Summer Adventure!

Ocean Sunset

Sometimes when life sends big opportunities your way, you carelessly throw them away. But when God helps you lift them back out of the trash, you know it’s yours for the taking.

This literal event happened to me in February when I got a letter in the mail for a SportQuest mission trip. Spending a week or two this summer teaching tennis clinics and sharing God’s love with kids sounded like fun, but the stress of school and the prospect of my last summer before college made me shrug my shoulders and toss the letter away. “Maybe some other summer. This one will be all about me and my family,” I thought smugly to myself.

Turns out, God was prepared for my stubborn little response. My best friend had come over to watch movies with me later that day while I was recovering from wisdom teeth removal. Enjoying life chats, mint chocolate chip ice cream, and the movie, Love Comes Softly, she mentioned that she had received a letter in the mail from SportQuest and was wondering if I had too. Amazed that we had both been invited to share in this opportunity, we raced to the kitchen to pull my letter out of the trash. Re-reading the letter through fresh eyes, I realized that we could embark on this great summer adventure together. Something our cautious mothers were much more likely to agree upon if we were both going.

After some online research, we learned that the only location to teach tennis clinics this summer with SportQuest would be in San Diego. In the middle of a Minnesota winter, San Diego sounded pretty good. Over the next few weeks, we talked about the trip with our school guidance counselor, with our parents, and with each other. With each conversation, the possibility of us going seemed even more likely. We sent our essays, recommendations, and applications in to SportQuest and were both accepted!

June 18th came much faster than we anticipated, especially in lieu of all the graduation party preparations and end of the year activities that consumed all of our time and energy. Before we knew it, we were on a plane, headed across the country to spend eleven days with a bunch of people we had never met. While neither of us was overly nervous about the trip, I was definitely feeling a little nostalgic about leaving home, especially in light of the sweet summer memories I was sure to miss making with my siblings and parents. But looking back, I can’t imagine how my summer would have looked if I hadn’t gone on this mission trip!

The people I met were absolutely incredible. Athletes from all across the United States flew in to San Diego to teach volleyball, soccer, tennis, or basketball. From different backgrounds, religious denominations, and regions of the country, we had all been invited to share in this experience together. We had all accepted the opportunity to be there. The first four days of our trip were dedicated to team building and getting to know each other. A trip to La Jolla Beach, a ropes course at Palomar Mountain, pool parties, and service projects gave us plenty of chances for conversation and bonding.

The camps themselves went over smoothly. The kids were an absolute delight to work with, even on their squirrely days. Each day of camp, one of the coaches shared with the kids why they choose to play with purpose. It was incredible to see the way the kids looked up to the coaches and how impactful their little connections became. Friday was our last day of camp and we ended the camps with SportQuest night, an evening for the parents to join us for a picnic, silly skits, awards, and a final message from two of the coaches about our mission. As I sat in the grass with my new friends, listening to the coaches sharing their stories, I gazed at the California sunset and felt perfect peace. I knew that God had called me on this trip for a reason. I think that He wanted to show me that I would be okay at Bethel this fall. My family would be apart from me for this season in life, but God would never leave my side. That was a lesson well worth learning.

Over the course of the trip, we completed a Bible study based on the concept of powering through. We learned how to find power in prayer, overcome spiritual warfare, and discern our purpose in life. Our team built fast friendships on the solid basis of our faith and the sports ministry we were taking part in. I was amazed at the tears that were shed during our goodbyes – who could imagine that we would be so heartbroken to leave a group of people we had just met eleven days ago!

During this trip, I felt myself become more comfortable with reaching out to others and developing friendships – useful college skills that I will need soon! I took a leap of faith and saw mine grow in the process. My best friend and I now have shared in one of the most incredible adventures of our lives so far and can continue to encourage each other in new ways because of this experience.

