Sunday, December 30, 2012

10 Best of 2012

With the year nearing an end I thought it would be fun to highlight the ten most popular posts of 2012.  If you missed any, here is your chance to get caught up on those that got the most hits/pins. 

10.  Loving Your Looks in an Airbrushed World {A Note to my Girls}

9.  Hydrangeas & the Family Table

8.  Strike Up the Grill: Grilled Bruschetta Chicken

7.  In a House of Girls

6.  Faithful

5.  Let's Dance {Photo Display}

4.  What's Cookin? {& my DIY Menu Board}

3.  Teaching the Easter Story: {DIY} Resurrection Eggs

2.  Why I'm Not Hugging my Kids Closer Today {a Response to Sandy Hook} 

1.  A Pinteresting Bathroom

I'm honored that many of you have signed up for my posts through the new email subscription option and I'm super excited about some meaningful messages planned for you in early 2013.  God has revealed some great lessons to me in the midst of fun activities over the last few days and I know they'll speak to you too.  :)

And one last thing! Don't forget that you have through tomorrow to get free shipping on both my books with Pam Stenzel and the rest of her products by entering SHIPPING into the coupon code at  Christmas might be over, but they will set your t(w)een up right before Valentine's Day.

Have a safe and wonderful New Year's.  I'll be watching my old high school's band in the Rose Bowl parade and chowing down on some yummy food while watching football.  Did y'all catch that Vikings game today?  YES!

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hot Cocoa Stirrers

This Christmas break has been bursting with unexpected fun.  At our joint family Christmas Eve meal my mother-in-law surprised everyone with a photo booth that made for so many smiles.  On Christmas, we made Jesus his birthday cake {a cupcake heart} and Hannah suddenly belted out "Happy Birthday" Marilyn Monroe style.  And, last night we wrapped up Christmas with our first-ever played Christmas Carol charades.  The object, obviously, being to act out a Christmas carol and once the proper team guessed the right answer we all sang it.  We got spirit yes we do!

There have also been many still moments that will forever remain documented in my mind.  I loved seeing my hubby's eyes fill with tears during "O Holy Night" at Christmas Eve worship.  I'm so blessed to be married to a man with such love for the Lord.  And the kids, in between some occasional bickering and Ava discovering how to cover her ears when being spoken to, have clearly adored the extra family time since my hubby was fortunate enough to be home three full days.  Among my favorites have been Grace reading the story of Jesus' birth, games, and, of course, snuggling up for movies.  My all time favorite is Elf and Charlie had never seen Miracle on 34th Street (Can you imagine?) so we remedied that.  The little girl in the newer version is entirely to cute!

And, there is no better way to watch a movie than with hot cocoa AND hot cocoa stirrers. 

I first saw the idea on pinterest but the original recipe called for genuine white chocolate and sprinkles on the bottom.  Sprinkles sounded a little odd to me, but why not use some extra candy cane?  More mint with product we were already using was a modification that I thought made for perfection.

So here's how you can make them:

You will need:
Regular size candy canes
White chocolate almond bark

Get out the number of candy canes that you want stir sticks.  Break the curved end of the candy cane off so that you have straight stir sticks.  {They will stand up better if the candy cane sticks are only a few inches}  Crush up some of the curved ends.

Melt some white chocolate almond bark and dip the end of the candy cane in it.  Press firmly into the marshmallows and allow them to dry.  Then, dip the ends of the marshmallows in the melted white chocolate almond bark and roll it in the crushed candy cane.

ALL of these items can melt into your hot chocolate and add to its yumminess!  Charlie and I made a date night out of it in the kitchen and found these quick and easy stirrers to make sipping hot chocolate at home with our littles and out and about at holiday gatherings a whole lot more fun.

And, now that Christmas is over, the candy canes are probably on clearance.  Go get some and enjoy the stirrers with the people you love!  Maybe you could even surprise them for a little unexpected fun in your house. :)

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas

From our family to yours.
We’re most looking forward to my hubby getting some extra time off work, family coming to share in worship and gifts, and squeezing the kiddos and all our loved ones tight.  Plus, we will uphold two very special traditions.  On Christmas Eve everyone from my family and my husband’s family will get together to share in a joint family meal.  And, on Christmas day, the kids will make a birthday cake for Jesus.   I imagine some family movies and board games will be sprinkled in there as well. J  Ultimately, we try to soak up the family time for all it’s worth with special attention to the baby in the manger.
Thank you for joining me time and again in this space to chat family and faith.  I’m pray God’s blessings over you and yours this Christmas season.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy & peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~ Romans 15:13 

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Gift is Jesus

Last Thursday night Hannah had her one and only preschool Christmas program.  She loudly proclaimed, “The gift is Jesus” over and over again between song and message and, if you weren’t quite sure of the meaning of Christmas before you came, you most definitely knew when you left. Give four and five year olds a chance to yell and they’ll gladly take it. J

When the program was done, we crowded around tables and told our little ones how well they did while talking amongst friends about all that comes with this busy time of year - the common question being, “Are you all ready for Christmas?”  Obviously the underlying issue was whether all the gifts were purchased.  If one was really good, they were already wrapped under the tree. 

