Monday, December 31, 2007

Too cute!

Graham Thomas

Andrew Grant

These pictures were taken yesterday at the dedication of my nephews. It was such a privilege to be there. They are such a beautiful family that offer themselves wholeheartedly to the Lord!

Happy New Year!

"What exactly are we doing this for?" (Isaac)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Things I have learned from Christmas season 2007

1. Fevers come and go...just when you think they've broke, and it's been close to 24 hours...then they come back with a vengeance higher than ever.

2. Stomach sickness is even less fun when away from home.

3. Noses can run incessantly...multiplied times three children and you go through a LOT of tissue.

4. Sickness makes you miss the crazy things your toddler normally does...Isaac hasn't climbed on one table or even chair since being sick...but I sure wished he would at times. I'll trade the snuggly baby for a healthy one any day.

5. Josiah has no interest in cartoon networks...he is an Animal Planet or Discovery Channel only consumer (and thank goodness for their availability in the midst of our plagues).

6. The mystery of viruses...we all went through one the week before we left...all got better....Josiah gets another one, Isaac soon to follow....Cole and Maddie still seem relatively healthy.

7. Having a nurse in the family is SO nice when the flu bug comes and bites you.

8. Sleep is very underated.

9. Motrin rocks!

10. Kindness in the midst of illness is a soothing balm.

Well, the short of it is...we thought we were healthy and left for PA to spend Christmas with both sides of the family. We stopped at Mom's first (where Josiah became sick again but seemed to come around within 2 days); then it was on to Krystal's where we had a great Christmas celebration followed by a night of flaming fevers back with a vengeance. In the hopes of quarantining the kids from all the other cousins, I drove the sick ones back to my Mom's leaving Tom and Cole to spend the remainder of the week with the cousins, aunts, uncles, Nana and Gramps (who were all meeting in PA this year). As I write this I am hoping to be reunited with them all tomorrow (Sunday) morning for the twins dedication.

In spite of all of this we have had a really blessed Christmas season. The one song that has reallly struck me this season as ringing very false is "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Forgive me if that is your favorite...but the line "from now on our troubles will be out of sight" is just so far from truth to the people I know that are fighting valiant fights for health or justice. Christ in the flesh does not make our troubles does mean He is with us in the midst of them. That had been my one epiphany moment of the season and it ministered to me while I was on my knees cleaning up after one bout of illness. Christ is with us...His presence does not guarantee or promise "merry" days but He does give us quiet joy in the times of question and uncertainty. I am so inspired by my friends who are fighting cancer and their quiet hope and trust in the Lord. I want to live with that kind of Christ in me hope...that no matter what tomorrow know that I am held by the almighty everlasting omnipotent hands of the incarnate One.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tom preaching (updated)

Tom was really excited to have the opportunity to speak on the second Sunday of advent. You can listen to it here. It was not part of the series "Stewards R Us" even though that is what it says on the church site.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A milestone for Cole...

It was a really exciting evening for us last night as Cole was able to say the apostles creed all by himself at the supper table. Si and Maddie aren't far behind him either! Thanks to the Friedeman's for inspiring us to tackle this when we saw them this summer. We love their catechism for kids and their approach to parenting.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Homemade Nativity Ornament

One thing I have really enjoyed about this fall is teaching in the childrens ministries at our church. It has truly been a privilege to teach kids on Wednesday nights and alternating Sunday mornings. Especially exciting has been the chance to bring kids into our church that have never been to church...anywhere, ever. It is an awesome privilege to be the first person to facilitate the gospel to another. What good news we have, how much better it is when given away.

This ornament is a favorite my boys made a few years ago. This past week we made it at church, both in Sunday School and Wed. night classes. The kids all loved it. It was like they were making their very own nativity. They can hang it on the tree or keep it in their bedroom. The only downside was it is really hard to use a gluegun with a lot of small kids. So if you ever do it with a larger class, get several adults to help you. To construct it you need:

1.) mini grapevine wreath (I found 6/$1 at Hobby Lobby)

2.) natural colored moss/hay

3.) ecru felt cut into ~3" squares

4.) wire

5.) wooden golden stars (I painted plain wooden stars using gold spray paint, $1 at Walmart)

6.) wooden round balls (I used 1/2")

7.) permanent red and black marker to draw a face

I used a gluegun to attach the head to the felt, then wrapped it up in a "swaddling" fashion. I also used a gluegun to attach the hay to the wreath. Affix the wire to the star just by wrapping it around the points, wrap the wire around a marker to curl it, then attach to the wreath. You can also hotglue a ribbon onto the sides to make an ornament that easily hangs on the tree.

