Fighting off Christmas Crankiness

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Oh man, I must be honest- keeping my joyful, care-free vacation mindset this week, has been a little bit of a challenge…

I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. I love the lights, the cozy fireplaces, the decorations, the nostalgic Christmas tunes, the time spent with loved ones, the snow that makes it feel even more festive and most importantly the celebration of the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. But I hate the way that during this season the focus can change ever so quickly to frustration and crankiness that is driven by the pressure to get everything done on time, get the decorations up so the house looks just like the Pottery Barn catalog (I wish), and get everyone the perfect gift(s).

The other day, I woke up very ambitious to check a handful of items off my list. I was looking forward to my little plan to finish in a few hours, go home to put up the rest of the decorations, and finish the evening with a glass of wine in hand as I put my feet up under a cozy blanket in attempts of ridding myself of a nasty cold. Let me just say, the day did not go as planned. The 3 stops I planned turned into 6, (not including the 3 trips I made into the same exact store) the "simple" items on my list were nowhere to be found, and my “convenient” order on Amazon turned into a hustle to cancel it in time as I found out it had already been purchased. What I had hoped to be a joy-filled time of gift buying ended with a rapid heart rate and a beer with lunch as I took deep breaths and worked on chilling out because I was just SO FRUSTRATED.

The thing that made me upset was not just the lack of accomplishment, but the fact that my joy was squashed- and I let it own me all day long.  I was so excited about getting caught up in the joy of the season and SPLAT everything went awry and my happiness went out the window.

What really gets me is, I think this is exactly what the evil one would want out of us during the holiday season, (or anytime for that matter). He doesn’t want us to be joyful, to be filled with excitement about spending time with our loved ones and to have time to sit and think about the real reason for the season- the birth of Jesus! He wants us to dwell in that frustration and to let it continue to put a kabosh on the joy that we have been given through Christ.

I don’t want to let this happen!! I’m not giving up on my pursuit of finding freedom and joy in the midst of the crazy! I mean shoot- the Christmas song is Joy to the World is it not? ;) If things go awry with my Christmas shopping, or I can’t get rid of this cold for days (please no) or whatever else pushes my buttons… I want to try really hard to keep the cranks from taking over.  I want joy to be my overwhelming mood, preferably always (hah), but especially during this special season where we celebrate the gift of Jesus.

Wish me luck… ;)  xoxo


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Stepping off the airplane on Saturday evening, feeling the one-digit temperatures pierce through my not-thick enough long-sleeve t-shirt, the reality that we were not in paradise anymore was like a snowball to the face. With each step away from the plane, I felt as if I was drrrrraaaaggging my feet- avoiding the impending return into the “real world” that exists outside of being on vacation. Fighting with all my might, I wasn’t in our home for more than 5 minutes before the to-do list and memory of all the things that need to get done before the holidays, flooded into my brain and washed away the “not a care in the world” attitude that developed while in Puerto Rico. It’s in those moments when “regular” life requirements come crashing in, that I am reminded of how extremely thankful I am, for the opportunity to take a hiatus.  Taking a break from the routine, setting aside the daily demands, concerns, and worries to soak up a little sun, jump in the ocean for hours on end, and experience an unfamiliar place- is like a breath of fresh air.

Being in Puerto Rico for a week with my husband and our two friends was the perfect escape, a huge blessing that apparently was just what I needed. It’s funny how easy it is to fall into the “take a break and leave it all behind” mindset when you’re in a completely new place. I mean really, there’s no time to think about all that needs to be done at home when you are spending hours upon hours in the ocean, going on expeditions to explore the El Yunque Rainforest, ATVing around the foothills, and wandering the streets of Old San Juan overwhelmed by the sight and history of the two forts that surround the city and loom over the ocean. And besides that we basically ate our way through Isla Verde and Old San Juan, filling our guts with quite a bit of Churrasco (skirt steak), mofongo (stuffed plantains- which I must be honest, was not so much my thing), rice and beans, all things guava, a delicious breakfast sandwich called mallorca (ham, eggs, and cheese on yummy sweet bread), and maybe one or two Coco Locos (a mighty delicious cocktail sipped from a coconut)… oh and maybe a few Medallas (local Puerto Rican beer) too. Let me tell you, it was pretty great.

Left: Building in Old San Juan Right: Yokahu Tower in El Yunque Rainforest
Exploring the Castillo San Cristobal.  One of the forts in Old San Juan.
Isla Verde Beach sunset from the Water and Beach Club hotel
Looking outside my window at the blanket of snow that is oh so cold, but sparkling in the sun, I can’t believe it was a mere 4 days ago that my toes were outside of my socks and slippers and I was walking on the beach taking my last jumps and body surfs in the ocean. I am so so thankful for this little vacation that we were blessed to take. And I’m so thankful for the sweet couple, friends whom we love mucho, Julie and Shaun who made each moment (even in the ones where the rain was coming down so hard we were watching cars stall in the flooded street) a fun and joy-filled memory.

Going on vacation and setting aside the routine is such a blessing. I’m still dragging my feet, not wanting to say Adios to the vacation feelings of freedom. But at the same time, I want this love for hiatus and the feelings that come with it, to fuel a new attitude. My hope is that even though I am back in the routine, I might learn to take necessary breaks, to throw caution to the wind, and to explore the beautiful world that the Lord has placed right in front of me.  Vacation mentality while at home? Sign me up! I can't wait to find some freedom and joy in the busy, crazy world in front of me.

Fully Persuaded

Friday, November 22, 2013

Image/Art by Zeke Tucker 

The past couple of weeks, I have been thinking a lot about the crazy, awesome, unwavering belief that Abraham had in our heavenly Father. I remember learning all about Abraham in Sunday School when I was little (anyone else remember the song Father Abraham?). I remember learning about the significance of his role as God promised him that he would have descendants as many as the stars, and I remember the story of his bold trust in God when he was asked to put his son on the altar… but I don’t think I fully understood how great of an example Abraham’s faith really was.


Want to read more?  Head on over to Our Circle of Friends to see the full post.

Held Accountable

Friday, November 15, 2013

Happy Friday!  This week seems to have flown by and with it, went my very good intentions of writing several posts this week.  So here I am, it's already dark out (which I am still having a hard time adjusting to) and I'm waiting for my sweet hubby to get home from work.  But before he arrives, I wanted to leave you with a little something to chew on. 

