Monday, August 5, 2013

A Book Review: Whit's End Mealtime Devotions

The good folks at Tyndale House Publishers sent me a free copy of Whit's End Mealtime Devotions to review.  I was especially excited about this opportunity because we fan's of Adventure's In Odyssey and we have experimented in mealtime devotions for the last month or two...with mixed success.  With four little boys at the table...this momma is always looking for ways to steer the conversation to things of God and away from the sounds your body can produce.  {snicker}

Each devotion is one page long...short enough to keep my little movers and shakers interested.  You'll find a mealtime prayer, an "appetizer" which includes questions to discuss, and then the "main course" where the verses are connected.  Each "mealtime devotion" is ended with a review and then "vitamins and minerals" which serves as a summary.  From start to finish, each devotion could take as little as 10 minutes...or longer if you encourage discussion. 

We enjoyed the book and I would recommend it to other families who are always looking for ways to keep their eyes on Jesus and avoid biological humor at the dinner table.  {grin}

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Cousin Camp 2013

We love living in Kentucky.  The only thing we don't love is that our family isn't here with us.  I am blessed to be "Aunt Tina" to 5 nieces and 2 nephews...I love, love, love being an aunt.  My boys love their cousins with a wild, crazy, over-the-top sort of love.  Rightfully so.  They are blessed with amazing cousins.  My "older" nieces and nephew (college aged) are not shy about playing with my boys and giving them lots of attention - and my boys love it!

Each year, we invite the "younger" cousins to visit our home in Kentucky for a week of "Cousin Camp."  It's the highlight of the year for my boys.  It's a week full of playing, laughing, loving, eating (oh my, the amount of food that seven children can consume is astonishing!), and making lots and lots of memories.

This year, we visited a horse farm with our friend (who also happens to be our dog's vet), Michelle.  She patiently taught the kids how to care for a horse and let them experience it for themselves.  They all loved it!  After caring for the horses, she led us to the orchard on the farm and let us ride her horse, Dallas.  It was such an amazing experience to see the kids overcome their nervousness and try something new.  What a blessing to spend the morning at the farm with Michelle.  Matthew caught his first frog while we were there and was devastated when he couldn't bring it home.

We did our best to assure him that he could find another frog at home.  As soon as we got home, he started searching our backyard for a new frog friend.  He didn't find a frog - but, he did find a baby bird that had fallen from it's nest.  We had to do a little "wildlife rescue" and return it to the nest {full disclosure: I got freaked out and asked the neighbor to help me}.

We made our annual trip to the drive-in movie theater near our house.  My dad loved drive-in movies and it's nice to see that "love" passed down to his grandchildren.  We stayed up WAY too late and had a great time!

We also enjoyed a trip to the local frozen yogurt shop - and got to choose from 108 toppings!  The kiddos were in heaven!

There was also lots of time to just "be kids."  They rode bikes, made crafts, played basketball, created their own "rock band" (complete with break dancers), Grace read bedtime stories to my littlest men, we slipped and slided in our backyard, enjoyed a "fireworks" show in our cul de sac, watched movies together, played hide and seek, and even created a few games of their own :"spies" and "monster in the closet."  I didn't take pictures of half of the fun...I was too busy having fun to pick up the camera!

Cousin Camp 2013 was busy, loud, fun, wonderful, and full of precious memories.  It's a lot of work to pull off a week like this...but, my heart is full and I can hardly wait until next year.  (grin)

Here are a few of the highlights from this year's Cousin Camp:

We had to get up early to help with barn chores, 
but Luke was happy!

Sam at work.

Zack making friends.

Caleb was thrilled to help lead the horse out of the stall.

Our friend, Michelle, teaching Matthew how to clean the horse's feet.

Lillee and Grace brushing the horse.

The joy on Matthew's face is so precious!

Gracie looking lovely.

Lillee was concentrating.

Picking some apples from a tree in the orchard.

Caleb loved riding horses.

Michelle riding Dallas through the alfalfa field.

Zack giving Matthew a hand with roasting by candlelight.

My sweet niece, Morgan, surprised us with a visit.  We surprised her with a birthday cake!

Lillee trying to stay dry (in spite of her umbrella) while watching the fireworks.

My brother, his wife, and my niece watching the show.

Caleb working to find enough rain to relieve his thirst.

Matthew enjoying his first sparkler.  I am frightened by the joy that fire and explosives brought to his life!

My brother and my nephew, Zack.

Caleb loves his Uncle Jeff so much!  He asked me to take this picture of the two of them.

After the fireworks "show" Brad started a jump rope party in the cul de sac.  :)

We were all sad when "the cousins" and their parent's left....but, so thankful for the beautiful double rainbow this evening.

