Basketball, Daylight Savings Time, and a Menu Plan. Wait, What Menu Plan?

This has been such a fun weekend!  We’ve been in Kansas since Thursday night with our homeschool basketball teams at our final tournament.

This tournament is always such a blessing.  The fellowship with families on our team, plus families and friends we get to meet up with while we’re there is priceless.  Having hundreds of homeschool athletes together in one place makes for a wild and crazy weekend.  It’s a highlight of our year.  We watched so much basketball this weekend, I was dreaming basketball last night.  As if the weekend of games wasn’t exhausting enough.  :)

After little sleep, hundreds of miles, and loads of basketball games, I’m not sure if/when I’ll get around to creating and posting a menu plan to share.  Instead, I thought I’d share some photos of the weekend.  By the way, who decided that daylight savings time should coincide with a night we were getting home in the wee hours?  Ah well…

Here’s our girl’s team.  They played better than I’ve ever seen them play – going up against some super tough teams and holding their own.  So proud of them and grateful that these young ladies are in our lives!

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Here is our boys’ team, just before the tournament started Friday.  Asa is #23; Justus is #32.  Asa got a lot of playing time this season.  Justus is an eighth grader, so this was a big learning year for him.  His time is coming.  :)

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All three games our boys played were nail biters.  They have got to stop doing that to us.  Parents and fans can only handle so much stress, you know?  Phew.

God bless the younger siblings of these athletes.  They’ve been dragged to game after game after game - almost every weekend since the beginning of January (and a few in Nov. and Dec. too).  They have so much fun playing with each other on the sidelines during games.

At the end of the day Saturday, our boys played in the championship game in their division.  We are so proud of them!  They played hard, worked together better than ever, and pulled out the win against a tough team.  It was so much fun watching them work as a team to pull out the win.

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Here’s Asa receiving his 1st place medal:

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And our entire boys’ team posing after the championship game:

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Now we’re home again, catching up on work and laundry, and getting ready for a new week.  Praise God for all the fun and friends He gives us!

Just for giggles, I’ll leave you with this gem.  We went out for dinner Friday night, and found this among the drink choices.  Read it carefully:

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Awesome marketing.  “Naturally flavored with other natural flavors but probably not the ones you would expect so we would rather not post them here.  Instead we’ll print words that don’t really make sense, along with a delightful picture of some fresh raspberries.  Drink me.”

Visiting One Child Matters in Colorado Springs

Remember way back in May when I shared about the trip our family took to Colorado?  We were able to spend an entire week in the Denver and Colorado Springs area doing a variety of service projects and ministries together.  It was such an awesome way to spend our family vacation!  We saw God work in so many ways to make this trip come together, from opening up opportunities for us to hand out food to families in need to joining with some college friends to serve the homeless.

Now that I’ve been able to share the One Child Matters ministry opportunity with those of us here at Heavenly Homemakers, here’s another piece of that glorious week in Colorado I want to tell you about.  What you have to know is that our family was already planning to be in the Denver/Colorado Springs area before we made the connection with One Child Matters.  We got so excited about the ministry opportunity with OCM, then learned that their headquarters are in Colorado Springs.  We asked if we could spend time with them while we were in the area and asked them to please put us to work!  They did just that, and they treated us like royalty from the moment we walked through their doors.

It’s one thing to look at the Once Child Matters website and talk to the people on the phone to hear their heart regarding the ministry.  That alone had made me fall in love with the children and mission behind One Child Matters.  But having the honor of meeting the One Child Matters Team face to face, and then spending the day working with them?  It was awesome.  These people care about the children they are serving - there is no doubt.

They had our kids feeling right at home in no time.

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I loved meeting everyone, but it was a special treat to meet Kate – the one I’ve been in contact with the most.  She took our family on a tour of the office so we could meet and get to know what each person did to fulfill the needs in this ministry.

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A great bonus is that my cousin works at One Child Matters, so we were able to catch up with her a little bit and steal some hugs.

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After a tour, we got to sit down and work together on the letters people send to their sponsored kids.  This experience was so rich and so much fun.  I’ll share more details about sending letters to your sponsored children in a future post, but wow if working through these letters didn’t inspire me and make me feel the love between sponsoring families and the children they are serving.

