HomeMakers Overnight – Saturday

365 Project: Day 59 …continued from part 1. After getting to bed after 3 a.m., we woke up around 9, and then some of us went to do the morning stretch in the commons area with Jen Gilbert before brunch. And some of us didn’t. I was bushed, and was so surprised when I looked out our hotel window… there were SO many of the girls out there—and ready to work out. As much as I liked the idea, I wasn’t up for it. I grabbed my Wolfgang Puck hotel coffee, sat down on the bed, and chatted with a couple of my roomies for a while instead. Now it was time to get showered and ready for the day, and head down for brunch by 10:30. Here’s my friend, Lisa… with a beautiful baby. And look at those tights. Those shoes aren’t even actual shoes. They’re part of the tights! Is that cute or what?! This is the only picture I got at brunch, which is unfortunate because it was DELICIOUS! Especially the bacon. It seems that others will have to fill in the gaps of photo ops I missed. I’m sure there are many. Anyway, back to Lisa. If there are babies around, she finds them. Her own five children are between ages 13 and 20, but this is a typical sight on any given day. If a love language can be called ‘babies and teenagers’, that would surely be one of Lisa’s. She just needs both age groups in her life. God made her that way, so people are happy to oblige when they see her coming. After brunch, we all headed to the (really awesome) workshops that were planned for the next couple hours. It was a hard decision to make because there were four workshops to choose from for the first session, and three options for the second session. They included workshops on: saving money, pediatric medicine, fashion, exercise, healthy eating, and a Q & A session (about anything you’d ever want to ask in secret…or in public). Wow, it was such a great lineup. All of the workshops were led by HomeMakers, who are also experts in their particular field. I know I’m not alone when I say I wanted to go to all of them.  Carrie Rocha from Pocket Your Dollars attends HomeMakers, is a member of our church, and is a fascinating and engaging speaker. Although I’ve heard her speak about saving money before, with technology and the economy always changing, I know there will always be new ways to save and new things to learn. I went to her workshop for the first session. It was really good. One of the funnest things I learned (yes, I said funnest) this time around was that you can find the pricing history (in chart form) of any item sold on Amazon, using The Camelizer. That is so helpful for me because most of mine and Jon’s shopping is done on Amazon. It can help make better decisions as to whether or not you should wait for a better price. They even send price-drop alerts, which is so great! Another interesting thing I learned from Carrie that I didn’t know before was that Aldi and Trader Joe’s are owned by the same people. Who knew?! Also, did you know that there are many retailers who do price-matching (including Target, WalMart, Best Buy, HomeDepot, Office Depot, etc…)? Knowledge is power, as the saying goes… and I felt so empowered after that workshop.  Me and Lisa. We lead one of the twelve discussion groups at HomeMakers of about 20 people. We’ve known each other for a lot of years, but this is our third year having a group together. I’ve told her many times that I am so thankful the Lord worked it out that we could lead a group together because in my over ten years of attending HomeMakers, the last three have been the very best for me personally, and the most fulfilling. She and I are different in some ways, and alike in others, but we both feel like we complement each other SO well. Lisa says we’re like an old, married couple. I love when she says that. That always makes me crack up. She’s one of those naturally funny people. I, on the other hand, seem to be the only one laughing at my own jokes. Haha! She is also one of the wisest women in my world. I love that you never have to wonder about anything with Lisa. She’s a tell-it-like-it-is kind of friend. We have a great group at HomeMakers, but best of all, I know I have a friend...

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HomeMakers Overnight – Friday

