Just testing blog posts to see if I can get one to appear (having troubles with it)…

BIG NEWS!!! (No, not that)

First, let me stop you right there.

No, I have NOT given birth. Adelade has NOT arrived yet (just over 5 weeks left!)


But I still have big news! You may be wondering why I dropped off the face of the [blogging] planet for several months without explanation. Well, on top of being pregnant and continuing the normal busyness of life, work, and church, I have been down in the depths of…. writing a book!


Now before you get too excited, let me explain. For the past year and a half I have been working with my boss, Dan Nielsen, on a major book project. This is really Dan’s book, not mine, but together we’ve made his dream become a reality. I’m so excited to announce that the book is done!


Nearly two years of research, writing, editing, and everything in-between have finally come to fruition.


We have published Presidential Leadership: Learning from United States Presidential Libraries & Museums, and it’s now available on Amazon!


While this book may not be born out of my own passion, it has been a long labor of love, and I am so excited and honored to have published a book as a coauthor! Please check it out and show me some love!


For more info about Dan Nielsen and the book, please click here >>

To see the book on Amazon, please click here >>


Presidential Leadership Book

Buy from Amazon

July 9, 2013: Dear Adelade

Hey there my sweet little Lady.


I was so excited Sunday night to get to see and not just feel you move for the first time! Too bad your Daddy missed it. But not to worry, with another four months of you being stuck in there, no doubt your activities will be increasingly noticeable.


So, I was telling you about our journey together so far.


Like I explained last week, we first found out back in early March that you were coming, and excited doesn’t even begin to describe how we felt. Ecstatic, overjoyed, thrilled, delighted, over-the-moon… any of those descriptions would be a bit more accurate. And the excitement and eager anticipation still hasn’t worn off – in fact, it’s getting more intense the closer we get to your arrival!


We decided we wanted to tell your Grammy and Papa Sirkel and your Gram and Gramps Robinson in person rather than via phone, so even with all that eager delight pent up inside of us, we somehow managed to keep your existence a secret from everyone for two full weeks.


We got a chance to tell Grammy and Papa first. I made a little card that looked like this:


Baby Announcement Card (front)


Your Daddy handed it to his dad, your Papa, who started to read it out loud while Grammy listened from the other side of the room. I think Papa was confused at first, (mostly because he had just gotten new contacts and was having trouble reading it) but Grammy immediately started getting excited as she recognized the familiar singsong verse.


When Papa finally opened the card, he saw this:


Baby Announcement Card (inside)



And immediately said, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME????!!!!” with a big grin splitting his face.


Meanwhile Grammy was almost in tears she was so happy, and your Aunt Kalli was mostly just confused (but excited as soon as she figured out what was going on!)


Grammy wasted no time cluing your Aunt Stephanie and Great Aunts Heidi and Leslie in on the news – swearing them to Facebook secrecy first, of course. Your Daddy told Uncle Sam (yes, you really do have an Uncle Sam), and pretty soon the whole Sirkel clan was sharing our excitement!


It was another two and a half weeks before we finally got to tell Gram and Gramps. We flew out to West Texas to visit them the weekend of Gram’s birthday and their 31st wedding anniversary. They picked us up from the airport and took us to breakfast. Once we were settled into our booth and coffee was on the way (decaf for me, of course), I handed them a wrapped gift. They opened it together, and saw this:


Rocks in my socks



“Ohhh, There Are Rocks In My Socks!” They exclaimed, immediately recognizing my favorite book that they used to read to me when I was a little girl.


Then they opened the book and saw this inscription I’d written on the first page:


To read to your first grandbaby,

arriving in November 2013


with more love

than words can say,

– Teek


Needless to say, they were thrilled!


Later that day, when we got to Alpine, we went to visit your Uncle Jake at work. As soon as I saw him and was close enough that he could hear me, I said, “Hi Uncle Jake!”


He stopped, cocked his head to one side, and looked at me with a “I-think-I-know-what-you’re-hinting-at…” kind of half smile.


