Monday, December 31, 2007

Random Updates

Hey everyone! I'm still here! It's been a crazy week, and I had hoped to post some pictures of our Christmas celebration, but I don't think it's going to happen any time soon. Just wanted to update you all on our Christmas week:

We had a lovely, restful Christmas Eve day. We played games with the kids, and then attended a nearly local church for their Christmas Eve service, since our pastor was gone and our church didn't have a service. It was nice and I was happy to be at home this year. We returned home from the service, with plans to put the kids to bed and watch my FAVORITE Christmas movie, Irving Berlin's White Christmas. I had DVR'd it from the weekend and we settled in to enjoy the music and the storyline. However, the cable station, in an attempt to squeeze it into a 2 hour time slot and still allow for ample commercials, cut an embarrassingly large amount of the storyline and the musical numbers! I was so disappointed! I guess you know what I will be asking for next year . . . my own DVD copy of the original movie.

Christmas day was nice also, but I felt like I was in the kitchen most of the time. We had a lovely family meal, though, and enjoyed some quiet time that evening also. The kids loved their presents, with Elijah's favorite being his new wooden train set and Alli really enjoying the food for her kitchen and the shopping cart to carry it all in.

The next 2 days were a crazy mix of laundry, packing for another trip, and a sick 3 year old. It made for a stressful stretch for me, and so I relished some quiet time that Dan and I got together in MN on Friday, when we went to IKEA by the Mall of America. I love the store, and it was Dan's first visit, but he was inspired also. Sooner or later we will finish our basement and we have a thousand ideas of how to decorate now!

The rest of Dan's family joined us all at his parent's house that evening and we enjoyed our tradition of soup for supper, opening presents and then appetizers and cookies afterwards.

One highlight was being able to finally meet face-to-face, my fellow blogging friend, Karen. Her husband grew up in the same church as my husband and we both were at the church on Sunday morning. Although our plan to get coffee together didn't work out, it was great to talk to her in person and we have plans to meet again. I didn't have my camera (we were in church, after all) so I don't have any great pics of our smiling faces together. We'll plan for that next time!

We left Sunday night to return home. About an hour and a half into our trip we witnessed a car from the northbound lane flip end over end and land in our lane about a half a mile in front of us. We were the first on the scene and I called 911 while Dan jumped out to help. The car landed on the hood and slid across traffic, but amazingly, no other cars were involved. By my estimation, since the hood of the driver's side was crushed to the steering wheel, he should have been seriously hurt, but both passengers emerged from the car and seemed alright, only a few cuts and the look of utter shock on their faces. After the police arrived, Dan hopped back into the car and we went on our way. Snow started falling an hour or so later, and we saw many more vehicles in the ditch, so it was another reminder to take our time and to drive slowly. It was also another reminder that life is short, and it can be over in an instant.

We made it home safely, obviously, and are working today to get ready for a little New Year's Eve get-together that we are hosting tonight. Hopefully I will be on top of things and be able to post pictures sooner than later!

Hope you all have a great New Year and I'll be back here regularly soon!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Savoring Christ's Death at Christmas

Elijah and I have been leisurely reading through The Jesus Storybook Bible since we received it in the mail. Sometimes we read faithfully every day, at other times weeks go by between the stories. These past few weeks I have been trying to read more consistently, hoping to finish before the New Year, when we can start our other book, The Big Picture Story Bible.

So as I sat down to read a few days ago, I realized that we had come to the stories surrounding Christ's death - the last supper, the prayer in the garden, etc . . . I debated stopping there and backtracking to the advent story, it being the Christmas season and all, but decided that Elijah was getting enough nativity stories from other sources that we would continue on in the correct order of the book.

This afternoon, as I laid on his bed, reading "just one more story" before naptime, I was struck by the simple retelling of the story about Christ's prayer in the garden:

"Papa! Father!" Jesus cried. And he fell to the ground. "is there any other way to get your chldren back? To heal their hearts? To get rid of the poison?"
But Jesus knew - there was no other way. All the poison of sin was going to have to go into his own heart.
God was going to pour into Jesus' heart all the sadness and brokenness in people's hearts. He was going to pour into Jesus' body all the sickness in people's bodies. God was going to have to blame his son for everything that had gone wrong. It would crush Jesus.
But there was something else, something even more horrible. When people ran away from God, they lost God - it was what happened when they ran away. Not being close to God was like a punishment. Jesus was going to take that punishment.
Jesus knew what that meant. He was going to lose his Father - and that, Jesus knew, would break his heart in two.
Violent sobs shook Jesus' whole body.
Then Jesus was quiet. Like a lamb. "I trust you, Papa," he said. "Whatever you say, I will do."

As I read, tears fell down my cheeks. I don't think Elijah noticed. But the power of the story impacted me in a way that my emotions haven't been impacted in a while. What a powerful event to read about that perfectly coincides with the celebration of Christ's birth. Our excitement and awe at the wonder of the incarnation shouldn't end there. He came for a reason, and I thank you, God, for using my children's Bible to remind me of that reason today.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Merry Christmas!

The Christmas pictures and letters are all out in the mail, so now I can share it with you without a family member reading it here first!

Merry Christmas from the Zempel’s!

Another year has flown by, probably the quietest in recent history for our family! That’s not a bad thing, though, and we have had a wonderful year.

We’ll start the updates with the youngest of our bunch, Allison. What a delight she is to our family! By the beginning of the year she had really started to reveal her personality. She is quite social and loves being around other kids. She is a little more “rough and tumble” than her brother was at this age, partly due to his influence, I am sure. They both wrestle with Dan and giggle constantly. She is more independent, also, and will venture upstairs to her room to play without any encouragement. She began walking about a month after her first birthday in June and made up for lost time by taking to it immediately. She babbles constantly (not unlike her mother!) and never fails to make us all smile. We can’t imagine life without her and are universally smitten with her.

