Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dream a little dream

Yesterday I talked to a woman who is speaking at a local women's conference, and she's going to be talking about dreams.

Not sleeping dreams but dreams that you hold in your heart.

It was an interesting conversation that got me thinking about what I dream about.

When I was a little girl, my dreams consisted of finding the right man, getting married and having a family. Check, check and waiting a little while to check off the third one. I also thought I would love to have a job writing encouraging items to women in a magazine or online.

When talking to this speaker, she said that she loves her writing and speaking career because she gets to interact with women. She loves the give and take and the stories she hears. That scared me a little, because I realized maybe that isn't what I dream of. I like to be more secluded, and although I LOVE hearing people's stories I don't know if I would have the passion to constantly be around people, because I am so very introverted.

I love to bake, and I've thought maybe that would be a fun second career. I could do it after I have children from home, but then I am not sure I would want to bake what other people wanted. I usually have a mood and want to bake cookies but not cake, bread but not brownies. I don't know if I would enjoy catering to someone else's moods, and I don't super enjoy the decorating portion of baking.

I love teaching dance, and I do want to continue that, but I wouldn't ever want to do it on a full-time basis because that would feel draining instead of fun.

Basically, everything I love I love a little bit. I don't know what I would want to do that wouldn't feel like work. Maybe that's not the answer though. Maybe I shouldn't be looking for something that doesn't feel like work, because everything will inevitably feel like that.

When I think about dreams, I think about finding something that makes me feel invigorated, revitalized, energized and happy. However, I don't know exactly what that is.

I'm so thankful for my job, and there are days that I absolutely love what I do. And there's days that I just need a vacation, but again, everyone feels like that.

When the woman asked me yesterday what my dream was, I told her I thought it was what she did, writing encouragement to women. Maybe that is it. I don't know if that will ever be my job.

I guess right now, I'm not sure what my dream is. I just pray that whatever dream God put in my heart he will reveal in the right time. Maybe it's something I haven't even considered yet.

Monday, December 30, 2013

A relaxing time

Well, I took a week off for the holidays, and I must say it was a beautiful time.

Looking back at my childhood, Christmas was always full of activity. I would spend the night in my brother's room and we would wake up early to open presents - but not before 6 a.m. because that was the rule my parents set.

We would then gather everything up and head over to an aunt's house for a celebration with my dad's side of the family. Food, more presents, lots of talking and loud laughter. However, by the end of the day, when we would get home it didn't feel like a vacation. We felt exhausted, and I just wanted some more time to recuperate from the day.

This Christmas was entirely different. Since it was on a Wednesday, I only got Christmas Day off from work. Nate also had to work on Christmas night, so my parents decided to come up for a little vacation.

They arrived on Christmas Eve, and we first went to a special church service. I'm so glad that our church has a Christmas Eve service, because I have to admit I usually forget about that part of the holiday. There are nativity scenes around and Christmas carols talk about the reason for the season, but the menu planning and gift buying somehow seems to be the most pressing part of the holidays instead.

At the service there was a little girl who acted as the angel above the nativity, and we laughed through the whole singing time as she periodically flapped her wings - after getting a cue from her uncle in the audience. It was adorable, and it made me smile that my husband got such a kick out of a cute little girl.

Christmas Day we slept in, I made fresh bread and started the chicken and dumplings, we opened a few gifts and then we took our dog on a walk through the fresh snow around the lake.

Even the next few days, I worked and then we made dinner and relaxed at night.

It's been a holiday season, when I look back and say "That was refreshing." People at church were talking about going here and there and this party and spending time with those relatives. It seems exhausting, like I used to think Christmas was. But my Christmas was wonderful, peaceful.

Now it's time for a new year, and I hope that the peaceful feeling from last week with reign in my life for the annum. Peace has always been a difficult thing for me to accomplish and was one of the reasons that I memorized the verse "do not worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

Even if peace didn't reign in your life during the holiday season, take a step back as we enter 2014 and realize that life doesn't have to be as fast-paced as our culture encourages. Life can be simple and sweet and perfectly peaceful.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Take a pause...

Yesterday, trying to take advantage of the hype, I wrote a blog about the Duck Dynasty controversy and how I support Phil Robertson. Then realizing I may have written it too quickly and people might not understand what I was trying to say, I deleted it.

As I started thinking through the whole thing, it gave me a chance to clarify, even to myself, how I felt about everything. And that’s when I realized that’s a huge problem in our society.

When A&E suspended Phil Robertson for his comments on homosexuality, it spurred people to quickly choose sides. It sparked heated arguments. It made national news. People quickly started to fling hate speech when something comes up and they don’t take the time to think through what’s happened.

I honestly think that’s a big part of the problem with the gay rights movement. It’s become so reactionary and emotional. Christians say they think homosexuality is a sin, and then that community thinks Christians are homophobic and bigots. Christians sin all the time. Just because they say something is a sin doesn’t mean they hate those people. Saying the Lord's name in vain is a sin, but I'm not going to hate, not talk to or even bring up the fact when a friend says "OMG." If asked I'll tell them I think it's wrong though. Like I said a couple days ago, we’re to love people while still hating sin. I have lots of people that love me but hate the mistakes I’ve made --- just ask my mom!

On the other side of the coin, Christians should also watch the way they phrase stuff. What Phil Robertson said might have incited less furor if he hadn’t been quite as crass, talking about bestiality when asked about homosexuality. I get what he was trying to say, but I think the way he said it freaked people out so they wouldn’t listen to all he had to say.

I’m one of those people that likes to process before I speak. I found that out yesterday after I deleted my blog. I might feel one way originally and then when I think through my feelings I realize they are a little different that my emotions first spouted.

I think we could all benefit if we stopped to think before we speak or act. We should first show love and then get into a respectful debate. No matter our beliefs it’s important to listen to others, but we can only have respectful debate if we’re not reactionary.

I think Phil Robertson summed it up best in a quote that has gotten left out of some of the debate, “We’d all be better off if we just loved God and loved each other.”

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pope Francis person of the year

The Advocate, a gay rights magazine, made Pope Francis its person of the year this year, and his comment that he wouldn't judge someone who was gay was the main reason.

After so much separation between the LGBT community and the Christian church, I think it's great that someone is bringing them together. I think it often gives Christians a bad name when they speak out against homosexuality in hateful tones, and it gives few non-Christians a reason to want to become a Christian.

However, I'm not sure that everyone is understanding Pope Francis' comments the way that he meant them to. He wasn't saying that homosexuality is not a sin. He was saying that in the Bible were are told "judge not lest you to be judged." It's not up to us to condemn people for their sins, because we also sin.

Because the topic of homosexuality and homosexual marriage are such hot topics today, Christians speak out on those issues. They might think that taking a stand even means not letting those people into the church or not talking to them at all. However, we are OK talking to people who go to church and still struggle with having sex before marriage or who look at pornography. Those are just as serious of sins as homosexuality.

I think Pope Francis just wants people to take a step back and see that there's a difference between saying homosexuality is a sin and judging people for it. We can judge a sin without judging the person who is committing the sin. It's not up to us to judge, it's up to God. And as they say, love the sinner, hate the sin.

So, I'm glad that a gay rights magazine has found a Christian that it can believe in. However, I'm a little scared that people will see the pope in a gay rights magazine and will think that he is supporting homosexuality. I'm a little scared that now all Christians who do believe in what the Bible says, that homosexuality is a sin, will now be seen as even harsher and even more hateful.

It's a thin line, to stand up for what's right and to not alienate others. I hope the pope knows how to approach it, since he does have so much influence. I hope it's used to further God's kingdom.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

An interesting morning

I texted my friend to tell her that we were running a few minutes that to meet her for coffee on Saturday.

When we got there, she was talking to an old man with a cane, and I introduced myself to him.

