Category Archives: Personal

Giant Prints on a Budget


I love displaying family photos. It adds a personal touch to my home and reminds me of fun memories and the people I love most. Unfortunately, it can be expensive to purchase the printed canvasses or the frames and gigantic photos. Here’s a solution I’ve found that costs me less than $7.

Go to your favorite office supply store website and locate their blueprint printing services. Upload your photo and choose your preferred size. I like the 18″x24″ print that costs less than $2. Sometimes you’ll have to play around with the “Fit to Size” feature to get the right crop. Choose the color finish or the black and white finish. Add it to your cart and complete your order. My photos are always ready by the end of the day but are sometimes as fast as one hour.

Next, to stay within your budget, look for frames on clearance. I got this 16″x20″ frame for $4 at my local Hobby Lobby. Sometimes they’ll be banged up a bit but we used a bit of Old English to cover the scrapes on this one. You could also paint your frame with some leftover paint from the last project you did. ūüôā

Because this frame was smaller than my print size (OfficeMax doesn’t offer 16″x20″ blueprints) I did have to trim it to fit the frame. It was super easy. Lay the glass (without the frame) over the area you want displayed. Lightly trace the perimeter, remove the glass, and cut out your print.

This project was about $6. The photo, shot by my brother at our Easter celebration this year, is of my three younger sisters and me and is displayed in my younger sisters’ room.

This is another frame I got on clearance. This 18″x24″ frame cost only $5 because the glass was cracked.  I didn’t bother to replace the glass and have had no issues with the print falling out of the frame. I actually like the look of it without the glass. It’s a lovely matte finish.

This project cost about $7. This photo is a selfie I snapped with my sister Anna. 

So there you have it, an inexpensive way to display your favorite photos. Find some deals and enjoy decorating!

Why I’m Not Waiting for Marriage


For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a wife and mother when I grew up. I liked dreaming of marrying the Man someday. We would have a big family and life would be perfect. Being the oldest sister of 10 siblings meant I got lots of mothering practice in. ūüôā There was usually a new sibling every two years and I loved it. I liked the responsibility that came with being a big sister. I learned how to take care of the infant, potty train the two-year-old, teach the five-year-old to read, play with the seven-year-old and so on. Mom taught me to cook and clean and do laundry. I couldn’t wait to be married.

So what happens when you’re in your twenties (or thirties) and you haven’t met your Man yet? Or maybe you think you’ve met him but he’s taking his time to come calling? What happens when the days grow long and years slowly tick by without any sign of marriage? Do you give up the notion of marriage? Do you start chasing the fellow you think is “the One”?

I have read many excellent books on singlehood and preparing for marriage. I’ve observed many young single women. I have gotten advice from older married women. And I found the answer to all of those questions. Are you ready for it?

FIND A VISION BIGGER THAN YOURSELF.

It’s that simple. And it’s that beautiful. Find a vision bigger than yourself. Turn your focus from yourself to something much, much bigger than you. Build your existence on Jesus Christ. Here are a couple of practical ways to find your vision.

1. Focus on God

  • Spend time in God’s Word. 

These single years can hold the sweetest times of fellowship with God. Because you’re not in a relationship, you can focus on deepening your relationship with your Heavenly Father. Find a Bible reading plan. Set goals for yourself. Find a Bible study book and work through it. Journal truths that you’re learning.

  • Grow your prayer life.

Practice the habit of talking to God throughout your day. Commit your day to the Lord as soon as you wake up in the morning. Share your thoughts with your Father as you’re busy at work, or helping a sibling, or doing the twentieth load of laundry in a day. Confess sin and make issues right. Pray for your family members, pray for your pastor and your church family. 

  • Memorize Scripture.

I’m going to admit here that I have not been as faithful as I should be in Scripture memory. Pick a passage and an accountability partner and start memorizing. Find a passage that has blessed you during trials. Memorize a verse that has been a challenge to you. (Send me an email if you’d like to join me in accountability for this summer.) 

2. Focus on others

  • Build your relationships with your parents.

