the rest of December

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Two Texas girls experience sledding for the first time!

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After a super long day of work, I took myself to Panera to celebrate surviving the crazy month of caregiving. The server walked carefully so as not to disturb the smiley face in my soup. It made my day!

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Martin and Fran-Fran and Sadie!! Having so much fun! 20151221_175919 - Copy

Customized this tag for a certain brother. ;)

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A whirl of celebration and fun, exhaustion and long hours on the road, hope that grows and disappointment that shrivels. I did not expect parts of it to be so wonderful, and other parts to be so hard. It’s tempting at times to try the “Kevin McCallister” option: “I made my family disappear…” but ultimately, I would miss them! So, we hang in there. We forgive, we give grace, we love, we try again. We don’t give up.

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Sunset at Dad’s house.

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When brothers steal your phone.

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Yes. Crashed on a couch between these two after a long travel day. Eli and I were wearing matching shirts I made for Christmas Eve a few years ago.

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Snow in Omaha before I left!

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Getting to meet this little one was the sweetest gift!20151230_184044

Caiden wearing my boots, holding my chapstick.

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Oh Leo, you poor elegant gentleman.

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I call this one: “Happy New Year?”

December so far

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Late nights, early mornings, and everything in between / Yes, I did put Santa hats on all my owls / Delicious flavor / Reindeer antlers / Great joy / WORKING so much / Sitting still and resting / Highly entertaining toddlers and puppies / Sugar high / Christmas lights / Candles / Favorite ornaments / The time of cozy socks & blankets has arrived.

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Living the Dream

Last week a 95-year-old woman took a lovely nap in a comfy chair while someone else (me) vacuumed and cleaned all the blinds. Maybe she didn’t retire to a fancy resort community but I have to say, for someone who spent years working hard as a wife and mother, that nap could be considered the height of luxury.

It was a simple thing but it made me happy!

Thanksgiving week gifts

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Yesterday I had an unexpected break and was able to sit down and add to my list of gifts. This is a habit I didn’t expect to make, but I’ve kept with it for almost 5 years! My perspective has changed in so many ways. Sometimes I do it and it’s very un-inspired. Other times, I just overflow with gratitude, which is really fun. The point is to open my eyes to what is right before me, this day. What do I have to be thankful for this moment? It may be fun, hard, painful, or simple. Together these things make up my life: food, people, opportunities to trust, comfy pj pants, pretty flowers, deep realizations, cups of coffee, silly memories, and more. And they are gifts by the grace of God.
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“The whole of the life — even the hard — is made up of the minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole. These are new language lessons, and I live them out. There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up.” –Ann Voskamp
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For the word of the Lord is upright, and all His work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.
-Psalm 33:4-5 ESV

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Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving!

Scottsbluff National Monument

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I want to share a few more photos from a sibling adventure back in October.
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Jacob took this one of Joe leading the way on his motorcycle.
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J and I posing, with varying degrees of coolness.
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Yay siblings!!!
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Enjoying the view like respectable people.
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If you said, “I bet that didn’t last long…” congratulations, you perceptive person!
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I’ve been making lots of poorly executed memes lately. Hahahahahaha.
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Whyyy does he always look like a model?
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I have the same problem?
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It was cold and windy, but overall a really great day!
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Every Little Thing Giveaway Winner!

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Yay!! The winner is: Cassie! (You will be hearing from me soon. Let me know if you don’t get my email!)

This is perfect because Cassie has spent time at the very camp I shared about in my last post. She also has a blog, writes beautifully, and takes lovely pictures in the Colorado mountains. Just in case you are in need of a virtual mini-vacation!

This whole giveaway made me very happy! I loved reading each comment and hearing from each one who shared. I wish you could all win but know that you are winners in my book! :)

For those who did not win, I have a story:

Back in my college days, there was a contest in the dorms for the best decorated door for fall. The prize: free pizza. (Say no more!) My roommates and I threw ourselves into this challenge, heart and soul.

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We made a tree using REAL LEAVES. We made signs, spider webs, a pumpkin with a shamrock vine, and a life sized scarecrow. We stayed up way too late.

But alas- we lost. The winning dorm room used store bought skeletons and ugly things like that. It was so not cool, so unjust!! We knew and felt deeply: we were the true artists, the real winners. So, we bought ourselves pizza, like champions. And it was delicious.

The moral of my story is: just because your name wasn’t picked, doesn’t mean you can’t have the prize. (This moral works better with things like “pizza” and “a book”.. probably wouldn’t translate to “a gold medal” or “an Oscar” or whatever..) Just go on over to Amazon and order the book for yourself– it’s under $10 right now. Or go find something beautiful and inspiring from Dayspring. Or request these things for Christmas. Where there’s a will there’s a way!

