Pray for Baby Jonah!

I was just goofing around checking out new blogs when I came across the blog of Patrice and Matt Williams. I was instantly attracted to their site because of their baby boy's pictures in the NICU. Any time I see a baby in the NICU, I am reminded of Maurah and Hayden and I can't help but read the stories of these precious children.

Please take the time to read the Williams' story and to keep them in your prayers. I have never heard of the disease that sweet Jonah has and can't imagine how his parents face every day. It just brings me back to the reality that I have absolutely nothing to complain about and how I need to remember just how blessed I really am with my four healthy kids. The love that Patrice and Matt have for Jesus and the hope they find in Him amazes me. I will continue to follow their story and to pray for their beautiful baby boy. I hope you will do the same!

A Night Out on the Town!

Last night Jake and I took our good friends, DJ and Laura, out to dinner for Laura's birthday. Her birthday was actually at the end of December, but we're not focusing on the fact that we were a month behind in getting together! :)
We went to a restaurant called Cafe Gejas in downtown Chicago. It's a fondue restaurant that seems to be known for wonderful wines too, as you can tell from our backgrounds! We stuck with water ourselves...I almost ordered a Coke, but realized that this place was too good for something like Coke! Ha!
We had an appetizer of bread, grapes, and apples that we dipped in a really rich cheese sauce. Our main meal was an enormous platter of chicken with lots of good veggies and eight dipping sauces. My favorite was the onion cooked in the oil and dipped in horseradish sauce. It tasted just like a Bloomin' Onion from the Outback! Yeah, there I go again with my oh-so-refined taste buds of Coke and onion rings! Dessert was delicious. It was a flaming chocolate sauce where we roasted marshmallows and then dipped fruits like strawberries, pineapple and apples in along with some pound cake. As Rachael Ray would say, YUM-O! I think my favorite part of the meal though was my coffee that was served with homemade whipped cream instead of half-and-half. Delish.
Here we all are! That darn mirror was pretty to sit by, but I'm annoyed about the flash in this pic. I'll have to play around with my editing stuff to try and get rid of it. Grrr! Anyway, Happy Friday!

Mannes x 9

Did you know that we actually have nine people living in our house? Yep - count 'em. Nine.

We've acquired three of Cole's imaginary friends, Knighty, Mighty, and Spidy. It all began almost a year ago when Knighty showed up. Out of the blue, he popped in to say hello, and he's been frequenting our home ever since. Although now, he stays much longer and talks much more than he did before. And, he's added two of his friends to the mix! I am so glad these guys don't eat a lot because I've already had to raise our grocery budget twice in this last year! Ha!

The other day I asked Cole to make me some food from the kids' kitchen set. I heard him talking in his regular voice and then I heard this high-pitched, silly voice come from his mouth. Apparently, folks, this is Knighty. Knighty helped Cole decide what to make as I listened to my adorable preschooler's voice dialogue with his squeaky friend. It just cracks me up.

Here is Cole wrapping his tent for Knighty with his bedsheet because it was Knighty's birthday.

Look at how proud he is. Seriously - how could I ever tell him his friends aren't real? Well - if he's 12 and is still looking for Knighty, we will most likely be having that discussion! Ha!

But for now, I enjoy having Knighty and the gang around. They've become a part of our family in many ways. They've eaten many meals with us, go to church with us, spend holidays with us and, uncomfortably, they've even been in the bathroom at the same time as me. If that doesn't get you personal with someone quick, I don't know what does! Ha! Mostly, I love that they make Cole happy and that my little guy's imagination is big and beautiful. I love watching him grow in this way.

Besides, it doesn't hurt that they're potty trained...

Wordless Wednesday

What My Attitude Should Be

In the last two weeks, Jake has challenged our entire youth group to read through the New Testament in 30 days. For those who struggle to give God even 5 minutes of their day, this is quite the challenge! However, many students - and leaders - have embraced it and are well on their way to completing the New Testament in a month's time.