The past couple months, my small group has been studying the book of Romans.  I am a huge Romans fan, so I have been thoroughly enjoying revisiting these scriptures.  But it never ceases to amaze me how whenever I re-read the text, there is always something new that jumps out at me.  Here's what got me this time.  Chapter 3:19 says, "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God." Just to give you a quick idea of what's going on in this chapter... Paul is teaching about how the law is not grounds for righteousness.  He talks about how it is through faith that we are credited righteousness, and that "through the law we become conscious of sin" and aware of our need for a savior.  (It's a great chapter, if you're not familiar check it out.)

But now I need to apologize because I'm pulling a chunk out of the verse that is somewhat out of context, (forgive me) but it's a phrase that's had me thinking the past couple weeks.  It's the idea of being held accountable to God.

I am a big advocate for accountability.  I think sometimes it gets a bad rep like it's just for people in AA or a churchy-small group sort of word, but I think it's much more than that.  For me it's having a person (or two.. or six) who is willing to hold me responsible for my actions.  More specifically, it's someone I can depend on to help me stick to the goals I've set for myself, who pushes and encourages me when I'm struggling to stay disciplined, and someone who is willing to call me out when I'm acting like a fool.  

As I was reading these verses, and thinking about the fact that we are held accountable to God for our actions, I couldn't help but ask myself, why isn't this truth enough?  When I went to a friend's wedding from high school a couple weeks ago, I went into it knowing that I was going to be tempted to have more than my share of beverages.  There were many days in my past that I dabbled in the fun of having a few too many [and it's definitely still a struggle sometimes], but now I know that's not how I want to live my life.  Knowing this, I texted my sister and said "hey, will you hold me accountable to making good choices tonight?"  For whatever reason, even the simple act of reaching out and asking someone to be aware of what I'm doing, is enough to remind me and motivate me to make good choices.  But what gets me is, why isn't the fact that God knows what I am doing, and knows the decisions I'm going to make before I make them... why is that not enough to motivate me to do the right thing?  

Don't get me wrong, I know that God created us for community, to need each other's support and encouragement.  I'm not discounting that, and I'm definitely not going to go ditching my accountability partners!  Having you guys in my life has made a huge difference in helping me work towards being more Christ-like, and encouraging me to pursue the hopes and dreams that He's given me.  

What I am hoping to do though, is put more emphasis on the truth that I don't just have to rely on my husband or sister or whoever else I've asked to hold me responsible.  The God who created me wants to be a part of my life and help me be the very best that He created me to be.  

My hope and prayer moving forward is that knowing that, would be the motivation and encouragement I need to not only make good choices in the sticky situations, but to push myself in the goals and dreams that I feel He has laid out for me.  

November to-do list

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I don't know about you, but I am all about checklists.  In college, I would write down my daily assignments in my planner, looking forward to the proud moment when I could cross the item off my list.  And I must admit, I am totally one of those people who would add an already finished assignment onto my list just so that I could have the satisfaction of crossing it off.  There is something so exciting about that physical action of drawing a line through it, isn't there?

Maybe that's part of the reason that for me, lists are not just a good reminder, but a good motivation to get it things done.  That's why, as I'm linking up with Hayley over at The Tiny Twig, who challenged us to join her in making goals for the month of November, I'm calling it my November To-Do list instead of my November goals.  For some reason, the idea of goals sometimes feels too far fetched.  Simply throwing the title "to-do list" up there makes me feel like my goals are way more attainable.  It's totally a mental thing, I get that.  But for me, it helps!

With that said, here is my list of to-dos for the month of November.

  • get a lil Christmas shopping done [buy at least 3 gifts]
  • read A Million Little Things
  • go to Body Pump once a week
  • hang some pictures on the walls
  • write November goals post
  • go to Puerto Rico!!!

Notice how I added the one item that I can already check off the list?  :) I couldn't help myself.

One thing that I thought about as I put together this little list, is how important it is to me that my list isn't just made up of things I'd like to get done, but also a reminder to celebrate special moments and choose to make joyful activities a part of my goals.  It's so easy to think of goals as all the gruesome, hard things that we kinda don't want to do, but feel we should.  But why??  Last year, I declared somewhat of a 2013 resolution- that I wanted to be more in love with life, by being intentional about choosing joy in any way that I could.  I loved this little challenge I gave myself, and was significantly encouraged by the discipline that I built to make joyful opportunities happen and reflect on those blessings by sharing some on my blog.  Like this one for example.  Putting joyful activities on my list of to-dos is just another way I hope to carry on this discipline.

In John 10, Jesus says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." My prayer is that your November may also be full, not just with the things that you need to get done, but with many intentionally joyful activities.

The Cat Eye House

Sunday, November 3, 2013

When my husband and I got the chance to meet the seller at the closing for our house, I had a feeling it would be a little special, but I had no idea she would hand over a tradition with a lot of pressure in the words "we've been doing it for YEARS.  People will be looking for it."  Looking down to see what she was passing to me, I couldn't help but giggle to myself as she presented the kitty-cat eyes that you now see in the image above.  I remember thinking to myself briefly, "ugh, lady!  we just bought your house- you can't make us do anything!"  [I was a little defensive, but that probably had more to do with the other, not so fun parting gift that she left in the house for us...] Back in the car, we laughed about the odd, (yet thoughtful gift) and chatted about whether or not we would take up the role as the Cat-eye house.

As Halloween approached, the time came to make the decision.  My sister vouched for no, saying they were super creepy.  Going back and forth a bit, we decided to go for it, and see what all the buzz was about.  After taping the poster-like cat-eyes up in the window and turning on the lights inside giving the eyes their evil glow, I ran outside to check out the results only to hear one of the neighbors across the street say, "Hey neighbor! I'm so glad you kept the tradition going!"  After hearing that, and catching myself a little giddy about our home's transformation, it's fair to say that we have officially accepted the role as the Cat-eye house.

It was fun to see trick-or-treaters stop in front of our lawn and say, "whoa, cool house!" and see some other folks stop to take a picture.  I am thankful for the previous owner who was thoughtful in passing the fun decor on to us - I'm definitely looking forward to carrying this tradition on for years to come.


Besides the kitty-cat eye fun, my awesome parents drove a half hour each way to surprise us, on our doorstep, in costume, ready for a little trick-or-treating fun.  It was great!!! [My parents really are amazing.  I am so thankful that we have such a tight-knit family and that we have so much fun together.] I only hope that Chris and I can grow up to be like the amazing parents we have been blessed with.

Aren't they seriously adorable? 

Needing rest to function

Monday, October 28, 2013

I think I am finally realizing, or maybe finally admitting, that in this season of my life, Mondays are most definitely my lazy days. The day where I struggle the most to get out of bed.  [Though quite honestly, it is a pretty significant struggle every day.  But that’s for another post].  The day where my motivation is somewhat lacking, and where I fight the list that forms in my head.  But what I’m discovering remembering, is that I am a girl who needs balance. 

