Sunday, October 22, 2017

My Favorite Color is October

You guys. The leaves. The colors. The weather. I can't even handle it. The beauty is so breath taking! October has to be my favorite color. I can't help but be in complete awe of God's handiwork every single time I look outside. We're so blessed. And yes, I still have trouble remembering that. Daily. Sometimes when I step outside, I close my eyes and listen to the trees, and I feel like God is whispering in my ear, " Hey Mandi. Stop treading water. You can swim. You've always been able to swim, so just do it. I've got you.You don't always need to be in survival mode. Stay in this moment. This one. You don't need to worry about your unbelievably never ending to do list at school. The laundry will still be there when you get around to it. The kids will be fed and happy. Just breathe this in. This moment. This feeling. This beauty. Be present."

And sometimes that's all I need to snap out of it. Other times, I remember when I'm looking at pictures or reading blogs or going for a walk. Sometimes it's when I listen to my kids laugh, or they put their head on my shoulder or when my husband takes my hand in his. I just need a lot of reminders. That's all.

Fall has delivered in not only breath taking scenery but also in moments well spent with friends and family. Busy as we may be, we are already missing volleyball and football. It came and went in the blink of an eye. So hard to believe it is over. Our varsity football and volleyball teams are both battling it out in the play-offs, and we are excited to cheer our teams on, hopefully onto the state tournaments. We've celebrated a big birthday with great friends, spent time to get to know middle schoolers on Wednesday nights as both EE and TIC sponsors, adventured down to the Ozarks for our 6th straight year of soaking up all the time we miss out on not being close enough to some of our favorite people, chaperoned nine 8th graders to the Haunted House this past weekend and feeling so very blessed our daughter trusts us to be a part of her social circle, celebrated Colin's birthday while Dan and Carter enjoyed some father son time at the Iowa/Penn State game. So many fun things in these last few weeks. And although, school has got me burnt out and stressed to the max, I'm grateful for my students and colleagues (read friends) who make it worth it to come every day. They make me laugh and always make me feel better by greeting me with giant bear hugs that can't help but make you smile. How can you be anxious when your students bring up the most beautiful questions about God and heaven during lunch time?

This too will pass. The overwhelming tides of emotion will come and go, and I'll make it through. I just need to remind myself to stop trying to "get through life" waiting for the next big thing and start enjoying every part of it. It's meant to be lived to the fullest. Even the small every day moments have things to be celebrated and enjoyed. Find your happy. I will share a little of mine.


Happy Birthday sweet friend! You are so loved.

Father son bonding


My heart.

Oh how I miss volleyball

Undefeated season! Way to go boys! Next year some of you will be Warriors!

Our beautiful chef! Love her...and her food.

Recharging our batteries

Getting in the water on an 89 degree day while NW Iowa suffered a cold and rainy 34 degrees. Another reason I will have a winter home in Florida when I retire (or one in the Ozarks if Jeff and Amanda still live there :) ).

Oh Captain my Captain

My beautiful girls

Traditional fire place photo at SugarLoaf Winery

The epitome of what this weekend was for us. Relaxing and beautiful.

Amanda's breathtaking photo of our view

Jaedyn Grace- 14

Carter Dean-11

Sawyer Keith-8

<3 <3 <3

Haunted House fun!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Back to the Grind- A few weeks late

I think it's quite evident that I would be poor if I depended on blogging to earn a living. I can't even blog in the summer when I'm home. Oh well. Such is life. We're back to reality. Actually, we were back to reality a month ago, but what can I say? Transitions are hard. I wish I could flow into and out of these changes with ease, but alas that is not how I'm wired. Still adjusting over here! Give me a month or so. ;)
Our summer was nice and low key. Ball took up all of June, and when July came, I finally was able to spend time reading for pleasure or hitting up the pool. We made it to Northern Minnesota for vacation which was so relaxing, and by the time we came home, it was pedal to the medal. We came home to begin volleyball and football. Dan and I spent a week at RFKC again this year, and then it was the week before school and I hadn't even stepped foot in my classroom. Needless to say August flew by , and while I could have used another week to recoup, the fact of the matter is that schedules are good for this girl. I need them in order to be productive, and I can honestly say I used summer to be exactly what it should be for a teacher.....a time of rest and relaxation and recuperation.