I have chosen to read The Message translation this time around. While I'm not a fan of this translation for teaching purposes, it really gives the Bible a fresh taste if you will. The writing is much easier to comprehend, and I think it'd be great for new believers, especially if they're of a young age. I believe it reads at a fourth grade reading level where the NIV reads somewhere in the Senior High category.

Anyway, check out this translation of part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. I thought this was fantastic:

25-26"If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.
27-29"Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
30-33"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
34"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

I just love this. Why do I struggle with these things almost day in and day out? True contentment is found in Christ! I get so frustrated when my kids are fussing at me...I can only imagine how God feels when I'm fussing at Him that what I've been given isn't good enough! So this is an area I hope to work on and grow in this New Year. What about you? Do you have some ways you hope to draw nearer to God?

Miracle Camp Weekend

This weekend we took our Senior High kids to our Winter Retreat at Miracle Camp in Lawton, Michigan. It was such a great time! Our speaker was wonderful, able to keep the students' attention through great humor, but always making an impressionable point with biblical truth. We talked about being unnamed servants rather than living in pride. We learned that Christianity is not just a checklist of reading your Bible, going to church, and praying, but an intimate, real relationship with Jesus Christ. Many of our students were touched by this since we tend to teach that our faith is a bunch of things we have to do instead of who we are and - more importantly - who He is in us. Here are a few pics of our students and leaders.

One story I'm blessed to share is that I saw an amazing answer to prayer when a student who had walked away from the Lord felt drawn back to Him after this trip. He and Jake had a bit of a struggle earlier in the week and I was concerned that he wouldn't want to come back to our youth group. I just prayed that this weekend away would do wonders for him, and God answered that prayer when he shared before the group - and his friends that he is sort of the leader of - that this trip meant a lot to him. Another leader and I were in tears and could do nothing but praise God!

I was a bit concerned how the trip would be on my end since I had to take Laina with me, but she is such an amazing baby that it was so easy! And, the camp set up a beautiful room for me with a full size bed and my very.own.bathroom. you know what a treasure that is when you're on a trip with 15 high school girls? Pure bliss! Anyway, this is what she looked like the majority of the weekend. I had to buy her a new coat right before we left because she is growing so fast! No more 0-3 months for her!
And of course I had to dress her up and show her off on Saturday. She loved being the center of attention and got passed around by almost all of the students! I love that they love our kids so much and are so eager to give them kisses and snuggles.Of course it wouldn't be a winter retreat without some sledding! Laura, Kori and I were brave enough to face the tobogganing and it was so much fun! Probably not as dramatic as we made it, while we screamed down the hill, but amazingly fun! Then, I braved the sledding FACE FIRST with Laura. I am not a fan of things FACE FIRST. All I could think was that if we hit a tree, it would be BAD! Laura kept telling me I was ridiculous because it was a clear path....but I saw all of those trees way off of the path and you just never know where your sled will go! Ha!
Jake and I have been home together today and I have to say, I have such a hard time adjusting to real life again! How great it was to be served all weekend and to not have to make meals or clean up dishes! It has been wonderful being back with all of the kids though. I've read "That's Not My Fairy" with Maurah and Hayden I don't know how many times and was able to enjoy a few rounds of Candy Land and Dominoes with Cole. Thanks so much to Grandma Tammy and Grandpa Dave for watching them for us so we could enjoy the retreat!

Oh Blogger, how I love thee...

I have an addiction.

I can't help it.

Maybe it's the sleep I'm actually getting now.

Maybe it's because, in my unbiased opinion, my kids are so darn cute. Really. They should be shared with the world.

Maybe my brain is actually functioning and I feel like we're past surviving our crazy life, but we're now thriving too.

Whatever it is, I've come back to the blogging world.

I'm sure the only people to read this will be family and friends which I'm good with. In fact, I like it that way. It's more intimate. Cozy, if you will.

Besides, I'm not sure if many of my posts will be about anything more than our kids....maybe yes, maybe no. My brain is functioning, but I don't know if its pools are incredibly deep yet! So, for my first returning post, here's something to give you a smile.
Oh, I just can't get enough of her!

A New Spark

June also brought with it a somewhat new adventure for Maurah.  She joined MainStage Academy of Dance in the winter and showcased her work t...