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Advent Reflections and 2017 Favorites

Advent Reflections and 2017 Favorites


This world is God’s good creation; yet all is not well. We are a broken people. As the year descends into darkness and winter approaches, we feel in our bones the coldness and need of the human family. Evil abounds. Cruelty is policy. Injustice reigns. Racism, greed and sexual violence crowd the news. Hope flickers among dark shadows. We cry to God with Isaiah, “O, that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” (Isa. 64.1).

But in our longing we do not just gaze at the sky. We get ourselves ready. We don’t just wish; we prepare. We trust God is at work in the midst of the mess with a transforming, life-giving power. Like Mary, we say Yes to that power unfolding within and among us. We become the change we want to see in the world. We become people of peace and gentleness, of love and courage. We become candles shining confidently in the darkness.

-Steve Garnaas-Holmes


2017 for the Gemmer family has been a year of living faithfully right where God has placed us: daily ministry at Camp Indianola, piano lessons, church volunteering, honest dinner table conversations, theater tickets, camping trips, mountain hikes, playing at the beach, trick-or-treating, kitchen remodels, buckets of homework. And this Seminary season for me has become an Advent season: a journey of waiting, of trusting, of hoping, of doing preparatory work even though I don’t know exactly what I’m preparing for. There are some hints being slowly revealed. There are confident prayers and there are desperate prayers. There is hope and there is trust, but there is worry around the edges. There are dreams whispered in fear and in faith. There is an expectation of being surprised because so far it seems God likes to work that way with me. So as I sit in the darkness of Advent and light my one small candle, as I marvel at the God of the Universe entering into our darkness with his own Light, as I hug my family tighter and whisper to them the wonder of the miracle in the manger come to show us just how much love God has, I wait with hope.

These words hang on my wall this Christmas season and challenge me anew each time I see them: “a weary world rejoices.” This world feels weary, it hangs heavy with darkness, but Christmas shows us that God is here. God is not afraid of the dark—even the darkest of human hearts. Jesus, the Light of the World, entered into this darkness and by his presence, as a friend recently reminded me, redefined what darkness is, redefined how we are to experience darkness. May we rest in the light of God’s embrace, and may we soak up enough of that light to join Christ in his incarnational work of bringing hope to our weary world, of redefining darkness. Rest, wait, hope, and bring light. It is simple and it is full of mystery.

Sort of like Christmas.

May yours be merry dear friends,

and Darin, Daisy, Dani & Gypsy


Here are some of our favorite memories of 2017:

Marching down the streets of Olympia in January to protest for Women’s rights.


We had an amazing spring break vacation taking our trailer to Southern Oregon and exploring Northern California. We hiked all over the redwood forest,


discovered the Oregon caves National Monument,


biked along the coast,


had a great day on the beach, and made some really wonderful memories together.


Deanna preached on Palm Sunday at our church.


Daisy turned 10!


We had an amazing staff here at Camp Indianola who worked and played hard all summer.


Dani turned 8!


While on our August camping trip we were able to catch the eclipse.


We hiked the skyline loop trail at Mt Rainier with Deanna’s sisters. We were all so impressed by Daisy and Dani on this strenuous trek.


Daisy started the 5th grade and Dani adventured to a new school for 3rd grade in a more challenging program.


It was a dry Halloween and Dani dressed as Laura Ingalls and Daisy as the fierce Tiger Lily.


We are so grateful to God for the adventure of this life together.
Roundup #2

Roundup #2

This is a collection of things that have caught my eye out there in the vast internets recently. Perhaps something here will catch your eye as well…


to watch:

Disney Newsies: The Broadway Musical
I have a long history with the musical Newsies, and have many fond memories of HOURS watching the original movie version with my girlfriends in middle and high school. So yeah, I was thrilled when Disney created this amazing Broadway version, and even happier to hear it was being filmed to experience in movie theaters nation-wide earlier this year. I went by myself to the theater when I was in Portland last February and the whole experience had me grinning from ear to ear like a lovesick girl. The music, the dancing, the acting, the dancing. Oh man, the dancing. Now you can purchase this show and watch it in the comfort of your living room. And if you’re anything like me, make your family sit down and watch it with you. And expect profound levels of gratitude to come your way upon completion. Man, I love theater. I love art.


to put on a wishlist:

Hamilton: The Revolution
If you are a Hamilton mega-fan like your’s truly, this gorgeous book should definitely be on your wishlist. I don’t have a copy for myself yet, but browsing through it at my local store had me drooling with desire. The photos from the original cast are gorgeous, the stories and behind-the-scenes information is such a treat, and the whole feel of the book is just lovely. Here’s to hoping it’ll be wrapped up under the Christmas tree for me this year.



