In Everything Give Thanks

“In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

{1 Thes. 5:18}


1,001. Jessica’s words that encourage me to keep counting {A Diamond in the Rough}

1,002. surprisingly lovable llamas

1,003. trail hikes with Carmella and Chocolate Chip

1,004. a fantastic field trip with dear friends

1,005. a special visit by Great Grandma

1,006. hot tea with breakfast

1,007. introducing Great Grandma to our favorite red wagon, Lacie, at the apple orchard

1,008. slices of Sweet 16, Honeycrisp and SweetTango apples

1,009. sips of hot apple cider

1,010. fruit-seekers crunching through the fallen leaves

1,011. tree branches sagging heavy with ripe apples

1,012. little girls happily snatching apples

1,013. chasing butterflies wildly through the vineyard and orchard

1,014. the monarch that finally lets me capture it on camera

1,015. the brilliant display of fall colors in the trees

1,016. rains that rush in just before we leave the apple orchard

1,017. big hats and a fancy tea luncheon with Great Grandma

1,018. the cheery, busy squeak of our apple peeler

1,019. Great Grandma’s help with our pie baking tradition

1,020. the smell of cinnamon lofting throughout the house

1,021. Piper’s free seminar on Let the Nations Be Glad

1,022. God’s promises in the Psalms and in Isaiah

1,023. prayers and praises in the Psalms

1,024. character lessons in compassion, kindness, creativity and courage from Betsy-Tacy

1,025. little girls bubbling with excitement as they share thoughts about the book

1,026. our own little “Sand Store” of bottles full of colorful sand

1,027. a sunny autumn morning at the park with friends

1,028. another hard eucharisteo: the fall that fractures both bones in her delicate little forearm

1,029. the kind, dear friend eagerly helping so many ways — the help that comes from the Maker of Heaven and Earth

1,030. strength and peace that gets us through a traumatic Friday

1,031. words, freshly memorized in Isaiah 53, that help calm her sobs

1,031. medicine that helps manage her pain and the pastor who speaks healing Words to us

1,032. quiet moments in the hospital room, just before her surgery, watching the sun rise and the birds fly in formation and then later reading Malachi 4:2 – “But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings.”

1,033. the skilled hands of both surgeons and the kind, familiar face in the pre-op/recovery room

1,034. a real plaster cast for her Girls-n-Grace doll, too

1,035. Debra, Kathy and Stacey, three exceptional nurses on the pediatrics floor

1,036. peace that passes understanding while she undergoes surgery

1,037. the prayers of countless friends and family as we wait

1,038. bendable nails that help keep her bones in place

1,039. her groggy, sleepy smile after surgery

1,040. friends cheering at the curbside as she leaves the hospital — and the sweet little boy who does a “happy jog” of joy

1,041. the soft gray shawl that is just her size and keeps her arms and shoulders warm

1,042. cards and gifts and balloons and callers for the injured one

1,043. homemade soup and bread

1,044. her fearless ambition to become ambidextrous

“Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel,  from everlasting to everlasting. Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the LORD.”

{1 Chronicles 16:36}

You’re invited! Check out other bloggers’ posts in the One Thousand Gifts community by clicking the graphic below. Or click here  to check out all previous posts in my “Counting to 1,000” series.

Counting to 1,000 (980-1,000)

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

{2 Corinthians 2:14-15}

I started my One Thousand Gifts list back in January with “the aroma of fresh bread baking” as the very first item. Is there a more delicious, comforting smell on a cold winter day?

I pray that my list has also been an aroma of the Bread of Life, a pleasant fragrance of thanks to God.

Second Corinthians 2:15 says, “For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

While regularly counting the ways God loves me and thanking Him for each, I have seen God’s character. Time and again, I have seen that God is who He says He is. God can do what He says He can do. I can trust Him.

Daniel 11:32 says, “…but the people who know their God shall be strong.”

Dear readers, I pray that you also know the one true God and find your strength in Him. You can trust Him, too. Just count the ways He loves you. Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you.

