TBT: 10 years ago I said “YES”

In honor of Throw back Thursday:

Ten years ago, yesterday, my husband asked me to marry him. We had just graduated college and he asked me to go to dinner to celebrate. It was a good idea to celebrate, but my best friend was visiting from out of town and I couldn’t figure out why we needed to go RIGHT NOW. We were going to be celebrating with family and friends that weekend already.

I got dressed up for a fancy dinner at a surprise location. As Seth got out of his car, one of my roommates (Jess) exclaimed, “He’s wearing a suit! If he proposes, you better call me!”. To this day, Seth is annoyed that she could have spoiled the surprise. However, as dense as I am, I laughed and said that wouldn’t be happening for a long time, and that we were celebrating graduation. DUH.

He took me to Nicollet Island Inn. It is quiet, fancy, and the food is fantastic. The service is great (my water glass has never been filled so many times EVER). It overlooked an area where horse drawn carriages drive by. I joked about Cinderella. Seth and I had a great leisurely dinner and he suggested we get dessert, even though we had both already admitted we were full. He had me pick. I don’t remember what we had, but after a few bites I got up to use the restroom. When I returned it was gone; he had scarfed it down and paid the bill. I found out later he didn’t like the dessert but needed to get moving, as we were on a schedule. He had ordered dessert to kill some time.

Still completely unaware of his intent, I followed him outside as he suggested we go look at those horse drawn carriages I had been commenting on. I agreed. As we walked up, a woman with awesome dreadlocks asked if he was Seth. He said yes and helped me climb up. I was so surprised, and STILL, had no clue as to what he was up to.

We drove through the cobblestone streets along the river and he talked about how he loved me. It was not until he got down on one knee that I finally got with the program and started crying. Lots of tears. I don’t think I even saw the ring until I’d said YES a bunch of times and he’d put it on my finger. At that time, I also became aware that people sitting on the patios we passed were congratulating us.

That weekend we celebrated our ‘graduation’ with our families and my best friend. Seth had asked my parent’s permission and his mom already knew as well. My dad cornered me when we came in to get a peak at the ring. We announced we were engaged. Our family was happy and supportive and surprised! My best friend was shocked, requesting warning next time for news that was going to make her cry, and my brother asked Seth why he didn’t ask HIS permission to marry me (sweet protective brother-who was also happy for us).

This past weekend, we took a trip back to the Nicollet Island Inn and wandered around by the river. We saw the carriages and reminisced about that special day. I think the meal was much more relaxing for Seth this time around. A day worth remembering. It began my life with my best friend.  I love you Seth.

engaged       now

Then                                                                        Now

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It is Well…

A year ago, I was invited to attend the Tuesday morning women’s bible study at our church. Initially I was somewhat apprehensive about joining this already established group of women. My apprehension  was not only unfounded but silly. I was welcomed and warmly received.

The women come from all walks of life and age groups. They encourage, love and accept each other. What is shared is not spoken of elsewhere; it does not become gossip or rumors. I view these women as dear friends. We gather each week while kind, willing volunteers watch our children.

This year I have been vulnerable before them, expressing deep fears, struggles, and joys. In turn, they have shared, encouraged and we have lifted each other up. This group has been an incredible support to me as I spent my first year at home with my kids.  They have shared their wisdom and advice about being a wife, woman, and parent freely and without judgement.

Last Tuesday morning, as we gathered for our last meeting before summer, we learned that our leader, Ruth (fondly called Ruthie), had passed away early that morning. At 80 years old, Ruth lived WELL. She struggled with her health and was called home to spend her Tuesday bible study with Jesus. Ruth led bible studies for 25 years.

Over the past week, I pondered what I knew about Ruth. I did not know her well, but I find myself grateful for her. She lived her life on purpose and that purpose was to serve others and serve the Lord. She served us. Each week she imparted words (or songs) of wisdom from her life experiences to us; she did this joyfully and always with laughter. The woman was witty! Despite health struggles, she did not feel sorry for herself.

