The family, Easter 2014.

The backstory: honestly, this was the most relaxed and beautiful Holy Week we’ve ever had, and although I say “relaxed” anyone who is in a pastor’s family will understand that what I mean by that term is not “we sat around in easy chairs all week and watched TV and ate bonbons” but rather “on Sunday night we only half-collapsed and were not so physically and emotionally spent today that we could literally not move.”

What I mean is, Derek’s sermon-prep went really well, and anyone in a pastor’s family knows that sermon prep going well or not going well is a huge X factor in how Holy Week will go for the family. I also mean that my wonderful mother-in-law hosted Easter dinner so on Saturday all I had to do was make two pies and an egg casserole for church, keep the kids in order, get their things out, help set up at church, prepare for the Easter egg hunt, and set up the kids’ Easter baskets. And, often, someone or several someones end up in the hospital and/or going to meet their Lord on Holy Week, but this year that did not happen. We also did not host anyone late into the night on Holy Saturday, as has happened in past years.

On Easter morning we were organized enough to get the family together for a pre-service picture before any of us spilled food down their front, changed, or disappeared into the ether. And I’m not trying to minimize the true Easter miracle, but that felt like quite a coup.

[Then I talked to Melanie, who is single-handedly carrying on our tradition of hosting meals for anyone and everyone at First Lutheran. She hosted 33 people yesterday. I'm a slacker.]

Our services were lovely. We had amazing attendance on Good Friday. I’m not a church-numbers person, but I am a percentage person, and having a high percentage of people attend Good Friday services and not miss, you know, the whole reason for Easter and the resurrection, is wonderful. Our choir practices went smoothly and I think we did a nice job in the services, especially on Good Friday when we sang “Jesus in Thy Dying Woes” between the Seven Last Words.

If you haven’t read Matt Walsh’s Easter post, stop what you’re doing and go read it now.

The icing on the Easter cake was when Jonathan announced out of the blue, “Easter is not about candy and the Easter bunny. It’s about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins.” You got it, buddy.

(This year I decided the Easter bunny is stupid, which my dad will say I should have decided years ago, but in a rebellious familial twist I introduced all the magical characters having not had them as a child. I didn’t know how to tell the littles that there’s no Easter bunny, so Derek said, “Just say something like, ‘You know the Easter bunny is just for fun, right?’” So I did, the very next time it came up. I’d agonized over the delivery and anticipated questions about Santa Claus, but instead, from Sophia, I got nothing Santa-related but deep concern over the Tooth Fairy. Which means I stumbled, covered up, and managed to salvage the Tooth Fairy, feel like a fraud and a liar, and disabuse the idea of the Easter Bunny all in one awkward conversation. This parenting stuff is not easy.)

Ramble number two: broken families suck. There’s not much more to say about that because it’s too close to my heart, and besides, everyone knows this in a very painful way either through direct or tangential experience. It’s just that holidays, particularly celebratory holidays like Easter and Christmas, which should be full of joy and happiness (and they are, even so, in the eternal sense), become clouded with pain and silent suffering and loneliness that throws life under the cross into sharp relief.

Related, you can only choose to be faithful regardless of how others act. I am extremely proud of people I know (you know who you are) who choose to be and stay faithful, to keep families together at all costs, to live a life of sacrificial love even when it doesn’t bring happiness and self-fulfillment and all the things Oprah and the prosperity gospel taught us we need. No one said it was easy to do the right thing.

Ramble number three: Although I 99.9% like the fact that we share everything financially, I do not like it this week. Derek’s birthday is on Monday and he’s sitting in the other room, and he calls out, “Sweetie, what’s this Amazon charge that’s labeled ‘gift’?”


I guess this is where pin money comes in, but you can’t order on Amazon and pay in cash, so I’m still stuck. And, without giving too much away about the gift, I’ll just add that being a tall person, he is impossible to shop for locally. The girls are in on the secret, though, and Sophia has promised to “act normal” if anything arrives and “pretend it’s just a box of wine.”

