Wednesday, November 26, 2008

100 hundred things I'm thankful for at this very moment...

I decided to take a moment to simply list out some of the many things I am thankful for ... I started with some big ones of course, but then I just kept listing every single thing that came to my mind that I appreciate having in my life. With a grateful heart I share this list with all of you. May we all have hearts of gratitude this season (and daily!).

1. My God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and my growing relationship with God

2. My Husband -- Shawn -- my best friend, lover and true partner

3. All 3 of my wonderful girls ... each have been a blessing in their own right, including Emily who continues to bless me with lessons even as she waits for us in Heaven

4. My Health -- this year I have been blessed beyond measure with a return of good health and I am thankful beyond words

5. Family -- not the just the delightful ones that live with me, but those that we travel to see on Thanksgiving, Christmas and more

6. FOOD -- pure wholesome food that seems sent straight from God to me (sometimes via our friendly CSA, market or family farm). I have learned an entirely new appreciation for food and its healing powers this year

7. Our Church -- our Good Shepherd family continues to bless us in many ways and I am thankful for the community for faith and fellowship

8. Our jobs -- even with tight deadlines or crappy projects at times, our jobs always provide us with more than merely a pay check

9. My family's health and safety -- between a car accident and Celiac diagnosis I do not take these things for granted ... we have been blessed in so many ways

10. The Internet and the communities and opportunities is brings me

This picture of my family is the background for my computer monitor at work right now so I get to see it a lot, and it always reminds me of just how blessed I am. Oh, and I love how Nessa is showing us the stamp on her hand (or simply not letting it get covered by her sweater!). :-)

11. Shawn's grateful heart and ability to share all of those things with me

12. Nessa's smile

13. Megan's smile

14. Laughter

15. Instant Messaging -- and the winks and more from Shawn via IM each day

16. All the Raw Divas -- the knowledge and support they have brought me is incredible

17. All my BES (Body Enlightenment System) buddies

18. Goodwill!!!! (I'm truly becoming addicted to the selection ... and how else do you refill your closet when you remove everything that is suddenly too big?)

19. The Green Smoothie Blog -- an opportunity to grow and learn with other fantastic contributors.

20. GMAIL -- there is no other way I would be able to manage my massive email inbox

21. ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Association) and the wonderful women that make the organization what it is -- I use what they taught me a decade ago, each and every day

22. The Off Topic list and all my wonderful friends there :-)

23. The ICAN Loss and Recovery list ... I never want new members but I'm so thankful for the community we've become

24. Facebook -- I've rediscovered old friends and gotten to know new friends better ... addictive but wonderful

25. Our own blog :-) ... communication as well as keeping memories for us!

26. Our van ... sometimes I feel guilty driving it but it's ever so useful at this time in our lives

27. Heated seats in our van (yes, this deserves its own line!)

28. Cell phones

29. My new Blendtec Blender ... worth every penny when needing nutrient-dense food to heal!

30. My massage therapist/yoga instructors ... again an important part of healing...

31. My chiropractor ... especially thankful during my post-accident recovery time :-)

32. Our home ... plumbing problems and all ... it has been a wonderful place to grow and nourish our family and it will indeed be hard to say goodbye when the time comes

33. Quilts!!! All the quilts that my mom made and gifted us do get used constantly ... especially now that cold weather is here!

34. My wool socks and wool slippers ... that house I love is a wee bit drafty. ;-)

35. My new size 12 jeans that fit!!!! :-)

36. Our Honda Civic ... although I prefer not to actually drive it, it's very reliable and the gas mileage is great.

37. My hair stylist that always works magic

38. Our credit union that is being helpful as we make plans to consolidate, pay off debts, and become students again (are we crazy or what?)

39. Being able to watch Nessa and Megan play and giggle together

40. For all the people that remember Emily Lin each year (she would be 7 years old and in 1st grade ... and ever so beautiful with brown eyes, I just know it)

41. For the beautiful memorial stone that we have at Emily's grave and for all those that help us decorate it each season.

42. For my parents that go out of their way to see all of their grandchildren as much as possible.

43. For all of Nessa's grandparents being there to watch her when Shawn and I need to go do things like visit seminaries for a weekend. :-)

44. For Nessa's daycare and the wonderful teachers there that not only stimulate her mind so she's learning new things faster than I can keep up, but, and this is really important to us, they feed her food safely (gluten and also dairy free) -- they are SO good and we are so blessed to have that center as part of our lives.

