Gratituesday: How Much You Mean to Me

I decided it’s high time I wrote another Gratituesday post. Please join me today as I celebrate God’s goodness in my friend Edith.

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She first emailed me in 2009 to say, “I want to tell you how much I enjoy your blog newsletters. I have shared many of them with our two daughters.”

That email came when my blog was a baby. She was one of my first blog followers. Her name was Edith. She was from Ohio.

Edith and I continued to email from time to time during the next few months. Then something I said in one of my posts sparked an interest, and would you believe? Her husband was born in the very same town where I grew up. Wonderful thing, this internet – connecting people who otherwise would not have met.

The email she sent in June, 2010 took our relationship to a new level. I had just written a blog post about our oldest son becoming a teenager. She wrote to tell me how wonderful teenagers are. Then she went on to say:

“Count your blessings every day – treasure every moment. And I know it’s trite, but do live each moment as though it truly were the last moment you have with your loved ones. We recently unexpectedly lost our elder daughter at age 36 in a matter of just a few hours.”

This began a friendship that was absolutely God given and beautifully selected. You see, the daughter Edith had lost was just my age. And my mom. Well, my mom had been gone already for a few years.

No one takes the place of a lost loved one. But Edith and I – well, I suppose we needed each other. She continued to send me emails of encouragement every few weeks, often to let me know she was praying for me. She sent me beautiful eCards for every holiday, which she personalized.

Edith loved me. Her love blessed me in ways I cannot describe. She was on my team. She was my prayer warrior. She was my friend. I loved her so.

Edith died unexpectedly last week. When I received the email from her younger daughter, who was so kind to think of me and share the news, I fell tearfully onto Matt’s chest. Not my Edith. I need my Edith.

I am going to miss this precious lady. Edith – the lady I never met face-to-face. The lady I could count on hearing from every few weeks as she cheered me on in my parenting, my writing, and my Christian walk.

My dear readers, I share this to let you know how much you mean to me. You’re not just “some people out there who read my blog.” You are a part of my life – a God given part that I do not take for granted. I treasure you and I am thankful for you.

When her oldest daughter died in 2010, this is what Edith said to me in her email:

“We are truly at peace even in our sadness. We know she’s having the time of her life in the presence of her beloved Lord and Savior. As her sister said, ‘She beat us home.’ And in that we rejoice.”

Now I say goodbye to my dear friend Edith, using her very words.

Thank you for loving me, Edith. Thank you for allowing God to work through you to be such a blessing in my life. I miss you already. But you’re having the time of your life in the presence of your beloved Lord and Savior. You beat us home. In that, I rejoice.

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How About That? God Really Does Work Everything Out.

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Remember this post? You know, that one post I wrote last September? The one where I shared this:

I hate to spoil the ending...

The one where I talked about how we had no idea how everything would work out for our oldest son at the end of the school year? How we didn’t have any idea what would be best for him? How if he chose college, which one would it be and how would we work that out financially? How there were so many unknowns and what ifs and major decisions to make?

And more importantly, the one where I shared that God was teaching me to trust – like for real.

Last school year was wonderful and exhausting in countless ways. In the midst of it, we knew God had a plan and would roll it out for us in His timing. But when I wrote this post, we had no idea how the story would end. I just knew that it would…end. And that the ending would be good because God was writing the story.

In the midst of the waiting (we all know what that’s like, right? no matter what it is we’re waiting for) – our minds can turn toward all kinds of doubt and worry. We can invent scenarios that may or may not happen and then create all sorts of responses to the made up scenarios.

Unless any of those thoughts are Spirit led, they are absolutely pointless and completely exhausting. When I look back on our school year and how we watched our son learn to listen to God as he made his decisions, I am…

1) Really glad it’s behind us because it was just hard. Good, but hard.
2) So excited to realize God’s absolute promises and His guidance in everything. Everything. All of it. Every single bit.

We should never doubt. Never, ever, ever.

Not sure about an employment situation looming in your future? God does. Wait for Him to show you. Listen to Him and trust.

Not sure about a decision you’re making about parenting? God does. Wait for Him to show you. Listen to Him and trust.

Not sure how you can possibly afford whatever that need is that there is no money for?  God knows. Wait for Him to show you. Listen to Him and trust.