I grinned and confirmed his hopeful suspicions, letting him know he was going to become an Uncle in November.




And that’s the story of how we told the family.

June 29, 2013: Dear Adelade…




I have so many things to tell you, I don’t know where to start. I still can hardly believe that I get to meet you and hold you in just a few months! You are already so precious to me, and every poke and prod and fluttery kick brings a smile to my face.


That smile may change to a grimace once you’ve gained a few pounds and aim those kicks at my already-harassed bladder, but for now, your tiny flailing still makes me grin.


Twenty-one weeks have already passed and we have about nineteen left to go before we get to hold you in our arms and look into your sweet face. In the meantime, let me tell you a little bit about our journey together so far…


March 2nd, 2013

I suspect something – in a hopeful, wishful, just maybe, maybe, maybe kind of way. I convince myself to wait a week before I check.


…the next day

I realize that a week is a ridiculously long time. What was I thinking? A single day is a much more palatable length of time for this kind of eager and anxious waiting – don’t you agree? It’s a Sunday morning, and I’m getting ready to go to church. Your daddy (already ready for church of course, since he’s a man) is relaxing on the bed – oblivious to the chaos of thoughts inside my head. I make a split-second decision just to do it – I need to know now before the suspense kills me!


…5 minutes later

I slap my hands over my mouth and stare at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. I’m pretty sure my heart stops. My brain starts silently spitting out joyful gratitude in the direction of heaven while my eyes begin to well up with tears.

I. Can’t. Believe. It!


…5 minutes later

I snuggle up to your daddy (still lying on the bed, still oblivious) and ask him what he’s doing. I receive a grunt in reply. After another question or two, with progressively better responses than the first one, he is informed that I would like to talk.


“What do you want to talk about?” He asks.

“This,” I say, and – without further ado – reveal what he has since unromantically dubbed ‘the pee stick.’

His eyes get wide and a grin spreads across his face as he says, “Oh yeah?”

“Yep,” I nod and grin as tears slip down my cheeks. I lean in and kiss him and whisper, “We’re having a baby…”


…to be continued

And Then There Were Three

Copyright Ben Larzabal
Copyright Ben Larzabal
Photo Credit: Ben Larzabal


Excitement doesn’t even begin to cover the emotions threatening to burst out of Geoff and me.


There just aren’t words to describe the fullness of joy and eager anticipation and lying awake at night smiling at the ceiling.


We’re going to be parents…


There also aren’t words to quite describe the nervous jitters and worries and fears and what if’s all packed into that statement. “We’re going to be parents.” Wow.


But mostly, there’s a feeling of overwhelming love.


It’s amazing the strength of love already binding us to that little lime-sized baby hiding in my belly. We haven’t even met the little tike yet, but already love him or her with everything in us.


I can’t even wrap my mind around what it will feel like to hold our child in my arms for the very first time.


We’re having a baby!


It’s all I can think about.


My mind is hopped up on baby like a coffee-junkie on caffeine.


I’m either swooning over thoughts of rocking my sweet child to sleep, or wondering about maternity clothes, labor pains, car seats, and beyond. One minute I’m wondering if my baby bump will ever start showing, and the next minute I’m stressing about how we’ll handle parenting in our increasingly hooked-on-the-internet world.


My thoughts range from the ridiculously superficial “I hope my face doesn’t get really fat during my pregnancy” to the more profound “what habits do I have now that I wouldn’t want my kids to learn from me?”


No joke. My mind goes there. And everywhere in between!


I am still absolutely blown away by the tiny miracle growing inside me. There’s a baby in there!


And so the adventure begins…

The Yin to My Yang

“Gardening is stupid.”


Yes, that is a direct quote. From my husband. On a cold Saturday morning while shivering in a mercilessly shaded front yard with muddy knees, frozen fingers, and a sore back.


My cheery grin, chipper attitude, and frequent wisecracks did nothing to alleviate his stubborn suffering.


So I grinned and just kept pulling weeds.