None of us could know how the world would change the next day.
And then I found myself wrapping for hours last night.  Thanks to some pinspiration, I wrapped juice boxes for today’s Christmas party to continue the theme.  I finished them off with a bow and cute sticker tag that said, “The gift is Jesus.”

As any mom that has ever taken on a craft project for her child would tell you, these festive juice boxes took significantly longer than I anticipated. Working into the late night hours, I was left to commune with the Lord in my flannel PJs on the living room floor.
Your gifts are as fleeting as this juice.

Yes, these gifts that we’re stressing over are meaningful and given with thought, but we don’t make Christmas through packages under a tree.  We get Christmas through the miracle in the manger. 
I am the one and only gift that sustains.

The world is broken.  We are more aware of that than ever. 

“Bring your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
World now breaking Heaven’s silence
Welcome to our world” ~ Michael W. Smith
 Why again are you stressing?

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Why I’m Not Hugging my Kids Closer Today {a response to Sandy Hook}

I was on the way to my Hannah’s preschool when I first heard news about Newtown.  Once she was safely inside, I sat frozen in my van as tears filled my eyes thinking of the many parents who dropped their child off just like I had with no one left to pick up.   My next stop was my daughter’s first grade classroom where I was set to spend the afternoon volunteering.  A school with a female principal similar in size to Sandy Hook.

Upon arrival, I went through our own safety protocol and then paused to thank the most two amazing front desk women a school could ever have.  In the hallway, I stopped to thank the principal, doubly struck as both an administrator and mother of elementary aged children, for all she did to keep our children safe.  And, when I hit Grace’s classroom, I gave her soft-hearted teacher a hug for being the special person she is in my daughter’s life.  They are all everyday unsung heroes who love my child well.

Grace came running toward me with that beautiful spark in her eyes that lights up my life.  She enveloped me in a hug and I tightly squeezed her back.  Was I thanking God to have her? Yes.  But was it different than any other time I’ve stepped foot in her classroom?  No.  This is our norm.

I chose not to turn on the news much over the next few days.  Our girls are simply too young to process this in any sort of healthy, meaningful way so we intentionally shielded them, and I didn’t feel like investing a bunch of energy into media could bring any good to this horrific situation.  Rather, I bent my knees in prayer and looked at the Christmas tree with even more anticipation for the arrival of baby Jesus, who chose to come into our messy, broken world and redeem all.  Thank you, Lord, for that.

I would see the faces of the lives lost and pray for them each by name as well as hear a few stories of bravery that remind us all how invested school workers are in the lives of our daughters and sons.  And I appreciated that.  But I would also hear cries to hug our children closer, and I struggled with that.

The truth is with each rise and fall of our chest we are all one breath closer to dying.  Parents leave us too soon, children quit breathing, medical diagnoses change lives, and unseen tragedy surprises.  Daily.  Most of these stories will not make the national or even the local news, but waves of grief resonate just the same for family required to say goodbye.

We are a nation in mourning.  Senseless violence has claimed lives of the innocent and we’re all left crying out to God, acutely aware of the gift our children are even on their naughtiest of days. Should we hug them close? Absolutely. But, embracing them as a temporary emotional response to another’s loss does not honor the parents whose arms now run empty or write any sort of life message on their hearts.  It must be our permanent way of life.

This horrific act of violence cannot be changed.  And my heart will continue to weep for a school destroyed and parents called to bury their first grade children on the same day I entered Grace’s first grade classroom and helped healthy children make sparkly Christmas gifts for their parents.  However, we can examine whether we are fully appreciating the people God’s given us and, if necessary, make a change. 

Unfortunately, in time, those of us on the perimeter will see and hear less of Connecticut and “normal life” will resume.  But what will your “normal life” look like?  Will you still be saying thank you and smothering loved ones in hugs?  Because that is the story your kids will know and the memory loved ones will have of you.

We’ve always been huggers on good days and bad.  My children noticed no difference on Friday and for that I am thankful. 

Lord, let us never take our children or any other loved ones for granted.  May we always hug them tightly while they’re here.     