I cannot emphasize this one enough. It is so very important to build a strong relationship with your parents. Spend time with them. Confide in them. Share your deepest struggles and your greatest victories with them. Our parents want to help us but they can’t if we’re not sharing our hearts with them. 

  • Spend time with your siblings.

Find fun activities to do with them. Take them out for ice cream. Listen to them. Did you know you can grow your vocabulary by listening to your siblings talk about their lives? With 10 siblings all interested in various topics and working in various professions, I’ve been able to learn many fun little bits of information. ūüôā (Do you know what a “roux” is? Thanks to my younger sister, I now know.)

  • Get to know the older people at your church. 

There is a wealth of knowledge that my generation is failing to obtain because we’re so busy with our work, our devices, and our good times. Take time to stop and listen to their stories. As you get to know them, compile a list of questions to ask them. What was your favorite thing to do as a child? How did you meet your spouse? Where did you work? What was an important Biblical truth you wish you had learned sooner?     

  • Find ways to serve and bless others.

Use your single years to continue learning new skills and gaining valuable experiences. Learn basic plumbing, take a class on floral design, learn a new language, expand your kitchen skills, go on a missions trip. The options are endless. As you continue to learn, you’ll increase your ability to bless others. Find a young mother at your church who could use some help. Volunteer to wash the dishes, change diapers, clean, whatever she needs you to do for an entire day. If you’re a math whiz, tutor a struggling sibling. Practice your kitchen skills by baking a loaf of bread and deliver it to a neighbor.

I’m not going to pretend that I have singlehood figured out. I still have many areas where I need to grow. But that’s one of the beauties of building your existence on Jesus. When we surrender to Him, He molds us into His image. That truth excites me! We have a God who wants to use us, His creation.

Also, before I close I should state that I still want to be a wife and mother someday. ūüôā I still like to dream about my wedding day and having a family of my own. But that’s not where God has me right now. God has a plan carefully tailored just for me if I’m willing to surrender to Him. And He has a plan for you, too. Will you let Him use you during these beautiful days of singlehood?

Honduras Missions Trip

During the month of March, I was able to take my third missions trip. I traveled with Wings Bearing Precious Seed again and had a wonderful time. Missions trips never get old! New cultures, new friends, and new experiences are such fun. This time, I experienced things like airline delays, getting sick, God’s enabling strength,¬†being¬†pulled over by the police (twice!), late night games, and uplifting conversations with fellow believers, to name a few.

Just getting to Honduras was an adventure. A Wisconsin snowstorm and mechanical problems on my flight caused me to miss my connecting flight in Miami, FL. Five of my team members had also experienced delays and missed the flight to San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The six of us stayed the night in Miami and continued our trip the following day. We finally arrived in Siguatepeque, Honduras, late Tuesday afternoon.

Despite our late arrival, we were still able to do much. Wednesday through Saturday, we went out on the streets and passed out copies of Romans and an invitation to special meetings on Saturday and Sunday. The Hondurans were very receptive and rarely did anyone turn down an invitation. I was able to go to a market one morning with several team members and we passed out many, many invitations. It was so encouraging to see God work!

Our efforts were not in vain. We passed out a total of 27,300 Scriptures throughout the week. We had many guests at each of the services and gave 252 Bibles to first-time visitors. The most exciting part was seeing over 25 precious souls accept Christ. Seeing God work through human vessels is humbling. I trust that the wonder of being used by God will never get old.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was getting to know the Snyder family. The Ted Snyder family has been missionaries in Honduras for almost three years. (Fun fact: my family visited their home church years ago while we were on vacation in New York.)¬†From helping at a children’s Bible Club¬†to singing together in church to enjoying a coffee break, it was wonderful to be able to work with this dear family. They are amazing examples of Christ-love as they have taken 4 young Honduran children into their home and are raising them to love the Lord.

I also enjoyed the opportunity to play the violin and piano for each of the services. It was a stretching experience as I learned to improvise piano accompaniments for several vocal specials. Piano playing has never been my forte (pardon the pun) but God enabled. He gave me the strength to play in spite of my lack of ability and despite being sick. Missions trips are a great way to realize how weak you are and how mighty God is.

