Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

We all make them, right? We want to be thinner, eat healthier, spend less, save more, yadda yadda yadda. This week has been a tough week for me. There has been some intense stirring going on in my heart and I am quite certain God is working on me and though I have to admit it frightens me a little, I am also excited, because I know His plans for me are good!

I have spent some time reflecting on the past year and what I hope for the future and I have to say that we have been immensely blessed in 2010. We have had our struggles but He has brought us through each and every one a little stronger, a little more refined and a little more focused on Him. I have to say, He has our attention. I spent a lot of time praying in 2010 for Him to draw near, for a hunger for him. In the days I carried Asher, His presence was tangible. I could feel his hand upon me and I cannot even describe the peace that came with his presence. I had missed it so much and was honestly a little afraid that the only way to feel it was to suffer so intensely. I have to say that in the past several months I have had a deeper hunger and thirst for His Word and His presence. I had no idea just praying for it could bring it. ;)

We have spent 2010 teaching our kids and learning from them. We have seen growth as individuals and as a family. Our love for God has intensified as has our desire to do His will. We have stepped out of our comfort zone and loved more deeply, given more, and forgiven more freely. Words can't even begin to tell you how each and every time we have acted in obedience, the Lord has returned to us an incredible blessing that leaves us gasping for air.

It is my hope that in the coming year that we can use our time to glorify Him even more. That we can be His hands and feet and get out there and do the things He would have us do. We want to give our whole lives to him, not in part, the whole thing. Our time is no longer our own. When we chose to give our lives to Him that meant ALL of it. My intention this year is to live with such intentionality that He can be seen in and through me. I resolve to wake up each morning (early) and give it all over to Him each and every day, I pray to keep an open heart so that I can go wherever he leads, even when it seems nuts and even when I don't want to.

"LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered-how fleeting my life is. Psalm 39:4

I want to live my life focused on Heaven and not on this earth. I want my time here to reflect Him. I want my kids to see how amazing life is when He is given the trust and honor He so fully deserves. I want them to know the JOY of giving, even when it makes thing very uncomfortable. I want them to know that He will ALWAYS provide for their needs even when all hope seems lost.

I have a feeling this coming year is going to hold some big things for the Boltes as we follow hard after Him. I am sure it will be a year of ups and downs, highs and lows and grief and joy. I know he will push us to our limits and grow us a little more, I pray we are able to love even more, give even more and seek Him in all we do. I pray that our lives are a reflection of Him. I don't know if we will be thinner or if we will exercise more, but I know we are here and we are feeling a stirring in our hearts, He is calling and we are wrapping our minds around what it is he is asking and praying for his guidance. Stay tuned...he isn't done with us yet. ;)

Job 42:2 "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted."

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, season’s greetings and “Police Mommy Dad” to you all, and hope you are enjoying the Christmas “spearment.” There are so many of you that surely we’ll miss out on many opportunities to visit and catch up with you over the holidays. The time and energy being increasingly drained from our families is certainly stressful, especially at this time of year. In fact, if by chance you had the opportunity to come visit our house and family recently, you would’ve quickly realized just how stressful and confining life can get, and in order to survive here, there are certain things you just can’t do. CAN’T… I mean, if you do, your life will be pained in some way.
For instance, you can’t call Luke “Lucas” or Ben “Benjamin,” and certainly don’t use his middle name (Oliver) or he’ll just go nuts. You can’t eat a warm meal, eat breakfast before lunch, or drink warm coffee. You can’t get Ben to finish any meal in less than an hour, go more than an hour without wiping a behind, wipe your own without an audience, and can’t help but be glad you aren’t in a public restroom, because inevitably every time you are you must say “Shhhhhh, nobody wants to know that.”
You can’t sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” without the proper intro (you know Dasher and Dancer and…), can’t say “stupid,” “dumb” or “shut-up.” However you can say “dang it,” but then so will Hope so just don’t. You can’t tell Hope to sit, ‘cause when she repeats that it just sounds very in appropriate, and it just so happens that she likes to say “sit” the most in the grocery store. You can’t get though a sentence… what was I saying?... without saying “STOP, STOP” or “NO, NO.” You also can’t say things only once, know why you ever ask anyone to do anything, or understand how a child’s mind works.
You can’t get a full night’s sleep, get to sleep in, watch anything on TV but PBSkids, Nick Jr. or Disney Channel until after 5:00 pm. You can’t watch any show or movie from start to finish, fold laundry only once, or get your clothes put into drawers before you need to change the ones you are wearing because of snot, spills or puke (that is not your own.) You can’t leave the house without hearing “I want to stay home!” or come home without hearing “I don’t want to go home!”
You can’t get through bedtime without wondering to yourself “could they go one more day without a bath?” You can’t tell anybody to do anything without having them whine grunt, growl, stomp around or ignore you. You can’t let Luke go first, keep the floor clean, the toilet seat dry or the table un-sticky. Can’t talk on the phone, well I suppose you could, but you won’t hear what the person on the other end has to say back. Regardless you likely won’t find the phone anyhow… or the remotes, the keys, wallet, or pretty much anything within 3 feet of the floor. And although Hope has developed quite a vocabulary, her memory is lacking… she can’t remember where she leaves anything. However, walk around long enough in the dark and you’ll find it… or at least your barefoot will… ouch!
Anyhow, you can’t keep any electronic devices with knobs, buttons, lights, cords, or anything breakable in good working condition, unless it is a toddler toy… those are all in mint condition. You can’t keep smudges off the windows, TV or appliances. You can’t argue with a 4 year old, even about simple things like what day of the week it is… well again, you can, but there are better things you can do with your time like getting a root canal. Oh yeah, you can’t keep teeth in a 1st Grader either… or wake him up in time for school… or get him to sleep in on the weekend. You can’t know what he did in school that day, help him with his homework (he knows everything) or know whether or not he actually ate his lunch. Can’t get him to play outside, yet can’t keep him from running, bouncing and climbing all over the house either.
You can’t sit down, open the door all the way, think, read, cry, be afraid, ask for help, concentrate, have a conversation, take a normal vacation, make sense, get sick, have pillows on the couch or rugs on the floor. You can’t remember if you are repeating yourself, and you can’t expect anyone else to ever want to visit this house let alone want to babysit the kids.
But…if you were crazy enough, brave enough and open-minded enough and actually did, then you would also know that you can’t enter this home and not be THANKFUL! You can’t help but feel loved. You can’t resist laughing, sometimes until you cry or pee (both of which I said you can’t do, but will do inadvertently.) You can’t ignore the Christmas spirit, or deny that children can know about Jesus… who he is and what he has done… sometimes even better than adults. You can’t help but want to do everything in your power to share this undeserving gift with everyone. In fact, this may be one of the most unjust situations in this world… that so many families are being denied a love that can be so freely given… our house is full to the brim with His blessings and love and we have to do better at sharing that gift with the world.
May you and your neighbors be blessed in 2011 and receive God’s goodness, and may we all become the hands and feet to go out and deliver it.

