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.

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