365 Project: Day 58 Last Friday was our annual HomeMakers Overnight at a hotel in Minneapolis—with over a hundred women. There are a number of us who start the fun early…like 10 a.m., since we can’t check into the hotel until 3 p.m. We stop and grab coffee, chat, shop, stop for lunch… shop some more… and then head over to the hotel after that. It’s a fun tradition. Here are 7 of us eating lunch at Macy’s in Ridgedale. I’ve eaten there a few times now, but never on a day that was not because of the HomeMakers Overnight. I don’t know why. They have excellent food and great service. Plus, if you’re walking around Macy’s, they sometimes bring food samples to shoppers out on the floor, and hand them a coupon for buy one entrée, get one half off. I like coupons and good food, especially with friends, so our day was off to a great start.   Here I am with my friend, Stephanie, in our hotel room, goofing around and freshening up (kind of) before heading down to the banquet room to check people in. We swear that she and I are related. We always have a blast no matter what we’re doing. Stephanie is Renee’s daughter, and when the three of us are together, it’s one of the most unique friendship dynamics in my life. It’s like we were all born to be family, so I’m glad the Lord made that happen along the way. I’ve never had a relationship where I felt like a sister to both a mother AND her daughter. It’s an unexplainable, beautiful work of God. There are so many gaps in the photos I took on my camera. I didn’t get enough of the event as a whole, which kind of bums me out. I know that others who were there did though. Renee and I compile pictures from every HomeMakers year and make a slideshow that we show in the spring, so if anyone captured other fun elements of the night, like… the AMAZING food, game-playing, other fun things that happened in the banquet room or in your hotel room with your roomies, please send them to me or put them on a CD and bring them to church.   Here are a bunch of prize winner girls! Renee is infamous for giving things away. She loves it, so any time there’s a party or event like this, she comes bearing gifts. 🙂  Everyone know this about her, so we get so many really great things donated throughout the whole year, like: massages, therapeutic pillows, jewelry, gift baskets, restaurant coupons, photo sessions, to name just a few. Renee held drawings every half hour for the entire night. We are a blessed group.  One thing about Stephanie and I – we can sometimes get into mischief (…the harmless kind. Well, I think it’s pretty harmless. More like adventurous.) I have a few friends who would be tempted to crash the party in the next door banquet room, and Stephanie is definitely one of them. On her way back from the restroom, she heard the women’s group next to us with their live band, saw them dancing on the dance floor, and came and told me about it. I think these were my words: “Let’s do it.” We ducked out for 5 minutes and snapped this picture while we were on the dance floor next door. (…not the most flattering of me, but oh well.) It doesn’t show too much in the background, but there we were, dancing like the eccentric weirdoes we can sometimes be. I’ve always wanted to be a break-dancer (since the 80s), and a hip-hop dancer (but not the gross kind!), and for some reason, some of my friends bring that all back to me, and I have the urge to just go for it, even though I don’t know what the heck I’m even doing. Well, I didn’t do it here, but I wanted to. We didn’t draw attention to ourselves, and somehow, no one even noticed us, the interlopers, for those few minutes. I guess we fit right in. We laughed hysterically, and made another “adventure memory” to tuck in our memory banks until the next time she comes home from Peru.  (Stephanie and her husband, Daniel, are now missionaries there, along with their sweet girls, Madeline and Macy.) I’m thankful to have made such sweet memories with her while she was back in Minnesota for a short visit.  We always end the night with Renee tucking in all “her girls” for the night by sharing a little devotional straight from her...

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Jon’s “The Couple” on canvas

365 Project: Day 57 Jon took this picture at dusk this past fall on a hill by the High Bridge in St. Paul. He was out shooting this particular evening, and as he was walking back to the car, he decided to take some photos of this couple, as they stood there, unmoved and staring in the direction of the setting sun for at least 15 minutes. The city of St. Paul lies behind them and to their right. This is one of Hannah’s favorites of Jon’s photos (and he’s taken many), so Jon had the print blown up to 10” x 25” and put on canvas and framed for her 16th birthday. It arrived in the mail last week, so it was a little late, but a super special gift from Dad to daughter. I love this photo. My husband has some mad skills, I must say. I love that he not only sees beauty everywhere around him, but it wows me when he captures it so beautifully.   **To see more of Jon’s photos, here are some he’s posted on...

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Our new group… family Bible study