Much Love,
The Bolte Family
Howard, Kristy, Luke, Ben, and Hope
Isaac and Asher, always in our hearts

Monday, December 20, 2010

So, here in the Bolte house we are SUPER excited for Christmas. This was our recent attempt at Christmas Card photos. :) You can see that any attempt to get a photo of all three children at once just turns into chaos. So this is a REAL life photo.

The Advent Challenge has been going GREAT and we are astounded at the understanding our children have shown about the TRUE meaning of Christmas. We have done lots of fun things, like paying for a stranger's dinner, adopting another family for Christmas, picked out gifts through World Vision, gone Christmas caroling at local nursing homes, made bird feeders, and lots of other super fun things...they are learning how GREAT it feels to give and are experiencing true joy!

I also have to say that in our Advent season we have been equally blessed, we have had a couple of visits from "Santa" and we just stand in awe at how the Lord provides for His people.

We did battle perhaps the WORST case of the stomach flu ever and are still feeling some ill effects. ALL five of us went down within the same three days and it wasn't a 24 hour kind of thing...I may never catch up on laundry. :)

Tomorrow is Howard's birthday and we are excited and planning a fun time for him providing everyone is well!

How is your holiday season going?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

He REALLY does provide

I am not even sure I have the words to write this post but I am going to give it a shot. Prior to this Christmas season, I had been praying, daily, for the Lord to draw near. For Him to show himself as clearly and tangibly as he did for my family when I was pregnant with Asher. I feel like when it comes to the REALLY tough stuff and the tragic areas of our life, He has been so visible, but sometimes I REALLY struggle more with the daily stuff. So, I miss that closeness, and wasn't sure how to get it back. SO, I have been praying.

We started the Advent Challenge because of a STRONG desire to focus on GIVING this holiday season and teaching our kids the REAL joy that comes from loving others. We have been praying to be so filled with God's love that it also POURS out of us, overflowing like a tidal wave to those around us. Each night we have focused on giving and the true meaning of Christmas and I can tell you that my heart has never felt such joy and excitement for the Christmas season. I am brought to tears DAILY as I see God working. His hand is upon our family and He is so good.

Tuesday, I had a tough day. I woke up in kind of a funk and realized Howard had a snow day. I was glad that I would have some help around here. Then he decided it would be best if he went to work with his dad (who does construction) to earn a little extra money since we are behind on some bills due to a HUGE dental bill from the kids that insurance didn't cover. So off he went, and here I sat...feeling sorry for myself asking God why we have to struggle so much. I got the kids their breakfast and sat down myself with my daily devotional. My verse for the day was this:

"You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink. This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord; He will also hand Moab over to you." 2 Kings 3:17-18

The devotional went on to talk about how often time to human reason, what God is about to do seems impossible, but that nothing is too difficult for Him. I closed the book (Streams in the Desert, the BEST devotional ever) and got the bill basket to write out a few bills. There just wasn't enough money. I called and used phone banking to balance our checking account and not only was there not nearly enough money for the bills, but there was nothing left to get the rest of the Christmas stuff we wanted to get for the kids. I sighed, cried, and cleaned up breakfast.

Once I got the kids working on a project I sat down again, determined to make SOME type of progress in our finances. We have been trying SOOOO hard...committing ourselves to getting us out of debt and cutting ALL extras, and yet it seems like we are NO farther ahead. The previous verse came back into my head and I again sat down to check our checkbook.

This is where I began to sob. This time when I checked the account there was more money, I am NOT EVEN KIDDING. I tried and tried to figure out where this extra money had come from. It didn't say. So I checked my email and found that one of the most precious people I know had been prompted that morning to deposit money into my paypal account, simply to bless us. Words could not even begin to thank her for the hope she gave to me that morning. I have no idea why I am continually surprised when God comes through. He IS true to His word. He is, and yet I was still stunned. He is so good. We have been so blessed. This is just ONE story of how he is working through our family this week...there are more...I have seriously been brought to tears (not too hard I know) daily, sometimes multiple times when I see how he is answering our prayers and drawing near.