Some people thrive on being really busy, who love the go, go, go, and have a hard time letting themselves just sit and relax even if the moment presents itself.  I am very much the opposite.  I am really good at relaxing.  I love settling in on the couch with a good book, a movie, or the latest series on Netflix.   But I’ve learned that I don’t just love relaxing, but that I actually need it.

When I worked as a Ministry assistant for a college ministry, as part of Elmbrook church, I loved my job.  I loved the people I worked with and the opportunity to have a career focused on the Lord day in and day out.  But what I didn’t realize at first, was that even in a job in the church you can get burnt out really really easily.  In college ministry, my job was not like other professions.  Most of my working hours were at odd times of the day, especially in the evenings when students were free from school, and often on weekends for events, or retreats.  So when my week quickly filled up with something every week night, I started to get burnt out. Going going going for weeks on end, I got overdone… unless I had at least one day where I could sit with nothing on the docket begging for my attention- a day where I could simply relax.  

In this world, sitting and allowing time to relax is often seen as weakness.  As if not having every day filled to the max is a bad use of time.  It was really hard for me to admit to my boss, that I needed to re-work my schedule so I could have at least one night of the week where I got to simply “be.” But as I discovered more and more how extremely important that day was in order for me to function at the best of my ability and for me to really pour my heart into what I was doing, I began to fight more for it.  
I now know that I crave balance in a world of busyness, and that I really do need those days.  So when it comes down to it, my Mondays are much more than my lazy days- they have organically become my breathe and recover day.  That one day that I need oh so badly in order to function to the fullest of my ability throughout the rest of the week. 

Now you know what I’m up to for the rest of the day! ;)  

I know that not everyone is in the season that I am in, with the ability to choose my day of rest, but my prayer is that whatever your week looks like, that you might be able to make time to simply be.  And that through those moments you feel the peace of God refreshing you, equipping you for whatever the rest of your days hold.

[Are you good at resting?  I’d love to hear if there are any other “needing rest to function” sort of people out there.]


Fall Field Trip Photographer [& Blogstomp! ]

Monday, October 14, 2013

First of all, I have to say that fall is most definitely my favorite season.  I love seeing all the beautiful fall colors as the leaves start to change!  I can't imagine living in a place where you don't get to experience the lovely colors of fall, it seems so weird to me.  With that said, when my sister mentioned that she was taking her 4-K class to a pumpkin farm for a fall field trip, I pretty much jumped on that opportunity and offered up my services to be her class photographer for the day. 

My sister works at Cross Trainers Academy, a choice school for at-risk-youth which is part of the Milwaukee Rescue Mission.  It is a great school, with a really stellar, hard-working staff that pours their hearts into the lives of their students.  I am so proud of my sister and the way that she cares for the little ones in her classroom, so it is always my honor and pleasure to be a part of what she's doing in one way or another.  Okay, that's kind-of not true, it's not always my pleasure at first... I must admit I'm somewhat terrified of small children.  Maybe terrified is a bit strong, but there was definitely an incident one of the days I volunteered in her classroom.  At one point, the entire classroom of littles collectively mocked and laughed at what I had so kindly asked them to do.  I'm pretty sure twenty 4-year olds successfully bullied this 20-something.  hah.  And, it may or may not have left me a little chicken to volunteer in the future.   But I am working through that traumatic experience ;) , getting braver with each visit, and despite the fear, I really do enjoy being able to watch my sister in her element and spend time with the kids she loves on.  

This field trip was a perfect fall day of fun.  The weather was fantastic, and the kids had a blast.  They were able to feed goats, go through a corn maze, ride on a hay wagon, and pick out their very own pumpkin to take home.   And that's where my part came in.  After picking out their pumpkin, each child came over by me to get their picture taken.  They were SO cute as they proudly showed off their hand-picked pumpkin for the camera.  I am soo thankful I was able to be a part of this cool opportunity and give them a piece of their experience to take home and show their parents, something that they don't often get to do.  

It was a really great day.  I got to work on my fear of 4 year olds, and also continue to grow in my hobby of photography.  I was pretty proud of the pics I took (fully in manual! boom.) and look forward to my next opportunity to be the field trip photographer.  Since I can't show you pics of the kids (for privacy reasons), instead, enjoy a few of the lovely farm.  

P.S. If you are looking for a quick and easy to use tool to help you resize your images and have them web-ready, I highly recommend purchasing Blogstomp!  I heard about it through Arielle a wedding photographer at the Influence Conference and I am so glad she told us about it because it is awesome.  For only $49.00 you are able to quickly import your photos and in just seconds have them crunched to the right width for your blog.  Also, you can easily adjust the borders, backgrounds, round the corners, and even add a watermark if you'd like.  You should definitely check it out!  [I'm sharing this quick review with you just because I thought it was great, no other reason.]

Link Arms with Jesus and Walk Forward

Monday, October 7, 2013

It is really difficult to quickly summarize the affirmations, encouragements, and challenges that God impressed on my heart through the Influence Conference.  I shared a little bit about it here, but I'd like to try and give you just a little glimpse of the bigger picture.

Much can be summarized with the words shared by the lovely Hayley Morgan as she encouraged us to link arms with Jesus and walk forward.  Hearing these words at the opening session was like music to my ears and joy to my soul. Finding myself in a place of in-between, unsure of exactly what I'm doing or where I'm going, I really needed this simple reminder to focus not on my lack of direction but on simply walking forward with Him.  Being in this place, it is so easy to get caught up in the lies of the world, the concerns about no direction and the strivings to be as cool as so-and-so or to do something greater.   But as Hayley boldly put it, “If you are believing the LIES you cannot enjoy the FREEDOM of the TRUTH.”

What I know to be true is that He created me. He created me as a good thing in the widest sense of the word.  He has given me passions- He has given me dreams. And it is my duty to own my identity in Christ, and obey the call to action to FOLLOW HIM.

The questions beyond this, the ones that are so easy to get caught up in, like: okay, so I know to follow Him but to where?  What does following Him look like when I really don’t know where He is calling me?  How am I going to be successful and cool and make Him known all at once?  Yes, these ones that so easily and so frequently plague my mind and threaten to throw me off the path... these are the ones that I must work hard to defeat.

Lara Casey, one of the speakers, (and might I add an incredibly talented, God-honoring, and inspiring woman) helped me to counteract these questions and lies as she so beautifully reminded me- the goal in our lives is not to be successful, not to follow our dreams… the goal is HIS GLORY.  This puts it all back into perspective.