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Monday, December 10, 2012

It's a Christmas Sale! {Free Shipping}

Still wondering what to get that teenager on your Christmas list?  Why not help translate this faith-filled holiday into a faith-inspired life?  Pam Stenzel and I want to help you do just that! 

So, for the remainder of December you can get FREE SHIPPING on all orders placed through 

Social media is a key form of communication in their life so why not get them a book written in that style with words and stories from their peers that helps them examine how they are using the media in their life

and challenge them to use it for God?  Who's In Your Social Network is the answer.

And with Valentine's Day quickly on their mind after the switch to a new calendar mind, get them thinking in advance with

Nobody Told Me.

If you haven't heard Pam speak, you are going to want to do that pronto and she has great videos to make that happen.

The Love Lesson's relationship curriculum is awesome for your religious ed, youth group, or homeschool.

The leader's guide (written by me) has everything you ned to facilitate conversation and answer queestions while deepening students walk in their faith.

Her updated talk called The High Cost of Free Love (available in both faith-based and secular versions)

is an insanely great resource to help the teen you love understand the physical, emotional, and spiritual counsequencs to sex outside of marriage as well as the power of touch and chemical a way more fun way than they'll ever hear in chemistry class. :) 

I always suggest watching this and then going through the Nobody Told Me book because the chapters expland upon each area of the time restricted talk.  They fit goether like peanut butter and jelly! :)

Close to my heart as the mother of three girls is Take a Look in the Mirror.

I want my girls to understand whose they are so that they can grow into women of character attracting men of integrity.  This will help accomplish just that.

And, for you parents that are banging your head against the wall wondering if what you are saying is making any difference, Parents Maatter

Will help you walk away a little taller.

To get in on the deal, simply fill your virtual cart with lots of good stuff and then enter "shipping" into the coupon code box when you place your final order.

Happy shopping... and Merry Christmas from Pam and I!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Decade of Domesticity {with a 2 Ingredient (Microwavable) Fudge Recipe}

In 1997 I graduated high school and moved in to the college dorms.  According to one of my mom's friends, this Erin girl was attending the same school and we would make good roommates.  We met at Applebees and had a meal.  Few words were shared and when we left we did the awkward "So do you want to room together?" "Sounds great."  Done deal kinda thing. 

We probably both left praying we hadn't made the worst mistake of our lives.

Day one of moving into the dorms we set up our stuff.  The following morning her alarm went off and she popped out of bed, panicked. "We're going to miss TPIR!" (short for The Price is Right)  I began to question my decision.  My lack of enthusiasm probably caused her to do the same :)  Her boyfriend came and made our room totally cutting edge, setting up surround sound before it was the "in thing" and my boyfriend gave it a trial run over Home Improvement with him.  The stage was set for our living arrangement together. 

Before long we were staying up late in the night talking.  We laughed.  We cried on each other's shoulder, at times.  We both studied up the wazoo.  And, when we weren't, we were doing super important things like having a slew of girls in the room to watch "The Wedding Story" and covering our door in wrapping paper to stay seasonally festive. 

Quickly I found an amazing friend in this Barker fanatic turned nurse extraordinare.

We both married those boys that helped us set up our freshman dorm room - character high school boyfriends with a great sense of humor and love for the Lord.  We were a part of each other's services and helped each other settle into full fledged adult life.  We dreamed of babies and painted new walls.

One year after graduation we decided we'd start a Christmas cooking tradition.  It didn't go so hot.  One pan of burnt chocolate and an extra day of goody work later we wondered if we were cut out for this.  But we had so much fun we continued.  Year. After. Year. 

Our domestic skills grew, favorites were formed, and our families grew.  Seven children now call us "mom" and make this carved out time in our lives that much more special.  It is a day to make food to bless others, but more than that, it is a full day I can plan on sharing with a woman I was blessed to be set up with because she's become one of my most cherished friends.

This year we added two ingredient microwavable fudge to our list.  {Hey, I said we got better.  Not that we became master chefs.}  Chad and Charlie both joked over our supper (tradition is that our families share a Qdoba meal when our work is done) that it was probably a mistake the first time someone made it and true hard-working, stove-laboring women are probably rolling over in their graves with our new found Pinterest gem that we call a recipe. But, mistake or not, it worked.  And it is good.  So, if you are going to a holiday party and want something on this fly this would be it.

Here's how you make it:
1 can of chocolate frosting
1 (12oz) bag of semisweet chocolate chips

Put in the microwave at 70% for two minutes and then take it out and stir until all the chocolate chips have melted in.  Put it in an 8x8 waxed paper lined pan and stick in in the fridge to cool for around two hours. 

I think it would be fun to try a cream cheese type of frosting sometime too.