I feel like the more we give and focus on giving, the more loved WE feel. The more JOY He brings into our lives, I am just overwhelmed right now with gratitude, joy and peace. I haven't felt this in quite sometime and it is a welcome change. I had no idea that just praying for Him to draw near would prove so powerful or that giving would give US so much joy.

How is the Advent Challenge going for you...perhaps tonight, you should pray for Him to draw near...I am telling you, you won't be sorry. He is here...right here and he REALLY does make the impossible possible.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

How's it Going?

We are TEN days in to Advent. I cannot tell you how blessed we have been thus far by the Advent Challenge. I have been brought to tear more times than I can count. Friday night our task was to help someone else decorate for Christmas. We spent the afternoon decorating a couple of wreaths and stockings and delivered them secretively to my Dad's Garage. He is a mechanic, and kind of a bah-humbug. Great guy, just not so jolly! ;) We were hoping to brighten his day and the kids just LOVED the secret operation.

Saturday was probably our best day so far. Our symbol was "lips" which meant we were to use our words to make others smile and we were to encourage others. Howard was working so I loaded up the kids and we stopped at a new, FABULOUS, local bakery and we picked up some cinnamon rolls and made deliveries to some folks we knew could use the "pick me up". We then spent the afternoon with my grandma. Since my grandpa died, she gets lonely and just LOVES having us spend time with her. We could be there for 12 hours and she still will say "I don't know why you have to leave so soon." I LOVE LOVE LOVE her so much and thank God for every day I get with her. She raised my sister and me and really, there isn't a greater lady on earth.

Once we left her house it was really beginning to snow. We got home and ate dinner and then we sat at the table and made wreaths from willow tree branches. They were SO cute. I am hoping to get a few pictures up soon. Then, we bundled EVERYONE up and headed to a local grocery store to hand out wreaths and wish folks a Merry Christmas. It was COLD, and the kids had a BLAST! When Howard suggested this, I thought he was insane. I LOVE snow and cold, from inside my warm home. I am not a fan of being out in it.

I was leery of how his was going to go down as Luke is typically PAINFULLY shy. It was SO awesome to see the kids so excited and making others smile. I will also say that they got a lesson in rejection. I would guess that about fifty percent of people they approached to wish a Merry Christmas and offer a wreath, told them no. Sometimes nicely, sometimes, not so much. We pretty much stunned people I think. One lady even looked at me and said, "Seriously? You are standing out here in the freezing cold with your children to wish strangers a Merry Christmas?" YEP.

So, some people scoffed and scowled and walked away and others were genuinely touched by the boys. Either way...they were AWESOME.

So, how is it going for you?

"Having faith often means doing what others see as crazy. Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers." - Francis Chan

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas Joy

Our Advent thus far:

Seriously, I would do just about anything to get a picture of ALL three kids looking semi happy AT the camera.

Our Nativity

A visit to Kraynak's to see all the fun trees!

Sibling love while waiting in line to see the trees

Decorating the tree!

I have to be honest. I am not sure I have EVER been so excited and looking forward to Christmas. The past several years have been tough and though we are thankful and always love to celebrate Christmas, it seems that in the past few years, just getting the tree up has been a stretch.

This year I feel different somehow. I guess partly because through all of the trials we have endured, I have SEEN the hand of God moving in our lives. I know that it is because of Him that we are still standing. Part of me is very thankful that Isaac and Asher will never have to endure these trials and part of me is very excited that we get to train Luke, Ben and Hope in the way they should go. We pray daily for them to have a heart for Jesus so that when they DO come up against the tough stuff, when the rubber meets the road, they will have a solid rock on which to stand.

It excites me to get my kids excited for Jesus. I love to see the wonder and joy in their eyes as we decorate, sing, and prepare for Jesus' birthday. I just want to bottle this time up and keep it forever. Tonight for school, Luke had to make a Christmas list for Santa. In our house we don't put a whole lot of focus on Santa. We surely don't believe there is anything wrong with Santa. We do go sit on his lap and we so feed reindeer and all that jazz, but we don't really do the whole, if you are good you get gifts thing. We just feel it reinforces the wrong points of Christmas. We don't get gifts because we deserve them. We get them even when we don't. But that is just our take. I digress. So Luke sat down to write his letter. This is what he wrote:

Dear Santa,

You are a good giver. Christmas is about giving, so I think you should pick out what you want to give me and I will like whatever it is.

Luke Bolte

I looked at his paper and I said, wow, Luke. There isn't one thing you want to write on that list? And he just said that there were things he wanted but if Christmas was about giving he shouldn't tell people what they should get him.


Hadn't thought about that. He really does inspire me. He makes me want to do better. He makes me want to be intentional.

Now, Ben on the other hand, sat down with Howard to write his letter and he told Howard, he likes Santa because he brings presents and that if he didn't bring presents he wouldn't like him because he is kinda creepy. :) (also maybe a little true), but we have work to do with him none the less.

So, as I sit here listening to Hope scream her little lungs out because for the fiftieth time today (and it isn't even 9 am) I have told her she cannot touch or disassemble the Christmas tree, I am looking forward to Christmas (not because we get to take the tree down and this struggle will end) because we get to teach our kids about the GIFT we were given in Jesus. Because we can share with them that it is by GRACE alone that they are saved. There is NOTHING they can do to make God love them less and there is NOTHING they can do to make God love them more. Because we get to teach them the JOY of giving and that because God loves us so much and gives us so much we are called to GIVE to others, and that giving brings joy to everyone.

