Saturday, January 31, 2015


Todd with his mom and dad
I have never met Lynne Johnson Sapp, but she still belongs in my "31 Days of Friends and Family Who Inspire Me" because she was Todd's mom.  She raised him to be the amazing person he is today.  
     Lynne was born on November 1st, 1942 to George and Libby Johnson in Clarissa, MN.  She and her family moved to Staples when she was two years old.  She        
Lynne caught a BIG fish
had a younger brother named Barry.   
     Lynne was confirmed at the Congregational Church in Staples.  She went to church by herself each week because her parents didn't attend church.  Lynne played clarinet in band.  She worked at a car-hop as a waitress (she took food out to the waiting vehicles).  Lynne and her family moved to Verndale before her Junior year of high school.  Her dad was the meat cutter (starting in 1958) for the grocery store in Verndale.  He was the G in "E & G Grocery."  Her mom worked there too.  While finishing high school, Lynne also worked there.  After graduating from high school, Lynne moved to the Twin Cities to work at a bank.  She preferred life in Staples, so she came home and began working at Barker and Barret (income tax and insurance).      
     Lynne met her future husband, Doug, while he was attending Tech School.  Their first date was going to Wadena for hamburgers along with Doug's friend from Tech School and Lynne's friend, Eileen Brock.  
      Doug and Lynne were married in 1961.  Lynne's aunt gave them a food shower!  People brought canned goods and other non-perishable food items for the new couple.  What a great idea!  After getting married, Doug and Lynne moved to the Twin Cities.  Doug worked for General Mills doing government work and Lynne  worked in Minneapolis at the Oscar Shot Company.  She made small transformers.  All the workers were women.  They had to solder little wires and coils.  
      Todd was born in 1963 in Minneapolis.  Lynne simply adored her son!  Her nickname for him was Toad.  While Todd was still a baby, the family moved to Rochester for a few years.  Later they moved to Glenwood and Villard, then back to Staples.  Lynne stayed home with Todd until he began Kindergarten there.  
     Once Todd began school, Lynne began working for Staples High School.  She worked there for 25 years.  She did secretarial work and was a teacher's aide.  
Todd with his mom and dad
Todd says, "She could type like lightning!  A brand new Sears Electric could not keep up with her!"  When Todd needed daycare as a kindergartener, he was watched by Beatrice and Monroe Nickels.
     Todd remembers taking a ceramics class with his mom when he was about 8 years old.  He made a frog incense burner.  He remembers taking trips out west with their 1970 Ford Pickup and topper.  There was no heat in the camper and no air conditioning in the truck.  Later the family took trips up to Canada with a pop up camper (and the same Ford Pickup).  They would go fishing in the Bighorns too.  Todd remembers, "Mom rode horseback with white knuckles because she held onto the saddle horn so tightly.  She humored us."  
Lynne and Doug at Todd's uncle's wedding
     Another fond memory of Todd's is of riding a 1970 Moto-ski snowmobile together.  Doug got the longest one he could find so all three of them could ride on it.  It was the most expensive snowmobile available ($1,000), but it was cheaper than buying two.  Todd rode between his mom and dad.  I love the picture I see in my mind of their cute family riding together.    
     In 1973 Doug and Lynne started building their house in the woods about nine miles outside of Staples.  They carved out the woods and made a farm for themselves.  They had cows and horses.  One summer a horse cut its leg.  Lynne cared for the hurt animal.  Its name was Sugar and it ended up being Todd's horse.
