Showing posts with label true community. Show all posts
Showing posts with label true community. Show all posts

cracked shovel

We got another foot of snow on Sunday night. And then a few more inches on Monday afternoon. That's my car parked out on our street, lonesome and cold and waiting to be buried by the plows. Rory went out on Sunday to shovel and while attempting to throw snow up higher than his head while trying to clear our driveway, he felt a large muscle spasm in his back and slowly walked back into the house. Since then he winces when he picks up Ivar. It is not good.

So Monday I set out with my snow pants, our cracked shovel and a sunny attitude ready for some good physical exertion and fresh air. I removed the foot of snow down our steps and on our side walk and out to the street. It felt good.

A funny thing happens when you're shoveling your sidewalk though. Even though I had a cracked shovel, it was hard to stop at our property line. I don't know how I could do that in good conscience. Because my next door neighbor has two new knees. And next to her is a sweet older couple who I watch steady themselves to their car when they head out for errands.

So I took my cracked shovel and made my way up the street. I shoveled a path across my neighbors side walk and made it to the next house past hers that I've always felt belonged in The Shire. It's so adorable and charming. When I was shoveling the older couple's sidewalk who lives in this hobbit home, the husband stuck his head out of his front door and thanked me and told me his son would be coming a bit later to do the rest. I told him to stay put until he comes, it's icey by the curb.

He told me that on Sunday when he and his wife returned from church they both slipped in the street and he had to crawl up to his front stoop to use the railing to stand back up again so he could go back to help his wife get up.

Oh my word. You have no idea how many times I have envisioned this scene and how sorry I am that I didn't see it so I could go and help! I look out at his car all the time when I walk with Ivar past our picture window. He assured me they were okay, just shaken up a bit. I now look out that window every 30 seconds with worry...

Then I made my way to the back to shovel the drive there. I thought about how many times Rory and I high-fived in Omaha when the snow fell and we didn't have to lift a finger in our apartment. I began to wonder if everything has a way of evening itself out in the end...

Now I don't know how to really show this, but that picture above is our driveway. You step down three steps from the backyard to get to the garage and so we already have to lift our driveway snow up two feet onto the retaining wall.

But we have gotten so much snow this year, that the two foot retaining wall has now morphed into six or seven feet of madness. Honest to goodness, there is no place to put the snow other than on that growing mountain. Hence Rory throwing his back out has he attempted to catapult our snow over the lilacs.
My sunny attitude was now overwhelmed and I gave up at this point, deciding the only way this driveway (which has two foot drifts in parts!) is ever going to be cleared, is if we shovel onto a tarp, drag the tarp up the steps and dump the snow in our back yard. And just repeat that process 75 times.

Naturally we decided to wait on that project and watch the bachelor instead.

It does make me wonder though...wouldn't it be great if someone made a machine of sorts that would run on gasoline and in essence, throw the snow over that tall heap? A blower of the snow. Something that would make loud noises and would sounds like heaven walking down your sidewalk if a neighbor was so kind to clear a way. Maybe you could paint it red. And when you cleared your neighbors walk, the snow flying through the air would mark your arrival like a festive flag at the start of a parade and the noise would sound like trumpets to them because all they would hear is, "put that cracked shovel down! Go cozy up in your warm home! Because I'm your neighbor, and I have a... Snow Blower!!!"

Alrighty. I know I'm getting loopy now. Thanks for still reading. It's 3:43 and we're trying to help Ivar skip his 3:00 feeding so for the first 20 minutes of this post I was listening to my crying son. But he fell back asleep and now I should do that too... Thanks blog readers for helping me pass the time :)


I always wanted to go into ministry of some sort. I remember telling people if I could find a job that combined kids, Jesus and the outdoors, then I would have found my perfect fit.

So camp ministry seemed like an easy choice. My favorite conversation is wondering 'how the faith is passed on.' Camp Ministry is this conversation lived out in real time between counselors and campers (and often visaversa!).

Lots of my gifts fit this job well. But there is one part of this job that I just haven't felt equipped for yet. Managment. Overseeing and managing 70 college students who have campers on five different site at Carol Joy Holling, not to mention the other two camps we run and the numerous day camp groups that all go just a lot to take on. I like to have a good feel for what is going on at each site, with each counselor, with each camper. But with this big of an operation, we have to rely on systems of communication, empowering and entrusting our site coordinators who head up each site. And make sure that our ten days of staff training paint a picture of the summer ahead that excites, motivates and raises responsible, creative counselors.

