Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

What an awesome day! A day devoted to being thankful. Yes, we are to be thankful everyday...but sometimes it is nice to have one specific day to recognize our thankfulness in a very evaluative way.

This past year has been full of changes for our family. We have had to face some very difficult decisions and circumstances. But, in it all...God has an amazing plan. We are in the midst of working through the plans he has for us and we would not change any of our difficulties at all! Trials, difficulties and being stripped down to barely nothing has really allowed us to look at ourselves and our lives in a very different way. Having nothing to hide behind has given us no choice but to look at our hearts, our motives, our love for others and what God wants from us. All he wants from us is to trust him with our lives. We are so humbled that he has taken so much away from us so we have had to rely solely on his word and who he is. We are so humbled that he knows what we need more than we do and that he knows what he wants us to do here on this earth. We are so humbled that he never gives us more than we can handle and that he works all things together for those who love him. Each day that we learn something new...each day that we grow in him...is all part of his plan to shape us, mold us and to prepare us for what lies ahead. We are so excited to see what he has for us...even if it is not what we would expect...or even if it is not the typical for most people. We are so grateful for so many amazing friends and family who have continued to pray for us, encourage us and motivate us to live a life that is pleasing to God. Growing into who God wants us to be means weening out bad habits, bad attitudes and sometimes even certain relationships. It is difficult to have to bring out the pruning sheers...but it makes sense to eliminate anything in our lives that is not God honoring and/or is not helping us be better people. Not everything is bad per say...but not everything is good either.

So, on this Thanksgiving day, 2008...we are so grateful and thankful for ALL that we have been through and are going through. We are so thankful for the people in our lives. We are so thankful for each other and our commitment to getting through this. We are thankful for 3 beautiful, healthy children. We are thankful for a place to live, food on our table and our health as well. And even though we have depended solely on God to supply our food, health & shelter these past 3 months...we have never gone without. Our God is SO much bigger than any amount of income we could be making. He is SO much bigger than our ability to contribute. It's amazing how we've gone 3 months (although intensively searching!!) without work and God has supplied our every need. Isn't he absolutely amazing??? All because he LOVES us and wants to show us how great his love truly is! In return, building a confidence and trust in him that gives us MORE than we could ever find on our own. That's our greatest Thanksgiving "we are grateful for statement"...God's ability to reach down in us and change us from the inside out so HE will receive all the glory and honor for what HE is going to do with what we may view as a mess. He loves us THAT much.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Makenzie

This little girl makes us so proud! Despite moving to a new place & all of the moving around and changes that have gone on the past 2 years...Makenzie has adjusted so well and is doing so awesome in school.

Last evening, we had Makenzie's conference at school & her teacher was so enthusiastic about Makenzie. She said that Makenzie is such an awesome little girl...incredibly helpful, bright, hardworker, smart, well liked by her peers & so much fun. She told us that she has been teaching for over 10 years in several locations around the country, has her master's degree and is a reading specialist & she said that Makenzie is one of the brightest children she's seen and was so encouraged by how much Makenzie loves to learn. She showed us the work Makenzie is doing in class & emphasized that Makenzie is only in first grade and the level of work she is doing is much higher! When you are looking at the standard level of work (she was showing us the actual materials that are standard) and then what Makenzie is capable of doing & is doing...it really put into perspective what a bright little girl she is! Even though at home, we see how easily she completes her work and just LOVES to learn...when you see the actual materials...it's really awesome. Miss Krieg shared with us that because Makenzie is at a very high level, she has recognized that in her by giving Makenzie special things to do around the class to help others. She gave her a special job of being a "math captain" so when she is done with her assignments, Miss Krieg has Makenzie sit with other children who may struggle & offer some help. She emphasized that she doesn't want Makenzie to give them the answer, but help them work through it...and that she does a fabulous job of encouraging the kids with their work. She gave us some examples of how Makenzie helps and it was so funny. But the one thing that I LOVE about her teacher...is that she never labels the children into groups or tells them that someone is at a higher level. She skillfully integrates amazing wording & grouping to encourage all of the children to succeed. She is an amazing teacher & I am so thankful that Makenzie's first school experience has been with such talent & encouragement. I am also grateful for teachers who recognize where children are at & do a good job to cater to all of them at the level they need while they learn...in the way they need it. :-)

I had tears in my eyes during her conference because it just amazes me that even though our lives have been really unstable and crazy over the last few years; through God's grace; our dedication to our children & the love we do our best to give them has helped create an emotional stability & confidence in her that is beyond anything we could do on our own. It is not easy to be a parent. It is not easy to raise children in this society. It is not easy to "make it"...and although she is only 6 & has so much of her education ahead of her...it is so important for us to always remember that NOTHING can give our children security & confidence more than our time, committment & love. We will continue to pray for her that she will not lose that drive to work hard & that she will always have a love for learning. We are so proud of our little girl and love her so very much!