Steven started talking to me, and I barely had a chance to say "hi" to my friend. It was obvious that he was lonely. My friend was telling Steven about the new church that she and her husband are trying to start in town, and I thought "What a good pastor's wife."

We ordered some drinks as Steven continued to hang nearby. He even asked me for a ride to Walgreens so he could pick up some of his medication. I checked with Nate, because I sure wasn't going to give a strange man a ride without a male with me, and he agreed.

Then a waitress came up to try to shoo Steven away from us, telling him to let us enjoy our drinks.

"I'm not bothering them," he said. "They're my friends."

However, she took my friend aside and explained that we didn't have to talk to him. Steven got the hint from the waitress and sat down at his table, not talking to us any more.

After a few minutes of us catching up, Steven looked over and said, "I'm ready to go to Walgreens whenever you are."

I told him he could come join us as we chatted, and he used his cane to hobble over.

We didn't say much as he told us about growing up in Los Angeles, playing guitar, being a part of a gang, his problems with alcohol, how he reads the Bible now. He said he thought we were good people, because a lot of people push him aside.

"I don't like to be pushed aside," he said.

I found myself nodding along with him and putting on a fake smile. I knew that we were doing the right thing talking to him, but I had to say my heart wasn't in it. I realized that instead of just patronizing him, I should truly care about this man.

Time passed, and then we bundled up and took Steven to Walgreens after saying "good-bye" to my friend.

When Nate and I were driving away, I told him thank you for being nice to that old man. He said that Steven was making up stories — that white people didn't have gangs when Steven was young, and he couldn't play the guitar as well as he said because his hands weren't calloused like they should be — but he wasn't going to call him out on it.

Steven just needed someone to care, someone to not push him aside. And I'm glad that for even a few minutes we could be those people to make him feel like a human again.

That morning made me fall even more in love with my husband, and I thought about how I knew he was a good man but he's an even better man than I realized.

That's why I hate the phrase that he's the "man of my dreams." When women say that, they're so proud their men are everything they thought they would be. My man is so much different and more than I thought my husband would be. He's not the husband I dreamed about. He's so much better.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Grandma's hands

She puts one hand in the other, massaging the bent and painful fingers as she looks at the twisted appendages in disgust. Both of her hands are wrinkled and swollen, constantly aching from the arthritis that has taken hold. She can’t even peel potatoes anymore, to her an embarrassment. Why can’t time just turn back so she can have the soft, white, agile hands of youth once more?

Then she could get up in the morning, before the sun even starts to rise, and put on a work dress. The buttons would be easy to push through the buttonholes. She could brush her hair and pull it back out of her face. She could go downstairs and put on a pot of coffee before heading out to the barn to help with chores.

If only she was young again, then she could use her hands to work the udders of the cows in the barn. She could bring forth milk, grab the handle of the pail and pour it into the separator with ease. Her thin, straight fingers could reach up and easily tuck a disparaging strand of hair behind her hair.

She could go inside and crack the eggs she had just gathered into a hot pan. She could peel potatoes and chop them up to go with the scrambled eggs for breakfast. She could set the table with plates, cups and silverware without thinking how much it hurt to hold the heavy items before setting them down.

She could knead fresh bread dough then punch it down before putting it in the pan to rise before letting it bake in the oven. She could hold a broom with ease and sweep the ever-dirty floors while smelling that fresh bread cook.

While the bread cooled she could dig her hands in the dirt outside, pulling weeds from the garden that helped feed her family. Or she could hold the steering wheel of the tractor steady while assisting her husband in the field.

If youth were back, her hands wouldn’t ache while holding her babies. They wouldn’t be painful while serving up dinner. They wouldn’t smell of pain relief gel when she crawled into bed, exhausted from a long day serving her family.

But inevitably, her hands would eventually be rough, wrinkled and painful. Because she wouldn’t ever give up serving her family just to have those perfect hands she dreams of.

She looks at her hands. Bent, wrinkled, arthritic, clumsy — those hands are proof of her life, spent working hard for her family. Those hands aren’t embarrassing. Those hands should be looked at with pride.

(This work is copyrighted)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Nails, nails, nails

An update on my latest goal, my nails have been on my mind quite constantly lately.

It's been more than a week, and I have bit only one nail. That was the day after I made my goal, so I truly have gone a week without biting my nails! Score!

However, I do have to say that my nails are on my mind A LOT. I run my fingers against them and get the urge to stick them in my mouth, and then I have to sit on my hands or start crocheting or put both hands on the steering wheel to stop the urge.

It's weird that something as stupid as biting your nails can become all consuming. It shouldn't be that big of a deal, but like anything, when you try to stop a bad habit all the sudden you want to do it even more.

It's obviously our sinful nature that makes the bad appear so good, and the good look so difficult.

I just hope that as time passes I'll stop thinking about it as much. Someday in the future I hope it grosses me out to even think about biting my nails!

Friday, November 22, 2013

I bullied too

In sixth grade, I was part of the "popular" group.

There was a girl in my class that wanted to be a part of that group, let's call her Kate. I don't know exactly why we decided that we didn't like Kate or want her to be in our little clique, but we did.

Whenever Kate tried to hang around us, we would ignore her. I remember one time we wrote her a note to meet us on the playground at recess after lunch, and then we ditched and never showed up.

A friend and I were partnered with Kate for a project in class, and I don't remember exactly what happened but I do remember I was mean enough that my mom made me call and apologize to her.

I imagine that what happened that year is much clearer in Kate's mind than it is in my own, because we were mean enough to her that the next year she switched school districts.

I didn't think much more of it.

In high school, I was at the local country club pool with my friend, who was a member. Kate, whose family also had a membership, was also there and was sitting on a deck chair. I hadn't talked to her since sixth grade, and I had a sudden urge to go over there and apologize for what a little brat I had been.

Thankfully, she was gracious enough to accept my apology. We're even Facebook friends now.

There is a lot of news about bullying today and how it has even led to suicide in several cases. I think, "How could kids be that mean?" And then I stop and realize I was that mean, I am just glad that Kate was strong enough and her parents wise enough to get her out of the situation and put her on the path to a better life.

After sixth grade, I no longer was considered popular. I don't even know what happened, but somewhere along the way people decided I was no longer cool either, and although I had many friends, I wasn't ever in that secluded group at the top of social hierarchy.

Social standing is so important when you're a kid, and so many parents push their children to be in the popular group, thinking that leads to a better life. It doesn't. Popularity is so temporary — one day you're in and the next day you're out, with all your former friends tormenting you behind your back and to your face.

I wish that instead of hindsight being 20/20 that kids would just realize how harmful their words are and how lasting the effects. Being mean might make you feel good for a moment, but the memory of what you did to someone else will stay with you and most definitely it will stay with the person you bullied.

I'm truly sorry for the way I acted in elementary school, and I'm sure I alienated people that I could have had good relationships with. I just hope that I can use my experiences to help my children make better decisions in the future.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Unlikely companions, what Christians need to be

I found this Youtube video today, and although it didn't make me "happy-cry" like it said it would, it did make me think a little bit.

This video is adorably full of animals that get along, although they shouldn't. A tortoise takes care of a hippo. A chimp (or orangutan?) is friends with a dog. A capybara is a mom to orphan puppies. These animals sense a need and fill in.

I mentioned this in my blog about "Sons of Anarchy," that I think Christians need to do more of this. We need to take in the people who don't have anyone else, who are lost or hurting or sad. We need to be there.

I think sometimes Christians are so scared of becoming a part of the world that all we do is live apart from the world. The government is now the one taking care of those less fortunate rather than the church stepping in and being God's hands.

Next time you see a little hippo that's all alone (and no I don't mean a literal hippo), step in and be a mommy, even if you're a tortoise.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Dunker burgers

We try to save money when we can. The past month it seems like we've been spending money like it's our jobs — planning a trip, buying presents, getting items for the house, etc.

