Enjoying the Cold

THAT is a title I never thought I’d scribe. I don’t care for the cold. But I fell in love with a guy from the sub-zero plains of South Dakota, and though he had no desire to return there after college, it seems 21+ years into our marriage, we are here, with the kids, and dog (and Spot the Fish, RIP, 2/11/15)…at least for part of winter. Jason’s traveling quite a bit internationally, but we aren’t joining him on all those adventures just yet.

Last summer God told me we would be here for the winter and as much as I thought He was totally joking, He was quite serious. I have come to a place in my relationship with God to know each day is a gift and following Him, wherever He leads, is always His best plan whether it’s how or where or when or with whom I imagined it or not. As a result, we’ve been blessed to be with his mom on these long, dark, cold days. I’ve been making a lot of soup. Jason’s working hard and helping me with some of my non-profit work. I joined a local gym and am meeting new people. Ryan is enrolled in a local preschool a few days a week and loves his new friends. Emily is flourishing in homeschool and seeing friends she would usually only see in the summer. I’m loving the opportunity to soak in the gift of being with some heart to heart women who have known me and sharpened and prayed for me for 20+ years. I guess God knew what The Graveswolds needed during this season of houselessness.

(Just a side: when Jason and I were dating and I came up for a visit in the winter one year, he literally had to dress me in snow gear to go outside. I stood in the mudroom in my long johns and wool socks and he helped me pull on bibs, zip up a borrowed camo coat, and wrap my neck in a scarf…he pushed each man-sized glove on, then pulled the wrist cinches on each hand so no snow, or wind, could sneak in…tucked my curls into the safety-orange hat, and then I waddled outside to meet his friends for some snowmobiling. Now? Well, now I speak South Dakotan…”It’s in the 20’s, so it’s warm, you don’t even really need a coat…”, “Do you want to go for a walk ON the lake?”, “Do you need anything while I’m in town? (3 miles away)”)

I left Arizona for college in 1990 and never returned. I loved the heat, the sunsets, my family, and the landscape, but wasn’t enamored by the upscale lifestyle or flashy high rolling, holy roller church we had attended, so was okay to leave it. After Jason and I were married for a year and he was done with his Masters, we headed north to Minnesota for him to continue his education in engineering. My father-in-law, Steve (who our son, Noah Steven, was named after) was SOOOO excited we would only be four hours from “home.” Steve had the biggest heart, capable of making EVERYONE feel welcome, cared for, loved…Steve was a friend to anyone and he literally would have given you the shirt off his back if you needed it.

So, in 1995 when we moved to Minneapolis, Steve gave me the perfect “Welcome to the Tundra” gift…he got me these:


He was ahead of his time, that guy, at least when it came to fashion and trends, but he saw a cold girl from Arizona, so, boots from the tundra for the tundra, would only do.

I cringed. I was from Arizona where we wore fashionable sandals and had our toes always painted. These were so clunky…so…so…chunky…so manly, so incredibly WARM.

But Steve knew better, he knew I’d come around. He knew I’d end up loving his state of South Dakota, even in the winter, if I slowed down long enough to take in the beauty. And he was right. I just wish he was here with us to see how far I’ve come, to see how incredible his children are and what wonderful spouses and parents they’ve become, to meet all of his grandkids, to watch Emily ice skate on the frozen golf course pond…to see that my old school boots with the original liners are still keeping my toes warm…and I’ve embraced their clunkiness.

I cringe now knowing how vain I was in my younger years. It’s not that I don’t want to look stylish…I still wash my hair and love me some mascara, but I’ve learned a few things in the last 43 years that matter a bit more, like: to forgive quickly, laugh often, pray hard, breathe deeply, listen to God, do what He says, love well, receive love, sit in the moment, play on the floor, go outside in the cold, kiss often, make eye contact, have a firm handshake, listen with my ears and heart, don’t judge, Scripture is rich, pray for my “enemies,” really, really, really trust God, child-bearing and rearing is hard and beautiful, marriage is hard and beautiful, friendship is hard and beautiful, grief is hard and beautiful, I like multiple cups of tea and love vegetables, I can lift heavy things, I love myself, some bridges already exist, some must be repaired, and others have to be built, there is one size bikini in all of Spain and every size woman wears it proud, being with other women and hearing their stories makes my heart come ALIVE, …and, when it’s cold, it doesn’t matter how cute you look…what matters is warmth.

No One is Born an Asshole

Let’s say that one more time, not for shock value, but for the sake of truth and hopefully conveying my heart:

No one is born an asshole.”

This can be said a plethora of ways: jerk, cheater, meanie, bully, etc. But the reality is, we are all born little, sweet, and tender.  Having had 3 babies, I can say with confidence, from experience, none of them were born jerks or buttheads.

It’s pretty hard to believe, especially in light of all that we hear about in the news and people we have met in real life. So then, why is there pain and hurt and brokenness in the world? If we are all born chubby sweeties, where do we learn how to be total jerks to one another? Why is there hatred, war, fighting, bullying, jealousy, backbiting, estrangement, angst, and bitterness in the world? Why is there such a thing as an “enemy” and why can’t we get along with our neighbors? Why is “peacemaking” such a touchy subject and why are there “sides”  to choose if we were all meant to be on one team? This could be the answer!!!

This is one of the many reasons I am so passionate about people’s stories. It’s also why as a peacemaker my heart gets bruised and discouraged sometimes. Because, you see, I am hard-wired with not only the heart of a peacemaker, but also with deep empathy that gets me into trouble when “sides” and “enemies” and “opposing parties” and “different vantage points” exist. And deep down, I also believe God’s a truth teller, the best there ever has been, so when He says our fight isn’t against another person but is a spiritual battle, I take His truth to heart.