Today, as I sat in Ruth’s funeral, I heard her loved ones stand up and give accounts of how she touched their life. She demonstrated love for others and for the Lord; she taught by example. If you knew Ruth, you knew she loved Jesus. She leaves behind a legacy of faith. She trusted God and found joy in Him and in her family, regardless of her circumstance. Her funeral, although charged with the feeling of great loss, was truly a celebration of her life and a time to express how she was loved. 

To close the service, the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” was sung by the congregation. This hymn is a special favorite to me. I often find myself humming this hymn in times of both struggle and joy. It is posted by the front door of our home. It reminds me that no matter my circumstance, my soul belongs to Jesus. The victory for my eternity is already won. I am reminded of what God has already done and will do in my life. It was a fitting end to a celebration of the life of Ruth, a good and faithful servant. 

Today I am grateful for Ruth. It was a blessing to get to know her and to remember her today. She is a real-life example of what I aspire to be. A loving mother, friend, mentor, and a woman known for her Godly character. Even in the short time I knew her, she has impacted my life and challenged and encouraged me to be better than I am now. I long to leave such a rich legacy of faith. Thank you Ruth.

PicMonkey Sample

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,

Even so, it is well with my soul.

 

A Laid-back Open House Couples Shower

A Laid-Back Open House Couples Shower | www.thisgratefulmama.com

Together with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law, I was privileged to host a couples wedding shower over Easter weekend.  The shower was for my niece, Brittni, and her fiancé, Justin – such a fun couple! It was our pleasure to celebrate with them as they prepare for their big day!

Justin had never met most of Brittni’s MN family and friends, and they flew in from the east coast for the shower. We wanted to ensure they had a chance to really talk to people who made the effort to come.  Also, since it was a holiday weekend, we decided to have an open-house shower so people had the freedom to come and go as their schedules allowed. The loose structure and flow of people in and out at different times allowed the couple to talk to everyone who came.

Invitations

Invitations for the shower were created using a free online wedding invitation template found on www.WeddingChicks.com.  All text in the template can be changed, so even though it was designed for a wedding, I was able to modify it for a shower. The invitations were printed on card-stock and mailed along with directions and an index card for guests to bring a favorite recipe to the shower.

A Laid-Back Open House Couples Shower | www.thisgratefulmama.com

Relationship timeline

Because some of the guests didn’t know a lot about the couple, we created a relationship timeline to help guests learn more.  Using white crayon, the timeline was written on black construction paper to create a chalkboard look and bordered by patterned scrapbook paper. The timeline included significant relationship events: how they met, first date, first “I love you, the proposal and wedding details. The timeline was posted on the wall throughout the main room where everyone gathered. As people mingled and ate, they read and learned more about the couple. A few of them are shown below.

Relationship Timeline - FIRST DATE | www.thisgratefulmama.com Relationship Timeline - First I LOVE YOU | www.thisgratefulmama.com Relationship Timeline - THE WEDDING | www.thisgratefulmama.com

What they love about each other

Lists of the things Brittni and Justin love about each other were displayed on the chalkboard sides of two IKEA easels.  They were set up near the entryway to draw people into the house as they arrived. How neat is it that they both listed that they love how the other loves the Lord?

What She Loves About Him | www.thisgratefulmama.com  What He Loves About Her | www.thisgratefulmama.com

Open-house friendly food

Food for the open house was intended to be easy for people to serve themselves, and for us as hosts to keep cold and fresh. We served fresh fruit, chicken salad with croissants, chips with salsa, spinach dip and guacamole, veggies and dip, deviled eggs, popcorn and an assortment of desserts. To keep things simple, we served ice water, unsweetened iced tea with fresh lemons and sugar cubes, lemonade, coffee, and sparkling water.

A Laid-back Open House Couples Shower - Beverages | www.thisgratefulmama.com A Laid-back Open House Couples Shower - Food | www.thisgratefulmama.com  A Laid-back Open House Couples Shower - Desserts | www.thisgratefulmama.com

Other special touches 

In the invitation, guests were asked to bring a favorite recipe. They dropped them off by the gift table. There were some ‘secret’ family recipes in the bunch so the couple got some special recipes. In the main room, there was a place for guests to leave a note of encouragement or advice for the couple to read later. A banner was hung across with their names made from the same patterned scrapbook paper as the relationship timeline. We also framed their Save the Date and Wedding Invitations to display them for guests.