45. That my husband seems to actually like doing dishes ... or rather he likes a clean kitchen enough that he is more than willing to do the dishes (I am SO lucky).

46. That my dear husband doesn't mind cooking even more often because I'm busy making (not cooking!) my own food most nights (sometimes I do both but we do like to eat before bedtime too).

47. That my dear wonderful [inset more adjectives] husband is more than willing to do the grocery shopping - even when it includes a long list of vegetables and fruits that not very long ago he would have had no idea how to recognize. :-)

48. That my entire household loves to listen to and sing Christmas music (bring it on!)

49. That my parents are here on earth to get to know my daughters and all of their grandchildren.

50. That Shawn's parents are here on earth to get to know their grandchildren.

51. For the family I "married into" ... you won't hear me complaining about in-laws. :-)

52. Shawn's sparkling eyes. When Irish eyes are ... (you get the idea)

53. Megan's contagious giggling

54. Megan's big hugs

55. Megan's email messages -- even when it's just a big smile or "love you too" message

56. Nessa's quiet "I love you mommy"

57. That Nessa loves to read ... when she snuggles in to read on my lap it's the best!

58. The Bible Study groups at church

59. My rebounder ... the only way I get my 20 minutes of exercise most days (it must be working!)

60. Hot water ... especially in the morning

61. Our food co-op

62. The Farmer's Market (and farmers!)

63. Our CSA and our ability to be a part of a CSA this year!

64. Sisters!

65. Our 90 day Bibles and the blessing that it is to read through it together with Shawn :-)

66. The ability to have intelligent and interesting dinner conversations ... not just with Shawn but also now with Megan ... and Nessa is starting to ask good questions too ... what a blessing to have intellect and curiosity!

67. Doctors that were able to help us -- especially the Mayo Clinic and Allergy Associates with Nessa's Celiac

68. EMTs and First Responders!

69. People who stop after and accident to check on us and just be there.

70. Teddy bears for Nessa to hug!

71. An abundance of books to read!

72. Friends that understand

73. All the support and enthusiastic well wishes we/Shawn is receiving about our news that Shawn has entered the ELCA candidacy process and is applying to seminary

74. The stimulating intellectual communities at Luther Seminary, Wartburg Seminary, and the ELCA synods

75. The wonderful staff, volunteers/students at Wartburg, including those that opened their homes to us, that make us feel so welcome (they even were able to happily accommodate my food needs)

76. Megan's school and the teachers and friends that have helped her thrive there
77. Megan's trumpet that I love to hear her play :-)

78. My little MP3 player

79. Pod casts and recorded teleseminars

80. Wisconsin Public Radio!!!

81. Friends that are photographers!

82. Google ... sure helps satisfy my curiosity in a hurry!

83. Amazon ... they always have what I'm looking for

84. e-Bay ... for when Amazon doesn't have it or I want it used

85. Social Networking online ... connections and more info!

86. All the of the wonderful people that write helpful books about Celiac and avoiding gluten

87. The Celiac support groups (Raising our Celiac Kids and more!)

88. HyVee in Dubuque ;-)

89. Friends and family that love me/us no matter what

90. Coconut oil ... and finally discovering a healthy oil that I love (and I no longer need to buy expensive facial moisturizers!)

91. Raw Food bloggers

92. Vegan bloggers

93. Celiac / Gluten Free bloggers

94. Our kitchen table

95. My dehydrator ... what I can create and the food I can save from spoiling by using it!

96. "Ice Cream" made by a Champion Juicer (thanks mom!)

97. Having to think about which shoes to wear in the morning

98. A choice of wonderful warm winter coats, hats and mittens

99. Having abundance to share (Nessa donated to Toys of Tots last weekend and it was so nice to see her doing it)

100. Grace ... my life is filled with Grace -- thank you God.
In gratitude,

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Shawn has done a wonderful job keeping you all updated on the wonderful happenings around our home, so it's about time I show you some pictures to go with all the news. :-)

I just took 144 pictures from our memory card ... the 80 that made the cut to the "Fall Photos 2008" set on flickr can be found here:

Or you can check out the crazy pics Megan took of Nessa here:

And if you're lucky enough to be our facebook friend, you have a nice album I just uploaded there *complete with descriptions* so go check it out. :-)

And for posterity on the blog we have to include a few classic fall photos complete with commentary:

There has been a whole lot of reading and cuddling with Nessa going on, and since it's one of our favorite things, it's also one of our favorite things to take pictures of. Often as one of us reads with Nessa, the other one will grab the camera and sneak a quick picture. I do not think Nessa appreciates these interruptions. :-) Nessa's current favorite books are all part of the Curious George series. If you saw her look at Curious George Goes to the Hospital by herself you would swear she is actually reading it (she's not, we're sure), and if we try to change the words she gets a little perturbed to say the least (tonight, I got several "just read it Mommy").