This year we made 910 pieces of candy in 5.5 hours. 

Our list was:

1) 2 ingredient fudge
2) gluten free peanut butter star kiss cookies
3) peanut clusters
4) chocolate peanut butter balls
5) almond bark pretzels
6) holiday button pretzels

Last night before leaving my man said, "You ladies got this down to a science." And, after a decade, I'd have to agree.  Thanks for the tradition, Erin.  But, most of all, thanks for your friendship.  I look forward to much more laughter, singing, and meaty discussion memories over candy making days in the decades to come.

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Monday, December 3, 2012


I pulled the lid off the tote with eager anticipation.  There is something about Christmas d├ęcor that puts a skip in my step.  The smells of seasonal scents.  The glow of the Christmas lights creating the perfect setting for reflection and writing.  The meaningful adornment that seems to bring added beauty to a sometimes mundane looking home.

The reds, greens, and golds drew me in.  My fingers dug deep, and as I pulled out each item the story of where it came from and what it meant danced through my head.  The smile couldn’t be erased from my face.
Near the bottom was a new advent candle setting I received for Christmas last year and, quite frankly, had forgotten about.  I opened the box and brushed my fingers along the gorgeous angel base. “Prepare the Way of the Lord.”

This is nicer than anything I ever buy myself, I thought. Definitely centerpiece worthy on the dining room table.
Pulling out the green gathered runner, I brought new look to the dining room table. Finished with a silver tree and the advent candles, I smiled at the picture worthy view.  It looked like the put-together, pretty life that I long for.

Days passed and Ava climbed onto the dining room table.  I lunged toward her.  I wish I could say it was solely for her safety but the truth is I really didn’t want my pretty looking life ruined.  But, before I was able to reach her, her chubby little fingers circled a candle and broke the new treasure.

Hannah looked at me with eyes of curiosity.  What is mom going to do with this? 
Taking a deep breath, I removed my sweet, smiling toddler from the table and told Hannah it would be okay.  We could get a new candle for only a few cents.  But inside I was crushed that reality struck so soon.  

Despite my greatest efforts my life is not flawless.

I questioned what to do with it.  I didn’t want to take the entire decoration down, but I didn’t want to remove the candle and have people think I wasn’t smart enough to know how many Sundays there were in Advent.  So I left it there.  Broken.
Each time I entered the dining area my eye caught the broken candle.  I got frustrated with the kids, and I looked at it.  Fear entered my heart, and I looked at it.  Heartbreaking news reduced me to tears, and I looked at it.  Over and over again my eyes were driven to the damaged wax.
And through my tear filled eyes, I realized that it is the perfect Advent candle and, oddly enough, the right decor.  It represents life this side of glory.
I am broken.  Human imperfection robs me of a picture perfect life and frailty causes me to fracture.  I need something bigger and stronger and far more perfect than I.  I need Jesus.

Lighting the candle drives me to acknowledge me need for a Savior and the flame symbolizes true hope for me in the midst of an imperfect, messy, not always so picturesque, hurting, broken life.    
Baby Jesus, come.

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

{DIY} Attributes of the Lord Christmas Tree Ring Advent Countdown

The calendar page has been turned and my children are buzzing with excitement.  Christmas is on the way!  As a mom, my goal is to invest time in making sure they truly understand the reason for the season.  And that investment can be made with very little money.

Last year for Advent we did a Birth Story Candy Cane countdown.  When Grace (my seven year old) asked me a few days ago if we were going to do the same thing again this year, I found myself smiling and nodding saying, "Yep, we're going to do something special,"  Unfortunately, I had no idea what this "something special" was going to be and, clearly, time was of the essence.  I only knew I didn't want to involve the actual Christmas tree because with Ava being 18 months old we opted against putting the ornaments up and candy would only entice our energetic climber.

There are so many wonderful Advent activities I'd like to try with my children over the years.  The challenge right now is making it understandable for their ages.  Thankfully, I'd seen this cute Christmas tree ring countdown and I transformed it from a basic countdown into a faith-focussed activity.

If you are wanting to do something on the fly, this is a craft for the win.  You only need some colored construction or scrapbook paper and a pen.  Pretty simple, right?   

Cut your paper into the number of strips that there are days in Advent.  I cut one gold for the very top, and a mixture of red and shades of green for the rest.

Then I made my own list of attributes of the Lord I feel it is important for my girls to know and Scriptures to support them.  Since Advent is 23 days this year, I went with 22 attributes and the final gold ring {Christmas Eve} is to read the birth story.