This is the good stuff folks. This is what it is all about. We get to do this. It is such a privilege. God chose us to shepherd these kids and I am totally excited to get the opportunity. Sure, I am still struggling with the idea that I won't get to do that for Isaac and Asher, but then again. They don't need me. They have EVERYTHING they need, and I have the hope that one day our family will be whole.

SO...all that said...we have come to the end of the "decorating days" on our "Advent Challenge" calendar. Now begins the giving. Here are the symbols on our calendar this week.

Thursday -book - read the Christmas story from the Bible
Friday - wreath- help someone else decorate
Saturday - lips - use our words carefully and kindly. Say nice things.
Sunday - bird - do something for nature
Monday - music note - sing Christmas carols with the family and have family worship
Tuesday - apple - donate food, buy someone's groceries, dinner etc.
Wednesday - table - eat and have fellowship with others

Tell are you preparing for Jesus' birthday? Are you joining in on the "Advent Challenge"? I have gotten a few links from others who are participating and blogging about their experience. I will share those with you this weekend! :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

So, are you in?

Hey Everyone! I am so excited about all of the positive feedback on the "Advent Challenge"! You guys are awesome! I wanted to say that I will be updating frequently (I hope) on what we are doing, what order we have our blocks in and how things are going!

I also wanted to add that many of you have asked about us selling a version of our calendar and right now since we are already into Advent we don't have time, but you can go here and print a FREE Advent calendar! I have gotten links from a few of you who are participating and posting on your blogs. If you want to share please let me know! I am going to post a list of others who are doing this so we can see the impact GIVING has! :)

or here is an idea from Stacy on using an Advent Calendar you ALREADY have. :) I LOVE IT!

We, like some of you, already have an advent calendar that my mom bought us years ago, It is a tree and each day you place a velcro ornament on the tree. My kids love it. No theme.....just simple.

So love your calendar and the idea behind it! Awesome....for those of us who already have an advent's the idea....take the symbols and put them on an index card with the act of giving written out on the other side of the card. Put the cards (or pieces of papaer etc.) into a bag/container. Each day when you mark off that day, have the kids pick from the bag...whatever they pick, that is what the family does as a whole for that day. Each day becomes a new theme day. It is like "casting lots" you are leaving it up to God to determine what you will do each day. :)

We are going to start that today! Thanks Kristy for spurring us all on to press in on the true meaning of Christmas and putting others before ourselves.

Much love in Christ,

Now let's get to work! Get out there and give your hearts out and PLEASE come back and share your stories!

Love and Blessings to all of you!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent Challenge

Over the weekend, we began preparations for the Christmas Season. I decided this would be the year that I learn to sew and went and got fabric to make stockings for each of us. A broken needle, a bloody finger, countless removal of seams, and many tears later, I emerged from my room to find my husband sitting at the table painting wooden blocks.

We had been talking about Advent calendars and how we just had never really found the "right" one. I mean there are Lego Advent Calendars, Playmobil Advent Calendars, Barbie Advent Calendars, etc. Of course commercialism at its' finest. The thing is, that all of these calendars focused on the kids receiving. We are trying SO hard to teach our kids that it is FAR more rewarding to GIVE. We buy each kids three or four gifts for Christmas and try to focus on the JOY in giving to and loving others. In a world that is obsessed with give me NOW, we wanted to focus on the opposite.

My amazing husband came up with this Advent Calendar and I am THRILLED to see how it turns out. Seriously, he is awesome like this. This Advent calendar focuses on GIVING and the TRUE meaning of Christmas. Preparing our hearts for the birth of Jesus. So here is what he came up with:


So, how it works is that each day we turn over one of the blocks...(you could definitely make this out of paper). Whatever symbol is on it, is what you do for that day.

Hand = give someone a helping hand, shovel a driveway, help someone load groceries, etc.

Pencil = Write someone a letter, could be someone you've lost touch with, a soldier, grandma, etc.

Apple = Donate food, buy someone's groceries or dinner, donate money to the food pantry, etc.

Christmas Tree = Decorate and prepare your home for the season

Table = have dinner with someone else, at a restaurant or in your home. Just have a meal and fellowship.

Dollar Sign = Donate money. Hand someone a ten dollar bill unexpectedly, give to the needy, send someone you know is struggling a few dollars.

Cross = pray. Set aside time and pray. Pray for your family, for others, for the hurting, for the lost, etc.

Smiley Face = Do something to make someone smile. Visit a nursing home, take a meal to someone who is hurting, deliver blankets to a NICU.

Don't Sign = Try NOT to do something all day. Don't swear, yell, pick your nose, jump on the couch, speed, or even fast.

Book = Read the Christmas Story from the Bible

Wreath = Help someone else decorate their home. Take them a wreath, stockings, help hang lights, spread the Christmas cheer!

Lips = (no don't go kissing random people, it is cold and flu season people) :) Say a kind word. Use your words wisely and wish people a Merry Christmas.

Bird = Do something for nature. Make a bird feeder, pick up trash, recycle.