Not sure what to do about forty different questions floating in your head about everything from little to big? God does. Wait for Him to show you. Listen to Him and trust.

God never asked us to get it all figured out. He only asked for our faith. If you don’t believe me, go read all the words of Jesus in the gospels. All of them. They will change your life.

And oh yeah – about this post. The one where I wrote about how we had no idea how the story would end, about what would be best, about how we would survive such a major change in our lives (yeah, I know, all the parents do it, but it’s hard and that’s just the truth). Go back and read this.

Then. Then read this one. Seven months after I wrote the “we have no idea” post – I was blessed to be able to write the “well look at that. now we know” post.

There is always an ending to the story. If we’re seeking God, the ending is beautiful. If we’re not, well, God can still work and God is always lovingly waiting for us to turn to Him.

I write this as a reminder. To you – to me. Trust God. Where there are question marks, trust God. There will always be question marks. But there will always be answers because God is God and He is faithful. And because of that, there can always be peace.

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So…What Are the Cake Boys Up to Now?

Remember the Cake Boys? That series of videos, started by our little boys, was the beginning of what has become a passion of theirs: video and music creation.

cake boys

In fact, Asa (who is now 18) plans to make a career of videography. His chosen college major is Business Communication, which will guide him in the right direction for pursuing his own business as a videographer. He continues to learn, experiment, and develop his talent. He researched and used some of his savings to purchase a very nice camera as well as professional video editing software. The guy is well on his way. He even has his first professional video job later this summer (filming and editing a wedding video). Skies are the limit with how he can use his creativity in videography.

And Justus? He’s 15 now and while he also loves creating videos, he has also discovered a bigger passion and talent for music. He is taking both piano and guitar lessons, and he loves singing. Even more, he is gifted with the ability to compose music sound tracks on FL Studio – music creation software Matt found and invested in for the boys a few years ago.

Elias (13) and Malachi (10) join in with both music and video creation from time to time. We are anxious to see how God continues to grow all of the boys and develop their talents.

So Cake Boys videos have given way to several varieties of videos – both fun and serious. It amazes me. I cry like I’m their mom every time I watch something they create.

Here are two of their recent “Ace Video” productions, now being shown in Asa’s YouTube account.

NOTE TO PARENTS: The first video below, called “Refresh” was created with kids in our youth group to encourage and refresh a large gathering of teens we hosted for a youth rally at our church back in January. The struggles addressed in this video are real to life and important. However, some of the content is a little bit heavy for young viewers, so please use discretion. Matt and I are actually featured in this video (oh my) and you can be assured that nothing is actually being smoked. Video editing software is amazing, which makes the cigs look very real (oh my). I told you you’d need to use discretion. The video is powerful and had a huge impact at the youth rally. Note the sound track, as it was created completely by Justus, specifically to fit this video.

Refresh

Below is the boys’ most recent video in which they took four of their favorite songs and recreated them into a music video “mashup.” No viewer discretion needed on this one! It’s awesome, music fun!

Brothas C Mashup

I’m offering you this show-and-tell for two reasons:

1. Many have asked about the Cake Boys. Sniff (and rejoice) along with me that the little boys in those videos are not little boys any more, but are instead becoming young men working for the Lord and following His leading. We get quite a kick out of watching the boys’ first video attempts – hearing their young boy voices that are now such deep manly voices. Now you know what the Cake Boys are up to these days!

2. I want to encourage you to be excited – as we are – to watch God develop the talents in your children as they grow. Not sure what your kids’ talents are? Pray. Ask God to bring them to light in His time, then watch Him do His work. You will be amazed at what our Father will do. Be prepared to foster your child’s talents, but most of all – be at peace, resting in the truth that the Lord will do His work.

Happy Gratituesday, by the way! I’d love for you to leave a comment to share what God is doing in your life – specifically in the lives of your children if you are a parent.

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Gratituesday: On a Positive Note…

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I consider myself to be a fairly positive person. Grumbling helps nothing. I don’t like hearing it from others and I don’t like participating in conversations that are negative and whiny.