Thanks again, Deidra & Dayspring! And all who shared their lovely comments!

Giveaway: Every Little Thing

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You may remember me sharing about a lovely book I read recently. You may remember I posed with the yellow book in my yellow room, and felt very happy about it all. You may have even wondered “What is all this fuss about, anyway?” Well today I’m happy to share a giveaway where you can win not only your own copy of the book Every Little Thing by Deidra Riggs, but also a gorgeous Everlasting Light: Shine necklace from Dayspring!
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These photos were taken at the camp where I serve every summer. It is a tiny, unassuming place, located near… nothing. It may be small, but it is a refuge to many. Driving by you might peg it as a farm- which was true, once. Barn, quonset hut, granary, farmhouse. It was abandoned by the family after a terrible tragedy many years ago. They left with dinner sitting on the table, uneaten. It easily could have remained just another toppled-over, deserted old farm, covered in layers of dust and junk. Useless. Forgotten.

But God. He does not give up or declare “This is beyond hope. Let’s give up on this one and start with a clean slate somewhere else.” He renews and restores, putting in the hard work with great patience.

In her book, Deidra shares the Bible story of the widow who makes a loaf of bread for Elijah, using the very last of her flour and oil. She writes,

“God hears our desire for purpose; He knows when our dreams have turned to dust and all we know to do is figure out how to eat that last meal before giving it all up for good. ‘Make the bread,’ He says to us when we find ourselves scraping the bottom of the barrel and coming up with nothing. Do the next thing. Do the next, small thing. God is not measuring by the world’s standards. God set the world in motion, and God is making all things new- every little thing.”

Now days the farm is a camp for kids (and adults!) to have fun and grow in their faith. The barn loft is a chapel, a holy space for worship and learning. The granary serves as a bunkhouse. The quonset is a gym, offices, snack shop, game room. The farmhouse is where we gather to eat delicious meals. The sunsets stop you in your tracks, and the stars glow brightly in the night sky.

It’s where I go to be still, and know that He is God. He gives me hope when all I can think is, “Impossible,” He brings light to the darkness, and He is making all things new.
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Giveaway is open to US & Canada only, and no P.O. Boxes, please. (And- I would recommend this book for both men and women. The necklace could make a good gift! Just saying, this is a giveaway for everyone! If you want to learn more about the book go to Amazon or read my review.)

To enter- just leave a comment! Tell me about a place where you go to “get away” and be still. Or just say hi!

I will choose a winner at random and close the giveaway on Friday. (And make sure I have a way to get in touch with you! Blog or email.) I’ll announce the winner on Saturday.

The Best.

Every now and then, my heart needs to be on the high plains. My eyes need to see miles stretching far around me, as much room for the sky as possible. It’s a big sigh of relief for my soul. And I know: I’m close to family.
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Ever since Pastor Ty and his wife Terri were killed toward the end of summer, my perspective has shifted a bit. How could I not want to be influenced by their example as people who loved well? So I kept thinking, during this time with some of the people I love the most in this world, “Wow. What an amazing gift.”
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Doing things with all my siblings as a group has not always been easy or pleasant. Oh no. We have some memories from the years after my parents separated that we can kindof laugh about now, but at the time it was just a miserable experience for everyone. I’m thankful for God’s love holding me close in those painful days.
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We are imperfect and rough around the edges. Our relationships have bumpy and dissatisfying moments. We all struggle with things and take one step forward, two steps back. Our hearts still hold painful scars. But as far as I am concerned: when we are together, it is the best.
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Enjoying some delicious drinks at Cappuccino & Company, where Jacob works! Crystal got home from a retreat, needing coffee, and we rushed over before it closed.
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Breakfast after our late night hanging out and laughing.20151003_002521
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I got to go to Joe’s youth group and see him (and Jacob, his intern!) in action. He is a gentle, wise, caring, supremely FUN and creative youth pastor. I’m proud of him. Proud of all my siblings. Yes including this one:
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I can count on J to fill up my phone with selfies. :) I wouldn’t want it any other way!
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Like I said: the best.

mornings 10.25-10.29.2015

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The little neighborhood girls near church make these amazing flower chains with clover from the yard. They tried to teach me, which was not successful.
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The fluorite octahedrons I got when I went to the rock show with Val and Skip. 
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Rainy day. 
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Does this look familiar?
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All the darkness in the mornings, I’m struggling.