From The Stolpe Family
How are you spending your Thanksgiving Day?
Each week on The Stretched Blog, we 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.
This week’s question is inspired by a Thanksgiving tradition in our house. Each year, we put a tablecloth on the Thanksgiving table. Each person in attendance traces their hand-print onto the tablecloth. Then they write down five things for which they are thankful – one for each finger. Over the years, our tablecloth has filled up with hand-prints of many sizes and shapes. There are hand-prints for loved ones who have passed away. Each hand-print represents a year of thanksgiving. We’ve almost filled up our first tablecloth as we’ve been doing this for over ten years. I’m looking forward to reading your responses to today’s Thanksgiving Ice Breaker!
Question: Name 5 things for which you are thankful this year.
My Answer: (1) I’m thankful for my trip to Xenacoj, Guatemala this summer. This trip was a major leap of faith for me. Through the trip, I saw God provide and I experienced major stretching as I interacted with the teenagers on the trip and with the people of Xenacoj. This was certainly a milestone experience for me.
(2) I’m thankful for the blogging community. I continue to stretch as I participate in this community as both a writer and a reader. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.
(3) I’m thankful for my job. I’m an operations manager for a company that designs and installs building automation systems. Besides the technology, I love the people I work with every day, and I appreciate the opportunities I have to help people in their own career journeys.
(4) I’m thankful for my kids. Wow! They keep growing, and they keep amazing me with their talents and with their thoughtfulness. In many respects, they teach me every day about the importance of putting others first. They teach me patience. And they teach me to aim for the stars.
(5) I’m thankful for my wife. This is last but clearly not least. Leanne is my treasure. I appreciate the opportunities we have to work towards goals. I appreciate the insights she brings into my sometimes thick skull. I admire her heart for others – her servant’s heart. I’m blown away by her beauty. And I’m inspired by her example of encouragement that she brings to our marriage, to our family, and to all of her relationships. I am blessed.
There you have it – my answer. Now, it’s your turn. Answer this week’s ice breaker question by leaving a comment. I look forward to reading your response!
November has been designated as the month for thanksgiving thanks to the holiday that falls towards the end of the month. While I’d love to see thanksgiving be better represented the rest of the year, I can also tell you that our family probably concentrates more on giving thanks during this month than other months in the year. (Note: The picture above was taken this April at the Thanksgiving Square Chapel in Dallas, TX.)
Here is a list of several ideas which could help enhance your Thanksgiving experience.
This is a start! What other ideas can you add to the list? How do you celebrate Thanksgiving? How can do you plan to transform your holiday?
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
We’re still without power at our house. It’s an interesting feeling being powerless. The house is getting colder, and it is so quiet with out the noise of the lights, computers, and other electric-powered things in the house. We’ve been told by PECO that we may not have power for a week. It’s kind of a powerless feeling. I certainly don’t have the tools or the skills to fix the power on our street, and I can’t control the schedules of the electric repair teams.
Honestly, we’re blessed. We’ve had so many friends reaching out to us with offers of refrigerator space, meals, generators, and warm places to sleep and hang out. Others in our area have not been so fortunate. In a town near us, a family lost their entire house in a fire Monday night during the hurricane. I can’t imagine the feeling of loss and despair.
For some reason, this song by All Sons & Daughters keeps coming to my mind – All the Poor and Powerless. “All will sing out, Hallelujah…”
I don’t know how you made out in the storm, but I pray that you and I will remember to praise God through the storms of life.
How were you impacted by Hurricane Sandy? When was the last time a storm left you feeling powerless?
All the poor and powerless
And all the lost and lonely
All the thieves will come confess
And know that You are holy
And know that You are holy
And all will sing out
And we will cry out
All the hearts who are content
And all who feel unworthy
And all who hurt with nothing left
Will know that You are holy
And all will sing out
And we will cry out
Go on scream it from the mountains
Go on and tell it to the masses
That He is God
We will sing out
And we will cry out
This week, I’m going on vacation with my family. I thought I’d take this opportunity to republish some old posts from the archives. Feel free to leave comments here or on the original post. Enjoy, I’ll be back next week!
Today’s post was originally posted in October 2010 as two separate posts. Both posts were written at a pretty crazy time in my life. My wife was in the hospital, my blood pressure was spiking, and I was running on fumes. It’s great to look back to see where I’ve been and to realize how God has been faithful to me along the journey.