Monday, June 17, 2013

It's a Dangerous Cycle & Catching Up (part 1)

I find myself caught in this crazy cycle regarding this blog.  It just seems that all of my "pistons" are not firing at the same time.  For example, I get ready to blog about some sort of happening in our lives and then: I don't have photos uploaded, I seem to run out of time/creativity,or most commonly,  after a day of settling disputes and keep the children occupied - I am left unable to write in complete sentences.  Then, after a long silence on the ole family blog...I am overwhelmed by the thought of catching up.  So, I just continue to neglect the blog. 

Lately, as I look at my sweet little men it's so evident that they are growing and changing at such an alarming makes my heart race if I dwell on it.  These days are crazy, loud, chaotic, busy, overwhelming, dirty, messy, and completely wonderful. {sigh}  The days go by so quickly, consumed with activity and cleaning up from said activities...that I forget to savor them.  These are some of the sweetest days of my life and I need to have a record of them.  My children and I will need to read about these days and remember how God provided, protected, and loved us.

So, with that being's time to "fire up" the blog again! 

Poor Luke was sick on his birthday (second year in a row) and had to cancel his party. 

Opening gifts seemed to make him feel better, for a while.

A few weeks later, we celebrated his birthday with our dear friends, The Bellew's.
With our 4 kiddos and the 5 Bellew kiddos - it was a party!

enjoying some cake!
Sam and I were able to attend a NCAA game in Lexington,  The Butler Bulldogs over Bucknell!

Over Spring Break, we took a tour of the Ale-8 factory in Winchester, KY. 
Our lovely friend, Miss Katie, joined us!
The Johnson clan with their first bottle of soda.

Matthew lost his first tooth!  At age five, he is the youngest Johnson to have ever lost a tooth!

Caleb still has all of his teeth, but apparently lost his mind!  {little comedian}

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Birthday Boys!

I've been living in denial.  As if my baby boys wouldn't actually be another year older now if I didn't blog about it and document it with pictures.  {snicker}  Those cute little boys who rocked our world and doubled the number of children in our family entered the world five years ago on January 25th.

It's been a big year for them.  Learning and growing so much and working hard to keep up with their bigger brothers.  It's been a joy to watch their personalities change and their interests develop. 

Caleb really enjoys drawing, writing, coloring, building Lego creations, wrestling, giggling, being read to, snuggling, and dreaming about skateboarding when he "gets taller." 

Matthew is a lover of people.  He loves to engage people around him (friends and strangers, alike!) in conversation.  He is incredibly "physical" and loves any activity that requires him to be in motion!  His first love is basketball.  We have an indoor goal and foam ball that transforms our living room into a gym...and Matthew plays daily.  He loves to be outdoors and "adventure" is among his favorite words. 

Sweet Matthew loves to write his name!

Our dear friend, Mr. Dave, was so patient in helping Caleb with his new Lego set.


The boys were blessed with some very generous gifts from their friends and family.
Caleb opening his gifts.
They requested just a few friends to join them for the birthday fun.  What a blessing to see Caleb and Matthew enjoy being loved and celebrated!  Sweet little fellas were sure to thank everyone for their gifts...and delighted in having some new things to play with.

        Happy 5th Birthday to my sweet little boys!  We love you, Caleb and Matthew!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Book Review: Miracle For Jen

The story of an seemingly perfect family of four living life, loving Jesus...until an evening drive home from a school choir concert changed everything.  The Barrick Family was hit by a drunk driver and the results were devastating.  The entire family sustained injuries...and nearly claimed the life of their daughter, Jen. 

The book follows the journey of this family as they struggle to heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Mrs. Barrick shares of the difficulties of the recovery and forgiveness with great honesty.  It was inspiring to read of how the body of Christ came together to support this family during their months of recovery.  Their family and friends kept vigil at Jen's bedside when her parent's were unable to be with her.  This family was surrounded in prayer, provided with meals, encouraged, and care for.  An amazing testimony of how God uses His people to share His great love. 

Although Jen's life is forever changed as a result of a traumatic brain injury...her relationship with Jesus only grows deeper.  God has written a miraculous story of healing in her life - and she is eager to share it. 

This book was a quick-read and very inspiring.  I would recommend this book to my friends.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hello 2013!

So, the last blog post was a bit heavy and emotional...because sometimes life is like that.  It's also light and funny at times...God is present in both.  I am grateful.

New Year's Eve holds no special place in the life of our family.  Our kiddos are relatively young...and lack of sleep makes them grouchy and mean.  Who needs more of that in their lives?  Not this momma! {snicker} I got enough of my own!  My dear hubby is also an early to bed, early to rise sort of, it's really asking too much for him to stay up past midnight just to kiss me and let out a "whoot!" for the new year.  So, I am usually the only one up to watch the ball drop and usher in the coming year.  Honestly, we are really fun people - the fun just usually happens before midnight!