Inside my own head, however? I have found myself fighting to take captive every thought and make them obedient to Christ. I haven’t even recognized how negative my thoughts have been because ultimately, I really am trying to figure out positive outcomes for every aspect of my life – my marriage, my boys, our church life, my friendships. But with each of those can come discouragement since life isn’t perfect and my ideals aren’t being rolled out on a red carpet. That’s how I find myself focused on the negative instead of breathing in and relishing in the positive.

This was my brain this morning:

  • Did he really leave his strawberry bowl on the floor after I asked him last night before bed to put it in the sink? I’ve gotta get that boy to listen and obey better.
  • Whose duffle bag is that? I know they are tired after camp, but I asked the boys so many times to unload their dirty laundry in the bathroom. Ugh.
  • I don’t even know where to begin on my to-do list.
  • Is it really cloudy again today? When is the sun going to shine???
  • Shoot. I forgot to thaw meat last night.

This was, of course, all within the first five minutes after I stumbled out of bed this morning. So much for “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

While frustrations are real, my thoughts and attitude have been very negative.

Without knowing it, a friend of mine – during a 30 second, obviously Spirit led conversation – convicted me in the church foyer yesterday between Bible class and worship time. I don’t even remember her exact phrase. I was just struck by her suggestion that the positive must outweigh the negative. I actually barely heard her at the time because I was gathering my kids so we could find a pew.

Well, God did His work, as He always does. I chewed on my friend’s words, which helped me recognize how negative many of my thoughts have been. This morning (strawberry bowl, duffle bag, list, cloudy, meat – yes that) sealed the deal as I got ready to open my Bible with my coffee.

Even in my prayer life, I have been so focused on the negative. It’s as if I don’t even recognize all of God’s goodness and His promises.

So hi. I’m confessing all of this here to you. God is so good, you guys. He offers so much goodness. My life is full of goodness. When I stop being negative and recognize the positive? It’s a no-brainer that I am more cheerful and have more energy.

I’m sharing this on Gratituesday not just so we can think about what we’re thankful for. It’s more than that. It’s about fully allowing our minds to recognize that God has provided so much goodness! We’ve got to fill our minds with the positive so that we can actually see the God-given blessings that are absolutely overflowing around us.

Please join me today in allowing God to do His work in our minds as we recognize His abundant goodness.

Look around you. Breathe in the good. Leave a comment here to share and encourage us all: In what ways do you see God’s goodness in your life?

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Weekend Gratituesday ~ And Why Is There a Margarine Container on My Countertop??

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Tuesdays have been passing right along without a moment for me to post something especially Gratituesday-ish. Therefore, I decided to take the time this weekend to share some highlights from our week that I am grateful for.

(I’m pretty sure the grammatically correct way for me to say that would have been, “highlights for which I am grateful.” But really. Who talks like that? And anyway, at least I didn’t say ain’t or say something like I am more grateful then you know. It’s than. More grateful THAN you know. That one really gets me. Not that any of this matters when we are focused on that for which we are grateful.)

So where shall we begin?

One of the biggest highlights of our week was that we received a surprise visit from my cousin and his family. Their kids are similar in age to our older kids and we rarely get to see them. While traveling, they drove an extra few hours out of their way to see us on Wednesday/Thursday. We grilled chicken and had a feast, followed by Strawberry Cheesecake Parfaits.

june 13

All the kids and the dads spent hours in our yard playing soccer. It was awesome. We moms cheered and swatted mosquitoes on the side line. I love this picture:

june 14

After we sent them off the next day, Asa and I drove three hours to watch his girl compete in the Miss Nebraska pageant. Here she is singing for the talent competition. I teared up as she sang The Revelation Song – proclaiming her faith right there on stage, “Holy, holy, holy…is the Lord God almighty, who was and is and is to come.”

june 19

Tonight (Saturday) is the final competition. I’ll update as soon as I hear the results.
UPDATE: She didn’t win Miss Nebraska. We are so proud of her for her hard work and commitment to staying true to her values and faith during this. Now she can breathe and enjoy her summer counseling at church camps!