     Lynne was soft spoken and rarely raised her voice.  She was a very supportive mom to Todd.  She particularly enjoyed fall school shopping with him.  They'd go to the big town of Wadena and shop at the J.C. Penney store.    
      After her 25 years of working for the Staples High School, Lynne did secretarial work at the Energy Office, which was a government program to survey houses to find energy leaks.  Later she worked at Freshwater Co-Op, which was a place that worked with troubled youth.  Her last job was being a teacher's aide at the Lincoln Model School.  
     Todd told a humorous story, "Once when Dad and I were away on a trip, Mom grabbed a 12 gauge and, as she put it, 'blasted a skunk on the road!'  That was the first time she had ever shot at anything.  After that she decided to be a deer hunter."  
Lynne and Doug
     Lynne enjoyed sewing, knitting, reading, and working in the vegetable garden.  She once refinished a six legged stand and a chair.  She was a devout Christian.  She liked to write letters to people.  According to Todd, "She made perfect red velvet cake 50% of the time - made from scratch cake and made from scratch frosting is very difficult to make turn out the same each time!  She made the world's best kringler, shortcake bars, and apple pie.  She always mysteriously had a little crust left over...but she didn't want to waste it, so she'd bake it with cinnamon and sugar on it...for me!"  
     One day Lynne wanted to try a new recipe for pie that she had  discovered in the Rural Electric Cooperative Newspaper.  Following the instructions exactly, Lynne put the pie into a paper bag before popping it into the oven.  Everything was going fine until Doug came into the house and asked, "What's that smell?"  She said, "It's probably the paper bag."  Doug said, "What paper bag?"  "The one that's in the oven," Lynne replied.  Doug asks, "In the oven?!?"  He walked over to look, opening the oven door (letting in lots of oxygen) and suddenly the pie and paper bag went up in flames!  He managed to throw the pie and the flaming bag out the window.  The fire went out.  The pie landed right side up, so they tried to salvage it.  But, it was too full of ash and it tasted too smoky to eat!  Everyone got a good laugh.  The Sapps are still laughing over that story! 
     Christmas was always a special time for Lynne.  One thing that Todd always did to his mom was grab her neck and pinch it between his two fingers and then in a high squeaky voice he'd sing, "We wid you a mewry cwistmas....."  It made her squirm and gave her goosebumps all over.  I can just imagine!    
     Lynne enjoyed sitting down in the evenings with Todd and Doug to watch TV.  They watched Lawrence Welk, Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, and Hee Haw.  When they entertained guests on a Saturday night, they let Todd stay up and watch Saturday Night Live with them.  Usually he had to go to bed early.
     Lynne was very particular.  Everything had to be "just so" in arrangement.  There was no dust or water spots anywhere.  Now I know where Todd gets his title of "Mr. No Water Spots!"      
Todd with his mom and dad
     Lynne loved being a grandma!  She adored her two grandsons.  Unfortunately, she didn't get enough time with her loved ones.  She got breast cancer when she was 45 and died at age 52 (February 20th, 1995).  Todd says, "She was very strong through the journey.  Her faith stayed strong.  She knew exactly where she was going to go when she died."
     I look forward to meeting Lynne in Heaven someday.  I'm going to give her a big hug and thank her for raising such a wonderful son!    
Lynne and Doug with grandson, Daniel