I am so glad that God convinced me that I needed to do more this summer than read books and pick weeds. I have done both in abundance since I have returned, but the renewed sense of appreciation for everything I love, from my family to playing tennis, was definitely worth being parted for so long. Leaving so much at home reminded me just how blessed I am and how wonderful it is to be back with those I love best.

My hope is that you can have your own little rejuvenation period this summer. Whether you go to a conference or retreat, spend a weekend at your cabin or just an evening taking a walk, I encourage you to unplug from the world and take some time for yourself. We are always in too much of a hurry (myself included) and must appreciate all the little things, because someday we will look back and realize that they were the big moments. Spending time with God puts everything into perspective! Happy summer days! – Kate

Independence Day

Independence-Day-Ride

Without much of a chance to comprehend where the past four weeks of summer have gone, the Fourth of July is upon us. It seems the holiday weekend has crept up without warning. Just like that, your visions of a classic summer celebration, complete with all the ruffles and Pinterest-perfect complements, have been dashed . . . or maybe not. Here are some ideas that may help you enjoy this Friday’s holiday whether you have been preparing for weeks or just since you started reading this blog.

Host an old time baseball game. Gather friends and family to enjoy this classic American sport in a new (or old) way. Play by the rules used in 1860, like they do at St. Olaf College each July 4th.  The rules are as follows: no gloves necessary; if the ball is caught on the first bounce, the batter is out; no umpire to call balls or strikes (though batter can still strike out after three swings and misses); foul balls are not strikes; and if base runners overrun first, they can be tagged out.

For an easy food and decoration combo, serve blue M&M’s, white chocolate covered pretzels, and red licorice. Show off your patriotic colors by displaying these sweet treats in hurricane jars and other clear vases.

If you are looking for a dessert to cool everyone down try a no-bake watermelon cake! Cut your watermelon in a cylinder shape, cover with whipped cream, and decorate with berries, almonds, or granola. Make a flag design or star shape if you’re feeling creative. It’s healthy and relatively easy to prepare!

For your table, round up mismatched white chairs and blue dishes combined with some Old Glory’s in a vase to create a patriotic atmosphere for a meal. Simple details like colorful flowers and a vintage bicycle will add unique and whimsical accents to your table setting.

Need an extra pop of color somewhere? Use red, white and blue bandanas as your go-to item. They are useful for table runners, napkins, or a punch of color in clear glass jars with silverware for your table. They are simple to wash and functional in many ways.

Whatever your plans for the holiday, I wish you a Happy and Safe Independence Day! – Kate

Father’s Day Thoughts …

FathersDay

With Father’s Day just around the corner, my dad is due for some sweet words in his honor:

My dad is one of the most compassionate and thoughtful people I know. He constantly does little things to let us know that he cares. From filling up my car with gas when he takes it for a quick trip to town to bringing Gatorade to my tennis meets, he is forever thinking of others. Before every road trip, my dad always checks out our vehicles to make sure that the wheels meet his standards and will safely guide us to our destination.

As far as being a handy man, my dad is the fixer-upper we can’t live without. Every electronic item in our household has broken down at some point in its existence and been resurrected to working order again with his care. He has rebuilt computers, assembled vehicle engines, and even spent time  fixing our shower. Without his vast mechanical knowledge of how things work, our household would be in a constant state of chaos and disarray.

Hunting weekends and lake days have always been time well spent with my dad. Some of my best memories with my dad have been eating cheese sticks at seven in the morning while knitting a scarf in our hunting shack (I was that daughter), four-wheeling through the woods together, and finally learning to stand up on water skis through his persistent encouragement. Though we have put in our time waiting for him to be ready to begin our adventures, his preparedness for all situations has saved us more than once.

My dad was very busy with work when we were younger, and often our only time with him was late in the evenings. Through high school, he remained a loyal and dedicated fan for each of his children. Every single tennis match, softball game, concert, and play I ever had, he was there. He never told me what I had done wrong or could have done better. He simply loved me and supported me in everything.

