiful and so kind. I have some options, so please pray for open doors.

I love the song Nichole Nordeman sings called Every Season. I feel like I’ve been stuck in winter, but I know that spring is coming–it may just take a bit longer than I was hoping for.

:) Thanks for your friendship and love…it means more to

me than I can ever express.

“Every evening sky, an invitation
to trace the patterned stars.
And early in July, a celebration
for freedom that is ours.

And I notice You in children’s games,
in those who watch them from the shade.

Every drop of sun is full of fun and wonder;
You are summer.

And even when the trees have just surrendered
to the harvest time,
Forfeiting their leaves in late September
and sending us inside.
Still I notice you when change begins,
and I am braced for colder winds.

I will offer thanks for what has been and what’s to come;
You are autumn.

And everything in time and under heaven
finally falls asleep.

Wrapped in blankets white, all creation
shivers underneath.
And still I notice you when branches crack,
and in my breath on frosted glass.

Even, now, in death you open doors for life to enter;
You are winter.

And everything that’s new has bravely surfaced,
Teaching us to breathe.
And what was frozen through is newly purposed,
Turning all things green.

So it is with You and how You make me new
with every season’s change.
And so it will be as You are recreating me,
Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring.”