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During the late morning, our younger boys headed to the kitchen with some of the OCM team to cook up a Jordanian feast.  You’ll notice on the One Child Matters Blog (written by Kate, pictured with me in the second picture above) that they occasionally share recipes from the variety of countries where the sponsored children reside.  I love this feature as it can help connect us to the children there.  Our boys loved helping prepare this meal and being featured on the One Child Matters Blog.  Remember how I mentioned that our boys felt right at home?  The pictures in this blog post featuring the Jordanian meal will prove that to you.  ;) 

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After we ate together, some of us continued to work our way through sponsor letters, while the younger boys headed over to create some masterpieces to send over to our own sponsored child.
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I am excited to introduce you to our sponsored child soon.  It’s amazing how you can feel connected to someone you’ve never met, and how praying for someone holds so much power.  If you haven’t had a chance, head over to the Once Child Matters site and consider sponsoring a child.  We are so thankful for the opportunity to participate in this ministry!

A Wonderful Birthday

My husband and boys are the best.  They made my 40th birthday awesome, as did so many of you who have wished me a happy birthday.  Thank you!

I wanted to share the thoughtful gift my husband bought for me.  But first, a story:

When I was in Jr. High, my mom needed new plates.  She picked out some of the prettiest I’d ever seen.  I loved them.  They were our “everyday dishes” and we used them for years.

When she died, out of everything in her kitchen, I wanted those plates more than anything else.  My dad, however, had a difficult time parting with them.  They were very much “Mom” so it made sense that he wanted them too.  Instead, I was able to have several other meaningful kitchen items of my mom’s, so I was okay to leave the plates with my dad.

A few years later, my dad remarried.  The two of them got dishes of their own, so finally, the precious plates were mine.

I’ve loved using them for my own family during the past five years.  They are a piece of “Grammy” that I can share with my boys, a treasured item we use constantly.  But in a busy household, breakable items will sometimes…break.  Here and there, one of the special plates would be dropped and broken.  The stack of my mom’s plates began to dwindle.  Each time one broke, I know Matt was watching me bravely and sadly clean up and throw away the shattered pieces.  I know the plates are just “things” but some things are more special than others.  These plates definitely rank at the top of my “special material possessions” list.

Knowing my love for these plates, Matt has searched online for a couple of years to find replacements.  They were either unavailable or ridiculously expensive.  We got down to just seven of the eleven plates we started with.  I refused to put them away and get something else.  Using these plates everyday was something I loved and needed to do.

Finally, just before my birthday, Matt’s efforts paid off.  He was able to find a perfect set of six, presenting me with this wonderful gift on my 40th birthday:

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I don’t believe there was another gift I would have rather received.  (Well, except for the handwritten poem he also presented me with. Wow.)

Now my stack of treasured plates takes on a new special meaning.  I am blessed.  I am rich.  And the love in this family?  Unbreakable.

Why I Am At Church Camp This Week

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I grew up going to church camp every summer.  I loved every minute of it and never missed a session, even going as a counselor once I was too old to be a camper.  Then got married and I had kids.  Changing diapers while swatting at mosquitoes was not my idea of pleasant motherhood, so I quit going.  My husband continued to go each summer to teach Bible classes – something he is very gifted at doing.

Our oldest began going to church camp several years ago, followed a few years later by our second son.  They love it so much ain’t nothin’ could keep them from going.  We have seen so much spiritual growth in them as a result of their time studying God’s word out in the middle of His creation.

Through the years, several men and women whom I respect have told me that I should consider going to camp to teach.  I always gave the “nod and smile” response.  Camp?  Not for me.  I have kids to take care of, a website to run, and several other excuses that involve cleaner showers and fewer bugs.

In January of this year, our church hosted a Youth Rally in which teens from all over Nebraska (and beyond) came for a weekend of fun, fellowship, and worship.  As I looked around the auditorium on Sunday morning at all of the teens, I was struck with the thought, “These are my son’s good friends, many of whom he is growing with spiritually. I don’t really know any of them.”

At that point, God gave me a nudge which said: “Go to camp.”