To say this overwhelms me, is a serious understatement.

So I've done some reading lately, trying to build my own knowledge and abilities for the job I feel called to do. I want to do it well.

The first book I read is called, "Leadership and Self Deception" a book published by the Arbinger Institute. It was a quick read, written in story form. I took a lot from this book and felt convicted many times. Central to the main theme of this book is how we assign blame to others when we feel (and know) we, ourselves, have fallen short. And how this human habit of casting the blame often leads to feeling like the victim and feeling like others around you are incompetent and lazy. All actions and motivations will stem from this attitude overtime, and we can either sit in our misery and frustration, or see our coworkers as human beings and decide to jump on board and help the cause of the organization. This is a complete general overview of the book, and honestly just one tinsy's more of a whole concept to take in.

The second book I read this week is called, "Tribes" by Seth Godin. I have followed Seth's blog for a year now, and this book was just as insightful and helpful as his daily blog posts. This book is a motivator, helping the reader see how they can be a leader no matter where they fall in the hierarchy of their workplace. And how creative change, new ideas and belief in a cause will always be more interesting to be a part of than the status quo. I got a collection of Seth's books from my coworker, Casey, and I have already cracked the next book in the stack. He's fun to read and gets lots of wheels turning in my head all at the same time

If you have any other helpful books on how to lead, how to organize a team of 70 college students, how to motivate and empower, please comment below. I'm wide open and ready to learn.

how you run a retreat...

Friday at 5:00 I got a text from my neighbor asking if I wanted to go with her on her church's women's retreat. I texted back for more details, and she said, leaving at 5:45, home tomorrow by 11 am.

I sat there, knowing I should go, but not feeling game for such a last minute social event with 30 women I've never met. I have to fire up for that sort of thing and being that it was the end of the week I was able to come up with every excuse in the world why I didn't need to go.
But I knew I should go. Rory and I have joined her small group, a blessing to us in every way as we are finding friendships in five other couples in Gretna our age. And a few of those girls would be there. So, I decided to go. I got home from work at 5:25, showered, packed and was in her car within 20 minutes.

I can't tell you how glad I am that I went. I laughed so hard. I ate so much. I felt connected, grateful and excited for the beginnings of some brand new friendships.

Here are a few key components that made this retreat such a success:

1. 6 pm to 10 am. This is how long the retreat lasted. Sixteen hours. Take note of this. If this had been any longer, I probably would have declined. But to be home before lunch on Saturday left me no excuse not to go. And this seemed true for most people there. They talked about how husband's were more game for taking the kids for that amount of time and everyone still felt like they had their weekend. Being that we stayed up until the wee, wee hours, by the time 10 am came, we were all feeling that sugar-overload-fatigue-I-need-a-nap-sicky-feeling so it was just time to go home anyway. Perfect timing.

2. Olive Garden Salad Dressing. We met at the church, drove to a camp 30 minutes away and when we walked in we were greeted with three homemade soups, good bread and a huge salad complete with olive garden salad dressing. The retreat planners had brought all of the food to save money and it was fabulous. I was so shocked not to be served spaghetti! Soup and Salad felt so type-casted and they know my kind. My female kind. It was welcoming and I was grateful for a healthy meal complete with the best salad dressing in the world.

3. Games. We played games as a team of six, rotating around the room playing other groups of six for two hours. We played each game long enough (probably 30 minutes) so that we got to know the other team well. By the end of the two hours (taboo, family fued and guestures), I had met everyone. Genious. By nine o'clock I didn't feel like the new girl anymore. Plus, I found a new favorite game: The Game of Things. Kristin Jago, this game has your name written all over it.
We had 16-65 year olds there, a great devotional before we left, time for prayer, but mostly just time to play. And it felt so good.

the nativity story

This season we have watched Rudolph, Elf, The Grinch, The Holiday, Charlie Brown, and we've got many more Christmas classics tivo'd. But my favorite movie for the season is The Nativity Story. If you haven't seen this before, be sure to rent it and find a quiet afternoon, a nice cup of something hot, wrap yourself in a comforter and snuggle up for peace, calm and beauty. The movie moves slowly, but is stunning in biblical storytelling and character development. The Shepherds get me to tears every time. And then our Savior is born. It is beautiful.

