An Open Letter to Target Marketing

Dear Target Marketing,

First let me say, “Thank you.” Thank you for the Starbucks, diaper, and clothes coupons. Thank you for being the clean place with great looking stores where new moms can come to just get out- to be in touch with the outside world.

Thank you for having friendly and fun team members who dote on our kids and give them endless amounts of stickers of Spot buckled up for safety.

And thank you for trying to always be in-stock of whatever we are looking to buy. Lord knows, we came to Target to avoid making two stops in the first place.

But I am here to suggest you could do more.

This may sound like a crazy idea, but hear me out before you dismiss the possibility. I used to work at a store in Minnesota (T-1 actually) and a group of older adults would gather often in the Food Avenue area for what looked like social time. It was always in the mornings, usually a weekday, when the store was slow. I’m not sure if their accompanying purchases comprised a large amount of sales for the store, but they did do something else that may be even more important to your mission in today’s climate. They made Target a place for community- a part of the community.

What if Target did this for moms?  Incentivized this “Target community” for moms (Nielsen says we are worth the investment and are looking for community!)?

We are all at Target already anyway! I passed and gave the “knowing” smile to five other moms at my store this morning in San Diego. It would be great to get to know other moms who call this “their” Target too.

I suggest an early-in-the-day, weekday morning “play date” at Target for moms with very young kids. Target provides a free small coffee to moms who show up (I’m not even saying it has to be Starbucks, but bonus points if it is!) and encourages moms to get to know one another by offering the food avenue space for an hour or half hour. You could even create a topic of the month that would encourage us to buy a certain product (think: corporate sponsorships for highlighting their product). Moms don’t mind being sold something we might actually use, especially if you give us free coffee or a coupon.

It couldn’t be hard to find us- you already know who we are. We are the “Target Baby” coupon moms that you have stalked our purchases to target us with coupons (thanks by the way!).

I imagine it couldn’t hurt to pilot something this simple, maybe even at T-1. Shoot, throw the older people and the moms together! Is there anything more joyful than an old person and a baby giggling at one another?

And I don’t have all the details worked out (You pay people with more spare brain power than my tired momma self to do that [Although I do have a lot of thoughts on potential implementation that I would love to share]), but here is what I do know:

Moms need coffee.

Moms need community.

Give us coffee & a space to create community, and we may never leave. We may also spend our third child’s college fund while we are there.


Target Mom Seeking Others



Faith in the Can

“Dear God. PLEASE let her sleep until I get the laundry folded and put away!”

It’s ok. I know you say prayers like this too- desperate prayers, maybe somewhat pathetic, first-world-problem prayers. That’s why I feel comfortable sharing, knowing that you won’t judge.

My little one had not slept great for her nap the day before, so I had a particularly severe case of naptime paralysis today. There were so many things I needed to catch up on that I ignored them all and showered instead.

Miraculously, she slept through me taking my shower. When I got out, I faced the loads and loads of laundry that needed to be put away (literally, right in front of me as I got out of the shower; there was no more ignoring it.). As I started to fold the shirts, the socks, the pants, I breathed my prayer of desperation. Little did I know the brief, but impactful journey my faith was about to go on while I folded, matched, folded.

My work was frenzied and anxious, because I desperately wanted to get this done before she woke up. And I heard God whisper,

“Why don’t you trust Me?”


“What do You mean, God? Of course I trust You. I know that you can help her to stay asleep until I get this done.”

“Yes, I know that you believe that I CAN, but do you believe that I WILL?”

I don’t know if you struggle with this or not, but I have no problem intellectually believing that God can do anything. Even with that faith, I found that I was struggling to trust that He will do things that I pray– not as a cosmic genie, but as a loving Father who loves (longs!) to hear me ask for help. I have faith in the “can”, but not in the “will.”

See, I have been struggling lately (truth: for a long, long time) with anxiety. Recently, I learned about the concept of breath-prayers. Short verses or truths that you repeat as a prayer to God to change your self-talk, to change your belief, to pray without ceasing (when breathing reminds you to pray- you pray a lot more often!). I have been breath-praying, “I cast all my anxiety on You, because You care for me.” And I think, during laundry He wanted to begin to teach me how to really believe that. He brought this verse to mind, Matthew 7:11.

