There is nothing you can do

I have been given a precious gift: motherhood.

My husband and I have 2 beautiful children, Madeline (16) and Duncan (13). They are kind and thoughtful, funny and intelligent, giving and loving, creative and courageous. They love Jesus and their Momma and Daddy.

I pour out my heart and soul to fill them with confidence, grace, understanding, and knowledge.

They are far from perfect. So am I.

We drive each other crazy. Push buttons. Disappoint and let each other down. Disagree and grumble.

Yet, no matter what happens I make sure I always tell them “There is NOTHING you can do that will ever make me love you any less.”

It’s a powerful reminder as we muddle through this thing called life. Not only is it true for our children, but it’s true for us to. I heard it first from my Heavenly Father when He spoke it to me.

Romans 8:39 says “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I have the best example of parenting written in the pages of God’s Word. I am honored to be entrusted to the children God gave me and humbled by His unfailing love.

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Simple Success

Fairbanks is a very “granola” town. You can see it in the number of men and women with dreadlocks, the functional approach to clothing, simple living, extensive gardening, and attention seeking, issue-based bumper stickers.

Living here, we can’t help but get sucked in. From our tree hugger school, preserving and canning food, cooking and baking all things from scratch, and learning ways to feed our curious sense of simple living; every day we are growing more “granola” ourselves.

I remember the day I told my sister how I was making my own sauerkraut for the first time. It still brings a smile to my face when I remember her gingerly response, “how very…pioneer of you.”

It sure is, and I love it.

Now, not everything has been a “first-time’s-a-charm” success, but I have mastered sauerkraut. Yogurt, on the other hand, is another story.

My first attempt at making yogurt was easy and interesting. Really anyone can follow the recipe:

bring 2 quarts of milk to 185* (just before boiling)

cool the milk to 105* (you can use a water bath to speed up the process)

add some of the milk to 1/2 cup cultured yogurt (to kick start your cultures)

blend well

add the remaining milk to the yogurt mixture

put it in a crock pot on top of a heating pad on low

cover with plastic that has a few slits

let it set for 7+ hours

refrigerate when done

Simple, right? Mine was like melted ice cream. A few people who regularly make their own yogurt advised me that I didn’t let it set long enough. So, after asking lots of other questions and reading more about the process, I tried it again.

Take 2: Delicious Success!

The only thing I changed was, indeed, to increase my culture time until I was pleased with the thickness of the creamy, delicious treat.

I can’t tell you the number of people we know who make their own yogurt. From boiled water in canning jars filling a soft-sided cooler, to any variety of store-bought yogurt makers, home-made yogurt is commonplace here.

I just made another batch last week – a full gallon – and already it’s near time to make some more.

Saving money, living simply, knowing exactly where our food comes from and how it’s handled are all things we are learning to do and truly appreciate living in the last frontier.

None of us have dreadlocks or tattoos…yet!

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Senior Pastor Joe

Sunday, June 20, 2010, just a few weeks shy of three years serving at Zion Lutheran Church Fairbanks, Alaska for our family. That was the day when the Senior Pastor baton was passed from Pastor Kuehnert as he retired from 15+ years serving at Zion, to Pastor Joe (that’s my Joe!)

It was a long, emotional day filled with moments and memories we will always hold on to. The love and respect shown to both men was remarkable and well deserved. Kind words were shared by the members and friends of Zion as well as between the Pastors and their families.

Since Joe accepted the Call, that means the children and I did too.

I remember one day as I was asked why I would ever want to be a Pastor’s wife, I responded with out hesitation; “for the power and influence”.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about control, it’s about empowerment. The chance to serve others as well as to encourage others to serve, based on their skills and passion, is what it’s really about. It’s a permission giving position that influences positive growth and change in the lives of others, relying totally on the Holy Spirit to make it happen. Why wouldn’t I want to be a part of something like that?

Each of us have been called to do certain things, at certain times, for certain reasons. It’s not happenstance. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit in us, through us, and in spite of us. That nervous, stirred up feeling isn’t about you or me. It’s God at work in us.

A dear friend of mine gave me a birthday card a few years ago that I still have sitting out as a reminder for me today. It says, “Ever wonder what God has in store for you? Just answer this simple question… What are the desires of your heart?”

God is the One who placed them there.

God called my husband to full time ministry as a teacher and preacher of the Word. We answered the Call against all odds, only to find a richer, fuller life than we ever imagined. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an easy life but, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

But I’ve thinking, now that I’m the “First Lady” at Zion, shouldn’t I get a hair and clothing budget line item? Just kidding…

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Running Stats

I really did run the Midnight Sun Run last June with my friend Moriah. She’s an amazing encourager, and my personal “Jillian”, who got me through the entire 10k only walking about a half a mile!