Asa and I drove all the way home that night, doing whatever we had to do to keep ourselves awake and safe until we got back at 1:30 am. It was so worth the drive. When we walked into the house, what would be the first thing I saw? This. On my countertop.

june 15

A margarine tub? Who would dare bring such a thing into my home?! Funny that at first I didn’t even notice the Dr. Pepper and Doritos, etc – just the margarine. Turns out, the tub was full of popcorn. That, along with everything else, was the result of Matt having guys over to play games while we were gone. They left their snacks behind. The next day, I had a few Doritos. As opposed as I am to margarine, I choose to ignore the label on the bag of cheesy nacho chips. It makes no sense. 

But back to our week and the real food and blessings that came with it. I attempted to make a healthy version of the Chocolate Lasagna recipe I’ve seen floating around. I thought it would be a perfect Low Sugar Treat to add to our collection here. Yeah. Tasty though it was, my version turned out anything but picture worthy. And yet, here I am, showing you a picture anyway. I don’t know why.

june 12

My grocery store run this week looked like the following. As you can see, we cannot get enough fresh strawberries. Our family has gone through almost all 10 pounds I bought this week. Bet you’re wondering what that Feta cheese is for, right? Right. That’s for my other addiction: BLT Factory Chopped Salad.

june 11
It was a Bountiful Basket week too, so we are set on groceries for a while – especially since our older boys are headed to camp Sunday. (Also, much of what is pictured above and below has been eaten already.)

june 16
june 17

Hey, what does a person do with Endive, pray tell? That’s a new one to me.

june 18

This week it’ll be just three of us at home with all the teenage boys at Soul Quest (on the York College campus). Matt, Malachi, and I will head to campus each evening to worship – a huge perk to living right here where this awesome camp takes place. It is a highlight of our year, for sure!

So now – your turn! What are you thankful for? It’s Gratituesday over the weekend, after all.

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Gratituesday ~ Today and Every Day (Plus come see my pretty bathroom!)

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Why yes. I did just invite you to go to the bathroom with me. That’s what girls do, right? They go to the bathroom in pairs?

I’m ever so grateful for your input and thoughts about my blogging schedule (or lack thereof). Gratituesday will remain. But if sometimes I post something else on Tuesdays instead, so be it. And if sometimes I post what I’m grateful for on a Friday, so be it. And if we can all focus on giving thanks to God every single day, especially when we are tempted to grumble – well then God be praised!

So back to my bathroom.

You guys!!!!!! My husband has worked so hard and has done a beautiful job transforming this room. It is finally almost completed. Just a few small-ish details (hang the mirror, etc.) left to call it “finished.”

Before I show you what it looks like, first let me remind you of the before pictures. It may not look “so bad” but trust me – this bathroom was 40,000 years old (or so) and had some – shall we say… issues. Issues, I’m telling you.

bathroom 1

So Matt gutted it and started from ground zero.

bathroom 2

Then he managed to get the shower installed before we had a houseful (and I do mean house FULL) of teenage boys for an entire weekend.

bathroom 3

Then slowly but surely, Matt continued to work for hours over the past months replacing the toilet, installing a fan, installing a light fixture, putting up drywall, tiling the walls and the floor, grouting, painting, and installing a new sink (with silly plumbing issues).

bathroom 8

And now LOOOOOOK!!!!!!

bathroom finished 1

I cannot tell you how fun it is to go pee in there, and that’s just the truth.

bathroom finished 2

The room is so pretty, and I just love it! I’m so thankful for my husband’s hard work, and I’m very grateful that it’s ready before we have a houseful of out-of-towners coming for graduation. Phew!

Here’s to one more house renovation (almost) in the books.

Now your turn! Leave a comment to share what you are thankful for this Gratituesday!

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Gratituesday: Survival and Sunshine

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April showers bring May flowers. This is good! Very good.

But silly me. April showers have also brought on dreary days with no sunshine, and I just don’t like that very much. This time of year becomes a little harder for me as the winter has seemed to go on forever, and the sun is still having a hard time shining consistently. I need sunshine!!!! {insert crazy Laura face here} {on second thought, don’t. no one wants to see that.}

So yay for rain, and in particular the rain that came so fast and hard that it rained out soccer games on Saturday so that I could stay home and get much needed work done!!  Rain is good for so many reasons, and I’m grateful for it.