Elijah gets bigger and bigger every day. I can’t believe he is almost 4! We started “homeschool” this year, which basically means we make structured time for reading. We occasionally add some worksheets to the mix, which Elijah loves and repeatedly asks to do more. Elijah is getting braver as the year progresses, culminating in his achievement of “surfing” with an instructor at an indoor water park this fall. Dan will have him behind the boat before you know it! He is energetic and talkative, and enjoyed spending a week with each set of his grandparents this summer. He is doing great in Awana Cubbies and looks forward to spring when he can attempt to learn to ride a “tippy” bike. We’ll see how that goes! He is at such a fun age; I think I would keep him here if I could.

Dan immensely enjoyed having another team member at his State Farm office this year, allowing us to enjoy some family time without worrying about the office imploding without him around. Business has been active enough for him to add another employee this past fall and that has been working out well. Dan took over the leadership of a small group at our church this spring and we have immensely enjoyed getting to know some of the newer couples at our church. Believe it or not, we are the oldest in the group! This is a new experience since we have been comfortable being the youngest for sometime now! Even so, we are so grateful for this group and the growth we have seen and experienced ourselves.

As for me, Donette, life isn’t much different since our last letter. I reached a milestone birthday this year, but don’t question me when I say I am 29! Dan graciously watched the kids over Memorial Day weekend so that my friend Laura and I could go to a conference in Louisville, KY. We spent the weekend being blessed by the ministry of Josh Harris, Mark Dever, Al Mohler, CJ Mahaney and John Piper. It was a much-needed retreat and Dan and I hope to go together this coming year.

As quiet as this year has been, there are still ample opportunities to trust in God’s sovereignty and rely on His grace. Sometimes the quiet makes it easier to forget to do this. I pray that will never be your temptation. As I heard in a Christmas carol:
May the warmth of Heaven reach the coldest heart
with the gospel of His grace
For His heel will bruise the serpent’s head,
Rejoice, all the world, Rejoice!

I pray that you have the reason to do just that!

Dan and Donette, Elijah and Alli

Monday, December 10, 2007

Waterpark Retreat

After a grueling 5-day weekend over Thanksgiving, it was decided that we needed another vacation. OK, that's not true. Actually Dan had some meetings in the Dells, the company paid for the room, so we couldn't pass it up. Here are just a few pics of the fun: Elijah had a blast. We told him that we were going the night before we left, and he couldn't stop asking about it. See, there is a reason you wait to inform a 3 year old of your plans . . .
Yep. It happened again.

Even my parents enjoyed the water slides! I was quite impressed with my dad's willingness to try almost every slide. My mom stuck with the easy ones.

I hate to tell you this, sweetheart, but that's not a drinking fountain.

Friday, December 07, 2007

I found out last night that the youngest victim of the Omaha mall shooting, Maggie Webb, was a sister to an acquaintance of mine from my hometown and home church. So when you think to pray for the families of the victims, please remember Trish Abaca and her husband, Mike, by name.

Amazing how knowing someone who knows someone in a tragedy makes it feel so much closer to home . . .

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Christmas Edition of "Get to Know your Friends!"

I received this email from my missionary friend, Kim, and decided it would be fun to post here.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper. It's the only time of year that I don't use gift bags.
2 . Real tree or Artificial? To my husband's chagrin, we have an artificial tree. I was tired of waiting to decorate until we had time to shop for a tree! And I worried about the kiddos eating pine needles. Maybe in the future we will go back to a real one. But I'm not promising it!
3 . When do you put up the tree? As soon as possible after our annual Thanksgiving traveling schedule.
4. When do you take the tree down? Usually after we returen home from our annual New Year traveling schedule!
5. Do you like egg nog? I never have, until I tasted my friend Amy's homemade recipe. Now that was yummy!
6. Favorite gift received as a child? Wow, that's a hard one. My parent's probably remember better than I do!
7. Do you have a nativity scene? Just one. I hope to get more to make a collection someday.
8. Hardest person to buy for? By far, my father-in-law.
9. Easiest person to buy for? My mom or my daughter. Girl stuff is easy!
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Old fashioned snail mail.
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I remember desperately wanting a "My Little Pony" and then being bored with it like 5 minutes after it was unwrapped. That's totally my fault, though. No blame to the parents who bought it!
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Without a doubt - White Christmas.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Sometime around September. My goal has been to be completely done BEFORE Thanksgiving, but it hasn't happened yet.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? I don't think I have ever recycled a Christmas present, but for the 19 weddings the year after we got married . . . yeah, most of those were re-gifts!
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Probably cookies
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear lights on the tree inside the house, colored outside
17. Favorite Christmas song? Oh Holy Night; Joy, Joy by David Phelps; Here With Us by Joy Williams; Sleep, Jesus, Sleep by Sovereign Grace Music
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Usually we travel to my parent's house, but this year we are visiting them early and we are staying home for Christmas! Yeah!
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? I kinda doubt it.
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Angel
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Ongoing Christmas argument. I grew up opening on Christmas morning, Dan on Christmas eve. I'm still holding out for the AM . . .
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? the crowded stores. Even Walmart on a Monday night during football is crazy!
23. Favorite ornament theme or color? Most of my ornaments have special memories attached, but I am particularly fond of the car ornament that the cast of my senior recital gave me - in honor of the play we performed, "Driving Miss Daisy."
24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? I love the pizza treats that we eat on Christmas Eve.
25 . What do you want for Christmas this year? Well, I already got my camera, so I guess it's the list of home projects that I have! (I think a finished basement is at the top of the list right now)

Ok, now I tag all my readers who have a blog to answer the same questions . . .