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The crowd was so much fun with lots of energy and costumes abound, celebrating Summer Solstice with 21 hours 48 minutes of sun. Who are we kidding? The sun never actually sets, it just rides lower in the sky.

We had a the best cheering section, family and friends alike, and a fantastic time overall. I did pretty well with my first 10k finishing at 1:13:40! What an accomplishment to celebrate in my 40th year.

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The Corny Truth

What an amazing opportunity we have had, through the Seminary to meet people, live in a few places we would otherwise never live, and have some incredible life lessons along the way.

I remember a fellow student and neighbor who shared with us that he had a corn allergy. He spoke of how eating corn made him feel miserable on the rare occasion when he would indulge in a corn-laced treat. But really, he must be making things up. How can anyone be allergic to corn?

For our Vicarage placement, we were called to Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in West Des Moines, Iowa where we saw Jesus in the hands, feet, and faces of those who worshipped and served there. We quickly called Iowa home and, being in Iowa, indulged ourselves on more corn than ever before:

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at the Adel Sweet Corn Festival, in our corn fed pork and beef, in more side dishes and every day living than we can recount. It gave food an indescribable taste that was just “better” than what we had noticed before.

Corn was abundant, affordable, and a beautiful sight to see along the open roadways. It made my heart fall in love with the midwest in a brand new way.

Since I can remember having corn allergy conversations with Jim (our neighbor in St. Louis) so clearly all these years later, I am poignantly reminded of God’s sense of humor. When I got my allergy testing results last Spring, the report indicated my greatest allergen being, none other than, CORN! You’ve got to be kidding me!!! I love corn!!

In that moment and so many since I couldn’t help but thinking of the scene from A Christmas Story when Ralphie recalls the Bumpasses’ dogs busting through the door, into the kitchen, devouring the Christmas turkey:

“The heavenly aroma still hung in the house. But it was gone, all gone! No turkey! No turkey sandwiches! No turkey salad! No turkey gravy! Turkey Hash! Turkey a la King! Or gallons of turkey soup! Gone, ALL GONE!”

Insert every delicious corn-based food you can think of and here I am.

But wait, there’s more…

I very quickly learned that it’s not just the corn you see, it’s every corn derivative and by-product under the sun, too. In case you haven’t been required to intensely read food labels and learn all of the “names” for corn, it’s in EVERYTHING!!! I even carry a handy-dandy list with me to be sure I don’t get slipped a “corn mickey” when I’m out.

Life lesson learned. Until you truly know, never underestimate the invasive power of an allergy. For all of us who suffer from common, or not so common allergies, there is hope. Together we can make the most of this life as we know it.

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It was a huge decision to send Madeline and Duncan to public school. We had been a homeschool family for six years and loved it. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy, it was just right for us. Prayerfully we started at The Watershed last fall and it has been an incredible experience.

Even still, Madeline came home just last week and shared, through her teacher, that people say some mean things about our school.

“What do you mean?” I asked

“Well, they say that any child who goes to The Watershed will become a tree hugger. It doesn’t make sense, Mom. We all already hug the trees.”

How can you not help but smile at that?

Check out the website and see some of the fun pictures that scroll across the top. Madeline and Duncan are in several of them!

We love our school!

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Growing up, food=love. Whether in my Grandma’s kitchen, at social gatherings, celebrating an accomplishment or needing comfort, it all centered around food.

In turn, I learned to try recipes, tweak them to my liking, and prepare meals for my family. It seemed to be a win-win. The feeling of instant gratification when a dish turned out well or impressed someone I wanted affirmation from gave me a high. It was like a drug.

Since food=love, both in serving and consuming, I found a way to feed my addiction both in the act of service and in calories. I always thought that my roundish figure was “just how I was built”. What evil messages an addiction whispers in your ear.

Just recently I read another woman’s story about food and love at The Skinny Daily Post. The author articulated so much for me that I haven’t had words for. I have carried my share of extra weight on the outside and definitely carried the burden on the inside.

Now I’m learning how I want and need to take care of myself. What does that look like?

It looks like the baby step of choosing the creamer for my coffee that isn’t the cheapest, most chemically based substance, to milestones like going to the gym 5 days a week to strengthen and tone my body – and a myriad of things in between.

I’m learning that an act of service is the love language that gives me a greater high than any sugary fatty food I can prepare or consume.

I’m learning to see the love that surrounds me in my adoring husband who sees in me great worth. It’s in the words and actions of my children who recognize value in themselves as well as in others. It’s in the intentional relationships I have with my family and friends here in Fairbanks and across the country.

I’m learning that it’s ok for someone else to notice that I am taking care of myself based on my attitude, stature, or disposition.

I’m learning a bit more every day. Maybe my life can be used to spur someone else on. Maybe that someone is you.

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