This is Megan and Nessa concentrating as they make "ice cream" with the juicer. We've been having lots of fun with Grandma Karen's juicer (Thanks Mom!), and it's a good thing Grandma is traveling a lot right now or else when she sees all the yummy stuff we've been making, she would want it back. :-) Of course the girls' favorite thing to make is ice cream. We simply put frozen fruit through the juicer using the blank plate and it comes out like soft serve ice cream! Bananas and cherries were our favorite so far, but they have all been yummy. :-)

Leaves, leaves, and more leaves! That's our front yard. I think this was the day Nessa helped Daddy so nice outside. Of course she had to take a few breaks to play in the leaves, and I just happened to go out to say hello about that time. I know that looks like a lot of leaves, but sadly their were still a lot on our tree after that day, and even the wind yesterday didn't get them ALL down. Tomorrow is the last day the city picks up leaves for the season so I spent a COLD half hour raking up the lawn again today, and there was no jumping and playing this time. :-( (We have had a tiny bit of snow, but nothing that would stick so far. Also, Shawn will tell you I'm still impressed that the city comes and picks up the leaves, or rather sucks them up with their big leaf vacuum, so I didn't want to miss out by not having the leaves raked to the street.)

It's the scary pumpkin!!!
Nessa was determined to be a pumpkin for Halloween this year. I have a commitment to never make Halloween costumes (OK, I just made that up), so we headed off to Goodwill and lucked out by finding this pumpkin costume that Nessa loved, and the hat just was the perfect topper.
After Nessa took a normal picture in her costume she said she wanted to be scary so that is where this picture comes from. It was taken in the morning before she went to day care. They had a little party and did some trick or treating to local business during the day at daycare. And as parents of a 3-year-old celiac we decided that was enough candy for us to sort through (Nessa was good about it), and we had our own pajama party in the basement instead. We watched Cinderella and ate popcorn. Nessa loves Cinderella now (prior to the movie!), so I guess the princess stage had to start sooner or later. :-) BUT, Nessa is already telling us that next year she wants to be Superman for Halloween! Go Girl! :-)
Well, as these few pictures tell you, we have a busy and happy house. While the big news about our future (no way around it, "Pastor school" as Nessa calls it is big news) has taken up most of our "what's new" time, there are certainly lots of other things happening as well -- there always are with kids. :-)
I'm feeling abundantly blessed these days, and I pray that feeling lasts long past Thanksgiving.

Irony, or the Sincerest Form of Flattery? You Be the Judge...

Wednesday evening, as I was getting supper for Nessa and me, I was singing a little improvised something-or-other about what I was doing, as I often do.

Nessa requested me to stop, as she often does (some people just don't appreciate creativity): "Daddy, please stop singing."

Thing is, she was singing it to an improvised tune...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

You Can't Argue With That Logic

Supper conversation last night:

Shawn: And if that happens, it's not the end of the world.
Nessa: The world doesn't have an end, Daddy, 'cause it's a circle.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Guess The Joke Was On Us

My mischievous side wanted to call this post “God Spoke To Me In The Grocery Store (And He Looked Just Like George Burns)”, but being that misleading just for the sake of The Funny isn’t good.

Tami and I visited Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, IA, this past weekend. Remember a couple of weeks ago when we said we didn’t think Wartburg could overcome what we perceived to be the advantages of Luther Seminary? Well, God (and Wartburg, and Dubuque) have been quietly chuckling ever since.

We loved it at Wartburg. The sense of community is overwhelming, in a positive way. All weekend long we heard and saw little things that point to what a safe, secure environment Wartburg has. Students talked about leaving backpacks in the auditorium unmolested all day long. Spouses talked about kids playing together, and about the great Youth Room (staffed by work study students) available for use after school by kids 5 and older. We attended a coffeehouse where kids of all ages were running around without causing trouble, and parents were helping/dealing with any kid who needed it in a very “it takes a village” fashion. We kept hearing one positive comment after another about the schools, the public library, the other colleges in town, and the city of Dubuque in general. The housing at Wartburg is both less expensive and better suited to our needs.