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Wow. I am still recovering from a week of traveling, so blogging has been last on my "to-do" list. I have about a dozen things I would like to write about, but my brain is fuzzy from a head cold, so I will just give you a pictorial journey of our week away. Enjoy! Dan takes a pause from the annual Thanksgiving football game to pose with Alli. We travel to Dan's parent's house every Thanksgiving and enjoy a 4 day weekend with his brothers and their wives, and the one little cousin that we have so far.
Back into action.
Elijah is enjoying the play structure that his daddy grew up playing on.
Alli equally appreciates it, but shortly after this picture she fell and didn't appreciate it anymore. This was the only time the kids played outside, as the temperatures became much colder in the following days.Farkle was the game of choice this holiday, and we enjoyed many rounds. This is our sister-in-law blowing good luck (if you believe in such nonsense!) onto the dice as they fall.Alli is finally at the age to really enjoy her grandparents and didn't take any time in warming up to them. I love seeing her enjoy her grandpa! And she made their weekend by saying both "grandma" and "grandpa." At least that is what they claim she said . . .

And for my two favorite pictures of the weekend:
Dan took this one, creatively using the blocks the kids were playing with at the time.

I shot this one, of Dan's brother and his little boy, who needed some comforting from his daddy. Too cute!

Well, it was a fun weekend, as it usually is. We came home on Sunday and promptly left again Monday morning for a waterpark adventure with my parents while Dan attended some meetings. I'll post pics from that trip soon.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Early Christmas

Dan and I got our Christmas present early this year. We upgraded our camera. While I still have a long way to go in understanding all the bells and whistles on this piece of technology, I am immensely enjoying the quality of pictures I am getting. So here are a few of my current favorites. Enjoy!Can you tell what I most love taking pictures of? I could follow them around shooting all day!

Friday, November 16, 2007

After hearing some real "gems" from Elijah recently, I realized that I should be writing them down! So that is exactly what I am doing here:

I was reading a book at the breakfast table one morning and Elijah was up earlier than usual. I explained to him that I needed a little quiet so that I could finish the chapter in my Bible Doctrine book. A few minutes passed and then he asked me, "Mommy, are you going to the Doctor's today?" When I replied in the negative and inquired why he asked me that, he answered, "Then why are you reading a doctor book?"

Elijah has discovered the world of bubblegum and asks for a piece quite often. He watches intently if Dan or I blow a bubble and asked if we could show him how to do it. When we tried to explain it, he understood that it would be difficult to learn and decided that his "special trick" with gum would be to "chomp it."

I attended a friend's baby shower last week and brought home some candy. Elijah saw it and asked if it was from the "baby's bath."

And finally, in an effort to get to eat dinner early, before his father had come home, Elijah whined to me and said that "eating together stranges me out." Now explain that!?!?!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Email Forwards

I received this email today and laughed out loud! It is too funny not to share. After all, have you ever sent one of these forwards?

I must send my thanks to whoever sent me the one about poop in the glue on envelopes because I now have to use a wet towel with every envelope that needs sealing.

Also, now I have to scrub the top of every can I open for the same reason.

I no longer have any savings because I gave it to a sick girl (Penny Brown) who is about to die in the hospital for the 1,387,258th time.

I no longer have any money at all, but that will change once I receive the $15,000 that Bill Gates/Microsoft and AOL are sending me for participating in their special e-mail program.

I no longer worry about my soul because I have 363,214 angels looking out for me, and St. Theresa's novena has granted my every wish.

I no longer eat KFC because their chickens are actually horrible mutant freaks with no eyes or feathers.

I no longer use cancer-causing deodorants even though I smell like a water buffalo on a hot day.

Thanks to you, I have learned that my prayers only get answered if I forward an email to seven of my friends and make a wish within five minutes.

Because of your concern I no longer drink Coca Cola because it can remove toilet stains.

I no longer can buy gasoline without taking someone along to watch the car so a serial killer won't crawl in my back seat when I'm pumping gas.

I no longer drink Pepsi or Dr. Pepper since the people who make these products are atheists who refuse to put "Under God" on their cans.

I no longer use Saran wrap in the microwave because it causes cancer.

And thanks for letting me know I can't boil a cup of water in the microwave anymore because it will blow up in my face...disfiguring me for life.

I no longer check the coin return on pay phones because I could be pricked with a needle infected with AIDS.

I no longer go to shopping malls because someone will drug me with a perfume sample and rob me.

I no longer receive packages from UPS or FedEx since they are actually Al Qaeda in disguise.

I no longer shop at Target since they are French and don't support our American troops or the Salvation Army.

I no longer answer the phone because someone will ask me to dial a number for which I will get a phone bill with calls to Jamaica , Uganda, Singapore, and Uzbekistan.

I no longer buy expensive cookies from Neiman Marcus since I now have their recipe.

Thanks to you, I can't use anyone's toilet but mine because a big brown African spider is lurking under the seat to cause me instant death when it bites my butt.

And thanks to your great advice, I can't ever pick up $5.00 I dropped in the parking lot because it probably was placed there by a sex molester waiting underneath my car to grab my leg.

I can no longer drive my car because I can't buy gas from certain gas companies!

If you don't send this e-mail to at least 144,000 people in the next 70minutes, a large dove with diarrhea will land on your head at 5:00 PM this afternoon and the fleas from 12 camels will infest your back, causing you to grow a hairy hump. I know this will occur because it actually happened to a friend of my next door neighbor's ex-mother-in-law's second husband's cousin's beautician...

Have a wonderful day....