Proverbs 19:21 says it simply, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

One of the coolest things, and something that gets me pretty fired up about God, is that He loves us so much that He wants us to be a part of His purpose- to be a part of his incredible plan to reach all nations- to be a part of making His name great.  He could do it alone, He's a mighty God.  But He doesn't, because He wants us to be a part of it!  I love this!

God doesn't give us passions and dreams for no reason- He plants them in our hearts because He wants us to use them for Him, for His glory! I love love love this reminder because it means that this dream that is deep in my soul to use my words for Him, the crazy desire to write a book and maybe even be a speaker for His name- He put that there!  This is one strong affirmation that I so needed to hear.

Jeff Goins was such an encouragement as he said, “If you have a dream, pursue it, protect it, and take care of it—it’s a gift from the Lord.” My dream is not about me, but it needs me.  Well if this is in fact the case, then who am I to disobey what the Lord has put on my heart?

When God puts something on your heart, don’t hesitate- just GO!!!

Reflecting back on all these words and challenges that were shared at the conference, I can’t help but feel my joy begin to overflow. God really did want me at this conference for a reason. He wanted me there to affirm me in who He created me to be.  He wanted me there to remind me that what I am doing is ALL about Him.  And He wanted me there to encourage me that I am so not alone.  This journey is not just to link arms with Jesus, but to link arms with others, to build a strong community where we encourage one another, build each other up, and spur one another on to reach the dreams that God has prepared for us so that we might truly MAKE MUCH OF HIM.

As I settle back into “normal” life, and come down off of the conference high, I know that the days ahead will not be easy. That I will need to work to defeat the lies of the world, and that I will need to intentionally and whole-heartedly pursue Him, no matter what happens. But I am SO excited for the journey ahead- I can't wait to pursue and protect the dream that He has placed in my heart.

My prayer is that you might be encouraged by this little glimpse of what I learned through the Influence Conference.  And that you might join me in linking arms with Jesus and walking forward knowing that  no matter where He leads, with Him there is freedom.

I am so so thankful for the Influence Conference, for each of the women who make up the Influence Network core team that made this happen for us, and for each of the speakers who so beautifully glorified the Lord as they shared where He is leading them in their lives. 

A new sense of Community

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

This past weekend, I had the amazing opportunity of attending The Influence Conference- a conference all about “making your online life mean something” and making much of Christ. It was an experience that I will never forget; one that has left a life-long impression on my heart.

Spending two solid days soaking up knowledge, challenges, and encouragements from the speakers at the conference, there is so much to be processed and so much to be taken in. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve even begun to process what I’ve all learned. But there’s one strong feeling that I walked away with, and that is one of community.

Signing up for the conference one week before it was to take place, didn’t really allow me the time to find someone to sign up with me, or to make friends over the web to connect with. So going into the weekend not knowing anyone, it felt like there was a very strong chance that I might feel pretty lonely at times. But honestly, other than the first five minutes, it felt like quite the opposite.

Being a believer, we are soo blessed because God gives us an automatic sense of community with each and every other follower of Christ. Through his Son, we are unified by the Holy Spirit, which gives us an indescribable and immediate sense of community that could not be traded for any other. This is one of my favorite things because it’s like an automatic bond, a strong “common interest” that instantly makes it feel like, although we’ve just met, we've known each other for years.

But beyond having this connection, there was a new sense of community that I had never experienced before. Ever since starting my blog a year and a half ago, I have always felt a little bit like the odd one out. Sharing with friends and family that I started a blog, I often got the “deer in the headlights” look, followed by a response like “oh, that’s cool.” Other than one other girl, the lovely Cari over at A Sailor, his girl, and their dog, I have most often felt like the only one in the state of Wisconsin who felt strongly called to be a blogger. Now, I understand that is very much not the case- but when there aren’t any other people who share this interest in my direct circles, it begins to feel this way.

Coming to the conference, it was like a breath of fresh air. For once, I felt like someone else got it. It felt like this was God’s way of saying, “See Mindy? You’re not alone!” I absolutely loved being surrounded by others who, just like me, have their own little space on the web and are trying to understand God’s calling for that in their lives. [Not to mention, I met sooo many sweet and amazing women. Three of whose feet are pictured in the image above: Tanya, Meghan, and Ashton.]

Not only was it affirming and encouraging for where I'm at as a writer in the crazy world of blogging, but it was also a challenging reminder that God really did create us to live in community. He created us to need each other, to challenge each other, to "encourage one another and build each other up." He created us to be just like the word’s definition, “a unified body of individuals” who are so on fire for him that others can’t help but be drawn into the beautiful community that we have with Him.

As I made the 5 hour trek home from Indianapolis, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad as I left what felt like a sweet, protected, little bubble of women, unified through our love for Christ and passion for sharing words on the web.  I am so grateful for each of the women that I met, the awesome team who made it happen, and the community that I'm now excited to be a part of.  Even though we are spread all over the states, this community does not need to come to an end.  In fact, I am pretty certain that this is just the beginning.  

My Sweet Grandpa's Homegoing

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Yesterday, I had the honor of sharing the story of my Grandpa's homegoing as we celebrated his life with many who loved him.  I want to share it with you, because it is a story that needs to be told...

This last week has been one of the most terrible, and the most difficult. It has been full of much sadness, fear, instances of false hope, and a heaviness in realizing that my sweet grandpa wouldn't be here with us anymore.

But amidst the difficult, it has also been one of the most beautiful, precious, and joyful. My family and I had the blessing of spending my Grandpa's last 4 days with him. One of those, was a day just like any other with my grampy. If you don't know him, you must understand that he was extremely intelligent- which always led to a need to understand everything. So in the hospital, we needed to keep his oxygen levels up which meant he had to wear an oxygen mask. Well let me tell you, this mask was something that he needed to understand. All four of us, along with probably every nurse who had the pleasure of caring for him that week, attempted to help him "solve" this mystery. During my turn to try explaining, my gramps said, "Okay Mindy, we're going to lick this." These special moments, along with many other laughs and smiles, and endless I love you's that we shared, made those four days so so precious.

Although in the midst of it, the time felt unbearably heavy, I am so thankful for every second, because each one was laced with love and an indescribable evidence of God's faithfulness. Every step in the process of grandpa's homegoing was protected and planned out ever so carefully by our heavenly father. From the doctors with their careful and concerned explanations, to the nurses who took such good care of my grandpa and cared so lovingly for our family, there is no doubt in my mind that God was making sure that gramps was protected and treated with extra special loving care as He called him home.

