God has us on a journey. One of adventure. Of learning. Of battles. Of love. Growth is this journey realized. So here is our story.

Monday, December 13, 2010

God's sense of humor

Did I mention that we found a church? One that we love and are ready to commit to? It really is a miracle. And the irony of it all is that its a mega-church. I cringe just writing that word. The last two churches we've been a part of have been house churches. Meaning a casual group of somewhere between 6 and 20 people. Not even close to the 4,000 that meet each weekend at our new church MISSION. Mega-churches just seem to go against everything we believe in about life and God. We desire depth, intimacy with others, authentic community, and a stripping away of programs, showy-ness, and rules. But here is this huge church that embodies what we think God designed the church to be about. In an enormous auditorium filled with thousands of people we don't know, we feel at home. Worship is truly an incredible experience. Somehow the talented band and fancy graphics don't make me feel like I'm at a concert--instead I feel moved to tears as I humbly sing to my Creator. The message each Sunday comes from a pastor who exudes depth, intelligence, and a passion for loving God by serving others. And the people we interact with each week don't always look or act perfect. We don't get any sense that this church is a place to put on your best face or make everyone feel entertained.
Like I said, it's a miracle. I feel like God is almost laughing at me, in a gentle "I told you so" kind of way. Because my spiritual journey has been a windy one, full of anger, rebellion, and judgment. I walked away from the church (organized religion) years ago and found freedom in accepting all the secular people of the world who used to be "the others" I was supposed to save. But in accepting the secular world I had inadvertently switched my judgment to the Christian world. And now God has opened my heart to accept the Christian world via a mega-church. Ironic, isn't it? God truly does work in mysterious ways. And I am so, so thankful for it.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thanksgiving on the farm

After living in Arizona for 3 months and enduring some pretty brutal heat--that didn't end until late October--it was quite the reprieve to go home for Thanksgiving. We finally got to feel cold and experience beautiful fall colors! Soren also had a blast living the farm life for a whole weekend. He got to go on daily tractor rides with Papai and Bran, play basketball, guitar, and piano with Uncle Scotty, and pick fruit to put in the old wagon Mamae dug up! And it was so cute watching Soren play with his second-cousin Addie. I think his vocab grew a ton hanging out with her!
It was so wonderful for Bran and I to relax in the comforts of laying by the fireplace, surrounded by the people who know and love us so well. After spending the last few months adjusting to a new state, a new lifestyle, and new people, it was just so nice to come home, in every sense of the word.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Just breathe.

Here is my journal entry this morning. I have been stressing about a paper I need to write today, and then God's words to me came through...

Breathe. This day is good. You have powerful words to write, life-giving words to write, freedom to experience in your reflections. These words are for no one but yourself. So fly. Be moved, be joyful, be at peace. God is doing a mighty work in you...and you know that. Be thankful for his abundant grace, his attention to detail, his perseverance in each day with your soul. God is so good. What He has made is good. What you will make is good. Just breathe.

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:14

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Stop striving. Let go. Be you.

It's getting to that time of year again when we start thinking about New Year's resolutions, and I have finally finished my project for last year's resolution/theme! My theme for 2010 meant so much to me that I wanted to make an artistic rendition of it and then hang it in my room to be reminded of it each day. It took almost the entire year, but here it is! Key words for my soul: Stop striving. Let go. Be you.
I'm thinking I might continue with this theme at least until my 30th birthday (agghh!!) in April. I decided on my birthday this last year that my goal for 30 was to become so much more comfortable in my own skin. I've always heard that your 30s are so much better than your 20s because you finally know who you are and can enjoy life so much more because of it. It will probably be a life-long lesson, but I'm hoping for a fresh start at 30. Not a defining moment, but a place where I can look back and be satisfied with my 30 years of growth, maturation, and development of my unique identity. I need a plateau in the climbing so that I can embrace my new-found freedom and gaze at the exciting terrain in front of me...
Here's to stopping the race, letting go, and loving being me at 30!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

New family photos!

