Our Year of Thanksgiving

One year ago, on Thanksgiving Day 2009, we started simply by posting a Daily KIP and our first “long” blog posts.  Today, on Thanksgiving Day 2010, we are reflecting on our many blessings.  We have been touched beyond words by the comments, personal notes and thanks from our readers. We really didn’t know what Keeping it Personal would lead to when we started.  Our hope was, if we could impact just one person’s life, it would be worth it. We were faithful, and our ‘followers’ grew.  Our vision, our purpose for Keeping it Personal has been more clearly defined, and we are excited to share with you our direction for the coming year VERY soon.  Most importantly TODAY, we just wanted to take a moment to share with you our “Thanksgiving”…….

Timing; God’s PERFECT timing!

Humility…..realizing we have NO clue and have a lot to learn.

Accountability keeps us grounded and true to our values.

Never say never!  We had no idea what God has in store for us; LOVE what He’s doing…..

Knowledge in itself is empty; what we do with it is POWERFUL!

Smile; it’s the easiest way to change your whole attitude and the cheapest way to bless another person!

Gifts come in all shapes and sizes – sometimes the most significant ones are FREE and cannot be bought.

Invite; don’t underestimate the power of an invitation.  You will not know if you don’t ask!

Voice, we all have ONE – we MUST use it, together we can cultivate change!

Inspired. Excited. Motived. Encouraged……to keep on keepin’ on!!

Notice the little things, pay attention, BE present.  Live in the NOW.

Gratitude IS essential – an everyday attitude of being thankful.

THANK YOU for joining US on our journey as we focus on Keeping it Personal…….

How time flies

I am sitting here, having tucked my kiddos into bed, reflecting on how quickly the past 7 and a half years have gone. My oldest, Owen, will be starting 2nd grade, and Gracie will be starting Kindergarten in ‘2 sleeps’ as we say it. Kindergarten! She is so ready, and I know deep down, that it is good and right. But, there is a small piece of me that would like to keep both of my children young. Freeze this moment in time. Partly, because I love where they are both at developmentally. They are so funny and cute and sensitive and innocent. Untainted by the world.

We have been talking a lot about going to school lately. Gracie asked Owen if it is okay to sit by him the first day she rides the bus. We have been rehearsing what it will be like having lunch at school. We’ve practiced saying Mrs. Grebinow’s name. I’m not even sure that is how you spell it, in fact, I’m pretty sure that is not the right spelling. (I better get on that.) We’ve talked about how important it is to listen to the teacher, to respect her and others who may be helping.  How when you have to use the bathroom, it is okay to politely ask the teacher. We’ve talked about needing to go to bed earlier to make sure they are rested for a full day of school. We’ve even had the talk about strangers, as well as safe and unsafe touches. (Qualify that with remembering I all sorts of crazy stuff at work).

I think I am doing okay with everything… getting Gracie off to kindergarten. Mainly because she is so ready and excited. Even still, I know there will be some tears shed on that first day. Tears of sadness for my little girl (and boy!) who are growing up so quickly. Tears of joy, as I know Gracie is off on a new, exciting chapter of school years.  I pray my children are safe, that they are treated kindly, and that they are nurtured. That they are corrected when needed in a firm, but loving way. I pray that God will guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Maybe I am still in a state of denial, but I don’t think any of my tears will be out of pure worry. Or at least I pray they won’t be. Sure, I’ll have a jittery stomach, for all the reasons mentioned above. But God tells us not to be anxious about anything. (Phil. 4:6) Oswald Chambers once said this, “Worry is an indication that we think God cannot look after us.” That would go against the core of my beliefs! I think his quote is a little simplified (as we are only human), but for the most part true. Don’t you think? I hope that my faith is strong enough to leave the worry behind.

So Gracie, when you step onto that bus on Wednesday morning for the very first time, and you see your mom and dad staring back at you, know this. We love you, and are so very proud of you. The tears you might see will be happy tears. Have so much fun; you have been looking forward to this day for a long time! We know that God is going to be with you each and every second of the day. We’ll be waiting with big smiles for your return!

And Owen, you are an amazing big brother. We know that even though you sometimes are annoyed by your little sister, you have an amazing heart and will watch out for her. It was only 2 short years ago that we stood in our front yard waving at you as you drove off in that big yellow bus for the first time. Oh, how time flies. Have a great year, buddy. We love you, and are so proud of you!

Personality Traits

If you have a second, check out this study. Essentially it followed 2400 children as young as 1st graders. Teachers had completed personality ratings of their students measuring talkativeness (verbal fluency), adaptability, impulsiveness and self-minimizing behavior. 40 years later, researchers caught up with 144 of those individuals and conducted videotaped interviews. Click on this link for the full review if you are interested in the findings.