This week my own list reaches 1,000. I realize how the list doesn’t end there. Once you start, you can’t stop! Endless gifts, indeed, because His love stretches from everlasting to everlasting.

“Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel,  from everlasting to everlasting. Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the LORD.”

{1 Chronicles 16:36}


980. trees ablaze with a brilliant display of color

981. the smell and crunch of dry leaves

982. the neighbor kids raking leaves into pile

983. the linden tree that’s grown strong enough for her to climb

984. her first and last carmel apple for a while

985. her big, beautiful smile that’s a little more shiny

986. the sweet family that hosts our church’s Fall Festival

987. an afternoon hayride pulled by their Allis Chalmers

988. how they love to wear boots and hats when they visit the farm

989. fellowship around the bonfire

990. finding hay in her boots

991. the silver-sliver moon that reminds me of the night my youngest was born

992. their open Bibles at the breakfast table

993. learning about El Elyon, God Most High

994. reminders about quietness and trust (Isaiah 30:15)

995. Isaac’s baptism

996. her birthday countdown and uncontainable anticipation, and all her six years

997. the movie that encourages men to be Courageous

998. true friends who share life with us, feed us pizza and cookies, know our imperfections and love us anyway

999. jars of her apple pie filling, apple sauce, tomatoes and hot pepper jelly

1,000. the boldness to fiercely trust God

You’re invited! Check out other bloggers’ posts in the One Thousand Gifts community by clicking the graphic below. Or click here  to check out all previous posts in my “Counting to 1,000” series.

Counting to 1,000 (960-979)

“Giver of every breath I breathe
Author of all eternity
Giver of every perfect thing
To You be the glory”

{lyrics from “All Because of Jesus” by Steve Fee}

Over the weekend, I was among a crowd of 370 women singing “All Because of Jesus” during chapel at a women’s retreat. What a memorable way to praise the Giver of every perfect thing! That retreat was indeed the perfect gift given at the perfect time. To God be the glory! I so needed that time of refreshment with ladies from church!

I am still adding gifts — from the Giver of every perfect thing — to my One Thousand Gifts list, which continues this week with items 960 through 979:

960. little boys in sweatshirts and vests, all eager to play outside

961. the itsy-bitsy Keen boots and the ticklish little feet that wear them

962. a tall, tall tree to climb and hug

963. more lessons in wisdom from Proverbs and from this sermon in James 1

964. six great ladies rooming with me in “Cinnamon Bear” — a cabin full of bunk beds and smiles

965. a dear friend who encourages and inspires me

966. brightly colored leaves on the birch trees

967. the refreshment gained through retreating with 20 wonderful women from church

968. forgiveness (Psalm 103:11-12)

969. lessons in faith, hope and love

970. brightly colored fingernails painted by Ivy

971. wind rushing through the tops of the birch trees

972. the smell of horses and leather as I take the reins, riding tall on a trusty but slow little horse named Sultan

973. mingling on horseback with seven deer as they slowly cross and re-cross our path through the woods

974. singing joyful praises to God in the chapel with 370 women

975. the clash of the symbols — praising Him

976. quiet moments resting in the top bunk

977. lessons in true friendship and stories that evoke riotous laughter

978. being welcomed home Sunday afternoon with tight hugs and blazing new maple trees just planted in the backyard

979. the kind crew that will carry our care-package for Dawit to another hemisphere

You’re invited! Check out other bloggers’ posts in the One Thousand Gifts community by clicking the graphic below. Or click here  to check out all previous posts in my “Counting to 1,000” series.

5 Star Links for Friday

June is my favorite month, and not just because my birthday happens to be in June.

I love June because of the peonies that bloom.

And I love June because of the fresh fruit that gets more affordable, the daylight that seems endless, and the general glow that accompanies nearly everything about early summer.

All that said, the first Friday in June seems the perfect day for another 5-Star Friday!

This time around, these links are especially for moms — because I am one, because I love many dear friends who are moms, and because motherhood matters to God — and not just in the month of May!

Below are links to some great reading (and listening) that truly encouraged me in recent weeks, and I pray these encourage you as well.