Our first friends to brave the heat and make a visit out here were the Kemps. It was the end of September but still over 100 degrees all day. Well, we made the best of it, and were so thankful that Kevin even did a family photo shoot for us. Brandon's campus has some beautiful desert landscaping so we decided to embrace our new surroundings and the local cacti:-) Kevin got some great shots to add to his new photography blog so please go check it out! And click here to see our favorites...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

This one's for my dad

Not only is Soren making my dad (Papai) proud by being obsessed with tractors AND dressing up as a farmer for Halloween...now he's getting into golf! His first golf experience was a few weeks ago in Palm Springs with Grandma Jojo.

My parents got Soren a play golf set for Christmas last year, but since he wasn't even crawling then we put it way up high in his closet. Well, yesterday we decided to finally take it down and see what Soren was made of. He definitely loves swinging his golf club around!

Get ready for some competition in a few years, Dad...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Soren's first medical lesson

Today my heart almost burst with pride for my little guy. Soren happened to pick up my stethoscope and immediately started saying "ears!" while trying to put it in his ears! I helped him put it on the right way and then let him listen to my heart. I gave him a little lesson about how the heart goes "boom-boom" and then he started running around the house with the stethoscope around his neck yelling "boom-boom! boom-boom!". So awesome that at 18 months my little boy is getting excited about medical stuff! But I promise we won't be pressuring him into the healthcare field or anything...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Beauty for ashes

I've been wondering what life would be like if I was physically at 100%. Right now I've got another cold and am still battling my allergies. Not to mention Brandon and Soren are both getting over nasty viruses too! Add to that an intense amount of schoolwork that seems to keep adding up, back-to-back travel weekends, and my clinical rotation that starts tomorrow. It's a battle every day to ward off anxiety, to sum up the energy to play with Soren, and to find the creativity to connect with Brandon. I feel like I'm holding onto life by a thread.
Ahhh... But I know that without the hard times I wouldn't recognize the good times... I wouldn't grow in the depths of my soul... I wouldn't make art out of pain... I wouldn't hear God's voice as clearly...
So what beauty can come from these ashes of sickness, fatigue, stress, and failure today? First I can begin by listening for God's still, small voice deep within...

(Click here for an old Christian song that never ceases to move me.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Kisses, thank you & 1,2,3

Finally, a long-overdue Soren update. It seems like he has grown up so much since we moved to Arizona just one month ago! First, he kicked his second nap right after he got here. It's nice when he takes one 3 hour nap a day, but not so nice when he thinks he can get away with 1.5 hours. You parents know the routine--meltdown at 5pm.
And as soon as Bran and I started school Soren started preschool too! (Above pic is his first day of school.) It's definitely been an adjustment for him--taking naps on a mat in a roomful of kids (I can't believe he does it!), getting to know a lot of new people, and saying goodbye in the mornings. But thankfully he's only going 2 half days a week and he's already learning a ton! The second week of school he started saying "thank you" (more like "tank u") and now he says it for everything! And this week he just randomly started counting in his high chair!
Needless to say we are so proud and can't believe our little boy is growing up so fast.
Here's a pic of his first piece of artwork he brought home from school...
Here he's chowing on some good ol' Sawyer taco meat...
He absolutely loved his first quasi-hiking experience a few weekends ago--getting super dirty and attempting to jump off rocks...
He now climbs onto his rocking chair by himself and starts reading his books...
Here he is singing in the bathtub..
Oh yeah, and he attempted to help me decorate!
But our favorite thing that Soren's been doing lately is giving kisses. He loves kissing with his big sound effect and kisses absolutely EVERYTHING--his stuffed animals, tractors, bath toys, hamper, even his meat! We are so happy he's turning into such a loveable and affectionate little guy:-)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hello Arizona.