Here is the attribute/Scripture list I created-

1)      Hope  John 16:33
2)      Forgiveness    Isaiah 1:18  
3)      Peace  Isaiah 26:3
4)      Trustworthy  Deuteronomy 31:6
5)      Comfort   Matthew 11:28
6)      Direction  Jeremiah 29:11
7)      Strength   Philippians 4:13
8)      Loving  Psalm 107:1
9)      Sustenance  Matthew 4:4
10)   Empowering  2 Corinthians 12:9
11)   Joy  John 15:11
12)   Forever  Isaiah 40:8
13)   #1 King  Revelations 19:16
14)   Making us Whole  Colossians 2:10
15)   Claiming Us  Galatians 4:5-6
16)   Light  John 8:12
17)   Preparing a place for us  John 14:3
18)   Protection  Isaiah 43:2
19)   Miracle Worker Psalm 77:14
20)   All Knowing Luke 12:7
21)   Intimate  Psalm 56:8
22)   Eternal life  John 3:16
23)   Read the birth story  Luke 2: 1-20

Obviously the attributes and supporting Scriptures can be exactly what you want them to be and, if you choose to use the same list, can be hooked together in any order.

I wrote "The Lord Is..." on the front of the yellow ring so that the girls know what we will be focussing on this Advent.  The whole thing only took about 15 minutes to make and was completely free because I had some paper in the house. 

Despite its monetary cheapness, it will be rich in teaching and the girls can't wait to get started.  I can't wait to see the discussion it promotes.  :)

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Friday, November 30, 2012

30 Day Gratitude Photo Challenge: Week 4

Today I'm back with my final installment of the photo gratitude challenge.  I can't believe how quickly this flew by.  Noting special blessings through Instagram (@MelissaNesdahl) was a fun way to appreciate the many gifts He's given.
24 Adventure
On Saturday morning we took a road trip adventure to North Dakota for a family Thanksmas.  Lunch was our Thanksgiving and supper kicked off the Christmas fun.  In between we swam and played family charades.  The smiles and laughs we shared in those numbered hours were too many to count.

25 Beauty

Is there a more beautiful way to end a family gathering than generational worship?  I don’t think so!  For the first time in Charlie and I’s 11 years of marriage our entire family worshipped at his grandma’s church.  There is something endearing about filling an entire church pew and lifting all our hearts up to the Creator.  When it was done, I get this shot of Charlie and his brother bringing the next generation of Nesdahl’s to the car.  I love everything about it.

26 Tradition

When Grace started kindergarten last year I started a lunchbox love notes tradition.  For her final cold lunch of the year, I made a “bigger” deal out of it and, I guess, she remembered.  J  Monday was her first day as star of the week and she asked me to continue the “little something special” tradition.  This was the result.  I guess now we not only do notes to each other, but I go into designer mode for special occasions.  Tradition on top of tradition J

27  Sound

This view + the sound of Christmas music = my favorite setting to write.  There is a special ambiance created by the glow of the Christmas tree lights that cannot be duplicated in any other way.  I find these writing moments incredibly peaceful.

28  Comfort

Wednesday we went for the family Star of the Week presentation.  Listening to Grace confidently tell her classmates stories, demonstrate dance moves, and read books made for one very special day.  My favorite moment was when she pointed the picture of her on the slip n. slide and followed it up with “but then my dad went on it and popped it.”  Everyone laughed, but I had to look at him with admiration for plunging his body down the cheap yellow piece of plastic to begin with.  He is one very cool dad.  J 

29  Art

Hannah got her second preschool homework assignment this week and, once again, she was thrilled.  This time she had a blank snow man that she was to decorate any way that she wanted.  You know you’re raising a girl when the finished product contains glitter, pink beads, and “hair pretties.”

30  Love

Zoey went to the groomer and came back all prepared for Christmas.  I love the new bandana.

As you turn the calendar page, my prayers are with all of you.  The Christ child will soon be here.  Whether life is better than you could ever imagine or you find yourself hurting, may you feel His all-encompassing love in a powerful way this Christmastime.  He came for YOU.
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Prayer for the Hurting Mom

With Thanksgiving over and the calendar page ready to be turned to December everyone is buzzing with anticipation for Christmas. Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals have people on the prowl, plans are being made, and friends are discussing programs, feasts, and get-togethers. Yet, in the midst of all the joyful expectation, there are heavy-hearted mamas everywhere painting on a smile because it feels the right thing to do but filled with sorrow inside. Today I feel God telling me to speak to you. I have a feeling the crowd is larger than I can even imagine.

Dearest Lord,

We come in to your presence on the broken side of glory. Relationships are in turmoil, lives are uprooted by natural disaster, checkbooks reflect numbers no parent wants to see, kids leave us stressed, loved ones have passed, schedules are over-booked, and energy is waning.

