As I wrote the previous post, I saw this draft in my unpublished section of blogs.  I really don't remember when I started this post, but it's still incredibly relevant to how I'm feeling now, particularly at the start of this new year...

I came to this place a few months ago completely intending to write things out again.  To get life printed so I don't forget.  After two posts, I walked away again.  I've been nothing if not inconsistent this last year.  So, for this year, I want this to be a regular thing.  Not necessarily an every day sort of thing, but at least something that happens once a week.  I've just perused through my old blogs and it's incredible to see the things that I've forgotten already.  Those little details that escape your memory as soon as a new day dawns.  I'm so thankful for the things I've written here so that I can remember.

I also can't believe how much I can learn from my younger self!  So many of the posts that I've written before have challenged me yet today and I've needed the encouragement more than I can say.  I know it's true that God works in mysterious ways but if I ever thought He'd use my words years before to teach me truth now, I'd think I was going crazy!  I love how He works, though.

I am beginning this year feeling like I'm trying to crawl out of a dry, dark cave.  This last year has been one of many challenges for me.  Ultimately, I see it as a year of failure.  My husband, awesome guy that he is, says I should instead see it as a year of learning.  He's so sweet to me to pull the good out of something I see as completely horrid.

This year, I am seeking to be renewed.  I want to have a renewed sense of purpose and for my hope and excitement in Christ to multiply times a thousand.  A big goal for this year is to stop thinking so hard about how I'm representing myself but instead how I'm representing Christ and the gospel.  In no way do I take this lightly and want this to sound like it's a piece of cake to do this.  While it is a joy and is such an honor that God entrusts us with His message, it's not easy to represent Him well when life is hard.  And, while our pictures are cute and everyone is usually smiling, life can be pretty hard at times.  I guess that's where my prayer and goal come into play, though, isn't it?  If I'm going to have a renewed vision, that means looking beyond the hard and looking ahead at Christ and His plan for me instead.

I'm still in a place where I want to represent Jesus well.  I was reading through my journal this morning and this time last year I was noting how I was allowing the outside world to have such a strong influence in my life, particularly social media.  My prayer was that I would weed out the things that brought me down.  I've done this, disconnecting from Facebook and Instagram so that I wouldn't be constantly comparing with those around me.  This has helped me immensely in both my contentment and my gratitude for what I've been given.

Still, we're in a huge season of transition, not knowing at all what is to come for our family.  This is scary and this fear robs me of faith in Christ.  Will we be okay?  Will He really provide for all of our needs?  Why would He care about these small things when there are huge things happening in the world - Aleppo comes to mind right away.  There is true suffering all around us, and I'm seeing the words of the Caedmon Call song to be true in my life right now - "My faith is like shifting sand, changed by every wave, my faith is like shifting sand so I stand on grace."  Grace.  That's the point of it, right?  That God's grace covers all of the things I deem so insignificant?  That His grace runs deeper and further than I could possibly imagine?  It's through His grace that my shifting-sands-faith is still in tact.  It's through His grace that people show up - Christmas cookies made, meaningful cards given, texts checking in.

I hear it whispered through these little things.

I'm here.  I care.

And then I remember - if He works through little things, He cares about them too.

And He's carrying us.

So, this year, while my prayer is still to have renewed vision, it's not as much about what I can do - I'm so good at wanting my efforts to be what matters.  But what's most important is what He can do and what He is already doing.  That's where I want my vision renewed - to see clearly that He is here.
He is Immanuel.  God with us.  And I need to cling to that truth more than anything right now.

How grateful I am for his grace and that it's with me as I enter this new year and new season of life.

August Little Things

This post should actually be called, "All the things that happened in August crammed together!"  For the next couple of posts, I'm playing catch up because these last few months have gotten away from me again.  I am in this space of realizing that blogging our family moments brings life to me, but that life moves so quickly when I'm in school, I have trouble keeping up with it.  Until I figure out how to juggle both of these, I'll probably have these really long posts!

So here we go...

We started out the month watching Hayden cheer in the Dousman Derby Days parade.  She took a Pom Pizzazz class in summer school and totally knocked it out of the park!

Maurah took over my camera and got some other great shots of the day:

The temps were SO high and whoever was in charge of the parade placed these poor girls at the very end of it with no water stops along the way...not the best planning, but these red-cheeked cuties were still smiling and cheering the whole way through!

Easily the best part of the parade.

Cole and I got to have an at-home movie date, just the two of us.  I'm soaking up time with this guy as the days are go by more and more quickly and I know he'll be grown and gone before I know it.  Love moments like these with him.

I had the kids take their obligatory photo after registering for school:

After registration, I wanted to surprise them with an end-of-summer mystery trip.  Little did I know that this mystery trip was almost a two-hour drive one way!  I wasn't so sure they would be thrilled with the location once we got there, but we were all pleasantly surprised!  We went to Bookworm Gardens in Sheboygan.  It has these beautifully manicured gardens with storybook scenery woven all the way throughout.  The kids loved exploring each of the stories they've grown up reading!

