Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Today I was blessed to spend my afternoon with a nearly-three-year-old. What a great kid. I was quickly reminded, however, that in the presence of children, one's own agenda falls by the wayside.

I really needed to get groceries, but the puzzles and books I had set out were so much more enticing. Just when we were about to go to the grocery store, my little friend asked me to read a book to him. How could I resist? So read we did. Grocery store waited.

We got to the grocery store and my little friend spotted the shopping cart with the car on the front that kids can ride in. Wow. It was like Christmas! So we took our time maneuvering the gigantor cart through the aisles, and even stopped in the "pits" (aka cheese section of the store) to fix a "blown tire." We took time. We played at the grocery store. It wasn't rushed.

Two blocks from home, I saw his eyes falling shut. He didn't have a nap that day and was completely out by the time I pulled into my driveway. I snuck into the house to put the bag of cold stuff in the fridge, then I grabbed a book and sat in the car with my little friend for an hour while he napped.

I didn't clean the bathroom, or pick the green beans, or sweep the front step, but I was there to meet the wants and needs of a kid. That's timing I can live with.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Those 10 Commandments

Yesterday I learned in church that I should probably be stoned. You should too. They'll probably take us all outside the camp and stone us if they knew how poorly we followed the 4th Commandment.
Exodus 20:8-11 "8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."

I'm not very good at resting. Resting is one of those things that I'll do if I have time. When a weekend comes around I don't think of the many ways I can put my feet up and take a break; instead, I think of all the things I can get done around the house. Can you relate?

This is something that I've been trying to work on, but it wasn't until Pastor Kevin shared this passage at church yesterday that it sort of hit me over the head:

Numbers 15:32-26
32 While the Israelites were in the wilderness, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. 33 Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, 34 and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. 35 Then the LORD said to Moses, “The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.” 36 So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the LORD commanded Moses.

Wowzers. They stoned him for gathering sticks on the Sabbath. At first glance, this does seem a bit harsh. However, resting on the Sabbath is a Commandment. Why is that we can so easily hold up some of the 10 Commandments like "Do Not Murder," and "Do Not Steal," but we dismiss others like "Remember the Sabbath and Keep it Holy?"

God has commanded us to rest. Why have I not listened in all my 30 years?

Oh, I can come up with reasons.
  • I'm really busy. (read: I'm really important and have much to do)
  • That was for those times back then, things are different now.
  • Have you SEEN my dirty house?
  • But my friends are coming in from out of town.
  • If I don't do the dishes, we'll get ants in the kitchen!
  • I have to mow the lawn today because it might rain tomorrow.
The list could go on and on. After all, I've used items off the list for 30 years.

Here's the thing - Resting on the Sabbath isn't an option. It's a Commandment. God has commanded me to do this, and He knows what he's doing. After all, He designed me before the world saw me. He knows my intricate details, and He believes that rest is important enough to make it a commandment. It's about time I listen.

I've been pondering Pastor Kevin's words and wondering, what does it look like for me to rest? The particular rest he talked about wasn't the kind of "rest" we sometimes do when we sit on the couch and watch hours of TV - he encouraged us to choose activities that rejuvenated us.

Here are some questions I pondered throughout the day:
  • What activities give me life?
  • What activities are different enough from my day-to-day routine that I feel like I'm getting a break from work?
  • What does work look like at home?
  • What activities should I not do on Sundays because they are really work?
  • Why is rest so hard for me?
  • Am I strong enough to rest?
Zac and I had some great discussions throughout the day, and we committed to try and rest more on Sundays. My big chore at home is laundry, and his is dishes. We both agreed to not do those on Sundays. I'm pretty sure the world won't end, we'll still have clothes to wear and dishes to use for meals. We also agreed to avoid the house projects that were really work and weren't relaxing or rejuvenating. Things like landscaping, mowing the lawn, remodeling, etc. are work. Things like doing woodwork in the garage, playing in the garden, and stamping cards are fun. If they start being more work than fun, we'll adjust.

I'm still searching for more restful activities. Sometimes I trick myself into thinking something is rest, when it's really an item I can cross off my task list. For example, last night I picked a bowl of green beans from the garden and washed, cut, boiled, and froze them. I told myself it was a "fun" activity for me. It was "restful." Yeah right! Who was I kidding?!? I won't do that again. It was work.