“Therefore, my beloved¬†brethren, be ye stedfast,¬†unmovable, always¬†abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” I Corinthians 15:58

The following pictures are not all mine. Thanks to various team members for allowing me to use your photos.

Waiting for the shuttle in Miami. It had been a long day.

School Outreach

Evening at the Snyders

Services 

Bible Club

Miscellaneous Pictures

Sightseeing Day

 

Travel Day

Guatemala Missions Trip

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I recently had the privilege of going on my second missions trip. I love missions trips! They are a crazy mix of excitement, exhaustion, and encouragement. ūüôā I love seeing God take the impossible and miraculously work through human vessels to complete His plan.¬†It’s thrilling!

During my trip to Guatemala, it was exciting to see God work in so many different ways. He enabled us to distribute over 48,000 copies of Romans to the people of Guatemala. As a result, 175 visitors attended the special services at Iglesia Bautista Fundamento Biblico. Throughout the three services, we saw 51 people accept Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. Praise the Lord! We ministered in two different schools and reached hundreds of children, teenagers, and young adults with the Gospel. Over 25 people were saved in the schools. A young man from one of the schools came out to the services and accepted Christ.

We walked for miles every day. Sometimes up steep streets, sometimes through crowded marketplaces, and sometimes through bad neighborhoods. Our feet blistered, we got sunburned, and our shoulders ached with the weight of our backpacks. It was exhausting work. We had some early mornings and some late nights. But the discomfort and exhaustion was worth every minute as we saw 10 individuals accept Christ on the streets of Guatemala City.

I came home encouraged and humbled. I was encouraged to see the nationals passionate about sharing the Gospel with the lost. I loved watching the young people of Iglesia Bautisa Fundamento Biblico open a Bible and declare the Gospel during the invitations. It was a blessing to work with other Americans to spread the Good News. Souls were reached for eternity because 18 people chose to follow God out of their comfort zone.¬†God delights in using His children to accomplish His plan. I am humbled to think that God wanted to use¬†an English-speaking girl to spread His Word in a Spanish-speaking country. As I used my few phrases of Spanish to hand out the Gospel and invite lost souls to church, God used me. There is nothing special about me; it’s only Jesus.

If you ever get a chance to go on a missions trip, do it. It will be an experience you will never forget. After I got home¬†I shared with my cousin in a text, “I came home with a renewed love for lost souls, a deeper hunger for God’s Word, and a desire to learn more Spanish so that I can communicate better.” Missions trips will change you. They will change your perspective on life and eternity. They will change the way you interact with people on the street. They will change¬†your walk with God.

“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, here am I; send me.” Isaiah 6:8

School Outreaches

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So many of the kids wanted selfies.

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Street Outreach

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We walked through so many markets like this one. At the busier ones, you could easily hand out several hundred Scriptures.

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Church Services

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Fellowshipping in the courtyard after church.

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First-time visitors received a free Bible.

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Sightseeing in Antigua

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Yes, that is an active volcano.

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The streets are all cobblestone.

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Fellowship and New Friends (Most of these pictures are from other team members.)
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Frisbee in the church courtyard.

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Pastor Garcia and his wife, Stephanie

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Mrs. Philbrick and I were partners for the week. We had a great time together. ūüôā

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Brittney and Abbey

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This picture of our entire team was taken at 4 a.m. on the morning we came home. Left to right: Mark and Tammy Philbrick, Jon and Kristi Nothstein, David Lord, Nathaniel Johnson, Chris King, Brittney Johnson, Hunter Philbrick, Luke Philbrick, Dema Johnson, Silas Philbrick, Allen Johnson, Abbie Sikma, Abbey Grimes, and Alan Harris.

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Saying “goodbye” at the airport.

South Dakota Vacation | Personal

Life has been such a whirlwind lately. As my siblings and I grow older, it’s a challenge to have family time. The second week in May, we were able to take several days and head to South Dakota. Andrew was unable to join us for the week but we were delighted to have Granny come with us. We had a terrific time together and thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the Black Hills and the Badlands.