Music Note = Sing Christmas Carols with your family

So, there you have it, an Advent of GIVING. Let's take some time and prepare our hearts for what Christmas is REALLY about. Let's get out and act like Christ...not just Christians. Who's in!? We'd love to have you join us and share your stories and pictures, I can share them here or you are welcome to link to your own blog. Let me know! I know we are already four days in, but the first whole week is decorating...most of you have already started that...right? ;)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Luke and Ben on Thanksgiving

Tuesday at our house was tough. I was sick. I cannot remember the last time I had a fever but I had a fever, was achy, sore throat...awful. I even called my "Daddy" to come to my rescue with Ramen Noodles, Popsicles, and Ginger Ale. (And I think he will come to my rescue whenever he can for as long as he lives, and he will do it happily) Anyway, I was sick. It was maybe the sickest I had been since having kids and taking care of Ben and Hope was proving to be a challenge all day when I just wanted to lie down. Once dinner was over I went to the couch to crash and let Howard take over when Luke came up to me. We had THIS conversation:

Luke: Mom, tomorrow is my Thanksgiving skit at school and I need to wear Dad's socks.

Me: Why on earth would you wear your Dad's socks?

Luke: To pull them up over my pants, of course. You know, I am going to be a pilgrim.

Me: Right. Okay. Well will your tball tube socks work?

Luke: Yes. And Mom? I was also thinking, don't you think that if I just wear socks up over my jeans and a regular shirt, that is being disrespectful to the pilgrims?

Me: Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Luke: Well, I think it is. I think we can do better. Can't we mom? Shouldn't we dress me like a real pilgrim to show respect for them?

Me: Uh.Um.Well. I guess. What do you mean?

Luke: I know you will come up with something mom, but I need black and buckles and a collar.

Me: Sigh

I got up off the couch turned on the sewing machine, dug through outgrown sweatpants, turned a Spiderman Tshirt inside out, and the above picture is what we got. Not perfect, but for thrown together right before bedime...not too bad either. I mean, we wouldn't want to disrespect pilgrims. :)

NOW for a Ben Story:

This morning, Howard took Luke to do man things and Ben, Hope and I snuggled, ate chocolate cake (don't judge. Bill Cosby says it is okay. Eggs, milk, flour...all breakfast stuff) and watched the Thanksgiving Parade. Ben put Luke's Pilgrim hat on and this was OUR conversation:

Ben: Mom, I don't get Thanksgiving, we should ALWAYS be thankful right?

Me: Yes, What don't you get?

Ben: Well, did Pilgrims really wear hats like this?

Me: Yes

Ben: How do you know? Have you ever SEEN a Pilgrim. I have not seen a Pilgrim and I think if I saw someone wearing a hat like this I would remember. Are they extinct or what?

Me: Um, well, I guess you could say that.

Ben: AND another thing...why are we watching boys wearing tutus on TV? (during a performance on ABC during the parade, it was strange) Thanksgiving is weird. When are we having turkey?

As for Hope...she could have eaten her weight in Pumpkin Pie today...she IS her mother's daughter.

AND in other exciting news, Luke lost his third tooth today! He was SO excited. He went to bed concerned that the Tooth Fairy might now work holidays! :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Yesterday was a rough day for me. Sometimes it still, even years later catches me completely off guard. I woke up kind of in a fog and couldn't snap out so I sat down to blog and decided to go back and reread stuff I had written years ago and then it hit me. November 20th, was the date in 2007 that we got Asher's prognosis. It was the day that we knew something was terribly wrong. It was the day that we were counseled to end his life. It was the day that my broken heart, once again shattered into a million pieces.

I think back to those days and though I have never been more broken in my life, I have also never felt the hand of God in a more tangible way. The body of Christ did come alongside us and we were loved and supported like never before. As hard as those days were, I sometimes miss those days. Though it hurt terribly, things were crystal clear. I am so very thankful that God gave us Asher. I am so grateful for the grace and strength the gave us as we walked a journey we never could have fathomed. I miss my boys, but some days I have to be honest, it makes my heart happy that they will never know the pains and heartache of this world. They are rejoicing at the side of our Father and have NO worries. They are worshiping and joyful. My heart physically aches, but I am grateful.

The day got harder still when we went to have a family photo taken for our Church Directory. For some reason I always think I can get through a family photo without losing my mind and the fact remains that I cannot. When two someones are missing, it just doesn't feel right. I did ok, and held myself together but am not proud to say that I was anxious, irritable and snippy with my family all afternoon.

This time of year is so tough. So many reminders and so much wondering what might have been. The holidays especially make my heart hurt. I write today asking that as we approach the holiday season that you would join me in praying for families who are missing special someones. I pray that we can all choose joy and find peace in knowing He is sovereign over it all.

I want to leave you with a few pictures of my three earthly kiddos from before our family pictures yesterday. The photographer got a great shot of the three cuties, but at 32.00 for ONE picture, we just couldn't go there. So here is what I got! :)

I am pretty sure this wasn't the finger she wanted to show me at this point. :)

She is just getting too big!

Sibling Love

CUTE! Of course I could be biased. :)


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Child's Heart

Two weeks ago, Luke had some issues on the bus. Two boys he sits with were teasing him and then he ended up getting punched by each of them. Luke is a shy kid. He told them to stop, and then just sat and cried. Thankfully we have a wonderful bus driver and she saw everything and took care of things. I had contacted the school, but they were already in the process of taking care of the issue...have I told you how much I LOVE our little community school? It is the best.

Bullying is something that is taken very seriously today as it should be. To ensure Luke knew how to deal with things, Howard and I had a talk with him about how proud we were of him that he did not lash out back at the boys who hit him. We also reminded him that it was okay to stand up for himself, and to tell an adult if it doesn't stop. We then had a talk about loving your enemies. We dug out the Bible, Howard talked of Abraham Lincoln and the idea that to get rid of enemies you should make them your friend.