We like to eat out occasionally, but I try to make food at home that is good enough that we don't have that desire as often.

At a local restaurant, they have something called a Dunker Burger. It's a cheeseburger on grilled Texas toast that you dip in au jus. It is delicious.

It's also pretty simple, so I decided to try making it at home. It was quite successful, so I have made it several times. We actually haven't been back to the restaurant since!

Dunker Burger
1 pound ground beef
Six slices Texas toast
Three slices American cheese
1 (14.5-ounce) can beef broth
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce

Split beef into third-pound portions and make into patties, quite wide so it covers the pieces of bread. Season with your favorite spice blend. Grill or cook on stovetop.

Meanwhile, toast the bread and start making the sauce. Mix together the beef broth and worcestershire sauce, which makes a sauce similar to au jus for a lot cheaper.

When the patties are done, put them on the toast with a piece of cheese. Return all to grill or pan to finish warming and to melt the cheese.

Dunk burgers in au jus!

Note: For the bread this time, I used homemade bread I made this weekend. You can find the recipe here, Sandwich bread.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Nails no more

My name is Kiley, and I'm a nail biter.

My nails actually aren't too terrible right now, because I guess I wasn't that stressed at work this week. The moment I get stressed I go right to biting, or picking the skin around my nails.

I have tried to quit for years and years. I remember my mom purchasing me a Burt's Bees skin ointment that she said she would only buy if I promised to stop picking at my skin. She also bought me a manicure kit when I promised I would stop biting my nails.

I go through highs and lows, but I've never been able to stop the habit.

The problem really is though, that my husband hates it. When he catches me, he will give me a look until I sit on my hands. But they just get so antsy, I have to do something so I start it again.

I was talking about the problem with a friend, and she said her husband used to bite his nails until he decided to stop. Then he stopped.

I don't even understand how it is possible to stop a habit so easily.

But I want to stop. I don't want to have ugly nails or have manicurists look at me like I'm gross and have terrible habits.

So here goes, I'm trying again. And I could use some prayers to keep me at it.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thank you veterans

In the 1940s, we read about how much World War II affected people.

Their food was rationed, and so was rubber. Men were drafted and women took care of the home front or volunteered in factories to make up for their absences.

I can’t imagine living during war time. Oh wait, I do.

I don’t really understand why the war against terror doesn’t seem like as big of a deal as when you look back on other wars in the past century. Maybe it’s that there isn’t a draft going right now, so all the people serving have volunteered for the positions. Maybe it’s because the money is coming from the government instead of the American people having to give up anything to help the fight.

I have seen a brother-in-law, cousin-in-law and a couple of acquaintances be deployed, and thankfully, come back again safely. And although the time they were gone included prayers for them, I can’t say that it affected me much, if at all.

I almost wish that we were forced to sacrifice more here at home. It seems like the people in the military and their families are the only ones giving to the cause of our freedom, and that just doesn’t seem fair. If our country is in a war, shouldn’t we all be involved in some way? I mean, they are fighting for us for goodness sake.

We set aside this day of the year to say thank you to our veterans. We feature them in newspapers and on TV news programs. We interview them on radio shows.

Then tomorrow, they go back to regular life. Some of them dealing with the after effects of going to war feel forgotten, and often our veterans are.

I don’t really have any answers about what to do about this. When I see someone in uniform, I try to make an effort to go over and thank them for their service, just so they know that after Veterans Day their work is still appreciated.

Or if you know someone who has been deployed, or has served in one of our previous wars, maybe all you need to do is listen.

My grandpa served in the Korean War, an experience that was truly awful for him. Through the years I have heard several stories from that time, and I once asked him if he would sit down and tell them to me, but he refused. He just couldn’t deal with bringing those memories up.

However, he still talks about them sometimes. When he needs to get something off his chest, he will slip in another story about his war experiences.

And we just try to listen. It’s obvious that time still affects him, but we can’t go back and fix anything for him. All we can do is listen.

That’s what we can do for all our soldiers and veterans. Because when we listen, it shows that we care and that they matter and their experiences matter. Even if they don’t often talk about it, they will never forget what happened when they served. And it’s important that we don’t try to make it seem like it didn’t happen.

So although this is a small gesture, I want to say thank you. Thank you to my grandpa, my brother-in-law, my cousin, my friends and all the many strangers around the world who have fought and are even now fighting for my freedom.

They’re giving me the freedom to write this, to post my opinions on my blog, to go to church, to have the beautiful American life that I am accustomed to.

You are brave, courageous, selfless, generous, wonderful people. Even if we don’t say it enough, you are all appreciated.

These two little words have big meaning — thank you.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Cinnamon bread

I took a family bread recipe and made stuffed crescent rolls out of it last week, and then I used the other half of the dough to make cinnamon bread.

Nate liked it so much, he said it tasted like Pepperidge Farms cinnamon bread - the highest compliment!

So I thought I would write down a quick "recipe" of sorts, even though I don't have any measurements for the filling. 

3/4 cup milk
1/2 stick salted butter
1/8 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 packet active dry yeast
1 egg
3 1/2 cups flour
Mix milk, butter and sugar together. Scald (until milk is foamy) and cool. Meanwhile, mix together years and hot water. Proof yeast. When milk is cool, add egg into mixture and then add all to yeast. Add about three cups of mix and flour. Turn onto floured surface and knead five minutes with extra 1/2-cup flour.

Cover and let rise in warm spot for 1.5 hours.

Punch down dough, then turn out onto lightly flour surface. Roll out into rectangle.

Sprinkle white sugar, cinnamon and brown sugar on top in whatever quantities you want. Add raisins if desire.

Roll up, place in bread pan and let rise another hour.

Bake bread in 350 degree oven about 30 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Turn onto baking rack and cool.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Happy 90th birthday Jack

Today would have been my friend Jack's 90th birthday.

I had it written down in my planner to make sure to remember his birthday this year, although he passed away this summer and didn't quite make the milestone.

His daughter posted a photo of him as a young man on Facebook and said that she missed him. I guess that's what everyone wants, is to have their family and friends truly miss them when they're gone.

Sometimes I wonder why people die.

There is a little girl in a nearby town that just passed away. She had beautiful eyes and looked like an absolute sweetheart. When that happens, I think maybe that look girl was just too precious. Maybe she had already figured out life, and God decided to take her because she was already as perfect as this sinful life would allow.

However, if that were true, there are some older people I know — Jack included — that seem to have life figured out. They seem to even no longer sin, because they have such a close relationship with God. If they are that good, why wouldn't God take them too?

I know we'll never know why God chooses to take some and leave others here on Earth. I know that he has his reasons for everything and we don't even need to know, but sometimes I just wish there were a few more answers than we have now.

That's where faith comes in.

For some people who aren't Christians, it's hard to not have answers. They think they will only be happy if life makes sense, so they spend time looking for explanations. When there is a question that goes beyond human comprehension, I'm glad that I can just leave it in the hands of someone much bigger and smarter than me. Sometimes I guess it's actually nice to not have to figure everything out.

Monday, November 4, 2013

His eye is on the sparrow

One day last week, I woke up with a stressed out feeling.

I had a lot on my plate for the work week, and it just seemed like I wasn't going anywhere with it. I was waiting for a question to be answered before I could start on one story and was waiting for calls back on a couple of others. I was afraid I just wasn't making progress enough to get everything done in time for my deadline.

I prayed and asked God for a little supernatural intervention that I could just get ahold of the people I needed to reach.

By 10 a.m., all the stories I was freaking out about had been set up and my questions answered.

Sometimes, you think that God doesn't care about the little things. Why would the creator of the universe care about me connecting with the people I needed to interview?

Because he cares.

Remember, his eye is on the sparrow. So I know he's watching me.

