Counting to 1,000 (869-904)

“I will give thanks to the LORD because of His righteousness;
I will sing the praises of the name of the LORD Most High.”

-Psalm 7:17

Giving thanks as my One Thousand Gifts list grows ever so close to the goal. Here are items 869 through 904:

869. giggles and silliness with “chin men” faces

870. a building to borrow for homeschool classes

871. a tiny butterfly hiding in the bright orange mums

872. teamwork within the church

873. two full days devoted to school preparations

874. the thoughtful, fun daddy who takes them on a day trip to St. Paul

875. his strong hands strumming the red guitar he built himself

876. road-tripping to Northfield with a dear friend

877. relaxing hours spent chatting and catching up with girlfriends at Goodbye Blue Monday

878. a steaming mug of Mexican hot chocolate

879. the princess picture she created for her little sister

880. ice cubes to numb a fat lip

881. frisbee fun in the backyard

882. reflections in the bird bath

883. bumblebees hiding in the hostas

884. the growing little maple tree she inadvertently planted

885. an end-of-summer teddy bear tea party

886. dear friends for my daughters

887. bear brownies

888. raindrops sparkling like jewels on the windshield

889. a bookshelf full of new books

890. bulletin boards

891. new school supplies

892. a freshly re-organized school room

893. fun geography ideas shared on Pinterest

894. the smell of hot dogs and burgers sizzling on the grill while the cicadas sing the song of summer’s end

895. hands ready to minister to a newly single parent

896. a full roster for my “Girls of Character” study

897. how gently she holds the egg that didn’t hatch

898. Jamie Grace pounding out “Hold Me” on her guitar

899. their kind, encouraging words

900. the broken dryer and piles of dirty laundry

901. the smart husband who knows how to take the dryer apart, fix it and put it back together again

902. the beautiful hummingbird that perches long at the feeder

903. the 108-minutes-and-31-seconds phone conversation with my big brother

904. my nephew’s 4 years and the sound of his sweet little voice on the other end of the phone

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 (838-868)

“Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name (Jesus)
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name”

Matt Redman

We sang Matt Redman’s song at Sunday worship yesterday. It has long been one of my favorites. But after a week of taking my oldest daughter to and from Spanish immersion VBS, the song lyric that is stuck in my head today is “Yo tengo tanto, tanto, tanto para agradecer!”

I do have so much to be thankful for! And compiling my One Thousand Gifts list is a regular reminder to not just watch for the blessings God pours out but also turn each one back to God in praise.

Here are items 838 through 868 in my list:

838. singing along with the kids to fun praise songs in Spanish — “Yo tengo tanto, tanto, tanto para agradecer!”

839. how Spanish immersion VBS ignites a passion for the unreached people in Peru

840. God’s faithful protection over my cousins who survived being hit by a drunk driver

841. her winning four free State Fair tickets and getting to pass them along to a neighbor

842. his winning free tickets to watch the Twins play the Yankees at Target Field

843. how she taps his leg gently and how he kindly cracks open each peanut for her

844. how happily she exclaims “It’s a doll hat!” as she examines the plastic miniature baseball helmet full of ice cream

845. singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the 7th inning stretch — a song I remember from my tee-ball days

846. picture-perfect sailing weather and three pleasant evenings on the lake with friends

847. playtime in the pool with dear friends

848. a potluck pool party with new friends

849. lessons in Job 1:20-22 about praising God when He gives and when He takes away

850. their prayers for my cousins

851. new acquaintances who surprisingly turn out to have mutual friends

852. how they all bounce together in celebration of her 4th birthday

853. how much the littlest of five has grown since I held her last month

854. the teens who serve up pizza and tacos to raise money for their Jamaica mission trip

855. their lengthy search for the lost library book — still not found

856. a lull between loads of laundry

857. a breezy picnic lunch in the shade on a grassy hilltop at the Arboretum

858. a family bike ride to Target for a treat

859. meeting baby Annie and seeing the sweet smiles of her big sisters

860. the big brown eyes and shy smile of a 15-month-old

861. how the youngest brother throws back his head in roaring laughter as he helps steer the boat

862. her homemade zucchini bread

863. more hummingbirds at the patio feeder

864. God’s mercy on us

865. words about His gracious giving (Romans 8:32)

866. Matt Redman’s song “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord”

867. loads of wet towels and swimsuits

868. the happy news that she’s home from the hospital

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 (814-837)

“Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!