1. When You Feel Like You Just Keep Blowing It by Ann Voskamp

2. Why Motherhood Should Be Graded on a Curve by The Gypsy Mama

3. The Danger of Moralistic Parenting by Elyse Fitzpatrick

4. The Sons of Thunder (Mother’s Day 2011) sermon at Church on the Move by guest speaker Joe McGee (5/8/11)

5. “Hidden in My Heart” CD from is so sweet and peaceful and fitting for all ages. I ordered three copies — one for myself and two to give to moms with newborns. You can preview the songs online.

May God richly bless all you mom-readers!

5 Star Links for Friday


It’s 5-star Friday! Yay! Time for me to share some links to great online reading and/or listening.

1. Heart Condition (by Kasey Van Norman at Mentoring Moments) explains why the condition of our hearts is of greatest concern to the Lord.

2. Understanding the Unfathomable: God’s Unconditional Love (by Pastor Andreas Custer at Oakwood Community Church) reminds us how deeply God loves and encourages us to love one another.

3. The Most Needed Peer Pressure (by Wendy Alsup at Desiring God) urges us to love unconditionally when bearing with a loved one’s struggles.

4. 8 Tips for Talking to Your Kids about the Sermon (by Pastor Joe Holland) tells how little folks sitting in the pews retain more and understand more than you think they do and how we, as parents, can follow up with them after the sermon. Great tips!

5. Gaining Clarity on Women’s Roles Part 1 and Part 2 (by Leanne Popeko at CBMW) explains some key aspects of God’s lovely design for women in the church.

I pray that these words encourage and inspire you as much as they did me.

Also, may I ask a favor? I recently re-wrote my personal testimony as part of an assignment in the Bible study group I attend. The new version is much shorter and employs a very different format than the earlier version, which I posted years ago. If you would read it and perhaps leave a comment, I’d be ever so grateful to you. Just click here. Thank you!

“March on, my soul; be strong!” -Judges 5:21b

10 People Who Inspired Me in 2010

 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24 NIV

About a year ago, I shared in this post how friends of ours had spurred me on toward love and good deeds. As I reflect on 2010 and continue to thank God for their friendship and encouragement, I thought it’d be fun to share some other sources of encouragement and inspiration that might just inspire and encourage you, too.

1. My husband, Michael, always inspires me, and for so many reasons. In August I blogged about 15 reasons why I love Michael. I should also note that in the first three months of 2010 Michael lost 65 lbs., and he has kept them off! Yay! But of more significance than his weight loss are his spiritual gains in 2010. He has clearly grown closer to the Lord  — through prayer, Bible study, and Scripture memory — and that truly inspires me! What a blessing to have a strong spiritual leader in our household.

2. Our pastor, Steve Anderson, is a wonderful, encouraging pastor, as well as leader of the small group in which my husband and I participate. In November while he was serving as a short-term missionary in Nicaragua, I blogged here about how thankful I am for Pastor Steve and his lovely wife Sharon. They are truly wonderful people who bless us each week. When he returned from Nicaragua, Pastor Steve told us an amazing story about handing out baseballs and Beanie Babies to the children there. God performed a miracle that day! You can listen to him tell the story if you click here. It starts at 19 minutes into his sermon “Whose Stuff is All This Anyway?” By the way, you can find out more about short-term missions and adopt-a-pastor opportunities in Nicaragua by visiting Repairers of Broken Walls.

3. Andreas Custer is the Student Ministries Director at our church. He’s a great guy, and while our family doesn’t yet have any students in his ministry, his contagious passion for the Lord and inspiring manner spills over and touches our family regularly. After visiting Gettysburg and other Civil War battlefields this fall, Pastor Andi preached this really dynamite sermon about fixing our eyes on Jesus in the same way soldiers fix their eyes on their battle flag. The key Scripture passage he used was Philippians 3:7-21, and he explains that those who have their eyes set on earthly things, in contrast, are enemies of the cross.