Ah, now that would be a great way to get to know these kids and to become a part of their lives.  But I quickly reminded God that I didn’t do camp. That I sent my husband to camp to teach. That I sent my boys to camp to learn. That I prayed for people at camp. That I cheerfully washed dozens of loads of laundry after camp.  But that I didn’t do camp.

He didn’t respond, which I now assume meant that he was just giving me the “uh-huh go ahead and try to talk yourself out of it and I’ll just be right here waiting for you to come around to obedience” face.

As I prayed that morning (while simultaneously listening attentively to the sermon of course) it didn’t take long for me to not only decide that I needed to go to camp, but to actually become excited about it.  If that’s not a God thing, I don’t know what is.

Over the past seven months, God has taught me so much about laying my life down for Him.  Each time I began to doubt that I would be effective in this role for Him, He reminded me that He always gives us everything we need, especially when He calls us out specifically.

All scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16

So this week, I am at camp.  I’ll be doing my best to keep up with my blog work while I’m here.  There is wireless internet available here if I sit in just the right spot in the cafeteria and curl my toes just the right way.

I’d appreciate your prayers as God puts it on your heart.  I’ll be teaching a girl’s Bible class each day while we’re here.  Matt will be teaching a mixed (girls and boys) Bible class.  Asa is a camper.  Justus, Elias, and Malachi have agreed to work as “kitchen staff.”

Here’s to a great, full week of serving God and checking heads frequently for ticks!

Our Family Service Trip Journal, Day 6: Rockies vs. Diamondbacks

I just realized I’m behind in sharing the final days of our Colorado family service trip!  Be sure to check out Day One: SEVENS Ministry, Day Two: Handing Out Food to 100 Families, Day Three: Purple Door Coffee and a Wedding, and Day Four: Church in Colorado Springs, Meet and Greet, and Garden of the Gods

You may have noticed that I went from Day 4 to Day 6.  What happened to Day 5?  Not to worry – I will be sharing about that soon.  :)  It was a very special day in which our family was able to meet face to face and work with the people behind a ministry all of our families can take part in.  Details coming soon, I promise!  There are some technical difficulties that are still not worked out that are causing delays in my ability to “reveal” it to you. 

For now, I’m going to share what we did on the final day of our trip.  After several days of traveling, working, and visiting with many people – we were all happy but tired.  We chose to take our final day off, spending several relaxing hours with our friends (that had been kind enough to let us stay with them for an entire week), hiking, and playing lawn games. 

Late that afternoon, we headed to a Rockies game.  This had worked out so perfectly!  We are friends with Brad Ziegler, a pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks.  It just so happened that the two teams were playing against each other in Denver on the last day of our trip.  It was a no-brainer.  Tickets were purchased!

We arrived early to the game so that we could watch batting practice and try to catch Brad. 

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He was watching for us and came over for a short visit.  He signed baseballs for the boys – always a fun treat!

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Since we still had time before the game started, we headed up to the “mile high” row of seats in the stadium.  
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It was quite the trek.  Matt and I decided to prove how difficult it is to breathe up there at such a high altitude.

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Okay, just kidding.  We were really fine.  (mostly)

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The game was a blast and we loved watching Brad pitch a perfect inning!

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Side note:  They should totally have a “visitors section” at the stadium.  We felt like the only Diamondbacks fans in a sea of Rockies fans.  Awkward.  ;) 

It was a perfect ending to a perfect trip.  God blessed us so much as a family and we pray we were a blessing to everyone we visited with and ministered to.

Our Family Service Trip Journal, Day 4: Church in Colorado Springs, Meet & Greet, Garden of the Gods

In case you missed them…Day One: SEVENS Ministry, Day Two: Handing Out Food to 100 Families, and Day Three: Purple Door Coffee and a Wedding.

Did I ever tell you we used to live in Colorado Springs?  Yep, from 1998-2002, Matt worked with a small congregation in the southern part of the city.  In fact, our two middle boys, Justus and Elias, were born in Colorado Springs.  Good memories!  And so, we were excited to head down from Denver to Colorado Springs on Sunday morning to worship with the church family where we had worked for four years. 

We drove by the house we used to live in, saw the park where we used to play…and pretty much nobody remembered it but Matt and me since the boys were all so little while we had lived there!  They still had fun having us point out all that we remembered.