So I now embark on a journey to follow the 4th commandment more closely. I look forward to the positive benefits rest will have on my life. Will you take some time today to think about what rest looks like for you?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Deep Freeze Project

Back to school time was always an exciting time for me. One of my favorite things was getting new school supplies. I loved the crisp edges of the folders, the clean, empty notebooks, and the perfect shape of the unused crayons.

School brought an inevitable dilemma, though. You were forced to use the folders, notebooks, and crayons. They soon became imperfect. They soon were tattered and worn.

One work-around I had as a kid was I kept a box of crayons at home. I never used them, I just looked at them. I didn't want to use them because then the tips would get worn down and they wouldn't look as pretty. So I kept them in their box.

This mentality of not using what you have plays out in my adult life too. I have a new spin on it, though.

Each June I make strawberry jam from fresh-picked strawberries. The jam is such a treasure! I want to make sure I have enough of it for the whole year, so sometimes I hesitate to use it because I don't want to use it up. Often this results in 5 jars of jam that need to be consumed in May before the next strawberry season begins in June! I do the same thing with green beans I freeze, or sweetcorn, or rhubarb. All of the "special" things get saved because I don't want to use them up.

I tried to think of a way I could ration out my special treats so that I would be able to give myself permission to use them knowing that there was more for later on in the winter. Then it hit me - organize the deep freeze with 12 small bins, one for each month.

On the first of each month, I could bring up that month's bin from the deep freeze and put the contents in our refrigerator/freezer. Then I would know that I could have at it with all of the goodies in the upstairs freezer, and not have to save a single strawberry for the next month!

Another perk to this project is that my entire deep freeze will be cleaned out each year, because every item is spoken for. There won't be meat sitting in there for decades, or unidentifiable vegetables hanging out in the bottom. Every item will be used and enjoyed.

To start this project, I went to The Container Store and picked out 12 bins.

These particular bins are AWESOME because turned one way, they stack on top of each other; turned the other way, they nest and maximize storage space.

I laid them all out on the kitchen table and began to unload the contents of the (very full) upstairs freezer.

I had a good time deciding when to give our family some of the special things that were scarce. For example, I put in a package of frozen rhubarb in January's bin thinking that we might need a pick-me up in the winter months and a reminder of the yummy things spring will bring. I put in a pie crust in October's bin so we can make an apple pie if we end up going to an orchard. It was so much fun to think about what we will be doing in the future, and loving on my family for the months ahead.

I also wrote each month on a recipe card and threw it into the appropriate bin. I want to believe that I would have remembered which bin was which, but I think that would have only lasted a week! This way I'll know for sure.

I'm so glad I had this opportunity to create an organizational system that will hopefully benefit us for the whole year. I'm also grateful for the time to do it now, before our lives get busy with kids!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

More Wildlife Adventures

If the last few posts haven't been enough for you, here's another one. I'll use pictures this time to tell Frank's story.

This is Frank.

I'm hoping to unite Frank's friend Ramone with him soon, if Ramone likes the apple slice I set out for him yesterday.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Amber the Victor

If you've been following my blog, you know about my little run-in with two centipedes in the basement. Well, friends, the war continues!

Last night as I was tucking myself into bed, I noticed a mosquito on the wall, right at the top near the ceiling. Nobody wants to wake up to the hum of a mosquito in their ear, so I decided to get it before it got me. Zac wasn't home, so I looked around for something to stand on to make me taller. The step stool was too far away, so I decided to pursue another route - the Swiffer Sweeper.

This was going to be beautiful. Not only would the long broom handle enable me to reach up high, but I wouldn't actually have to kill the mosquito with my hands! I opened the closet door to get it, and there was a spider!

Oh dear. Now which one to get? If I go for the spider, will the mosquito fly away? If I go for the mosquito, will the spider hide? I decided to go for the ugliest first - the spider.

After taking care of him, I moved onto the mosquito with my Swiffer Sweeper in hand. Oh, it felt great! I got him and was just about to put my weapon down when I saw a long dark object tucked near the wall. You guessed it - one of the centipedes back for revenge!