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South Dakota had several inches of snow a few days before we got there.

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Shortly after we drove into South Dakota, we heard a loud “pop” and our van began experiencing difficulties. We slowly made our way to the nearest exit only to discover that we were still some distance from a town. We spotted a oil and tire company and figured that they could at least point us in the right direction. The manager graciously allowed our family to camp out in the break room while our van was towed. God miraculously worked out the details and the necessary parts were found and repairs were made in less than three hours! God is good!

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The scenery was breathtaking.

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Pardon the well-loved and dirty sweatshirt. [grin]

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Visiting Mount Rushmore was one of my highlights of the trip. Pictures just don’t do it justice. The sculpture is just incredible.

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The visitors’ center was fascinating and informative. Did you know that the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, had originally planned for Jefferson to be to the left of Washington (as seen above in the studio model)? Due to faulty rock, the original Jefferson was blasted away and moved to the other side of Washington.

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I love this picture of Joseph and Nathan.

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We were hoping to see bison up close and this fellow kindly obliged by standing about three feet away from the road.

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This rock formation, located in Custer State Park, is known as “The Needle’s Eye”.

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We took a day to drive through Badlands National Park. The rugged beauty is amazing. We spotted this sign at one of the viewpoints along the way.

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My lovely parents

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Granny snapped this picture of us.

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Jonathan surveying the land.

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This picture depicts the many layers of sediment and rock.

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One of our outings included a hike around Sylvan Lake.

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Some of us enjoyed climbing really high. If you look closely, Benjamin is proudly standing at the very top of that rock formation.

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You could see the Crazy Horse Monument from our cabin.

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Goodbye, South Dakota! We thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

January Update | Personal

You may have wondered where I’ve been for the past month and a half. I took an unexpected but completely necessary sabbatical from blogging. It has been an exciting, sweet, busy, sad, and special time for me. I am definitely looking forward to posting more often now and have several ideas simmering.

Here are a few photos from the last month or so.

I had a delightful Thanksgiving break and was able to spend it with one of my best friends. Hannah and I talked for hours and hours and hours. [grin]

December started off with a most exciting event. I had the privilege of attending my first birth as a doula. Little Rachel was born at 2:47 a.m. on December 1st. IMG_8895 For our family picture this year, we went with a jewel-tone theme. The younger kiddos really look tall in this picture!

My grandfather, Pop Criswell, went Home to be with the Lord after 2 1/2 weeks in the hospital. It was an incredibly sad but sweet time. Our Christmas Day was a special time as we stood around his bed and sang his favorite hymns and Christmas carols. God called him Home January 1, 2015. ¬†His funeral was a beautiful, victorious, God-honoring service. Over 70 preachers and preacher boys sang “Faithful Men” for his funeral. Please pray for my grandmother as she adjusts to life without her husband of 62 years. She has been an incredible example through this entire time. She is a beautiful living illustration of the Proverbs 31 wife.

Scenes of September | Personal

September found our family involved in some fun activities. Between birthday parties, a one-day vacation, and lighthouses, we’ve had a blast!

Our first event featured here is a surprise 80th birthday party for three of my grandparents.

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When your cake fails, make cake balls. [grin]

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Bethany, Nathan, & Anna enjoying time together.

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Jonathan and Anna listening to the various dinner conversations.

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Pop and Granny Criswell–I love this picture of them!

My photography skills are definitely lacking (see above) and I’ve been attempting to learn and understand our camera better. (Book review coming soon of a really helpful photography book!) We went up to Door County, WI on Friday and I tried out a few of the things I’m learning. While the pictures aren’t perfect, I was pleased with my progress. [smile]

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Anna

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One of my favorite stops of our day was Whitefish Dunes State Park on the shores of Lake Michigan.

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Nathan enjoying the scenery.

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The water was beautiful.

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I enjoyed snapping pictures of this cute couple!

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Chloe wrote our name in the sand.

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Joseph exploring along the lakeshore.