Lynne with grandsons James and Daniel

To learn more about the "31 Days of Friends and Family Who Inspire Me" Project, click here:

Friday, January 30, 2015


Jessica and her husband, Brian in 2012
     I was introduced to Jessica by our friend, Amy in 1997 (I shared a blog about Amy on January 16th).  Jess would come visit Amy while we were in college together and then after we graduated Amy and Jess were roommates in an apartment in the cities.  I visited them often.  Soon Amy's friend, Jess became my friend too.  We had such fun together.  We were young single gals having adventures and loving the life God had given us.  The three of us even went on a three week trip to Prince Edward Island, Canada one summer.  Talk about adventures!!!
     It's a good thing Jess enjoyed Canada because years later she returned to Canada to attend library school in London.  Jess loves being a librarian at Northwestern College and she's good at it too!  Later in this blog, Jess shares with us what she enjoys about her job.     
     Now that we are each married and living miles apart, Jessica, Amy, and I enjoy getting together at favorite restaurants like"Good Earth" or going to each other's homes for tea parties with our other girlfriends (Becca, Shawrene, and Carey).  Jessica is especially talented at being a hostess.  She often has a theme for the evening and she always serves delicious food!  Her Scandinavian Christmas Party has become an annual favorite.  
      Having been single friends together for many years, it was so special to get to be involved in each other's weddings in 2008 and 2012.  Jessica and Amy beautifully decorated the sanctuary for my wedding with only a few flowers and tulle.  They also sang a lovely duet together of "He's Always Been Faithful" during the ceremony.  Precious memories for me.  When Jessica got married I pulled out my favorite puppet for the groom's dinner and gave a silly lip sync performance of a song by Doris Day (a favorite singer of both Jess and I).  Then the day of the wedding I played my violin as Jessica, the beautiful bride, walked down the aisle.   
     Both being teachers, Jessica inspires me to share history and literature with my young scholars.  Both being singers, Jessica inspires me to sing along with greats like Doris Day and Ella Fitzgerald.  Both being Scandinavians, Jess inspires me to embrace my ancestry and explore my roots.  Both being Christians, Jessica inspires me to read my Bible and trust in the Lord with a grateful heart.  I'm grateful for Jess.
The amazing hostess!

The Lake of Shining Waters (on PEI)

Enjoy reading about Jessica as a librarian...

Why did you decide to become a librarian?
      "I decided to become a librarian after exploring several career possibilities that seemed interesting to me.  I enjoyed studying history and had enjoyed researching at the Minnesota History Center library as a history major in college, and even as a high school student for history classes and National History Day.  I noticed that many jobs at the History Center library required advanced degrees in  History as well as in Library Science.  That is what first interested me in pursuing a master's degree, along with interviewing several librarians about what they enjoyed about their jobs.  I moved to Canada to study Library and Information Science at the University of Western Ontario and I really enjoyed my studies, so I knew I had found a career field that I would enjoy."

What do you like about working with college kids?
      "I enjoy working with college students of all ages and programs, as well as faculty.  The favorite part of my job is teaching research skills to students, followed by helping students with their individual research needs at the reference desk.  I teach students how to efficiently and effectively locate needed information, how to evaluate the information they find, and how to use information ethically.  These are important "21st Century Skills" for the information age.  The search strategies I teach can save students' precious time.  It's rewarding when students tell me how research instruction has saved them time, or helped them discover new and exciting information about their chosen topic.  Some students have returned to thank me for help that got them through a class or even helped them graduate."
      "Other things I enjoy about my job are working on challenging research questions and learning new things each day as I assist students in finding information about subjects that interest them.  I also enjoy developing the library's collection, both recommending new items and weeding out old ones."
Creating wedding decorations for the sanctuary...
To learn more about our trip to Prince Edward Island, Canada, click here:

To learn more about the puppet show that was presented to Jessica and Brian, click here:

To learn more about the "31 Days of Friends and Family Who Inspire Me" project, click here:

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Translator Julia

Julia and Jennifer
Trying out some handmade hats!