I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!”

Psalm 139:16b-18a (NLT)

I’ve counted well beyond 800 now in my One Thousand Gifts list, and now it seems like I have enough moments recorded to make a book. But the truth is my list is but a tiny, tiny snippet of what God has already recorded in His book.

As Psalm 139 reminds me, I can’t count all the moments, all the ways He loves me and all the thoughts He thinks of me because His precious thoughts outnumber the grains of sand. Oh, what a truth to ponder!

Here are items 814 through 837 in my list:

814. putting a hand of blessing on the head of each dear member of my VBS crew

815. a chance to “be the gift” — they even gift wrapped me in paper and bows!

816. warm hugs from new little friends

817. their whistles, quacks and baaas as they talk to the animals

818. remarkable cows and refillable milk cups for 50 cents

819. pig races and familiar faces at the county fair

820. courage to ride the ferris wheel

821. close encounters with exotic animals

822. his passion for funnel cake

823. carefree leaps into the pool

824. food and fellowship among church friends

825. lessons from Esther

826. how God cares for His people

827. the kind worker who gives us an impromptu tour of the local food shelf

828. how the sunshine dances on the waves and the reeds

829. the peaceful sound of the waves gently lapping against the boat as it glides across the water

830. unexpected goosebumps on an August evening

831. sunset on the lake

832. how she bounces happily through the grass, chasing butterflies

833. meet-you-in-the-middle hugs given with a running start

834. giving lessons in how to drink Coca-Cola from a glass bottle

835. strong, confident legs that pedal the bike and pump the swing

836. her request for “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” as a lullaby

837. fishy faces

You’re invited! Check out other posts in the One Thousand Gifts community by clicking the graphic below.

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!

Mama’s Not a Happy Camper


It’s National Get Outdoors Day, and I have a confession: I’ve never been wild about camping in a tent.

Something about it just makes me feel like a Boy Scout. My older brother has always been waaaaay into camping, so perhaps that’s why I developed an aversion to it early in life. But nonetheless, I do have some fond memories of camping more times than I can count in the spacious backyard of my childhood home.

One time I camped out with my dear friend Aimee during a sleepover when we were about 12. That experience involved rain and some sort of catastrophic tent collapse around 4 a.m. Sadly, I was so traumatized or lacking in sleep that I blocked out the details. All I remember is laughing about it later until our sides nearly split open.

Like it or not, camping out is one of those outdoorsy things that everyone must do now and then. And recently I realized — in a small fit of mommy guilt — that neither of our daughters had ever spent the night in a tent!

Well, actually, there was that one time… When Linnea was 3, Michael tried a father-daughter backyard camp-out with her. She bounced and fidgeted in excitement for several hours, waaaaay past her usual bedtime. And then finally around 10:30 p.m., snug in her sleeping bag, Linnea was just drifting off to sleep when ka-boom! The fireworks began. It was the 4th of July. Seriously, whose grand idea was that?

Since we were here at home this Memorial Day weekend, I coaxed Michael into buying a six-man tent and pitching it for the girls to play in. They had a high old time indeed, pretending it was their house, playing with their rag dolls, and tracking in grass and other pieces of nature to litter the tent floor. You never saw two kids more eager for bedtime.


We have really long summer days here in the Frozen Tundra, so it’s still broad daylight at 9 p.m. Yet both jumped into their jammies around 7 p.m., hours before the sunset.

