May 31, 2017

Today is my husband’s last day as the Forge Director at Pine Cove.  

It closes out a chapter that is 12 years long.

To be exact, that’s 4,412 days that he’s given to the ministry of the Forge.
Almost 1/3 of his life.

In ministry, you’re on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which means 105,888 hours that he has devoted to the mission of training up leaders for a lifetime of ministry.

12 years ago when we began this journey, we had no idea where it would go, what we were doing, or if it would even last longer than a year or two. We sat in a van with 12 students, driving them to their first destination and we looked at each other.  Our eyes said, “What in the world are we doing? What do we do next?”

Over 275 students later, that chapter has come to a close and I can say this:
I’m proud of him.  Exceedingly proud.

I didn’t know until this year, but one of the first things he says to his students on the very first night they arrive is, “Whatever we do, we will do together.  And you can know that you will get all of me.  You’ll get whatever I have to offer.”

And that… he has done.  He has given all of himself to this ministry.  Long days, late night phone calls and emergencies, triumphs and celebrations when his students succeeded, tough days when they failed or suffered or grieved together, thousands of miles on I-20, hundreds of miles hiked in Israel, hundreds of classes taught, over 800 office hours… hundreds of students’ lives directly influenced, and thousands of parents, mentors, mentees, relationships, marriages, children, families, ministries and businesses indirectly influenced by his investment with the Forge.

All that being said, there are two things that make me the most proud.

1. Matt leads people like Jesus did.
2. Matt leads people to Jesus.

Matt asks questions.  He pours into others’ lives, but also teaches them to think and learn for themselves.  He doesn’t spoon-feed every answer, he won’t let you be lazy when it comes to Scripture (or P2, or anything else, for that matter).  He holds Scripture and the gospel in the very highest esteem; it’s the air he breathes and he never misses an opportunity to point people to it.

I’ll be the first to say that people are drawn to this; they are drawn to Matt because the way he teaches and invests in people is unlike anyone else I know.  For a leader, this is a place of great temptation: to see your own appeal and start to think that you are the ultimate, that making disciples of yourself is worthwhile (and it makes you feel pretty good too).  But the thing I am the most proud of in my husband, is that he has resisted this temptation over and over, and continually deflects attention from himself and returns people to the “Shepherd and Overseer of their souls.”

During Jesus’ ministry, people were drawn to Him, yet He continually directed His followers to the Father.  I have watched as students and staff have been drawn to Matt, and he always directed them to Jesus. I know there are countless students who joined the Forge because Matt was there; I know most of them would say they learned from Matt, but what they learned from Matt was the most important thing: that the gospel of Jesus is above all else.

If, in 12 years, Matt has taught anyone anything, it is that.

And that, is 12 years well spent.

Well done. I love you.

Your partner in it,

my daddy retires

This Friday, my dad will retire. I cannot say enough about how proud I am of the years of hard work he has put in, and how excited I am that he can now direct all of that energy to the things he really loves… and maybe even relax a little bit. 🙂

My dad went to West Point, served in the Army, became an Army Ranger, got married, had 4 kids, worked several jobs, and finally landed in his current job.  He has been there for just over 28 years.

Congratulations dad!  You’ve earned a well-deserved break.  And it means that you can come visit whenever you want now. 🙂

In view of my dad’s retirement, here are 28 things that I love about my dad.