This season is one filled with expectation for your birth. There is supposed to be joy in gathering and sharing but when life circumstances mean take life out of us there is struggle to even find the will to prepare. Around us people around sing of the Holly Jolly Christmas being the best time of the year, and as we listen, guilt over sad feelings mount and the energy needed to wear the happy mask leaves moms tired and empty, wondering how to be real.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

30 Day Gratitude Photo Challenge: Week 3

I hope this post finds your belly full and heart filled with Thanksgiving.  We've had a wonderful week packed full of special moments.  Allow me to fill you in through picture. :)

Day 17 Weather

Saturday we hosted our annual Friends Thanksgiving.  Hosting meant we were in charge of the turkey and everyone else filled in with traditional holiday sides.  Since I nearly poisoned my entire family 11 years ago attempting to make a turkey, I have PTSD :)  But, my hubby and I tag teamed.  He prepared the turkey and I put it in the bag, added the flour, and put it in the oven. 

When our friends arrived, the smell of the bird combined with the brewing apple cider made for a warm welcome, although that wasn't totally necessary considering how oddly warm the temperature was.  People everywhere were putting up their Christmas lights and loving outdoor fun.

Together with our friends we laughed and chatted and, once everyone was seated, we took turns going around the table to say one thing we were especially thankful for this year.  I LOVE these people to the core of my being.  They are the friends that have seen me at my worst and love me anyway.  They are the people that are consistently there when tragedy strikes and will be all about celebrating when good news breaks.  Every one of these people is a gift in my life.

This is, without a doubt, one of my favorite EVER traditions.  When we started we were all young adults new to grown up responsibility with tiny whisks.  Now we have added maturity, more utensils, and a kids table. :)  We are blessed.

Day 18 Change

On Sunday, we eagerly made our way to church to celebrate the baptism of our newest God-daughter.  I'm always humbled when people trust us to pray over and encourage their child in the faith.  And, this baptism felt extra special because our friends had been without a church home.  After a VBS invite and chat around a s'mores making evening this summer they visited services and decided to join. YES!

When I saw this little beauty in her white dress. tears filled my eyes.  There is tremendous power in the baptismal water of change.  We are claimed as a member of God's own and leave the font with hope the world could never provide.

Day 19  Laughter

Hannah's only day of school this week was made extra special by the fall party.  After a fun craft time and playing pin the feather on the turkey to wear them out, they children sat down for a treat.  Aren't these adorable?!  Laughing as they gobbled their food at one another, the adults couldn't help but chuckle too.  So. Very. Fun!

Day 20  Food

Tuesday was Grace's last day of school for the week.  Since little notes make this child extremely happy, I had this ready to meet her at the breakfast table.

Day 21  Home

Over the years I've realized that pleasing aroma's can make a house a home and open space feel like a sanctuary for all who are gathered inside.  As soon as November hits, this is one food I'm ready to make because it'll make your house smell better than a candle and your taste buds burst with happy.  If you're celebrating Thanksgiving yet this weekend, add these pumpkin chocolate cheesecake bars to your menu.

Day 22 Color

For Thanksgiving we enjoyed a meal with extended family at my aunt and uncle's house.  Afterwards, we put up our Christmas tree and then decided to surprise the kids with an outing.  We all put on our PJs, piled in the van, picked up hot chocolate, and went to view the thousands of lights at Falls Park.  It felt magical to take in their brightness with the people who color my world most.

Day 23  Energy

With a family Thanksmas this weekend, it is perfect timing for my mom and grandma's Christmas candy baking day.  We crashed their tradition and I offered some helpful little hands + I taste tested the caramels, you know, as a public service to make sure every row in the batch was good. :)  I also made Erin and I's famous peanut butter balls to have Saturday and Sunday.  Four generations of women bustling around the kitchen made for a lot of energy...and cherished memory making.

I pray that you could see God's hand at work in your life this week too.  As I write this, I'm well aware that the lives of some, including people I care about, are shaded with heartache and uncertainty right now.  That is part of the human story this side of heaven.  But, in the midst of all, God meets us where we are at and offers His loving presence - a gift for us all.  And, dare I say it, if it was the only gift we ever received, it'd be enough to grow gratitude this Thanksgiving week and always. 

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Friday, November 16, 2012

30 Day Gratitude Photo Challenge: Week 2

I'm back with the second installation of the 30 day gratitude photo challenge and can't wait to let you in on some of the highlights of my week.  It's been a busy one filled with a first Thanksgiving celebration, classroom volunteering, temps all over the board, lots of writing, and I received word that one of my articles is going to be featured in an upcoming SUSIE magazine.  To top it off, I'm rocking a new hairdo, which always makes for a refreshed spirit. :)  I'm down a few inches + got layers.  For a girl who's anti change, this is huge!