Turns out a Swiffer Sweeper can be a multi-purpose tool. I slammed the edge of it onto the centipede and got him! I pulled the broom back and his little legs were all over the swiffer cloth. Gone! The tough part was getting so close to his dead body to pull the swiffer off the broom. Ew! I tried to blur my eyes a little so I wouldn't have to see all the gory details. (Yes, I realize this is just a centipede but EW!)

I threw the swiffer away and thought I had better reload just in case there was anymore funny business. It was pretty ridiculous, after all, that I had killed three bugs within 5 feet of my bed in 5 minutes! What was going on here?

Upon entering the bedroom again, I heard a buzz, then a clatter which sounded like a flying bug hitting the wall. I looked down to spot a HUGE grasshopper beside my bed! Where in the world did this guy come from?

Luckily, I was still armed, so I slammed the Swiffer Sweep onto the grasshopper. I gingerly lifted it up, and he started to move! I slammed it down again, then was too afraid to lift it up! I ran to the bathroom to load up on kleenex. It's always better when you can give yourself some extra padding so your hand never touches the bug. I quickly lifted up the Swiffer Sweeper, grabbed the bug, threw it into a garbage bag, and tied that thing tight!

Placing the garbage bag near the front door, I walked cautiously back to my bedroom. What would be next? The intruders were getting progressively larger, and I had just killed 4 bugs in 10 minutes. FOUR BUGS! This has to be some kind of a record for me.

I'll be honest, I was not excited to get into my bed. What noises would I hear? What might -ew- crawl across me in the night? The risks were great, but it was getting late.

I placed my Swiffer Sweeper beside my bed, just in case the battle was to continue...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Complaint

I drove away from my friends' house remembering the good conversation from the evening and the relaxing atmosphere of the campfire. What a perfect way to end a weekend.

Driving to Walgreens to pick up some pictures, I sang along to the songs on the radio with the windows down and the evening air blowing by.

Turning into Walgreens, I was thankful for only 2 other cars in the parking lot. What a quiet night.

Stepping out of my car, I noticed a piece of paper on my windshield wiper. Wait a minute, what is that?
_____Relaxing evening comes to a screeching halt_____

The top of the paper reads "Compliant - State of Minnesota Hennepin County Judicial District" What in the world? What did I do?

Number 1 Offense reads, "Parking-parallel to curb-right tires w/in 12 in of right-hand." Come again? What does that mean? I quickly scan for the dreaded word fine. I can't find it anywhere. I scan faster - okay so maybe I messed up in some way I don't understand but what is it going to cost me? I can't find any information.

The worst part of all this is the sinking feeling in my stomach. Somehow while I was conversing and enjoying the company of my friends, a police office took offense at my parking job. He or she isn't there to talk to me in person; I just have this slip of paper that tells me I was wrong.

I want to tell whoever wrote it that I'm a good kid. I play by the rules, I try to treat others with kindness, I pick up trash in the park, and I smile at old ladies and babies. If only they knew me, surely they'd see this was a mistake.

It kinda makes me wonder who I've seen and judged without knowing who they are. Who have I written off when they haven't had a chance to explain themselves?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Friends Visiting

We have visitors right now from Germany! Two years ago we met a great friend named Julia who lived with us for 1 month. She is now back to visit and brought her husband Simon with her. They arrived on Friday and we have been having so much fun together!

On Monday we were lucky enough to have a ride on Lake Minnetonka with my aunt and uncle. We had some great conversations and made some great memories that evening. Here's a picture of Julia and I bow-riding.

We also had a small get-together so Julia could see some of the friends she met two years ago. The weather was absolutely perfect, and we sat outside all afternoon. Here is a picture from that event.

And what could a trip to Minnesota be without a visit to the Mall of America? We saw Legoland, ate some Cinnabon cinnamon rolls, enjoyed the food court and even took in a movie.

What a great week so far!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Summer Tutoring

Today marks my last day as a summer tutor. I was privileged to work with a soon-to-be 8th grader over the course of the summer to improve his reading comprehension. Today at the end of our session we sat down and reviewed the graphs and charts of his scores from this summer, as well as a long list of his accomplishments.