Our former church family welcomed us with lots of hugs and plenty of, “I can’t believe how big your boys are!”  The congregation is much smaller than it used to be, so we were glad to learn of some prayer needs there.  Our goal was to encourage those that were there, so we are prayerful that God used our family in that way.

Later that afternoon, I was able to meet quite a few Colorado Springs area readers.  I can’t tell you how much I enjoy the visits we have at these Meet & Greet events!  We shared stories, recipe ideas, parenting tips…it was great.  As soon as I’m able to put some of these thoughts in writing, you’ll be able to benefit from these visits too.  (Just wait till I share the homemade cereal recipe I heard about!)

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Several brought their kids along, which I always love.  They all got along great, playing board games and cards together while we ladies visited.  I loved hearing some of the kids tell me, “I really love the recipe {fill in the blank} my mom makes from your website…”  Yay for healthy recipe lovin’ kids (who don’t hate me because I’ve encouraged their moms to ditch the jelly beans)!

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Because the first four days of our trip had been so full, and because we had a big day of service ahead of us the next day in the northern part of Colorado Springs, we had made reservations at an inexpensive (but nice) hotel for the evening.  I knew we’d all need some downtime to keep our wits about us.  This ended up being the perfect treat.  We checked into our hotel, kicked back for a little while, then headed out to experience Garden of the Gods together.

Did I ever tell you that Matt and I had our honeymoon in Colorado Springs?  That was before we knew we’d live there someday and that two of our babies would be born there.  Being back in Garden of the Gods brought back great memories from 18 1/2 years ago when we were newlyweds.  How awesome it was now to head back there with our four boys!

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We thought we may not be able to walk around and enjoy the beauty because of the rain that had been threatening all afternoon and evening.  Instead, we were blessed because the rain stopped AND we got to see a rainbow!

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The boys had a blast climbing (in the areas were the park allowed climbing).

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Don’t worry, Asa and Justus really aren’t as high up as they look…

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Here’s a great shot of Pike’s Peak:

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And a shot with Matt and I with Pike’s Peak behind us:

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This may be one of my favorites of all the boys:

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And of course, Mom and Dad had to get a picture in the same location.  Hey, if the boys can be silly in pictures, so can we!

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Just before taking off for the hotel again, the boys climbed one last rock:

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And then they pushed each other off while screaming and crying.  Kidding.  I’m kidding.  They’re just good at adding drama to an otherwise normal climb down off of a boulder.

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I’m having so much fun re-living our trip while I share pictures and tell you about it.  God is so good to give us such great learning experiences, opportunities to serve, wonderful people to meet, and awesome memories we’ll hold onto forever.  Can’t wait to tell you about the rest of our trip!

Our Family Service Trip Journal, Day 3: Denver Meet & Greet and a Wedding

Thanks for following along as I share the highlights of our family service trip to Colorado.  If you missed the first days, catch up on those here -  Day One: SEVENS Ministry and Day Two:  Handing Out Food to 100 Families.

On the third day we were in Denver, we headed downtown to Purple Door Coffee.  We were so excited to finally have a chance to check out this great ministry spot, which was started in part by a friend of ours who had been a York College student several years ago.  The coffee shop is beautiful – very well put together!  They employ homeless teens and young adults in an effort to help them get on their feet and find a new way of life.  We love this!  It was our pleasure to hold our Denver Meet and Greet at this location.  It was a perk that their drinks were delicious too!

Call me a geek (go ahead, really) but I had to take a picture of the bottoms of their tables (that they made themselves).  They are made from old treadle sewing machines – just like the one my grandma had used (and let me use!) many years ago.  What a gorgeous way to reuse these beauties.  I learned to sew on a machine like this!!

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In addition (although somehow I failed to get pictures, duh) – Purple Door Coffee had lots of really cool jars in use in their shop.  I was in jar heaven.  What a great place! 

Even better was that I was able to meet several Denver area readers.  We had such an encouraging visit.  Thank you for coming (and navigating the crazy parking situation that day!!) so that I could meet you!

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Later that evening, we were blessed to go to the wedding of one of the ladies on our YC soccer team.  We are so proud of this girl and the choice she has made by beginning her life with such a godly young man.  It was wonderful to be a part of her special day.