What a blessing this man has been in my life! We are looking forward to spending some time with our family this weekend and enjoying the sunshine and warmth of summer together. Whether you are going fishing or to the Twins game, writing a letter or making a phone call to your dad, I encourage you to let him know what he means to you! – Kate

Graduation Memories

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As of Saturday May 31, I am officially a high school graduate! It is strange to finally say these words after years of assignments, projects, and tests at Osakis High School. Reflecting on my graduation day is truly a tribute to the many years I was blessed to be a student at Osakis.

My sweet mama threw her heart and soul into my graduation party. We have had a delightful time the past few months arranging all the details of our little gathering. My sister painted an old gate for us to display pictures and quotes on, in lieu of traditional photo arrangements. Small samples of fabric in my party colors of turquoise and coral cut into triangles with pinking shears were sewn to binding to create little pennant banners. With some help from Shutterfly and the sweet quotes of Anne of Green Gables, my guest book now contains pictures that tell the story of my life and the kind words of those who attended my party. A hat box set on the piano bar stored cards of well wishes. Coral colored Gerber daisies in blue mason jars adorned the tables. The beautiful quilt that my meticulous grandma so patiently sewed was proudly displayed with clothespins. Our menu consisted of fried chicken from the Corral, Grandma’s potato salad, fresh fruit, Rhode’s buns, root beer floats, peanut butter brownies, lemon bars, and Special “Kate” bars. The evening passed all too quickly in a rush of wonderful conversations and encouraging intentions from my family and friends.

Our commencement ceremony was held Saturday afternoon and went well, considering the lack of ventilation in our gymnasium and the impatience of my classmates to be done with high school. Wearing the gown and ill-fitting cap was a strange feeling for me. After years of watching my siblings and older friends graduate, I had many assumptions about what it would actually feel like to stand in my high school with all of my classmates together one last time. Graduations are known for being bittersweet: exciting adventures ahead but a multitude of friends, experiences, and memories are left behind as the transition to adulthood begins. Growing older and the changes that accompany this natural progression of life are absolutely terrifying at times. But we won’t know what’s around the bend in the road if we lack the courage to take the first step towards it.

I was honored to give a speech at commencement regarding the present. In closing, I stated that: The present time is a beautiful one. We are on a bridge, casting a glance over our shoulders to the difficult and worthwhile path that brought us here and gazing at the uncertain yet hopeful destination ahead of us. One of the most simple and challenging things to do is live in this moment. Yesterday is over and we have no guarantee of tomorrow. All we have for certain is today.

Amongst graduation parties, the allure of summer, and college preparations, the future can be exciting and scary all at once. We have so much that we want to or need to do that we can easily fail to see the sweet and beautiful moments playing out before our very eyes. Ecclesiastes 3 says that there is a season for everything. To my fellow classmates, this is our season to celebrate all that we have become and all that we have yet to look forward to. Take in this present moment and each one that comes your way. And always remember, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the everyday, moment-by-moment journey.

At Crooked Willow, we love old things because they have stories and they have character. I think that speaks well of people too as they write another sentence of their own stories each day. Appreciate the memories of the past, look confidently to all that the future will bring, and love each and every moment. Hoping that whatever adventures are in store for you this summer, you are inspired to live in the present. -Kate

Mother’s Day Joy

Mothers

My mom and I have always been close. Our identical features and loves of God, family, and coffee (in that order) naturally make us pretty good pals. But our relationship goes beyond those things to a place of kindred friendship where the hearts of mothers and daughters dwell. In the absence of my big sister while she continues her studies at Morris, I have found another strong woman to model my faith and values after. Book recommendations, spring jackets, burst laugh-worthy stories; we share everything. Throughout my senior year, my mama has stayed beside me as we savor each “last” and embrace each delightful day we have together. Though next year will bring new changes to our lives, we are confident that this is not the beginning of the end, just the end of the beginning.

