Cora, welcome to America.

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We touched down in the good’ol land of the free and the home of the brave one week ago. Warm hugs and kisses from family greeted us as we arrived at Grandma Norell’s home in Minnetonka, MN. It feels so good to be home. After this crazy summer of leading an outreach team to the Dominican Republic, and spending 3 months before that staffing the DTS in Amsterdam, we were in much need of some R&R to say the least. We have been looking forward to camping with the Norell clan for over a year now, and the time was finally here for all of us to retreat to the middle of nowhere and just be together. Just being. That was something I was truly looking forward to. No responsibilities, no noise, no interruptions, just us, family, and towering forest trees.

“What kind of people take their ONE year old to that desolate place!” said a very concerned and skeptical elderly lady. My father in law, with a smile on his face replied, “Well, we do!” He’s totally right, we do, we’re that family. But, to our defense Cora is a rockstar and loves adventure. This girl has been to 6 countries and flown in 10 airplanes, what’s a 5 day camping trip to the Boundary Waters? Our trip included a 6 hour drive to Ely, Minnesota then another 5 hour canoeing and hiking trek through THREE of the THREE-THOUSAND lakes to our campsite. Cora fell asleep in the canoe about 15 minutes in, and then woke up during our first portage beaming with excitement. One of her favorite words is, wowww! and every turn on the trail her eyes would grow wider and the WOWS! would get louder.

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IMG_7775IMG_7730IMG_7767IMG_7763IMG_7773Our time together was precious, and good for my soul. I spent a few hours each day tucked away in the cocoon of a hammock being quiet and still with the Lord. Approaching him without any expectations or agenda is something I’m practicing. It takes a lot of effort on my part to just, be with God. I’m a person who loves to do lists and productivity. I love schedules, I love meetings, and I love a good old fashion brainstorming session. So when Jesus says in the Bible, “Be still and know that I am God”, I get stuck on the “be still” part. I figured this trip was a great time to practice the discipline of being still and just spending time in His presence. My times in the hammock without my books, journal, or even my Bible were some of my best moments with Jesus all year. Allowing Him to speak to me, or be silent if He felt like it stirred a deeper desire in my heart to know Him more. I guess sometimes it takes going to a “desolate” place to learn a thing or two. Thank you jesus for your patience, what would I do without it?

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3 Years!

IMG_3423 2Yesterday was our three year anniversary! We never thought that we would be celebrating our 3 years in the Country where we first met. Yesterday was a full day of ministry and intercession, complete with a power outage in the evening. The village we are currently living in with our team is in the mountains of Jararbacoa, Dominican Republic…so running out of electricity and water isn’t so uncommon. This is the life we signed up for, this is the life we dreamed of together, our common desire to disciple youth and serve God all over the world is what first drew us together. Im so thankful to be walking out that life with this wonderful man and adventure seeker. Marriage has been the most beautiful opportunity to be more like Christ, to learn how to put selfishness aside and walk out the love of Jesus. It is tough at times, but it is good and I’m so thankful for every moment of it.

Also, I was looking at wedding photos last night and came across the delicious cake my good friend Courteney made for us. Red velvet with butter cream icing. Y’all, it was heavenly. I wish I could re-live my wedding day every year, so much goodness! Heres to many more years!
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Cora turns ONE!

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Our little Cora turned ONE year old on June 7th! We celebrated here in Santiago, Dominican Republic, in the back yard of the YWAM base. It was a bright and beautiful day, we had a “make your own” cupcake bar, and yummy sodas to enjoy. Olivia and I made her little cake the night before after running around town to every “colmado” to find the right ingredients! Cora poked at it and gently pitched little pieces of sprinkles from the cake and her eyes would get big after tasting them. Everyone was around her encouraging her to, “Smash the cake Cora! You can do it! Just go for it!” But she continued to just poke and pinch. We had a great time of prayer for her and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for all the love our team has for our little girl. Do I really have a ONE year old?  Its true what they say about motherhood, the days are long but the years are short. I feel like this year as flown by, and my little girl has grown way too fast. Oh, Cora don’t grow too fast! Before I get to sentimental, here are the photos…IMG_7442 IMG_7441IMG_7427IMG_9301IMG_9299IMG_7496IMG_7428IMG_7419IMG_7408IMG_7499IMG_9511IMG_7410IMG_9483IMG_9462IMG_9463

Happy Birthday, Cora Rose! You are loved more deeply than you will ever know.