Matthew 7:7,11 New International Version

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you…If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

God wanted my mommy heart to hear that in the same way that giving my little one just what she needs brings me great joy, He desires to help us in our struggles. He desires to hold us through our fears, to calm us in our anxiety. And I think He wanted you to hear this today too, because she is just waking up…

He lovingly pulls us not only

to have faith in His power that He can help us

but also

have faith in His love that He will.


Mom’s out of office autoreply

Dear… world,

If you have called, texted, emailed, messaged, or otherwise tried to get a hold of me in the last month, I am not ignoring you. I didn’t even lose my phone. It’s just that I have a one-year old, and I have been busy teaching her not to

grab Logan’s tail

pinch her fingers in the piano cover

unroll all the toilet paper

fall and hit her head on the bed frame (elliptical, kitchen chair, book shelf, etc.)

lick the floor

stick food up her nose

poke the dogs’ eyes

open the DVD tray on the computer

stick her hands in the dogs’ water bowls

put the end of the phone charger in her mouth

eat her own poop (yes, that actually happened)

feed the dogs onions or grapes


And I have been busy teaching her to…

laugh at silliness






drink from a cup

pet the dogs nicely



play on the piano

watch movies

make blanket forts


read books

enjoy food and cooking

play fetch with the dogs

pick up dirty clothes

put things away


SO, I will get back to you— during nap time. And if nap time doesn’t happen, my response may come the next day. If it doesn’t come the next day, you might want to send your message again. It’s not that I don’t love you. It’s just that my response doesn’t prevent your

diaper rash

hunger pangs


attack by angered dogs


pinched fingers

mental underdevelopment

social underdevelopment

spiritual underdevelopment

physical underdevelopment



and the like.



Denise (A.k.a. Mommy-still-in-training)


2014-02-04 09.01.30

Why I left the church

Like many of the kids I knew from growing up in “church school,” by the time I was old enough to make my own choices, I took a hike. I had had enough of being told what to do, what to wear, who to date, and to not dance, drink, or party.
(Especially because no one could ever really explain to me why it was wrong about it, since Jesus drank, David danced, and what in the world was really wrong with having a party?!)

Before I jump in head first, I want you to know a few things:

  1. This post could also be called, “Why I left the church…and came back again.”
  2. The reason that I am writing this story is primarily to warn my own heart, as a youth leader, to remember what being a teen and young adult was like. I’m inviting you into that journey.
  3. God has blessed me with a tremendous amount of healing in many of the relationships that were wounded by my path of rebellion and restoration, and I hope that this story honors that.

People are trying to figure out why youth leave the church. I’ve read accounts blaming everything from youth ministry programs to hypocrisy.  I don’t claim to have all of the answers, but here is my story. Here is my why.

I left because I didn’t belong.

Somewhere around 1999 when grunge was dying, FRIENDS were making us all laugh, and everyone was scared about computers crashing, I started a descent into a dark, doubting, questioning hole that is familiar to so many teens who grew up in the church. It was the year I started to drive and got my first job. What I found in that retail store was about to rock my world.

I grew up in what I like to call “The Bubble.” Maybe you are familiar with it- I went to Christian school, church 3 times a week, Christian summer camp, joined Christian clubs, went to Christian concerts, played Christian video games (no. really.), read Christian books, and to be honest, was a little scared of all the “unsaved, God-shunning, cold-hearted heathens who needed Jesus and were going to hell.” I love my parents and appreciate their efforts to lead me in a good path and into a relationship with Jesus. But I was wholly unprepared to walk into the world of working with non-Christians and (gasp!) talking to them.

I was so confused when I found that my new co-workers, who obviously did not attend church and took smoke-breaks, were SO. NICE! Nicer than anyone I had ever met in any Christian group. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel judged. I laughed as loudly as I wanted because no one thought women should have a “meek and quiet spirit.” This was the first step in my break from my church and from God- the unconditional acceptance of me, just the way I was.

Another contributing factor to my feelings of not belonging at church and other Christian groups looks silly to me know, but was painfully real during this time in my life. We were relatively poor. I didn’t have a lot of nice clothes. Even though this feels crazy even writing now, I started not wanting to go to church because I felt like I didn’t have anything to wear, anything that would make me feel like I belonged with the other kids who did wear nicer clothes. Again, I thank God for my hard-working parents who kept me clothed, fed, and in a private school! At the time, though, I couldn’t appreciate those things the way that I do now.