(OK, I know that's not a sparrow, but it's the same premise.)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

That speck hurts

Nate's eye was red and watery the other night, and before we went to bed he asked me a couple of times to look and see if anything was in it.

Other than the spidery red capillaries creeping across the inflamed eye, there was nothing to be seen.

The next day, his eye still hurt so I suggested he made an appointment at the eye doctor.

While there, the doctor also didn't see anything, so he dyed the eye. Every time Nate blinked, a line showed up across the dye, which made the doctor question what was causing it. He rolled Nate's upper eyelid back and found a small splinter was embedded in the eyelid, so every time he blinked it was scratching his cornea.

The doctor pulled the speck out, and Nate was 100 percent better. He came home and gave a sigh of relief that the pain and irritation was gone.

It was just a little speck, which came from Nate not following the rules and wearing protective eye gear on his eyes while doing a woodworking project. That little speck didn't cause him a lot of pain, but it didn't feel good and it caused his eye to swell and water to the point where it was hard to see.

Little things matter. When we have a little sin in our life, it causes some pain and irritation. It might even cause situations to swell, and we can't see clearly because of it. If we go see the great doctor, God, and get it taken out of our lives, we can get back to a peaceful life.

If we let it go though, it will continue to scratch and make matters worse. If Nate had let the splinter go, it would have continued to scratch his eye and could have gotten infected, causing possibly permanent damage. Like sin, if left untouched, the problem will grow and grow.

Plus, the speck in Nate's eye was easy to take care of when it was little. Had the problem grown, it would have taken much more drastic measures than tweezers and some eye drops to cure. When sin is little, the damages and the cure are much simpler. Don't let it fester.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Little things

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the little things matter.

Tonight, I was at a high school football game taking photos of our paper. My butt buzzed, and I pulled out my phone to read a text from my husband.

"You look cute."

I was just in jeans and a jacket with my hair pulled back, but as he stood on the sidelines — by the way he was looking handsome too — he still thought I looked cute.

I have to say it made my night, just that little statement. Because I knew that the way I feel when I see him far off, that little pitter patter that still wells up within me and the smile that comes on my face when I see my handsome man, I guess he feels like that too.

Then, earlier today, I helped him for like two minutes on a project he was working on in the basement, and he told me he appreciated my help.

It's simple, but those little words make my heart well up.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Chicken and dumplings and apple crisp

I'm horrible about remembering to take photos of stuff as it happens, but last night I made a delicious dinner, so I thought I would share some recipes.

You'll have to use your imagination about what it looks like :)

Chicken and dumplings
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 cup milk
2 quarts chicken broth
3 cups cooked chicken
Buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, because all the work is done for you, and it's cheaper than cooking your own whole chicken. Get all the meat off of it, and freeze half. The other half will be used for the soup.

To make the dumplings, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Cut butter into dry ingredients. Stir in milk until dough forms a ball. Roll out on a floured surface and use a pizza cutter to cut into squares.

Drop dumplings in boiling broth. Cook for 15-20 minutes.

Add in shredded chicken and cook until warm.

Apple crisp
4-5 cups sliced apples (I used ones I had cut and frozen this summer)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup melted butter
Layer sliced apples in a buttered 9-by-9 baking dish. Mix other ingredients and spread over top.

Bake about 20-30 minutes in 350 degree oven, until apples are soft and bubbling.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Heart matters

I've been thinking on sincerity a lot lately.

I think it boils down to whether I do things just because it's the right thing to do or because it comes from my heart. I know how to put on a good face and make a good impression, but does that really mean anything if it just makes me feel better or makes people like me?

When I talk to people at church, am I approaching them because I genuinely care or am I just doing my duty? As much as I think that it doesn't matter, as long as they feel good after the conversation, I think that they know whether I am patronizing them or am truly sincere. I know that I can tell when people genuinely care or are just taking the prescribed social steps.

When I volunteer, is it because I really want to help or just because I want to look good? I actually didn't do something recently that I was going to volunteer for, because I thought that I was just doing it to look good instead of it being from the heart.

It's similar to what I talked about yesterday with the checklist Christianity. Check — I did my good deed for the day or the week. Check — I asked about how someone was doing. That means God should be pleased with me, right?

When non-Christians do something good and expect to get into heaven because they are "basically good," we tell them their good deeds aren't worth anything. They can't clean us from sin. When we are Christians, our good deeds don't count for anything either, if we do them just to try to earn brownie points. They are only worthy of praise when we don't do them for praise.

The Bible says to lend money without expecting it to be returned. We should also give of ourselves without expecting anything back — no thank you, no return good gesture, no pat on the back from God. We do it because our hearts want to help.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


My best friend loves Post-It notes.

In college, she had them in multiple colors, and they were stuck everywhere. She had a Post-It for her homework, one for long-term projects, one for her daily to-do list. She loves them so much that people buy them for her as gifts and think of her when they see Post-Its while out and about.

I am not necessarily a fan of Post-Its, but I am a huge fan of lists.

My daily planner is completely full of lists. I have a list of what to do at work that day, and then I have a list of what I need to do that night. I sometimes write up a week's to-do list on the wipe board in our kitchen. I have an ongoing meals list on the refrigerator, as well as a foods-we-need list for the next grocery trip. I have a list of items that I think will be great in our garden next spring.

One of my favorite parts of having the to-do lists is I get to cross items out. My planner has a place to put a check mark for the items you have completed, but I don't use that. I love to cross tasks out so that they really look like they are done.

One of our pastors talked about check-list Christianity this Sunday. One place where I really have check-list Christianity is in my Bible reading. I put it on my nightly task list, and then I cross it off when I have read a little.

And that's on the good nights. On the good nights, I read what I am supposed to from the reading list. On the OK nights I rush to read something just so I can cross it off the list. On the bad nights, I forget the Bible reading because I'm too busy finishing up the other daily tasks.

Our other pastor is our mentor in our new Sunday School class, and he talked about the importance of us giving God our best. We shouldn't wait until the last minute of the day to cross off a task but we should really want to read our Bible and converse with God.

I have always struggled with this, and I'm not sure how to get better at it. I still haven't figured out what time of day is "best," and if I did I still need prayer to want to give that time of day to God.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Faith like a child

This might seem like a coincidence to some, but I believe there truly is power in prayer.

This week, I went to a bone and joint doctor to get my ganglion cyst looked at.

After taking x-rays to make sure it was actually a cyst and not a bone growth, the doctor said that he would numb the area and then stick the cyst with a "bigger" needle to pop it.

"Don't think about it," I said to myself, because I really hate needles. I texted Nate and told him I wished he was there with me, but he was out of town for work. I checked my e-mail on my phone and just tried to not concentrate on what was coming up next.

The nurse came in to rub the area with some kind of cleanser, and she put two needles on the bench beside my chair.

When the doctor came in and sat on a stool in front of me, I turned my head to the right as he took hold of my hand with one of his hands and a needle with the other hand.

He said he was just going to fill the cyst with lidocaine to numb it before using the other needle. I felt the little needle go in once, twice, three times.

Then the doctor started rubbing the area with the cyst.

"It popped with the smaller needle; you just saved yourself from having to use the bigger needle."

Hallelujah, thank you Lord!

I called my mom after the procedure to let her know my ganglion cyst was drained, and my wrist was back to normal. She was surprised, because she thought the appointment was an hour later than it was, but then she said that she and my 1.5-year-old niece had already prayed for me.

When my mom laid my niece down for her morning nap, Mom asked her who she wanted to pray for.

"Kiley," she said, although it comes out more "Kiwee" than anything.

They prayed for the appointment, and then it just happened to go better than I could have expected.

Just happened to, huh? I don't think so. Jesus said "Gather the little children unto me," because they have such great faith. Even a 1.5-year-old can have faith her heavenly daddy. And it worked out well for her aunt.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Cleaning with a dirty hand

People often think, "If I just have enough will power, I can change."

