Category Archives for "birthday"

The Blessing of Friends

The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.

Hubert H. Humphrey
My friend, Rob Shepherd, recently held a survey over at his blog.  In the survey, he asked readers to select their favorite Christmas movie.  My choice was easy.  My favorite Christmas movie is It’s A Wonderful Life.  If you haven’t seen the movie, what are you waiting for?  No, really.  Go see it!

The movie tells the story of George Bailey.  After a series of events, he ends up staying in his hometown of Bedford Falls despite his desire to spread his wings and travel the world.  As the head of the Baily Building and Loan, George helps countless townspeople as they seek to own their own homes.


About half way through the movie, George falls on tough times when his crazy uncle loses $8,000 of cash that was supposed to be deposited in the bank.  The loss sends George into a panic as he processes the potential prison sentence he may face for misappropriating funds.  At one point, George contemplates taking his own life.

Things start to change when George’s guardian angel, Clarence, steps in to help.  Through a creative approach, he shows George what the world might look like if he had never been born.  George begins to realize how much he cherishes his life.

When he finally comes to his senses, he returns home with a new attitude.  Upon arriving home, the townspeople flood his house with financial gifts to offset the lost $8,000.

Clarence leaves George with a copy of Tom Sawyer with a note inside that reads:

Dear George-:

Remember no man is a failure who has friends.

Thanks for the wings!



I love this movie!

Yesterday, I was reminded of this truth in my own life.  I celebrated a birthday yesterday.  I’d like to say it was my 29th birthday (but it was really my 43rd birthday).

You may recall that I am a huge numbers guy.  I love to count things.  For some reason, I started counting the number of birthday wishes I received yesterday.  When I went to bed last night, I counted over 150 different people who wished me Happy Birthday!

I don’t state this to brag.  I mention it to reflect my appreciation for friends in my life.  I am blessed beyond measure by so many wonderful friendships.  Thank you!

How have you been blessed by your friends?


Sweet 16

Guatemala 2013 612

Today is Hannah’s 16th birthday!

Wow, time flies.

16 is a big milestone.

She is officially eligible to get her driver’s permit today.  This is a bit scary for Leanne and me.

She is in her middle teens.  She is definitely moving into young adulthood.  She’s taking more responsibility.  She’s starting to look at colleges and to consider career aspirations.

And she is taking responsibility for her own faith.

To Leanne and I, it seems impossible we are already at this milestone.  We will always think of her as the little girl with the bobbed haircut who takes charge bossing her brother around and organizing backyard circuses and afternoon teas for her friends.  It seems like yesterday we were bringing her home from the hospital in her car seat or taking her to her first day of preschool or watching her climb on the school bus for her first day of kindergarten.

This is my prayer for Hannah on her 16th birthday.

Dear God, Thank you for Hannah.  Thank you for the amazing gift you have given me in my daughter.  Thank you for the honor and responsibility of raising her.  God, I pray you will continue to work in Hannah’s life in a mighty way.  Help her to continue to grow in beauty – inside and out – in the years ahead.  More importantly, I pray that you will guide and protect her as she gets older.  Thank you for her heart to serve others and to honor You.  Use her in a mighty way.  I know you have big plans for her.  Help me to do my part in preparing her for the future, and help me to know how and when to let go at just the right time so she can continue to grow and serve.  I pray she will keep Your Word in her heart.  I pray she’ll surround herself with positive influences and that she’ll continue to look out for the needs of others.  Thank you for these 16 years.

What do you remember about turning 16?

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Thank You – #14

Guatemala 2013 007

Thank You No. 14

Today, I’m thankful for my wife.

Today is actually her birthday (a milestone birthday).  She is such an encourager.  She’s a great match for me.  And I’m blessed beyond words.

He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.  Proverbs 18:22

Why are you thankful today? 

Ice Breaker – How Did I Get Here

Ice Breaker

Image by VerseVend (via Flickr – Creative Commons)

Each week on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question.  The questions are designed to help us get to know each other here in The Stretched Community.  I’ll provide my answer to the question here in the post, and then you can leave your response in the comments.  While you’re in the comments section, see how others answered the ice breaker question.

Tomorrow marks the 6th birthday of The Stretched Blog.  With this in mind, I hope you’ll answer this week’s Ice Breaker Question.  You can listen to my response by clicking the video link below.

Question:  Tell us how and when you started following The Stretched Blog (Jon Stolpe Stretched).

My Answer:  You’ll have to watch the video below.

Answer this week’s ice breaker question by leaving a comment.  I look forward to reading your response!  (As always, feel free to share links.)  And keep STRETCHING!

Be Intentional TODAY – (How Did 15 Years Go So Fast?)

15 years goes by so fast!