Oh, by the way.....A South American scientist from Argentina, after a lengthy study, has discovered that people with insufficient brain activity read their e-mail with their hand on the mouse. Don't bother taking it off now, it's too late.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Weekend to Reflect

This weekend found me attending a wedding, a funeral and a baby shower. All in three day's time. These events, in and of themselves, usually cause a person to reflect, to become sentimental, to cry. I did all. To add to the craziness of the weekend, I found out that my cousin has lung cancer and her father, my uncle, was diagnosed on the same day with Parkinson's Disease. Throw it all together and what do you get? A perfect opportunity to reflect on the brevity of life. I feel like I experienced an entire life's worth of "special moments" this weekend and it propelled me to ponder the meaning of life.

Now, I am a believer in and follower of Jesus Christ. I am fully aware of the meaning of life - to glorify God in all that I eat or drink or whatever I do. But even fully devoted believers have moments of self-introspection and questioning. The greatness of having those moments means that the Holy Spirit has another chance to speak to your soul, to remind you that life isn't only made up of those grand occasions, but that life occurs every day in the mundane moments. It is easy to judge a wedding or funeral to see if God was glorified, but what about the way in which I served lunch to my kids today? Did I honoring the gospel in my interaction with my neighbor as we walked together early this morning?

And the most amazing thing about remembering that we have these moments to show the glory of Christ is that He gives me another chance to do it again tomorrow. It's all about grace . . .

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Another Reason . . .

. . . that I enjoy my "once-a-month-cooking" habit is that it frees up my kitchen during the day to bake my own bread or other goodies. I don't feel so overwhelmed at being in the kitchen "all day" because I know that dinner is already made, only needs heating up, and I am free to use my time to experiment with new side dishes or other fun recipes!

*This post is for my facebook friends who have been asking about my oamc fixation.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Eating my Veggies

I was taking a leisurly shopping trip to Sam's Club a few weeks ago (the kids were home with Dan) and happened upon a cookbook for sale that was all about incorporating veggies into your "kid friendly" meals. I was instantly hooked. We really struggle to get Elijah to eat his vegetables, so I decided that anyway we could get some in his body would be worth it. So I bought the cookbook and proceeded over the next 24 hours to absolutely devour it. I read it every chance I could get and started making a list of veggies to buy to try the recipes.

Well, by now the whole world knows about the cookbook, because the next day, the author - Jessica Seinfeld (Jerry's wife) was on Oprah. And within a few weeks the book was surrounded in controversy because apparently there is a similar cookbook already on the market.

My attitude toward the controversy? Who cares! I just love the ideas presented! She starts with vegetable purees and adds them to almost everything. And since I have been trying to eat more healthy (my brother's heart attack affected my diet, too) I love all the ideas.

We have already made hot chocolate with sweet potato puree, sweet potato pancakes, pumpkin oatmeal, scrambled eggs with cauliflower and beet pancakes. As you can see, I especially like the breakfast dishes because it is a way to sneak veggies in a meal where I usually wouldn't even think about it! Besides, because I make most of my dinners ahead of time, I am not able to add veggie purees into them now. But next month I will!

We have enjoyed trying the new dishes and I love knowing that Elijah is getting some vegetables that even I don't like (beets and sweet potato are not on my "must eat" list). I still prepare veggies for dinner, but I know he is getting more than what is required for him to eat on his plate.

My biggest surprise recipe? Adding chickpeas to chocolate chip cookies. If you mix them with a hand or stand mixer, it chops them up enough that they basically disappear when you bake them. You seriously cannot taste them! I made a batch and took them to a chili supper at my church and handed them out to a ton of people and got their reactions. No one could taste it at all. And because she uses trans-fat free tub margarine in most of her baking, all the recipes are low fat, too.

I cannot emphasize how much this has made my cooking more fun. I try to hide some kind of vegetable into almost all my meals, including squash in macaroni and cheese and carrot in cornbread. It has been a blast! What are your secrets for eating healthy?

Monday, October 29, 2007

My Birthday Weekend

Well, it's finally official. I'm 30. As I type this, my stomache drops and tears spring to my eyes. Ok, it's not that bad, I don't feel really very different. The birthday I have been dreading since I turned 26 (which made me officially closer to 30 than 20) has come and I have survived. I'm sure it is because I had such a great birthday weekend, which I will share with you in pictures and commentary.

Although my birthday wasn't officially until Saturday, the celebration started on Thursday evening when Dan brought home a German Chocolate Cake from the store. I love German Chocolate and it was a truly selfless gesture from him because Dan doens't really care for chocolate. He presented me with a wrapped bag containing a beautiful wooden salad bowl and serving utensils, which I had commented in passing that I thought would be nice. The bowl also contained a couple of gift cards, 3 Frappuccinos and a French press for making coffee, and a Newsboys DVD and 2 videos of their concerts. Does this man know me, or what!?!?!?
We finished the evening carving pumpkins, which excited Elijah immensly and which bored Allison quickly.

Friday evening we went on a date - out to dinner at Panera Bread (I love that place!) shopping for some new clothes and then ended the evening with raspberry custard.

Saturday evening we went to our friend's house for dinner and took the kids trick or treating afterward. Elijah is quite competent in asking for candy and Allison was just along for the ride, enjoying walking down the sidewalk on her own and loving the pumpkin outfit she wore. At one house, however, she got an individual sized bag of crackers, and she finished out the evening proudly showing off her treat and screaming in delight. As any mom will say, seeing my kids have so much fun made my birthday even more wonderful!

Sunday morning as we drove to church we saw 2 beautiful hot air balloons floating over the fields that surround our church. One passed right over the roof and the other landed in the grassy area between our church and our parking lot! It was a blast to stand around and watch the balloon deflate and the kids loved it. I only wish that I had my camera to capture the moment!