In some circumstances, this is true. We can change how we eat, how we react to difficult situations, our tempers. However, we can't change our insides.

On Sunday, my pastor likened people trying to become better to trying to clean the dirt off your clothes with a muddy hand. It doesn't work.

When our sinful selves attempt to clean our insides, we can't do it. You have to start out with perfection to be able to clean something dirty. Jesus' perfection is the only way to get rid of our sin.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Two years, few changes

We've changed homes twice, and she's gone from 12 pounds to 60, but this little girl has not changed much.

Happy second birthday Noveske. I'm glad you're a cuddler!

Friday, October 11, 2013

The thankfulness perspective

I'm sure I've said this before — life is all how you look  at it.

I am a member of a Facebook group for women whose husbands are in the same career as mine. Many of them are very supportive, while others post their complaints about the career, which can have odd hours.

Tonight, my husband and I had a little time together before I had to go back to work, but he was called into work. I thought, "Typical, he has to go in when we actually have time together." Then I thought, "Well, at least he gets the overtime."

When you start to think about it, pretty much everything that happens to us can be looked at in a good light or a bad light.

We just took our dog to the vet, and it cost more than $100 because she has a yeast infection in her ears. Bad: It cost that much money. Good: We found a solution for the problem, and she can get better.

I have to work tonight, like most Friday nights. Bad: I have to work on a Friday night. Good: I have a job.

I have the consultation about my ganglion cyst on Tuesday. Bad: I have to spend money on another doctor's appointment. Good: I have insurance that will cover most of it, and hopefully the problem can get taken care of.

When I start to look at the bad side of situations, I try to take a step back and think about all I have to be thankful for about that instead. It's not always easy, because sometimes my emotions want to take over and tell me that being negative is more convenient. However, God gave me this life and everything in it can be used for my good. I can learn from situations and appreciate what is happening, because he is in charge and obviously saw fit for these things to happen.

Yes, I am going through a pretty easy time in life right now. But maybe that's just in preparation for a hard period down the road. If I learn these lessons now hopefully I can put them into practice in challenges in the future.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Jesus' role model in the "Sons of Anarchy"?

I've been watching "Sons of Anarchy," the fifth season, and I started wondering what the draw was to a life like that.

I know it's just a TV show, but I've also read some books about motorcycle gangs like the Sons. Some of the men involved really are terrible people and have a need for violence and death. However, some of them seem like they have good hearts and are just caught up in something that is worse than they want it to be.

Whenever someone on "Sons of Anarchy" wants to leave the life, he decides not to because of his bond with the other members. They're like a family, and they don't want to leave family.

There was a funeral in one episode, and it showed some of the people who weren't members but would do anything for the club because it was like a family. There was a man with a mental disorder that made everyone else shun him. There was a porn star. There was an old ex-cop who didn't have anyone to turn to. The club took them in, and they can't leave the terrible life because they have no one else.

Don't you wish the church was like that - a place where people could go when they have no one else and feel so at home they don't want to leave? How many more people would be drawn to Jesus if we just showed the same acceptance that a motorcycle gang does?

That's exactly the example that Jesus set. He held an extremely high standard for himself - perfection - but he didn't avoid people who didn't live up to that. He just accepted them. And because of that, they loved him.

Mary Magdalene had seven demons cast out of her, and we know that she had a bad life. She just wanted to find acceptance, and Jesus showed that to her. Because of that, she would have done everything for him, even throw a year's wages onto his feet in the form of expensive perfume.

You wouldn't think you could see Jesus in a motorcycle gang. But there's lessons everywhere you look.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Insanity, the second round

Life has just seemed a little on the crazy side lately, in a good way. We've been going and going, so the blogging has slipped to the side.

In the near future, it seems like our lives aren't going to contain anything out of the norm, so I'll try to resume talking to you all on a regular basis.

Tonight, the goal is to start Insanity again. We did the Insanity workout before we got married, prepping for our trip to St. Lucia. Now it's getting close to the time we will be heading to the Caribbean, so it's time for this girl to tighten her muscles back up and get bikini ready. Seem a little backward since summer is over? Maybe, but that's how it's working out.

Oh to the ve. This kicked my butt last time. Let's see what happens this time around! I'll keep you posted, and maybe that will keep me accountable!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Show a little appreciation

We haven't been married very long, and I'm sure that some people with more experience under their belts will shake their head at our naivete. However, I want to share something that has been working well in our relationship that just might be something others want to add.

Last week was a really busy week. After my family visited, it seemed each evening was full and I didn't have time to do laundry or pick up. The kitchen got more and more cluttered with dishes, the stove adorned with food droppings, the living room covered in opened mail.

Yesterday, I finally had some free time after church to pick up. I canned tomatoes and started the third of seven loads of laundry. I was exhausted and took a nap. Then it was time to do the cleaning.

Maybe it's just me, but when I have a lot to do, I don't even want to start. A little bit means a little bit of time, so it's easier to get motivated. A lot to do means a lot of work, and I just would rather keep putting it off.

However, I dug in. I cleaned the bathrooms, swept, dusted, vacuumed, picked up all the clutter, cleaned the kitchen.

Finally, when Nate came home from dinner the house was pretty much clean, although I still needed to fold and put away laundry.

He came in and said "The house looks nice."

It was a little compliment, but it meant that he noticed my hard work and appreciated it.

He is good about complimenting me on my work at home: Canning, cleaning, sewing. The appreciation makes me want to keep doing what I do.

Whenever he does stuff, I try to express my appreciation and say "Thank you" or "It looks great" so that he is also motivated to keeping up the effort.

In marriages that include a lot of fighting, it seems that the husband and wife feel underappreciated and are no longer motivated because they don't think their efforts are noticed. I don't want that to happen to us, and I'm so glad, so far, we've been able to show our gratitude and appreciation for each other.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The comparison game

A girl I went to elementary school with, according to Facebook, just got back from a honeymoon to Bora Bora, Tahiti and Madeira.

I'll admit, I'm a little jealous. I would love to go to the south Pacific. It looks so gorgeous, but I could never get that much time off work to make such a long trip, and we definitely don't have the money.

We did just book a trip to the Bahamas for next year, though. It doesn't sound quite as cool, but then I thought about it a little bit. If I saw someone post pictures of St. Lucia one year and the Bahamas the next, I would think how lucky they were to get to take those trips and how much money they must have.

We sure don't have a lot of money, but it all depends on who you compare it to. We are incredibly blessed to have the means to go to the Bahamas right now. When we talk about where our parents were when they were first married --- my parents said they pulled their bed into the kitchen of their trailer to sleep by the warm oven --- we are ridiculously well off. Compare ourselves to a lawyer or a doctor or a family with generations of money, and yes, we're poor.

Really, we shouldn't be comparing ourselves at all. God has seen it best to place us right where we are in our lives, and who are we to judge? We should be thankful for every speck and morsel we get from him.

Our pastor talked about this when teaching on the last chapter of John. When Peter found out he would die a martyr's death, he asked "What about John? Isn't John going to die too?"

Jesus told Peter to mind his own business. No, John did not die as a martyr. He was dropped in a pot of boiling oil, but he didn't die. He was exiled to a deserted island and didn't die. He eventually died of old age.

God had a plan for both Peter and John, and who were they to say if it was right or wrong. God had a reason for it and that should be enough.

So next time you're tempted to compare yourself to another, don't. Instead, stop and say "Thank you" that you are right where you are, because there's a reason for it. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Visit from mom - and dad and brother

It's so nice to spend time with family.

When you're little, you love to be around your family. You cry when Mom or Dad leaves you with someone else, because you could spend every waking moment with them and be happy. When you hit your teenage years, something in those hormones makes you cringe when Mom or Dad enters the room. You don't want to spend any time with them and look like a dork. When you grow out of that stage, it becomes wonderful to spend time with them again.