Yesterday, we celebrated Hannah’s 15th birthday.  She was able to relax at home thanks to a day off from school.  To celebrate, we went out for dinner to an Asian restaurant nearby and for dessert at Dairy Queen.  When we arrived home we watched home movies for a while.  We watched Hannah as she could barely roll over.  We watched her dedication service.  And we watched her during her first year as a big sister.

Through the videos, I was reminded that Hannah has a double portion of grace.  Hannah means gracious, and her middle name is Grace.  I was reminded that Hannah has always had a fairly calm and steady personality.  Even as a baby, she was pretty content much of the time.  I was reminded that she is a leader.  I get to see that more now, but it was obvious through the videos that this quality was already developing when Hannah was three years old as she directed her brother around the house.

It’s hard to believe that Hannah has moved into high school this year.  It’s crazy to imagine that she could start driving with a permit in a year.  And it’s unbelievable to think that she will be looking at colleges before long.  We try to plan appropriately for upcoming events and changes, but I’ve also learned that it’s important not to get too wrapped up in the worries of the future.  We need to make the most of the current opportunities that we are experiencing.

One of my favorite verses come from Ephesians:

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Ephesians 5:15-16

This verse is about the urgency of the message we have to proclaim about Jesus Christ.  We certainly need to make the most of every opportunity we have to share our faith with those who are far from God.  We need to be wise in how we live, so we set the best example and point people in the right direction.

I think this verse also applies to our relationships with our friends and family.  It’s easy to let the busyness of life hijack our time with our kids.  We can get so busy running from one activity to the next or trying to climb the corporate ladder that we forget to be intentional with the moments we have in the present.  Before we know it, our kids are teenagers.

These 15 years have gone by quickly, and I’m sure the next 15 will seem like a blur as well.  I want to make the most of every opportunity.

Happy Birthday, Sweetie!  Thanks for changing our lives forever.

What are you doing today?  How will you be intentional with the time you have today with family and friends?


Happy Birthday, Leanne!

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.

Proverbs 31:10

Happy Birthday to my wonderful wife.  I am truly blessed!

How Did 12 Years Go By So Fast?

How did 12 years go by so fast?

This is the question I asked myself as I crawled into bed last night. Twelve years ago yesterday, our lives were forever changed when our son entered this world. I remember spending that day working in the yard with our two and half year old daughter, Hannah, who was decked out in a cute watermelon themed outfit complete with a watermelon hat. As we were getting into the middle of the afternoon, Leanne suddenly came outside and indicated that we needed to get moving quickly. The baby was on the way. Little did I know how soon he would arrive. We rushed to the hospital.  And we barely made it out of the parking lot and into the hospital when Leanne’s water broke. Within an hour we were holding our 8 pound 6 ounce bundle of joy.

You would never think he was once so small when you see him now. At five and a half feet tall and just over the 100 pound mark, Isaac is rapidly becoming a young man. When we think of Isaac many things come to mind: he is talented – especially musically, he is kind, he is thoughtful, he is caring, he is funny, he is quiet, he is goofy at times, and he is a tinkerer. These are just some of the things that I think of when I think of my son.

But there is one thing that I am most proud of when it comes to Isaac. He loves God. His faith is important to him. He wants to do the right thing. Don’t get me wrong, Isaac is a 12 year-old boy who gets into trouble from time to time. But if you really get to know Isaac, you’ll see a kid who seeks to honor God. What more could a father ask for?

As we head into Isaac’s teenage years, I am beginning to realize that my time of influence is limited. I pray that I can have an impact on my son, and that I can help him to become the man God is calling him to become. As a father, I have the honor, the privilege, and the responsibility to intentionally teach him and lead him in his journey to manhood.

Isaac, I’ll do my best to help you. Be patient with me though, because I’m still figuring it out myself. Happy Birthday, son! I’m proud of you, and I love you, buddy.

What were you up to twelve years ago? How are you being intentional in your parenting?

December 2011 Top Posts

We’ve reached the end of another month.  December was the BEST month so far at Jon Stolpe Stretched.  Traffic on the blog increased slightly by over 500 page views since November and by almost 300 page views since the previous record month (September 2011)!  Comments continued to roll-in.  And new people joined in the conversation and community.  The blog added TWELVE new subscribers, and the Jon Stolpe Stretched Facebook Page attracted a couple of new followers in its fourth month.  Here are the top 10 posts and top 3 commentors for the month:

Top 10 Posts

1.  On Fire

2.  Ice Breaker – Christmas Movies (the new #1 Ice Breaker question)

3.  Ice Breaker – Christmas Songs and Carols

4.  Surprise!!!

5.  Our Christmas Ornament Tradition

6.  Ice Breaker – On The 13th Day Of Christmas What Gift Are You Hoping to Get

7.  Ten Things Every Small Group Leader Should Know (originally posted on October 24, 2011)

8.  Ice Breaker – Favorite Toy

9.  Leaders Are Readers – Creating My Reading List For 2012

10.  It’s 40!

Top 3 Commentors (We blew by the 1,500th comment mark this month!)