He is gentle, but firm.
He makes a point to tell me that he’s proud of me – every time I see him.
He does everything with integrity.
He wakes early in the morning to spend time in the Word… And with coffee.
He has been faithful to his wife for over 40 years.
He raised 3 men who know how to treat a lady, and a lady who knows what to look for in a man.
He tells me, “I love you, doll” on a regular basis.
He has worked hard for 35 years to provide for his family, without complaining.
He loves my kids.
He invests in my husband, and loves him too.
He spends time investing in the lives of other men.
He cooks for my mom.
He joins my mom in pouring into young marriages and families.
He has been a “student” of my mom, learning what she loves and what makes her happy.
He has been a faithful servant in their church for 30+ years.
He loves to work with his hands; he taught me how to use a table saw.
He was a daddy to all my little friends growing up, and still invites them to come over and visit even though we’re grown.
He spent Sunday nights at AWANA when we were growing up, teaching my brothers to memorize Scripture.
He built us a sandbox and a fort when we were kids, and built memories with it.
He lived next door to a grumpy neighbor for 20 years and taught us how to be patient with someone.
He and my mom worked hard in jobs, rental properties, and side jobs to provide us with everything we needed.
He is never too old to learn something new.
He taught me how to fill up my car with gas the first time, and even to change my oil. (which I forgot)
He has a good sense of humor.
He and my mom paid for my first car, my college education, and our wedding, and in doing so set us up for a financially successful marriage.
He is patient.
He is a peacemaker.
He loves Jesus.
I love you, daddy.  Thanks for being a great example of all these things, and more.

recipes: freezer meals

Getting ready for baby and knowing I won’t want to cook after he’s born, I posted this picture on Facebook of the freezer meals I made, and had several requests for the recipes that I used.  So, here they are!


Homemade Lasagna (makes one huge family size pan or several small ones)
Meat layer: (mix all)
2 lbs ground beef (browned)
1/2 t. garlic powder
1 T. parsley
1 T. Basil
16oz. diced tomatoes
12oz. tomato paste

Cheese layer: (mix all)
24oz. cottage cheese
2 beaten eggs
2 T. parsley
1/2 c. parmesan cheese

1 pkg. lasagna noodles, pre-cooked
1 pkg. shredded mozzarella cheese

Layer ingredients, starting with meat layer on bottom.  Add a layer of noodles, then cheese layer, then mozzarella, then end with another meat layer. (double the layers if you have a deep pan or like more noodles in yours)

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or cover with plastic wrap and foil and freeze.  To bake after freezing, thaw first (at least half a day), then bake.

cresentCrescent Chicken (great fresh, or make chicken mixture and freeze)
This is one of my favorite recipes from my mom.  It’s similar to this recipe; the photo is from her blog and shows how to pinch the rolls together.

3oz. softened cream cheese
3 T. butter
2 c. cooked chicken, cubed
2 T. milk
1 T. chopped onion
salt & pepper
1 can crescent rolls

Blend cream cheese and 2 T. butter, add chicken, milk, salt, pepper and onion.  Spread 2 crescent rolls into a square, fill with chicken mixture and pinch rolls over to close.  (makes 4 pouches with 1 can of rolls) Spread with melted butter.  Bake 20-25 minutes.  If you want to freeze it, just make the chicken mixture ahead of time and freeze in a ziploc.  Thaw and put chicken mix in rolls when you’re ready to bake. (You could probably assemble the whole thing, with rolls, and freeze that way too – I’ve just never tried it!)

Chicken Stroganoff
6 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
16oz. sour cream
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 pkg. onion soup mix (dry)
1 pkg spaghetti noodles, cooked

Mix all but noodles together.  Put cooked noodles in the bottom of a large baking pan (13×9 or large aluminum pan). Spread chicken mixture on top.  Cover with plastic wrap and foil; freeze.  To bake, thaw and bake at 350 degrees for 30-60 minutes.  Top with grated cheddar if desired.  This also works as a Crockpot meal, just put all ingredients (except noodles) in a crockpot for 4-6 hours on low. (do not cook chicken beforehand)  Serve with noodles.

Deep Dish Chicken Pot Pie (adapted from Kraft for freezer type meal)
1 lb. chicken breast, cooked and cubed
1/4 cup Italian dressing
4 oz. cream cheese
1/2c. chicken broth
1 pkg. (10-12oz) frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1 refrigerated pie crust

Mix all ingredients (except crust) together.  Pour into 8-9″ round pan.  Place crust on top.  Freeze!  Store-bought pie crusts usually come in a box with 2 crusts, so I usually double this recipe and make two pies.

Chili (for chili dogs in summertime)
1 large can Hormel chili (no beans)
1 can chili beans
1 can red kidney beans
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 lb. ground beef, browned

Mix all.  Put in ziploc and freeze!  Thaw and heat to serve over hot dogs.

