fostering a grateful spirit

"If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams, and you will always look lovely." -Roald Dahl

CHRISTMAS {day 137}

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Merry Christmas!!
there is much to be grateful for: for a much needed reminder of the hope we have (a weary world rejoices), for a God who loves us so much He came as a helpless baby to a teen mother, born in a stable to make real the promise that He is Emmanuel. after a dark and difficult month, and on a day that I know held so much sadness for so many, I am grateful that we can have hope on the darkest of days.


also grateful for 24 hours straight with our amazing families, for my hubby’s 3 hour nap snuggled up with me, and for good, relaxing family time. feeling super blessed.

Christmas Eve {day 136}

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it’s Christmas Eve, friends! a beautiful reminder that this is just the beginning- the promised one is coming! beyond grateful for God’s great love for us, that He would send His Son to walk among us, be near to us and give us hope. praying that you have good family time as you celebrate and that light and hope would reign in your hearts as we prepare for and celebrate the coming King, Emmanuel- God with us.

“rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel will come to thee oh Israel.”

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was God there? {day 131}


As I continue to process and reflect on both the Sandy Hook tragedy and the season of Advent, I’ve found myself deeply disturbed by the responses I’ve seen and heard from friends, influential Christians and even political leaders. It’s something along the lines of this: “We remove God from the schools, and then are surprised when disaster strikes. He wasn’t there because we wouldn’t let him be.”

My heart has been wrestling with statements like this since I first saw them. Something about it feels deeply wrong to me. I came across two blogs today on the topic (here and here if you want to hear from people wiser than myself) that helped me wrestle with and put words to how I’m feeling.

First, I think it’s incredibly unkind to insinuate that God was not with those children and adults that were killed. Imagine being the parent of one of those children, and then listening to everyone claim that God wasn’t with them because the government “doesn’t allow” prayer in schools. It’d be a horrific feeling. As if it’s not already hard enough to know that they couldn’t be with their children in the scariest and final moments of their life, now we’re saying that God wasn’t there either, simply because WE say He can’t be?
In addition to being unkind, I think this line of thinking is dangerous. Do we really think that God is so small, so passive, that the government can govern Him out of a building or a country? Do we really think WE are that powerful? God, who sent His son as a Jew into a Roman ruled country, the same God who watched as Jesus was hung on a cross so that we could be with Him, that God, who has shown up uninvited and even where He was not wanted, that God would not have abandoned those children, who were and are unspeakably precious to Him. He was in that building, filled with grief for the anger and hatred that would change SO many lives. He was holding those sweet, precious children, comforting them. He was with each of those brave teachers and staff members who tried to stop the gunman and protect their kids. He was there. He never left them.

It’s hard to believe right now. I know. I know it hurts. It raises all kinds of really hard questions.

Did God make this happen? (active will)
I would steadfastly say no. No, God is love, God is good, God cannot cause evil. A God that would cause this would not be good.

Okay, so then why did God let this happen? (passive will)
If God is all-powerful (and not regulated by our laws), then He could have stopped the gunman, right? If God is good, He would want to stop the gunman, wouldn’t He?

In all honesty, this has been a struggle for me my entire adult life. God’s active will vs. God’s passive will. I don’t, and certainly won’t pretend to, have all of the answers. I absolutely do not believe that God causes bad things to happen. It is against His character. I do believe that God is all powerful and could stop things from happening, but if He did, He’d be taking away our free will. If God, who loves us enough to send His own Son on our behalf, took away our free will, that wouldn’t be very loving at all. We have all done things solely out of obligation. God doesn’t want us to love or obey out of obligation because (I think) that diminishes the relationship. I love my husband very much, so I am faithful and committed to our relationship. If I were only faithful because of a law, or because I were afraid of repercussions, it would undermine the relationship part of our marriage. So it goes with God. If He forced us to do only His will, what would those actions or that obedience mean? Nothing. Instead, out of His great love for us, He gave us the ability to choose things other than Him. Even when what we choose is horrific, and SO much less than the best He has for us. Even when what we choose breaks His heart because of the suffering it causes us, or others.