To cap off the evening, s’mores had been promised. Unfortunately, it was super windy that evening. Too windy for a fire in the backyard fire pit. At least, that was the conclusion of the former Boy Scout in our family. Since I had all the ingredients and I didn’t want unhappy campers, I decided to do the unthinkable.

I made s’mores in the microwave.

Strike that. I made s’mores in the microwave. I tried to make s’mores in the microwave.

If you haven’t tried this at home, please don’t. The graham cracker box is misleading. You really can’t make s’mores in the microwave. Sure the marshmallow puffs into its gooey, sticky loveliness, but the Hershey bar…

It wasn’t pretty. Laurel’s pajamas took the brunt of the s’more chocolate disaster. And our patio furniture also fell victim to the devastation of dripping chocolate loss.

By 7:30, my three happy campers were ready to call it a night. I kissed them all and headed inside, looking forward to a nice, peaceful evening alone in a quiet house, snuggled up with my laptop. Aaaah. Peace at last. 

Some things are too good to be true.

I jumped when the phone rang. Laurel’s sweet little voice was on the other end, on her daddy’s cell phone, begging, “Mommy, will you please, please come outside with us and watch for the stars come out? We miss you.”

Who on earth could deny such a plea from their 4-year-old?

I did the right thing. I shut the laptop, changed clothes, and headed out to watch the stars.

Two hours and lots of giggles later, we were all still anxiously waiting for the first star to come out. Napless Laurel didn’t dare stop moving her mouth or else she’d fall soundly asleep. She talked, talked, talked. Full of endless questions. After a while, that just made Linnea giggle, giggle, giggle. Pretty soon, we were all giggling uncontrollably as Laurel tried so hard to stay awake for the first star.

Eventually the first star did come out. And then another. And another. By the fourth star, Laurel was sawing logs. It was well after 10 p.m. And that’s about when Michael informed me I couldn’t leave because I’d let in too many mosquitos. So I was trapped. In the tent. For the whole night.

At 4 a.m. I awoke, freezing and feeling rocks that I am certain arose underneath the sod just while I was laying there. Ugh! I sneaked back inside my quiet house and into my warm, soft bed. I left my three happy campers sleeping soundly.

Aaaah. Peace at last. For a few hours anyway.

Sweet Summer







A sound we seem to hear once every weekend in the summertime.

A sound that sends shivers of unpredictable, happy panic up the spines of certain family members.

A sound that sends half of the family dashing for loose change while the other half dashes barefoot into the street.

Oh, the charming and merry sound of the ice cream truck coming down the street! When you’re 4 years old, there’s no better sound in the world.

“He had a freezer full of bomb pops
Push ups, drum sticks and dreamcicles
And a paint chipped change box
Full of sticky quarters, dimes and nickles
It was automatic when we heard that song
Run home and get your money before he’s gone”

-Diamond Rio “Sweet Summer”

Forget the bomb pops, push ups, drum sticks and dreamcicles. Laurel has her heart set on Tweetie Bird.

Linnea, meanwhile, focuses in on the chocolate-chip-cookie ice cream sandwich.

She’s been extensively trained to take anything with chocolate this seriously.

Ice cream + babysitters = two four giddy little girls.

Sunsets and Sailing

No matter what the weather is doing or when school begins, summer isn’t over for our family until our sailboat comes out of the water. Because of high winds and rain in the forecast, Michael decided late in the afternoon last Tuesday to remove the boat that evening.


The girls and I dropped by the marina for a while to catch this gorgeous sunset and watch Michael work to get everything ship shape. While we were there, we also picked up these pictures that another boater had graciously taken of us sailing back in July.

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Seeing these shots reminded me that I had only posted one sailing photo on my blog all summer. So bear with me as we take a quick photo trip back in time just a few months, back to the sunny warm-ish days of July.










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Refreshing Up North

If you read this post back in May, you’ll certainly understand why our family believes the only thing better than kicking off summer with that fabulous trip up north was going on a second trip up north at the end of summer! We looked forward to it for months, and last week we headed off with hiking boots, sweatshirts, sleeping bags and fishing poles in tow.