When I saw the personality attributes, I couldn’t help but think of my own children, and how their teacher would describe them. Pretty adaptable, not too impulsive, average intelligence. How would that translate into their adult personality? Will they be successful? Driven? Secure in themselves? How much influence do I have in helping them develop their personalities? What personality traits do I place value on and encourage? How does ones personality help define their character? I want nothing more than for my children to grow up as well adjusted, successful, content, Christ-centered adults.

The personality traits of this world are so often in opposition to our Christian walk. For instance, the self-minimizing behavior referenced above… Isn’t that really defined as being humble?

1 Peter 3:8 “Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.”  The article also made a negative reference to adults needing to seek advice. Isn’t this also contrary to what the Bible says? Proverbs 12:15 “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.”

I come from a medical background and find great value in research. I tend to agree with the article’s findings. Personality traits exhibited in our youth will continue to follow a child throughout their years. What I question is society’s measure of success. Are the personality traits I place value on in alignment with the world or the word? I’m not saying it can’t be both, but what I am saying is I’d much rather have my compass set to God’s standards.

The Pickle Party

This past weekend, I had the privilege of being invited to a ‘pickle party’ as my daughter would say. For many years now, a number of family friends gather at my godmother’s cabin once a summer to can pickles. These aren’t just any pickles, these are Marian’s pickles. I’m telling you, Marian (my godmother) has the most amazing pickle recipe. Word gets out about these pickles, and I find myself hiding them in my laundry room cabinet! The newly canned jars are carefully rationed once the pickling process is complete. Everyone has their favorite, mine are the baby dills. I could honestly sit down and finish a jar all on my own!

Not only is this both an art and a science, (it is really a complicated process!) it is a great time to catch up with old friends. My ‘station’ is by the sink and stove, with one of my most respected friends, ‘Sus’. She is really like family. Because life is busy, we don’t get to see each other or even talk all that frequently.  But when we do, I so appreciate her. Her example. Her heart. One of the many reasons I look forward to this weekend.

In recapping my Pickle Party, I realized there are some important lessons learned. Not only for pickling, but for life in general:

  • Pay attention to detail. To process. To your team members. (Those jars won’t seal and your pickles will ‘sour’ if each step isn’t followed correctly! Isn’t that also true with certain real life situations?)
  • Collaborate. It is a team effort, and each person has a valued role.
  • Listen. To not only direction, but to each other!
  • Teach. Take time to teach each other a craft, trade or simply life lesson learned. Pass on something to the next generation!
  • Laugh. Don’t take yourself too seriously!
  • A little sweat labor yields a priceless product.
  • Enjoy the fruits of your labor.
  • Take time to start and keep a meaningful tradition.
  • Make reconnecting with your family / friends a priority.

and lastly…..


Pretty good life advise, don’t you think?  …….thanks for the great pickle party Marian!


cour·age: the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery. (Dictionary.com)

One, two, three…. Jump! Come on, you can do it! Okay, lets try it again. One, two, three…….Yipee!!!!

We were so excited for our son who after much consideration, found enough courage to jump off a cliff/rock into beautiful Sylvan Lake.

On a similar note, our usually skiddish daughter decided after watching her cousins go tubing for all these years, that she was going to try it. She was actually going to get on that tube and go!

I haven’t heard such glee, laughter come from our children! They were proud of themselves for taking a risk, for being brave, courageous. In return, they had a rush of excitement and were filled with joyful noises.

It may not be a cliff or tube, but what is it that you fear? What is holding you back? I sometimes think fear has this incredible grip on us, that if we would only have a little more courage, we too, would be able to experience that feeling of accomplishment, and perhaps a little more joy? Let the lessons of my 5 and 7 year old encourage you to JUMP!

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.” ~Ambrose Redmoon

Holiday Road

Holiday Road oh oh oh, oh oh oh, oh oh oh… Holiday Road oh oh oh, oh oh oh.

Last week, our family piled into our car, and headed west. 10 hours west to be exact. We toured South Dakota for the next 5 days before we turned around and headed back the same 10 hour stretch as our trip began.

One of the traditions my husband started when we backed out of our driveway was to play the song, “Holiday Road” every time we got in the car. (You know, the theme song from National Lampoon’s Vacation?)  The reaction from Gracie was joyful. She began singing along the minute it started. “Turn it up” she would scream with delight. Owen on the other hand, got a little grumpy. Like he was ‘too cool’ to participate in our silly family fun. I would sneak a look in his direction, and see him trying desperately hard NOT to smile. Before long we would all be laughing and singing along… “Holiday Road, oh oh oh, oh oh oh, Holiday Road oh oh oh, oh oh oh!”