We have finally settled into our new normal for the next nine months. CRAZY BUSY. Jaedyn's in volleyball. Carter's in football. I absolutely LOVE going to their activities, but between games and practices and trying to stay afloat at school, there hasn't been much time for anything else. We have made it to some varsity football games and are looking forward to the varsity girls' first home match since August tonight.

On another note, Fall is my favorite. So much so that I feel it needs to be a proper noun. I've already started decorating the house with garlands of leaves and pumpkins, pinteresting any decorating ideas in the few minutes before bed. Scentsys are giving off sweet delicious scents of pumpkin spice and hot apple cider. My morning walks and runs are delightfully cool and crisp. I'm seeing a subtle change of leaves from green to yellow on the ends. There really isn't anything better. September is the gateway to the finale of the year- the last three months. We plan to pack them full of adventures and memories and fly our holiday freak flags loud and proud!! I'll sign off with some pictures of the last few months and promise that I'll try to log some more blog time than I have been.

Northern Minnesota adventures

RFKC tribe performing our Drama set in the Amazon

First day of school- New front door (Jae-8th grade, Carter-6th grade, Sawyer-3rd grade)

Not one but TWO visits from my bestie from LA

Birthday celebrations at the lake with my people

My volleyball girl

Carter and his interception!

My oldest has a permit. I have high blood pressure.

GARTH BROOKS- I'm not a country girl, but I could belt out EVERY tune with ease. Thanks for the impromptu memory Beans!

Happy Thursday friends!!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Urban Plunge

I've been dragging my feet writing a post about my weekend with Jae for Urban Plunge because in all honesty, I've been struggling to put into words what I took away from this weekend. Let me back up for a moment. Back in April, I was asked if I'd be willing to chaperone my daughter's serve project in Omaha in June. The thought of "Urban Plunge" kind of took me by surprise, and if I'm being honest with myself, I'm not sure I saw it for what it actually was. In my head, I pictured standing in the middle of downtown Omaha passing out Bibles and telling everyone on the street that Jesus loved them. Nah man. That's not my style. I'm not a shove the Bible down your throat Christian. So, after waiting about 3 weeks and talking with some people, I decided that my expectations of this project were a little skewed, and replied that I'd be able to attend.

I don't think there was ever really a moment where I felt excitement for this trip. In all reality, I felt a little anxious- the unknowns of trying to be a "leader" for a bunch of middle schoolers whilst not embarrassing my own middle schooler (not an easy task) were heavy on my heart. I dreaded the thought of sleeping on a thin dormitory mattress. Lord knows sleep is sacred to me. Beyond all that, I just felt like I was overwhelmed at home. I didn't think that I'd be able to keep my focus on where it needed to be that weekend, and I wanted to be a good example. So, my heart didn't feel prepared as I got on the bus that Friday morning.