Sunday night we had a great time with our small group and I came home that evening thanking God for good friends and the blessing of another year of life.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Idol Factories and the Debtor's Ethic

I was at my parent's house for most of last week, enjoying a more quiet visit than is typical when we do a "two day run." Dan had to stay back home and work, so it was just me and the kids. On the way home, after tiring of the music I had been listening to, I remembered that I finally downloaded the sermons from the NA conference back in May and I decided to listen to some again.

This would be the 3rd time I listened to Piper's last message of the conference. I have been meaning to blog about it, but it is too full of truth to summarize here. Besides, it would take as much time for me to try to explain it to you as it would for you to listen to it yourself. He spoke on obedience that pleases the Lord and addressed perfectly the idea of future grace and the faulty logic of the debtor's ethic. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE take the time to listen to it. I will never sing the line, "Oh to grace, how great a debtor, daily I'm constrained to be!" the same way again.

Then I listened again to CJ Mahaney's first sermon on discerning your heart. He spoke eloquently, but simply on the topic of idols in our life. He quotes Calvin in saying that we are little "idol factories," capable of conquering one idol, only to be replaced by another. It calls on us to constantly scour our hearts to search for idols that threaten to destroy us. I cannot recommend a clearer, or more focused message on the topic.

On Saturday, after I returned home, we started a new Ladie's study on the book by Elyse Fitzpatrick, Idols of the Heart. The sermon was the perfect appetizer for a book full of the meat of the Word. Taking the short hour to listen to this sermon will be time well spent and your heart will be challenged and blessed.

I don't often recommend sermons to listen to. First of all, because I understand how hard it is for all of us "stay-at-home-moms!" But please listen to these two. Download them onto your iPod, or if you don't have one, and live close to me, give me a call and I will gladly watch your kids while you take a long walk and feed your soul. I mean it; I'm that passionate about these messages.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Apple Picking Adventure

Last Saturday we went apple picking at an orchard in Northern IL with our small group from church. It was a blissfully warm day (almost hot!) and the apples were crisp and delicious straight from the tree. We picked about 25 lbs., which I made into 6 pies, 2 batches of applesauce, and there are still enough to eat for the pure pleasure of it!

We intended to come home with a few pumpkins, but after strenuous effort, Elijah decided we didn't have room in the trunk for this one.

You can see pics from others who were with us here, here and here.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


We had a really busy weekend, but it was full of fun outings and great teaching, so I am not complaining! This week looks to be as busy as well, so I will do my best to post about the pictures of all the fun we had.

On Friday evening we went to see the Go, Diego, Go! live stage show. If you don't have toddlers, you may not be familiar with Diego, but he is Dora's cousin, if that helps! It is a fun show that teaches the kids about animals, while incorporating Spanish. It's cute, like I said, if you have toddlers.

Since State Farm sponsered the show, we were able to get 8 free tickets! So we invited another couple, with their 3 year old, and then invited 2 other kids to join us. We figured that 4 adults could handle 4 kids, and luckily, we had no problems.

The show was a blast. Elijah was really involved and growled out loud when the actors asked the kids to act like a baby jaguar. It was fun to watch him enjoying the show, and being a fan of the stage myself, I enjoyed watching all the technical aspects of the show.

So that was the start of the busy weekend. I will post pictures of our apple picking adventure on Saturday, as well as post about the weekend Bible Conference we had with Jerry Bridges.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

This picture goes with my last post. He really likes the vest, until 6 o'clock on Monday night when it is time to leave for Cubbies. By the way, those are Dan's toes, and yes, I sewed the patch on all by myself. My mom should be proud.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Why We Choose AWANA

About 2 weeks ago, Elijah started the AWANA program (specifically, Cubbies) at a church nearby. Our church does not offer AWANA, which never really affected me until I had a child old enough to participate. I have read varied opinions on AWANA clubs and others like it and their use of awards and such, and I can honestly admit that I see both sides of the debate. So here is our reasoning in allowing Elijah to attend (in no particular order):

First of all, I kinda like that it is at a different church. The church that holds the club does things a little different than we do, and I am sure that we disagree on some finer points of theology and practice. But I enjoy introducing our children to other believers who are unlike us. I want them to realize that Christians are similar in faith, but we may differ in how we apply our beliefs to our life. I desperately want them to understand that "our way" of doing things does not equal absolute truth and to be patient in trying to discern why other true believers may make decisions contrary to our own. And I like introducing my kids to other teachers and friends besides the ones they see every week at our church!

I like that AWANA Clubs stress the importance of memorizing Scripture. I am fully aware that at this point, Elijah is memorizing verses as an unbeliever. I know that if he continues in his unbelief, he is likely to become a pharisee. That fact alone terrifies me. I think I would rather have a child who openly rejects the grace of Christ than a child who rebels only in his heart and "looks" good on the outside. That is a dangerous place to live. But I also understand that it is Dan and I's responsibility to introduce our children to Christ, and I am obliged to all teachers who aid us in that endeavor.

We discussed this last night at our small group and I was explaining my belief that parents must constantly acknowledge that memorization does not equate to true, saving faith. I made the point that Elijah could win the Timothy Award, yet still reject Christ, and I hope we are always faithful to encourage our kids toward repentance, regardless of their awards in AWANA. One of the guys in our group said, "I won the Timothy Award." to which I replied, "Were you a believer at the time?" And he promptly answered, "Nope." My point exactly.

When, and if, our children come to Christ, which we pray fervently that they do, we hope those verses they memorized will be an aid to greater understanding of God's Word and an encouragement in their faith. After all, I remember verses I memorized before I fully embraced Christ, and they aid my walk today.

As to the charge about frivolity and "entertaining at church," I do concede that a lot of that takes place these days in fundamentalism and evangelicalism. This is a valid concern. I worry our kids will grow up expecting to be constantly entertained with silly song-and-dance shows and will develop the idea that church is not so much about God, but about me and how it can relate to my needs. I understand this argument.