We had the most amazing time exploring, sight seeing, appreciating the God given beauty of the Bad Lands and Black Hills. I knew it was going to be pretty. Just didn’t realize how pretty. Breath taking, really. There were several times during this trip when I sat back, consumed with gratitude. Gratitude for my family, for this opportunity to spend time with them. And to share appreciation for each other and the beauty around us.

As you can imagine, a road trip like this can also lend itself to some irritability as we were in each others’ hair, literally 24/7. At times I felt like we were playing a part in a National Lampoon movie. (Please don’t speculate which character I was playing!) Tempers flared, patience grew thin. But somehow we would rally. These moments were usually short lived, and we would soon be back to singing, “Holiday Road….”

So here’s to all of you taking Griswold family vacations this summer! And for those of you considering… just do it! You won’t regret the memories you will make with your family. All of them. The good, the bad and the ugly!

Please share with us your summer vacation memories, and silly traditions!

Father's Day

A few words to describe my dad:

Noble. Genuine. Respected. Respectful. Patient. Kind. Forgiving. Generous. Gentle. Comforter. Even tempered. Fair. Considerate. Worthy. Successful. Smart. Witty. Counselor. Wise. Full of grace and mercy.

I am blessed to have an amazing father who could not have been a better example for me growing up, and continues to this day to be a man of Godly character.  I now have a husband who is a father to my own children, and admire the strong character he brings to our family and models for our children.

A father, daddy, dad, papa… have an enormous impact on their children for generations to come. But what about those children who are now growing up without a daddy? What about children who have fathers who cause pain instead of comfort, hurt through words, or even their own hand. Even those of us who have wonderful fathers will likely be disappointed by them at some time. They may not live up to our expectations, or accidentally let us down. They are in fact, human. There is only one father who will never leave you nor forsake you. Who will ALWAYS have your back. ALWAYS. This, of course, is our Heavenly Father.

I have been going through a recent ‘ah ha’ moment and realized this is one of the most important lessons we can teach our children. As important as our earthly fathers are, even more important is our relationship with our Heavenly Father. There isn’t anyone who is a better provider, counselor, disciplinarian, leader, comforter, teacher, healer… If we can fully understand the love our Heavenly Father has for his children (us), we can live more fully, with purpose and security.

James L. Christensen wrote, “The purpose of Christianity is not to avoid difficulty, but to produce a character adequate to meet it when it comes.  It does not make life easy; rather it tries to make us great enough for life.” I am not a father, but as a parent, I am certain of one thing. If we can teach our children about God’s character, to help create in them a desire to develop God-like character, we have accomplished much.

I challenge you this Father’s Day to recognize your father, whether it be a biological father or other. Let them know what kind of impact he has had in your life. And maybe, if you feel like it, share with a child (or grown up child) how much their Heavenly Father loves them.

Dad, I love you. I thank you for being the Godly man you are. I am so blessed.

Doug, thank you for being such an amazing father to our children. I love you!

Happy Father’s Day!

My Day in Court

I’m sitting in Juvenile Court right now, waiting to testify about a child’s safety. Ultimately this hearing will determine whether or not a patient I was involved in will return to her biological parent or stay in foster care with a hope to be adopted. Big stuff. My role in this is very small. One tiny piece of the puzzle.

I come with a nervous stomach. Anxious. I hate court. Really hate it. I am praying I answer the attorneys’ questions in a way that will help the judge make the best decision for this young lady. There are many attorneys involved in a hearing like this. An attorney for the county. An attorney for the parents. And each of the girls involved have a guardian ad litem, each represented by an attorney. Situations like this become very complicated, and when you really stop to think about it, what an important role each of them play in the future of this young life.

This is a very broken family, parents fighting to maintain custody of their 3rd daughter, having lost custody of their 2 older daughters. Abuse. Drugs. Immorality. Shame. Lies. Regrets. Unfortunately, this describes many of the families with whom I have the opportunity to work.

There have been some delays, (not unusual for court) which has given me some time to visit with the foster mom for these two young ladies (two of the 3 siblings). What an amazing woman. She prefers taking in teenagers, because she says she gets too attached to the younger ones. I kind of laugh at that, as in my opinion she gets just as attached to the teens. She says by the time they are adults, she is ready to let them go. Funny thing though. Two of the many foster children she has cared for over the years are still living in her home, now as adults. (Having made it to college I might add!)