God's funny like that. Funny in the way he moves people despite their current situations. First let me back up a second. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Urban Plunge, it is an organization that works with youth groups like ours to put service projects in the hands of kids and allow them to experience being the hands and feet of Jesus. Our group had a very busy weekend. We spent time at the Cross Training Center helping to take apart TVs, cut down branches, and sort cell phones for a place that works to give people jobs who may otherwise have a hard time getting one. These include ex prisoners, homeless people, or people who have different disabilities. Once we finished there, we went to the St. Francis house, a homeless shelter, to serve people juice and watermelon, pass out socks, and listen to their hearts. On Saturday we went to the Food Pantry where some of us stocked shelves, brought groceries to their cars, sorted and displayed clothes for people to "shop" for, and many other various tasks. The afternoon was spent helping a lady remove a very large tree that had fallen onto not only her backyard, but the backyards of her two neighbors. We spent a few hours cleaning up branches, trimming her hedges, sweeping the cement in her backyard, and taking a part the tree with a chainsaw piece by piece. Finally, we spent Saturday evening helping out at Scatter Joy Acres, a farm that houses more than 100 therapy animals. We did various volunteer work on the farm including ripping out old carpet, tearing down a tarped "shed" that had been destroyed during a wind storm, and moving playground equipment for the animals so that they had room to add a few more animals to their farm. Finally on Sunday we got to attend a church service very different to ones our kids attend back home. Drugs, alcohol, and murder are all words that are all too familiar for this congregation. There was a lot of hurt at this church, but more importantly a lot of hope and a whole lot of Jesus.

We didn't have a lot of downtime obviously, and so it has taken me a few weeks to reflect on my time there that weekend. What it meant to me. What I took away from it. How I feel God is calling me to respond.

I think a lot of people expect service projects to be this life changing experience. And for a few it can be. For some, it becomes a platform for how they serve the Lord as they get older. It gives some kids a passion for a certain group of people in God's Kingdom, but for many, it becomes this high that you are on, and once you get home, you don't know how to channel that into the real world. This is so familiar to me. I did many serve projects as a kid. All of them touched me in some way, but I couldn't say that any of them were "life changing". So I'm sitting here trying to piece together my perspective and put into words what I took away from that weekend.

Here's what I know. I love people. I love to hear their stories. I enjoy being a village to others and definitely appreciate the village that is my own. So I guess for me, it was a reaffirmation that ALL God's people need a village. That village can be as close as your next door neighbor, your brother, or the people in a tiny town an ocean away. God's people are everywhere. On Friday night, Joya and Sharon took us to this beautiful park overlooking the city of Omaha. It was sunset, and we were all in awe. We were encouraged to take 10-15 minutes to silently walk the trails or sit and reflect on the day. The people we met. The stories we heard. So we did. We walked the trails, and oogled at the beauty of the landscape in front of us, and when we all got back together, she told us something that stuck with me. She said that this was such a beautiful picture of what this city looks like from afar, but we had just come from the depths of it where there was a lot of hurt and pain and brokenness. There are places that are so obviously in need of people who are willing to step up and help. To be servant hearted and show people the love of God, yet it's easy to step back and only see what we want to see- the beauty, the silence, the normal.
The beauty of Omaha from afar
Doing a little reflecting on the trails

On the other hand, you could take this symbolically as how our little town can portray itself. We don't have near the amount of "obvious" brokenness that we experienced in Omaha that weekend. Sure there are people who are dealing with drug and alcohol addiction or have been to or have a loved one that is in jail. Do we extend Christ's love to them? Are they welcomed in our churches? Do we have the time of day for them? Are we the broken ones? Are we in need of a village? Do we push away our pain or our struggles to save face? It's easy to put on the mask of perfection when you don't feel like you can spill the contents of your heart to those around you. How do we break down these walls of pain, hurt, shame, guilt, and suffering? How do we let people in? Where does it begin?

With me. With you.

What did I take away from this weekend? That we are all children of God. That we all have hurt and pain and brokenness, and it's the job of all of us to be a village to one another. Some of us will be called to help the homeless or the widows. Others will be called to feed the hungry and help the poor. Some will be called to the Foster care/adoption front lines. Others will be asked to serve the children or the addicts. At some point, our hearts will break for an injustice. THAT is where God is calling you to go. I've always believed that when God breaks your heart for something, that is where he is calling you to serve. That may look different to each person. God's talking. We just need to listen.

How is God asking me to respond? He's asking me to Be Still. Listen to his voice. Be compassionate. Compassion is your pain in my heart and back out through my hands. I think that we forget sometimes that we can be His hands and feet every single day in very small ways. Maybe it's asking that single mom if she needs help with childcare or that homeless man you see sitting on the sidewalk. Maybe ask him to lunch WITH you. Get to know him. Maybe it's in your school. That student you have that shows up with holes in his shoes. Maybe buy him a new pair.