Friday, December 7, 2007


Please pray for Matt (our AK friend)--he was in a really terrible car accident this week. We haven't been able to talk to him yet, but Tom was able to talk to his parents. He is stable and was discharged from the hospital but has a LOT of healing to do.

We did make contact with Matt and he is doing ok. His car is totaled, the insurance is a mess, but all that really matters is that he was not hurt worse than he is. He has a lacerated spleen which means he is not allowed much activity. We are so thankful for God's protection and pray he continues to heal.

Sled riding

We've been getting a few snow flurries this week and that has made for one very excited household of kiddos. Isaac was just as delighted as his older siblings to be out in the snow. If not sledding, though, he wants to walk all by can picture it....plod, plod, plod, PLOP! Every few steps and then he would do a face plant, only to get up and do it all over again. You have to love that kind of perseverance.

Maddie was having a ball...she didn't sled near as much as the others but she sure enjoyed socializing with everyone out there...and even if there wasn't anyone around she just kept talking and talking and gesturing with those hands.

Isaac's first run down!
Josiah and Cole were never ready to go...they just went up and down that hill the entire time we were out. And of course there was the elusive "one more time" to end the night.

Just as we were putting the younger two into the car, I looked for Cole and couldn't find him on the hill. Then I found him up above the sledding area trying to sled off a neighboring yard over a retaining wall (of course brick). gotta love 'em!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New book for January book club

When my "well read friend" Amy announced this was to be our next book....I had an excited flutter in my stomach followed by a panic attack flutter. As much as I would like to read the confessions...I also thought how in the world am I going to do that in my current stage of life?!

But you know what, I made it through book 1 the other night (while taking a long relaxing soak in the tub....I love to read books that way) and it's really not that hard. Lots of food to chew on and I'm really excited to complete it now. Just like with running, I find most battles are in my mind. If I decide I AM going to do it--nothing stops me. But all too often, I defeat myself in my mind before I ever even try.

Here is a link to the Midday Connection (a Moody broadcast) Book Club with lots of resources (including study questions, and a podcast with lit prof from Moody discussing this book later in January).

So, I know it's a busy time...but I'm not trying to finish it until late January. Anyone else interested is cordially invited to read with me the Confessions of St. Augustine (you know..."our heart is restless until it rests in Thee"...that was him).

Need a FREE flashdrive?

Get in on this great deal from Crystal over at

I tried it and it worked easy...even on a dino computer!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving happenings

We did it!!!! Tom and I successfully completed a 10K during the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot. Don't ask us where we placed and I'm not sure you could call it "running," but our bodies were in perpetual motion the entire time and boy were we proud of each other for finishing. Next year...a respectable time!

Maddie loved baking with me this she is making her own pecan pie.

Dinner at my sister Amy' was wonderful as always. We are so thankful Steve began to regain vision in his eye last week. Due to a retinal detachment we feared he would not regain sight in that eye. It is still a long journey but it was especially good to gather on this day and pause to give thanks together.

Aunt B-B manned the kids table.

Everybody wanted to squeeze guess who?

And last...a really magical walk downtown to see the windows at Macy's...this year's theme was the Nutcracker.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Giving thanks...

This season I have been poignantly aware of how thankful I am for the gift of health and life. I know, now more than ever, that whether we live or die we do so to the Lord. There is no fear of dying. There is no overglorification of the fallen world we live in. But I believe when we were created, life was grand and our quest to understand it was insatiable...that drive within us remains. I love life...I love experiencing it in community with my wonderful children, beloved friend I call husband, extended family and many special friends. There is another consuming I living this life well? I living it to all the potential God has planted within me?...what dreams are left to be brought to fruition? I am so thankful for the gift of life and my prayer is to "live each day well." I borrowed the last phrase from my friend Michelle's recent update and request for prayer. She is a young mom of 3 boys and is battling stage 4 cancer.

The following lists were written by the kids over the Thanksgiving week.