My parents and my brother visited this weekend. The men went duck hunting each morning, and my mom and I got to spend some great time together.

It's never crazy things that we do. We went to secondhand stores, tried glass etching, made dinner. However, it's just nice to know that you are loved and that someone likes to spend time with you doing the simple things.

When I was little, BFF rings, bracelets and necklaces were popular. I had a couple, although I don't really remember who they were from.

One, I remember though. I still have it somewhere, although I don't know where it is tucked away amidst my childhood treasures. It should be in my ballerina, musical jewelry box.

That ring was a Friends Forever ring that I got from my mom. It's the only BFF piece of jewelry that I ever had that I know is true. We might have had our ups and downs when I was a teenager, and we might not always agree on everything, but when something good or bad or newsworthy happens, I know that I can share it with her. She is a wonderful friend, and I'm so blessed to have her.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Thank a Police Officer Day this weekend

This Saturday is National Thank a Police Officer Day.

I've written before about how law enforcement officers often get the shaft when it comes to being shown appreciation.

People think of firefighters or the military first, because those men and women give of themselves but don't have to punish their consituents. They save someone's house from a fire or go overseas to punish our enemies and make it safe for us to live in this country.

Police officers serve and protect, and often that means punishing the people in our community who do wrong. They have to give tickets when people are speeding or have a brakelight out --- making the roads more dangerous. They arrest people who get drunk and start fights, even if those people think the fight was warranted. They might have to come intervene in a family argument that gets out of control, keeping those people safe even if they are angry that someone is butting in.

Sometimes police officers aren't appreciated because they can't solve everything. They might not be able to find your lost puppy or find your stolen wallet. They will try to solve your problems, but some things are even beyond their control or are too small considering what else they have to do.

Law enforcement officers also have to uphold all the laws, even if they don't think they are right. If you try to take up your case with one that you are breaking the law because it is a stupid law, it won't work. They have taken an oath to uphold the law, no matter what it is. They don't make the laws.

But law enforcement is important. If they didn't uphold the law, can you imagine what the world would turn into? I think they just created a movie like that, "The Purge."

So when you get a ticket, apologize for doing something wrong and take the punishment. When they come to your house to help you out, thank them, don't yell at them. Be understanding that their job is tough, and they don't want to be dealing with your situation any more than you do.

This one day a year, show your appreciation for all that law enforcement does in the community. Just a little thank you can make a week's worth of trouble worth it. Who doesn't appreciate a little appreciation?

So, thank you. Thank you all law enforcement officers for your honesty, your courage, your hard work,  your dedication. Thank you for all you do and all you are. We salute you.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Thankful for...

It's Friday the 13th, and it's supposed to be one of the scariest days of the year.

But like most things, life is all about how you look at it. So think on the bright side and think about what you're thankful for today.

1. A husband that is willing to run little errands for me, like bringing my computer charger while I'm teaching dance since I was running out of battery to play the music.
2. Wireless Internet that lets me watch "Golden Girls" online on Youtube.
3. The money to pay all the bills we have.
4. Weather that is cooling down, which means our puppy wants to cuddle again!
5. A full refrigerator and freezer with a month's full of meals I can make.
6. A healthy immediate family.
7. A pastor and his family that treats us as friends.
8. The money to be able to fix up our new home, slowly but surely.
9. The talent to cook and bake for family and friends.
10. A God that loves me and watches over me, no matter what.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Doing things for him vs. being with him

On Sunday, I worked at the coffee bar at church and entered service a little late. I was working the coffee stand by myself as Nate had to work the night before and was exhausted, so I told him to sleep.

I knew that the flavored coffee carafe was only half full, and I was worried that it was going to empty while I was in church. As the singing continued, I wondered if I should go back out to check it before the sermon started.

I finally decided that it was better to be in service and praising God than to worry about the coffee running out while the sermon was going on. However, it kept nagging me.

That made me think of an "Adventures in Odyssey" episode features a little girl going back to Bethany to visit Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

Martha complains that Mary is sitting at Jesus' feet versus helping serve the meal that was keeping Martha busy in the kitchen instead of listening to Jesus talk. Jesus rebukes Martha and said that being with him was more important and Mary chose the right path.

Lazarus later tells Martha, "Doing things for him isn't the same as being with him."

That lesson was reiterated when the pastor preached on Sunday about Jesus appearing the disciples while they were fishing, after he had risen from the dead. Peter jumped into the sea and swam to shore to hug Jesus, while the other disciples finished what they were doing before bringing the boat to shore.

Peter knew what was important and left everything else, not worrying about finishing his work because seeing Jesus was more important.

Sometimes I put doing things for God in front of being with God.

And it's the same with people. Serving isn't always a substitute for just spending time with each other.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The perfect first year

The final day of our anniversary, we recapped the morning after we got engaged and had breakfast in the hotel.

After the drive home, we were invited to dinner by some friends who even surprised us with an "anniversary pie."

All-in-all, the best way to describe our first anniversary weekend is "perfect."

It wasn't just the fact that we had a wonderful time and created some great memories, but it was that we got to celebrate our first year of marriage - a successful year I might add.

I had heard a lot of people say that the first year of marriage is the hardest. I hope that is true, because if this is the hardest year we have we're in for easy sailing the rest of our lives. I can honestly say we haven't even had a fight this year - little disagreements like any normal people have but not even a real out-and-out argument.

I don't know exactly what to credit this wonderful first year to. Maybe it's the fact that we have already been together for almost 10 years. We know each other pretty well. We've dealt with changes in each other and know how to go with the flow. We have melded together already - him becoming a little more structured and me becoming a little more spontaneous. Or maybe we shouldn't take any credit and say simply that God blessed us with a wonderful first year together and a period of ease in our lives.

This first year has been wonderful because I have a wonderful man to share my life with. He has really surprised me in some areas, showing me what a romantic and godly man I am married to. I am not just lucky that I have him, because it certainly isn't luck that we're together, I am blessed. God has truly blessed me with a life that I can absolutely beam about. I am so happy, and I hope that in the moments of trouble in the future that I can look back at these times and remember them to put a smile on my face.

And thank you for those of us who have supported us - through our dating years, our growing years, our engagement, our wedding and our marriage. We appreciate the love our families give us.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

First anniversary: Part III

Always having dreamed of going to the Kentucky Derby, I wanted to dress up and wear a floppy sunhat to the races at Canterbury Park.

I had on a dress until Nate informed me it was only supposed to be in the high 60s, so I dressed down and wore jeans to be warm instead of cute.

It was probably a good thing, because some people there were as casual as in athletic shorts, so I fit right in.

We saw the Budweiser Clydesdales in their pens and laughed at one brawny creature that would pick up his hay, bring it over to his water pail and dunk it before he ate it.

We found the paddock and listened to the announcer and analyst go over the day's races, deciding who was going to be our pick in each. As the first race mounted, I smiled at the beautiful horses just a few feet away.

Nate wanted to bet so we went up to a machine, but I was worried about missing the horses, so I left him there and went out to sit by the track. He didn't make it to me before the horses were off, and then crossed the finish line only 20 seconds later in the 400 yard quarter horse sprint.

I was excited because the horse that we picked was first, and I hoped that Nate had made the $2 bet before the race was completed.

He finally found me and informed me he had made a bet before the race, but he didn't understand the machine so he accidentally bet on a race in Albuquerque.

The next race we each had our own choice, Nate went for the favorite while I went for a longer shot named Irish Brew. He sounded like he could be a good bet, and his name was interesting.

Nate's horses flew past the finish line first. My pick came in almost limping after the entire field.