Sharing a song at Vacation Bible School
Julia and Jennifer in Vatutino
Translating at the church service
Julia's family in Cherkassy, Ukraine 
     I met Julia in 2005 when three friends and I were sent as a mission team by our church in Becker to visit our sister church in Vatutino, Ukraine.  We led Vacation Bible School, shared music and testimonies at church services, and cultivated relationships with the congregation there.  I have written an entire blog about my experience.  To read it, click here:
     Julia was one of three translators who brought the experience alive for the four of us Americans.  All three translators were with us for church events and Vacation Bible School during the day.  But, Julia was with us 24/7.  She stayed with us at our host family's home, ate meals with us, rode in the car with us, and visited people's homes with us.  Without her, our experience would never have been as deep and rich and rewarding.  She touched our hearts because of her skills as a translator, but also because of her wonderful personality, her positive perception of things, and her heart for the Lord.  Julia was my friend, and thanks to email and Facebook, she still is my friend and I treasure her.
     Having never had the unique experience of working with a translator before, I didn't know what to expect.  Most of the time Julia would listen to a whole story or concept and then translate it all at once (rather than translate line by line).  It was delightful observing her re-tell one of our funny stories and then watching the reaction of the Ukrainians when she arrived at the funny part.  
     Before arriving in Ukraine, I had typed up my testimony to share with the church congregation.  Julia studied it the night before the service so she would be prepared to translate.  She used her Bible for direct translations when Bible verses were involved.  During the church service, she and the other translators would sit behind us and whisper to us what the main concepts were.  It was quite an amazing, unique experience.
     While preparing to write this blog post, I went back to my journals from my 2005 Ukraine trip.  Over and over I expressed how thankful I was for much I appreciated her insights and her words and her her friendship encouraged me at times when I felt overwhelmed and unsure of I knew God had brought her all the way from Cherkassy to Vatutino just to be there with us (even though her family missed her back home) my eyes and heart were opened to the Ukrainian people because of this amazing young lady!  I continue to be overwhelmed with gratitude.  She inspires me in so many ways!        
     I'm sure it is clear that we loved having Julia for our translator.  But, the other wonderful thing is that Julia enjoyed translating too.  For this blog, I asked her to write down what she enjoys about being a translator.  These are her words, so enjoy: 
      "Interpreting gives me useful experience of all kinds. It gives me lots of experience in my teaching occupation, develops stage presence, it develops  acting skills, communication with people. When interpreting various people you learn from them various skills. You can learn management as well as good logical teaching. You find out about different cultures which is exciting as you then can apply some things to your life. Working with different people widens my horizon as I learn new ways of cooking, making crafts, sharing fun things and ideas. I saw the hospital system changing in my town because a team of Ukrainian doctors took trips to the UK and learned valuable experience from British colleagues. When I interpet for Pastors I love translating sermons as I get inspired by their preaching. I believe God shaped me into a Christian the way I am using this precious experience of working with Godly believers such as people from Becker Church, like Jennifer and the  team who came over to a little place in Ukraine called Vattuino. I guess they don't even realize how much each one of them influenced my life. I'm so grateful to God for every trip I had in my life, for every change provoked by those trips. Once I had a phone call from the interpreter's coordinator pleading me to go to Vatutino instead of staying in Cherkassy  (which was much more convinient for me as for the wife and the mother). I hesitated for a monent. And then decided to agree. It was a brilliant decision as I found good friends both American and Ukrainian. The Ukrainian Pastor and his wife became a Christian example to me as well as my American friends.  Many years passed but it seems like it was just yesterday."

     Julia is a teacher in addition to being a translator.  When not teaching or translating, Julia is often planning or preparing for a themed party or fun event.  She is extremely talented and creative.  Recently she has done a fishing party for her husband's birthday, a CARS party for her son's birthday, a lemon party for some girlfriends, and a spa party for her own birthday celebration.  She creates a festive environment, makes delicious food and desserts, and decorates with taste and fun.  I love looking at photos of all her events.  So, to end the blog, I'll post some photos of her creativity for you to enjoy.  

To learn more about the "31 Days of Friends and Family Who Inspire Me" project, click here:

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Shawrene and Greg
     I was introduced to Shawrene through our friend, Becca, (whom I shared a blog about on Sunday).  I'm so glad Becca invited Shawrene to join our group of girlfriends because in no time at all it felt like we had known Shawrene for years and years.  She has that way about her...making you feel welcome and loved and accepted and cared for.  Shawrene and I quickly found we had much in common!  For example: We're crazy about our nieces and nephews, we were brought up on Disney musicals, we took ballet in high school, Christy Nockels is one of our favorite Christian singers, we've both led children's choirs at church, we are called to work with kids, and we both had our honeymoons in Banff, Canada with husbands whom we adore!  Most importantly, we both love the Lord!  At the end of the blog you can read Shawrene's words about how she has been growing closer to God. She shares some meaningful Bible verses too.  Enjoy!
    Shawrene is an early childhood educator and an amazing one at that!  Early childhood education is so very important.  Shawrene gets to work side by side with her own mom.  I think that would be wonderful!  I've asked Shawrene to share with us what she enjoys about working with young children and working with her mom.  Enjoy!   