365 Project: Day 56 Jon and I started a family Bible study at our house last week! We are very excited about it. It came about during a conversation that he and I were having with two of our nieces at a family get-together recently. Jessica and Laura (ages 22 & 18) were talking about how they really wanted to get involved in a Bible study group. They’ve checked into some, but for various reasons, none of the ones they checked into were a good fit. Without thinking too much about it—or even talking to Jon ahead of time—I burst out, “Maybe you should come over to our house, and we could start our own!!!” They immediately jumped onboard and were beyond excited… and so were Jon and I! It doesn’t make sense in my head to add one more thing to my calendar, but it made sense in that moment, so I went with it. And I’m so glad I did. Here we are. Back row: Laura & Nick (niece and her boyfriend), Jesse (niece Jessica’s boyfriend), Donna (sister-in-law), Jon & I. Front row: Hannah (daughter), Jessica (niece). In our church, we call a group like this a “Fresh Manna” group. Our Small Groups pastor, Tim Burt (who is also my boss), came up with the concept a number of years ago, and that’s what he titled it. He’s been writing a blog with the same title for over a decade, with readers all over the world, and recently started a Facebook page too. (Sidenote and an FYI… every mother should be indebted to Pastor Tim, as he is THE inventor of the diaper deck/ infant changing table found in every public restroom. I’m not kidding. He did totally invent that! :)) Jon and I used to have a Fresh Manna group with friends from church, and few things have impacted us more and helped us grow spiritually as the years we held that group in our home. We are glad to be doing it again, but this time with family. In short, Fresh Manna is where you get a verse from anywhere in the Bible (every day—not just when you meet with your group), and then you think about that verse—and what it means to you—for that whole day. Oftentimes what happens is that the Lord will show you new things about that verse throughout your day, and He’ll lead you to share that verse with someone that day, which is many times just what they needed to hear. It’s for you as much as it’s for those who the Lord brings across your path. Sharing it with others is what helps the Word of God grow bigger in your heart. If you happened to read five chapters at once, but you remember nothing when you close your Bible, and have given yourself nothing to meditate on, you have to ask yourself if it was really worth the time you took to read it—and if you were just going through the motions. That can really be frustrating, especially if you know you want to get something out of your Bible-reading time, but you always forget it and have difficulty applying it to your life today. That’s the beauty of reading the Bible and purposing to grab a verse or two, write it down, and carry it with you for that whole day. Your reading now has purpose. When you come together in a Fresh Manna group setting, everyone shares their “manna” for that particular day and what it means to them. It’s a simple concept, with great depth and meaning. The Word of God gets shared and and you connect with other people on a heart level. Then it all ends with praying out our manna, and agreeing in prayer for all of those promises that were shared to come to pass in our lives and thanking God for helping us to walk out the things He’s spoken to our hearts, etc. It’s really, truly incredible. I would HIGHLY recommend that every believer gets together with at least one person on a regular basis to talk about and share the things the Lord speaks to your heart through His Word. You will be encouraged, inspired, and learn more than you think. No one ever arrives at a place of knowing everything God knows, so hence, a Fresh Manna group is one very impacting way of drawing close to the Lord and growing in your walk with Him. You’ll be amazed at how exciting the Bible becomes! If you want to hear from Pastor Tim Burt directly about Fresh Manna, there’s a recording...

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Too many peanut M&Ms

365 Project: Day 55 I bought a small bag of peanut M&Ms to set out when we had people over last weekend for Hannah’s birthday, and everyone must either have good self-control or be on a diet because they hardly got eaten. That never happens. I bought a small bag so there would NOT be any leftovers. The bowl sat out on the counter for a couple days after that, and I wasn’t even tempted to eat them, until one day as I headed out the door. Normally this wouldn’t even be a topic of discussion for me, but even while I’m being so good to take care of myself, I actually turned around to come back and dump a whole bunch in a baggie to take with me.  I left this much in the bowl, and the rest went with me. I hadn’t eaten a very good breakfast or lunch that day, so I was hungry… and apparently, weak. I ate every single one of them, and enjoyed not a one! I regretted it even as my hand came up to my mouth–time after time. That seemed like a bigger waste than if I had taken them and dumped them in the trash. To eat something so high in calories and fat… and hate it?! It would’ve been different if I actually enjoyed myself, even a little bit. Well, I overdid it, so that night for dinner, I made a better choice. I ate a huge plate of steamed broccoli, had some clementines later, and other such things that grow from the ground. And then I got on the treadmill. Sometimes it seems worth it, but this time it wasn’t–from the time I grabbed the baggie out of the drawer. The lessons I learned are many: Don’t buy peanut M&Ms for your guests… especially if you’re not going to enjoy the leftovers. Be willing to throw things in the garbage. Eat healthy meals so you don’t want to eat crummy snacks. Don’t bring junk food with you in the car. Try to enjoy your food and snacks at all times. Don’t beat yourself up when you make a mistake. MOVE ON, and purpose to do better next time. Life is full of choices. …just to name a...

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The First Rehearsal

365 Project: Day 54 Monday night was the first rehearsal–and parent meeting–for the next CB Productions play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare. I couldn’t even fit everyone in the photo. This is the largest cast Hannah’s ever been a part of. There are 29 cast members and 6 crew members. With all the parents and some siblings there, there weren’t even enough chairs for everyone to sit down at the meeting. Hannah continues to be the Stage Manager for CB Productions, so this will definitely be a growing experience for her to manage that number of people, alongside Carla. It will be magical… and a work of art… THAT I am sure of! Carla Barwineck is the best director there is. I’m not bias or anything. It’s just true. 🙂 Jon and I are blessed that both of our daughters have grown up under her tutelage in the arts. She’s a gift to our family–and the WORLD. The life skills we’ve all learned from her are priceless. Her love and passion for theater and her students is a beautiful thing to...

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