I remember when Rory and I lived in Montana, we went the nursing home I was working at on Christmas Day. It was a different Christmas Day than we were used to since we were not in Minnesota. But that day we found a unique community when we gathered all of the residents who had not been picked up by any family for the day. I brought Christmas cookies and we reminisced and then watched The Nativity Story together. And somehow it felt exactly how Christmas should be celebrated...with lonely old friends together in sweet community, dwelling on the birth of our baby God, come to save the world.

C is for Cookie

Well, Monday was the cookie swap. And it was once again, fantastic, wonderful, delightful and the perfect way to kick off the Christmas season. My sistah, Lisa, invites ten ladies and we each bring 12 dozen packaged-for-delivery cookies. The morning begins with breakfast while sharing our cookie story. Usually, at least one person will have had a minor catastrophe while trying to make her cookies and this always makes for good story telling. Prizes are given for the best stories. This year the two prizes went to Deb who made Krumkaka for all of us using a krumkaka iron over her stovetop, one at a time. She won for her patience and stamina! And another prize went to Jill who made cookies that went in the oven at 400, and then the oven is turned off while the cookies take shape for the next SIX HOURS! Her prize was obviously given, again, for the time she put into her cookie. Sara was definitely in the running, since she drove from Denver and arrived home at 4 am the morning of the swap. Thankfully her cookies were in the freezer, and she looked really good for four hours of sleep!

Lisa decorates the house beautifully, with plates and name cards set out for each of us to display our cookies. This leads to a morning full of sampling. Amazing. The morning progresses with games and basically, there is just a lot of laughter that follows. We played one game where we had to guess the price of 13 different cookie ingredients and then add up how off our price guesses were. I was off by $18.78. I was the biggest looser. :)

This was Lisa's fifth year hosting the cookie swap and each year a group picture is taken for our recipe book that holds everyone's cookie recipe with a picture of each cookie. It's quite the organized and well executed event. Thanks Lisa for another morning that far surpasses Disney World for me.

the bummer about cell phones...

Remember when the phone would ring at your house growing up and someone would yell, "I'll get it!" or someone would yell, "somebody needs to get that!" or someone would yell, "I'm going to the bathroom! GET THE PHONE!"

And then remember how when you answered you had no idea who was on the other end? And how no matter who was on the phone you were socially obligated to have some sort of conversation? When I would pick up at our house growing up, the person on the other end might have been a friend of my mom's or a person from church looking for my dad. It might have been a friend of my brother's or it might have been my grandma. Regardless, some sort of small talk followed after picking up the phone.

I miss that. In the day of cell phones and caller id, there is never really a moment when you just answer your phone and don't know who it is. Even if it says, "Unknown caller" we know that obviously that person's number is not in our phone already, so we might as well screen that call and see if they leave a message.

But I think we're missing out. Because in those small talk conversations with my mom's friends or the woman at church who was calling to see if Dad could come to the hospital, conversation was shared and my community grew just a little bit bigger.

Christmas Craft Night

We had a fantastic turn out for our first Christmas Craft Night on Friday night. The hope of this evening was for women to come and make classy gifts to give to teachers, babysitters or coworkers. We had 30 ladies come, and had a really great time. I had the room set up with six different stations and the ladies moved around the room as they pleased. We had great food, great childcare and Bing Crosby singing us into the season.

Our craft stations included: Christmas Cocoa cones, Fabric covered magnets and tacks, Scrabble Tile Necklaces, Gift Tags and pretty gift wrapping, and Bath bomb cupcakes. Click on any of those titles for the link to the tutorials, where I found all of these fabulous ideas!

I hired a few camp counselors and co-worker's kids to be our babysitters for the evening. They were awesome. When I went to check on them I found the crew having a snack in their fort. Love that.

The evening was not without a few glitches, however. I was in charge of welcoming ladies, helping with the bath bombs and helping with the cupcake frosting. And honestly, I probably should have delegated the frosting or bath bombs. One batch of frosting was so thin it ran off the cupcakes entirely. Another batch of frosting misfired, when all of their ingredients were added together at the same time. Turns out, this is how you make marzipan! The putty was incredible and we actually played with it for a while because it was just that cool. At that point, I realized I needed to hang out at the frosting table and made sure everything was put in exactly as the directions specified. And then it turned out great every time.