I’m just thankful that today the sun decided to shine. It is a breath of fresh air (literally) for me when I step outside. The flowers are blooming everywhere. There is a gentle breeze. THE SUN IS SHINING!!!!  {insert Laura’s happy face here.} {except that she doesn’t have time to stop and take a picture of it because she’s breathing in the brightness and the fresh air.}

In other news related to Laura’s crazy face and the absolute need for sunshine – we’re down to just about 11 soccer games remaining in the season (no wonder I can’t get anything done around here), we got Asa’s graduation announcements almost all ready to send out, the bathroom we are remodeling is this close to being finished, and this is our last week of school. Asa is actually taking all college-level courses this year (love getting dual high school and college credits, but phew!) so he will complete his course work and finals the middle of next week. What a huge relief!

asa grad announcement

The plans for Asa’s graduation reception are well under way. Then we will be welcoming guests into our home who are coming from out of state to celebrate with us. There is much to be grateful for, and today, I’m thankful that the sun is shining on all there is to do so that we can not only survive the next few weeks of extremely full schedules – we can love every minute of the ride!

By the way, if you’ve emailed recently and I haven’t responded – just know that I’ll work at getting back to you the end of May when the rest of life settles down a little bit and I wake up from a nap.

Share with us! What are you grateful for this week? How is God working in your life? Isn’t it wonderful to see God’s hand in every bit of our lives?

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Gratituesday: Spring Formal ~ Fabulous Friends

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Today I am overcome with thankfulness when I think of the teenagers (and their families) God has put in our lives to be a blessing to our children. This is no small thing. That my teenage sons have so many in their church community and homeschool community to encourage them in their spiritual walk is a tremendous joy to me. This past weekend was once again a great reminder of how wonderful it is that my boys have such great friends and opportunities to grow.

On Saturday night, high school aged homeschoolers all over our part Nebraska were invited to attend the annual Spring Formal (similar to prom). Asa (a senior) and Justus (a freshman) got all fancied up and headed out for the evening.

asa justus spring formal 2015

Asa’s friend joined them. (Yes, she is gorgeous. Her heart is beautiful as well.)

asa brittany spring formal

They met up with a group several miles down the road, then all drove together to meet up at “The Barn” for the Formal. They had sooooo much fun. We keep hearing more and more details of the night. They loved it.

spring formal 2015
Most of the kids in this picture are a part of our homeschool basketball team.
I loved seeing these kids who are usually in uniforms on the basketball court all dressed up posing for a picture together.

I’m so thankful for opportunities like this for my boys. I’m thankful for their friends. And I’m thankful for how God is working in these kids’ lives to grown them up His way.

What about you? What are you thankful for this Gratituesday?

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Just a quick note (okay, three notes):

  1. Today is the final day to grab a free case of diapers. Use these to bless your family or someone else!
  2. Don’t forget to join us on Thursday for Day 1 of our six-week Surrendered Heart class. It’s free! We’ll all grow together.
  3. Read more about this year’s Ultimate Homemaking Bundle being offered this week. I love this.
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Gratituesday: The Decision

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I tell you what ~ it has been one wild ride having a senior in high school. I had no idea all that went into this year, not to mention the emotions that would smack me over the head without warning.

God has been so good to love me so gently this school year. As I talk to other moms who have graduated or are graduating their kids, I’m learning that I am quite normal. This is good to know. Home school mom, public school mom, private school mom – it matters not. We are Mom. We are loving our kids through making giant decisions all while preparing to launch them into all that God has planned for them. We cry a lot, not necessarily because we are sad. We cry because we’re happy. Because we’re excited. Because we’re a little bit weary. And because we couldn’t be more proud of our graduates.

Well anyway. That’s been my year in a nutshell. That, along with helping my senior through some very difficult online college courses all while trying in vain to keep up with other aspects of life like dust and laundry.

You know how some kids just know what they are going to do after high school? Our kid wasn’t one of them. He’s been searching for God’s answers all year long, not feeling confident in making a final decision for his immediate future.

The wrestling. That’s been tough to watch. And yet, it’s also been beautiful. For the first time, our 17 (almost 18) year old found himself faced with many great options and four thousand questions about what would be best. Had the answers just fallen into his lap back in September, I don’t believe the he would have experienced God’s work in his life in such a life-changing way. He had to learn to block out all the other voices and only listen to God. Then and only then did the right answers come.