4. Karen Wistrom at Family from Afar is a working mom with four children, two biological and two adopted, and is a child sponsorship coordinator for Children’s HopeChest. Besides raising money for all sorts of orphan-care projects, she traveled to Ethiopia this fall — for the third year in a row — to minister to orphans at Kind Hearts, where our sweet Dawit is. Thanks to Karen, we were able to put together this little care package for Dawit in August, and then a couple of months later Karen sent us pictures of Dawit receiving it. Yay, Karen! 

5. Samantha at Little Goody 2 Shoes is an 11-year-old who is selling bottle cap necklaces to raise money to buy shoes for orphans in Ethiopia. We bought a few of them that say Kind Hearts, and they are so adorable! To date, Samantha sold 314 necklaces and raised enough money to buy 103 pairs of new, custom-made shoes for orphans at Kind Hearts and two other orphanages in Ethiopia. Way to go, Samantha!

6. My own daughter, Linnea, at the ripe old age of 7, decided to donate 11 inches of her hair to Locks of Love in February. She was so brave and so passionate about giving to a little girl in need. That was a lot of hair!  

7. Author Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience is a farmer’s wife, homeschool mother of six, and an amazingly gifted writer. She faithfully uses her gift for God’s glory. I am so eager to read her latest book, 1,000 Gifts, which will be released Jan. 25.

8. Writer Holley Gerth at Heart to Heart with Holley is another writer whose words transcend into the spiritually inspiring realm. She also faithfully uses this gift to point others toward God.

9. My beautiful and sunshiny friend Alice, who recently moved to our little town, totally inspires me to be a better mom and to more intentionally play with my kids, especially while they are still willing to play with me! Alice is outgoing, full of life, and truly a fantastic cook and baker. All those traits come in handy as a stay-at-home mom to three handsome and energetic boys, all under the age of 5! While the girls and I were over for a visit last week, Alice gave us all flashlights, turned off the lights, and asked us to hunt for stuffed animals that had been hidden around her kitchen and living room. This “jungle-safari” version of hide-and-seek was great fun! Thanks for being so wonderful, Alice!

10. And last, but certainly not least, is Jodi, another beautiful friend of mine who inspires me to be a better mom and not neglect my creative side.  Jodi is a tea-drinking homeschool mom of five children, ranging in age from 1 to 13. She also teaches art, jazz, and tap dance lessons. My daughter is in one of Jodi’s art classes and adores every moment of it. If I were to write a biography about Jodi, I’d entitle it Everybody Loves Jodi. She is creative, encouraging, sweeter than pie, and everybody loves her! Last I checked she wasn’t sporting a red cape, but she is truly a super woman, empowered by God. 

Now I’m shutting my laptop and heading off to play Little People with my 5-year-old, so it’s your turn to share.

Who has inspired you in 2010? Do tell!

15 Reasons I Love This Man

NOTE: I am reposting this in celebration of our anniversary this week.

This is my man. The love of my life, truly.

When I first met him back in 1987-or-so, during a middle school church youth group trip to the swimming pool, I don’t recall being very impressed with him. He was about 13 then, exactly the same age as my older brother, and most boys that age just aren’t very impressive –especially when you are the 12-year-old younger sister of one such creature and especially when they are both showing off on a diving board.

However, by the time we met again in high school, things had changed. We started dating my sophomore year, and the rest is pretty much history. In fact, today happens to be the 15th anniversary of The Day. The Day we hiked into the Olympic National Forest together. The Day we only briefly glanced at the stunning Sol Duc Falls. The Day he dropped to one knee, pulled a sparkling ring out of the front pocket of his blue jeans and boldly asked me to marry him. 

I said “yes” right away, because I already knew then what I know now. He is a phenomenal person. I am so proud of him and so honored to be his bride of 14 years.

In honor of The Day, here are 15 somewhat-random reasons why I love him:

1. He loves the Lord and genuinely seeks to follow God’s will. He has a servant’s heart, and he is passionate about serving the Lord. He even courageously went “to the ends of the earth” to serve on a short-term mission trip.