to listen to:

Dear Me by Nichole Nordeman undoes me every single time I hear it. She is singing my story. And maybe it’s your story too? If you have wrestled with faith, with Jesus, with church, with “magic words,” with what it really means to love…give this a listen. But be prepared with a box of tissues and a space to really surrender. It is healing music here friends.


to cook:

Healthy One-Pot Enchilada Pasta by peas & crayons

I have been searching for more vegetarian meals to add to our collection and this one was a HUGE hit with all the members of the family. We don’t need Gluten Free, so just used regular whole-wheat rotini pasta. And served with a dollop of sour cream on the side. Super delish.


Your turn: What caught your eye this week on the web? Share a link in the comments.

Roundup: Great “real people” Reads for Kids

Roundup: Great “real people” Reads for Kids

This week I had the opportunity to lead the story/cinema station for our church’s afternoon daycamp. For four days I was visited by different grade levels, where we would review the Bible story for the day, learn our memory verse, and I would share a story of someone who lived out the day’s main point in their lives. It took a bit of searching to find just the right story to fit with each day’s point, and each story was inspiration to me as the leader so I hope it inspired the kiddos who hung out with me too.

Day 1 – Dream Big

The Bible story for the day was about Creation, so after we reviewed I asked the kids if they thought God dreamed up creation before he went to work creating. Then I asked the kids to share something they dreamed of doing, which got a lot of fun responses. (Turns out like 90% of the preschool group dreams of being as singer, just like their leader who shared first.) I shared that sometimes the dreams we dream are put in our hearts by God and that we show God love when we chase after them and don’t give up. Then we read Drum Dream Girlabout a girl who dreamed of playing the drums in her island community on Cuba but was told only boys could play the drums.

Day 2 – Be Bold

We learned about Esther this day and had a great time reviewing how she had to be bold to go to the king for help to try to save her family and friends. I asked the students if they had a time they had to be bold or do something courageous, and shared about how God helps us to have courage when we need to do the right thing. I searched high and low for a great story of someone being bold and kept coming back to Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousefzi and this great children’s book of her story. I was nervous to share with my younger students about her being shot point-blank, so I summarized her story as I showed the pictures and just told the children that the bad Taliban guys were so angry that she kept going to school when they told her not to that they hurt her badly. They hurt her bad enough to send her to the hospital. (One of my kindergartners was angry that I wouldn’t go into further detail about how they hurt her, LOL!) For my older grades I showed them this video from ABC News which showed just how miraculous her survival was. I especially loved that she claims that she survived because God was with her and the people prayed for her.

Day 3 – Imagine Anything

Our Bible Story for the day was about Jesus walking on the water, which I always love telling because of the ghost part. We talked about how Peter had to imagine something different then he knew to be able to step out of the boat in faith, and I asked the kids who gave them their imaginations. Of course they told me God did, and we talked about what a great gift an imagination is as we brainstormed all the ways we use it. I told them they could use their imagination to solve problems and come up with new inventions, and then shared this fun story of Margaret Knight, the “Lady Edison.” Even the youngest kids stayed engaged in this longer book.

Day 4 – Discover More


Today we talked about Pentecost and how God’s gift of the Holy Spirit lets us do more than we even thought we could. I shared about how we can take the things we learn in school or in life and honor God by making life better for the people around us. I had two stories of women who studied hard and then planted trees to make life better for the people around them. We read Wangari’s Trees of Peace about Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai who empowered the women in her Kenyan village by planting trees and then we read about Kate Sessions in The Tree Ladyand how she became a “tree hunter” to find, grow, and spread trees all over the desert of San Diego, and especially Balboa Park. For the older kids I showed them the books and gave them a brief rundown, but then watched the first 10 minutes of this video on Balboa Park, and this tribute video to Wangari.


And while I didn’t set out with purpose to find stories about women, I loved that each story I shared this week was about an amazing and inspirational woman.

Let me know if you check out these books for your kids and what they think.

Best Ever End-of-the-Year Teacher Gift

Best Ever End-of-the-Year Teacher Gift

We have just under a month left before summer break, but I know for my friends in the south that means you have even less time. So today I’m sharing my favorite end-of-year teacher gift that has been excitedly received by our teachers the past few years. We have been blessed with amazing public school teachers that give and love and teach my kids in wonderful ways that we could never ever repay – but this gift is simple, thoughtful, homemade, and practical and a winner in my book.