Final ramble: Whenever I take those brain tests I always come out dead-even between left and right brain. That makes sense to me, but going further I find that although my thoughts very much center on the emotional, right-brained side, I can only manage to express myself on the left-brained side. Analytically, with data points. I find this endlessly frustrating and have never heard of or found a way to “fix” it, if indeed there is a fix. I’m sure part of it is my Lutheran/German/English-stiff-upper-lip background that sends off alarm bells reminding me that displays of emotion are unseemly, but it sure does hamper my writing and how I communicate with people. I literally cannot find the words to express how I feel, or if I can, I cannot release them, and I hate that because it makes connecting with people so much harder.

In certain circles where I hang out, people would suggest I get private coaching. My gut response is Lutheran/German/English: No way. I will continue to stumble around and hope people are deep enough to read between the lines and make inferences.

Because even as I long to actually express myself, I cannot bear the thought of it.

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Sophia’s latest song:

I clap my hands
so high in the air
I am so excited for
you to be there.

Come on just come
I can (can’t?) wait
for you to see
your surprise for you and me

I am standing there waiting for you to come
I have a surprise for you
Come on bab(e)
Just come to me

la la la la
la la la la
la la la la
la la la la

Come on bab(e)
Just come to me

hum hum

By: Sophia

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When Sophia was little I worried that she might not have a conscience. She’d do something wrong, and, when the transgression was pointed out to her, would simply shrug it off. I wrung my hands over her more times than I could count.

As she’s grown, I’ve seen a new facet to her personality. She bounces back. The seeming lack of conscience has given way to seriously contrite “I’m sorry, mom” (even if she’s still doing the things that require the apology…. Baby steps). In other areas of her life I see her, very humanly, feeling down about things. These days it’s first-grade stuff like the girl who didn’t sit with her on the bus or the fact that Kate got the left-hand stool again. And then? She bounces back. She’s resilient.

At first, she is disappointed. Hurt. Upset. Cowed. Angry. Sad. Then she flexes back into herself, her generally happy and optimistic self whose brain is always humming with ideas and dreams.


I love this quality in her. I admire it intensely, and I think she will go far in life because of it.

We’ve always said she was one of a kind. She was. She is. She changes all the time, but she’s growing up into the most beautiful young lady.

Back when I thought she might not have a conscience, I worried how she would turn out. Now, I can’t wait to see who and what she’ll become.

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Derek’s going to hate this post because we’ve had this conversation a zillion times, and it goes like this.

Me: I wish I had a business partner.

Him: You know what Dave Ramsey says about business partners. (Emphasis mine.)

Me: I know….

And then I stare into the ceiling dreaming of all the ways a business partner, should I be lucky enough to happen upon someone who shared my values and goals but exactly complemented my skillset, could enhance my life.

But there are two realities I don’t quite want to face here. One is that happening upon the sort of person who fits that bill is just not, well, happening. I have a perennial longing for that magic relationship to appear out of the ether, and I think I know why now. More on that in a minute.

Two is that most business partnerships stink. They carry all the baggage and relationship problems without (sorry mom) what some people call the makeup sex and other people call the commitment. Especially Christians, who understand marriage as a picture of Christ and His church.

But I still want one, and I think I know why after listening to a podcast about partnerships in which they were all explaining how theirs worked.

It’s not because I’m weak, or lazy, or that I can’t accomplish anything without support.

It’s that I have a great marriage and I understand how a person who shares your values and yet has a complimentary skill set to yours can make you and in this case your family, in the business case your company, that much better.  It’s that I know how great it is to have someone to hold you up when you’re down, and to make you better at what you’re good at, and to fill in where you’re not, and to encourage you when things seem bad.

Which leads me to believe that, since Dave Ramsey has outlawed business partnerships and anyway I’ll never find the right person, I should partner with my husband.

There’s the pesky little problem of him being busy with the church. And even if that weren’t the case, I would worry a tiny bit about us having nothing to talk about but the business 24/7.

Me: Hi, honey, how was your day?

Him: You know how my day was. We worked shoulder to shoulder all day. You can probably even name the moments I got up to stretch, yawn, and use the bathroom.