I don't know who was prouder, me or him! I hope he knows how much he accomplished this summer, and I also hope that the things we worked on together will be things that will benefit him in the upcoming school year.

As I drove away from our tutoring site, I felt a small twinge of sadness over knowing I will probably never see him or his mom again. However, I also felt an overwhelming joy to know that I helped for a time, and he grew under my teaching.

I enjoyed working a student 1x1, and hope that tutoring will be in my future!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I don't want to say it too loudly, but here in Minneapolis it's starting to feel like Fall.

The air was crisp yesterday. This morning I had to put on a sweatshirt to go outside because the temperature is in the low 60's. And somehow or another, a few leaves on our hedge turned yellow overnight. That was quick!

Just last week I was feeling like summer was flying by way too fast. I have this desire to make the most of each day I'm given, and hang on to every moment of summer. However, this cooler air is kinda nice. Also, there are some really great things about Fall, like campfires on cold evenings, warm apple cider and hot cocoa, fresh apples, the brilliant changing leaves.

Oh my goodness. I might be excited for the seasons to change! Am I ready? Did I get in enough summer?

How about you? Are you ready?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Landscaping Project Part 1

We have been working like crazy on a landscaping project these last few weeks. It all started when Zac took a chainsaw to one of our bushes in front. We never liked it anyway, and we just got sick of looking at it.

After that, we started removing the rock. We hope to use it again, but it has a lot of dirt mixed in with the rock, so we'll have to find a good way to clean the rock.

One of the most satisfying jobs was removing the edging. It took less than 5 minutes and we could quickly see our progress!

After the bushes and rock were gone, we had to dig out the stumps. Surprisingly, it didn't take a lot of strength or effort, just time.

Here is a picture of the house with a few stumps left to remove:

A few things I'm learning from this project:
  • House projects always take longer than you think
  • I am capable of more than I realize
  • It is possible to work outside in 90-degree weather and stay alive
  • I enjoy doing landscape work
  • Working in the yard creates more opportunities to interact with my neighbors

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Hearing God's Voice

I've been struggling for a few months with the idea of hearing God's voice. I envy those people in Biblical times and even today who have stories of how they have heard an audible voice. Oh, if I could be so lucky!

When I am praying for direction in my life, it seems that it's at those times that it's hardest for me to feel him directing my life. I long for a clear path to be laid out in front of me. I long to step forward with confidence and certainty.

Instead, I timidly take a step and look around thinking, "Is this you, God? Is this way right, God?"

Also, I know that God can help you know which way to go by placing an obstacle in your path, or a closed door, figuratively speaking. Sometimes he directs you in a new way because you simply cannot go down the same path you are going down any longer. However, how are we supposed to know if an obstacle is a closed door, or merely just a trial through which we need to persevere?

Lots of questions, but not many answers right now.

Monday, August 1, 2011

New Sunday Tradition

Have you ever noticed how peaceful Sunday mornings are? Here in the city, I think Sunday mornings - early in the morning - have to be one of the quietest times all week.

Two weeks ago, I persuaded Zac to go on a walk with me before church. To entice him to walk with me, I made us a smoothie. Yum! We put our smoothies in our reusable coffee mugs, and set out for a stroll around the neighborhood.

The sun was still fresh in the sky, and puffy white clouds dotted the crisp blue. It was so quiet that I felt like I was walking around my hometown; a town of 1,300 people. All I could hear was the birds chirping in the trees and our footsteps on the road.

We had so much to talk about, and conversation flowed freely between us. Every now and then a neighbor's flower garden made me stop and enjoy the spray of colors.

That walk was a wonderful way to set the tone for the day. As I walked, I dreamed about having this be a special tradition to continue throughout the years. I could certainly see us pushing a stroller through the neighborhood on future Sunday mornings, or taking our kids to a nearby park for a hike when they grow older.

This past Sunday, we were visiting Zac's parents in southwestern Minnesota. We ended up going on another Sunday morning walk, only this time it was on a crunchy gravel road with walls of dancing cornstalks on either side of us. A friendly puppy careened from a neighboring farmyard and trotted alongside us for the majority of our walk. He would run up ahead of us, look to see if we were coming, and then run some more.

What another great Sunday morning walk. What will next Sunday hold?