39 & Counting

On the occasion of my thirty-ninth birthday I am pausing to take inventory of the life I hold so dear. Thirty-nine is a year that teeters on the balance. Not-yet-forty. Definitely almost twenty years away from twenty. I find myself on this day so full of gratitude and sorrow, joy and pain, anxiety and hope for the future.

I could arrange this post as a list:
1- the man I love and with whom I will soon celebrate 20 years of marriage.
2- my parents, still living. Divorced but cordial.
2b- my siblings, who along with their spouses and children fill up my heart.
3- the children grown and birthed from my womb, lights in my life.
4- more months until I begin seminary.
5- months since my first book was published.

Numbers can paint a picture real enough to touch, but they can also be played to show only the side I wish to display. I could list the 15 years I’ve spent in ministry, or the 11 years at my current church, yet lack the numbers to quantify the pain that comes when ministry wounds. I mentioned above my 3 beautiful children, but leave unmentioned the 3 pregnancies that did not last. We tend to tout our accomplishments and find space under the proverbial rug for the rest.

Taking inventory is more than numbers to me as I grieve the loss of so many over the years. People I love whose faces I see and laughter I can still hear, whose embrace my arms recall. Nineteen connected to the church I serve now. I’d rather talk about the 5 couples I’ve walked with into marriage, and that joy was very strong. The empty seats in emptying pews, though, make themselves known far more often.

I wish sometimes life was only the roses. I would love to dwell on the 8 families I have served as they brought new life into the world. That or maybe the 100 poems I have written in the past two years. Better yet, the 550+ sermons I’ve delivered, or the 1 that won a national prize.

I am immensely thankful for the life I have been given. I celebrate the gift of people who shine their lights brightly into my dark nights. I grieve the losses, I do not run from the pain. Thirty-nine years have taught me that to mourn is to acknowledge the value of what was lost. In that way, each tear becomes a treasure.

This post is getting rambly, and I should wrap it up by saying that I have hope for the future, years I hope to live to their fullest. I anticipate new adventures. I long for days of rest (never too early to think about retirement). Mostly, I hope that in all the years I have before me that I can continue to pour out grace on those who most need to be blessed.

Taking stock of life.


The Cynical Posts I Don’t Publish

I often start a blog post ranting about what I am seeing in the world around me. Those posts lie neglected in my drafts folder unfinished and unposted. I ignore and scroll past the reminders of their presence. I am not particularly fond of public ranting, it doesn’t seem to do much except clear the air for the ranter.

Here are just a few of the reasons I don’t often post those ranty essays:
-So many other people are ranting these days, I’m not sure if my rant would even be heard.
-What we definitely need is more negativity in the world…
-I am prone to opinions and I hate to turn people off because I state them too loudly. (AKA I’m a people-pleaser)
-I really do want this blog to be a refreshing place that brings encouragement when the rest of the world is yelling at the top of their voices.

But I have to tell you:

I’m tired. No really, I don’t mean I didn’t sleep last night. I mean I am exhausted. I’m beat. And I have so little left in my tank I’d like to lay on the floor.

Maybe it’s just me, but intuition tells me I’m not alone. I’m tired of all the fighting. I’m tired of winning being the biggest goal. I’m tired of teams and sides beating each other down. I’m tired of the only solution being the least bad option. I’m tired of ignoring things that don’t fit with one side’s rhetoric while punching hard on issues of the other faction.

Sometimes there just are no words to adequately express the internal turmoil over current events. I can’t tell you how disturbing it is to see people who should know better say and do things that are destructive, wrong, and just plain evil.

It is even more disturbing when leaders from a faith tradition, my faith tradition, stand up to say “We don’t like it, but what can you do?” or worse, “We don’t like it, but look what they can do for us if we ignore this one little thing.”

In times like these, whether there are words or not, I simply must respond.

I’m an independent. I have no party, no ideological loyalty to protect. Taking sides with one or the other just seems like a waste of my brain power. It would mean denying very real parts of my identity and values.