By mid-morning and after a cup of coffee, a thirty-minute break, and a little more sunshine spilling over the house, he had cheered up a bit. But he was still adamant that if I ever want to take up gardening, I can teach our future kids, but leave him out of it!


As part of our fundraising efforts for our upcoming mission trip to Honduras (May 18-25, super excited!) we toiled on hands and knees in muddy flowerbeds, rescued ungrateful rosebushes that were being smothered by dead leaves, cleaned and organized cluttered garages, Craig’s-listed old appliances, hand-painted and sold unique gift items, and tackled a variety of other household tasks and craft projects.


Through our hard work and the generosity of friends, family and strangers (which all just adds up to God’s providence) we met our goal well in advance of our deadline! Whew!


During the process, Geoff and I were vividly reminded of the differences in our personalities. As he likes to say, I’m the yin to his yang.




You see, when the going gets tough, Geoff gets grumpy, and I get chipper.


Now don’t get me wrong, my husband is one of the toughest people I know, and he can persevere through any degree of pain, discomfort or adversity to reach the goal. But he might not be very happy about it.


I, on the other hand, tend to become strangely and ridiculously optimistic and lighthearted when circumstances aren’t particularly pleasant. Downright chipper. Annoyingly so.


Like that one time, when we were towing a borrowed boat with a borrowed truck back to the rightful owners and our three-hour drive became seven. Pieces of the boat kept blowing off in the wind and cartwheeling down the middle of the highway to be retrieved – nice and scuffed up – and tied down for a second try.


Then there was the blowout on the boat trailer. No spare. Wrong-sized tire wrench in the truck. No one would stop to help us. Nearby farms welcomed us with padlocked gates and dark windows.


Finally, hours later, after a Good Samaritan with the right-sized tire wrench finally took pity on us, a 140-mile round-trip to Wal-Mart, purchasing what happened to be the most expensive tire they had for sale, and finally getting the jack to work, we were on our way again. Tired. Sunburned. Ready to be home.


And Geoff was grumpy (for some reason). And I was chipper.


Why so different?


Well, yin and yang I guess. But mostly, God knew what he was doing when He put us together 🙂

Two of My Favorite People



Excuse me, but I have to tell you something important.


Are you ready?




I get to see my parents tomorrow!!!





Do you understand how excited I am about that?!


I don’t care how “grown-up” I am or ever will be – I still love my parents with all of my heart and yearn to see them every day, and I always will. And tomorrow just happens to be my mom’s birthday, and Saturday is their thirty-first wedding anniversary. I am so glad I get to spend this weekend with them!


Five hundred miles separate me from my parents, and while that’s not exactly the other side of the world – or even the country – it’s still too far.


Yes, I know that no matter the distance they are only a phone call away, and I am so thankful for that. But nothing can replace the hugs and the smiles, the games played and the meals shared.


About four months ago I had the chance to spend a week with them, but I haven’t seen them since, and I am experiencing major withdrawals.


It’s a strange kind of homesickness.


I no longer consider my parents’ house my home – not exactly anyway; but my parents themselves, no matter where they might be, are “home” to me. They represent love and laughter and a million shared memories that I never want to lose.


My “home” has grown in the years since I moved out of my parents’ house. My husband is home to me now – and so are all the fun and crazy people that came with him. More love and laughter and memories are being enjoyed every day.


But my own parents will forever be a special kind of “home” to me. And I want to take just a moment to say thank you to them, two of my favorite people.