Me: Well, what were you thinking about?

Him: Oh, not this at work, too.

So it’s just me. There are a lot of upsides to “just me,” but having a support system is not one of them.

And even that’s not exactly true. Because even if he won’t be business partners with me, Derek is hands down the best support system I could ask for.

Which makes him a silent partner, I guess. And we don’t even have to sign a contract.


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A few weeks ago I posted about our dream vacations. Then I said they will never happen.

I was wrong.

In April I’m probably going to North Carolina for work, either to the coast (pretty) or to Charlotte (convenient).

In May, I’m going to Denver for advanced Google Analytics training.

In June, Derek and I are going to Boston for my CPH strategic planning meeting and a little history and Italian food in the North End.

In late June/early July, we’re going to…drum roll…Charleston and Isle of Palms for an entire week in an adorable, tiny little pink beach house a block from the ocean and 20 minutes from the city.

beach house

beach house 2

So we will have the best of all worlds: the beach. History. (Fort Sumter, anyone?) Food. (Food! Charleston food!)

We are all super excited. Sophia incorporated “Isle of Palms” into her latest Hangman puzzle. Jonathan has never been to the beach. Kate’s researching historical plantations to visit and planning our boat ride to Fort Sumter. I’m re-reading Gone with the Wind. (Not really. But I should.)

This whole thing started by us doing the budget and deciding we had a little vacation fund after all. I immediately obsessively researched locations within driving distance of Knoxville, and sent Derek my top rental home picks. He, meanwhile, was obsessed with choosing a lawn mower before the spring onion grass hit three feet tall.

By the time I forced him to look at the rentals, they were booked. Cue my extreme disappointment.

But it all worked out for the best, because we had a real conversation about where to go and where not to go, and we ended up ruling out Asheville, my original choice, and random beach towns on the NC and SC coast (also my original choice). Again with the history, the proximity to civilization. Then Charleston popped out as being The Place With Everything: history, beach, food. And it’s just 6.5 hours from here!

Eight years living here and the South is really growing on me. When we first came, I didn’t understand it. None of it. The food. The oppressively hot Augusts. The schools’ tendency to focus on Civil War history. Now, I feel like this northwestern/midwestern girl has finally gotten in tune with it all, with the help of some very good native friends who have introduced me to the southern way of thinking.

I will never be able to talk slowly, and I’ll never have a great mountain accent, but I do know how to sit quiet in the heat of a southern summer day, I’m starting to really understand southern history, and I love me some fried green tomatoes and bacon.

And we’ll be doing all of the above on our family dream vacation.

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1. I’ve been slowly reading this fantastic book for weeks now (mainly pre-bed on Sundays, which seems to be the only time I’m relaxed and organized enough to go to bed 30 minutes early to read), but today I’ve been holed up on the cozy chair in the sunny dining room nursing a bad cold, and I got a good chunk of the way into the book between sneezing and nose-blowing fits.

Being that it’s the first Sunday of Lent, I thought I’d recommend it because it’s a perfect book for this season. Pastor Harrison tells these fabulous stories all anchored in the Gospel. I was tearing up reading the Katrina story and the story of Luther on his deathbed and the story about the guy who walked into Zion Lutheran (our church at seminary) in the middle of the Divine Service and fell down at the alter crying “I’m gonna die!”

Coincidentally, it’s available at your neighborhood synodical publishing house, which I also coincidentally have an interest in promoting. But I’d recommend it regardless because it’s an amazing book and I’m grateful that this very pastoral theologian is now our Synodical president. Just go read it.

2. I signed a contract with my workplace last week to go on permanently. Late in February, the director of HR came to see me and said, “You proved us wrong. It turns out you can do this full-time job in three days. We’d like you to stay.”

I’m thrilled; it’s a perfect fit for me and for us right now. It’s funny because even at a smaller agency like this one things still move very slowly with many people involved. I’m so used to cranking stuff out that I’m by far the most responsive and impatient to get things rolling, so it’s fairly easy to do the full-time-in-three-days thing. Besides, when I’m there, I’m there. I work hard and I stay organized so I know exactly what I have to get done and am not a bottleneck. And as long as I’m not the bottleneck, they all think it’s working fine.