I am pro-life. I know I just lost some people with that statement, but hold on I may be about to lose more. What pro-life means for me is that I think abortion is a tragedy, including every factor that contributes to a person making that choice. I think lack of health care is a tragedy. I believe the death penalty is wrong. I think war is hell. I believe mass public shootings are preventable. I believe old people should be respected for their wisdom and experience. I believe in the value of every human being as a Divine image-bearer regardless of their religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, and how they identify themselves in any number of categories that would cause someone somewhere to say they don’t count.

Please tell me where I fit? What happened to the middle ground? Is there any common sense out there? Is there still a place in the world to converse, compromise, and come to a conclusion that is best for our neighbors and not just our sponsors?

When I get in this frame of mind, I feel so frustrated. Like I don’t fit. Like I don’t have a voice. That there isn’t any hope. And I know those are lies.

Here’s how I get up in the morning when these thoughts are the first ones on my mind:
I choose to believe that I am not alone. I choose to believe that there are people out there still interested in conversation and human connection. I choose to believe that by stating my position, I may give others permission to do the same. I choose to believe that someday there will be enough of a trend of those tired like me that things will change for the better.

Maybe I’m deluding myself. On the other hand, maybe the division is the delusion, a lie we’ve all been sold so that others can profit while we are caught up fighting amongst ourselves.

Hope for change and renewed unity.
It’s my ReFreshing thought of the day.


Doula Certification Approved!

I am so excited to share with you that my certification as a Birth Doula through DONA International has been approved!

Timelines vary, but for me this process took almost two years. I attended a training in January of 2016 and checked off my childbirth class as well as the breastfeeding class. I also served the first client whose labor would count toward my certification. Over the following months I read seven books and supported five more births. Finally, this past fall I felt ready to compile my certification packet and send it in.

This has been an amazing and beautiful addition to my life. In total I have served seven laboring women, and have another scheduled for March. I have experienced labor in three different hospitals with Midwives, OBs, and Family Physicians attending. I’ve seen mothers dig deep to find strength and endurance they couldn’t imagine was there and I have witnessed women making brave choices to ensure their best birth possible.

Empowering women to make their own decisions and to be their own advocates is the reason why I entered this line of work, and I am proud to be a part of supporting these heroes as they take on the challenge of bringing life into the world!


Charity Sandstrom CD(DONA)

New Year, New Adventures (aka I published a book!)

I am so excited about the release of my new book, Quaker Queries for All Seasons!

In the book you will find 60 spiritual questions to guide us through a new year of seeking to grow in our Christ-centered faith. It is available in both paperback as well as Kindle ebook.

If you’d like to process these queries with others in community, come join our discussion group on Facebook: Query Discussion Group-Quaker Queries for All Seasons

I hope to see you there!


New Adventures in a New Year,




5 Ways to Not be a Jerk this Christmas

Holidays are stressful! Sometimes it is all we can do to hold ourselves together and maintain our status as civilized humans. Everything is pressure-filled, schedules are packed, people are living on caffeine and sugar. It all just leads to a gigantic case of the Christmas Crankies!

Photo by linder6580

Here are some ways you can resist the temptation to throw a public tantrum and maybe, just maybe, help someone else have a merrier Christmas season as well.

1. Let that person with three things go before you in the supermarket line. We’ve all been there. Last minute dash to the store before a Christmas party, or that dinner you thought you had all of the ingredients for. You pick up your items only to find all the open lanes packed and no speedy check out lanes open. Wouldn’t you want someone to kindly allow you and your tiny purchase to go first? Thinking with compassion and empathy lets us feel good about ourselves and it really does help someone else!

2. Let someone in while driving through traffic. I get aggravated when I drive and all the people are weaving in and out of the lanes, going slow in the fast lane, and just plain being rude. Here’s how I feel better in those situations. I find a way to add some politeness and niceness to the atmosphere. One way you can do that is by letting someone in. I don’t care if they should have merged 5 miles back, here they are in need and you have the power to help. Let them in. You will feel virtuous, and maybe they will pass on the kindness to others. If everyone were to just do one small kindness while driving the roads would be a safer place.