Beth Moore

I just completed another Beth Moore Bible Study called Believing God, and oh man, did the Lord use this time to teach me. It was a sweet time of me learning how to trust, taking steps in the right direction and God gently showing me his faithfulness over and over again. The premise of this study is Do you merely believe in God? Or do you Believe God? Each session began with five statements that we had to memorize:

1. God is who he says he is.
2. God can do what he says he can do.
3. I am who God says I am.
4. I can do all things through Christ.
5. God's word is alive and living in me.

I have lots I could share, but actually, I have an idea. Beth has another Bible study available online (you watch the videos online and print the weekly homework into a binder) called Living in the Spirit. I would LOVE to do this study with a group of ladies who are needing their own personal way to recharge. (I know some of you are already in a study at your church. Awesome! But for those of you who would like to connect this way, please do!)

My thought is that we would start the study the second week of January, and do a weekly check in, sharing what God has shown us through studying his word. I did something similar to this with my sisters-in-law, all of us communicating over email. I knew some of the women in the group, and didn't know others. But that wasn't really the point. We were all learning different truths as God revealed them to us, and we were able to share our joys and excitement and the faithful stories of God's movement in our lives with each other. It was a really unique and special community.

Just think about if this might be something you'd want to participate in to kick off the new year. It's a ten week study, with five days of Bible study homework each week (but don't think of it as's learning and praying and growing in all the best ways!)

And to get a better feel for Beth Moore, check out this link I just found. She is on a morning talk show on Wednesday's and this archives of her Wednesday lessons. She is excitable, very much a Texan, and so passionate that you cannot help but be inspired.

that little camera cord thingy...

(this picture was taken at the was a beautiful, dreary sort of day.)

I have much more to report from our weekend of family. Like how when we got to my cousin's farm on Saturday, instead of riding on the combine (the fields were too wet) we shot tomatoes off of tin cans with big shot guns. The daughter in me who was raised to hit the deck if I ever see a gun had to calm down a bit. And in the end, I really enjoyed watching tomatoes and glass bottles explode.

We were at the farm for baby Ida's baptism. I've got some pictures on my camera of all of this (updated: just added a few), but alas, I lost that precious little connector cord that dumps my camera onto my laptop. Tough to say when that will show up again. I vaguely remember seeing it in Sara and Troy's front yard by our car and thinking that I should go back and pick that up. hmmm....

All in all, these past two weekends have been precious days of family and friends and feeling so blessed to take it all in. I drove 24 hours between my two trips to Minnesota back and forth and took in some glorious fall colors and golden corn fields. The sweet reunions with family and friends, the colorful trees, a beautiful life lived fully and celebrated even in death, and the new life given at baptism all served as poignant reminders of the beauty God has given us here on this earth. I feel full, content, joyful and happy.

This picture makes me laugh. We were practicing a chin down, eyes up flattering picture pose. It just makes me laugh because we're all doing it so purposefully. ha.

A retreat recap

I have had a few friends email me wondering how the retreat went. And I can happily report that it was fantastic. The sixteen men and women who came were delightful and built community so quickly. I love this age one has anything to prove, people actually act like themselves and are excited to learn, enjoy conversation and are enthused about whatever activity you throw at them.

My dad came and led three sessions on the Parables. He knocked it out of the park and everyone enjoyed him, mentioning many times they would like him to teach at the Spring adult retreat. I think we'll try to rotate our speakers and teachers a bit, but I did think that this was the greatest compliment.

My sessions went really, really well and I loved every minute of it. I forget how much I LOVE teaching. This was my undergrad degree and it felt so good to exercise those muscles of taking a larger issue and breaking it down into teaching points, discussion starters and ways to act regarding what was just learned. I love public speaking and storytelling, so to get to share in this sort of way was just a joy. I hope there are more of these events in my future.

Volunteers are never Jerks.

I really like what I do and I am reminded of this fact in funny different ways. Yesterday I spent the day leading our Jay Novicki program where three times a month adults with special needs come to camp to enjoy a day of outdoor ministry. I had a faithful volunteer today who came just to help. She took the day off of work just so I had someone who could do the dishes and prepare the craft, and make all of the transitions from one activity to the next look smooth and organized.