Besides sharing some of these special moments - I need to tell you about the amazing way that God brought grandpa home. Those last moments, standing by my grandpa's side are moments that will forever be written on my heart. Not just because they were the terrifying and sad moments when I lost my grandpa- but because they were filled with an overwhelming sense of God's presence as He called my grandpa home in the most beautiful, most profound, and amazing way.

Standing next to my grandpa's bed, my sister and I on one side, mom and dad on the other- I clenched my sister's hand as we told him how much we loved him and that we were right there by his side. It was in that moment, when my mom leaned over to my grandpa and told him that he was going to meet Jesus, that I realized there was an overwhelming sense of strength, peace, and assurance in that room. After those tender moments of saying our goodbyes, the only thing that felt appropriate was to worship the Lord, singing songs to grandpa as he prepared to meet our maker. Lifting up our voices in praise, unsure of how or what songs to sing, it felt as if we had keep singing, as if that was the only way God had ordained for grampy to go to heaven.

Time went by, we continued to sing and came upon what we now know to be our last song. As we lifted up the chorus of the Revelation Song, which reads "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come. With all creation I sing, praise to the King of Kings. You are my everything, and I will adore you," it was as if the Lord was telling us this was grandpa's time. In unison each of our voices got louder as we proclaimed these words, and lifted up to the God who we know was very much present in that room with us.

During our last time singing the chorus, my sweet grandpa took his last breath and went to be with Jesus. As quickly as an overwhelming sense of panic and sadness filled the room as we realized that this man we loved so much was not with us anymore, an indescribably powerful sense of excitement, joy, and peace filled the room. God made it so beautifully clear that He was with us and that He had come to take the one that he loved so much, home to the place He prepared for him. I will never forget when my mom tearfully exclaimed, Daddy- I am so excited for you, you're there!!

The reason that I feel such a need to tell you this story is not to make you sad, but so that you might share in the joy and excitement of this amazing moment that God set out for my grandpa. And so that you might know that we have an awesome God who loves us SO much that not only does He give us strength, joy, and peace in the most difficult of moments, but that if we claim Him as our savior He really really does show up and take us home to be with him in heaven.

There's one last piece of the story that I'd like to share with you...

A few days after my sweet grandpa left us, I thought about that special moment as we sang the Revelation Song. My curiosity got the best of me as I knew that this must be in the book of Revelations if it's called the Revelation song. Googling the words, I can't describe the joy that came over me when I discovered what I'd found. Revelations 4 talks about the throne of heaven- what it looks like, what's there, what it sounds like- and in verse 8 it says, "Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,' who was, and is, and is to come."

I am so in awe and wowed by the beautiful moment in which my family and I had the AWESOME privilege of joining the heavenly hosts and ushering my grandpa into heaven.

My hope is that you might walk away from this celebration of my grandpa's life knowing two things: that my grandpa was an amazing, loving, generous, selfless, bundle of joy and that we have a reason to celebrate because our awesome God welcomed him home with a fanfare!

No Disaster will come near my Tent

Friday, August 23, 2013

I'm sitting outside, praising the Lord for this beautiful beautiful day, and taking a break from unpacking, cleaning, and organizing, to tell you a little about just how crazy this past month has been.  If you would have asked me a month ago, how the next 4 weeks were going to pan out, there is no way I would have been even remotely close...

As I mentioned in my last post, my husband and I finally found the house that we had been searching for and the closing day was rapidly approaching.  Everything was going SO smoothly.  Financing fell right into place, packing went swimmingly (thanks to my fab mother and sister who pushed me), our sweet families signed up to be our moving crew, and we were successfully meeting my challenge to move forward in the process with no stress.  That is, until the day before closing...  During our final walk through in the house, we discovered a flea infestation.  Let me tell you it was not the best experience.  Finding these not-so-nice, jumpy little insects all over my ankles, our realtor called his pest buddy to find out that not only were our suspicions correct, but that fleas are actually relatively serious because they can be a real pain to get rid of.  Our happy-go-lucky, move-in process suddenly took a violent left turn.  Instead of being able to move right into our new spot, we were going to have to delay the move about a week, find somewhere to store our belongings, and move in with my lovely sister who so kindly offered us her spare bedroom for the time we needed to be out of the house.  

One of the most difficult things for me wasn't just the icky and annoying bugs that we found in our house- but was more about the destroyed expectation.  I was so hopeful and trying so hard to make everything joyful and smooth, and to no avail, just like life does- I was thrown a curveball.  I realize this is very much a "first world problem," but it seriously took a jab at my joy.  One night, when we were vacuuming the house (one of the 17,000 times we vacuumed in hopes of getting more fleas out), I lost it.  It was one of those movie scene cries where as I'm cleaning the kitchen floor a tiny chunk breaks off the tile causing me to fall to my knees, throw out a few choice words, and proceed towards a full, wheezy breathing, cry session.  In the moment it was both tragic and ridiculously humorous as I pictured what I just did.  But overall, I felt like my joy about the house had been crushed.  Parts of me wanted to say, forget it- I don't even want this house anymore, I'm too bummed and too discouraged!  

Honestly, it was a really challenging time.  Something that I wanted to be so monumental and so joyful had turned into what felt like a wreck.  The night of the movie-scene cry, I returned back to my sister's house and continued to shed a few tears on her shoulder.  She had been reading her Bible when I walked in, and during a cry break- she shared with me a Psalm that had been a great encouragement to her.  The chapter is Psalm 91.  It is a GREAT chunk of verses that talks about the Lord being our refuge and fortress and God in whom we can trust.  But the verses that struck me were 9-12.  
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake youno disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 
As you can see, the words that specifically spoke to me were "NO DISASTER WILL COME NEAR YOUR TENT." This was the encouragement that I so badly needed.  Reading these verses, I took them quite literally and was like YEAH, that's right!  With the Lord as my refuge, no matter how many fleas, or how long it takes to get them out, or how many toilets break or how many other homeowner-type troubles plague our new place... through Him, none of these will break or destroy us.

I am so thankful that my sister turned me towards this scripture because it was exactly what I needed to begin to change my attitude, trust that it will all work out, and FIND the joy, even in the "disaster."

3 weeks have come and gone since that fateful day of the fleas.  We are now living in the house (not the basement yet- since that was the fleas territory I'm avoiding it until Orkin comes again and gives the all clear) and our joy and excitement continues to grow stronger each and every day.  God totally, totally provided for us in this challenging time.  Not only did he provide us with a place to stay and the encouragement just when we needed, but He also revealed this icky problem to us before we bought the house.  This was a huge blessing, as it enabled us to have the seller pay for the treatments and give us a bit of cash back for the inconvenience.  He is most definitely our refuge and fortress.