Photo by rachelg

3. Hold doors open for people with too many burdens. ‘Tis the season for over-shopping. And with that comes overconfidence in our ability to carry 14 parcels, packages, and shopping bags! When you are walking through a door, stop and take a look around. Is there someone who you could hold the door for? Literally 30 seconds of your time invested in your fellow humans can make the world a brighter place.

4. Park at the back of the parking lot. I know you like to park up front. I know it is tempting to circle until you find the perfect space. If you are like me, though, after about three trips up and down the aisles I am fed up and cranky! Skip the aggravation, burn off a bite of sugar cookie and park at the back of the lot. If you have mobility issues, you get a pass, but those with averagely abled legs can walk for 3 minutes and cut down on the up front parking congestion.

5. Tip Generously! Sometimes I get one of those waiters. You know the ones who don’t come to your table, refill your drinks, get the order wrong and otherwise just aren’t putting the “serve” in service. Well, during the holidays we need to show a little extra grace. I don’t know about you, but wait staff is not my dream job. It probably isn’t their dream job either. Maybe they are working to make ends meet and this is their second job. Maybe they are tired and worn out from working 60 hours a week just to make enough for rent and daycare. Maybe they just had one of those customers. The demanding, rude, “leave a snarky note on the back of the ticket instead of a real tip” kind of customers. From Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day how about we make a pact to tip generously whether they deserve it or not. We get to feel good about ourselves and they get to experience grace.

Doing something nice for others can help us in our cranky moments to find a light in the darkness by shining a little light ourselves.

Now That’s ReFreshing!

Have the Christmas You Have

For all my lovely friends who struggle at Christmas time, I want to offer this phrase:
Have the Christmas You Have.

Christmas is a time of joy and laughter and tradition. It’s also a time of sadness, depression, loneliness, frustration, conflict, guilt, comparison…and every other possible emotion or experience.

Just as every day is different for every person, every holiday season is experienced differently. Some are full of met expectations, some actually exceeding our wildest dreams, others seem as though their events were scheduled by the committee over at Murphy’s Law application center–where everything that can go wrong will go wrong. And sometimes there isn’t a whole lot we can do to move ourselves from the last category up the list.

In my own circles this holiday season are those struggling with anxiety and depression, some grieving the loss of loved ones, some worried about their finances, some mourning the loss of dreams they had of Christmases celebrated with a house full of family, and still others who dread interacting with their relatives in gatherings they’d rather skip.

When you find yourself in one of those places and people wish you Merry Christmas, it can take all your reserved strength to respond with civility. Who is anyone to tell anyone else what to feel and how to experience life? I challenge any person who thinks they can give that direction to ponder what it might mean for those who’ve lost family members to suicide this year.

Just smile.

Merry Christmas.
Joy to the World.
Jingle Bell Rock.
Happy Holidays…


All can be a mocking reminder of pain to those who are hurting.

I don’t mean to say that those who have a merry Christmas should feel guilty or sad or on edge about offering holiday greetings. It is important, vitally important, for us to recognize that not everyone can be merry at Christmastime.

So if you are happy this Christmas season, great! Sing out! Smile loudly in public places! Wear the heck out of those ugly Christmas sweaters. Be the holiday spirit. Don a Santa Hat and make it rain for kids everywhere!

But if you are struggling, let me be the first to offer you permission to simply have the season you have. Experience each moment and know that if you are in difficult times, they don’t usually last forever. If you are grieving know that in time as you acknowledge that loss and work through your response, the pain will ease. If you are hurting, can you have a sliver of hope that the painful wound will heal?

Broken just 2 days before Christmas 2014.


Have the Christmas you have, and pass on the permission for others to walk through this season having the holidays they have as well!