A Laid-back Open House Couples Shower - Gift Table | www.thisgratefulmama.com A Laid-back Open House Couples Shower - Notes of Encouragement | www.thisgratefulmama.com

A Laid-back Open House Couples Shower - Banner | www.thisgratefulmama.com

Since the couple was from out of town, most gifts were small in size, making it easy for them to bring everything home on the plane. Some gave gift cards and money, and some wrapped a photo or description of larger gifts purchased from their gift registry and mailed.

Overall the shower was a success!

We had a great turn out, despite the holiday weekend. This couple is well-loved and people did not want to miss the chance to see them! The atmosphere was laid back and relaxing. Many guests stayed a most of time and were able to spend some quality time with the couple.

Hosting this shower was fun, and was such a blessing to me. Since we don’t live near the couple it was special to get the chance to celebrate before the big day. We had the privilege to finally meet Justin, see Brittni, and watch the respectful, joyful and loving way they interact.  The wedding will be in Maine this June so our family will taking a short vacation to attend. We are also excited that our son Aiden will be the ring bearer (aka. polar bear, if you ask him) in the wedding, so fun!

Congratulations, Brittni and Justin!

We cannot wait to celebrate with you on your wedding day this June.

 

Also check out A Couples Wedding Shower for more ideas.

What’s a Little Rain?

 

When I woke up this morning I had basic expectations for the day: clean the house, run an errand, go to the grocery store.  I noticed the gloomy clouds outside but it didn’t really phase me. I grabbed a yogurt and started making a cup of coffee. Regular. Normally I drink decaf, but my daughter was up for over an hour (teething) in the middle of the night and I was struggling to wake up.

I found myself busy getting each child ready and fed, throwing in some laundry, running the garbage out, and getting myself ready. Most of this was done with my unusually clingy daughter in my arms.  Inevitably, I forgot about my coffee until it was too late – No longer hot. My morning coffee usually ends this way. Hot cup of coffee sitting under my Keurig, getting cold as we get ready for the day. I decide I will drink it anyway and transfer it to a mug, to-go. Sigh. I miss hot coffee.

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Crash! The first thunderclap rattles my home, and my son. Terrified, he sprints from the other room. In his panic, he slips and falls, smacking hard onto the floor. Many hugs later, we’re loaded in the car. I explain to him that thunder is just a noise and that rain makes things grow. I like the rain.

I ask him, what’s a little rain?

We start driving and the sky opens up. Monsoon style. Thankful for the lights of the car in front of me, I focus on staying in our lane as the wipers furiously work to give me a quick glimpse of the road.  Yikes. Probably should have looked at the weather. This is not going as planned.

Finally, as we pull into our destination, the rain lets up and we rush inside. We run into a friend in the hallway. She mentions that she too hasn’t had any coffee yet. Ugh! I forgot my mug at home. We continue with our other errands.

We find a DRY shopping cart (Phew) and get our shopping done fast. I begin to notice freshly drenched people running in and wiping water off their faces and glasses. Oh boy…maybe it will let up.

It doesn’t. Usually I’d brave it, but we’re not properly dressed and this is a torrential downpour. We wait 5 minutes. A man comes in, dripping wet, and offers to stand with my kids outside while I run and get the car. Untrusting, I say thank you but that we will wait. We wait 5 more minutes. It doesn’t let up. It begins to thunder, loudly. My poor toddler begins to lose it so we make a run for the car.

What’s a little rain?

Our rain coats were left in daddy’s car from the weekend. My kids have on their winter coats with hoods, they stay relatively dry. I am in a sweatshirt. Poor planning. I load the kids quickly, removing their soaked coats so they can be warm in the car.  I load my drenched groceries in the trunk and return the cart. One of my shoes gets filled with water from the river streaming through the parking lot. My cheap, plastic shoe is emptied before closing my car door.