If We Were On a Coffee Date

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//IF WE WERE ON A COFFEE DATE//

If we were on a coffee date, I would order a LARGE hazelnut latte and whatever you’re having too. If we were inside I would would be praising Jesus for the air-conditioning and sweet smell of espresso.

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you that last night I watched Jurassic Park on a projector screen, OUTSIDE, in the middle of NOWHERE. It was awesome. And terrifying.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d tell you that if I’m being really honest, I love missions, but being away from family is the hardest part of it all. Sometimes I get so homesick I can’t get out of bed all day. I would also tell you that I had one of those days this week.

If we were on a coffee date, I would want to give you a huge hug, but I would have to warn you that I smell like sweat, salt water, and and BO. You would probably say its OK, but I would suggest you hold your breath and take a shower afterwards.

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you about how amazing the group of 9 students are that I’m leading. I would tell you about how they share Gods love everywhere they go and they are daily overcoming challenges and conquering fears. I would tell you how proud I am of them, and how much I love discipleship.

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you about how Cora is trying to walk! She stands on her own and bounces back and forth but hasn’t quite mustered up the courage to take that first step. I would tell you how proud of her I am. I would tell you about how we boil water and mix it will the bathroom water to make it warm for her bath times. I would tell you how she got caught in the mosquito net above her bed and how she loves Dominican music.

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you about the date Josh and I had at PriceSmart last week. We ordered a $10 pizza and walked around the food isles talking about this life we live and how good God is to us. Its the little things, I would tell you.

If we were on a coffee date, I would ask you to pray for Josh and I to hear Gods guidance in our next step. I would tell you that we only see a few months down the road and then life looks like anything after that. I would tell you how more than anything we want to obey Gods will, seek His guidance , and expand His kingdom. I would also tell you that this comes with a lot of “unknowns” and worries for me. Im a planner, a “big picture” person and being in the unknown is way out of my comfort zone. Way out.

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you how over the moon excited I am that my sister is coming to the Dominican in ONE MONTH. I would tell you how excited I am to see that long-haired, pretty-eyed girl, and watch her adapt to this new culture.

If were on a coffee date I would probably need a refill of that large Latte about now…

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Hola Dominicana!

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Two weeks ago we arrived in the Dominican Republic! After months of cold, chilly weather in Europe the heat and humidity was quite confronting when we stepped off the plane in Santo Domingo. It feels so good to be back in this beautiful country, and it brings back many good memories of my DTS and meeting Josh and his family almost 8 years ago. You know how smells, flavors, and atmospheres can bring back so many emotions? The Dominican is one of those places for me. I feel like I get a “heart hug” every time I’m here and I love it more with every visit. The Dominican will also have a special place in my heart and be a place that forever changed my life.

We brought with us 9 students from 8 different nations to this Island for their DTS out-reach! All of them so special and such troopers. This is one of my favorite things about working with YWAM, you are constantly in cross cultural situations no matter what. It becomes normal though, hearing 5 or more languages all the time, having a wallet full of different currencies, and always working out of different time zones. The YWAM base we are working with right now here in Villa Mella is staffed by Dominicans, Haitians, and mostly Koreans! So cool. The signs above doors are written in English, Spanish, and Korean, and at the end of the food line you can choose between forks, spoons, and chop sticks. This is the life people. IMG_6404