A quick pinterest survey will yield hundreds of ideas for teacher gifts, some small and simple, to more extravagant. You’ll find posts from teachers telling you what they really want (cash, lol!) and cute stickers you can download to put on a bottle of wine. But I wanted to create a gift that was a real blessing after a long year of work.

Enter: the new mom meal. You know how new moms are blessed with dinners from friends and family members as they adjust to life with a baby? Well, what if we made a meal for the teacher to bring home the last day of school? A nice dinner so that she can relax, put up her feet, and have one less thing on her mind that day?

Here’s how to pull it off:
1. Email the teacher a few weeks before school is out. I let her know that our family would like to bless her with a dinner for the last day of school, but if there is another day that works better we are flexible. I ask about allergies/preferences and how many people will be eating the meal. (This past year both our teachers were grandmas who lived with their husbands, so I only had to prep for two, but the year before Dani’s teacher had three teenagers at home so I made a bigger meal.) Confirm the time of day for drop off as they may have after-school meetings, but are likely able to put things in a staff fridge until they are ready to go home.

2. Decide on what you’ll cook. One of our current favorite recipes is this healthy broccoli/chicken/rice casserole so that’s what we made last year. (And I planned ahead and made three casseroles at once so we had one to enjoy too.) We decided to add a nice roll of bread, some fresh berries, fancy chocolate bars, and fizzy drinks too.

3. Purchase tossable containers so the teacher knows she doesn’t have to return anything to you. As an extra bonus, we added paper plates, and plastic silverware wrapped in napkins. The fewer dishes the better!

4. Cook what you need to cook and package it all up. I used an aluminum baking pan but a box would work just as well. (The first year we did this gift only Daisy was in school and I bought a cute cooler tote to package the meal up in.)

5. Print cooking instructions. Last year I downloaded this printable and added our meal instructions to the menu. I think it turned out really cute.

6. Let your children help deliver the meal and enjoy the feelings of a special gift given and received.

One last thing: to make the gift extra special have your children include a thank you note. You can download adorable fill-in-the blank ones (what I’ve totally done) or practice writing skills with a traditional note.


There you have it: our very favorite teacher gift. Let me know if you decide to do something similar this year and how it works out for you.

Just For Fun – Two Truths & A Lie

Just For Fun – Two Truths & A Lie

me circa 1989

I thought it would be fun from time-to-time to use this space to tell you a bit about myself. And I’d REALLY LOVE you to join in and share about yourself in the comments. It encourages me to know who is stopping by this little internet space of mine.

So today, how about a little Two Truths and a Lie? We played this a while ago at Teen MOPS, so I’ve already got my statements ready to go. Leave a comment and let me know which one you think isn’t true about me.

  1. In high school I played on the varsity volleyball team, despite my short stature.
  2. We had a jukebox when I was a kid and it was so fun to have friends over and feed quarters into it.
  3. I worked as a barista in college, even though I detest coffee.

So, which is the lie? Comment below and leave me two truths and a lie to guess about you!

the scary face

the scary face

Note: This post first appeared on my personal blog May 2007.


A conversation between Darin and myself last night after I settled onto the couch:

Darin: How was work today? How was your staff meeting?

Me: Work was good. Staff meeting was pretty good. I kinda threw a bit of a temper tantrum though.

Darin: Oh yeah? Why?

Deanna: Well, Pastor Mike threw this huge project at us (involving collecting all the worship songs we sing from April-September) and with everything else on my to-do list before maternity leave I kinda freaked out about adding one more project.

Darin: Wow. Did you show everyone the scary face? It doesn’t come out very often, but it is pretty scary when it does.

Deanna: Probably. I really was throwing a temper tantrum. At one point I believe the words “You’ve got to be kidding me” came out of my mouth.

Darin: Yeah, that’s the scary face’s favorite phrase.

Scenes from an Egalitarian Marriage: Halloween

Scenes from an Egalitarian Marriage: Halloween

We may read a lot about complementarian versus egaliatarian marriages in theory, but what does an egalitarian marriage look like in practice? That’s the purpose of this series: a glimpse of how roles based on giftedness and not gender, how mutual submission and genuine partnership can look in the midst of a real-life relationship-ours. 


While we’re not really into the spooky/scary stuff of Halloween, the Gemmer family has always been into dressing up. Early each fall we sit down as a family and decide what the girls want their costumes to be, then we divide up labor and make a plan. Nothing against those families who chose to let their kids explore the costume aisle at Target to pick their Halloween duds, but we just think homemade costumes are much more fun.