This woman just blew my mind because she was so good at volunteering. She knew what needed to be done before I could even communicate what needed to be done next. At one point I was thinking through some extra time we had to fill before lunch and I looked over at her and it just kind of dawned on me that volunteers are never jerks. It just can't be. If a woman is taking one of her vacation days to come and help me run a program for 15 adults with special needs, there is just no way that woman can be a jerk! Of course volunteers get little credit, and I worked as a volunteer coordinator at a senior home for a few years and know that volunteerism on the whole is on a steep decline...But it shouldn't be, because volunteering sets a person apart from the jerks.

So to this sweet woman today, who I didn't even know before she arrived, I want to say thank you. And thank you to volunteers. Now I feel like I need to go and find a place to give my time. I hope you're inspired too.

Beautiful Weddings.

I went to three weddings in August, all beautiful and so fun to be a part of. These pictures are from Betsy's wedding, my next door neighbor for 17 years. The Anderson's have always been as family to us, and this wedding was a true celebration of this friendship. Dad performed the ceremony, mom did the flowers and Rory and I did our part by eating lots of Coldstone wedding cake (brilliant. every wedding should have ice cream cake.)

Betsy's older sister, Jennifer, was my best friend all growing up and basically we tormented Betsy as the little sister. When I was scanning family photos a few weeks ago, I came across this picture of me and Jennifer having a sleepover. It is amazing how life flies by.

Hej is Hitched!

I went back to Minnesota this weekend for the lovely Heidi Elizabeth Johnson's wedding. It was a glorious celebration. Everything had been prepared with great thought and great heart. I went to Gustavus with her, worked at Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp with her and we even attended Luther seminary together. The wedding was filled with friends from back in the day and it was so great to reconnect.

Hej and her hubby, John.

Hej was one of those radiant, calm, enjoying-every-moment bride. It was so fun to watch her soak in her big day.
We each drank our beverages out of these mason jars. The wedding was outside at an orchard in Stillwater, with beautiful, worn barns and lots of colorful gardens spread around the property.
The wedding celebration concluded with a square dance. So super fun, and so super hot. The whole day was fantastic. Congrats Hej!

A Reading Rainbow book recommendation

I just finished a book I began late last night. That's the sign of a good, good read. I'm sure many of you have read this one, but if any of you have not, I highly recommend this is quick, fast paced story that offers so much to chew on.

It's all about hell and heaven and the conversations that might lead from one to the other. There is so much to take away from this book, but my favorite is a new image of what hell might be like. Lewis writes of how quarrelsome everyone is:

"As soon as anyone arrives he settles in some street. Before he's been there twenty-four hours he quarrels with his neighbour. Before the week is over he's quarrelled so badly that he decides to move. Very likely he finds the next street empty because all the people there have quarrelled with their neighbours- and moved. If so he settles in. If by chance the street is full, he goes further. But even if he stays it makes no odds. He's sure to have another quarrel pretty soon and then he'll move on again. Finally he'll move right out to the edge of the town and build a new house. You see, it's easy here. You've only got to think a house and there it is. That's how the town keeps growing leaving more and more empty streets." (Lewis, 10)

I've always thought of hell as 'apart from God' but this offers such a visual of what existence would be like without the relational tools God has give us such as forgiveness, reconciliation, patience, honesty and kindness. Without these gifts, we are only left with our selfish demands and trying to live with everyone else's selfish demands. In our own lives we see our own and everyone else's selfish demands everyday, but thank God for the ability to work things out, for honesty and truthful communication, and that God created us to be relational beings, set up in communities so that we must learn how to use these God-instructed gifts.

Carol Joy's Quilt Auction

I just got home from 13 hours of Quilt Auction fun at Carol Joy (my camp). The day was magnificent...399 stunning quilts, over 800 friends of the camp present to bid and $95,000 raised for a camp whose purpose is to pass on the faith to the next generation.

There was a quilt that I had my eyes on since it was delivered for the auction. I was careful not to tell anyone I loved it, fearing they would up my bid just to get me to pay more. But I had a max that I couldn't bid over and when it came time, I couldn't keep up with the dollars being bid for this quilt.

But to my great surprise, the winning bidder was a fantastic giver to the camp and purchased the quilt for me, having found out it was the one I loved. This woman has a history of doing this for camp staff I later found out. So look at this beauty. This is a picture of me and her and her husband. I was overcome with emotion when she gave it to me. It has been a learning summer and there was something so sweet about this gift to celebrate my first summer at Carol Joy.