The Tree Hunt

365 Project: Day 4 Since the kids were born, Jon and I have made it a tradition to load everyone up and go cut down our own Christmas tree every December. Even though only one of the four kids is still currently living at home, they all still know they’re welcome to join us when they can. So, Hannah, our almost 16-year old, got the privilege of cutting down the tree all to herself this year. She looks pretty happy, doesn’t she? Jon’s brother, Jay, and his family, live on our same block, and our back yards are kiddy corner from each other, so this year we planned an extended family outing to the tree farm. They’ve been going there longer than we have, so it was fun to go together this time. There were as many in each of our families who could be there, and Jon and Jay’s dad (my father-in-law), Royce, came too. In all, there were 10 of us Larsons invading the Kringlund Tree Farm today. For the last eight years, we’ve gone to, what we believe, is the best-kept secret of a tree farm near the Sand Dunes State Forest in Sherburne County… a modest 40-acre family-owned and -operated farm. Don and Pam Kringlund have helped us create so many happy, treasured, family memories over the years. It’s such fun to banter with the family about which tree each of us thinks is best, laugh, throw snowballs, hide behind trees, and just watch the kids run and play together! When the tree hunt is over and we’ve all agreed we found the perfect one, we head back to the little 15 x 20-foot brown cabin to pay, and as we approach the door, jingly old-time Christmas tunes ring through the air, inviting us to pull open the creaky screen door and come on in. As we do, a burst of heat and settles on our cheeks. We make our way to a comfy spot on the worn and well-used furniture, and the screen door slaps behind us. The sweetness of cider in the air fills every gap in our senses. Mrs. Kringlund serves each guest homemade spritz cookies, hot apple cider with her secret mix of spices, and freshly-popped popcorn, while Mr. Kringlund sits in the rocker and tells tales of his work, family, their dog, hunting, or family history of the tree farm. Each year, this is a special memory I look forward to creating with our kids. I treasure each time at Kringlund’s and hold it close in my heart, with whoever can be there to share it with us. Just like the weather varies from year to year, the memories we make on the Christmas tree hunt are brand new each time. I can hardly wait to go back in twelve months. Oh wait… can it be? …I think I smell Mrs. Kringlund’s cider brewing already! What are some of your family traditions? Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do with your family at Christmas time, but haven’t yet? I never want to forget that every day is a new opportunity, and there are so many new memories to be...

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Reindeer Run

365 Project: Day 3 Today, I woke up to 24-degree temps and headed out for the Reindeer Run 5k at Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. It’s touted as the “most fun south of the North Pole”. I must say, it does rank pretty high up there. Although this is the 24th annual event, this was the first time I’ve ever run it. I don’t know how many runners there were, but I’d venture to guess it was into the thousands. The sea of people seemed to go on and on. There were families and individuals of all ages, all kinds of fun and creative costumes, and lots of dogs running with their owners—many of the dogs also donning costumes and reindeer headbands of their own. There wasn’t a stitch of wind, and believe it or not, not even a smidgen of snow on the ground—almost unheard of in December in Minnesota. It was a perfect day to be outside. Every time I run a race, there’s an energy there that seems to lift my spirits. If I’m ever in a funk, being around other active people almost always pulls me out of it. The same is true when I eat in a restaurant or just go anywhere where people are out DOING things. Seeing people out living life is such a happy thing to be a part of. I have a tendency to want to hole up and be hermit-like in the winter time, because I am just not too fond of being out in the cold weather for very long if I don’t have to be. This has proven to cause problems if I’m not careful, and I know if that goes on too long, it creates a breeding ground for lots of negativity in my life. It’s so easy to focus on all the things that don’t matter when you’re idle, which is one of the reasons I’ve signed up for multiple winter races and decided I’m going to be proactive—and be less of a hermit this year. Just this week, someone pointed out and highlighted one of my faults, which I am all too aware of (and do want to change about myself). This person put me on the guilt trip of the century because of it, and ever since, it’s been kind of heavy on my heart. It would bug me whenever I’d think about it. Then, when I ran the race this morning, and then went out for breakfast with my husband afterwards, it was as though the fresh air, exercise, and being around other people—hundreds/thousands of strangers even—aided in lifting the care of it. It was just the remedy I needed. Keeping busy and avoiding idleness is an amazing antidote to so many situations and burdens we carry unnecessarily. So… if you have similar tendencies like me, don’t let the winter blues come knocking at your door. Decide to do something fun at least a couple times a week. Get out of the house and make plans to keep yourself busy living life. Take a walk around the block with your spouse, your kids, or a friend; go to the city and visit a new restaurant or coffee shop; sign up for a race; or whatever fun you can think up. Your spirit, soul, and body will thank you. Hebrews 6:11-12 ~ And now I want each of you to extend that same intensity toward a full-bodied hope, and keep at it until the finish. Don’t drag your feet. Be like those who stay the course with committed faith and then get everything promised to...