While I don’t have any pictures of the ceremony  (because I was too busy wiping happy tears from my eyes to take pics – seriously, I am a mess at weddings) I do have a fun picture of our family at the reception.  A photo booth was provided for fun, and we were able to get a little bit silly while leaving a fun message for the bride and groom.  Malachi was in there too, but unfortunately, he was a little too short to make it into the pics without jumping.  If you look really hard, you can see a tuft of his hair right under Asa’s elbow.  ;)

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Side note:  Have you ever tried to put six people into a photo booth?  Yowza.

We headed back to our hosting friends’ home that evening, and made preparations to head to Colorado Springs the following day.  More details to come!

Our Family Service Trip Journal: Day 2 – Handing Out Food to 100 Families

Two days before we were to leave for Colorado, we still did not have plans worked out for Day 2 (Friday).  Eek!  It’s not like we hadn’t tried.  In fact, we had emailed several ministries that we knew of in the Denver area.  Answers kept coming back like, “Sorry, we don’t have anything available for you to do that day” or “We have a minimum volunteer age of 10″ or “We are closed only one day each year – and the day you are coming just happens to be the day.”

Seriously.  Doors closed one after another.  We weren’t worried though.  We figured those doors had closed because God had something else in mind for our family that we just hadn’t figured out yet.  We continued to pray for direction.

We finally heard of a ministry run by a church in downtown Denver.  They offer free groceries for low income and homeless families, available for pick-up on guess which day?  Friday, of course.  Could they use our help?  Yes, they sure could.  Perfect.

We showed up just after 8:00 in the morning.  Food was being unloaded and sorted.  We introduced ourselves and were put right to work.  Malachi was put in charge of setting out shoes.  (They offer free clothing too, not just groceries!)

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Mountains and mountains of lettuce, potatoes, breads, eggs, canned goods, granola bars, and so much more were brought out and organized on tables.  We put our boys’ muscles to work.  I can’t believe how much they enjoyed the jobs they were given to do.  We all did!  I think it may have had to something to do with the fact that we were dealing with food and obviously - we love food.  Even when we aren’t the ones eating it.  It felt great to be working hard at a task that would bless so many families.  This church group is really meeting a need in their area each week.  We were so blessed to be a part of it.

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Right before doors were opened to hand out the groceries, we were all put in charge of “stations.”  We were to replenish the supplies of food at our table, letting each person know, “You can pick one of these, fifteen of these, three of these…”

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Asa was thrilled because he got to have his first “real” conversation in Spanish.  He and Justus have been studying it for two years.  A man from Honduras came through the food line, and Asa struck up a conversation with him.  I’m not sure who enjoyed it more -  Asa or our new spanish speaking friend.  (Of course, then the man assumed that the mother of the spanish speaking child also knew spanish.  I hated to disappoint him!) 

After several hours, doors were closed, leftover food was put away, and we were able to help clean up for the day.  All throughout the day, the boys kept saying to me, “This is so much fun” and “I really like doing this.”  Ah yes, just like we had told them as we prepared:  Serving others is such a joy when you do it with a Christ-like attitude.

We left that day tired, yet completely energized by the people we worked with and for.  Our prayer is that those we were with felt equally blessed. 

Stay tuned for more details of our trip!

Our Family Service Trip Journal: Day 1 – SEVENS Ministry

After eight days on the road, we are now home.  Bags are unpacked (mostly).  Pictures are uploaded.  Now I can finally find the time to tell you all the details of our family service trip to Colorado!

First I wanted to tell you a little bit about how this trip came to be.  With the idea in mind that we, as a family of six, would take a mission trip somewhere, sometime - we began to pray together about a year and a half ago about where and when God would send us.  While we waited for answers and direction, each time Matt had the opportunity to do an extra job for someone (painting, repairing, building, etc.) he and the boys would head out to work on the project together.  The money they earned from each of these jobs went into a special account, reserved especially for our Family Mission Fund.  (Avon and Margaret, you’ll be happy to know that your projects were among those that helped make this trip possible.  Thank you!!)