The Giving Tree stands front and center of the gardens, welcoming everyone who passes it by.

Maurah made a stop to Pooh's house:

The kids got to hang out in the Magic Treehouse, favorite first chapter books of theirs.

Laina made some pizzas with Curious George:

And Maurah and Hayden visited Mr. McGregor's garden:

My very favorite was the Charlotte's Web barn.  The attention to detail throughout these gardens was extraordinary.

Inside of the barn, Maurah found a typewriter to become a part of Click, Clack, Moo, Cows that Type.

We sat in a beautiful memory garden to take a rest.  Again, the thought and detail was so beautiful.

I loved the idea of books being etched to remember and thank the people who contributed to this garden or in other parts of the community.

This is Laina's Mona Lisa pose, in case you were wondering!

The girls loved getting to match their feet to the ballet positions they found from the book Degas and the Little Dancer.

We ended our trip at the gardens by taking turns driving the Magic Schoolbus.  The best part was opening and closing the door to head off on a crazy adventure!

Clearly, from my ridiculous amount of photos from this day, the two-hour trip was definitely worth it.  It was so fun watching these kids get excited about something that wasn't a screen and wasn't a huge expense (did I mention the gardens are free?!?).  It reminded me of going to visit the Frederick Meijer Gardens with my grandparents when I was their age, only this was even more kid-friendly.  Great memories to be had for sure!

Back on the homefront...

Maurah and Hayden got super crafty with their sewing machines.  Maurah made a glasses case and Hayden sewed a bookmark and a pillow.  So fun to watch these girls tap into their inner creativity.

August was filled with football camp for Cole.  Every day, he had two hours of practice!  This was a huge commitment like we had never had before with the kids and their activities, but it turned out to be a great experience.

We sure do love that #88!

Because of Cole's football camp, he wasn't able to do Spring Hill's camp this year.  But the girls did, and absolutely loved it!

Our lifegroup got to host the Spring Hill counselors for dinner again this year.  Our kids love getting to see their counselors outside of camp and get extra time swimming and playing with them!  Many of these counselors are college students who give up their summer to love and serve kids like mine.  I'm so thankful for the impact they make in our kids' lives in such a short amount of time!

I took a trip to Minnesota for the Influence Conference and had an AMAZING time with these AMAZING ladies.  We had such rich conversation from the beginning to the end and I'm still pondering some of the things we talked about.  So thankful to have such strong beauty in my life!

We had a garage sale to raise money for Cole's trip to Nature's Classroom this fall.  Our little helpers are the cutest!

I took two online math courses over the summer which practically killed me, and no, I'm not being dramatic.  ;)  But I had some helpers along the way so that gave me some smiles throughout...

Jake preached his last sermon at Westbrook Church.  I have so much to say about that, but the emotions are still raw and the grief is still deep, so I'll just leave this photo here and say that I'm glad I had the forethought to take a picture.  

In the midst of our sadness, some friends had fostered some puppies.  We decided that puppy therapy was just the thing to bring extra joy to our lives, and we were right!

Picnic lunches are always more exciting, especially when you get ice cream sandwiches!

We had a visit from some of our very favorite people!  The Krygiers and Bakkers came and hung with us for a day.  Getting together with them is always like being with family.  This was right before DJ took a job to work with the Toronto Raptors, so we soaked up each moment we could before they moved.  Love these guys so much!

On top of football, Cole also had band camp.  His choice of instrument was the trumpet, which we were told by a babysitter makes sense - she said all the boys who play trumpet in the band are cool and cute.  Ha!  Imagine how red Cole got when she teased him about that!

Jake and I took the kids to an authentic Mexican restaurant where we devoured our food and the kids scoffed at it.  Slowly but surely, we're going to make them see how awesome REAL ethnic food is!  At least Maurah was willing to smile for a pic even though she thought her lunch was torturous!

Our family is a marketer's dream - we HAD to buy Ecto Cooler, one of Jake's and my favorite treats from when we were kids.  Unlike Spaghetti-Os, this childhood treat was favored by all!

The girls wanted to have a garage sale to raise money for a new house.  Their sweetness and creativity in setting this up made my heart melt.  Unfortunately, we live on a street that isn't conducive to garage sales, so we brought all of these things back inside.  Still, their hearts made all of this worth it, more than any money made from a sale possibly could.

A trip to the doctor's isn't complete without getting to wear these "fun masks," especially when you're not sick!  Ha!  It's the little things, right?

We had our back-to-school block party and these guys are the kings of the school this year - 5th graders!

And just like that, summer was over!  We had just about the best summer to date this year.  As I reflect and write about this in the cold month of December, I'm already yearning for the adventures we'll have this next summer!

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...