I am soaked. My groceries are soaked. My purse is soaked. I close the door and look back and my son and he laughs at my wet hair. I look. It is a mess, plastered to my forehead, windblown and matted down. My daughter, not wanting to miss out on fun, starts fake laughing, which generates real laughter from both of them, and from me.

That is what you call a LOT of rain.

We get half way home and the gas light comes on.  Apparently our sprint in the rain is making me giddy. I start cracking up. Of course we need gas. It is that kind of day. Plus, it’s not like I have to worry about getting wet. We stop for gas, grateful for the roof.

I get back in the car and my son tells me the rain makes the plants grow. He tells me something I tell him all the time – that rain was made by God and God only makes good things.

Truth, retold by a 3 year old, sounds so sweet.

I unload the kids at home. I dry off our groceries and make lunch. I run to change my clothes while they are eating.   My teething daughter needs to be rocked to sleep, but my son wants me in his room, afraid of thunder that isn’t present at the moment. I can’t do both. I explain to my son that the rain has slowed. I rock my daughter as my son cries for me to come back. She falls asleep and I lay her down just as the thunder returns with vengeance.

I move my son into my room and make him a bed on the floor. I tell him I’ll lay down too but he needs to try to rest. I can tell he is tired and may actually sleep today. I plan to wait until he is asleep and do some reading. I wake up an hour later, he’s sleeping and apparently so have I. Can’t remember the last time I took a nap! Lovely. Probably couldn’t have done that with coffee in my system.

When we get up, I throw some coffee grounds into the French Press, fill it with water and stick it in the fridge. Iced coffee tomorrow. At least I don’t have to worry about it getting cold. No fuss, no mess. Recalling my error in looking up the weather this morning, I look up tomorrow’s weather. It should be nice. Tomorrow I can have my coffee break outside as the kids play.

This day did not go as expected. I did not clean my house and I did not finish all my errands. I did not enjoy a cup of coffee. But, I did make some silly memories getting soaked in the rain, and spent time comforting my kids. Despite the unplanned weather, we have groceries to make dinner. I call that success. We can finish that other stuff up tomorrow.

So I ask again, What’s a little rain?

Today it was a surprise to me, unpredictable and out of my control. Rain washes things away, leaving behind something wet, moldable, and messy. Today rain changed what was likely to be just like any other routine Monday and added some excitement. We did get wet, but we also laughed.We laughed hard.

The rain created new opportunity, changed the pace of our day and left me feeling thankful that it did.

My son says his favorite part of today was seeing other people getting soaked in the rain. Me too.

Impatient for Patience

Impatient for Patience | thisgratefulmama.com

Recently, I snapped at my son, impatient with his whiny attitude. My unkind tone invoked tears. Annoyed, I went on to tell him how whining hurt my ears. Now sobbing, he cried, “Stop talking, mom”.

His words stung. They were all he could utter to express his hurt feelings. Convicted, his tears broke my heart.

Correcting his attitude was appropriate, but not with such blatant insensitivity. My tone rendered my words ineffective and left me needing to apologize.

What was wrong with me? Obviously, my child cried and did not feel JOY when I spoke to him like that. 

Most days, I follow simple steps to address discipline. Sticking to the plan usually keeps me calm regardless of the offense. SOME days, I have seemingly never-ending patience.

But there are too many days where a trivial offense is met with an unwarranted impatience.  Frustrated when my child can’t wait just ONE MINUTE for that glass of water, I raise my voice. I hold a simple child responsible for impatience with me as I respond with an even worse attitude. Nice example. Seriously.  I. KNOW. BETTER. 

Never mind their attitude…What about mine?

My kids do not have thick skin. My impatience wounds them. It teaches them that a short-fuse is OK and that they don’t need to extend grace to others. It derails a teachable moment. Now I need to comfort them for my behavior. I could have just corrected them calmly and we’d be onto something else. I’m ashamed to say it happens all too often and I am sick and tired of failing. I don’t want to hurt my child’s feelings with my careless impatience.

I am impatient for patience.