My defense is rather simple. The tide of entertainment in church neither rises nor falls on the shoulders of AWANA. Once again, no program can replace solid teaching at home and, I believe, teaching at home will not be derailed by a once-a-week club that incorporates some fun activities. Balance is the key - and that saying is overused for a reason!

So there you have it, my friends. Those are just a few of the thoughts that jumped around in my head when we decided to utilize the AWANA club at the church nearby. I am convinced in my own mind, but completely open that others may be convinced differently. I think it is vital to our spiritual well-being to think these things through and come to a conclusion, and to fight the urge to just swim in the same direction that other Christian fish are swimming.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


This has been a crazy week. I got a call on Tuesday that my 37 year old brother had a heart attack. After a few hours of phone calls and arrangements, Dan and I and the kids left for my hometown where my entire family resides. I am grateful our life allows us to pick up and go when necessary.

It is now Thursday afternoon and things are looking ok. I don't want to say things are "fine" or "good" because a heart attack changes everything. It affects his entire life, and affects his family, his wife and 2 daughters, also. The artery that caused the heart attack had a stint placed in it immediately, and a second artery that was 90% blocked was stinted (is that a word?) this afternoon. I am grateful for the wisdom God has granted to doctors.

Kevin has had constant visitors in the hospital, both family and friends. Probably hundreds of people are praying for him, and indeed, my whole family. I am grateful for the prayers of righteous saints.

Health scares have a way of making us stop and think about life. What is important and what doesn't matter in the long run. Our food intake is one of those things. Food is a gift from God, but often becomes an idol in my own life. Obsession with health and lengthening your life easily becomes an idol, too. I'm grateful that God can give us balance, if we ask for it.

I'm grateful for a lot of things, but most of all, I am grateful for a God that is in control. He has numbered my brother's days and I am confident that His grace will accompany any trial that lies ahead.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Trip to Cabellas

My parents were here for an extended visit last week and we tried to cram in as many activities as possible! We visited the zoo and then decided to take an evening trip to Cabellas. We can spend hours in this store looking at all the sporting goods and the beautiful animals. Here are just a few of the snapshots we took:

Alli really enjoyed looking at all the animals, although she acted a bit reserved when we got too close.
Even Alli found something to buy! We had to strategically divert her attention while we put the hat back on the shelf, she loved it so much.

Elijah is ready for an overnight backpacking trip, even if he won't be able to lift this thing fully-loaded!

We tried to pose with the friendly bear, but you all know how hard it is to get everyone looking at the camera at the same time. Dan is missing because he took the picture!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

More on "The Jesus Storybook Bible"

As if I haven't done enough to promote this Bible, here is one more reason to buy it! This article is an interview with Sally Lloyd-Jones and she gives the reader a glimpse into her reasons for writing the book, how she chose each story and how she views teaching children from the Bible. I loved reading it and thought you might like it, too.

Please go and read the entire article, but if you aren't motivated, hopefully this excerpt will drive you to it:

When I first saw that everything in the Old Testament, is pointing to a child—the one who is coming—it blew me away. Suddenly, here was a way to read the Bible without it leaving you condemned (I’ll never keep all the rules all the time) or in despair (how can I ever be as brave as Daniel? or David?).I found it so moving when I started to discover how the Old Testament is basically one long record of failure—the failure of God’s people time and time again to live rightly, to rescue themselves—and that the stories in the Old Testament are all getting us ready for the One who is coming. They are all signposts to the True Hero, the True King, the True Prince, the True Servant, the greater David, the greater Daniel. The Rescuer.

As a child, I thought the Bible was packed with rules you had to keep (or God wouldn’t love you) and heroes setting examples you had to follow (or God wouldn’t love you). I thought, in short, that the Bible was all about me and what I should (or shouldn’t) be doing. Until I read a Story.

It’s the Story running like a golden stream underneath all the other stories in the Bible: the story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. Suddenly, I realized the Bible wasn’t about me and what I should be doing at all. It was about God and what he had done. And it changed everything.

So, throughout the mapping out of the book and writing the stories, I was resolute in my determination to avoid even a whiff of moralizing in terms of applying the stories. The absolute last thing I ever wanted to ask a child was: “And what can we learn from David about how God wants us to behave?” The story isn’t there to be an example for us to follow. If that were the point, Jesus would never needed to have come. We could have saved ourselves.

The story is there because it’s true and because it’s telling the bigger story—of the greater David who is coming. To do for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves, to fight the battle we could never fight. To be the Hero we all need. To be our Rescuer.

I wanted children to know this Story—and to meet this wonderful Hero in the pages of this book. Because rules don’t change you. But a story can.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Preaching the Cross to Myself

I've had a couple of bad weeks. Nothing major, just a week and a half of constant raining, Dan working tons of late nights, and general snarkiness of my kids. I'm sure most of you can relate. My point of this post is not to complain, but I have to set the stage . . .

Now typically I don't lose my patience a ton with my kids during the day. That just isn't my temptation during most days. But when I don't get that break around 6 o'clock that I have come to expect (and I assume, deserve) then that is another story. And I didn't get that break at all 2 weeks ago. In fact, our Friday, which we usually spend together as family time, was packed full of events, and then Saturday Dan volunteered to help a friend work on their house for the day. I was near my breaking point and I kind of cracked. I hadn't been responding in the right way most of the week, but by Saturday I was fed up. I was cranky and impatient with my family, including my husband. So when he finally came home that evening, I was so upset that I didn't want to spend any time with him. What a way to reward him!