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Nathan

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Aren’t they cute!?

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Anna searching for sea glass.

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More exploring

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Nathan and Mom pause for a picture together.

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Dad found this stone shaped like Wisconsin.

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The younger half of the family–Chloe, Anna, Joseph, Bethany, and Nathan.

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We also stopped at Peninsula State Park. The foliage was beautiful.

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I love this picture of Chloe and Bethany.

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This lighthouse, located in Peninsula State Park, was just beautiful.

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Saturday, we had the opportunity to go out to the Milwaukee Breakwater Lighthouse. We know the owners of the lighthouse and they graciously invited us to go out to it.

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The weather was perfect for a boat ride.

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The lighthouse

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There was a sailboat competition out on Lake Michigan.

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At the top of the lighthouse–Anna, Chloe, Abbie and Bethany.

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Northwoods Vacation | Personal

I got back from a delightful, restful, and fun family vacation last Wednesday.¬†A sweet older lady at our church owns a cottage up in Conover, WI and has graciously¬†allowed our family to vacation there for the past three years. It’s definitely been one of our top vacation spots.¬†We had no internet and little cell service and I thoroughly enjoyed being disconnected for several days.

The cottage is on a lake and we took full advantage of a number of water sports. Tubing, skiing, kneeboarding, swimming, boating, etc. were all enjoyed by various members of our crew. [smile] ¬†I got my WI boating license before we left and loved getting to drive the boat a few times. Hopefully, you won’t mind the picture overload!

IMG_0827 First campfire of the week! The evenings really cooled off and the fire felt great.

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Cuddling around the fire with Nathan.

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Joseph in a contemplative mood.

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Mom and Dad canoeing.

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Eagles were nesting near the cottage. We saw one catch a fish.

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Chloe and Andrew enjoying some time together.

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Fixing meals is fun in the cottage’s tiny kitchen. [grin] We could crowd quite a few people in there.

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Two of my pretty sisters–Anna and Chloe.

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The cottage is so pretty at night.

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Some of the guys enjoyed fishing. Left to right: Andrew, Jonathan, Zach (friend of our family), Benjamin

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One of my highlights from the trip was¬†ministering through music at Twin Lakes Bible Church. Jonathan, Benjamin, and Zach sang a men’s trio while Andrew and I accompanied them on piano and violin. Video coming.

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Cooking breakfast over an open fire. It was the first time I had cooked a meal over the fire. I enjoyed doing but am certainly grateful for modern conveniences.

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 Chloe getting ready to go tubing!

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Tuesday found us visiting Bond Falls in the U.P. of Michigan.

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My sweet parents

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We saw a family of ducks.

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_MG_2818Zach snapped a picture of our family. Left to right: Andrew, Abbie, Jonathan, Benjamin, Anna, Bethany, Chloe, Joseph, Mom, Nathan, Dad
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Nathan at the falls.

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Our wonderful hostess, Mrs. Corbin, showed us some old slides of the cottage.

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Cooking supper over the fire. Hotdogs, baked beans, and….

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Fresh fish! Courtesy of the fellas.

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We ate outside for almost every meal. Don’t you love the random chairs?

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Joseph and Nathan

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Another of my highlights was boating up to Phelps. Here, Andrew, Anna, Bethany, and Chloe pose for a quick picture.

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We stopped in at Sweets, Treats & More for some delicious ice cream.

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All the girls enjoying their ice cream.

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We enjoyed some [ahem] singing on the way back. Daniel (Mrs. Corbin’s grandson and our faithful boater), Jonathan, Benjamin, Zach, and I sang various songs as we boated along. (Note: Benjamin’s face is not shown here but those two extra hands in the picture are his!) [smile]

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The final day, Mrs. Corbin generously treated the entire group to an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. Left to right: Mrs. Corbin, Dad, and Mom.

We really had a wonderful time enjoying each others’ company and soaking in the beauty of the Northwoods. Several times throughout the week, I was reminded of the awesome power of God. As you sit and ponder the creation around you, you can’t help but marvel at how mighty our God is!