For the next seven races we picked a winner as well as tried to figure out the top three in order, known as a trifecta. Several times we had the right horses, just in the wrong order. All in all, we lost every single bet after Nate won about 40 cents on that second race.

It was so special to attend the horse races. I grew up reading the "Thoroughbred" series of books and have always been a lover of racehorses, even though I've never seen them in person. They're just so beautiful and regal and fast. It's incredible to watch them.

From the stands to watching one race with our eyes right at dirt level by the finish line, this was an amazing experience.

And the fact that we then concluded the day with a snack at White Castle --- for Nate not me, a trip to IKEA and an evening of appetizers at a local restaurant, it was yet another perfect day of our anniversary trip.

Next up: Our actual anniversary

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

First anniversary: Part II

Friday night I went into the office to cover sports games and got the first call. I was still expecting to be there until at least 1 a.m. since it was the first Friday night football game of the season.

However, at 11:30 p.m. the sports editor told me my story was edited and I could go home because there were enough people there to cover the last two games that needed to come in. I threw my two thumbs up in the air like Phil Robertson and happy, happy, happily made my way out the door.

I was so excited for the weekend and so exuberant that I got off work early, I wanted to call someone and share my joy. There wasn't really anyone to call at that point, so I directed my joy heavenward because I knew that God would appreciate my joy just as much as I did.

"Thank you Lord for everything" was pretty much what my prayer boiled down to.

Saturday, Aug. 31, started off sleepily. I got up when Nate got home from work at 7 a.m. and then cut his hair. We packed everything up and were on the road by 9:30 a.m., although we realized we didn't see Novie inside and drove back home to check that she hadn't escaped the house while we were packing - she hadn't.

We drove to OC to say good-bye to Jack at his funeral. I told Nate I felt a little guilty being so happy about the weekend when it started off with a funeral, but honestly, I think Jack would want me to be happy on this special anniversary.

Since he hadn't slept the night before I drove us to Minneapolis while Nate took a nap in the car. We pulled up to the hotel and unloaded the car, the valets looking on as we unloaded what appeared to be our house - including a bag of food and a cooler, because we were trying to save eating out costs. Nate lost the valet ticket almost immediately so I had to go ask for another one, and we just laughed later at how out-of-place we felt.

"I think the small town conversion is complete," I told Nate.

He took another nap while I curled my hair and we headed out to the Dakota Jazz Club to see Janika Magness. The people at the will call table offered to upgrade us, and we accepted. We followed the maitre de to a spot near the stage, and to give us "privacy" from the foursome next to us she pulled our table literally an inch away from theirs. There was another two-person table an inch away on the other side.

That wasn't exactly the privacy we had envisioned for the evening.

Nate went back to the will call table, and they gave us our original table back with a worse view on the balcony but so much more privacy.

Someone sent us two glasses of champagne in honor of our anniversary, and Nate and I decided to just chat until it was closer to concert time when we would order our main courses. It was more than an hour before the show started, and then all of a sudden we realized we had been chatting even longer than we meant to.

We picked our entrees and then listened as Magness' band warmed up. They jammed until the leopard-print clad Magness joined them on stage, her soulful voice booming out.

We ate and listened and ate some free dessert that appeared at our table and finally the concert was over and it was time to leave.

All I can say is, perfection. It was an absolutely perfect night and the perfect way to start our first anniversary weekend.

Next up: Part III: The races!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First anniversary: Part 1

Nate and I had talked about what we would do for our first year anniversary. We're trying to save some money for a big trip next year, so we thought we would just stay in town and have a nice dinner out.

Then last week I thought it would be fun to go to Valleyfair Amusement Park in Shakopee, MN, for a short trip. So I asked Nate if he wanted to do that, since we both love amusement parks.

He looked at me kind of oddly and then said, "We're already going to Minneapolis."

Then it was my turn to look at him oddly.

"Where are we going?"

He told me he booked a stay at the beautiful hotel we stayed at when we got engaged and was going to take me to the horse races on Sunday. Then he said he had already packed me a bag and everything. He then took me upstairs and got out the two bags to show me what he had packed.

"I stood in your closet for two hours looking at everything. Then I just decided T-shirts, I can do T-shirts."

He had picked out several different options, from T-shirts (including the camisole to go under the white shirt) as well as shorts and jeans. He picked out a silver dress to go out and another dress that I could wear a fancy hat with to go to the races. Then he had a separate bag of shoes to go with each outfit.
He had a note to pack my make-up and jewelry at the last minute so I wouldn't notice it missing. I have to say, even though he ended up telling me about the surprise, it was the sweetest thing ever.

I called my mom to tell her what he had planned, and I was just over-the-moon excited about everything. He had not only planned something, but he planned something to the extent that he had given deep thought about what I would enjoy and what would be special to me. He went to the trouble of packing my clothes, which many men wouldn't attempt to do in a million years.

They often say it's the thought that counts, and it completely is. I don't know if I expressed my appreciation as well as I should have, but my heart was just so full of love and appreciation that it could have exploded. I always knew I had a great guy, but he seems to be growing and changing and getting even more amazing every day.

Next up: The first day of our trip

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Almost one year!

A year ago we had company starting to come in town as our wedding day approached.

It was those last hours, and everything was done. It was just a waiting game until I finished one more day of work and looked forward to the best day of my life so far.

I'm glad that day is over. It was wonderful and perfect, but I have enjoyed being married too much to want to go back to a time that we weren't.

As we come upon our one-year anniversary I see yet again what a wonderful man that I have married. I had to brag a little bit the last couple days as I found a couple of surprises he had for me.

First, he revealed that he had a whole weekend planned for us — staying in the hotel we stayed at when we got engaged, going to horse races for the first time, which is something I have dreamed of doing for years, and he had even packed my bag for me. Then he wasn't sure I had everything I needed so he told me.

Then today, he went to pick up a free file cabinet I found posted online, and he came back daisies he picked while he was away. He probably would be embarrassed that I'm writing about all this, but I just feel so blessed to have him. It has put me over-the-moon happy just like I was last year at this time.

If Jack were here, I would share it with him, and I think he would tell Nate it's a job well done.

I think we're well on our way to being one of those couples like the one in yesterday's video.

I love you honey!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Dare you not to cry

This reminded my husband of Jack.

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It's videos like these and lives like Jack's that remind me to prioritize. Why do we spend so much time online, looking at other people's lives on Facebook while the people we love are being ignored nearby. Life is so beautiful and we only have one chance. Put God first and your family second. Choose to be present and make memories in those little moments. Take a step back to a slower time and enjoy your family.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Remembering Jack

The world lost a beautiful spirit today as my e-mail pal Jack passed away.

I met him right after I started work, doing an interview with him about how he used to run a small-town grocery store that did house-to-house delivery.

When I was there, he mentioned that his wife was in a nursing home and he was lonely. I gave him my card and said to e-mail me if he ever wanted to just chat.

That turned into a beautiful, four-year friendship. We started out e-mailing a couple of times a day. Lately it had been once a week, but that is more than I talk to some of my closest friends that are my age.

We talked about his wife and her eventual passing, his life growing up, his life in the Navy, his life now. I talked about my trips, my work, my marriage. He grumbled about his health and aging and I grumbled about the predicaments in my life.

We visited in person a couple of times, and he always sent me home with candy even though he couldn't eat it himself because he couldn't eat much sugar.

It was a chance encounter, and I am so glad that I handed him my card.

So many elderly people are overlooked because they aren't in the throws of society. However, they have so much wisdom to impart. Jack encouraged me to put my husband first and to give, even when it's not noticed. He said that he did little things his wife probably didn't notice, and he is sure she did the same. They had a long and happy marriage, what more can you ask for?

Jack made cards for people on his computer. He always told me that he felt silly giving them away, but he had no idea how those little pieces of thoughtfulness touched people. I still have my wedding card and birthday card. Then today, I received a first anniversary card from him and smiled at it. It was just a minute later I checked the messages on my phone and found a voicemail from his daughter-in-law saying he had died.