Which brings me to today. There was a book fair at Luke's school and it was the day he got to buy something. We have a TON of books since Howard and I are both teachers and we have great family and friends who have really taken care of our kids in this area...PLUS we visit our local library regularly. SO when he asked for money, of which we have VERY little, I was torn. After talking with Howard, we decided we would give Luke 10 dollars, with one stipulation. He was NOT allowed to spend it on himself, his family, or his best friends all of which we know have books a plenty.

I volunteer at his school on Wednesdays so while I was there today I asked if he had thought of how he would spend his money. He smiled and nodded. I asked if he wanted to share it with me...he did. He told me the names of the very two boys who had been mean to him on the bus. He beamed with pride as I hugged him and got teary. Today I am thanking God for that boy...he makes ME want to do better. He gets it.

Christmas Shopping

In light of the recent "Amazon" boycott, I have been forced to think outside the box with the smiley on it for my Christmas shopping as I have found shopping from my computer to be much easier than trying to find a sitter for three kids or trying to lug them along. I have written before but we don't buy A LOT for Christmas, we do three gifts per kid and one family gift and this year CSN Stores has become my go to for all of my holiday shopping. They have everything from extra tall bar stools to cloth diapers, to kitchen appliances.

Shipping is free on many items and also on all orders over 69 dollars! I have recently received my first order from CSN and could not be happier with the products! I highly recommend checking them out...they seriously carry just about EVERYTHING you could imagine.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Joy...It's A Choice

"you are to rejoice before the LORD your God in everything you put your hand to." Deuteronomy 12:18

Before you read this post and want to punch me in the face..."hear" me out...there was a time that the title of this post probably would have had me clicking that little "X" in the top right corner of the screen too.

I had a conversation once with someone close to me who confessed that he had not ever felt "joy". He was baffled by it as he is someone who prays fervently and reads his Bible regularly. I would even go so far as to say he has a great relationship with the Lord. This conversation has stuck in my head for a long time now and I just keep rehashing the conversation. I really feel that God is convicting me about joy, and choosing joy in ALL things."

First let's talk a minute about what joy is. Joy is much different from happiness...true joy is not dependent on circumstance or situation. It is a feeling of peace and rejoicing in the Lord EVEN in the face of some of the toughest stuff this life has to offer. Happiness is temporary, fleeting, it does depend on circumstance. Happiness is not bad, it is just not the same as joy.

After this conversation I thought long and hard about joy. I thought about times in my life when I felt the most "joyful" and here is what I have learned about joy. I believe that joy is a choice. Each day we can choose joy or we can choose to let the world around us determine the state of our heart. The times I have felt the most joy, have also been some of the hardest moments of my life. It is my experience that when we are experiencing hardship and the whole world is crashing down all around us, and we draw near to God, joy can be found even in the most heartbreaking of circumstances.

That is not to say that joy is easy to come by and that is not to say that joy means we put on a fake smile when things are hard and just pretend everything is fabulous. It means that we choose to believe that even when it all seems out of control, He is in control. It means that we choose to rejoice in knowing that NOTHING can separate us from the love of our savior. Times get tough, life is hard, but God is bigger than all of it and we can find peace in knowing that there is nothing in this world that happens that He cannot redeem for His glory. It is especially in these hard circumstances that we can be a testimony to His goodness by choosing joy.

The words "I will choose joy" are written in several places around my house. Throughout the day as I do some of the chores that are not my favorite, I look at those words and remind myself that joy is a choice. As I am wiping up the bathroom floor for the tenth time in a day, (seriously, we should do humanity a favor and teach boys to sit down to use the bathroom haha!)I am reminded to CHOOSE joy, as I pick up toys for the millionth time in a day I am reminded to CHOOSE joy, as I pick up dirty socks that somehow landed NEXT TO the hamper instead of inside, I am reminded to CHOOSE joy. We are to choose joy in the small things and in the big. This is all easier said than done. For me it is a constant battle.

I feel God constantly calling me to CHOOSE joy. I do feel joy. I just don't think joy is this magical thing that just takes over when you accept Christ. I think it is a choice. I think it is really hard sometimes, it is an act of obedience really. Choosing to let go of worry and choose joy even when you don't see a way out of your situation is hard, BUT if we truly trust Him at His word, it only makes sense. Rejoicing in Him in the good and the bad is what we are called to do.

So tell me, do you know what it is to feel joy? What are your thoughts on the topic?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Maximizing My Mornings

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about the "Maximize Your Morning Challenge" I set out determined to get up earlier to give myself a chance to start my day right and be a better servant to my family. I have gotten a few emails from some of you who have been wondering how that is going. is my experience thus far...

I started out gung ho. I was getting up an hour before Howard and an hour and a half before the kids. It was great to sit in the dark house and read and pray for each of my family members before they woke up. I then showered and got ready for the day and began chores, like laundry, mopping, etc, so that I had more time WITH the kids during the day. It made a difference. It made A HUGE difference. Each morning instead of greeting the kids as they woke me up feeling like they had "disturbed" me, I was able to greet them and tell them how happy I was to see them and how I had prayed for them in the morning. The mornings have been less rushed and there has been minimal barking of orders and frustration.

That said...we then fell into this germ infested cycle of sickness. Fevers, coughs, sore throats, headaches, and NO sleeping at night. The first week Luke had it, then Ben (who's turned into a double ear infection) and then Hope. Sometimes I was lucky to get an hour's sleep at night and I was running on empty. I did find that if I made myself get up anyway and get the day started it went better, but man it got hard.