Looking forward, I can't wait for the day when we can look back and tell the funny story of the fleas with laughter and joy in our hearts.  I'm still clinging to those words in Psalm 91, and feel like they're written on my heart as I will most definitely continue to proclaim them as we continue on this new journey as homeowners.

Praying that you might be encouraged as you deal with whatever disaster may be in front of you.  Know that He is faithful and will protect and provide for you. 

Buying a House without Stress?!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

After 6 months of house shopping, 30 showings, two really creepy serial killer-esque basements (seriously... like a Dexter episode), and countless MLS emails, we finally FOUND OUR HOUSE!!!!!  I am SO excited, but I have to be honest and say that even though we are only 2 weeks away from closing and moving, I still have not wrapped my mind around the fact that we are purchasing this as our very own.  I mean really, a house!?  Yikes!!!

The whole process with this house has been sort of surreal.  When the images popped up on my computer screen, I had a feeling deep down in my gut that this was the house God had chosen for us. From that moment on, it became more and more clear that this was in fact where He wanted us to be.  I shared more about this process over on Circle of Friends, where I'm a contributing author.  There you'll find the full story about how God paved the way and communicated to us through His peace that passes all.  I am so thankful, and still in awe of the way that God provided for us- but making my first attempt at rifling through our storage space and organizing boxes, it is really easy to forget all that peace that has marked this experience and feel myself starting to get anxious and stressed out.

Feeling myself getting worked up, I decided that instead, I am going to try with everything that is in me, to make this whole moving process stress-free.  I know that sounds a bit crazy, and somewhat impossible but I am going to be as disciplined as possible to make it true.  This isn't the first time that I've chosen this mentality.  From day one of wedding planning I told myself, and everyone else in the process that I was bound and determined to have the process be stress-free.  I think people thought I was crazy when I said it. Wedding planning without stress?! Of course, it had it's moments, but honestly, making that choice from the beginning played a significant role in the peace and joy that I felt throughout the entire process as well as on our special day.  I look back on that time and am so thankful that I made that decision early on and stuck to my guns, giving myself the opportunity to focus on the joy and not on the stress.

God didn't create us to be stressed out, anxious people.  We have a choice to either get all worked up about the details and the craziness, or focus on the joy that can be found in each and every moment.  I know that this is going to be a difficult mentality to maintain.  I already found myself fighting off the stress as I thought about the packing process (I hate packing with a passion).  But I am going to work my tail off, and do whatever I can to remain stress-free.  God is so good, and He has blessed us so much with this house- I want to do what I can to remain in His peace and run from the stress cloud that can so easily devour us.

If you think of me, pray for me in this process?  It is going to be a difficult, yet so joyful time- I just know it.  Can't wait to reveal more about our lovely abode!! More images and hopefully fun home-projects to come.

Re-finding the FREEDOM & FUN in re-designing

Monday, July 15, 2013

For quite sometime now, I have been dreaming up how I want to re-organize and re-design my little space on the web.  I am still in the process of dreaming this up- it is on my ever growing list of things I want to do... but I've felt the need to wait for a "big reveal" sort of moment when I had all my little eggs in a basket and had every corner of my blog re-designed and set to go.  But then last night, as I was playing with the A Beautiful Mess app on my iPad, I created a little placeholder for what I hope will someday be an amazing and fitting header.  It was fun to make, and I like the feel of it so I decided to get over my perfectionistic attitude for a little bit and allow myself to throw it up here until I figure out my new and complete redesign.  (And this header finally has my new blog name on it!) I had been so stuck on this "wait till it's perfect" mentality, that I think I took away some of the fun of having a blog in the first place.  I felt a sense of returned freedom as I let go of that mentality and simply changed the image that took place at the top of my page.  So this is me saying, watch out- I'm cutting loose and letting myself have fun with random changes and redesigns on my page.

I really look forward to the day where I can look at my page and feel proud and satisfied with what I've created.  I know that it will come, someday.  For now I am just going to keep plugging along, keep learning (I'm taking a class about re-designing my own blog by the ladies over at ABM called Blog {Design} Love!) and keep dreaming up my perfect design.

Who knew I was limiting my own freedom and fun?!  Cheers to cutting loose and finding joy in things that are less than perfect.

4th of July Nails

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Happy Fourth of July day, nails!  I know the fourth has come and gone, but thought I'd share a pic of the holiday sparkle nail that I wore on the the special day.  I was a bit lazy in my attempts to create a firework nail or some other fancy new creation, but was happy with the end result consisting of patriotic colors and a bit of sparkle.  It's about time I got my head in the game and created some fun new art to add to my repertoire.  Perhaps I shall put that on my list for the upcoming weeks...

Hope you had an excellent 4th of July, and that your summer is amazing thus far!

Summer in Milwaukee

Monday, June 24, 2013

Week 3-Milwaukee Public Market 60

I must say that I love Milwaukee in the summertime.  I love it in the other seasons too, but there is just so much happening here in the summer!  Taking a photography class this summer, I have had a lot of practicing to do.  Each week I was required to go out and shoot for 1-2 hours and continue honing the craft of operating my camera in the manual mode.  I am so thankful not just for the lessons on how to use the camera, but the challenge that it gave me to explore and appreciate my city a bit more.  From Alterra on the Lakefront, to the Mckinley Marina, to a ski show/competition in Veteran's Park, and then on to the many beautiful gems in the Third Ward- I was reminded of how truly beautiful Milwaukee is.  It's crazy how much we bypass during our regular day to day activities, not taking the time to take a minute and soak in all the beauty surrounding us.

One of my favorite things to do over summer is spend as many meals as possible on a patio or a rooftop somewhere.  The one pictured below is a great spot in the Third Ward- Cafe Benelux.  On the corner of Broadway, across from the Wicked Hop, this is the place to be. Not only is it one of the only restaurants with rooftop seating, but they have great food and a ginormous beer list, much better described as a beer book.  As I sat at our table with the warm breeze blowing, the sun shining on my face, and a beer in my hand, I couldn't help but think about how great my city is.

As I take more steps to learn how to capture beautiful images from behind my camera, I am so excited to be able to appreciate the amazing creations in front of it.  I'm excited to go out again this next week and try to explore new territory and see some of the beauty I've yet to discover.  What about you, have you found some hidden gems in your city?