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And a little bit of "toothless" silliness...
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Sunday, November 16, 2008

More than blessed...

I do not get to update my blog much, but I really wanted to add this today. This morning, the Men's Teen Challenge Group from the Duluth, MN, campus came to our church. It was such a blessing to be able to hear the testimonies of so many men who were troubled, hurting, in & out of prison and at rock bottom yet, DESPITE their circumstances...someone cared enough about them to refer them to Teen Challenge. Minnesota Teen Challenge (MnTC) is one of the largest residential drug and alcohol programs in the state of Minnesota. They have a 60-Day drug treatment program, as well as a year long program. They serve teens and adults from all ethnic, socioeconomic and religious backgrounds. They came to our church to not only sing, but to share of the complete life change God has done in their life. We were MORE than blessed by these men & were able to talk to many of them afterwards over a potluck lunch. Sometimes we forget how big of a struggle people go through with drugs, alcohol & addiction. We think the answer for them is to just "stop" doing drugs. But, many of these people's struggles go further than the drugs & alcohol. Many described having been in & out of treatment centers that did nothing but make them quit drugs for a bit. Teen Challenge offers them something more. A change from the inside out...not just externally. I have always loved Teen Challenge & what they do for those who struggle with addiction. They do much more than provide them with a place to get "clean". They provide them with the tools to stay clean, live a better life when they complete the program and it is all based on the love of Christ.

I know we all have our organizations that we give to & our churches that we support, but if you are looking for an awesome opportunity to let God use some of the blessings he has given you to help support this awesome organization, please follow the link to see how you can help! I know that the Duluth Men's Campus is actually struggling right now with financing & are in need of financial blessings or the program may have to close. I encourage anyone who has something to give, to consider offering something to the Duluth Campus. This area where we live now is a very difficult area to reach because of the prominence of drugs & alcohol. There is an overabundance of bars...so Teen Challenge is a wonderful safe haven for these men who want to change their lives, be mentored & turn their lives around. Please visit http://www.mntc.org/ to see how you can help!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lots of Updates...

I finally had some time to update my blog. :-) Sure, a little late with the Halloween pics...but better late than never! haha. I used a different uploader to help speed up my time...but it made many of my pictures look a little murky...sorry. I am not about to do them again! haha. Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Cookies...

What would a cold, fall day be without warm chocolate chip cookies??? So, the plan was to make some yummy cookies with Amara & Madden...but Amara fell asleep...so Madden & I gave it a go & had a lot of fun!!!

Hooray for mommy's chocolate chip cookies!!!
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Outside fun...

Now, it's getting a lot colder...but we had a beautiful & warm fall! Just some pics of Madden & Amara playing...

The kids LOVE the fourwheeler! Amara likes to sit on it all the time!!!
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Madden loves trucks, too!
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Visiting Makenzie's Classroom...

Just a few pics from Makenzie's class when they were out at recess...

Her teacher Miss Krieg
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Halloween!!!

We had a great time on Halloween! All of us sister's met up with the kids at Shannon's house around 3 pm. We got all the kids ready & then ate some dinner together. We went to UWS...the college in town...because the college students decorate their dorms & hand out candy. So, the kids had a lot of fun doing that for an hour or so...then because it was so nice outside...we went to a few neighborhoods to finish up. The kids had a lot of fun & got lots of candy!

Here are a few pics of my kids earier in the day in their costumes...

Amara was a ladybug. :-) She looked so cute! A neighbor had given us this costume back in PA when Amara was a baby...it finally fit!
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Madden was spiderman...
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Makenzie was Hannah Montana...oh boy...
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And all the kids before we set out to Trick or Treat!!! Carson ended up not feeling well...so they were not able to go with all of us. :-(
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The Landis kids...:-)
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Kayleigh & Madelyn...
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Tim decided to be Bumblebee from Transformers....
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Brendan...
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Noah...or should I say FREAK???? Nasty mask...
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Rockstar...
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Halloween Butterfly!!!
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We were getting ready to go when Tim was busting out in laughter...we turned around to see the Vampire chasing the Freakshow!!! It was so hilarious!

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A little adult fun...
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The Yellowjacket mascot was sure to make his appearance at the dorms!!!
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Some candy...
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Makenzie going through her candy...
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