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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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Don't Let Thankfulness Remain Idle. Act in Thanksgiving {+ a Chicken Wild Rice Soup recipe!}

“Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. 
Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. 
Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.” 
Henry Van Dyke
With our oldest in first grade, we’ve officially joined the ranks of school parents.  Recognizing the incredible work our school’s staff and teachers do, I felt a prompting last year to give back those who are giving so much to the little people we love.  Less than a month later I received a call with a direct ask to co-chair staff appreciation.  If that isn’t a God thing I don’t know what is!  Done.  Deal.  I'll be a card carrying PTA mom. J

Ironically, as we turned the calendar page to November – the month where we focus on all we are thankful for – conferences started and we executed our first plan.  My co-chair and I designed each day around a theme and were quickly blessed with awesome parent volunteers who helped make each night a success.

It was the perfect way to kick off November.  I brought in

And was told it was gone instantly so here’s the recipe for y’all!

2 sm pkg Uncle Ben's long grain & whild rice (instant cook - the 90 second microwave kind)
3 (10 1/4oz) cans cream of potato soup
4 soup cans milk (I use skim)
1 small pkg Velveeta cheese
Finely cut, cooked chicken breast (amount as desired. I used 2 large ones.)
mushrooms if you want

Prepare rice and put in crockpot. Add soups. Use one of the cans and add 4 cans worth of milk. Cut cheese into chunks and add into crockpot. Cut your chicken breast into pieces and cook over stove. Add it (and mushrooms, if desired) into soup.

{At home I serve this soup in bread bowls and it makes for the perfect fall/winter main course meal}
It's embarassingly easy, but simple, cost-effective yumminess is how I roll!
As I wheeled the cart full of everyone’s food and beverage contributions back and forth, I was met many times over with teachers and staff literally gushing with thanks for each of the meals.  There was not one single time where a staff member passed without expressing gratitude. 

And God reminded me that sometimes what feels like a tiny, almost-too- simple act of thanks to me is multiplied into a meaningful gift that makes the day of another.

While you're counting your blessings this month, I encourage you not to let your thankfulness remain idle thoughts in your head.  Act in thanksgiving.  Write a note.  Donate a small gift.  Whatever He is calling you to do because people and ministries deserve to know they are appreciated...and God will take your little and make it big.


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