1.  What do you like about working with young children?

I have always wanted to be a teacher.  Even as a little girl I would line up my dolls (occasionally adding my little brother) and play school.  I especially love the age I am working with (four and five year olds) because the world is just opening up to them.   I love that at this age everything is new and exciting.  The sky is the limit and they are invincible.  I love that they are open and honest; they say what they are thinking.  They love to give hugs and high fives. I love listening to their stories (which are often elaborate), and sharing with them the treasures they bring in to show me each day.  They are so full of energy; I love having spontaneous dance parties, playing tag on the playground, and teaching creative movement classes with them. I love seeing their faces when they learn something new, or accomplish a task they had been struggling with previously.  I love that they are excited about learning new things, which makes me always look for ways to make learning fun and engaging. 

Out for tea together
2. What do you like about working with your mom?

My momma and I are the third generation of mothers and daughters to work together in my family.  My grandmother worked with my great-grandmother baking and selling bread in a small bakery, my mother worked with her mother in a hospital, and now I have the privilege of working with my mother teaching pre-kindergarten.  Not many people can say they worked with their mentor, greatest teacher and best friend and it happens to be their mother. She has been in the early childcare field for 44 years and about half of that has been with me.  We even went to school and graduated together.  We complete each other as teachers; we each have our specialties in the classroom, and depend on the other’s teaching skills.   A few years ago I won a national teaching award and have often felt she should have won it with me. I am the teacher I am, because she mentored me and was an excellent model of an effective teacher.  

3. How is teaching rewarding? 

Being a teacher is not just a job it is a passion and a responsibility. It is rewarding to see a student that was struggling with a new skill like cutting succeed in a cutting project, or learning to write, recognizing letters and the sounds they make, and then all of a sudden they are beginning to read basic books and write simple words. It is rewarding to see a child scribbling pictures or building simple creations with blocks and lego creations at the beginning of the year, and as the year progresses they become proficient creating drawings and creations with legos and three-dimensional blocks as the school year progresses.  
It is not just about learning 123’s and abc’s; it is also leaning to care for and help each other, learning how to work together and share ideas.    It is rewarding to watch the children discover ways to work through a conflict with minimal or no help from me.  It is delightful to hear them excitedly share how they worked through the conflict all by themselves.  The huge smiles on their faces and the light shining in their eyes because they did it!  They accomplished something they were having a difficult time mastering, whether it is a cognitive or social-emotional skill! 

It is so rewarding to have parents come back over the years and share with me the things their children say they remember about being in my classroom and the things they are accomplishing in school.

The girls in 2014

4. What are some favorite verses or words to live by?

There are several verses over the years I have loved but none not that I could point to specifically and say these are making a difference in my life. I feel inadequate as a Christian and sometimes feel like I am tossed like a wave, which is not what the Lord desires of His Children.  For the past year and a half we have been in job and home transition.   This journey has been incredibly difficult to bear at times.  Feelings of despair, loneliness are at times overwhelming.  But yet, He has never left me, or my family.  He is holding tight.  I see this in friends at New Life Church who continually reach out to us, songs that come on the radio at “just the right time”, words spoken from the pulpit when we need it most, and family and friends who hug us and let us cry on their shoulders.  And just as a realized today in answering this question, words spoken by my gracious Heavenly Father in his Holy Word, when put together are a healing balm to my spirit and lift me up on eagle’s wings.  How could I ever doubt now! 