You don't HAVE to leave your town to love other people. You just do it. And if your heart is breaking for bigger injustices around the globe, our country, our state, our county, our town, your neighborhood.....then listen carefully. That's your purpose.

I'll leave you with a few photos of our weekend.
Cross Training Center

Hope Food Pantry

Cleaning up the tree and debris

Helping tear down the building at Scatter Joy

Making friends at Scatter Joy Acres

Hot dog eating contest

Group picture at the church before coming home

My roommates. :)

Serving Jesus with my lady

Leadership team

Friday, July 7, 2017

Enjoying Summer

How is it July 7 already? It seems like we just let out for the summer. June always seems to fly by between ball schedules for three kiddos, camps, and the 4th of July. We've definitely been enjoying ball games 5-6 days a week! Jaedyn plays middle school ball this year, and because of how it worked out, all the 7th graders played both the 7th and 8th grade games this year. So while it basically takes up our entire morning, it's been awesome watching them get that much extra playing time to tune and refine their skills. We love softball!! Carter played AAU ball this season for the first time with his Sioux Center friends. It was a great year watching him gain confidence and learn new skills also! Sawyer played Rec ball, and Dan got to coach his team this year! What a fun memory for my boys! I can say that it's definitely different going from 5th grade baseball to 1st and 2nd grade baseball. :) It's amazing to think what just a few short years can do to their game.

The past few weeks have been insanely crazy with ball winding down and Carter and Sawyer going to camp That nicely sandwiched the 4th of July which was go, go, go. We spent Saturday on the boat for our annual Adult Boating Day. It happened to land on the 4th of July weekend this year which I thought would make it overly busy, but we just found a nice little area to anchor our boat and enjoyed the sunshine and great friends. We spent the actual 4th at Paullina with my mom, Dave, Casey, Amy and the girls. It was a perfect day to be by the water. We shot off fireworks at the acreage later that night after supper and some down time. Great food, fun, and family.

I'm sitting outside in the shade of my little deck highly anticipating a much slower schedule for a few weeks. As much as I'll miss watching ball, I am ready to enjoy a little rejuvenating time for me before I head back to school (which will come much too soon). I'm going to be more intentional about reading, listening to my favorite podcasts, organizing my pictures, spending time at the pool and soaking in life in the slow lane for a bit. Looking forward to sharing that with you! Until then, here is a snapshot of our summer thus far in photos.

Catching up with some old friends on Memorial Day weekend. Spent the day boating, mini golfing, paddle boating and enjoying family and friends

My tradition of going to the dance recital to watch my nieces and all my students, past and present, dance their hearts out. 

Getting up every morning to walk/run with myself or my mama. Love making it for sunrise.

When the pool's closed, and your aunt is swim on a boat ramp because it's hotter than billy blazes.

Great season. Great girls. Great sport.

Such fun to watch these boys this season! 

Getting to have your dad as your pitcher. He had a great season!

My view for 3 hours a day, 2-3 days a week. 

My slugger

One of the saddest moments of summer was saying goodbye to my grandpa. We miss him dearly.

Okoboji teaching conference with these beauties. #Favmoments

Serving with my daughter at Urban Plunge (more about this to come)

Yoga and wine on a HOT Sunday afternoon

RFKC get together including Battleship in the pool

Gettings Garden strawberry picking afternoon

Carmel VBS week

Camp with his bestie Ethan

Camp with his bestie Kyler and friend Makiah

Smores and fires

Short date to pick up Jaedyn in Yankton

Love our adventures

Finishing off boat day at Braccos for supper

Fireworks at Grandma and Grandpa's house

Lemonade stand on a hot summer day

 Hope you are enjoying your summer as well! What's been your favorite part so far?