In no particular order…


  • Thank you for loving God out loud and every day and for raising me to love Him too.
  • Thank you for bedtime prayers, family devotions, and driving two hours to church every Sunday morning.
  • Thank you for unashamed discipline and unshakeable principles.
  • Thank you for teaching me to work hard and to appreciate the value of something earned.
  • Thank you for mac-n-mush, goulash, tuna casserole, meat-willie, and homemade pizza.
  • Thank you for never letting me go to bed without a kiss, an “I love you,” and a prayer.
  • Thank you for being comfortable with saying “no.”
  • Thank you for snowball fights, hay forts, tire-swings, and toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
  • Thank you for crying with me when Keet died.
  • Thank you for all-day “field trips” to work horseback and getting to lean on mom in the truck because she was softest.
  • Thank you for praying for me every day.
  • Thank you for family vacations, camping trips, and getting to trudge through the snow and over the barbed wire fence to pick out our own Christmas tree every year.
  • Thank you for showing us the joy of sand rocks, tree forts, and imagination.
  • Thank you for inside jokes, nicknames, and made-up songs about squirrels and cereal.
  • Thank you for never giving up on me as a rebellious teen.
  • Thank you for holding hands and unabashedly kissing each other in public.
  • Thank you for embarrassing me every-now-and-then to keep me humble.
  • Thank you for setting a beautiful example for me in life and in love.
  • Thank you for long drives, buffalo distractions, and singing in the car.
  • Thank you for loving each other through thick and thin for the past thirty-one years. Happy anniversary mom and dad. I love you.


Don’t Rely on Horses

I came across this underlined passage in my Bible this week that served as a needed reminder about where I should be putting my trust:


“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!” - Isaiah 31:1


I realize this passage is a little out of context in the twenty-first century. Not many of us are seeking help from Egypt these days, or putting our faith in the fighting power of horses and chariots.


But we so often do put our faith in the wrong thing. We rely on ourselves, or our education, or our reputation to see us through. Or we depend on our credit card, or our insurance policy, or our government to help us.


We look to human effort and wisdom, “but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!


I don’t know about you, but I have a pretty long list of things I’m worried about right now. And it is my natural inclination to dwell on those things and try to come up with plans and back up plans for how I’m going to take care of each thing.


I tend to put my hope in myself or in my husband and in our own ability to take care of these worries. I develop these plans for how we’ll come up with the money for this, or the time for that, or how we’ll take care of such and such.


Without realizing it, I’m going down to Egypt for help, and I’m relying on horses and chariots because they are many and putting my trust in horsemen because they are strong.


Woe to me. Woe to all those who look to anyone or anything for help except the Holy One, the Lord our God!


How silly of me to think I can trust in “horses and chariots” because they are many or because they are strong. I grew up on a ranch, I do know that horses are strong and beautiful creatures. But honestly, what can ever compare to the awesome strength and power of the Lord my God?!


“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”

Philippians 4:5-7

New Plan: why I am starting to post only once a week

Copyright Geoff Sirkel

Copyright Geoff Sirkel


After much thought, prayer, and discussion with my husband, I’ve made the decision to start blogging a little less for now.


I realize this really isn’t a big announcement or earth-shattering revelation for anyone, but I felt I should at least offer a heads-up and explanation for the faithful few who read my ramblings. (Thank you, by the way, to you who are reading this right now – I appreciate your support and encouragement!)


This decision wasn’t an easy one for me because when I launched this blog four months ago I made the commitment to myself that I was going to be disciplined and stick with this, posting twice a week with few exceptions.


Now I feel a little like I’m breaking a promise, and being lazy.


I really do enjoy writing. This blog is a place where I can hone my skills while (ideally) engaging in conversation about things I care about. It’s great… and it’s a lot of work. It’s fun and rewarding, yet also frustrating and discouraging all rolled up into one.


But it’s a first step toward someday.


So what are my reasons for cutting my posting frequency in half? I have three… and while they sound a little bit like excuses, I’ve come to the conclusion that they are sound and legitimate reasons that I shouldn’t be ashamed of. [“of which I shouldn’t be ashamed,” I know, I know… but proper grammar and I don’t always agree.]


Okay, without further ado, here they are:


 1. I am identifying and reordering my priorities.

While improving my writing skills, finding my niche, and building my audience are important priorities for me, they don’t top my list right now. I really do want to pursue a career in writing, and I know that this is a good place to start, but I’ve realized that right now, other things come first – namely: less stress, more sleep, and more time with my family without a self-imposed posting deadline hanging over my head.