About six months ago, Matt and I sat down to look at the calendar and to narrow down some options based on where we felt God was leading us.  Because of holidays, family events, summer camps, basketball season, and two soccer seasons (spring and fall), we had exactly one open week during the entire year of 2013.  That very week, we had a wedding to attend in the Denver area.  What if, we decided, our family service trip took us to Denver?

Long story short, God just took it from there.  He orchestrated every single detail, put in place service opportunities on just the right days we needed them, and absolutely knocked our socks off with His goodness and plans for us.  In addition, He helped prepare our hearts and gave us guidance as we prepared our kids to take a trip like this.  Learning to be selfless?  Remembering that what we were heading out to do was meant to be an encouragement to others - and that blessing others would be a blessing for us as well?  This is what we talked often to our boys about in the weeks leading up to the trip.

For the next few posts, I’ll detail each day of our trip (with some other posts sprinkled in).  Everytime I share the details about our trip with a friend, I find myself spilling out excited words faster than my mouth can say them.  To say that this trip was amazing is an understatement.  God made this experience incredible for our family, and we pray that those we were in contact with were blessed by our family even more.

We arrived in the Denver area last Wednesday.  (We were able to stay with friends every night but one, which was wonderful.)  Thursday, we got up and headed to Boulder to meet our college friends Benny and Niki.  (Like how I didn’t say, “Old college friends?”  C’mon.  We are all totally young.)

Benny and Niki operate the SEVENS ministry – sharing God’s love with street people in Boulder.  They feed them, talk to them, listen to them, and pray with them.  They give them new socks, bottles of water, and daily do whatever they feel God leading them to do for these people. 

We began our day with them by taking everything out of one of their SEVENS storage closests so that it could be reorganized. 

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Items in boxes were sorted and put away for easier access: hand warmers, socks, backpacks, food items, sleeping bags, and much more. 

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Because he was the lightest among us, Malachi was given the job of climbing on top of the fridge to place a bag of socks for storage on a high shelf.  Now that’s not something a kid gets to do everyday.  :)

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Our kids, along with two of Benny and Niki’s kids, filled backpacks with socks so that they can take them downtown to hand out at a later date.

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Once the closet was finished, we made an assembly line to fill gallon-sized zipper bags with items like water, socks, granola bars, applesauce, and other snacks.  They will keep these on hand for later needs.

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All jobs finished and cleaned up, we all headed out for a late lunch on the Pearl Street Mall.  This is the area where Benny spends most of his street ministry time.  After lunch, we were able to meet some of the street people who have become friends with the Nowells, listen to street performers, and walk the area to learn more about the ministry. 

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It was a tremendous blessing to our family to spend the day working with and learning from the Nowells.  I didn’t see how any of our other service days could be as rich as this one.  As it turns out, God had much more in store for us…

Branson Ziplines, Springfield Meet and Greet, Playing Games, and My Weekend Plans

It has been a very busy few months, and I’m not sure we’ll be slowing down any time soon.  Spring soccer season has begun, our kids are preparing for LTC, and now that the book is finished, I hope to get caught up on all the work I am behind on!  (Are any of us ever really caught up, though?!)

I wanted to take the time to share a few more highlights of our Branson trip:

Thanks to Donna, one of the awesome gals I met at the Branson Meet and Greet, Matt, Asa, and Justus got to experience the Adventure Ziplines of Branson.  They loved it!

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The final day of our Branson vacation, my dad took us to ride go-carts and play games.  The boys had a blast!!  Who am I kidding?  I had a blast too.  :)

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On our way home from Branson, we stopped in Springfield for a Meet and Greet.  I so enjoyed meeting and visiting with these wonderful ladies!!!

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Now that we’re home, we’ve been busy packaging and sending books, then picking up more books from the printer to start the process over again!  Our boys were supposed to have their first soccer games Saturday, but they were cancelled because of snow.  I have to admit, I was happy that they were cancelled.  I feel like I’ve been given a bonus day to be home, rest, and get work done this weekend!

So, what do I plan to do with my bonus day?  COOK and BAKE!!!  I need it, I want it, and I can not wait to get all floury and messy while I get caught up and maybe ahead in the kitchen.  Here’s what I’m planning to make:

We’ll see how far I get.  Sometimes, my to-do list gets longer than the hours in my day. 

What are your plans this weekend?