Cole gives thanks for cousins, friends, my sister, my two brothers, my house, my toys, for me, a school, books, atlas, holidays, food, God, mom and dad.

Josiah gives thanks for his birthday and presents, for big cat toys, my room, school, Mrs. Mommaerts, everybody in my family, my class, pizza, Jesus, Josh, the zoo.

Maddie gives thanks for Nana and Gramps, Grandma, Mom, Si, Dad, Isaac, Anna's mom, Anna, Caitlyn and her family, her doll Emily, her baby doll Lauren, her new song cd, meat, bread and candy.

I loved seeing their personalities reflected in their giving thanks.

We have so much to be thankful for...and even if belated in posting, it's worth a moment to reflect on....not just at this season but everyday.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Jesse Tree

We're going to try to make one of these again this year. In all honesty, last year we kept getting behind, and then racing to get "caught up" so I think a lot of the devotions got crammed together and weren't able to digest long enough. This year, I'm a step ahead of the game in that I know how it works...and thought I'd pass it along to anyone else interested (thanks to Cara for sharing it with me several years ago!). My idea this year is to color/make all the ornaments on Sunday afternoons...then during the week all we have to do is read the devotions at the supper table and place the coordinating ornament on the Jesse tree. I'm sure there will still be interuptions...but at least we have a plan!

A basic article on why we create a Jesse tree

Printable symbols (but feel free to have your kids draw them originally if they are at all artistic)

Printable devotions

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Random thoughts from the past week...

Some of you know that Tom is on sabbatical writing this semester. He has been working from "home" (he usually goes over to the library a few blocks away) 2-3 days a week, eliminating his commuting time on those days. One of the other perks is that we get the treat of eating lunch together. This week, Daddy delighted Maddie by playing Candyland over his lunch break. She just couldn't have been more pleased had he roped her in the moon. We've been trying to work on ways to enjoy one on one time with our children. Next planned...a date for "tea" out with Dad. I'd love to be a fly on the wall for that one...but that would ruin the whole point, huh?
Whatever card she just drew....this look says she is well pleased! What a gift to enjoy the "small things" with our children and delight in watching their enjoyment.

Isaac finds new uses for the light saber, a.k.a. walking stick!

It's finally real fall weather up north...I had to dig and find the hats and mittens this week. Our fall is unusually late, though, and the majority of the leaves on our trees have not fallen. However, we did start the fun of raking this week. I love seeing the kids play in the piles...and don't mind the exercise either. I just have to figure out a way to watch Isaac and rake at the same time. He is loving his newfound freedom in walking, but can really get hurt falling on the pavement outside. Right after snapping this picture, he sported a new bruise above his right eye.

Yesterday we headed up to the zoo for free days. Our in house animal enthusiast was "in heaven" and the rest of us enjoyed it as well.
Speaking of "free" my local friends know all too well, I've been on a "frugal living" re-evaluation. Tom and I have always been either students or in full time ministry, which in our case has meant we had to live on a budget. Through my friend, Amy, I have been linking to a web site that highlights really good deals. I must confess that coupon clipping just seems so "hassle-full" to me. But, with Crystal's help (the lady), it is greatly simplified because she tells you what coupons to clip, combine, and what stores have the best programs to save with. The main two stores that always have "free" deals (after rebate and coupon) are CVS and Walgreens. I happen to live, literally, blocks away from both, so I am trying to embark on this new frugal journey. Crystal feeds her family of four on $35.00/week!!! That blows my mind...I don't think I will ever be there but I think I can surely manage to trim some of the excess off of our own grocery list.
  • In thinking about frugal living (btw, try googling those two words and you'll be amazed at the plethora of material out there), I think it's important to lay out reasons for frugality:
  1. It's not about obsessing about money (frugal people can be just as obsessive as greedy people)
  2. It's not about "getting" more stuff (the point should be good stewardship, i.e. no debt, and a generous spirit that enjoys giving away more)
  3. It is about evaluating what we "need" vs. what we "want"

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Where has a year gone...