Thanks for tagging along with me in this adventure.  If you've never been to MKE, I hope you get to check it out someday.  xoxo

Third Ward Milwaukee building

In Love with Life: The Define School

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Remember when you were little and older people used to tell you "time flies when you get older!"?  I remember hearing that all the time, but thinking to myself- yeah right, the school year is creeping along.  And here I am 27 years old and I catch myself being that older person saying, Oh my gosh isn't time flying!?  

With that said, I feel like it has been a crazy past couple of weeks/month.  School is done- which I know doesn't apply to me, but my sis is a teacher so I feel like it does.  Warmer weather is finally showing its face in WI (and hopefully staying?).  People are traveling right and left. Soo many weddings are coming up.  And well, I'm just trying to keep up with all of it.  Although I'm not being the world traveler, nor do I have the exciting step of getting married coming up, I do have something that I am right in the midst of that I am pretty darn excited about.  I am taking a photography class!! 

I received my first DSLR as a birthday present from my sweet Grandpa in May, and since I don't really know how to use it other than on the auto setting, I decided that it would be a good idea to take a photography class.  It's an online class called From Auto to Manual through The Define School.  I heard about it through my Instagram feed, and I am glad I did.  It's not your typical online class because it's more hands-on.  At the end of each lesson, each student submits some photos to be reviewed and critiqued by our teacher.  I am only one homework submission into the class, but the critique was already really helpful.  I'm really excited about this class, and look forward to learning how to use my camera to it's full extent.  

I am really thankful for this opportunity and thankful that my husband is so sweet in supporting me as I try to continue my learning experiences as an adult.  Continuing to take opportunities to learn and figure out who you are is a great way to be intentional about being in love with life, dontcha think? 

Watch out for some of my "homework" as I learn how to use my camera and practice, in hopes of capturing some beautiful images.  

Cheers to photography and photos and all their loveliness.  


Straw Bale Gardening

Monday, June 3, 2013

Over Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I made the six-and-a-half hour trip to the tiny little town in Minnesota where he grew up. His parent's house is situated on a 45-some acre lot with tons of trees, a creek (or "crick" as they say), a few hayfields, a couple garages and sheds, 3 horses and a bunch of random cats. Both my husband and I grew up in the country (although I wasn't quite in the sticks like him), and so it is always a treat to get away from our city-apartment and be immersed in the country, with lots of fresh air and beautiful stars at night.

Our trips to Minnesota are always filled with a little bit of excitement.  Whether it be an experience eating Pig Weed (essentially grows in horse fields, near manure piles... look it up), taking a few snowmobiles for a spin, or hopping on his dad's latest toy, a mini-bike, and riding it around the property, it is always a good time.  In addition to attempting to climb a tree, this time, we got a chance to be assistants as his mother taught us a new technique she is trying out in her garden- straw bale gardening.  

I don't know about you, but I have never heard of, or seen this before so I was a bit skeptical.  But after she explained how the bales are first fertilized, watered until soaked, all in the efforts to pre-treat the bales to prepare for planting, I am very intrigued in how this is going to work out.  The goal of planting in a straw bale is to avoid some of the annoying weeds that make their way into the plants and to give the plants a productive, warm, nutrient rich environment in which to grow.  

Because this is the first time my mother-in-law is attempting this, she decided to go with a few rows of bales with pepper plants, and a couple other bales with seeds for lettuces and beans.  For the plants, we simply dug a hole into the bale, set in the plant, and filled around with potting soil.  

And for the ones with the seeds, we laid a layer of soil, followed by the seeds, and topped off with another layer of soil.

Not only is it an innovative way of gardening, but the little plants all nestled in the bale are pretty cute, right?   

Since we won't be there to see how it all turns out, I told his mom she has to give me progress reports with pictures as to how these little babies are doing.  I am really excited to see how successful straw bale gardening is!  Although we don't have enough space in our duplex to attempt our own straw bale gardening, we did come home with a few pepper and tomato plants to try out on our little porch!

I can't wait to have a house of our own where we can have a lovely garden to play with!
Cheers to warm weather, planting, and all the good things that come with it.


"I want to write a book when I grow up."

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Just like every little girl, (yup, that's me- on the left, with my lovely sister) I used to dream about what I wanted to be "when I grew up."  At one point, all I could dream about was being a waitress or a cashier.  Many hours were spent in the basement at my childhood home, where my sister and I took turns being the customer while the other spotlighted the much coveted role as waitress, grocery store cashier, or even as Dairy Queen employee.  Since then, these dreams have faded into the background- just a fun memory gone by.  I never became a waitress.  I never worked at Dairy Queen.  I did work at a Christian bookstore for 3 years where I got to enjoy the pleasure of ringing people up on the cash register.  So I guess you can check cashier off my list. woohoo!  But there are a few dreams that I remember stating often when asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" that still ring true as ever- that I'm still pursuing as I work towards this whole growing up thing.

One of those dreams was, I always wanted to be a writer.  In fact I used to imagine myself working for a Christian magazine, writing articles, doing interviews, and maybe even one day being the editor.  That and, I always told myself I would write a book someday.  [I guess in some ways you can check that off the list- my Christmas present one year was one of those awesome projects where you got to be author and illustrator, and at the end you sent it in and received a hard-cover copy of your very own book!  This was pretty darn cool, I must admit.]  As I went through high school and the beginning of college, my passion for writing continued.  I loved writing papers, took a few journalism classes and wrote for the Ripon College newspaper, called College Days.  (Check em out - here, here, and here.  They're kind-of entertaining, hah.)  But somewhere after Sophomore year, I veered away from this passion and pursued a major in Religion and a minor in French.  Super random combo right?  Although I don't regret that choice of focus at all, (it led me to my beloved job working with the college ministry at Elmbrook Church) it has been since getting married and joining the blogging world that this passion for writing has been re-ignited.

The long and short of it is- I've realized that I'm not quite ready to let go of my childhood dream.  Wanting to be a writer is still very present in my heart.

In fact, I'm excited to share that I've actually made a step in continuing and pursuing my passion for writing.  Yesterday, I made my debut as a contributor for a website called Circle of Friends that serves to reach and encourage women in their walk with the Lord.  Through this website, many different authors write devotionals or blog posts, sharing what God's doing in their lives and encouraging the many women who frequent the page.  I am so excited to have been given an opportunity to be one of these contributing authors and share my heart by writing a blog post twice a month.  [Here's my first post .  Tag along on this new adventure, if you'd like!]  I'm glad to be a part of this mission, and look forward to what God has in store.