JOY COMES IN THE MORNING
Life is interesting and crazy and all other kinds of adjectives. I’m thankful for it, despite the roller coaster ride that I’ve been on as of late. If things could get a little crazier yesterday, they did. I was on my way to the doctor’s office yesterday morning for a follow-up checkup for my blood pressure (great timing), when my daughter calls me from her cell phone…”Dad, the basement’s flooded.” I told her, “OK, well I’ll check it when I get home. There’s nothing I can do about it now.” When I hung up the phone, I asked aloud, “God, I don’t think I can take too much more right now.” Needless to say, my blood pressure reading was a little high when I got to the doctor’s office. It’s nothing to get overly concerned about, but I have to go back again in three months for another follow-up.
At any rate, so far today has been fine. I’m relearning to take each day one at a time. This morning, I was reading in Psalms 30, and I was reminded of the joy that comes in the morning.
1 I will exalt you, O LORD,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
2 O LORD my God, I called to you for help
and you healed me.
3 O LORD, you brought me up from the grave;
you spared me from going down into the pit.
4 Sing to the LORD, you saints of his;
praise his holy name.
5 For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
6 When I felt secure, I said,
“I will never be shaken.”
7 O LORD, when you favored me,
you made my mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
I was dismayed.
8 To you, O LORD, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy:
9 “What gain is there in my destruction,
in my going down into the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me;
O LORD, be my help.”
11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.
GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES
So as an addendum to my previous post, we spent the afternoon cleaning up the basement – throwing away carpet, using the shop-vac to soak up the water, drying out some things, and throwing some things away. Tonight, I had to laugh when Isaac prayed at dinner time, “…dear God, thank you that we got to clean the basement….” My kids loved it that we got to clean the basement. Isaac reminded me of a few verses in I Thessalonians 5.
16Be joyful always; 17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Learning to be joyful always and to give thanks in all circumstances isn’t always easy. I feel like my kids have been great examples for me. Their faith is amazing. Their ability to be thankful for things that drive me crazy is incredible. My kids remind me over and over to make lemonade out of the lemons of life. I am blessed beyond words.
What “disasters” are you thankful for today?
Yesterday, our family took the DART train to the West End Historic District in Dallas, TX to take in the sites and sounds. We saw the Grassy Knoll at Dealey Plaza where John F. Kennedy was shot. We saw the Old Red Museum. We also saw the John F. Kennedy Memorial, the log cabin in Founders Plaza, and Rosa Parks Plaza. It was exciting to visit each of these places as we walked through this area, but the highlight for each of us was the visit to Thanksgiving Square.
Thanksgiving Square was built in 1977 as a place to remind everyone to be thankful. In the square, there are several water fountains, a Norman Rockwell mosaic, a bell tower, and a few structures designed to focus your attention on gratitude. As I walked through the Golden Ring of Thanksgiving, I gave thanks for my family, my kids, and my wonderful wife. I thanked God for restored health for Leanne and for a return to normalcy.
After we ate lunch in the square, we entered Thanksgiving Hall where we were greeted by friends of my dad. My dad had served on an interfaith council that met in this location. Several of the council members were there following a regular meeting. They each greeted my dad so warmly. As we chatted with our new friends, we learned a bit about the council and about Thanksgiving Square. Did you know that seven countries around the world celebrate a Thanksgiving Day? Did you know that the first Thanksgiving in Texas occurred in May of 1541? We learned these facts and more as we walked through the hall.
Finally, we ended our visit by walking up the spiral sidewalk to the entrance of Thanksgiving Square Chapel. The chapel includes a spiral display of stained glass designed to focus your attention upward. Since we were by ourselves, we all laid down on the floor and looked straight up at the spiral ceiling. What a wonderful way to end our vacation in Texas – with Thanksgiving in April!
What are you thankful for today?
This morning, I woke up in another part of the country to green grass, fully leaved trees, and warmer temperatures. As I walked to the back door to get a glimpse of the sunshine, I saw my dad lying down on the back porch.
He laid there wearing his “exercise” clothes doing his daily calisthenics and having his daily time for prayer and meditation. My dad could give you all the details of his routine which has been part of his daily morning ritual for the past several years. (Here’s a link to his blog where he shares the details of his prayer time.) The general gist of it includes stretching, abdominal exercises, and push ups. Then it moves to a time of prayer when he faces different directions and prayers for his family, his church, his community, and the world. My dad uses the Psalms as he moves through his exercises. He has a method for reciting all 150 Psalms. He used to do this when he went swimming. Now, he recites the Psalms as he warms up on his mini-trampoline.