From the student point of view, the first professor who talked to us said “You will not be able to hide here. People will find you and support you and help you face whatever you need to face.” We heard again and again that students, spouses, faculty and faculty spouses all become close, and that in particular you bond with your class, and they and their familes become your support system. This is very appealing to me. The average class size is 35 people, and no one gets lost in the crowd. Gifts are acknowledged and respected; shortcomings are allowed for. I learned that my call story is neither unique nor outlandish.

Dubuque is much like La Crosse, down to being roughly the same population. It’s a little more hilly, but it has beautiful old homes and interesting architecture. There are attractions for children and families and lots to do, including four other colleges/universities with all of their events. There is a wide variety of shopping, including the comfort value of familiar stores like Target and Best Buy. No food co-op, but there are many farmer’s markets and lots of organic produce available, including CSAs.

By Saturday evening Tami and I were wondering if we’d been a little bit hasty in our assumption that Luther was the place for us. By Sunday evening we were actively evaluating pros and cons, trying to make sense of our growing conviction that we belong at Wartburg, not Luther. On Monday I was actively wondering if I should even bother visiting Luther again or applying there. All the while we were praying, asking God to give us some sort of sign of his will for us. As we were getting ready to leave town, one big remaining question mark was the availability of gluten-free food for Tami and Nessa, so we decided to stop by the largest grocery store in town to see what they had. We were directed to their Health Market, a whole separate section of organic products, including a gluten-free section that is equal or superior to that in any of the La Crosse grocery stores or co-op. Almost all of our favorite products and brands were present, as well as things we have a hard time finding in La Crosse. As I was getting more and more excited about what we were seeing, Tami turned to me and asked “Is this a sign?” I had to concede that I thought it was.

At one point during the weekend, a current student said that when she was visiting Luther someone told her “Well, if you want to be a pastor, go to Wartburg; if you want to be a theologian, come to Luther.” That really resonated with me. I've never had any thoughts of becoming a theologian. I want to be a pastor, in a parish. We could be happy at Luther Seminary, and being closer to our families would be great. But that is the only advantage we can see, and we wonder if we will be too busy while in school to really utilize that advantage much anyway.

I am learning the folly of definitive declarations during this whole process of discerning my call, but I am also learning to trust my feelings, and realizing that when I find something unexpected and wonderful in my heart it’s God’s way of telling me something. Right now, our hearts tell us we belong at Wartburg Seminary, so we’ll trust that until it's no longer true.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Daddy’s Little Helper

Nessa was helping me do chores Saturday morning. No, she really was helping. You could actually tell where she had been sweeping leaves on the deck, and she raked them all into the leaf shovel by herself. She was quite a sight, maneuvering the broom and rake all by herself—I was very impressed. She also held the nails and handed them to me when I was putting up plastic over the sliding door on the deck.

All the while we had a great conversation. We talked about all sorts of things: why we were sweeping the leaves off the deck, where God is, what to do when you’re scared, why we were putting plastic over the sliding door, how many boards I was going to need and how long they should be, what she did at daycare last week, what we should do next, where we were going to put the leaves, and many other things. It was absolutely delightful to get such an extended glimpse into how her mind works and what kind of connections/comparisons between things she’s making now. Between Sunday School and what we read to her, Nessa’s been exposed to lots of Bible stories over the last year, and they often surface when she can make a connection between something she’s doing and something in a Bible story.

Afterwards we just played for awhile. I pushed her on the swing, and then we played Tag. Nessa seems to have Tag confused with Hide and Seek: she thinks that after you tag someone you’re supposed to go hide from them. Then we climbed up by the top of the slide and took the ship to Egypt, to the new playground there. Nessa has a wonderfully inventive imagination, and things from all over get conflated in her play scenarios.

Saturday afternoon Nessa helped me rake leaves. She did a good job of raking leaves into a pile…until the pile was big enough for her to jump in. Then the rake got abandoned and the pile succumbed to entropy. This happened several times in different places in the yard. She was having such fun that I was having fun watching her, so much so that I didn’t even mind raking. Now there’s a first!