I also made these and baked in foil cupcake papers, then froze in ziplocs in portions that we would need for one night with our family. I used the recipe on the Bisquick box for their mini-cheeseburgers and adapted to what our kids like.  It’s basically a regular mix with Bisquick, milk and eggs, and you put hamburger meat and cheese in it.  See the box for recipe or see the link here! (photo credit to Betty Crocker)

For other freezer meals, I like to brown ground beef and freeze in ziplocs by 1-pound or 2-pound portions.  Same with shredded chicken or pork.  I love to make a HUGE crockpot of plain chicken and shred it all, then freeze in portions. Great for adding spices later: taco, bbq, throw in a stir-fry skillet, use chicken in a skillet with pasta/tomatoes/spinach and feta for an italian dish, etc.  Having the meat already made saves you that extra 30 minutes!

what sabbath looks like

About a year or two ago, my husband and I decided it was time to start practicing some type of Sabbath.  It’s something that Americans are not very good at doing, but after going to Israel twice (for me) and 10+ times for my husband, we were hit with the idea of how important it is to have a day of rest.  Watching our Jewish friends practice it there, how strictly they hold to it and protect it, is pretty convicting.

You’d think we’d know that by now… it’s in the Bible from the very first book, just after the very first chapter.  He commands it of us.  (You know, one of the “Big Ten.”)  Jesus practiced rest.

So, we started doing it.  For us, it has meant more like a half day of rest.  We chose Sunday afternoons as our time of Sabbath.  We attend church, we eat lunch (out usually, which means no dishes!), and then we just rest.  Until dinner.

That rest looks like:
Playing with kids in the backyard
“Working” on hobbies or things that are fun for us
Sitting on the couch and doing nothing!
Reading – our own books, or to our kids
Having grown-up talk time while our kids play quietly/nap in their rooms

It also means that dinner is usually:
Popcorn 🙂
A crockpot meal that was started at breakfast or lunchtime
… or something easy like Breakfast for Dinner

It also means that this is what Sabbath looks like…



If you know me, and you have read The Five Love Languages, then you know that my love language is a clean kitchen. 🙂  So for the first LONG time that we tried this, this drove me crazy.  I couldn’t sit still when there was stuff to do around me.  That sink full of dishes… I was nuts.  I’ve even tried making sure that on Saturday nights before we went to bed, that the house was spotless so I knew that Sunday would come and that sink wouldn’t be staring me in the face saying, “Haha, you can’t clean me today!” (Okay, I still do that sometimes)

Things have changed a little.  I don’t stress about it as much.  I admit, when I went into the kitchen tonight and saw that sink, my first thought was still, “Why are there so many dishes in the sink right now?”  But then I quickly remembered… Sunday.  Sabbath.  It’s okay if there are dishes in the sink.  And I don’t have to do them right now.

And wow.  Can I say what a freeing thing it is?  I know the dishes will be there later tonight, or tomorrow.  And I know that it’s okay that there were toys still on the coffee table when we tucked the kids in.  That wasn’t our job today.  Our job was to rest.

It’s a spiritual thing, for sure, but I’d say I’ve learned even more from it just in the realm of “practical” than spiritual.  It just makes sense to allow yourself to rest and enjoy.

Tomorrow, I can do those dishes with joy, knowing that today I rested.

Have you practiced a time of Sabbath rest?  What did/does it look like?  What have you learned from it? 

dream job

This is the view when I’m lying in bed at night.


Marriage license, family photos, our wedding vows with a picture from when we were dating…

The other night, I realized that this particular picture frame is at least 13 years old.

How did I remember that?

Because, as not many people know, in college I studied to get a degree in architecture in order to go on and get a Master’s in 3D animation.  My dream job was to work at Pixar or Big Idea (Veggie Tales).    I remember that picture frame because I entered one of my 3D designs in an art competition, in that frame.  (I think I got 3rd place or something, I don’t remember.)

Back then, the frame would have looked like this…


That’s the guy I had in the frame before. (yes, I know… that pencil is HUGE.)