Arizona is our new home. This reality is finally starting to sink in. To be honest, this has brought about some melancholy in the Sawyer household, but that's to be expected. Thankfully we've been through this before and so we hold onto the perspective that this quiet, lonely stage won't last forever, and that before we know it our life will be full and we'll be missing these first simple days. That being said, we've been pleasantly surprised with what Arizona has to offer so far. Our house is just beautiful (click here for pics of our almost-finished place) and our neighborhood is scenic, quiet, and close to absolutely everything. Speaking of our neighborhood, we are surrounded by alfalfa fields and old tractors which is very reminiscent of my hometown and quite comforting! (Not to mention that Soren is in heaven with the tractors.) It's hot, but we've found great relief in our neighborhood pool and these wonderful things Arizona has called splash pads.
We've scoped out our huge local library, and even escaped into the beautiful rim country for a day to get views of pine trees and beautiful lakes. My favorite find has been a local gem called The Coffee Shop, where I go several times a week to study and get urban/hipster/artsy inspiration. They've also got an awesome restaurant next door called Joe's Farm Grill. These will definitely be our go-to's for visitors!
As for the reason we're here, Bran and I are diving into our studies full-force and enjoying them immensely. Although by looking at the difference in our books (mine are the two stacks to the left and Bran's is the one on the right) you might say I'm jumping in at a fuller force:-) I personally feel like my mind is coming alive in a way I never dreamed of. It's exhilarating to be here.(ASU Polytechnic: Bran's campus)(ASU Downtown: my campus)
So come visit!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Poopoo face

Here is an unknown fact: Soren's first (and only) song he's learned is Lady Gaga's "Poker Face". Anytime we say "face" he starts in with "Po-po-po-po...". Kind of embarrassing, but so hilarious.
And another equally comical, maybe (?) less embarrassing fact: Soren has not only learned the word "poopoo", but knows how to fake going poop as well! Here's a mash-up of our ridiculous family humor!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cloud of change

I guess I haven't made the official announcement yet...
We are moving to Phoenix! Brandon and I are both starting doctoral programs next month at Arizona State University--me in psychiatric nursing and Bran in exercise physiology. We are super excited to continue on in our career development, but also a bit anxious about ANOTHER move, this time with a 15-month-old! My journal entry this morning sums up where my heart is at the moment...

I have entered the cloud of change. I finally put words to my awkward melancholy state this past weekend. At least this cloud, this fog, is becoming familiar. I realize that the end is in sight and I almost numb myself to the sad goodbyes and uncertainty of the future. I feel as if I'm floating to the end, moved along by the current of life choices I've already made, with a vague sense of uneasiness about what lies beyond the end. I guess this is the way I cope. But I know it could be healthier. And so I'm trying to spend more time talking with Brandon and writing in my journal about the fleeting thoughts and feelings inside of me. My biggest sadness: leaving our community of friends, especially the Kemps, who have become family to us. My biggest fear: not being able to balance motherhood and school. I need to sit in these personal truths for awhile. It's okay to grieve our losses and it's okay to be afraid of a challenging, new stage of life. If there's one thing I've learned in all our life changes so far it's this: God is faithful and full of surprises. Arizona will offer people or things we couldn't experience anywhere else. And the cloud of change will pass.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day

How fitting that the week of July 4th Soren captured his own independence on his two chubby feet! Here's a look at his progression over the last week...

...Now he just can't get enough of walking EVERYWHERE! (Which makes Mama and Dada very tired, of course:-)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Shout-out to the grandparents

We're living a crazy life right now so blogging will come later. But I couldn't help quickly posting this video of Soren giving a shout-out to his grandparents Pop-pop, Mamae, and Grandma Jojo! He seems to be learning new words every day so more names are coming...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mr. Personality

Today I make a prediction: Soren will be voted "best personality" in his high school yearbook. From day one he has surprised and delighted us with his charming smile, contagious giggle, and his hilarious antics to make us laugh. Brandon and I are always saying to each other, "Where did he come from?" He is such a ham. Friendly to every person he meets and always wanting to be the center of attention. It is such a delight to see that he is not a little Brandon or mini-Monique, but his very own unique person. So here are some recent videos showcasing Soren's most wonderful personality:-)
Making his best sound effects...

Reading to himself...

And learning to play ball with Dada.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Airplane birthday party!

It's a little late, I know, but I finally gathered all the gorgeous pictures (taken by Kevin & Sonya Kemp) of Soren's birthday party! Click here to check out the festivities...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My big birthday weekend.