Our first stop for gas was Hinkley. And we just had to buy a loaf of delicious fresh baked wheat bread at Tobies Restaurant. Mmmm. Their bread is so tasty it converted my picky “I-only-like-white-bread” eater into a brown bread fan in seconds flat. It’s that tasty. Their bakery is also world famous for its carmel rolls, but I can’t yet vouch for that claim since I haven’t eaten many carmel rolls.

Next stop was Edgewater Resort in Duluth. We stayed two nights there, enjoying their indoor waterpark and their outdoor heated pool that overlooks Lake Superior. Even in August, Duluth is not known as a likely destination for outdoor swimming, but Michael and I are now among the select few who can say we got sunburned swimming in Duluth! Don’t worry, the girls wore sunscreen the whole afternoon and we really were only lightly pink. Linnea enjoyed learning to do underwater flips; she can do three in a row before she has to come up for air. She also mastered jumping into the pool like a cannon ball. That was fun to watch! Laurel played “mermaid” and enjoyed spending lots of time underwater.

By far the biggest highlight of our time in Duluth was riding through Canal Park in a horse-drawn carriage.

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Our white horse was named Sid. Linnea beamed the entire time; words cannot express how overjoyed she was! Laurel also enjoyed the carriage ride.

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Michael greatly appreciated seeing the huge ship that came through the lift bridge. Nearby, we had a delicious dinner at Grandma’s and did a little shopping, too.

We met our friends in Grand Marais and they cooked us another tasty meal right on the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior.

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It was the perfect spot for collecting sea glass and rocks and searching for agates. We gathered up countless treasures to bring home from our sea-side picnic!

After a few stops in Grand Marais, we headed on to the cabin. Our time at there was so peaceful and relaxing. Linnea got to sleep in the middle bunk of the three built-in bunk beds. She was pretty thrilled about that.

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It rained much of the time we were there, and that made everything all the more cozy and laid back. We ate lots of s’mores and spent lots of time in front of the fireplace.

One morning for a late breakfast our friends graciously treated us to an all-you-can-eat Lumberjack Breakfast. Everyone snuggled beneath blankets, umbrellas and raincoats as the horse-drawn wagon took us to and from the cook shack in the lightly falling rain. 

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I felt like Laura Ingalls riding to town for the first time. I love the sound of trotting horses in the rain. They were huge, Belgian work horses, very beautiful and strong. But what I cannot stop thinking about is the huge heap of homemade biscuits. And the sourdough pancakes were piled so high; they were incredibly tasty, too! It was quite a feast and quite a blessing indeed! Thank you again, B and K!

Once the rain stopped, we dashed off to pick wild raspberries. Raspberries have been Linnea’s favorite food since she was 2-years-old, and this was her first time ever to pick them. Somehow she reminded me of Gretel, tromping into the woods to gather berries.

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She got pretty exasperated when I tried taking her picture. “Mom, I am picking berries and you are distracting me when I have to smile for a picture!” Laurel also found berry-picking quite delightful. She had her own little dish and found a stick to stir her berries.

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When we loaded up to leave, her berries were mostly mashed. After a short ride in the van, Laurel’s dish of mashed berries was empty, and around her mouth was an unusual reddish stain. We had lots of berries with dinner that night!

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As things began to dry off outside, the girls loved playing and exploring in the woods near the water.

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Laurel adopted this “purple rock” while playing mermaid, again, and she kept begging us to bring it home. Maybe when she’s big enough to carry it!

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On the way home we stopped in Lutsen to check out the alpine slide at the largest downhill ski area in the Midwest. We opted wait a year or two for the slide — Laurel is still too young to enjoy it. Instead we took the gondola/mountain tram up 1,000 feet.

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What breathtaking views of the Sawtooth Mountain Range, the Poplar River and Lake Superior! Michael could not stop talking about how beautiful the area was.

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We will have to go back in the winter so he can ski and again in the summer for the alpine slide!