We are not big "resolution" sorts of people, either.  But, this year was a bit different.  As we sat down to dinner on January 1, 2013...I asked the boys to think of a goal they had for the coming year.  I explained that a goal was something you wanted to accomplish, to get better at something, a new habit you wanted to gain, etc...  You know, just to get their "wheels" spinning and inspire some good ideas. 

So, our responsible first-born responded with something about not wanting to fail third grade (he is an excellent student - and not in danger of failing) and wanting to help poor people.  Love his heart.

Then, we moved around the table to our youngest child (4), who said something I can't remember and then something I hope I never forget, "I am going to try to not pick my nose when we go to special places."  Ha!  I love the honesty...and what exactly would qualify as a "special" place? 

Next up, our second born kiddo...with a big heart.  He shared about how he wanted to share things that he had with people who didn't have very much.  He also wanted to give his food to hungry people.  Love this.

Around the table again, to our third born...who shared that if he "gets lots of money" he will share it with the poor.  I love his generous heart and pray that he isn't planning to play the lotto.  {snicker}

So, I began to notice a theme developing...God is growing our boy's hearts for the "least of these."  So, I guess we had all better get moving in that direction in more intentional ways (that our boys can see).  I've been praying for opportunities that are age-appropriate for our kiddos. 

We've also begun a new habit for the new year.  We're reading this little gem (for the life of me, blogger will not allow me to open a photo of the cover here) each day after dinner.  I have been reading the adult version of "Jesus Calling"" for a few years now...and I love it.  It blesses me and reminds me of Jesus' great love for me. 

So, we are reading it together daily as a family each night.  As is much of our life, sometimes it's a blessed time together and other times, it's a total train wreck.  {snicker}  We're learning to embrace it all!

Thursday, January 3, 2013


It's nearly two o'clock in the morning.  My boys are sleeping soundly, I can hear Brad breathing softly in the bed next to me...I should be sleeping.  My body is exhausted, but my mind won't follow it's lead.  So, I crawl out of my warm bed and stumble into the living room.  I find my Bible and search for comfort.  It's one of those nights when sleep won't come, but grief does. 

I miss my parents terribly.  My heart aches for what should have been.  It simply wasn't supposed to be this way. Who would ever imagine that within 15 months both of your parent's would die?  It simply wasn't in my plans...or theirs, for that matter.  Still, I find myself this place of grieving, in spite of my well-laid plans.

Grief is such a strange road to walk.  At times, I am completely at peace.  I am confident that my Mom and Dad are with Jesus.  There is simply no greater comfort.  I know because of His saving work on the cross, I can be with them again someday in Heaven.  While there is tremendous peace, it doesn't erase the pain of loss.  It's a source of comfort - but, not a cure. 

Some days, it's as if a tsunami of grief and sadness threaten to overcome me.  Usually, these feelings creep into my mind late at night...when the duties of my day are finished.  My hands are idle, but my mind is not.  At times, I struggle to discern if this is simply the way of grief or if it's a spiritual battle.  Is the enemy whispering worry into my heart and mind?  I am being tempted to replay the past instead of looking to the future?

At times, I feel simply overcome with grief.  The loss is tremendous. The pain goes deep.  I enjoyed a great relationship, a friendship, with my Mom and Dad.  They loved me, my husband, and my little boys so well.  I miss their support and encouragement.  I miss the way my mom would celebrate with me when one of my kiddos accomplished something.  I miss my dad saying, "Well, hello girls!"  when he walked into our house to find my boys waiting for him to arrive.  I miss my mom helping me clean the kitchen and folding laundry when she visited...she wanted to bless me. 
My mind is flooded with images of my parents tonight.  I can see vividly my sweet mom's face as I prayed with her just before her surgery.  While she would miraculously survive the complicated procedure to save her life...I would never really see her again.  Days later, we learned that she had no brain function.  She was already gone.  Shocking - she had been healthy just days before.  I'm overcome with sadness.

I remember walking into my dad's hospital room just eleven months later to find him attached to all sorts of wires and tubes.  He had suffered a massive heart attack.  The cardiologist explained that he had literally suffered from a "broken heart."  The physical heart is enlarged as a result of some major emotional trauma.  Typically, the heart returns to normal size within a couple of months.  Not so with my dad.  He suffered physically for months, but managed to make some unforgettable memories with his family along the way.  We all showered him with love and he showered us, too.  In my mind, I can see him sitting in a wheelchair in the cardiologist's office, waiting for his pacemaker to be turned off.  He had made peace and he was ready to go home to Heaven.  The tsunami of grief threatens to overwhelm me again. 

After wading through the sadness, hot tears on my cheeks, and a heaviness in my heart...I realize that I am not overcomeGrief and sadness may threaten to rob me of my joy, but it's impossible.  I will not be overcome because of Jesus.  His death and resurrection have overcome death and despair.  Jesus has taken my sadness, grief, and sin as His own...and overcome death forever.  Even the most powerful feeling cannot change that.  Thanks be to God.

"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  
John 16: 32-33