Lastly, I left the church and God for a period of time because of my own sin. I struggled with dating relationships. Some people struggled with alcohol or drugs or a love for money, but for me, it was my desire to control my own dating life. I couldn’t stand that any guy would be considered “off-limits” because he didn’t believe in God. I didn’t respect warnings to remain “pure” which in my opinion were very subjective and unclear anyway. So I left. Adios. I’ll do it my way. And I did.

I spent years of my twenties running from God and doing life my own way. I ended up depressed, confused, and angry. But in that entire time, God never left me. He gently, quietly, lovingly drew me back to Himself.  The first tool that God used to begin calling me back to Himself was, ironically, the first thing that had started my descent away from Him- a longing for real relationships.

What I found in all of the those “friendships” with the “nice” people outside of the church was an inability to enter in to real relationship. Real relationships are formed around Jesus (and food… but definitely Jesus!). Why is that true? Because real relationships exist when you step outside of yourself and think of the other person first. When I was looking for fulfillment in another person, I could never find it. Why? Because we are inherently selfish. Without God’s prompting to think of others’ better than yourself, people, without thinking, think only of “me first” (as I was- I was looking to get from these relationships, not give.). And ultimately, we only think of others first when we are experiencing the wholeness that a relationship with God brings into our own lives. We cannot give what we don’t have- love.

Eventually God brought my husband and I to a church in White Bear Lake, MN- Eaglebrook Church.  God used this place and a small group Bible study of women to solidify my return to living in His will for my life. I was still very angry when we landed at Eaglebrook. I hated churches and most of the people in them. I was there because a friend had invited and a group of her friends were cool and fun to hang out with. They made me feel like I belonged there.

Then one Sunday the Pastor challenged us to “quit complaining about the church and start being the church.” That began a new journey for me of knocking off the sarcasm and letting go of the bitterness I’d held for so long. My husband and I jumped in head first to serving at the church and that has made a world of difference in our lives. Our church is not perfect- no church is, but we have found a community of people that God has called us to serve and love. The amazing blessing is that they serve and love us back. God is so good. He has called me to help make others feel like they belong in our community, our church.

Since then God has also been moving in my heart to remove sin and build positive habits that grow my relationship with Him- and I have never been more at peace, more content, more filled with life. But those things may never have happened without me first experiencing the thoughtfulness of a group of broken people making me feel included.

How about it? Have you let imperfect Christians keep you from experiencing the amazing love of God like I did for so long? Do you include others when they come into your group of Christians, whereever that group might be? If you left the church (and came back or never came back), I would love to hear why!

Don't get distracted by all the beautiful people.

Don’t get distracted by all the beautiful people.

Things Ending in -ies

If my life were a jeopardy category right now, it would be “Things Ending in -ies.”

Does anyone even watch that show any more? Didn’t a robot win it or something? Or was that Ken Jennings?

Anyway back to my category… I’ll have Things Ending in -ies for $2000, Alex!

My life consists of blankies, milkies, foodies, walkies, splashies, and all other sorts of other “cute-ified” words. With two dogs and a baby, it’s hard to find time for “adult thoughts.”  I have been consistently reading, even if it takes months to get through a book. I was reminded recently through another woman’s blog (What My Mother Taught Me) that even within this adorable, mind-numbing season of life, it is SO important not to lose sight of myself.

Even more importantly, not to lose sight of the “self” that God created me to be and to work with my family, friends, and church to find ways to keep those pieces of me alive through these baby years. I have been ruminating on these thoughts quite a bit and landed on three questions that I pose as safeguards against losing myself completely in the land of -ies.

1. Have I been in the Word and prayer today?
2. Did I hear God asking me to do something today– something to encourage someone else, to lead a younger believer, to communicate truth, to change myself, to grow beyond my comfort zone- and did I do it?
3. What do I believe God is teaching me right now in this season to prepare me to serve Him in the next season?

It’s hard to keep up with all you folks who aren’t swimming in -ies, harder than I ever imagined it would be! (Of course, one of the beautiful lessons that I’m already learning is that there is no need to keep up. I am in this season now and it is perfectly where I am supposed to be (so freeing!).) Nevertheless, I desire to remain connected and grow spiritually, intellectually, physically, and emotionally at the pace that this season allows. I am thankful for the technology and time that we live in which allows for this to be an option.