Our little mover is almost 11 months old and I’m pretty sure she was born for island living. The heat and mosquitos don’t seem to bother her to much and she loves the ocean. Last weekend we went to the beach for the first time and she kicked around in the water and loved maybe a little too much licking the salt water from her lips. I’m so proud of my girl. She has lived in more places than most people do in a lifetime and she has so much joy through every transition and new experience. Lord, may all of our babies be this AWESOME! IMG_6440IMG_6420

More updates to come! A big thanks to everyone who has been praying for us. If you would like to receive an update email from us with more ministry stories and updates please leave me your email =)

Early Mornings and My Favorite Photos

Josh and I woke up at the early hour of 4:30am from a whimpering Cora in her crib. She usually doesn’t wake up this early so we knew something was wrong, and telling by her cry (because all babies have different cries for different feelings) we knew something spooked her. She reached for me when I went to her crib, and as I picked her up she buried her head in my neck. Safe place. I lay her down between Josh and I and she cuddled her way close to us, and the tears slowly quieted. It was early, we were tired, and it feels like these days we just never have down time, but this morning I was reminded what a privilege it is to  be a mom, her mom.

Today I decided to work from home with Cora which I’m learning is borderline impossible at this stage. Moving, climbing, grabbing, pulling,sticking everything in her mouth, I can’t look away for one second! In one sense this is my favorite stage so far that I have had with her, and on the other hand its the most difficult. Maybe all new stages will feel this way? Can anyone tell me when I will finally feel like I have this whole mom thing figured out?

Anyways, last month a good friend of mine,Tegan, took some family photos of us and some of Cora that I haven’t been able to stop looking at. By the way, when did this little girl get so big? I have to remind myself sometimes to just slow down, look at her sweet face, and take it all in. It goes by way to fast. Any other moms feelin me on this one?

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New things and iPhone pics

Hey friends. Its been awhile! Life has been one big crazy mess of fun and hard work recently and we have been just super busy. OK, so this is going to be a bit of a messy blog post, so bare with me! Over the past month Josh and I (mostly Josh) have been working hard on creating our own website. We wanted people to have a clear place to go and find out who we are and what we do in oversees missions. It was a blast making this project come to life and we are really passionate about it. I will still be blogging here, but we will share videos and our newsletters on our website. So thats the first thing! CHECK OUT OUR NEW WEBSITE HERE! and make sure you subscribe!

And while were at it, lets add a youtube channel! We both really want to start sharing bit of our lives via videos and also use it as a creative outlet. We figured that youtube was the way to go. Just a warning, Coras sweet face will be the center of most of these videos…but thats not a bad thing, right? We recently traveled 15 hours overnight by train, ferry, bus, and van all the way to England! You can see the video on our YOUTUBE CHANNEL HERE!

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Change my be coming to this blog as well. I’m in the process of figuring out what I really want this space to be. In the past we have shared on a bunch of different topics, and I feel now that its time to refocus my goals for this blog. I like clear vision and clear expectations, I always have, so thats what I’m exploring in the next few weeks! If there is anything that you personally would like to see more us please leave me a comment about it, I would love that.

My room is a mess, Cora is getting sleepy, and I need to do laundry, so I will end this with some photos over the past few weeks. Enjoy! Hope to see you at our YOUTUBE CHANNEL and WEBSITE!

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Hallo, Amsterdam!

IMG_5058When we decided to staff the ARTS DTS in Amsterdam this year I was so excited but also a bit nervous how Cora would do with the transition. Most of all I was dreading the two planes rides we would take to get there. I so badly didn’t want to be that family with that baby everyone gets frustrated with during the flight. You know what I’m talking about? Theres always the baby who won’t stop crying and the mom who is frantically trying every pacifier, toy, and bottle to make her baby stop crying and then apologizing to everyone on the plane. Please let this not be me Lord! Im relieved to say that Cora handled flying like a rockstar. Only smiles and waving to everyone on the plane the first flight and then out like a light on the second. She was made for this.