As I watch him out there practicing his sermon for Sunday and going through the rest of the routine. I’m inspired. I’m amused. I’m intrigued.
Many of you may know that I’m a guy who thrives on routine, patterns, discipline, and schedule. I can see where it came from. My dad is a man of discipline. My grandparents were both very disciplined. My guess is that there was some type of routine in their families before them.
Okay, now the routine has gone a bit far. My dad is singing. If you’ve ever sat next to my dad in church, you know this isn’t a good thing. Actually, it’s pretty neat to hear…in the privacy of my parents’ backyard, my dad finds oneness with God. I’m certain that his singing is sweet, sweet music to the Creator.
As we prepare to visit my parents’ church tonight for their Maundy Thursday service (we don’t have this at our home church), I’m looking forward to a day together. What a great way to start the day!
What’s something quirky about your parents? What quirkiness or trait do you have that you can see came from your parents?
Last week, I was in the Chicago area for implementation training and brainstorming for a new company initiative. I haven’t been out to our home office for a few years and to be honest I wasn’t crazy about leaving my wife and kids for the better part of a week.
The time at the Chicago area office went very well, but the highlight of the trip was my visit with my Grandma Stolpe. Grandma will turn 92 in early April. Recently, her health hasn’t been great. Many in my family wondered if she would make it past the Christmas holidays.
It had been a few years since we last visited in person, so it was real special when I walked through the doors of the nursing home where she lives and I saw her waiting for me to arrive. We ate dinner together in their cafeteria, and we visited for a while back in her room. Though it had been three and a half years since or last face-to-face visit, it seemed like we just saw each other last week.
My Aunt Elaine and Uncle Max stopped by for the last hour of our visit. We talked more and shared details about our families. We also talked about memories and family traditions.
A few times, Grandma mentioned that she was ready for heaven whenever God decided it was time. She expressed hope that it wouldn’t be much longer. It was clear that she was content with the life she had lived and hopeful for the future in heaven.
I will remember a few details about this visit: Grandma’s Bible on her nightstand, her family tree of pictures on the wall above her bed, her thoughts on the economy and politics, and her joy in spending time with me (her oldest grandson).
I don’t know when or if I will see Grandma again on this side of eternity. As we said our goodbyes (which took a while), I hugged Grandma, and I told her I loved her. She reciprocated as only a small 91-year-old women could with a broken arm. She said, “I love you too, Jon. Thank you so much for the visit.”
As I walked to my car, I sniffled a bit. I’m not sure I’ll have that chance again. The visit was great – and the goodbye was perfect whether it was the last or not.
Driving back to my hotel that night, I heard the song “Say What You Need to Say” by John Mayer. The song talks about saying what needs to be said – not regretting holding back – making sure things are right with our loved ones and that we express our love, appreciation, and respect for each other.
I said what I needed to say.
Is everything good between you and your family and friends or is there something you need to say?
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)
7. Ten Things Every Small Group Leader Should Know (originally posted on October 24, 2011)
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!)
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?
What a great week here at the Stretched Blog. The blog traffic is up for the week, and we’re already running a higher page view total than last month. If we can keep it up this week (which could be tough over the holidays), the Stretched Blog may see its highest page views per month total ever!
Monday’s post was titled My Treasure & My Heart was an opportunity to share some of my wrestling over time and priorities. I really appreciate the empathy and encouragement expressed in the comments for this post. Tuesday brought a visit from Jonathan Pearson. Jonathan did an excellent job sharing the stretching of a young leader. Wednesday, I started to share the top 5 posts for the year. The number 5 post for the year was a great guest post by my wonderful wife. She shared about Detours that she has experienced over the past year or two. On Thursday, I shared the 4th most popular Stretched post of 2011 – Locks of Love – about my daughter’s generous donation. And finally and Friday, I shared another fun Ice Breaker about our favorite toys.
I am so thankful for your continued 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. I have started to share more blog highlights from other blogs that I read regularly. I think you’ll find some great stuff here. Thanks!
A few of my favorite posts from the rest of the blogging community this week:
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!