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Donation Day!

365 Project: Day 2 After my stepson needed a 3-unit blood transfusion about a month ago, my husband, Jon, and I decided to make donating blood something we put on our calendar—and commit to do together on a regular basis. Here we are at the American Red Cross blood drive, at a little church in Elk River, MN today. This was Jon’s first time ever, so I was excited for us to do it together. I used to give blood every couple months, but due to low iron, have been unable to for the last couple years. The last number of times I’ve gone, they might as well give me a big, red, REJECTED stamp on my forehead. It’s so sad. Then, I hang my head and wallow out the door in disgraceful self-pity. I was so hoping that today would be different, but nope… low iron AGAIN. Grrr! So, I sighed real loud and tried not to make too much of a spectacle of myself, as if that would change the situation. I tried not to be jealous watching Jon save lives on that table, but it was no use. I was happy for him. Sad for me. I decided I was going to make the best of it while I waited for him. It is my goal to be a friend or try and make a friend, wherever I go… even if I know I’ll never see them again. So I sat down at a table with other “rejects” and cute little church ladies who were helping facilitate the blood drive… waving to Jon every now and then from across the room. I think the church ladies felt bad for me, offering me all the juice, coffee, water, fruit, and treats I wanted. As I sat there feeding my face, I asked them questions about their church, themselves, the blood drive, and whatever I could think of, and they asked questions about me. It was, to me, sweet friendships in the making. I neglected to tell Jon how to prepare before giving blood, so he had a glass of water and grapes before we left the house, which resulted in a little problem in his blood donation process. I excused myself from the church lady’s table as I glanced over to Jon and saw three Red Cross workers surrounding him. His face was completely white. I ran over there, laid hands on him, and prayed while the Red Crossers put a paper bag over his nose and mouth, turned a fan on him, and put cold cloths on his forehead and neck… all the while, assuring me they see this fairly often. That was little comfort as I looked at his ghostly face. He was disoriented, and described how he felt as just wanting to take a nap. Well, he got his wits about him after downing some sweets and juice to get his blood sugar up. Whew. Crisis averted. Jon got to come back to the church lady’s table with me and not only eat yummy food they made and prepared, but he also got to meet them… my new friends! By the time we left, I truly believe they won’t soon forget that smiling, laughing girl in pink who was genuinely interested in them, grateful for their hospitality, and the one who loves and adores her husband more than anything. I know I won’t too soon be forgetting them. So, go out and save a life. It’s worth it. Just make sure you eat a hearty breakfast and drink at least 8 glasses of water the day before your appointment. Oh, and if you ever get rejected like I did, I hope you don’t leave without making a friend or two. Your life will be all the better. Romans 12:10 ~ Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.   ...

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More than just a bill

365 Project: Day 1 This seems like an odd ‘Day 1’ photo for my 365 Project, but to me, this T-Mobile bill represents more than just the numbers on it. The “Usage Charges” of $49.75 (which is not a normal fee on our bill) is an accumulation of charges that were, unbeknownst to us, incurred daily over the last 30 days for web and data usage—that we didn’t use. I called T-Mobile today to rectify the situation, thinking this will be a piece of cake. They’ll know by my nice voice and the notes in my account that I’m a respectable person, pay my bills on time, and somehow, maybe they’ll even know that I’m all about personal responsibility, so I’m not trying to pull a fast one on them. Well, for some reason, it wasn’t that obvious to him. Harrumph! As I attempted to plead my case and tell him how completely unfair this is, the conversation went in circles. First, he said there was nothing he could do. I got annoyed, my frustration began to build, and I told him I don’t accept that. He then told me I could pay $10 to have something go into effect, making the charges retroactive, dismissing the remaining $39.75. But, that means I’m still out ten bucks. Well, that was good, but not good enough! I felt my blood start to boil, my heart began to race, my eyes welled up, and my voice quivered (yes, it’s true… I really dislike confrontational situations), and then I felt the Holy Spirit speak to my heart. He told me to take a deep breath, breathe a quick prayer for favor, and then proceed. So, I did. At that moment, the T-Mobile representative paused, his tone noticeably changed, then told me he would submit a request to reverse the charges in full, which would be credited on our January bill. I was like, what? I shouldn’t have been so surprised, but it looked so bleak for the last 15 minutes, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever see a favorable result.  I wondered what would have happened if I didn’t stop and pray when I felt the prompting. I was so grateful, especially that the Lord speaks to my heart the way He does… giving me grace to keep my cool when I want to yell at cell phone reps—so close to wrecking the good things He’s trying to work out on my behalf. In all situations, I never want to forget that God’s favor is a gift for me today and EVERY day. He is so good. I know it was all Him, making sure I came out on top. How has God’s favor shined on you lately? Psalm 31:16 ~ Let Your favor shine on Your servant. In Your unfailing love, rescue...

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