I knew I was sinning. I knew in my "head" that I wasn't responding rightly and I didn't care enough to change it. I prayed, but it was more like, "Oh God, you don't know how bad I have it. Make it all better!" instead of, "Change me, work in me, help me respond the way I know I should." That's when 2 friends entered the picture the exact way the body of Christ should operate. One encouraged me by praying that I would respond the right way, and the other reminded me that when things are tough, it is a perfect time to reflect on God and how He can meet our needs. It all sounded good when Sunday came and I was expecting a better week ahead, but the better week never materialized. I had an equally stinky week this past week.

But do you know what the difference was? Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I preached the cross to myself. I spent time in the Word and prayed for the power to respond the right way to life's struggles. After all, isn't that exactly what the Cross purchased for us? And then, to top it all off, our pastor preached on 2 Peter 1 yesterday and it was the highlight to end my week. I still missed my husband last week, my kids still irritated me, I was not perfect every moment, but preaching the cross to myself gave me a God-oriented focus to my actions and my heart, and that made all the difference.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lord, help me not become ineffective or unfruitful. Use your Holy Spirit and your Word to remind me that you have given me the power to not sin. Show me the cross before all my actions and thoughts that I might do the same to my family. Amen.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Thanks for all the comments on my previous post. I think I am going to take all the advice, in one way or another! I have decided to keep reading "Heaven", but to skim it for the next 10 chapters or so. If it doesn't get any better, than I will put it away for good.

As for the Piper book, I have decided to shelve that one for the time being. I can always pick it up again when I need the message (that is, when I'm struggling to desire God) or lend it to a friend who may need it.

Sometimes you know the right answer, but you just need someone to validate that it is ok! Thanks everyone!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dreading Reading

I have a quick question for all you avid readers out there. Have you ever just trudged through a book? I mean, you keep reading, hoping for it to get better or for the message to affect you, but each chapter is drudgery and each time you shut the book you think to yourself, "I don't think I can stand to ever pick that book up again." If you have experienced this with me, what did you do? Do you keep reading (as my OCD nature tells me to finish) or chalk it up to a time waster and move on to a book that really speaks to you?

Here's what I am battling with. I have been "reading" Randy Alcorn's book, Heaven for some time now and I feel like his initial point about our bodily resurrection and the necessity of the earth's resurrection has been made already. But each chapter seems to go back to that main thesis and try to prove it in another way and I find myself quietly screaming, "OK! I GET IT! MOVE ON! WHY DO I NEED TO READ 40 CHAPTERS IF THIS IS ALL YOU ARE GOING TO SAY?!" Now don't get me wrong, Randy Alcorn is a great author and I have greatly benefitted from some of his other books, but I am just struggling with this one.

The other book that I put down a few months back and haven't picked back up is Piper's When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy. Now the same qualifier counts here: You can't argue with Piper and I have enjoyed his writing, but I feel like once you get his theology, each book kind of just repeats it in a new context.

So, my readers, what do you think I should do? Do I keep plowing through the books and strive for the good feeling I know I will have when I finally finish a book, or do I stop now and devote my already scarce reading times to something seemingly more profitable? Give me your advice!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Catching Up

The past week has been crazy! With Elijah gone, Dan and I celebrated our 8th anniversary (I meant to post on it, but didn't have time!). We had a lovely afternoon out. We went ice-skating and out to dinner, nothing over-the-top, just one of our favorite restaurants that we don't get to visit very often.

We continued celebrating our anniversary on Thursday when we went to the county zoo during their "A La Carte" where local restaurants set up shop by all the animals and you can sample great food from a host of different vendors. I was so excited to get a falafel, which Gretchen introduced me to in Louisville in May and I have been salivating to try again ever since. We ate a ton of food, but the walking in-between helped it all digest so we could cram some more in! It was a blast and we ate all that great-tasting food for $20, which helped make the trip memorable enough that we will probably do it again next year!

Dan's brother came Thursday night and we spent most of the day on Friday in the boat on the lake. We came home a bit sunburned and exhausted, but not so much that we couldn't get together with 8 other friends to play "The Settlers of Catan" that evening. (Dan won the men's game, I did poorly at the Ladie's table.)

The weekend took us to Waupaca where we met Dan's parents and picked up Elijah. I am so glad to have him back home! So all in all, we had a busy week. It has been raining a lot here, and promises to about every day this week, so we things should be a bit quieter around here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Missin' my Buddy

Elijah is visiting his grandparents this week, so we are all lonely without him. (Actually, we are working on our bathroom project - but that's another post.) I got these pictures of him from Grandma and Grandpa, and I thought I would share them with you.
Apparently he keeps promising Grandpa that if he can play with his UPS truck, then Elijah will let Grandpa play with his milk truck next time they are at our house! Who can resist such an offer?
Workin' in the garage - his favorite pastime.

This is Grandpa's other toy. I don't think Elijah has anything comparable to this that Grandpa can play with at our house!

This picture made me miss him even more. That's my big boy, little man!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Quote of the Week

"People do not drift toward holiness.
Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith and delight in the Lord.
We drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated."
--D.A. Carson, For the Love of God, vol. 2

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I hosted a Stampin' Up party last night and had a blast! We used the new Pretties Kit, which includes flowers that you can dye, pearls and hat pins. I just had to share the beautiful cards that we made. Hope this inspires you to try something new! We used Baroque Motifs for a few of these cards. A gorgeous set with a ton of possibilities! I am getting this set for sure!

This card uses some of SU's designer papers. They complement each other beautifully and can be used to make a really quick and easy card!

This card is my one of my favorites - I love the dyed flowers!

This one is my absolute favorite. I love the details like the grossgrain ribbon and the designer paper that make this card so beautiful.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Book Sale!

I just finished blogging about my new favorite kid's book, The Jesus Storybook Bible, when low and behold, Gretchen offers a great deal on that very book!