I never decide to be impatient; it happens without thinking. I’ve often said loosely that I’m trying to be more patient. Truth is, I wasn’t actually DOING anything to equip for next time.

Making patience my natural response requires awareness and focus on changing my behavior. In recent months, I have been making a concerted effort to develop patterns that promote patience.

5 Tools to Improve Patience

Pray for it. EVERY. DAY. 

Then take a deep breath and pray again. Our kids notice when I pause to pray before responding. Sometimes it changes their behavior before I even begin to speak. Then we can talk about how we need to be patient with each other because God is patient with us.

Learn scripture and recite it

Impatience stems from my selfishness. Recalling scripture takes the focus off me and places it back on the Lord. Here are a few verses that I’ve been reciting:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Colossians 3:12 (ESV)

 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; James 1:19 (ESV)

Speak softly

And I don’t mean YELL in a whisper. You guys, this is SO hard! Speaking softly makes me choose my words and tone. Discipline spoken softly but firmly evokes a better response from my kids. Our kids tend to be VERY sensitive. My raised voice only escalates their emotions and the situation unnecessarily.

Take notice

Acknowledge impatience when it happens. Apologize. Ask forgiveness. Teach children to do the same when they are impatient. Take note of circumstances that seem to trigger habitual impatience; these situations require intentional practice.

Practice gratitude

Gratefulness generates patience because I focus on what I am blessed to already have instead of what I think I deserve.

I’ll be honest. Even with these efforts, patience is still a daily (sometimes every-minute) struggle. Here I talked mostly about children, but impatience also happens towards my husband, bad drivers and plenty of others.

I will never be perfectly patient, but it is my desire that patience would become my instinctive, and most common response.

One thing is certain – I am willing to do the work. My family is worth it.

Is yours?

 

 

Impatient for Patience | thisgratefulmama.com Impatient for Patience | thisgratefulmama.com

Why thisgratefulmama?

When I asked my husband if he would object to me buying a domain name to start a blog, he was surprised, but supportive. He asked what I was going to write about.

Good question.

He was probably more surprised at my flustered and sassy “I have things to say” answer. A good man, he gave me an amused look at my substandard answer.

In June of 2013, I left my job to stay home with my now 1 and 3 year old children. The transition has been an adventure.  I’ll save details of that for another day and just say that staying home IS what I want but there are some things from working that I miss. One of those things is the uninterrupted conversation or thought.

I am blessed to have my husband, family and other mom-friends. I could not do this without them. Although I see other adults often, my focus is on my kids when I am with them (pretty much always), so my conversations are just not as in depth as they used to be and both thoughts and conversations are often interrupted and unfinished. When my husband gets home, I don’t want to bombard him with ALL the unfinished things I have in my head.  Talk about information overload!

All those unfinished ideas need a place to be flushed out.

One of the great things about writing is that even if I get interrupted, the ideas are there and I can come back to them later.  When my husband travels, instead of sitting on my couch wasting time watching garbage TV and eating snacks I don’t need, this blog is a better use of time and an avenue to complete my thoughts.  Even in planning to blog, I have been somewhat incomplete. Notes and ideas jotted down, in random places… Step one, organize scattered ideas and figure out what this blog is about!

Here are the main topics you’ll find from thisgratefulmama:

  • Practice Gratitude: concerted efforts to be grateful in the moment and with what I already have (this is not something that comes natural to me)
  • I’m a Work in Progress: trying to be a better at-home wife and mom,  and to deepen my relationship with the Lord
  • Parenting: what my kids are teaching me, and what I’m trying to teach them (including failures because that is just the truth)
  • Joyful Hosting: ideas for hosting gatherings to make things fun but simple to help ensure serving friends and family is joyful, not stressful
  • DIY: a place to show progress on the long list of projects I hope to start this summer

The name www.thisgratefulmama.com was chosen because it describes who I am striving to be, regardless of my circumstances. I certainly don’t have it all together, so what you’ll find here is a discussion of honest successes and failures, and hopefully some fun ideas. I hope you enjoy this blog and share your feedback with me.

Welcome.

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