This foster mom has been providing foster care as a single woman, an elementary school counselor- for over 20 years. I asked her how she would define her job description. She said it is to help young men and women adjust to the situations they have come from, and to help them grow into productive adults. Things as simple as hygiene, organization, dress (physical appearance), ethics, morals…  Some of these kids come with a lot of work to do. A lot of lies to undo. Other children don’t require quite as much work. One thing is certain. She loves these kids. Unconditionally. Without judgment.

Now my confession. I mentioned there were delays in this proceeding. I became annoyed, impatient that I was sitting in court on my day off, waiting to testify. Thinking of all the things I had waiting for me at home. I have laundry to do, a house to clean, dinner to prepare… Seriously? I know part of the problem is the wall/distance I put up to protect myself from the content, the subject matter of the patients I see. But still. It didn’t take more than a moment after talking with this humble, noble woman to realize that I was being incredibly selfish. What could be more important than this?

Something I have really been convicted of lately is my selfishness. I am learning more and more every day, that life really isn’t about me. This journey I’m on is certainly a process. This foster mom has taught me a huge lesson today. A lesson about sacrifice, unconditional love, selfLESSness.  I’m definitely a work in progress. I believe more and more each day, even if it is just with our own family, or perhaps a neighbor or friend, we are ALL called to be more like this woman. Think of the difference we could make if we took action.

It's the Simple Things

It’s the simple things.

Sitting on my porch, listening to the middle school and high school kids laugh, scream, giggle. Soon, the elementary children will be home, and the neighborhood will be buzzing with activity.

Hoses and squirt guns out of storage. Swimsuit or not, here I come!

Pink shoulders from not remembering to put on sunscreen soon enough. Oh well.

Pulling out my children’s’ clothes which have been outgrown, or those which have seen better days. Thinking about tackling my closet, but will save that for another time.

Cleaning out the garage of unused toys, trikes, and other ‘stuff’ which has been sitting around taking up space.

Smelling fresh cut grass, lilacs and bon fires.

Planting vegetables we had started from seed. Saying a prayer that some of them will survive my unskilled hand at gardening.

Taking a walk through the neighborhood trails, appreciating nature and all its beauty.

The extended sunlight making the  days feel longer, brighter.

Enjoying watching my son play baseball on a gorgeous spring evening.

Skinned knees and elbows from riding, scootering, running too fast.

I love the newness of spring. The energy. The smell. The warm sun on my face. Maybe it is because we made it through the long, cold winter of Minnesota. Regardless, I love spring.

Appreciating the simple things.

Sing It Like It Matters

imagesI had the priviledge of attending my neice’s confirmation today, and I really do mean priviledge. 13 years ago, I stood by her as she was baptized, and I have been blessed to see her grow into a beautiful young lady. But that story is for another time. What I wanted to talk about was the older woman sitting behind us in church.

She was beautiful, gracious, somewhat robust, and maybe even a little hard of hearing. I am sure she was attending the service for her grand, or even great grandchild. The first song for the praise and worship portion of the service was “How Great Thou Art”. LOVE that song. For me it brings back so many memories of childhood, reminds me of the country church I attended, and even of my own grandparents. Now, I am typically the type to tear up at a time like this. We stop for kleenexes on the way into church, knowing what lies ahead. Seriously. My family surrounding me, a special occasion, and to top it off, a iconic song like “How Great Thou Art.” I was expecting a flood.

To my surprise, this kind woman behind me BELTED out:

“O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder…”

Not quite on tune, I might add.

As the song began, I started to giggle. (Has that ever happened to you? In the most inappropriate times?) I giggle sometimes when I am nervous, and I think that is why I started, hearing this woman sing so loudly, and so terribly off key. But then, I think that giggle turned into a smile when I thought of the depth of life this woman must have experienced. I  am sure there have been sorrows, joys, and celebrations not unlike today. But what struck me was her ‘I don’t care what anyone thinks, I am going to belt it out from my toes’ kind of attitude! Love that!

I feel like I am so inhibited at times, feeling like I need to act a certain way, fit the mold so to speak. I wonder what it has taken for her to get to the point of losing all her inhabitions. Insecurities. Is it simply years? Experiences? Time? Or is it a confidence in knowing who you are, or maybe what is important in life? A knowing that you are a child of God and created in His image, so what do you have to hold back?

Whatever it is, I want it. I want her confidence. Her outward expression of praise. Her uninhibited spirit. I feel like I work toward this state of being, yet continually fall short. Maybe it will take a lifetime to get there—- or maybe it is humanly impossible to really achieve this state of mind. But, at least I’m trying. Regardless, I need to remember the extra message I gained from today’s service. Sing it like it matters.