How can it be that a year ago this time I was waking up in a recovery room feeling like my abdomen had been ripped open (actually it felt that way because it had) and wondering how in the world I was going to make it through that night. But then, hours later as I was wheeled back into my hospital room my all consuming thought was to be reunited with the little one who had grown as one (or at times at war) within my body, for the previous nine months. I hope I never forget that feeling of hearing the nurse wheel our precious Isaac Thomas into that quietly lit room. It felt so different to pick up this baby from whom I had been separated from for several hours. Our first three children had no complications, and almost textbook style the doctor would have their Daddy clip the cord, only to be handed into my/our waiting arms. But with Isaac, I learned in a whole new way that as a mother I would do anything to give him life. Just the thought that something was wrong made me realize I would have let the doctors cut me any which way if it would guarantee his safety. I remember being surprised in the OR that you are strapped crucifix style on this teensy table...but what a blessed reminder that Christ lay down His for give me life abundantly. As it turned out, neither my life, or Isaac's were endangered...the delivery went smoothly, just differently than anticipated. But the lessons I learned were indicative of a year's worth of lessons. As I reflect on this, the eve of his first birthday, I am poignantly aware of the beauty of motherhood, the sacrifice it entails, the joy in it's journey, the fear of doing it wrong, but ultimately the grace and freedom of realizing our children come not from us, just through us.

Isaac, your name means laughter, you came after an impossible promise that God would build a mighty nation from a barren womb. We are so thankful for the many ways you make us laugh, we delight in the fleeting days of your babyhood, we celebrate your drive to keep up with your older siblings (while inwardly we cringe a little to see you so anxious to grow up)but most of all we are excited to see what impossible feats you will accomplish, what dreams God will plant and bring to fruition through only you. No one else could do exactly what God has ordained for you to perform. So strive on dear boy, I won't hold you back (I will shed a few tears) but if you look back, always know that your old mom will be your greatest (well at least the loudest) cheerleader; and your dad, the greatest coach a boy could be given.

As always...words fail. But never fails.

We watched a wonderful movie tonight, together, called The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey. We've had the illustrated children's book for a couple years but the movie version really gripped all of our attention tonight. As Mr. Toomey listens to Willie tell him "how" to carve Mary and the baby Jesus, he explains..."it's simple, just carve them like they loved each other more than anything else in the world." is simple...but I can't think of anything more fitting.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

keeping up with the big boys

He did this ALL on his own...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

sprinting by next week?

Maybe he'll be ready to run the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day with mom and dad...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Trick or Treat!

Thanks Aunt Amy for making Isaac not only adorable, but also snuggly warm!

Maddie was a "ballerina princess," possibly the first ever

Josiah continued on with the superhero theme (last year was Spidey)~thanks to his bf Josh for the cool costume!
Cole shows his quickdraw

Saturday, October 27, 2007


From talking about her new album (release 11.06.07)

"I can't just fight when I think I'll win.”

Why is a soft-spoken, introspective, Minnesota mother of three talking about fighting? On her new album, Tell Me What You Know, acoustic pop artist Sara Groves explores what she has learned over the past two years, lessons on the value of long defeats, and the defiance of hope in the face of insurmountable odds. Since the 2005 release of her last project, Add to the Beauty, Groves has been questioning just how, exactly, she is called to do that.

Sara explains, “I believe God invites us to add to the beauty of his plan, letting us participate in his redemptive work. But I found myself asking, ‘How have I applied this idea?' I had groomed and groomed and groomed my personal faith, but to what end?”

Her answers came in a series of global conversations and experiences, from the flood-ravaged gulf of Louisiana, to the genocide memorials of Rwanda, to the testimonies of Southeast Asia sex trade survivors. These experiences showed the disparity between some of the American pursuits of comfort and wealth and the joy of joining the difficult work of social justice and engaging in the suffering of the afflicted. “

One of the main inspirations behind this album is a girl named Elisabeth,” Sara says. “I knew about human trafficking and modern day slavery at some sort of global level, but I didn’t truly understand the personal stories behind what was happening until I met Elisabeth in Washington, D.C.”

Elisabeth’s story is both heartbreaking and phenomenal. The oldest of seven children living in Southeast Asia, the teenager had just finished her sophomore year of high school and decided to take a job in a neighboring community to save money for Bible college. But, tragically, she was betrayed by a traveling companion, kidnapped and sold to a brothel owner. She found herself days later in a foreign country, unable to speak the language, forced into a life of prostitution.