I can’t say that I don’t miss that dream every once in a while: when I wonder where I’d be today (California? eh… no thanks.), when I watch a Pixar movie, or a behind-the-scenes look at how they make movies, or when I see “Saving Mr. Banks” in the theaters and am reminded of how much I love Walter Disney.

But you see, I’ve always had 2 dream jobs.  The one in the frame 13 years ago, and the one in the frame right now.

I don’t have 3 full-length animated films to add to my resume, but I do have a photo that holds the 3 most precious things to me. (soon to be 4!)

Looking at that frame a few nights ago, I thought, “Would I trade those 3 people for the fame/money/whatever/whatever of making movies? (and spending all day in front of a computer?)”

My answer is there when I turn around from this computer…





The answer is no.
No… I wouldn’t trade it.


he knows me: craft weekend

My husband performs weddings for lots of former students, so beforehand we have the privilege of meeting with them for premarital counseling.  At one session, he asked the groom-to-be, “What are her needs?”

The groom gave the deer-in-headlights look. “Like, she needs to be provided for?…”

My husband answered, “Every woman needs to be provided for. But what does SHE need?  … Like, my wife NEEDS to be creative. She needs to makes things, or she’ll shrivel up.”

He knows me. 
That’s why the gift he gave me 2 weekends ago was so perfect.
At Mother’s Day, he gave me a card saying to reserve last weekend for something fun.

Over the next 3 months I started to wonder and put together a few pieces, but he kept it a surprise until the moment we were at the airport (going on a “romantic getaway”), when he checked me in and printed ONE boarding pass.

“Here you go. Have fun!  You can probably tell from the ticket where you’re going. ”

I looked, and it was what I suspected, but didn’t dare dream.  Wichita, Kansas. Craft Weekend at Meg Duerksen’s house.


If you don’t know what this is, you should follow her blog.  She has five kids, is crafty, and is real. And to make it even better, you have be invited to one of her weekends – by placing your name on her email waiting list, and then being randomly chosen.

What makes it even better?  My husband emailed her and put his name on the list…  A YEAR and a HALF ago!
Mine has been on there just as long, but his name got picked!

Even better?
He knows me enough to know that I would have wanted to have a friend with me.  So he sent her…


I sat in the Dallas airport by myself for over an hour wondering. Then she rounded the corner and we both said, “I’m so glad you’re here!”  (She was afraid  her husband was sending her to a weekend away by herself… ALL weekend.  Her husband knows her, too.)

We chatted all through the airport, and even ran into one of Meg’s best friends there. “You’re not heading to the craft weekend are you?  Meg is one of my best friends!”

When we got to Wichita, we had a 2 hour wait until the “craft van” would pick us up, so he had arranged for one of his students (who lives in Wichita) to pick us up and take us to a local coffee shop.  (yes, I know.  he’s awesome.)  To my surprise and excitement, when we got back to the airport, the ladies who picked us up for Craft Weekend were familiar to me.  I follow 2 blogs.  Count ’em… 2.  I decided I don’t have time for more than that.  One is Meg’s, the other is Ashley’s.

Ashley and her sister picked us up at the airport!  I was hoping… 🙂

Arriving at Meg’s house was so strange, a place so familiar from her blog, and there we were standing on her porch, browsing her house, and sleeping in the (cute!) beds there.  So weird, and fun, and a total blur.

I’ll let the pics speak for themselves.  We walked inside the house and introduced ourselves to the other ladies there.  We were greeted over and over with, “Ohhhhh, you’re the HUSBAND girls!”

You see, they all knew each other through emails, Instagrams and Facebook BEFORE they got there, but we didn’t know them.  Our husbands had told them not to contact us, but they took the time to send in all our info so the other girls could get to know us.  “The Husband Girls.”  They were all swooning.


These were our beds for the weekend.  So fun.


Our first crafts were the famous ruffled aprons.



New friends!


Happy place.





Meg was such a sweet hostess.  She took care of us, and not only that, her kids had just started school (one moved to college!).  Try cramming all that into one week!