1.  Larry Carter (for the 2nd month in a row!)

2.  Brandon Gilliland

3.  Bill Grandi

I now have 32 regular subscribers.  If you’d like to become a subscriber, see the “Join the Stretched Community” window on your right.  It’s great to see this starting to take off.

Thank you to all of you for reading and contributing to the blog and to the reader community.  I continue to grow a lot through this experience.  *** This month, the top commentor will receive a copy of The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson.  Get your comments in for an opportunity to win!!! ***

As always, I love to share your “stretching” stories on my blog, so leave me a comment if you’re interested in being a guest blogger on Jon Stolpe Stretched.  As a side note, I’d love to see guest bloggers in the monthly top 10 list!

Finally, if you’re a blogger, how did your blog to this month?  What was your top post?  What was your favorite post?

December 17th, 2011 Week In Review…

Another week has come and gone.  It was a busy week in real life and here on the Stretched Blog.  The blog is trending towards similar traffic patterns to last week – maybe even stronger this week.  This week saw the second best day ever on The Stretched Blog.  And I’m excited about what’s coming up in the week ahead.  Here’s a recap of the week.

Monday, I kicked off the week with a post which indicated that the Stretched Blog was visiting The Handwritten.  If you haven’t read it yet, please head over to Michael Perkin’s blog to read my guest post titled Stop & Start.  On Tuesday, I shared about my surprise party and I threw out a question about the cake.  We learned some interesting things about some of those in The Stretched Community.  Wednesday, The Stretched Blog paid a visit to Deuceology for a guest post titled I’m Dreaming Of A Stretched ChristmasLarry “The Deuce” Carter mentioned that the post has been running strong over on his blog.  Please head over and check it out, and read the other stuff that Larry’s writing about.  My Thursday post was an introspective post about what it means and looks like to be on fire with our faith.  I’m still wrestling through this one, and I appreciated the comments that contributed to the conversation and my thought process.  And finally on Friday, we finished the week off with another fun holiday Ice Breaker where we learned about what gift everyone would like to receive on the 13th day of Christmas.  You should check it out if you’re trying to figure out what to get The Stretched Blogger for Christmas!

I am so thankful for your contribution to the blog through comments.  Your comments are what makes this Stretched Community!  Please remember to take the time to Subscribe to the blog, so you can have Stretched delivered daily to your e-mail inbox.  Also, don’t forget to stop by the Jon Stolpe Stretched Facebook fan page.  Become a fan to keep up with some additional Stretched stuff.  Thanks!

A few of my favorite posts from the rest of the blogging community this week:

I’m really excited about this upcoming week as I’ll be sharing a guest post by Jonathan Pearson along with some other great ideas brewing as we head into the Christmas weekend.  I can’t wait!

How about you?  How was your week?  If you’re a blogger what happened over your way this week?  Did you read any great blog posts this week?  Share with the rest of us!


My wife did it!  She surprised me for my 40th birthday with a party at our house on Saturday night.  And yes, I was surprised.  She sent out invitations, contacted friends, went food shopping, and coordinated the surprise plan with our neighbors, our family, and other friends.  Nobody dropped a clue.  I showed up at our house Saturday night after a day of making Korv (a Swedish Christmas sausage) expecting to take a shower and head out with Leanne and a couple of friends to celebrate over dinner.  When I walked in the house, I was greeted with a house full of friends.  It was such a wonderful opportunity to touch base with some people who mean a lot to me.

There were many highlights to this evening, but I wanted to share a particular detail with The Stretched Community.  One of our good friends, Amy Sullens, made a cake for the party.  Amy did an incredible job representing me on the cake.  On top of the cake was a running shoe (that looked quite realistic).  The shoe obviously represents my running interest.  The Happy 40 Birthday sign on the front of the cake looked just like a runner’s race bib.  On the left side of the cake was a tent and a campfire which represents my love for camping and a couple of camping traditions that go with me each year.  There were two chickens on the back of the cake.  Yep, I still have a couple of chickens.  And finally, the right side of the cake boasted a laptop computer with Stretched by Jon Stolpe on the screen.  My blog made my cake!

All this, and the cake was delicious!

What four things would go on your cake to represent you?  They can be fun things, or you can choose to go deeper.

(If you’re interested in cakes like this, you should check out the Cake Art by Amy Facebook Page.)