Living each day, regardless of what comes our way.


Home Made Christmas

There are times and seasons in life that require more from us than what we think we are capable of giving. When stresses pile up. When bills beckon. When life seems to be stacked against us. It is all so very disheartening.

It can be even more challenging when all of these arrive just in time for Christmas. It is supposed to be a time for cheer, a time of extravagance, of gifts and toys and pleasures all around. These expectations leave so many feeling like they are on the edge of a party they aren’t worthy to enter.

If you find yourself at that place this Christmas season, longing to give gifts and celebrate at parties but you don’t have extra cash to spend or a kitchen with a double boiler with which you can candy coat the world, take heart. Here are some easy, and I do mean easy, and inexpensive (yippee!) ways to create a home-made Christmas on a budget.

Bonus! Two of the projects are recycled/upcycled so you get to feel good about saving the planet as well!

1. Cell Phone Pocket for Charging

Do you have an old pair of jeans lying around? Like maybe the ones in your closet that are 3 sizes too small and you always thought that someday you’d wear them again? Today is the day for sacrifice. Cut the back pocket carefully from the jeans extending that cut up and over the seam above the pocket before you get to the waistband. Then cut a little window just above the pocket and below the upper seam. It should look like this:

You can, if you want and are able, sew or glue a ribbon or edging around the cut edges to pretty it up, or just leave it raw.

You can, if you want and are able, glue or iron on some personalizing glitz to make the pocket sparkle, or just leave it natural.

The pocket works like the images below, slip your phone in and hang the phone from the charger plug. It is handy for travel when outlets may not be near a shelf and you don’t want your phone lying on the floor.

2. Flannel or Fleece Scarf

Flannel and fleece are awesome because they don’t fray terribly so you can get away with no sew projects that have rough edges. If you can cut a relatively straight line and you have $2.50 to spend on a fleece throw from Walmart, you have enough for several gifts this season.

Walmart has these fleece throws for $2.50

They measure 50 inches by 60 inches. they have an edging sewn around the whole throw and you can either trim that off first, or simply cut the edges off that you prefer. If you have a ruler, pull it out. If you don’t have a ruler, hang tight, we’ll fold and cut instead.

Measure in 10 inch sections, or if you are feeling generous, 15 inch sections. Snip the edge of the blanket to mark 6 10 inch scarves, or 4 15 inch scarves.  Fold the blanket at the mark and cut the length of the fold. If you don’t have a ruler, simply fold the blanket in half, cut the length of the fold. Fold the two pieces in half again and cut the length of the fold. Voila!

If you really want to make it fancy, trim edging from all sides and cut 1 inch fringe along the bottom and top edges.

Ok, t-shirt repurposing time!

4. Make a Bag or a Scarf from a T-shirt

You can do this simple, two cut scarf in about 3 minutes.

This no-sew scarf takes less than five minutes to make! Great way to repurpose a t-shirt!

Just lay the t-shirt flat. Cut a straight line across the entire t-shirt, front and back, from one underarm to the other. Then cut off the bottom hem of the shirt. Pull the shirt to cause the edges to curl and you are done!

To make a bag, follow these easy steps, top to bottom first column, then top to bottom second column.

#DIY: No Sew Handbag Out of Your Old T-Shirt

Turn t-shirt inside out.
Lay t-shirt flat, like the first picture. Cut off the hem.
Fold t-shirt in half and cut the sleeves off just inside the seam.
Still folded, cut the neck from the t-shirt just inside the seam.
Gather the bottom of the shirt and tie it super tight with the hem piece you just removed.
Turn the bag right side out and Ta-Da! new tote bag!

There are just four of the low to no cost gift ideas you can make at home with little time and just a pair of scissors!

I hope you have a blessed Christmas season.
I hope you give yourself and others grace for the difficulties that come at the most inconvenient times.
I hope you find ways to celebrate that don’t break your budget and still allow you to join in the holiday fun!

Low cost ideas, little energy input, and the joy of giving!