3. I’m heading to St. Louis Tuesday for my CPH meeting. For the first time since I’ve been on the board, we’re holding the meeting at the hotel since the 4th floor of the House is under construction. But lest you think our board has fallen victim to the plight of all other LCMS boards who fly into the airport, head to the ubiquitous Crowne Plaza and never see the light of day again till they hop the shuttle back to the airport, no worries: we’re meeting at the CPH hotel of choice, the Drury Plaza at the Arch. When I say “I’m going to St. Louis” I mean the actual city and even next door to the actual Arch, not the airport and airport hotel in the ‘burbs.

4. I am very grateful to my sweet and exhausted husband, who is already extra-busy in Lent, and had a church council meeting today, and got home at 3 p.m. not having eaten, and had a quick snack, change, and turned right around to take the kids to a birthday party at the park at 4 p.m., leaving me at home to blow my nose, suck on zinc tablets, and rest.

(Mom, I decided to give the zinc another try, and while they still makes me feel nauseated, they seem to work. Beggars can’t be choosers. And, according to Luther’s last words, we are all beggars. Although I’m sure he meant it in another sense, and circling back to #1, you can find out exactly what sense in Christ Have Mercy.)

4.5 I’m always saying “this post brought to you by the TrekDesk.” Not today. I’m still huddled in a blanket in the dining room, soaking up vitamin D and drinking tea. This post is brought to you by the iPad, the brand new one that isn’t crazy and is growing on me. I’m starting to see what my parents have been gushing about all this time. Also, my kids are quite taken with Siri. Did you know her favorite color is green?

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My dream vacation:

beach house books

Derek’s dream vacation:


American History


The kids’ dream vacation:

disney world



Derek’s and my combined dream vacation:

Costigliole d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy): landscape



What we really do with our time off:




Oh, and when there’s time we also




But I still long to

beach walk

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At Grandpa and Grandma's house in Boise. Ages around 9, 7, and 5.

My sisters and I at Grandpa and Grandma’s house in Boise. Ages around 9, 7, and 5.

When I was growing up, we lived in the same town as my mom’s parents. We saw them often. They were a huge part of our lives and interwoven into the fabric of our childhood memories.

We moved away when I was seven. My sisters were nine and five. Although we still had plenty of growing-up to do, having our grandparents so close for those first years of our lives was an incredible blessing.

Derek and I followed in my parents’ footsteps and moved away ourselves (and, like them, not to get away from family, but to go to seminary…although escaping the South Dakota winters was a happy side effect). As we had children, we lamented the sad fact that they weren’t growing up around grandparents. No one to spoil them, share memories with them, pass on values and a legacy and family recipes. We were a tight family unit and we relied on friends, also raising families with no grandparents nearby, to pinch-hit as babysitters or to watch the big kids while going into the hospital to deliver a child.

It worked. We got by.

Then last year, Derek’s parents moved down to Tennessee, and for the first time in our kids’ lives they had local grandparents. They get to call and text to check in, play on Grandpa’s handmade swing, and blow bubbles in the driveway. They can count on Grandma’s bars and Grandma’s undivided attention playing board games and card games. They get to eat Sunday dinners with an extended family. And every Wednesday, Jonathan gets a whole day with Grandpa and Grandma all to himself–a day he relishes and looks forward to all week.


Our kids with Grandpa, Father’s Day 2012

I didn’t want to start this post off by saying, “Man, we’re glad the grandparents are here because we have FREE BABYSITTERS now!” But there’s always a kernel of truth in there. Coincidentally upon us moving to Maryville and losing our source of college babysitters, the grandparents moved down. I’m not going to lie and say it hasn’t been nice to have family who has our backs two miles down the road, because it’s been pretty nice. We have been able to do things we weren’t able to do before. Go to the Biltmore for a weekend. Get a job. Sneak away for date night. Run a little late knowing someone would be there to meet the bus.