These were my pictures....

Day 10: Kindness

No day is complete in my girls' world without reading at least one Gigi book.  When we opened this one up for the millionth time, I couldn't help but smile.  Remembering the way Sheila Walsh created special time to meet in person and make this signing happen was truly a gift.  If you aren't familiar with her ministry, familiarize yourself now because she is special.

Day 11: Friendship

There is nothing like a Sunday morning to remind you of the friend we have in Jesus.  When I saw Mike Lewis paint this at a women's conference, I was moved by the way he could take nothing (but a blank canvas) and make it into something beautiful.  When I give this Lord my heart, He does the same with my life.  Oh, how He loves us....

Day 12: Music

Unfortunately, we returned home from our Thanksgiving weekend away to plummetting temps.  The flip flop lover in me was not ready to exchange them out for a parka, but we do live in South Dakota so I suppose it comes with the territory. :)  Needless to say, early winter means Christmas and I switched up my workout playlist accordingly.  I LOVE Christmas music. 

Day 13: Time

Given the cold {do you see that?  It felt like seven, SEVEN degrees outside}, I decided it was time to kick off hot chocolate season.  Yum!

Day 14: Creativity

My Grace is talented in so many arenas.  This year's PTA reflections theme was "The Magic of a Moment" and she entered in two categories on Wednesday.  This is her painting she titled "Night Time Sky."  She also submitted a 14 page, fully illustrated book, which made the author mama in me super proud.  In true girl form, that was also about fairies.  :)

Day 15: Family

When I was in college, my father passed away.  A few years ago, my mom re-married an amazing man.  He's never tried to compete with my dad and he treats my mom like a gem.  I genuinely love him and am thankful to have Lloyd in our lives.

Lloyd and his first wife (who also passed away) never had any children.  When Charlie and I had Ava, it was the first time he'd been to the hospital to hold a new baby and watching her grow from his perspective has been a gift.  Erupting in excitement over growth that could easily be taken for granted, Lloyd makes mundane moments feel magical. 

Honestly, tt was hard to put the camera in front of me and miss part of this interaction through the lens of my eye, but I had to capture him learning "This Little Piggy," Ava's new love.  I'm so thankful God penned this chapter into Lloyd's story AND ours.  He is a wonderful grandpa.

Day 16: Inspiration

Today I'm wearing favorite Bible verse (Isaiah 41:10) in a KraftyKash necklace.  I've introduced you to her a time or two before, and I can't say enough about this handmade business owner's unique ability take a meaningful word or Scipture passage and make it into wearable inspiration.  "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" encourages me through every high and low.

That is it for this week's topical picks.  I'll be back next Friday with more.  Until then, find all my Instagram photos at @MelissaNesdahl and, in the case that I don't post again beforehand, Happy Thanksgiving!

What about you?  Any special moments of gratitude stand out from your week?

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012


It was late evening when the phone call came. On the other end, I could barely make out Sara's words through the muffled sobs. "Drew was diagnosed with diabetes." "What?!" I responded. Partically because I was in shock. Partially because I wasn't sure I heard her right and wanted to give her opportunity to correct what felt so wrong.

Sara continued to talk and I listened, struggling to absorb what I was hearing. The cry of a mom wanting so much more for her year and a half old baby melded with my tears across the phone line. Together we just let them fall, communing in pain.

Words feel inadquate when the security one has known is suddenly pulled from underneath them. I had nothing to offer but a prayer and not because I was an admirable friend of faith, but because I needed to hear the Lord's Sciptural promises and reassurance just as much for myself. Uncertainty is a difficult place to be.

When the next emergent phone call came, Drew's new baby brother was having breathing issues and needed the oxygen bar at the hospital. "What can I do?" I wanted to know. "Could you pick Austin and Drew up for the evening and John will pick them up later?" "Sure," I replied with the voice of confidence even though I was shriveling with fear inside. Babysitters for this three year old weren't easy to come by. Even with a pump he still needed the occassional finger prick and I knew how to do that. It was time to step up my game.

The kids frolicked in the back yard while we prepared supper. My husband stood at the grill while I washed grapes and smiled at their laughter. Until the laughter broke. A quick glance out the window revealed a grinning Drew peeing in the yard. "Why does he want to be a dog?," Grace and Hannah wanted to know, thinking like all girls that every unstructured moment is meant for playing house. Trying to contain our laughter, Charlie and I retreated into the kitchen before expressing the hilarity of the moment. He fetched some fresh princess underwear - the best we could do in a house full of girls - and I put all the food on the table.