I am just sharing the parts of the verses that speak to me; however, it is important to read the verses before and after to get the whole message when studying God’s Word.  So here we go…..

Romans 5: 1-6, specifically 3-5, (Not only so, but we also rejoice in our suffering because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our heart by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. )  God is doing something in me through our difficulties and I need to trust that.

Ephesians 1:17-23, specifically 17-20 (I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know him better.  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparable great power for us who believe.  That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him for the dead and seated him at his right had in the heavenly realms.) Through this I pray I will truly know Him, and discover what it is He has for me, and my family, according to these verses.
Philippians 4:4-7 (Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident t all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. ) It is so easy for me to become anxious; this is a reminder to be thankful and rejoice and to know His peace. 

Philippians 4:11-13, specifically 12-13 (I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.)  I confess I am not at this place but I desire to learn contentment not in my circumstances but in Christ. 

Colossians 3: 23-24 (Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.) While we are in this waiting room I pray that I will work for the Lord because He is the one I am serving. 

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.) I pray I live a life that is quiet and focused during this time and to work to be independent.

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 (Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.) This verse speaks to me the most right now and puts it all together for me.
In a nutshell, this is what my focus should be now and always! 

Shawrene with her nieces and nephews
To find out more about the "31 Days of Friends and Family Who Inspire Me" project, click here:

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


 Both being violinists, my friend Stephanie and I met in the Concordia College Orchestra in 1996.  Being in that orchestra was a truly extraordinary experience for both of us.  We both came from small towns and we knew not to take this amazing musical experience for granted.  Even now, almost 20 years later, we look back on our time with the orchestra with cherished memories.
     Stephanie has continued to play in orchestras.  She currently plays for the Willmar Symphony in southern Minnesota.  After college, I lived in southern Minnesota too, so one April, we got to be stand partners for a small orchestra performing an Easter Musical.  Stephanie play her violin for weddings as well.  She even played her violin for my wedding in 2008. 
     Stephanie is an accountant for Jennie-O Turkey Store.  She has always amazed me with her mathematical skills.  She is a dedicated worker and Jennie-O is lucky to have her. 
     One summer Stephanie and I took a road trip together to Colorado Springs, CO to see our friend, Kathy.  We had been there a few years earlier to play violin together for Kathy's wedding, so we were thrilled to go visit Kathy again and see her life there.  The mountains were magnificent!  The air was minty fresh!  And, the company was great!

One of our favorite parts of our road trip was visiting Vermillion, South Dakota, where they have an amazing Music Museum.  It includes six Hardanger fiddles from Norway!  That was right up Stephanie's alley.  You see, Stephanie is very Norwegian and she even knows how to play the Hardanger fiddle!  A Hardanger fiddle is a traditional Norweigan stringed instrument similar to a violin.  It has eight strings instead of four.  The extra strings are called sympathetic strings and they resonate under the influence of the other four, providing a pleasant, echo-like sound.  Hardanger fiddles are often used to provide dance music.  The first time I heard a Hardanger fiddle was when Stephanie and our friend, Julie peformed on their fiddles at Concordia in 1997.
     As mentioned above, Stephanie is very proud of her Norwegian heritage.  She can even speak some Norwegian!  Nothing makes her sparkle like when she talks about the trip she took to Norway with her parents one summer.  They even met relatives living there.  I am part Norwegian, so when I'm around Stephanie, I always feel proud of the fact that I too, have some Norwegian blood in me.   
To learn more about the "31 Days of Friends and Family Who Inspire Me" project, click here:

Monday, January 26, 2015


      I first met Michelle in 2006.  We were in a cohort in Monticello with about 15 other teachers working towards receiving our master's degrees through St. Mary's University.  Our cohort met one evening a week in addition to one Saturday a month, so we really got to know each other.  It was a good experience, and I'm glad I got my master's degree that way.  But, the best thing about getting my master's degree was the opportunity it provided to make a new friend = Michelle!
     While in our cohort together, Michelle and I would occasionally walk down to her classroom (our cohort met at the Monticello Middle School) and play piano or violin duets together during a break.  It was such fun!  We even prepared some pieces to play for my church for special music.  We did piano duets for prelude, a violin duet for offering, and we sang a duet for special music.  That was a busy Sunday!
     Michelle is a wonderful violinist AND a fiddler!  She has won countless fiddle contests across the country.  Lately she has been enjoying judging fiddle contests.  She plays accordion too!  Michelle and I both enjoy music by bluegrass musician Alison Krauss.  Michelle has been on staff at the infamous International Music Camps.  Music has always been a huge part of her life.
     When I got married in May of 2008, Michelle was going to be the violinist for our wedding.  We even had a fiddle part worked up for "God is Good All the Time."  Unfortunately, Michelle's dear grandma died a few days before the wedding and the funeral was the same day.  Even while grieving, Michelle called all her connections to find a replacement violinist.  I'm still overwhelmed with gratitude when I think of this act of kindness she did for us.  
     Michelle and her friend Kara co-direct the Monticello Community Orchestra during the summer months.  I have enjoyed being part of that orchestra.  That experience gave me a glimpse into Michelle's world as a Middle School Orchestra Director.  There were lots of middle school and high school kids in the Community Orchestra and Michelle was so good with them.  She could be silly, but yet get her point across in a very effective way.  I remember thinking she was just made to work with young musicians!  
     For this blog, I asked Michelle to answer a few questions about her career as a Middle School Orchestra Director.  I'm going to let you enjoy the words directly from her.  
     Question #1:  Why did you decide to be an orchestra director?  "I have a passion for working with children and sharing my love of music with them.  I love being able to take students that have never played an instrument before and teaching them how to make music and helping them grow into young musicians."            

Monticello Middle School Orchestra

     Question #2:  What do you like about working with middle schoolers?  "Well, for one, they put up with my corny sense of humor!  Seriously, though... They are at a beautifully awkward part of life - the transition from being a little kid to becoming a young adult.  They need and want people to care about them and to support them during their journey as they figure out who they are.  I get to work with students three years in a row and get to witness great growth in that time span."
     Question #3:  How is teaching music rewarding?  "The smile on the face of a student when they have an 'ah - hah' moment is a beautiful sight.  I teach beginning string students - students that have never held an instrument before.  To be able to take them from that starting point and to show them how to make music is so rewarding.  My hope is that I am able to share my love of music and give them the tools they need to be independent learners.  I tell my students that my goal as a teacher is to teach them enough so they don't need me anymore.  I know that most of my students will not go on to be professional musicians.  Maybe they won't even continue to play their instrument, but they can take other skills learned in my class and use those in other aspects of their lives."
     I'm so glad Michelle decided to teach music.  I know she is impacting so many lives!  I teach kids when they are seven and eight years old, but they stay in my heart as the years pass by.  I think of them often and wonder how they are doing in middle school and high school.  I'm glad there are teachers like Michelle who invest in kids just like my students.  Michelle inspires her kids to be the best they can be and she inspires me too!   

Michelle with her husband, Bob.
To learn more about the "31 Days of Friends and Family Who Inspire Me" click here:

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Friends: Becca and Shawrene
     Becca and I were introduced to each other back in 1997 through our mutual friend, Amy.  It didn't take long to see that we were kindred spirits and sisters in Christ.  Becca and Amy (and Jess and Carey) were roommates after college and I visited them often.  The five of us still continue to get together.  Our friend, Shawrene has joined the group too.  There's nothing like spending time with Christian friends to encourage one's soul and lift one's spirits.  I'm so thankful for these ladies!  Becca is a good listener and has a caring heart.  She is wise and strong.  God has gifted her with a big, compassionate heart that is accepting and giving.  She inspires me daily to remember who I am in Christ and to love others with His love.  She and her husband have a beautiful story of how God blessed them with children.  Becca was willing to write down their story for this blog.  I know you will be blessed by it.  So, please, scroll through a few photos and then sit back and be inspired by how God was and is at work!
The happy couple: Becca and Keith
Visiting Good Earth: Carey, Jess, Becca, Amy, Jen