Cold wet kisses slapped our faces as we stepped of the train at Central Station late last night. This city is beautiful. Cora was strapped tightly to my chest and each of us hauled our suitcase behind us. From the station we weaved in and out of all the people and dodged a few bikes until we reached the YWAM building across the street. Our building is magical! Old, tall, loaded with character, and big blue letters beam at the top that say, JESUS LOVES YOU. The bottom floor is home to a cute Cafe called Daze Zaken that offers yawamers .50 cent coffee and tea (praise Jesus). We are thankful for the smooth transition and the ywam family that has welcomed us so warmly. Cora seems to love the new view from her window here and all the new faces she has met. Such a contrast going from small town life with the occasional MOO from a cow outside in the night to the hustle and bustle of the city. We are excited to be apart of what God is doing here for this season!IMG_5077

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A little update

For those of you who do not receive our monthly newsletters I wanted to share a few things that we are doing over here on this side of the pond. This is a little update on our “ministry life”. First of all, we love our job. Following Gods call on us to move to Switzerland and serve with YWAM has been a great adventure and very fulfilling. Gods will is truly the best place you can ever be. Like everyone we have faced challenges when adapting to a new culture, new working environment, and new people, but are feeling much more settled in these days. These last couple of months we have become more familular with the area we will be serving in and finding our place.

Its been good. Real good.

To make sure this post doesn’t turn into a small novel I will just cover the main activities we are engaged with in this season of our lives. Here goes… 

When we arrived here Josh began working with a few other men on the construction of an apartment complex in the village called Ancien Post. YWAM owns the complex and plans to use it for future family housing and renting opportunities. To say the building is a “fixer-upper” is an understatement. The beautiful old building needs a whole lot of TLC, and the work that these men have done and continue to do to make it something new and livable is incredible. Josh is currently working at ancein post, doing base maintenance, and assisting in the tech department from 8-5 Monday through Friday. He’s totally in his element and he loves it.

While Josh is getting his hands dirty, most of my time right now is spent in helping organize and lead a conference called Mentor Link. As a base we will be hosting close to 60 Pastors from all over the world for a week. I am sharing the “point person” position while they are here. I have been spending a lot of time writing emails, recruiting volunteers, scheduling, and working on the details to make sure the conference runs as smooth as possible. Administrative work energizes me and I feel like I’m in my element. So excited for this week with these Pastors. Im also still heading up the volunteer department which is a lot of fun. Every Tuesday morning the volunteers come to our house for a pancake breakfasts and we chat about our week. I have really enjoyed spending time with our current volunteers and feel so thankful for all they are doing here with us.

Josh and I spend our days busy mostly with our own work and meet up during the day during break and lunch time. BUT we are super excited about a big part of our ministry here that we are working on together! Right now we are in the praying and planning stages of staffing a DTS (Discipleship Training School) this Fall! The school is broken up into 2 parts, a lecture phase and an out-reach phase. During the 3 month lecture phase the students are taught by many different teachers from around the world on topics about missions, relationship with God, and Gods character. This is a great time that they have to strengthen their foundation in Christ. During the 3 month out-reach phase the students go to another part of the world where they are stretched and placed out of their comfort zone to ministry to knew people groups. Its so cool to see the spiritual transformation that happeneds in the students lives during these 6 months. As staff we will be walking through this whole process with the students, mentoring them, praying with them, and leading them. We are doing a lot of preparation for the school right now, but can’t wait to see it all come together!

I hope that gives you a peek of what our days are like here. There are many other things we have been a part of and are doing within the community that I plan to write about soon. For example, we spent this past weekend with over 2,000 youth at a conference praying for them, talking about their relationship with the Lord, and encouraging them to take part in missions! It. Was. Awesome. And super tiring…

Well, I think that about sums it up! If you have any specific questions or topics that you would like us to blog about please just let me know in the comment section. We made this blog to be transparent and open with what God is doing in our lives here so feel free to tell us what you want to know.

Thanks for reading!