I think that Mother’s Day is a wonderful Sunday in May for us to all celebrate the women who have the toughest occupation in the workforce. Considering the hours of life-chats, the loads of laundry, the dishes washed, and the tears dried by my mama, even an entire Mother’s Week wouldn’t be enough to properly show her how much she means to me. How on earth can I thank someone who has done as much for me as my mom has?

Little things mean the most. While she would surely enjoy a fancy dinner at Bella’s, tickets for a Viking Princess cruise, or a bouquet containing every flower in season, I know that something my mom truly appreciates is when my siblings and I help out with small chores like unloading the dishwasher and folding towels. She fancies our little daily conversations and problem solving sessions. And she certainly loves when her whole family is gathered together. These little ordinary moments become extraordinary when we make them intentional and meaningful.

Unlike normal jobs, mothers don’t work from 9-5 and call it a day. They work tirelessly and around the clock, never even receiving the compensation or wages that other occupations give to workers for their labor. Yet, they do all that they do because they are passionate about their family. Whether you still live with your mom like me or have children of your own and live hundreds of miles from your mother, I encourage you to let your mom know how much she means to you. Don’t wait for Sunday the 11th to show her how much you appreciate her. Every day can be Mother’s Day. The Bible tells us that during Jesus’ growing up years, “His mother kept all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:51) Remind her how special she is to you – it is something she can keep in her heart forever! -Kate

Spring is in the Air

vintage postcard forget-me-nots

Spring is coming! I am feeling very hopeful of this, especially with the beautiful 40 degree days we enjoyed only a few weeks ago.  As long as it stays above freezing, we have hope that spring will soon arrive for good.

Even with the sunshine beginning to stream into our homes and lives once more, we know what the cloudy and slushy days can do to our spirits. Here are a few ideas for restoring hope and joy in spring:

-Fill your mind with good things. These past few weeks, Mama and I have been enjoying Karen Kingsbury novels and the “Love Comes Softly” movie series. In a world where literature and film can sometimes make you feel emotionally drained, these are certain to rejuvenate you!
-Share. Bring colorful doughnuts to work or school. Sort through your wardrobe and donate clothing you don’t wear anymore. Cleaning + helping others = pretty great day.
-Create something. Find a use for those old mason jars in your basement. Make an organizational piece for the winter attire you hope to send away soon. Check out Pinterest for some ideas to get you started.
-Look to the future. Whether you have a vacation coming up or are beginning to make plans for a graduation or other celebration, get excited about something! It is never too early to start planning.
-If you have been blessed with small children in your life, spend time with them! Take them to the library for an afternoon or out for an ice cream date. Smile at their giggles and stories and enjoy the perspective of spring from a four-year old.
-Get your sunlight! Oranges, Vitamin D, well-lit porches, whatever you must do. When you find light and sun somewhere, stay close to it and enjoy its warmth.
-Start egg carton seedlings. Place them on your windowsill and watch them grow day by day. Begin planning your garden and all the blooms to come.
-Get out of the house. Go for a walk, breathing in the fresh air. If you feel brave, go without mittens or a hat. Soak in the sights and smells of springtime.
-Be grateful. Start a gratitude journal and write about something every day. You are blessed when you view all your circumstances as blessings.
Happy Spring to all of you!  -Kate

Wisdom for the Season

Last Friday was a day that I had been simultaneously looking forward to and dreading for months. Twenty minutes after waking up, with no reason to look cute and no permission to have breakfast, mom and I were headed to town. When we arrived at Centrasota, the people were friendly but that didn’t stop my heartbeat from echoing loudly through the room as monitors were attached to my arms and chest. The laughing gas made me dizzy and once I closed my eyes, I knew it was over.

I woke up in a cozy room, stretched out on a little bed. If I had had the jaw capacity to smile, I probably would have, because I had made it through my first surgery. How could I have ever known that getting my wisdom teeth out would help me understand some of life’s biggest lessons?