As of last week, the decision has been made. Asa sees it as the one God has laid out for him in a very exciting way. And would you believe, after all the wrestling, everything came around to Asa choosing to go five minutes down the road to our very own York College? (Matt and I met and graduated from this Christian school in the 90’s.)

york college

Indeed. He is YC bound. While doors were closing on the other options, God kept paving the way to YC. The soccer coach recruited him and offered him a scholarship. The choir director recruited him and offered him a scholarship. The admissions director saw his grades and granted him an academic scholarship. In those ways and many more, God just kept making it more clear that this is the school for him.

He plans to pursue a degree in Business Communication. This is a great fit for him as he continues to develop his skills in videography to perhaps run his own video business someday.

soccer picsm

He has decided to be on the soccer team and in the concert choir. He will live in the dorm – and hopefully sometimes he will sleep. While Matt and I loved our YC experience, we were very open to other options God might have for Asa. Now that he’s chosen York College, we’re rather excited that we can be a fly on the wall during some of the events he participates in on campus. We’ll get to meet more of his friends. He can come home to do laundry and raid the fridge.

Yes, we’re all very excited. Most of all, we’re so grateful to see how God worked to pave out the path for Asa and to make it so clear to him that this is the way he should go.

And now, we carry on with the final few weeks of the school year. It’ll be a bittersweet ending this year, full of gorgeous new beginnings. God is faithful through every season of life. How exciting it is to see all He has in store for us all in the tomorrows.

What are you thankful for this Gratituesday?

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Gratituesday: Rested!

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Well, hello there. Nice to see you again. I’ve had a wonderfully refreshing break – so thank you. (What, like I gave you a choice in the matter?)

What I loved most about my break was the chance to enjoy homemaking and schooling my kids without any pressure to squeeze blogging work in and around all the crazy. It was refreshing to check that off the to-do list for eight entire days. I missed writing, no doubt. But really…I didn’t. I needed to rest my fingers and my head. I’m thankful the Spirit prompted me to rest. I’m thankful I listened and obeyed. I’ve learned much.

So what have I been up to during the past week? I did some cleaning. I looked through piles of pictures for Asa’s upcoming graduation reception. I spent extra time in the Word. I sat in the sunshine. I got caught up on history lessons with Elias and Malachi. I did some baking…

rest 1

I made a double batch of our favorite Poppy Seed Bread with Orange Glaze (recipe in {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook). Yum! We ate two loaves and froze two for another day. I also made a double batch of cookie dough balls for the freezer. The boys were excited about that, for sure. (I especially like this because they can get out a few balls from the freezer and bake them without any help or mess.) It was just really fun to piddle around in the kitchen – stirring, baking, and singing praise songs along with the radio.

rest 2
Over the weekend we drove to Kansas City for the annual Leadership Training for Christ convention our kids participate in. This is Asa’s final year – he’s been doing this since 3rd grade! He was blessed to receive a scholarship for his efforts, which is a huge blessing! Our kids participated in a Bible Bowl, dramas, choirs, and much more. It was a very full weekend with all four of our boys in a variety of events, but we love joining over 100 people from our congregation and many hundreds of people from all over the midwest at this event! Here are some snapshots of our boys:

This was Asa and Justus’ high school choir. I may have cried during the entire performance. It’s a “my son is a senior” thing. Plus, they sounded gorgeous.

ltc 1
Justus is front right – Asa is in the back, second from the right.

ltc 2
Here’s Malachi’s choir. He’s standing front right.

ltc 3
This is Elias’ crew right after they performed their middle school drama. They were awesome!
Elias is in the black striped shirt – the handsome dude with glasses.

We came home in time to celebrate Easter along with several college students we invited for the day. We put out a big spread of ham, green beans, asparagus, corn, rolls, cantaloupe, and pineapple. Then we followed it with a brownie sundae bar. Here’s part of our buffet:

easter dinner 1

It’s been a delightful week. I’m thankful for the rest. I’m glad to be back.

A bit of encouragement for us all: If the Lord prompts you to do something – listen and obey. He knows what He’s talking about. :)

So now you’re turn: What have you been up to? What are you thankful for this Gratituesday?

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