2. He loves me. And he tells me so. Even when he was far away in Nicaragua, out of cell phone and e-mail reach for 10+ days, he made sure I knew he was thinking of me. In advance, he hand-wrote 10 little love notes and had them delivered to me — one each day we were out of contact — along with a red rose. It was terribly romantic. The elderly flower delivery guy at the grocery store still remembers me and all those roses! During one delivery he commented, “Either he’s in a lot of trouble, or you’re one very special lady.”

3. He tells me I’m beautiful, and he treats me like a lady.

4. He’s an amazing daddy who loves his little girls, plays alongside them, reads to them, watches them dance and tells them how beautiful they are.

5. He’s way smarter than me. He is so much better at math and science and anything mechanical, which tremendously compensates for my serious shortcomings in those areas. 

6. He plays guitar. He’s very passionate about music, and he uses any spare moment to pick up either his acoustic guitar or his electric one and strum merrily along.

7. He sings. A lot. And loud. Lots of my readers know that he sings at church and some know that he sang “When You Say Nothing at All” to me at our wedding. (Insert collective “Awwww….”) But he also sings nearly without ceasing, in the garage, in the van, in the kitchen, at work. He sings such a variety of songs and jingles — old, new, country, rock, alternative, Christian, etc. He even has goofy, made-up songs to annoy me and the girls. 

8. He’s a very likable, natural leader. He’s always leading people and projects, getting things done at work, at church, at home and even on the boat! He even leads conversations quite frequently, and people really like him. My entire extended family seems to really, really like talking with him about all sorts of topics — from boat motors to politicians to theology. Sometimes I even wonder if they like him better than me!

9. He works hard at his job and cares about doing what’s right more than he cares about making money.

10. He’s a big-picture, visionary kind of guy. He can see the potential in people, things, and projects, and he doesn’t get held back worrying about details.

11. He encourages (sometimes pushes) me to do try things I’d never, ever dream of trying on my own, like sailing in the Gulf of Mexico and ice fishing.    

12. He uses his mechanical engineering talents to repair stuff like cars, home appliances, boats, snowblowers, lawnmowers, bicycles, and toys.

13. He compliments my cooking, and even in the process of losing 65 lbs., he saved up his entire daily carb allowance to eat just one of my chocolate cupcakes after dinner.

14. He grew a cape and took on “super-hero daddy status” when our firstborn arrived by C-section. He changed nearly every diaper while we were hospitalized, and he helped with night-time feedings, laundry, meals and countless household chores while I recovered. He was also a huge help when our second child arrived, entertaining the big sister, washing dishes, and folding piles and piles of pink laundry.

15. He’s creative and constructive, so he builds things like furniture, kid-sized canoe paddles, boat seats and tiller-covers. And he constructs things like backyard playsets, patios and finished basements.

I could think of many more reasons why I love this man and why I am so thankful God put us together as husband and wife. I could also say “he completes me” and “he makes me want to be a better woman” and about a dozen other movie lines from romantic comedies, but I’ll spare you those!

He’s my best friend, and I love him dearly. I am so glad he popped “the big question” 15 years ago, and I am so blessed to be his wife!

Cheers for the Red, White and Blue

Last Friday, my sweet friend Kate invited the girls and me over for an early 4th of July celebration with her family and another mutual family of friends.

Kate served up these delicious chocolate malts (and photographed them, too!)

One of Kate’s most prominent spiritual gifts is hospitality. Sitting in the wicker furniture on her four-season porch, sipping a malt, and gazing at the breathtaking white hydrangeas… Isn’t this why lazy summer afternoons were invented? I start to wonder if I really did fall into a page of REAL SIMPLE magazine. Or perhaps it was a children’s story book I landed inside of.

 Not that any of us moms could linger daydreamily for long, mind you. With 11 kids between the three of us, it was quite a busy and festive place!

After having their faces painted and making and decorating their own patriotic top hats, the kids marched in a parade. 

Everyone took turns being the Grand Marshall; this was Linnea’s turn.

Thank you, Kate, for a lovely and memorable afternoon of fun! And thanks for taking these beautiful pictures, too! You simply amaze me, and your friendship is such a sweet blessing!