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.


Homemade Decadence | Book Review

I love baking for my family. And with lots of brothers, I’ve never had a lack of taste-testers. [grin] When I saw this book, I knew I had to try it. An entire book filled with “irresistibly sweet, salty, gooey, sticky, fluffy, creamy, crunch treats”? Yes, please!

Filled with delicious recipes and beautiful pictures, Homemade Decadence by Joy Wilson is a good addition to your kitchen library. Recipes are divided into chapters such as, “Brunch”, “Pies, Crumbles, & Cobblers”, and “Ice Cream Social”. Just a few of the recipes included are, “Vanilla Sugar Doughnuts”, “Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies with Creamy Peanut Butter Filling”, “Toasted Marshmallow Squares”, “Brown Sugar-Cream Cheese Ice Cream”, and “Dark Chocolate Brownies Cupcakes”. Is your mouth watering yet?

Of course, in order to provide an accurate review, I had to test several recipes. The “Maple Apple Upside-Down Cake” would be a delicious addition to any fall party or dinner. My younger siblings especially enjoyed the “Vanilla Bean Confetti Cookies”. I did substitute vanilla extract for the vanilla bean and the cookies turned out just fine. I also tried the “Under-Baked Chocolate Chip Skillet Cake”. If you like your cookies under-baked with just a bit of crispiness, you’ll love this cake.

Note: The one thing I did not like about the book were all the beverage recipes that had an alcoholic beverage as an ingredient.

Disclaimer: Blogging for Books sent this book to me in exchange for my honest and thoughtful review. 

Acorns, Races, & Sin


“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…” Hebrews 12:1-2a

It was a beautiful fall afternoon and I was leading my siblings in our daily exercise time. The sun was shining, leaves needed to be raked, and everyone had lots of energy. It was a good combination. I decided to bring some fun into our afternoon activity. A few of us raked a complex path/racetrack through the leaves.

After some footraces in which various siblings competed, we positioned ourselves to begin a relay race. The three youngest siblings would begin by running half of the track and handing their baton to their assigned sibling, who would then finish the race. I was paired with my youngest (and smallest) brother so I shed my socks and shoes in favor of bare feet. I needed all the speed I could get. When the baton reached me, I took off running. Unfortunately, I failed to remember all the acorns that covered my path ahead. As I was running, I stepped on one of those tiny, sharp acorns. I felt the cut but continued running anyway.

When I reached the finish line (second place), I discovered that the acorn had caused a rather deep cut. I couldn’t clean it completely and had to wait until my EMT brother got home. He was able to fully clean and bandage the wound and it is now healing.

As I was thinking over this event, I was struck with a few truths.

#1: As Christians, our lives are like a race (Hebrews 12:1). We began the day we were saved and we are running toward to the Ultimate Goal–Jesus Christ. Each moment, each day is step closer to our Goal. Godly parents and mentors have passed the baton to us and we are to be running toward Jesus.

#2: Sin can be like acorns. Though I knew the oak tree stood there, I failed to adequately prepare myself to run. As fallen human beings, we sin every day. We see sin and its’ effects all around us but how often do we forget how powerful it is? We sin but fail to confess. We can continue limping on in our race but the power is gone.

#3: Confession of sin is like cleaning a wound. Getting my foot completely cleansed of all dirt was painful but necessary. Had I skipped cleaning the wound, it would eventually have become infected and caused much bigger problems. When we fail to confess our sin, it weighs on our hearts and minds. It festers and slows us down in our race. We can only obtain full cleansing and freedom when we confess our sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9

Pink and Black Stripes | Fashion


I love mixing and matching to create new outfits. With cool weather arriving in Wisconsin, I’ve enjoyed pulling out some long sleeve tops.


This silver leaf necklace adds a cute fall touch.


Black t-shirt: free
Pink sweater: Retique: $6
Black and white maxi skirt: Savers: $5
Silver shoes: Goodwill: $5
Necklace: Amazon: ?

Your Family in Pictures | Book Review

Although intended for parents, I found Me Ra Koh’s book Your Family in Pictures a very helpful guide to taking better pictures. I’m often lost behind my camera and am unsure of how to get a good picture. Koh simply and clearly lays out “recipes” for pictures that will become favorites for years.

If you have ever wondered what exactly ISO is and why your shutter speed matters, then this book is for you. With plenty of beautiful pictures spread throughout the book, you will continually refer to this guide as you practice your photography skills. Several pages include tips such as what to wear or how to make your black and white photos pop.

I did appreciate how Koh emphasized that you don’t need the latest camera to get good pictures. Rather, use the camera that is closest, even if it’s your phone. The point is to capture the moment. I have definitely been inspired to pull out my camera more often.

Note: There are a few pictures scattered throughout the book that I did not like. I recommend that you “edit” the book before leaving it around the house for siblings or children to look at.

Disclaimer: Blogging for Books sent this book to me in exchange for my honest and thoughtful review. 

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.


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


Bethany, Nathan, & Anna enjoying time together.


Jonathan and Anna listening to the various dinner conversations.


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]




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


Nathan enjoying the scenery.


The water was beautiful.


I enjoyed snapping pictures of this cute couple!


Chloe wrote our name in the sand.


Joseph exploring along the lakeshore.




Aren’t they cute!?


Anna searching for sea glass.



More exploring


Nathan and Mom pause for a picture together.



Dad found this stone shaped like Wisconsin.


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


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



I love this picture of Chloe and Bethany.


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


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.


The weather was perfect for a boat ride.


The lighthouse


There was a sailboat competition out on Lake Michigan.



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


If God is Good | Book Review

Thought-provoking and inspiring, Randy Alcorn’s book, If God is Good, addresses the problem of suffering and evil. Mr. Alcorn presents logical arguments for the coexistence of an omnipotent God and evil. He draws from numerous true life stories and Scripture quotations to show that the God of the universe has a perfect plan and that He can use suffering and evil for good. In the chapter, Why Doesn’t God Explain His Reasons?, Alcorn states,

The God of providence weaves millions of details into our lives and into all the lives around us. Maybe he doesn’t have one big reason for bringing a certain person or success or failure or disease or accident into our lives; in fact, he may have hundreds of little reasons. In order to understand God’s explanations, we would have to be God.

The 512-page book is divided into sections such as, Understanding the Problem of Evil and Suffering, Problems for Non-Theists, Divine Sovereignty and Meaningful Human Choice, Evil and Suffering Used for God’s Glory, and other topics. The book, though theological in nature, is written to be understood by the everyday Christian. I highly recommend that every Christian read this book. It’s not a quick read but it is an encouraging read. If God is Good will cause you to view suffering through new eyes.

Disclaimer: Blogging for Books sent this book to me in exchange for my honest and thoughtful review.