As a girl who is constantly on the go, the past four days have been simply odd. The living room has become my “Katie Nest”, scattered with Karen Kingsbury books, College Government notes, the Love Comes Softly movie series, half-melted ice packs, Gatorade bottles, and my favorite blankets. My agenda book has sat forlornly on my desk, unopened and unneeded for days. For someone once so neat and organized, this itself has been strange.

Tiredness from the pain medication has drained most of my desire to be productive as well. On Saturday alone, I took FOUR naps. (My mother tells me I stopped taking them when I was three years old, so I would say this is quite a change for me.) I even fell asleep when one of my friends came over to keep me company! When I wasn’t resting, I struggled through school assignments. I did finish enough homework to attend afternoon classes on Monday, but anticipate some extra work later this week.

Had I known that this is what my weekend would consist of, I think I would have been much less insistent on having the surgery in the middle of my senior year. Between everything going on, I would have argued that the timing would never have worked out. Strangely enough, I think the timing was a blessing. In between seasons, right before softball and Lent start and the final stretch of the year gets under way, this was the perfect break. The optimal time to catch up on sleep, read books and simply relax.

This weekend, I really found out how blessed I am by the people in my life. The text messages and phone calls from my nearest and dearest have been simply sweet. One friend came over Saturday night with ice cream, chicken noodle soup, movies and encouraging words to keep me going through the weekend. Another made me pudding on Sunday and waited very patiently for half an hour while I finished my supper. (Spaghetti on the third day? Not as easy as it sounds.) My parents have been absolute gems, keeping the fire going in the living room, refilling my ice-packs and apple juices (even though my legs work just fine) and simply praying with me. My friends and family are skilled at doing little things with great love. I am touched by their kindness and gentleness with me.

It struck me the other day how Jesus wants us to spend time in His Presence every day, throwing our concerns and to-do lists to the side and just being with Him. It’s a lot easier to just pencil Him into your schedule though and keep madly running around afterwards, like Martha in the story of Mary and Martha. Instead, He wants us to be like Mary, content to just be with Him and not concerned with anything else. You may not have the opportunity/privilege to do nothing for four days like me, but I encourage you to make time for yourself, no matter how busy your schedule is. With spring on the way, it’s easy to get wrapped up in all the winter things we were going to get done and everything else we want to accomplish. May I suggest that you focus on the things that must get done, make time for yourself and enjoy each moment. Don’t rush this season of life you are in, because you are anxious for the next one to begin. God’s Blessings to you All ~Kate

Reflections on February 14th

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The stores have nearly exhausted their supplies of chocolates and bouquets. Tickets for romantic chick flicks like “Endless Love” and “Winter’s Tale” are selling out rapidly as couples flock to theaters. Restaurant reservations have been scheduled for weeks. It seems that everyone wants to be spending time and money on their special sweetheart this weekend.

While some cynics may argue that Valentine’s Day has become overly commercialized and is doing more for the economy than for relationships, I would offer another view point on this holiday. My heart aches for those who claim this is “Singles Awareness Day” and vow that they will be forever alone. I think that Valentine’s Day is about something much more heartfelt than the decorations we see hung in windows and doors.

St. Valentine lived hundreds of years ago (1,745 to be exact.) Much mystery surrounds the life he lived, as archaeologists have verified his existence through just an ancient Roman tomb and a church dedicated to him. It is thought that he was a priest who was not only willing to die for his beliefs but also lived a life full of faith. Many believe that he secretly married Christian couples in a time when Christianity was widely disliked. He performed miracles throughout his lifetime and even cured the blindness of a jailor’s daughter while imprisoned.

Looking at what meager facts we have of Saint Valentine, we know two things:          1. Valentine was courageous and 2. He believed in love. I think it is important to understand this when looking at the holiday we celebrate on February 14. I think that Valentine’s Day is less about showing love to a special person and more about being the one person who shows Christ’s love to everyone.