These girls came and picked us up at the airport.  Ashley’s blog (on the right) is the only other one I follow, and I LOVED getting to know her and about her family.  She has such a sweet heart, and it was fun watching her interact with her sister there too.  What a duo!


We left the weekend, boarded the plane and commented to each other, “What just happened?  Was that real?”

As we were leaving and loading up in the van to go to the airport, the other ladies told us again, “Tell your husbands we think they are rock stars.”

Yes ladies, we know.

sea world vacation

We took our family vacation to San Antonio, TX this year.  My younger brother is stationed there at the Air Force base, so we figured we’d better visit before he gets reassigned. Also, one of our favorite family destinations is there: Sea World.  I looked through photo albums and discovered that we actually went 3 times growing up: 1991, 1992, and 1994.  Classy pics here.OldSeaWorld

We did the Riverwalk the first day, then headed to Sea World for two days after the grandparents arrived.  A big family affair – 3 generations on one trip.





The kids were a little under the weather, so sleeping (or lack thereof) in a hotel room together did not go well, and the kids were tuckered out by 3pm, but they loved Sea World.  She cheered and clapped all during the Shamu show.  We should win big points with the grandparents for letting them come along, just to get to see her do that. 🙂

IMG_9577sTired.IMG_9578sDrunk-Looking Tired.
IMG_9574sCranky Tired.

Little Guy is going to be spoiled growing up because his birthday falls during the best time for us to take a family trip; he’s going to think we make trips just for his birthday! We celebrated in our hotel room with cupcakes, cookies, gifts and of course, a Sea World theme.  (Thank you Dollar Tree and Walmart bakery.  Easy party for mom.)






IMG_9553sLuckily, my husband made a wonderful cheerful, set-to-music highlight video that will remind us of all the fun we had, and perhaps we’ll forget the crankies and up-all-nights. 🙂

Also, here is our list of places we went and which ones were good for families with kiddos.  I did a lot of research ahead of time – some paid off, some didn’t.  Also, advice on Sea World with kiddos…

The Cove: burgers and sandwiches.  Playground out back for kiddos, outdoor picnic table seating, not a lot of options for food, mostly hamburgers.  We drove by Bigz Burger Joint (another place I researched – outdoor sports field for kids) and it looked nicer as far as seating and “newness.”  Also read about Momak’s Burgers (outdoor sports field for kids) but didn’t drive by.  Maybe it’s good?

Rainforest Cafe (on the Riverwalk):  Fun environment, if your kids aren’t scared of animatronic elephants, crocodiles and snakes. 🙂  Food was pretty good.

Two Bros BBQ:  Food was good – BBQ a little dry, but it could have been an “off” time.  Flavor was great though.  Baked beans with peaches in them?  Just say yes.  Playground out back for the kiddos.  Picnic table seating.  No standard individual combo meals, but they had a great family-sized meal you could get.  They said it fed 2-4.  It could have fed 4-8.

California Pizza Kitchen: No playground, but close to our hotel, and much better than Rami’s Pizza (which I researched cause IT was near the hotel, and a HOLE in the wall.  Rejected upon drive-by.)

San Antonio Children’s Museum: Totally fun.  $8 a person and well worth the $24 for our family.  Free until age 2.  Hands-on science experiments, play areas, replica airplane and trolley to play in, AIR-CONDITIONED!  We did this after two days at Sea World.  Perfect for a more low-key day indoors. Spent 2+ hours there.  Kids would have stayed longer, but we were hungry.

Hotel: Embassy Suites.  We stayed at the one on NW I-10 cause it was closer to Sea World, but I think we’d change to the one downtown on the Riverwalk if we went again.  More options in walking distance for dinner, and the drive to Sea World isn’t bad either way.  Great service, great rooms (with a door that closes (!) between the bedroom and living area – great for traveling with kids), and a great breakfast buffet with cooked to order omelettes, pancakes, sausage/bacon, the Works.