I thought it would be fun to have Soren tell about his big weekend:
"Today is my birthday!!!My first gift was a tractor book from Mama and Dada. You can tell I loved it by all my grunting.
For my birthday Mama took me to my favorite park--Liberty Station--to play.Check out what the wind did to my hair! I'm so cool...Later that afternoon the UPS guy brought me a really big box and I helped Dada put my new toy together. (Well, I kind of got distracted by the yummy flavor of Dada's screwdriver.)I love my wagon but I'm not quite sure how to use it yet!
The next day I went to my other favorite place--the beach--with my family (and tractor, of course).Mamae dug me a big hole to sit in and drive my tractor in too.I couldn't believe Mama let me eat my teether biscuit all covered in sand! (She said I had a really sandy poop the next day.)Grandma Jojo surprised me at the beach and I was so excited that I went over and nuzzled with her.The next morning Aunty Yvette read to me about tractors and put tractor stickers on me.Then I had my birthday party. My highlight was being pushed around by my buddy Josiah. (Mama says she'll share more about my party later.)That night Grandpa Gordon fed me dinner. We had a nice chat.I got soooo many cool presents for my birthday. But I really kept wanting more tractors, and so I got super excited when my very last gift was a big fancy tractor from Mamae and Papai!"

Friday, April 16, 2010


Today is a special day. Today Soren turns ONE. A year ago today I received the most incredible gift of my life--new life. A year ago today I experienced a love far beyond myself. A year ago today I became a mother. A year ago today I met Soren.
He has changed my life forever and I can't imagine life without him. He has inspired me to love selflessly, give tirelessly, and laugh freely. He draws up so much joy from my heart that I sometimes feel my heart will burst. Most amazingly, he has given me glimpses into the father and mother heart of God. I am beginning to embrace God's love for me more deeply because of the way I love my son.
I recently came across the lyrics to a song that brought tears to my eyes. God gave me Soren as a gift--to teach me about his love.

Can't Wait
by Sara Groves
When you reach the proper age
I will teach you to read and you can turn the pages
How to dress and tie your shoesYour one plus ones, and your two times two's
And you'll teach me
Of hearts and dreams
And all the most important things
And all that i have lost along the way
And I can't wait
As you grow, I'll show you things

How to ride your bike and kick your legs out on the swings
To fold your hands and bow your head
How to say your prayers before you go to bed
And you'll teach me
Of hearts and dreams
And all the most important thingsAnd all that I have lost along the way
And I can't wait

How do you sleep so peacefully?

How do you trust unflinchingly?
How do you love so faithfully?
How do you dance so joyfully?
Oh you'll teach me
Of hearts and dreams
And all the most important (essential) things
And all that i have lost along the wayAnd I can't
No I can't
Come teach me
Of love and dreams
And all the most essential thing
And all that I have lost along the way
Cause I can't wait
As I prayed one year ago: "May I give Soren back to you each day, never forgetting the gift he is to me." Amen.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tractor's the word

Mommy and Daddy couldn't be more proud...Soren said his first word--tractor!! Well, he's been saying "mama" and "dada" for a little while now, but because those words gradually took on meaning for him they didn't feel so exciting. But when he said "tractor" for the first time it was a totally different sound and he obviously knew what he was saying. And once he said it, it became his new favorite word. He calls all of his trucks "tractor" as well and when we ask him where his tractor is he starts repeating the word and crawling as fast as he can for his closest truck. Being that my dad is a farmer and had actually given Soren his first tractor ride a few weeks ago, he was the first one to find out. We laughed about it together and decided that Soren may look like a Sawyer but he's starting to talk like a Thiesen!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It's a BOY!

Soren will be getting a boy cousin to play with in August! Our sort-of brother and sister-in-law Andrew and Janneke just found out this last weekend the sex of their baby. We happened to be visiting for the weekend and were thrilled to share in their special time with them. And now it's so fun to picture Soren with a little buddy in the family! We so can't wait for this precious little boy to make his big appearance!!

And another little fun video of Soren's priceless laugh...:-)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Yay for spring break!

Last week was Brandon's spring break, and even though I kept working, it still felt like a break for all of us. We decided to--for once--not go anywhere and make it a "staycation". Staying in San Diego for a vacation just makes perfect sense! So we did all of our favorite local things...we had a picnic at Balboa Park, we went to the zoo, we went out to eat a lot, we went for a bike ride, and we went to the beach. Now that Soren is mobile he is just so much fun outside, especially at the beach. He loves crawling around in the sand and then stopping to watch the planes fly over--his VERY favorite thing. Here's our precious little guy loving life in our favorite place!