Moms, how do you stay connected and growing through the little years? Not Moms, how do you think you can help moms from drowning in the -ies?

Seasons for Growth

Seasons for Growth

I lost my voice

If you’re anything like I was in the 90’s you practically (if not actually) memorized all of the lines in The Little Mermaid. Ariel makes a bargain with the sea-witch to trade her voice for a set of legs rather than her mermaid fins in order to get closer to her prince. Well, I’ve been feeling a bit like Ariel lately. Not because I made a bargain with a witch, but because I feel like my voice has been missing.

Traditionally, I have felt “most qualified” to write when I’ve recently been through something, when I’ve learned a life lesson or have been experiencing a trial or difficulty. The last month and a half have been pretty calm. We have been primarily ‘grinding’ out the time, as our family has been counting down the days to the end of my husband’s school semester. It has been a time of provision and blessing rather than need and testing.

It’s in those times, that I find it the most challenging to write because I feel like I don’t have anything to share.

God has been calling me out on this reality during this month, November, a month of thankfulness.

My theme verse for last year (2012) was Psalm 40:3 “He has put a new song in my mouth— Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the Lord.”

God has been showing me that it’s in THESE times, times of rest and provision, that I have the best opportunity to praise Him for all of His benefits and that THIS can be a great opportunity to show others why I follow Him. The danger during those times of provision and blessing for me, at least, is that I find sufficiency in myself. I think that I did something to find myself here- that my power and my strength has provided for my family. God warned Israel about forgetting Him during times of plenty-

Deuteronomy 6:10-1210 “So it shall be, when the Lord your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, 11 houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant—when you have eaten and are full— 12 then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”

I think that is why I had nothing to tell, but by God’s grace and his patience, He has given me a new song-

Praise to our God!

Change of Grains: GrainUp Twin Cities 2013

Do you want to see more whole grains in your favorite restaurants?

You can make a difference by participating in GrainUp!

Have you ever been at the beginning of something great? Something that feels full of potential? Something coming alive?

That was the sense in the room on Thursday during the first meeting of the GrainUp Consortium and subsequent kickoff dinner. The Grains for Health Foundation, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit, launched the GrainUp! initiative in an effort to increase the availability of healthier grain foods at restaurants and ultimately in our homes.

Chefs representing several local restaurants, manufacturers of grain products, suppliers of grain ingredients, researchers, students, and moms like me brainstormed ideas and possibilities for bringing this mission to life. It was the beginning of an important conversation. (Full disclosure: I used to work at Grains for Health, so I admit my partial bias. BUT was not involved in any capacity in the startup of this initiative.)

The beauty of this idea is that it hits the head on the nail, it’s where the rubber meets the road. As Americans we eat- a lot. There are two major sources of that food- our homes and restaurants. Admittedly there are several restaurant categories and economic factors involved, but the most important thing sometimes is to start. Start somewhere. Begin the change and keep pushing (and pulling) until we all get there.

Whole grains present an opportunity to start in so many unique venues- there are gluten-free whole grains, there are whole grain flours that are similar to the familiar refined (white) flour options, and there are trendy grains, like quinoa that make a “splash” on menus. Different whole grains appeal to different restaurant menus, but the availability of so many options promise any venue (or family!) the opportunity to start somewhere. For example, in our home we eat mostly whole grain bread products and rice, but usually eat refined grain pastas.

Len Marquart, President and Founder of Grains for Health, discussed the importance of realism when implementing healthier foods. He used a great acronym- PHAD: Practical, Healthy, Affordable, Desirable. Make healthy whole grains desirable. There doesn’t necessarily need to be a splashy sign designating it as more healthy, just make them taste good. So simplistic and yet so key.

If you’re in the Minneapolis, St. Paul area- check out the GrainUP! Twin Cities Whole Grain Dine Around, Sept. 19 – 29! There are more than a dozen restaurants involved in GrainUp! that will delight you with delicious whole grain items on the menu, like this fabulous dessert from the kick-off dinner at Spoonriver.


It was an honor to participate. Look for the eventual expansion of GrainUp! into other metropolitan areas in 2014.