We’ve tried not to take too much advantage. We’ve known some grandparents who ended up serving as full-time-plus caretakers of their grandkids, and while of course grandchildren are special and wonderful, they’re also a lot of work. And exhausting. And we try to be aware of the fact that our kids’ grandparents didn’t retire down here only to pick up a full-time nannying job.

The fam at Christmas, minus Grandpa, who was snapping the picture.

The fam at Christmas, minus Grandpa, who was snapping the picture.

But, man, any time they get to connect? We know it’s good for them, and it’s good for us. Everyone wins, most especially the kids.

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I heard that phrase on NPR’s “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” show Saturday morning, and it’s adorable if you ask me and apt if you ask a font guy like my dad. They were talking about IKEA, actually, and the outrage sparked in 2009 when IKEA changed the font on their catalog from Futura to Verdana. The font change was a trending topic on Twitter, and even Time magazine covered it.

But I’m using it because I’ve just been feeling down about the state of the world lately. I know, I know: it’s no worse than in many other periods of history. We’re studying Judges in Bible study, and the cycle is something like this:

Israel is bad. —> God delivers them into the hands of their enemies. —> They repent and cry for help. —> God gives them a Judge to deliver them. —> They’re faithful for awhile. —> They get bad again, even worse than the last time. —> Repeat.

Okay, okay, that sounds basically like the whole cycle of history.

But right here, right now, we are special snowflakes and things feel bad, on their way to being worse than any other time if for no other reason than the magnitude of the numbers of people around the world rejecting God’s promises en masse. All around us, the devil is disguising himself in the postmodern culture and it’s scary. Scary enough that I sometimes want to gather my children in my arms and retreat to a private, self-sustaining farm and stop talking to people who say and think outrageous things about the value of life, who Jesus is, and what the Bible means to them, which reveals pretty clearly that they haven’t sat down to read the Bible since their Sunday school days.

(Pretty sure Derek won’t go for the farm bit. Or the isolation. Or, well, any of my crazy ideas. Especially if it involves raising our own meat. Or wheat. Or chickens.)

At this exact moment, I’m bummed about one of my kids’ favorite book authors, someone I loosely know via a writer’s group. She used to be a “Christian writer” (though her famous books are secular) and I jumped on her Facebook wall to show Sophia her picture because we were reading her books and Sophia was too excited that I “knew” her. Her most recent post was about declining to speak at a Christian conference because she’s turned agnostic. Following her post was even more of our mutual writer friends validating her ideas and expressing their own. They all make me so sad I can’t stand it.

And you talk to them and you’re sad and frightened for them because they have chosen to reject God and the Scriptures, and you learn that they’re sad and frightened for you, because they, with their humanistic social justice agenda, don’t see the bigger picture of how God has it all planned, so they think you’re a narrow-minded, bigoted hypocrite. One of us is floating way out to sea and we both are positive it’s the other.

Then I remember the explosion of Christianity on the other side of the world, and how it won’t be long before Africa will be sending Christian missionaries over here and to Europe. But before that, I’m afraid there will be a long period of post-Christianity that my kids and their kids will live in and through, and grounding them in the faith seems all the more critical and pressing.

Whenever I feel like this, I get to the same place in the end: stay faithful, teach my kids. Try to be and show them how to be a light in the world. Rinse and repeat. Dismiss the self-sustaining farm idea, because talking of going to Helvetica in a handbasket? Our family attempting to sustain itself is pretty much the definition of Helvetica in a handbasket.

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I caught Jonathan singing in the bathroom last night. I think the kids have had one too many Top 40 dance parties in the playroom.

Then Sophia wanted her turn. The kids somehow found a full-length version of Frozen on YouTube a few weeks ago. We couldn’t believe YouTube hadn’t policed it, but they managed to watch the whole thing before it was taken down. Then they watched the Olaf “summer” song approximately 1.6 million times. And this one:

I’m not even going to ask Kate if she wants to star in a video. She’s turning eleven this week. I know the answer.

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