But we are also a family with two parents who are busy and have multiple commitments to keep. Just because Darin’s job supports our family with a paycheck, doesn’t mean my volunteer job is any less important. And while I may be the one “at home” with the munchkins, our two heads put together are much more creative than my one.

The first year we really dove into the homemade costumes was the year Daisy decided she wanted to be a butterfly and Dani jumped right aboard that bandwagon. Darin had a vision that involved flexible pvc and tulle, and I was happy to be in charge of antennae and black clothing. This costume was a big winner and the girls loved all the compliments they received, even if they had to walk sideways to get through any doorway they encountered.

Giant butterflies! They had to turn sideways to get through doorways.
Giant butterflies!


The following year we were way into Pippi Longstocking, and Dani had fallen in love with a horse costume her Gran had sent her. With Dani’s costume already taken care of, Darin took on the making of the Pippi wig and once again I was in charge of clothing. I found the dress and some way-big boots (Daisy fits into them now, 4 years later she’s wearing them as actual shoes) and sewed some patches on a play apron they owned. But the star of the show? Darin’s amazing handiwork at her wig.

That evening as we were trick-or-treating in the neighborhood, Darin overheard a couple of parents talking about Daisy’s costume. They had done a costume parade at school earlier in the afternoon and the parents were agreeing that Daisy’s costume was the best in the school. You better believe my husband took great pride in overhearing that comment.

Pippi Longstocking and her horse Alfonso.
Pippi Longstocking and her horse Alfonso.



By now Darin was starting to get a reputation he needed to uphold. The next Halloween Dani wanted to wear her new Rapunzel dress so we convinced Daisy to become the chameleon pal – Pascal – from Tangled. Darin took full ownership of both Dani’s wig and Daisy’s costume. You can’t see it here but Daisy’s chameleon not only lit-up, it changed colors. It was a perfect for trick-or-treating in the dark, it was just too bad that Daisy got sick that year and wasn’t feeling up for a trek around the neighborhood. And Dani’s wig? Masterpiece!



The summer of 2014 Daisy spent developing her own superhero alter-ego and really wanted to dress the part of “Rainbow Zap” for Halloween. Since my sewing skills are much better than Darin’s, I took ownership of this year’s costume and sewed a cape, wristlets and mask. Dani found a Peacock costume in a consignment shop that she fell in love with and since we had store credit to spend I couldn’t say no. Somehow Darin got out of costume work this year!

Rainbow Zap and Peacock - only one of these costumes is homemade.
Rainbow Zap and Peacock – only one of these costumes is homemade.


One more Halloween, one more costume conversation. Dani was excited that it was her turn to wear the Chameleon costume (easy, check!) and Daisy was really interested in dressing as her favorite My Little Pony. Darin agreed to tackle her costume if I would search out some ideas for him. While searching I stumbled upon an Etsy listing for a homemade costume, in Daisy’s size! What a gift. Knowing we couldn’t do a homemade costume for any cheaper than this one was listed, I hit order and Darin counted his blessings.

The chameleon returns and in joined by Pinkie Pie.


Sometime over the past year since I’ve been in Seminary, Darin has taken up crochet as a hobby. He was tired of sitting alone bored most evenings while I studied, but knitting wasn’t his favorite. But when he moved over to crochet he was all in – making hats and scarves and other fun things for us and for gift giving. This isn’t a typical “manly” hobby, but one that is affordable and practical and one that Darin really enjoys.

This year he created a Gru (from Despicable Me) character for camp and the girls loved it so much they wanted to do family costumes when Halloween rolled around. And Darin, once again, had a vision for their costumes that was unmatched. He crocheted them each a hat, adding yarn-covered jar lids for goggles, and chenille stems for the crazy purple minion. The costumes fit our family personalities quite perfectly.

Gru and Lucy take their Minions to the church trunk-or-treat party.
Gru and Lucy take their Minions to the church trunk-or-treat party.


At the school carnival Dani happily told everyone who complimented her hat (once again Daisy was sick) that her dad made it. While they received several questioning looks (Dani told me one guy tried to convince her that she was wrong, that it was her mom who made the costume) it is so fun for me to see our girls gleefully extolling their Dad’s creative talents.

We work together to create costumes each year, because we are both creative. We both have something to bring, not based on our gender, but on our God-given gifts. And our whole family benefits when everyone gets to use their gifts to the fullest.

Can’t wait to see what Halloween 2017 brings our way!

Want to know more about egalitarian marriage and how this model is fully Biblically supported? Click here.