Please understand me when I say, when I hear a person’s story of how their heart is hurting and so and so did it, my compassion is with the person who was hurt. At the same time I wonder about the brokenness in the other person and what would cause them to be hurtful. What is it that they are still holding onto, what hurt or unforgiveness, that has now become their filter for life?

Ever since Noah was in the hospital with a long list of things wrong with him but no official diagnosis or definition to explain the causes, I’ve been a fan of the question, “Why?” I do have some ideas and leads to why my boy was never well, but I may never ever truly know, and that’s often the case with why some people act mean, are hurtful, and can be overall jerks.

The hard part to wrap my head and heart around is knowing they weren’t born that way…

I understand what my mom meant when she said to be careful about peacemaking. When she first said that to me, I thought it was a ridiculous statement, but walking through pain with people, and being hurt myself at times, I get it. And I’ve listened as people have shared that deep down, they don’t want to make peace…because peace would entail vulnerability, and trust and vulnerability were what they were practicing when their heart got hurt in the first place.

Not everyone wants to make peace. Some people want to hold on to their offenses because they believe it helps or at least establishes a bit of defense and protection from further injury.  The heart and mind can be a war zone and as humans who are made of flesh and blood, when our feelings are hurt, our usual first response is to protect ourselves…and never let it happen again.

So back to the part where no one is born an asshole…I know I’ve hurt the feelings of others. Sometimes I meant to, but usually I did not. And I can’t dissect everyone, but I can start on myself…a heart and mind lab where I ask myself why I treated so and so like that or why I reacted in such a way or why I’m thinking certain thoughts or letting things swirl around in my head rather than checking my heart, going directly to God, and then to the other person.

I can listen to others, especially and even people different from me, and then allow myself to wrestle a bit, challenge myself and my filters and thinking. And learn…be transformed by listening. Not allow fear to set in but allow God to remind my soul why He warned against that One Specific Tree in the first place…why it wasn’t the Tree of Life he said not to touch, but the one where He KNEW we would wield what we THOUGHT we knew about others…the one where we would start blaming the other guy for our choices.

People aren’t jerks just because they think differently than us. Maybe we have wars and battles and hurt and division because we are all walking around believing we are perfect?

Yes, we are born separated from God and all have a propensity for selfishness and sin, however, much of it is learned. And the more we store up our offenses on the inside, trying to hide our imperfections in costumes of perfection, the bigger the rage and lashing becomes.

What IF we started relating to one another the way Jesus did? What IF “loving our enemies” actually looked like LOVE rather than mud-slinging and God-slinging and cyber-bullying and social-media bullying and Bible-bashing and political bandwagon and heated personal opinions?

What IF we stopped looking at the faults and shortcomings of others and started with our very own hearts?

Revival never came through mandatory attendance…it can only come through a laying down of our own lives and looking to the Very One who created us and knows every one of our hearts.”

What IF we learned a little something from Jesus when He said to become like children in order to inherit the Kingdom of God? Maybe He knew they weren’t born assholes, too, otherwise, wouldn’t He have admonished His listeners to become more like the Pharisees?

I don’t know. I’m just thinking out loud.

(*This post has links to some fantastic, and life-altering, scripture. In light of what I shared above, I hope you’ll be able to read all of it and be encouraged and challenged by it, as I am every time I read it. It rubs me wrong, which must make it beneficial…like sandpaper to a piece of rough wood.)

One Word 365, 2015

For as long as I can remember I’ve loved gathering girls/women together to hear their stories. To listen to the heart of another woman is a privilege and honor, truly a sacred encounter. This is something about which I am so passionate, I’ve spent the last several years studying, and trying to put into practice, […]

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The 5 Minute Marriage


The other day Jason and I had our first 5 minute Stand Up meeting. The day prior, I didn’t know what a “Stand Up” , or Scrum, meeting, was. He, on the other hand, has known about, held, and attended these types of meetings at his places of employment over the years. He also facilitates group conversations, conference calls, […]

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On Peacemaking and Bridge Building

My personal mission statement includes “peacemaking” and “bridge-building,” as does the mission statement of my non-profit organization, Bevy. Would I compare myself to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for these reasons? I most certainly would not compare myself to him, a man I’ve already outlived in age, but one who greatly surpassed me as far […]

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This vagabond life as The Graveswolds isn’t without its ups and downs. (*For those just tuning in, we sold our house, sold or gave away half our possessions, put the rest in storage, all a week and a half before Thanksgiving, and have been without a home, not homeless as there is a difference, ever since…THIS […]

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On Any Given Day: Take 2

*A portion of the following post was written a year and a half ago. For the last couple of weeks it’s been on my heart so I went back to it and reread it just now. I updated the “list” as life’s circumstances have changed, but the truth remains: on any given day, somewhere in […]

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Some Pictures from Down Under


I just put the WordPress app on my phone so am testing it out to see if it works. It probably would have been beneficial to have done this prior to our trip to New Zealand and Australia but we kind of had a lot going on Now I know… *this is a test to […]

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Still Practicing His Presence: Advent

This ornament was sent from my Grandma to my Grandpa while they were young teenagers in love...it is from the 1920's.

When my Mom died this past June, to say my world was rocked would be an understatement. I was flailing. My Mom and I used to talk on the phone AT LEAST once a day, if not more, and this just 6 miles apart across town. Sometimes my Mom made me crazy. I didn’t always understand […]

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(Here’s a post I wrote yesterday at Mocha Joe’s (my hang out spot for the last 3 days) in Melbourne …it’s just a creative rant.) Friday, November 21, 2014 Today I woke up cranky. I’m not sure why, but maybe it was when my husband said, “WHOA!” when he saw my raccoon eyes, as I […]

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