So I guess you can consider that 'Step 1' in pursuing one of my dreams.  I have no idea if I'll ever reach the point of getting a book published, but I have every intent of continuing to dream and moving forward with hope.

Is there a dream that is heavy on your heart?  Maybe you, too, should consider going for it!  Even though we may be somewhat "grown up", no one said we had to stop dreaming.


A Lesson from my Succulents

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I must admit that I have a major crush on succulents.  Okay, maybe that's putting it lightly.  I'm actually quite in love with them really.  I'm not sure where I first saw them or how our love affair began, but I think that they are so so lovely.  They seem to be all over Instagram lately, and I can't help but 'like' every picture that I come across with succulents.  With that said, I'd like to introduce you to my three little babies.  

I first met these guys about a year ago at my neighborhood Steins.  And let me tell you, it was love at first sight.  I went in thinking that I was going to buy just one, and walked out with three because they were just too cute.  But my love for succulents goes deeper than just looks...they are so easy to manage.  A little bit of water (about once every two weeks in the winter and once a week in summer) and a lot of sunlight gives these sweet plants just what they need to grow.

Being that I live in Wisconsin, my plants have to live inside in the winter and soak up as much sun as they can through the window.  And what I've noticed over the past few weeks is how much they really need the sun.  I started to notice that instead of their leaves growing up towards the sun, they were starting to droop down towards their sides.  At first I thought maybe they needed more water (I'm no botanist) so I tried that.  When that didn't work I started to think about their need for sun.  Here in good ole Wisconsin, it has been a LONG winter.  Now that the sun is finally making an appearance more often, I decided to test out my theory, and move the plants out on our tiny porch where they can soak up a lot more sun.  In just a few days of bright sunlight, they are already picking up their droopy little arms and reaching up towards the sunlight.  I seriously love this.  Maybe I sound a little crazy but it really brings me joy!! 

What's crazy to me is that these plants, they seem to just know that they need the light to grow.  They know it so well that if they feel the light, they literally turn their little heads, leaning or growing towards the direction of the sun! And this is where I feel that I've been schooled by my succulents.  

Just as the succulents need the sunlight to grow, I know that I need God's wisdom, His Word, His involvement in my life, in order to grow and to be transformed into the creation that He created me to be.  Knowing this, I want to follow in the example of my succulents.  I need to be really intentional about leaning towards the light.  To seek my heavenly Father more and more, trusting that He can provide exactly what I need to make me grow.  

So, thank you, little succulents for setting such a great example and making me appreciate the sun (and the Son) even more.   

Images by me :)  Thanks to my sweet grandpa and my lovely new Canon T4i.

In Love with Life: Birthday Blessings

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Here I am, two days later, and I am still a little overwhelmed by how blessed and truly celebrated I felt on my birthday.  As I shared in a post about a huge birthday balloon for my sister, birthdays have always been kind-of a big thing in our family.  We try to make them special for each person and make sure they know how much we love them and how special they are to us.  It's actually quite awesome and I'm so blessed to have grown up this way.  Someone recently commented on how birthdays after you turn 21 just don't have a lot to them- how turning the big 27 is really just me reaching my late twenties.  I shrugged, and somewhat agreed, I guess.  But now that my 27th birthday has come and gone, I can honestly say that it is up there on the "most special birthday" list.

Waking up in the morning I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes just enough to give my husband a kiss and receive a few cheerful "happy birthdays" before he went out the door.  Shortly thereafter, I was forced to jump out of bed as the doorbell rang and a beautiful bouquet of flowers arrived from my sweet man.  Taking my flowers into the kitchen I was greeted by a funny card with a love-filled message on the back.  Not even an hour into my day and I was already feeling the love.  I quickly hopped in the shower, threw on a sundress (thank you God for giving me a sunny day) and went out the door to my next birthday event.  Sitting out on the patio, soaking up the much-missed sunshine, (even to the extent of a little sunburn, oops) my super-cute friend, Tara, treated me to mimosas, a yummy breakfast, and a morning birthday sundae at the tasty Cafe Hollander.

Full, on my just-eaten breakfast, I wasn't so sure how I was going to digest quickly enough to make room for the lunch I was supposed to have with my mom in the next 40 minutes.  I went home to sit for a bit, only to find a little package waiting at my door. Another one of my friends, Alexa, had driven 45 minutes to drop a little something off for me!  At this point, I was thinking that this day couldn't get any better.  And then the doorbell rang...

I was expecting to see my cute little mother's face when I opened the door, but was quite surprised to be greeted with a Minnie Mouse balloon that was almost my size!  With a big smile on my face and a little chuckle I opened the door to see my mom AND MY SISTER hiding around the corner.  The caps are most definitely important here, because my sister is a teacher and it is not often that she is able to take time off work.  In fact, she gets 1 personal day for the whole year.  My amazing sister took half of that 1 day, to spend with and celebrate me.  Oof- I cannot even explain how overwhelmed and how special I felt from this enormous gesture along-with the special coordination my mom pulled off to make it happen.  And that wasn't it; the day continued to get better and better as they surprised me with a birthday lunch followed by pedicures!!  We wrapped up the day by heading to my parents house where my sweet pops grilled up some shiskabobs.  We ate together, shared a lot of laughter, some birthday cake and they continued to spoil me with some gifties.  On our way home, I couldn't help but get a little teary in the car as I thought about how truly amazing my birthday had been.  I was so overwhelmed and overjoyed by how much love I had experienced.

The reason I am sharing this is not to rub it in your face or stick my nose up in the air and say "look at what I did, aren't I special?"  I wanted to share this with you because it made me realize the impact that really being shown love in a tangible, physical presence sort of way, makes on our lives.  I don't know about you, but I want to experience love like this everyday!  What's crazy is, that's how God loves us- in a way that is overwhelming, that is all about blessings and encouragement and support amidst whatever trials we are facing in this world.  He created us to desire, receive, and be givers of this crazy love.

One of my dear friends called me a "specializer" yesterday.  She said that I am really good at making people feel special and celebrated, and that she was so excited to hear that I experienced being "specialized" on my birthday.  I was really honored and humbled that she labeled me in that way.  Thinking more about it, I think we are all created to be "specializers"- to make others feel loved and celebrated, and not just on our birthdays.

I am so thankful for everyone who made an impact on my day (and my life) by showing me crazy love.  I hope that I can continue to grow in my role as a "specializer" and make more and more people's days by showing them overwhelming love.


P.S. Thanks to everyone else who sent me love on my special day too!  And a shout out to my Iron Man 3 watching, tattoo-bearing friends. :)
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