And that's when it sunk in. Watch him close, Melissa. Every bite counts.

Unfortunately, none of the children were very interested in eating. Warm weather and summer games awaited them on the other side of the sliding glass door and nutrition pales in comparison through the eyes of wee ones. On the fly, we made up the eating game. One kid chooses a number, we count to that many, and take a bite. It seemed like a fine combination of math + fun and worked. Only I didn't takes my eyes off the brown haired boy. Twelve grapes. He's had 12 grapes. I hoped that what we were feeding him was helping him. Afterall, in the world of diabetes, even healthy foods aren't always good.

He finished and I took his tiny little finger in mine.  Taking out the needle, I punctured his toddler skin and induced a moment of pain before the bright red blood appeared.  Not a fun job for a friend. Not a fun job for anyone. Please don't let him hate me.

My detailed eating report to Sara was met with her usual calm. The disease had quickly made her a math genius and she computed the carbs with precision. Quickly and carefully, I pressed the buttons on his pump, which Drew affectionately called his backpack, and excused him from the table.

Back outside before I could blink, the kids returned to play and I exhaled. Apparently in my focus I'd forgotten to breathe.

Loosen your grip, my child.

God's message wasn't met with a calmed heart. How was I supposed to chillax when even the greatest of medical advancements was an imperfect science in a growing boy and crisp white hospital sheets sometimes necessarily wrapped his body burrito style?

I am here.

What is right about a mom being called multiple times in a day to her kindergartener who is running high, giving him extra shots, holding him through tears, and then sending him off to music?

I am here.

How brave is a boy that lives each day with this as his "normal" while he and his diagnosed type one father await a cure?

I am here. Loosen your grip. He is in mine.

I watch this family from the outside but am struck on the inside. My admiration swells for his parents who can have him in a room of many but treat him like the rest. Not obviously staring at his twelve grapes or losing the ability to keep laughing about human lawn fertilizer. And that funny, energetic boy?  His bravery puts a whole new face on childhood courage.

So today we wear blue for Drew and his dad, John, and all the other type one diabetics who remind us that tranquility isn't found in human control, but in the trust of an ever-present God.

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Friday, November 9, 2012

30 Day Gratitude Photo Challenge: Week One

The other day I was skimming pinterest (which I love) and came across Positively Present's 30 Day Gratitude Photo Challenge.  Each day there is a topic to capture with the hashtag #Gratitude30.  Helloooooo Instagram (@melissanesdahl).  Another love of mine :)  The marrying of these two loves was clearly meant to be and the sharing of all I'm thankful for is something I thought would be fun to share with all of you! So, every Friday during this month of Thanksgiving I will be showing you notable moments of gratitude in my life.

Day 1: Words

Isn't this a great reminder for all of us?  I put it in my phone's notes lest I forget.

Day 2: Technology

In one Sunday afternoon our one year old played with a computer, iPhone, iPod, and iPad.  This is most definitely a sign of the times! 

Day 3: Nature

Recently, we had our first snow.  I can't say I was a fan (and thankfully it melted after only a few hours) but when I told my 5yo that she replied, "but you need snow to make angels and angels are from God." Perspective. :)

Day 4: Clothing

The other night my hubby and I were fortunate enough to have a date night.  Yes!  I always love special time with my man!  Thankfully I checked my feet before getting in the car because apparently in my excitement I put on mismatched shoes.  I like to keep things classy :)

Day 5: Knowledge

This is how a 7yr old chooses to celebrate getting 103/100 on her MindCore challenge testing event. Good taste, eh?!  These were intense, challenging questions and we were extremely proud of our little student.

Day 6: Memories

One of the most special exchanges I've had with Grace this year is through her first grade family journal.  These notes have created memories I will cherish all my life.  I'm just as excited as she is when that journal comes home. :)

Day 7: Innovation

Isn't this a young girl's dream come true?!  Hannah wrote out her first homework (which she was super excited about so let's hope that continues to be true!) with these innovative princess nail polish pens.  Well played, Target!

Day 8: Sleep

I say success is better measured by moments treasured than checks on a to-do list.  Snuggling with our busy body for a rare afternoon nap was most definitely what this mommy was supposed to be doing.

Day 9: Holidays

Introducing our beautiful snow princess, cat princess, and not-so-pleased ladybug. :)  These three capture our hearts daily and were a joy to trick-or-treat with on a rare warmish Halloween.

These pictures only represent specific categories of gratefulness in my life.  The truth is each day is fill with a multitude of mental snapshots I'm thankful for.  Next Friday I'll be back with more of the #Gratitude30 photographed ones!

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