I don’t have all the answers, not even close. I don’t understand it all, and I know my thoughts are incomplete answers, at best. But I would challenge you to consider what your claims about God say about Him. I know the hearts of some of the people who have posted these things. I know that they have good intentions and love God and His people. I even sort of get where they are coming from. I get it. We, as a nation, try to separate God out of our laws and actions. We try to take God off the money, out of the pledge, ect. But just because we try does not make us successful. God will be wherever He wants to be. Because He’s God. And He can be. He can be everywhere at once. He was with those precious, sweet children because He loves them more than we can imagine, and because He would have never, ever wanted them to be in pain or to feel alone.

God is good, friends, and He is madly in love with you. He created you, after all. He is with you in your darkest moments, whether you’ve asked Him there or not, because He loves you and never leaves His people. He is with you when you’re full of joy, because God is a God of joy, and all joy is from Him.

As I reflect on this Advent season I am challenged to remember, over and over and over, that darkness can never shut out light. The Advent candles serve as a reminder that the Light is coming, that even in the darkest moments when the darkness is overwhelming, when it feels like that’s all there is, the Savior is coming to be with His precious people. In ancient times when His people were exiled and alone, wandering in the desert, He gave them His precious Son to set them free, to show them that they are not actually ever alone. And today He is with us still. He gives us the Holy Spirit that reminds us gently, even when our minds and hearts can’t understand, that He is always with us, even when the darkness is all we can see.

So, sweet friends, be encouraged this Advent and Christmas season. Christ came, is here and will come again. He is with you, whether you know it or not, when you can’t feel Him, when hope feels impossible. I’m so grateful for the Holy Spirit, which makes my soul believe when my heart and mind absolutely cannot.

Christmas party {day 128}

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tonight I’m grateful for my staff, and for time to laugh with them, be silly and celebrate Christmas. I’m also grateful for my sweet hubs who drove waaaay out of his way to be there, help out and judge the gingerbread house contest. 🙂 it was a busy but good day.

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rest, refreshment, kay {day 127}

today was a day of no news. a much needed breath of fresh air for my heavy heart. we went to church (the pulpit hymn was o come, o come Emmanuel) and then drove downstate to visit my friend Kay for her birthday. no tv, no Internet, just time to be together. so good. so, so needed. we ate, played games, laughed, watched her church’s Sunday school program, spent time with her family. they are literally some of the most genuinely kind people you could ever hope to meet. refreshing, after such a dark, heavy feeling week. it was encouraging to my spirit to spend my day with people who love deeply, laugh a lot, and are filled with Jesus and joy.
some pictures of kay I dug up in celebration of her friendship and her birthday. 🙂










shaken {day 125}


I can only begin to put together thoughts about the tragic situation at Sandy Hook Elementary School today, and I don’t know that there are words to describe the anger, frustration, and very deep sadness I feel for the lives that were lost and forever changed today. As I read the news- 20 children, 6 adults and the shooter dead, others wounded, the possibility that other family members of the gunman were slain- my heart can not even begin to comprehend the devastation encompassed by those words. as the images from Sandy Hook flash across our screens, of the chaotic scenes of the morning to mourning and profound loss as the enormity of this tragedy sets in, feelings of hopelessness begin to set in.

we live in a broken world, friends. the immensity and pain of situations like this one are extremely difficult to bear. tiny young lives that were stolen. hundreds of other young people who will struggle with feelings of anger, anxiety, confusion and fear for days and weeks and years to come. adults who had devoted their lives to bettering the lives of children taken from their spouses, parents and own children. It’s just not fair, and I would be  lying if I said that I wasn’t broken and shaken by events such as these.