We are finding ourselves on the upswing now (I think) and I am back to getting up early, for myself I have found that 6 am is my max. I just simply cannot function any earlier. I get up at 6 ish (sometimes 6:30 depending on the night and sometimes I just lie there and pray for the energy to get up for a good fifteen or twenty minutes.) and I sit down with my bible and coffee and read and then pray specifically for each of the kids and for Howard. Then Howard gets up and I get him coffee, greet him with coffee, a kiss and a pleasant attitude, and send him off having prayed for his day. Then Hope usually gets up shortly after and I go in and get her with a smile and she and I snuggle on the couch for a few minutes and then I get breakfast started for the kids. Ben typically wanders out shortly after hearing that Hope is up and I greet him with a hug, and kiss and tell him how happy I am to see him and I tell him how I prayed for him that morning. He grabs his blankie and curls up on the couch until breakfast is ready. Then I still have to go in and get Luke. He is just not a morning person. I go in and turn on the light and set his clothes out, then I climb into his bed and snuggle him and tell him how excited I am to see him this morning and I tell him how I prayed for him to have a wonderful day and to be a light to the world (or however I prayed that morning). It still takes a bit of prodding but he gets up, gets dressed and we all go have breakfast together. While the boys then read for a bit before Luke's bus comes I get dinner prepped and the dishwasher unloaded and reloaded and then I make sure to get a load of laundry going.

It HAS made a world of difference. AND while there are still mornings that I fail and things go back to chaotic, I remind myself that tomorrow is a new day and we
move on. Having morning time to yourself with little ones who occasionally wake up before they are supposed to has been the most difficult part for me. I would LOVE any tips you have on this! :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

My Pumpkins

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What About Halloween?

I have recently been asked by many people my thoughts, as a Christian, on Halloween. My feelings on the holiday are ever changing, but for this year, here is my attempt at putting it into words. Growing up, we ALWAYS celebrated Halloween. My mom was into making us homemade costumes and decking the house out like Martha Stewart Magazine. Pretty much everything was made from scratch and perfect. We trick or treated at our grandparents' houses and around our little neighborhood. It was always fun. Each Halloween my mom would tell me the story of my coming into the world. On Halloween 1978 (I will be celebrating my second sweet sixteen this year :) I'll save you the math) My dad was passing out candy while my mom frightened young children by playing the organ very loudly and unexpectedly. She thought it was hilarious to scare young children I guess. HA! Anyway, she laughed and laughed as she played until she began to feel contractions. She apparently had even scared her own kid! :) So they left for the hospital and I was born the next morning.

So, Halloween always held fond family memories and fun. I have never really taken issue with the holiday. I am not one who enjoys being scared, so I have never really gotten into that side of things, but we always dressed up as Rainbow Brite or something and went on our merry way to collect the ONLY candy we would eat all year. (My mom was a STICKLER when it came to our diet).

Even in college and as a young adult I always carved pumpkins and handed out candy. I never saw anything wrong with it. Then we had Luke and I LOVED dressing him up and going out. I have always known lots of families who don't celebrate and honestly, I think that is okay too. I think that when it comes to this holiday it is really more a matter of the heart. I know that many say that it is an evil holiday and I am sure it can be if that is what you make of it. I have never really seen it that way. We have always trick or treated...until this year.

This year, my seven year old, blue eyed wonder sat next to me with tears in his eyes. He had been asked to think about what he wanted to "be" for Halloween this year and we had decided he, Ben and Hope would be Luigi, Mario and Peach. I was so excited and we were getting things together. I could tell there was something he wanted to tell me so I turned to him and asked what was wrong.

He began to sob. He said he did not want to dress up or do trick or treat. He said that it makes his heart feel sad that so many people make death seem like something creepy and gross. He reminded me that he held two of his OWN brothers as they died. He reminded me that it was anything but creepy and gross.

I lost it, I began to bawl. I had NEVER thought of things from that perspective. I held him as he cried and told him that we did not have to do anything that made him feel like that. That if it felt wrong in his heart that I was proud of him for telling me about it and I assured him that he could skip whatever traditions he wanted to.

Now, while I was BLOWN away by his sensitivity to the issue, I also was a little heartbroken. I was SO looking forward to dressing them up and making home made costumes like my mom did. (I am not gonna lie, I was also looking forward to raiding the pumpkin buckets for Reese Cups).

Howard has always thought it was a stupid holiday. He has gone along with things because I have pushed the issue. I talked with him about it and he said that we should skip it if Luke was feeling that way. I talked with Ben and he agreed, he'd rather skip trick or treat.

I am still struggling a bit I guess. We are still carving pumpkins, roasting pumpkin seeds, and have plans to have donuts and cider with friends, but we will be finding a new tradition this year.

I am NOT in any way saying that I think that we should ALL quit celebrating Halloween. Honestly, my take on it is this...we know in our hearts what is right and what is wrong and if your heart clues you in that something feels wrong then, you shouldn't do it. To say though that ALL Christians should forgo Halloween is not for me to say. Honestly if it weren't for my son having trouble with it we'd likely still be doing it. I think Halloween has become a largely commercialized holiday like most others and am not thrilled with that aspect of it, but I think God is bigger than Halloween and I have no fear of it. I think people can pose a good argument for and against the holiday. So I guess I say, if you can go out and join in community and have fun, it is better to get out there and be Christ to others on Halloween than to hole up in your home and condemn those who do celebrate.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

EB Awareness

This week is EB Awareness week. EB is the abbreviation for Epidermolysis Bullosa, the genetic skin condition that Isaac and Hope were born with.