Wherever you are in life, regardless of your relationship status or age, you are surrounded by people. Friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances, people you would do anything for and people you want nothing to do with. Regardless, they are in your life for a reason. Corrie ten Boom once said, “Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives, is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.” What matters is how you handle their presence in your life.

I challenge you to be a Valentine for these people. Be courageous and be a person of love for them. If you don’t know where to start, the best place to begin is on your knees. Valentine’s Day may come only once a year, but every day is a chance to let your Love light shine. Hoping that everyone is spending the weekend with people they love. I know that whenever I am with my family, love is in more than the air: it’s in our hearts too. -Kate

Sunshine and Warm Tropical Breezes

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Amidst the bone chilling temperatures and post-Christmas spirit slump, our family was blessed to spend some time away from home earlier this month. A trip to St. Thomas had us longing for golden skin and sunny skies long before we reached our destination. The weather certainly did not disappoint us, though it did make our return trip a bit more difficult.

We found plenty of time for relaxation while we were there. As the men slept in, the ladies in our group spent mornings simply relaxing by the ocean-side, reading books, sipping coffee and peacefully taking in the breathtaking view around us. I found it to be a really wonderful time for prayer and reflection and simply just being there with God without the normal distractions that sometimes interfere with my quiet time.

Unlike many trips in our past, our days were not pre-planned and full to bursting with activities and outings and adventures. We let our days unfold gently, sometimes visiting a beach (Magen’s and Sapphire were absolutely beautiful) or shopping our way through the stores of Charlotte Amalie. Friday was our adventuresome day when we kayaked to Hassel Island, hiked to Fort Willoughby, snorkeled on a reef and even went parasailing! It was incredible to experience so many new things!

Our family was not inseparable the entire week and we did enjoy individual activities from time to time. It was the evenings that united us as we always seemed to come together at the table, whether we were enjoying a meal or simply a competitive game of Trivial Pursuit. I think that speaks a lot for us and who we are. We all have different ideas and dreams that send us down separate paths at times. But at the end of the day, the most important things in life are the people beside us. Life is nothing if we have no one to live it with or experience it with. All the joys and sorrows can be shared and there are no better people on earth to share it with than your family. I know they are the ones I will always turn to.

As the grand finale to a sweet and memorable Christmas break with my siblings, I feel so blessed that we were able to spend time together.  I always get the same deliriously happy feeling when our family is all in one place and I believe that is when we are truly home!  -Kate

Christmas

Christian Christmas

Christmas movies are kind of a big deal for my family. Nearly every night, we can be found in our living room with the fire blazing, cozied up with coffee and blankets, watching a festive holiday flick. Naturally we have our standard classics that we return to year after year, but this year we (or maybe just me) have taken a particular interest in Hallmark Christmas movies. There is nothing like a sweet little story with a happy ending to lighten your spirits at the end of a long (or short) December day.

I have compiled a list of our top movies and the lessons I think we can take from each of them:

“The Year Without a Santa Claus” Do not become stressed by the things you must accomplish this season. Take time to enjoy it and try to help others who are feeling a bit overwhelmed.

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas”  Christmas cannot be bought in a box or eaten off a plate. It is all about the feeling in your heart and the people around you.

“Elf” The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

“A Christmas Story” No matter how dysfunctional your family is, they are still yours. Also, Red Rider BB Guns are never a good idea. You’ll shoot yer eye out.

“The Santa Clause” Spend more time being Santa to others than wondering who will be giving things to you. Giving beats receiving every time.

“The Nativity Story” The beauty of Jesus’ birth is in the fact that He was born so humbly, in a filthy stable of all places. Yet, God used Him to save the entire world. Oh, how He loves us!

“White Christmas” Love is all that matters at Christmas. Also, there really should be more Bing Crosby’s and Danny Kaye’s in the world!

“It’s a Wonderful Life” If you want to feel rich, look at all the gifts you have that money can’t buy.

“Charlie Brown Christmas” And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not – for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men. And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.-Linus

Wishing everyone a very blessed Christmas from our home to yours! – Kate

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