I have never really known much about or understood Advent. As a young child, I remember lighting candles in an Advent wreath, and I’ve celebrated the season with an Advent calendar, but until very recently I don’t think I understood the depth of the beauty and pain the season represents. Advent- a time of “expectant waiting and preparation” for the coming of Jesus, our Savior. “The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming.” I think that behind all of my anger, tears, frustration and heartache today, this is what I feel most deeply: a deep, painful longing for the coming of a Savior, for the Home I was created for, which feels – especially in the wake of a senseless tragedy – so very far away. For several years I have said that my favorite Christmas song is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” but couldn’t really explain why I felt such a deep connection to it. I understood it today, though. It’s the longing, the desire to be ransomed, the hopeful but painful period of expectant waiting to be in the presence of a Holy Savior. I am grateful for this season that reminds us all that though there is great joy and hope (the birth of Jesus), there is also equally real and valid longing, hurt and frustration. We should grieve. We have to grieve. I know that the heart of God is deeply grieved today. A friend posted the following words of Meister Eckhart: “There is no pain or sorrow which comes to us that has not first passed through the Heart of God.” Truly we are not alone in our suffering.

All of that being said, this world is not what my hope lies in. I have been clinging to this verse today, I pray that it gives a glimmer of hope for what’s to come, for our Savior whose work is surely not finished: John 16:33 (Jesus is speaking) “I have told you these things so that you may have peace in Me. In this world you will face many trials and sorrows, but take heart! for I have overcome the world.”

Friends, as we process this horrific event, may we choose love over hate. this world has enough hate, and more hatred will never defeat evil. only Love can do that. In this season of deep sadness, may we identify and embrace the deep longing in our hearts, the advent season, and may we also cling to the hope that comes from our promised Savior. And may God, who grieves with us all, be the giver of comfort and hope for all who mourn.

grateful {day 123}

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for a successful gluten free adaptation of a gluten-y favorite. I’m also grateful for a whole month of being gluten free with no major heartbreaks (except when I realized I can’t steal the delicious leftovers out of my dad’s fridge anymore), and for the fact that it is definitely helping my poor hubby’s tummy.



for young life, laughter, Christmas spirit, and the knowledge that some of those precious friends will experience the real meaning of Christmas for the first time this year. I also stopped to watch a dancing light show on my way home that was pretty stinking amazing. I’ll try to upload a video tomorrow. 🙂

Christmas {day 121}

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this nativity was an early Christmas gift from the sweet hubs. as I set it out last night I couldn’t help but remember the actual meaning of Christmas. I’m so grateful for a God who loved us so much that He gave a physical, tangible representation of Himself. He walked the earth, suffered and LOVED THE UNLOVABLE so that we never had to feel alone in our suffering or not good enough. what an amazing gift, all wrapped in a tiny little baby. praying that somehow, amid all the shopping, baking, and wrapping madness you and I will have (and take) the opportunity to reflect on the beauty of the Christmas gift that makes this whole season worth celebrating.

jailbreak date (finally) {day 120}



we finally had time and felt up to our contest winning “jailbreak” date, so we enjoyed our delicious (gluten-free) breakfast at Egg Haven.


then we were off to Blumen Gardens, which is a winter wonderland! it got me in the Christmas spirit, so I’ve been slowly working on getting our house decorated. I even decorated my first wreath!




grateful for conversation and time shared with my hubby, getting into the Christmas spirit, and time to decorate our house.

chicken crust pizza, a million cookies and a surprise pajama party {day 106}

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for lunch with friends we don’t get to see enough and for a zero carb pizza crust made out of chicken (which also happens to be gluten free) that allowed us to enjoy good pizza.




for annual cookie baking day with the awesome women in my family, and for old and new favorites that are gluten free so I can enjoy them, and for the awesome men in my family who watch football in the kitchen and wash our baking gear so we can keep the cookie madness going. that top picture is roughly one fifth of the cookies we made. it was insane.




and last, but certainly not least, for a surprise pajama party celebrating my mom’s upcoming 50th birthday! there is nothing better than rocking some jammers, hanging out with family, and snuggles from my favorite 3 year old. plus, my mom is one of the most giving people I know, so celebrating her is super fun! happy (almost) birthday, mom!!