What is EB?

Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) is a rare genetic skin disease that causes the skin to be so fragile that the slightest friction can cause severe blistering—inside and outside the body. Today there is no cure. Severe forms of EB cause patients to live with constant pain and scarring. The worst forms of EB lead to eventual disfigurement, disability and often early death.There are many patients who are diagnosed with milder forms, which, while they can be extremely difficult to live with, are non-disfiguring and non-lethal.

The only treatment for EB is daily wound care and bandaging. The daily routine is a grueling, multi-faceted daily regimen. Caregivers, often parents or family members of EB children, must work in tandem with medical professionals to determine and administer different treatment methods to care for EB wounds.

With skin as fragile as a butterfly wing, EB patients are dubbed “Butterfly Children”. On the outside physical wounds prevent them from normal daily activities enjoyed by other children. On the inside, their dreams are the same as any child who loves, plays, learns and grows despite the pain and impediment caused by their disease. With the programs and services of Debra of America, EB’s Butterfly Children and their families find the support they so desperately need. Debra of America works to ensure that a life of struggle is also a life of hope for the 1 out of every 50,000 live births in the United States affected by EB.

This little blurb is from the Debra website. Debra is an AMAZING organization that is devoted to helping EB families and finding a cure for the disorder.

I would love it if you would take a moment and learn a bit about EB. There is such a lack of knowledge out there about it and awareness is the first step. If you then feel led to donate, PLEASE donate to Debra and help them find a cure.

I feel like I don't really have the experience to speak to what it is like to have a child with this condition since Hope's is so mild right now and I never really had the opportunity to care for Isaac, and I have fallen IN LOVE with several families through the blogosphere who are dealing with EB daily. I began searching for a community of people when Hope was diagnosed and honestly though I HATE EB, I can't imagine a more amazing group of people. The support is fantastic and these families live with a grace and love that most of us can't even fathom.

Some of the families I would love for you to get to know are:

Bella's family - Bella was just a few days older than Hope. I followed their blog intently because our girls were so close in age. I fell in love with each of them as they loved Bella the way no other family could have and as Bella endured a Bone Marrow Transplant in hopes of a cure. Bella went Home to Jesus this month and my heart just aches for her family.

Jonah's Family - Jonah was the first baby with EB that I read about. When I brought Hope home before she was diagnosed, many of you referred me to the Williams' blog. Jonah's mommy Patrice writes his blog and her writing is captivating. She is real, honest and has the best sense of humor. Jonah's blog gave me hope that even if things with Hope got worse, we would still find joy and learn how to best care for her. Jonah's mommy and daddy love him with a passion that is so evident from their blog.

Ella's Family - Ella's mommy reached out to me after Hope's diagnosis with words of encouragement and hope. When a child is diagnosed with EB there is a LOT of doom and gloom surrounding those first weeks and Ella's mom helped me see that Hope could live a great life in spite of her diagnosis. I will forever be grateful for her friendship and advice. Ella is an AMAZINGLY sweet little girl who just amazes me.

Leah's Family - Leah was a few months older than Hope. She was a gorgeous little girl who fought with such tenacity. Her story is one of courage and faith. Her family writes an inspiring blog. She went Home to the Lord last December and is now healed and pain free.

Tripp's Family - Tripp has the CUTEST cheeks I have ever seen. When I see his pictures I just want to KISS those cheeks! :) His mommy writes his blog and her writing is raw, honest, courageous and eloquent. She writes of what life is REALLY like as she loves and cares for Tripp. He is one of the most courageous kids I know and I am CERTAIN you will be blessed by his blog. His mommy created the picture above for EB Awareness.

Garrett's Family - Garrett's mom, Sara, is a WONDERFUL wealth of information and she has been so willing to share all o f her expertise with me along this journey. She is also living with EB herself and has multiple children with EB.

And I cannot complete this post without giving props to Ms. Geri Kelly-Mancuso, RN. Seriously. Having a newborn baby is overwhelming but getting that diagnosis of EB is enough to send a person over the edge. Geri has been an AMAZING support and resource for our family...she has talked me down from the ledge several times and reminded me to just enjoy Hope and take things one day at a time. I will FOREVER be grateful to her for her expertise! :) EB is overwhelming enough but when the majority of health care providers have no idea how to help your child without doing further harm it is downright frightening. Geri has been able to help us educate our own pediatrician and our family and I just can't say enough amazing things about this lady! :)

SO in honor of EB Awareness week, please take some time this week and educate yourself about EB, take some time to "meet" the families I listed above. I know you will be blessed by each one of them. I also encourage you to pray for these families and for anyone out there living with EB. And of course if you can, PLEASE donate to help find a cure!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fabulous Fall Fun

Fall is by FAR our favorite time of year around here! We love visiting the pumpkin patch, playing in the leaves, drinking cider, and sitting around a fire. Winters around here can be kind of long and tough to take, but fall makes it all worth it! Here is what we have been up to so far this fall!

The ski lift at Peek N Peak Fall Fest

It was a great ride!

We did LOTS of fun activities!

Check out the "Yellow Nightmare" :)

Bonfires are our favorite!

Family Hayride

Buried in corn!

Pumpkin slingshot!


Hope LOVED the slides!

Corn Angels! :)

Baby in a dump truck!

We LOVE the cornbox!

Dig, dig, dig!

My little pumpkin! :)