Nate pulled me into a hug. And then I smiled, because I realized that as a Christian and lover of God he is now dancing in heaven with his wife in his arms. How beautiful when you know that kind of reunion happens for those who trust in Jesus.

Jack was so selfless, even making me an anniversary card when he e-mailed me that he wasn't feeling well and was going in for tests.

All I can say is, what a beautiful man. I am so blessed to have called him my friend, and I told him that many times. My prayers go out to his family, and yet my heart rejoices as I know that he and his wife are happy together in heaven.

I won't ever forget him.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A reminder to appreciate

It's weird when different parts of your start to line up, making it obvious that God is in control and wants you to learn something.

Recently, it's been the story of Jesus' crucifixion that keeps popping up. My pastor is preaching on that section of John in church; Nate and my Bible reading at home is in that section of Matthew right now. It doesn't seem like that would line up unless God wanted it to.

I've read the story and heard it hundreds of times before, growing up in church. However, lately I have heard a lot more details about it. For instance the cat-o-nine tails that was full of shards of glass and hooks that would pull off the skin and sometimes even the ribs of the people being whipped with it.

I have to be honest, I got queasy this Sunday when the pastor talked about what suffering Jesus went through. In fact right now I realize I unconsciously had a look of detest and disgust on my face as I even think back on it.

When it came time to read the chapter about Jesus' crucifixion again in Matthew last night, I wanted to skip it. It's horrible, and I don't want to keep reliving that part of Jesus' life. Can't I just focus on the good and the happy?

But no, it's important that we meditate on this part of Scripture. The greatest gift we receive, salvation, only came through the most heinous crime in history committed against a completely innocent man. If we don't know what Jesus went through, how can we be appreciative.

It reminds me a little bit of police officers. This might be a stretch, but stick with me. We don't often hear all that police officers go through. We know they pull people over for speeding and arrest drunks. However, we don't hear about the fights that are everyday occurrences, the scrapes and bruises, being at gun point while trying to protect those asleep in the next house.

When people hear stories about some dangerous situation a police officer encounters, they often express gratitude and appreciation. If they really knew all that a law enforcement officer was going through day in and day out, they probably would express it more often.

When we think about all Jesus went through, it gives us a reminder to express appreciation. Thank you Jesus for dying for us, and thank you for rising again to conquer death. Help us to remember each day what you did, and why you did it.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ganglion cyst

A couple of months ago I noticed a lump on my wrist when I bent it.

I thought one of my wrist bones was out of place, but when I went to the chiropractor he diagnosed it as a ganglion cyst.

It's basically a fluid-filled pack that lives in between my wrist bones. There's no real reason for them and there's nothing you can do about it except take it out with surgery. They called the Bible-thumping cysts because they used to hit them with a big book to pop them. However, now they know that can cause a lot of damage and it also can refill again.

I went to the doctor today and told her about my cyst, and she recommended I go see a hand surgeon to get it checked out and probably get it removed.

She noted that they can grow and eat away at the bone around them and they can also reduce feeling and movement in the hand if left alone.

That all sounds bad, but it makes me not want to spend the money on getting it taken out. Sure insurance will cover part of it, but I hate to spend Nate's hard-earned money on getting out something that doesn't have to be taken out.

I guess I'll just go to the doctor and see what he says. Maybe it will be nothing. Maybe it will be worse than I think!

Monday, August 19, 2013

On the old rugged cross

Our pastor taught yesterday on the crucifixion of Jesus.

At first it sounds odd --- usually churches on teach on that section of the Gospels around Easter time. But really, how terrible is that? We only talk about the greatest gift given to us once per year?

I think what hit me the most was when he said that on the cross, Jesus became the most vile human being ever to set foot on Earth. He became worse than even Hitler. He became not only a mass murderer but a pedophile, a pornographer, a liar, a homosexual, a complaining wife, a shoplifter, a husband with a wandering eye. He became so horrible that God the Father turned his back.

I knew that Jesus died for our sin, but I never thought about him actually taking it on, becoming it, feeling the guilt and the shame of every wrong thing to ever happen before or in the future. Think of how guilty you feel when you yell at your kids or talk behind a friend's back. You feel bad and you have sinned plenty before. Think about how terrible Jesus, who had never felt the guilt or shame of sin, felt at that moment.

And yet, he wasn't thinking about himself or how bad he felt. He asked John to take care of his mother. He didn't give up and take himself down off the cross. He loves us so much that he was willing to go through whatever it took to make us clean.

I just wish that everyone could know the beauty of Jesus' forgiveness. He already died for them, if only people knew that all they had to do was accept what he did and be fully cleaned of all their filth.

I just want to leave off with the words of a song that really remind us what Jesus did:

"On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

"So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

"O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left his glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.

"So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

"In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.

"So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

"To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then he’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where his glory forever I’ll share."

Words from "The Old Rugged Cross."

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My first dog: Princess Diana, 1998-2013

Princess Diana
May 7, 1998-Aug. 15, 2013

Princess Diana, best known as Priny (or Prinny, depending on who is writing it), passed away peacefully in her sleep last night at the age of 15.

We got Princess when I was 10 years old. When we brought home the little puppy that could curl up on my lap, my brother asked "Who's dog is that?"

"It's ours."

"Don't joke with me. Who's dog is that?"

"It's ours!"

We had waited a long time to get a dog, and we had tried a couple before Princess. A dog at the pound named Muffy was perfect, but she hated my dad the instant he walked in. We got an old dog named Ginger, but she wasn't house trained, and at 10 years old, that wasn't going to happen.

So little baby Princess was perfect. She was a mutt --- some kind of a miniature pinscher, weiner dog, terrier mix.

We wanted to give her a middle name, especially since we didn't like her given name of Princess. We considered Leia, but since Princess Diana had died just before we got Priny we decided to christen her Princess Diana.

I remember we used to have a potato chip box in the car with a blanket where she would sleep on road trips. She loved to chase her tail so much that it permanently curled on the top, because she could actually catch it and would hold onto it. She started out sleeping in my bed, and she would always curl up in the crook of my legs with her head on my knees. Even when she started sleeping on the floor of my parents' room she would still lay like that with me when we watched TV on the living room floor.

She had a variety of stuffed animals, which all became "bunnies," because that's what her first one was and what she knew them as. We had to buy ones without fur because she would lick the fuzz and then continue licking her tongue for hours on end.

She loved dog cookies and demanded them whenever she went inside from outside, even if she hadn't done her business.

She knew exactly when it was 4 p.m. --- dinner time --- and would bark nearly on the stroke of the hour. She used to look out the window and expect us to be walking home from the bus right when we got done with school. Even when we went to college or moved away, Mom would say "Kiley's coming home." Princess would sit on the living room stairs and watch out the window in the front door until I came.

She loved to be scratched behind her ears, and when she was a baby I could put her to sleep that way. She also loved to be scratched on her belly and would roll over and wait for you to answer her plea.

She was the perfect dog for a family. She was small, quiet and lovable. She followed my Mom around during the day, asking for a piece of peanut butter and jelly toast every time Mom had it. She would lay by Mom while she did her devotions each afternoon in her bedroom. I tried to hold Priny when I cried, but she didn't really like that.

She was 15 years old. Toward the end she was going blind and could barely hear, but when I'd visit she would perk those little ears up and trot toward me with a happy look in her eyes, unless Novie was around. Novie didn't understand that I loved Priny first.

That dog will always hold a dear place in my heart. I may have a new dog now, and Priny may have become a little mangy in her old age, but she was perfect. She was sweet and loving, and what more can you ask of a dog?

Rest in peace Princess Diana. I'm sad that we've lost you, but I'm glad that you're out of pain. Always know, I love you!