Sara relates the rest of the story: “Elizabeth prayed every night for God to rescue her, even though the other girls in the brothel mocked her. After eight months, an International Justice Mission operative was able to secure her freedom. While retrieving her belongings, they saw Psalm 27 written on the wall above her mattress in her tiny room: The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid?’

“The phrase ‘social justice’ can be loaded. To some people it is a political or a liberal conversation, but to me, it is a Kingdom conversation. There are people behind these stories and statistics, and God’s heart for justice burns on their behalf. I wanted to write songs that drew attention to the people like Elizabeth who know God deeply because of their suffering. There is a commonality in all of these friends, and that is the perseverance of hope.”

Much of what Groves has learned has come through her new friends at International Justice Mission, an organization that stands in the gap for victims of violence, sexual exploitation, slavery and oppression when they are left without an advocate. Her interactions with IJM, as well as recent mission trips to Rwanda and New Orleans, have brought a fresh sense of purpose and excitement to Sara’s life-long Christian faith. “

Much of what I had done before along the lines of service was guilt induced. When I would hear a horrific story, I would want to respond quickly, write a check, and be done with it. But I have met many incredible people who are responding with their lives, and that has exposed something in me. I have been given a lot of joy in life, but I’ve also missed something. All of my life I have been grooming my faith, but have missed something about the purpose of that grooming. If I understand scripture at all, I have to know that to enter into the suffering of the poor and the oppressed is to know Christ and his suffering.”

When listening to the new songs on Tell Me What You Know, it’s clear just how much Sara Groves has been learning. Groves’ songs have always communicated profound insight via an organic yet eclectic musical palette. However, this time around Groves accomplishes something even more incredibly rare, 11 tracks detailing hardship and injustice while defiantly and exuberantly celebrating hope. “I want this album to be enjoyable, for people to be able to listen to it in their car and not be heavy hearted about all the ills in the world. I’ve tried to create music that represents the joy that comes in getting to enter into this work.”

Her joy is contagious, and is certain to extend to her growing family. Sara was writing and recording this album while pregnant with her third child, Ruby Cate, born mere days after the final songs were mixed. Now as Sara and husband Troy welcome their first daughter to a home filled with the sounds of two rambunctious big brothers (Toby, 4, and Kirby, 7), the Groves’ family look forward to learning more about how their lives will be useful in bringing hope to individuals like Elizabeth.

That night in Washington D.C., Elizabeth was asked to share the Psalm she had written on the wall as part of her testimony, but Elizabeth refused, stating that Psalm 27 was for the brothel. Instead, she said, she would read Psalm 34: I sought the Lord, and He heard my cry. “When I met Elizabeth, I felt like I was in the presence of royalty,” says Sara. “She is a college graduate now, and with tremendous courage, has used her story to inspire action. I couldn’t get her out of my mind as I was writing these songs. She knows something about God that I will never know. Those verses are real to her in a way that I have never experienced. After meeting her, genocide survivors, and others who have suffered great oppression, I was humbled by my lack of understanding of life, of love, of courage, and of Christ, and was filled with a hunger to know more.”

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Old World Wisconsin

~The General Store

Today was the perfect fall day. The skies were blue, the air chilly, and the leaves were about peak for the year in terms of colored foilage. We visited Old World Wisconsin for the first time since living here...and decided quickly it is our new favorite destination. Definitely our favorite daytrip in 3 years. Family be forewarned: we are thinking about getting a membership (for those of you who don't know, we have a way of driving those into the ground...meaning everyone who comes to see us this year, guess where we'll be going? I guess you could suffice it to say we get our money's worth.) In all seriousness, we kept thinking of Nana and Gramps today and how much Gramps would have loved the blacksmith demonstration, the old wagon shop, the churches and so much more. Because school was out today and this is the last weekend of full operation, we had no crowds to deal with and the kids got one on one interaction with the colonial demonstrators. They even have Laura Ingalls Wilder Days to attend next summer--and how fitting as Little House in the Big Woods was in Wisconsin.

~Cole takes a turn at the "shaving horse," making shingles

~see the church in the background..all the buildings are originals from all over WI that they have moved onto the museum premises

~Maddie at the "shaving horse"

~Josiah plays a colonial game with a hoop and stick

~posing in one of the German farms (there were farms from many different ancestries)

~the boys crank up the heat in the blacksmith's fire