Her bookstore, on the campus of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is offering The Jesus Storybook Bible for 50% off this week only! Stop on over to her blog and you can order there and she will ship it to you.

In case you are wondering, I bought 5. With the multitude of babies arriving at our church in the coming months, I figured I should be prepared!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


My first trip to IKEA was very successful and I want to go back! I bought a few things, only one major purchase, but I got some great ideas for decorating and future purchases! Here's the picture of the toy bin I bought for Alli's room and the pictures I framed (about $12 total!) for her room.

Thanks for all the tips everyone gave me. It did take about 4 hours to get through the store. Now all I need to know is how to get IKEA to build closer to home!

Body Piercing

I just read "Body Piercing Saved My Life: Inside the Phenomenon of Christian Rock" by Andrew Beaujon. I was turned on to this book when I noticed it's title on the sidebar of Bob Kauflin's blog. I Googled it and read an excerpt on Amazon and was hooked. Now I'm not about to spend the $12 + dollars to buy it, so I checked my library's catalog (online - don't you just love the Internet!) and sure enough they had it! So a few weeks later I checked it out and began reading.

A quick disclaimer is that the author is a self-described non-Christian. So realize that his views are a bit jaded and his language is less than "holy," but his description of the Christian rock scene is in-depth (historical at times) and very interesting. He struggled getting all the access he desired for this book, but none-the-less gives a thought-provoking outsider's look inside.

Besides detailing the behind-the-scenes of Christian Rock Festivals (Cornerstone, Lifefest, etc . . .), the author scored some great interviews with some of Christian rock's biggest stars. Mind you, if you aren't into the heavier Christian music scene, most of the names mentioned will be unfamiliar, but realize that most young kids who listen to this type of music will recognize almost all of the groups. He also spends a considerable amount of time discussing the modern "worship" movement with it's history and present day stars. When the author first starts to experience worship, he rightly so, feels left out and uninspired. I personally think this speaks to the fact that worship music isn't meant to win people to Christ. It is music written by Christ-followers for Christ-followers. Some of his critique of this genre, in particular, made me angry, because of the truth of the market's incessant drive to make money, and much impressed me. I particularly liked his interview with David Crowder and it caused me to spend some more time checking out his music.

On the other side of that, I was deeply disturbed and angry at some of the interviewees who make music in Christ's name and seem to have nothing to do with Him otherwise. It was an eye-opener to read about some of the "christian" groups out there and reaffirms my belief that you should try to get to know artists before you buy. As anyone can attest, attending a concert can make or break you on a particular artist or band. Somehow seeing them interact with the audience gives you a better glimpse into either their "ministry" or "show." This worked in the negative way when I saw Philips, Craig and Dean in concert and positively when I saw the Newsboys. I'm sure if you ever have been to a concert that you know what I am talking about.

The author made some soul-baring quotes in the book, one of which was this:

“I liked these people, enjoyed their company, and they’d made me feel completely welcome. But it bothered me that I wasn’t a Christian and would never be one. They embraced me like they hope to embrace culture, but I’m still not sure how hard either of us can hug them back.”(p. 137)

Also: "I was on the plane home before I realized that I'd been working on this project for 6 months, and it was the first time anyone had tried to evangelize me."(p.168)

And concerning a David Crowder Band concert: "There was only one star at that evening's show, and he hadn't been onstage at all."(p.245)

All in all, I am glad I read this book. It was revealing and disturbing at times, but necessary. If you are at all interested in the Christian music scene, this is worth your time to read. And if you have a teenager, this would be a great book to read along with them and discuss the author's bias and some of the artist's perspectives.

Monday, July 30, 2007

my 2 cents

I read this article on Yahoo news today and 2 things struck me:

1. The editor speaks of the New Testament as completely true.
2. The editor expects us to accept that any written work NOT the New Testament doesn't have to be truthful.

Interesting . . .

Saturday, July 28, 2007

My New Favorite Kid's Book

I have been anticipating 2 deliveries for the past week and a half. The first one was my order from SonLight Curriculum, with some preschool books. I am starting Elijah in "Homeschool Preschool" this fall, on a very limited basis. It really is more for my benefit than for his! I want to teach him to sit still and to pay attention, but also I want to convince myself that I can do this! Even as shortly as a year ago, if asked if I would homeschool my answer would always have been "Dan wants us to, but I'm not so sure." Over the past year, however, I have had some great conversations with homeschooling moms and seen some great curriculum, along with God's work in my own heart concerning my selfishness, and I have turned 180 degrees! Now I am excited about the possibilities and anxious to try it out. I'll have to keep you all posted on how it goes, though. I might be back to where I started in a couple of months!

Ok, back to the original thought . . . My much-anticipated deliveries. SonLight suggests a daily Bible for their curriculum, but I had heard so much about another kid's Bible, that I decided to get that one. I ordered 2 kid's Bibles from Amazon and just got them on Thursday. They are the Jesus Storybook Bible and The Big Picture Story Bible. I love them both!

First of all, the theology of both is specific, not just a general retelling of Bible stories. Both tackle tying the OT stories to God's overall plan for the world. They explain the sin in the Garden of Eden not just as simple disobedience, but Adam and Eve thinking that there was more to life than God. That maybe God wasn't as good as He said He was. That's just one example of how they handle an OT story. I could go on for pages and pages, but I won't. I will just tell you that these 2 books are the best kid's Bibles I have ever seen (and we have a few already!). In fact, I think it is going to be a staple shower gift for all my friends who are having babies!

If you don't want to buy 2 new kid's Bibles, I would suggest going with The Jesus Storybook Bible. Although I love both, the Jesus Storybook Bible is a bit smaller, easier for kids to navigate and the pictures are wonderful! But don't mistake my recommendation as saying it is "better" than the Big Picture Story Bible. They are both great and every library could benefit from both!