Time for Tea: Jess, Becca, Amy, Jen, Shawrene
"I have seen God at work in my life in multiple ways, the most dramatic in my husband's and my journey to becoming parents.  For so long, we tried to get pregnant, and couldn't.  Then, we had two miscarriages in nine months.  We were contemplating whether we would continue to try to get pregnant, or revisit the idea of adopting from foster care.  These children are often older than six years old, sometimes in sibling groups, and always the victims of some combination of child abuse, abandonment, and/or neglect.  We agreed to try one more month, and if we weren't pregnant, I would call the adoption agency and move forward with adopting."

"I woke up early one Sunday morning, wanting, needing to know if we were expecting or not.  I would find out Wednesday, naturally, but I could not wait. 'God, please forgive my impatience.  I need to know which wayYou are leading.'  I took a pregnancy test, and it was negative.  I'd been down this path before, many times.  However, this time, the door towards parenthood felt wide open, rather than closed.  I told my husband before church that I was to call the adoption agency in the morning."

"At church that morning, we had our monthly 'Missions Moment,' which highlighted a missionary or ministry supported by our church.  My jaw dropped to the floor as they talked about 'Adopt a Teen.'  The ministry itself is more of a sponsorship, rather than 'adoption' in our sense.  But, I knew that God was speaking to us, guiding us, letting us know that this was the path we were to travel."

"Our kids moved in with us in April, 2012.  Angel was nine and half years old and Anthony was twelve.  In some ways, it seems like we have been a family forever, and in other ways, we feel so new to this parenting gig!  Our kids, just as any others, grow up way too quickly.  My son is now the tallest member of the family.  'Little moments,' such as swim team and gymnastics meets, 'Student of the Month' awards, and Boy Scout award ceremonies take on such a bigger meaning when we know that there are fewer of them to share and cherish."

"I don't want to lie and give the image that our life as an adopted family is all a sweet Disney movie.  It is not.  Think new parent jitters, blended family arguments, and teenage hormones, literally overnight, and all in one package!  But, we know that God is in this.  He guided our paths to each other at just the right time, and confirmed it in so many beautiful ways."

"My son loves to read, just as I do.  He has a teach-savvy way of thinking, just like his information technology dad (my husband), and if he sees an opportunity to help someone, he will serve.  Have  I mentioned my husband's spiritual gift of service?  My daughter isn't so into books, just like her dad, but loves learning through videos, and is social to the core, just like me.  She has a gracefulness about her that rivals none...well, thankfully some things come through 'nature' rather than 'nurture.'  The most important thing about us is that, individually, and as a family, we all serve the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are far from perfect, but know that the Lord is good.  His timing is good, and we give Him the glory."

"I have several favorite verses that have followed me throughout my life.  John 3:16 ("For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.") and Jeremiah 29:11("For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."), which happen to be the verses that my kids shared with us the first time we spoke to them!  Other verses that are special to me are 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ("Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.") and James 1:27 ("Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.")."

"As for words of wisdom that are helpful, I like this one, heard on a Christian radio talk show:  'Always do your best as a parent, but be sure to save some content for your kid's therapy sessions.'  I love it!  We don't have to be perfect in our parenting, in our relationship with our spouse, as an employee, and certainly not as a Christian."

"If you are interested in learning more about adoption from foster care, is a good place to start.  Feel free to ask me any questions.  Jen can give you my email address.  We had a great experience through Children's Home Society's Waiting Children Program."

The happy family:  Dad Angel, Anthony, Mom

Becca's kids:  Angel and Anthony

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