2. I am choosing quality over quantity.

There are arguments for both sides, but when it comes down to it, I typically go with my gut feeling, and my gut feeling right now is saying “less is more” – or some such cliché. I don’t know about you, but there are a lot of blogs out there that interest me, and I’m signed up for updates from quite a few of them. And I must admit, the ones that pop up in my inbox every day get ignored pretty regularly. But the emails that come more rarely, once a week or less, almost always get opened and read. Maybe it’s a coincidence. Or maybe I honestly find more value in the less verbose bloggers who write when they have something to say, not just because it’s another day. While there’s definitely something to be said for the discipline of consistency, (and I’m a pretty big fan of consistency, just ask my boss), in this case, I’m leaning toward quality over quantity.

3. I am acknowledging that this isn’t permanent.

This posting reduction is only a season. My someday will come. No, not in a waiting-for-destiny kind of way, but in a I’m-going-to-make-it-happen kind of way. For now, I am choosing to be patient. My envisioned writing career will not be launched overnight, no matter if I post once a week or every day. It takes time and work, a lot of work. I have been blogging for four months. I have nine subscribers. Nine. And four are related to me and one is me. True confessions right there. Am I discouraged? Naw. Like I said, this is just a season. My someday will come. I will make sure of that.



So, my plan as of right now is to post once a week, usually on Wednesdays. For a season.


And someday… well, we’ll see.



Don’t be shy – give me some feedback!

What do you think; do you agree or disagree with my reasons? And are these legitimate reasons, or are they merely excuses? Be honest.

Faithful, Not Flawless

Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography

Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography


If you’re very familiar with the Bible, then you likely have heard of “The Faith Chapter,” Hebrews 11. This “Hall of Faith” is full of examples of men and women of God who have lived faith-filled lives. Spanning forty verses, the chapter is an inspiring passage of scripture known and beloved by believers around the world.


As I read about these men and women and the remarkable lives they led, I tend to put them on a bit of a pedestal. I see these individuals as “heroes of the faith,” who through their faith and obedience to God accomplished extraordinary things far and above anything I have ever done or hope to do.


We read about their stories in the Old Testament and teach them to our children. We admire their lives and try to live by their wisdom. We think wistfully of the miracles they experienced and the works God used them for and we wish our lives were a little more like theirs.


Yesterday in church, in continuation of a sermon series through the book of Judges, our pastor taught on the story of Samson (Judges 14-15). Most of us – churched or not – have heard of Samson. We know about Samson’s strength and Delilah’s treachery, and how by his final act of incredible strength he brought down a giant building on top of his head, sacrificing himself while killing thousands of Israel’s enemies (Judges 16).


If that’s all you know of Samson, he sounds like an incredible hero and martyr. It makes sense that his name appears in the Hall of Faith. Well, there’s more to his story; there’s more that happens before Samson ever meets the beautiful and deceitful Delilah who helps bring about his martyrdom.


Samson was anything but perfect. He was impulsive and hotheaded. He ignored his parents’ wisdom and recklessly pursued women he should have stayed away from. He had a mighty temper and super-human strength to go with it. When things didn’t go the way he wanted, he reacted with anger and violence. Once, when he was angry that the answer to a riddle he had told had been discovered, Samson struck down thirty men and took their clothes. And that’s just one story.


And yet God used him.


Even with all of Samson’s imperfections and character flaws, violent history and reckless pursuits, God used him.


God also used people like Jacob the deceiver, Moses the murderer, Rahab the prostitute, and David the adulterer. Each of these names is found in Hebrews chapter 11 – the Hall of Faith. Each of these people is counted among the great heroes of the Bible who lived by faith.


Faithful, but not flawless.


Faithful, but not perfect. Faithful, but more like you and I than we might have thought.


God can use the most hopeless cases and the worst mess-ups. God can use ordinary, imperfect people like you and I. It doesn’t matter what mistakes we’ve made or what character flaws we can’t seem to shake. God can use us. All it takes is faith.