Sea World: Don’t pay full price for tickets. Take a stroller (or double-stroller for 2 kids).  Read their website for rules on snacks and drinks – they searched our bags but we took lots of snacks and LOTS of water. Sunscreen.  Go see the dolphin feeding first thing… GET to the park when it first opens. Go to the shows to sit in the shade. 🙂  Get to the shows at least 20 minutes early to get a good seat (and enjoy the shade longer.)  Have kids bring/wear their swimsuits to play in the splash park. Take quarters to feed the fish at the alligator pond. Visit the sharks and aquarium building in between shows. Visit the penguin building!  Go in May.  Don’t go on the weekend. Seriously.  Thursday was sooo nice.  Friday was crowded.  I can’t imagine Saturday.

There you have it!  Comment if you have questions and you’re thinking of going.  All in all, we loved it, in spite of the few snags we hit. 🙂


Today, I didn’t HAVE to do anything.
I mean, I had to take care of the kids, but I didn’t absolutely have to do anything.

My daughter and I did a craft, we cleaned up the house, took out the trash, watered plants and tidied up the garage.  I did a little design work while kids napped and watched a video.

My husband works full-time, so I can stay home with our kids and I don’t HAVE to work –  I can if I want to.  I didn’t have to go to the grocery store today, because he let me go last night… alone. 🙂  I didn’t have to clean the house over and over today after the kids un-cleaned it for me.  I know he enjoys a clean house, but he doesn’t give me the expectation that it has to be clean all the time.

It’s easy for me to get bitter when he’s at work: “Why isn’t he here to help me with these kids? They’re driving me crazy.  Or with this house? It’s a mess! Or giving the kids a bath and putting them to bed when he’s away on a trip?”  But then I remember, he’s away at work so those things really are all I have to do.  He leaves so I can stay.  I don’t have to wake up at 5am, get kids ready, backpacks ready, breakfast made, a business suit on, do my hair, put on my heels and grab a briefcase, drop off kids at daycare and rush off to a job for 8-9 hours to turn around and start all over again.

When I look around and consider: I am in a house with air-conditioning, groceries, a computer I can blog on, a TV my kids can watch, snacks for them to eat, a water hose in the backyard so they can play outside in the summer, a washer and dryer, a dog that drives me crazy but our daughter LOVES, toys coming out our ears… I realized how blessed I truly am that God has given me a great man who provides for us, who loves what he does and uses his gifts and talents, and how simple my life is, if I will just let it be.

I just have to love and care for my husband, our children and our home.  It’s a difficult job, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.  Thanks, babe, for making my job simple.

date night, forge style

Thursday nights are date nights.  Matt’s students come over and babysit for us, 3 at a time, and let us go enjoy some adult conversation… which more often than not means sitting in silence at a restaurant for a while – and enjoying the QUIET.

Two weeks ago, our students told us that they were planning our date for us.  Cool.  Except that there was the lingering thought… “This could be really cool… or really lame.”

Three students came over to babysit, then a few minutes later, two students arrived to pick us up and drive us to the date, dressed very nicely, opened the car doors for us, and even had a car playlist of music for us. (Okay, this could be really cool…)

We arrived at the dining hall at camp and found this…photo 3s photo 7s photo 8s photo 9sThis could be REALLY cool…

Two “waiters” greeted us and seated us at our table (“Hidalgo” and “Priscilla”… apparently it was an international restaurant), while some live music entertained us, compliments of 4 of the other students. (good too!)  They had is set up perfectly – close enough for us to hear them, far enough that we could enjoy good conversation without feeling like they were eavesdropping. 🙂photo 11sThe dinner was fabulous – chicken and shrimp alfredo, in a bowl as big as my head.  Sooo good.  Then, the biggest pazookie (ice cream on top of a hot gooey chocolate chip cookie) I’ve ever seen came out of the kitchen.  Also, soooo good.  We said we couldn’t eat it all.
We did.

photo 1s photo 2s

While we ate dessert, 2 things happened: first, one of the girls came out and read love poems and quotes to us, THEN the cooks and a few of the other students came out of the kitchen and performed an interpretive dance to “I Want it That Way,” completing the entertainment for the night.   Then the musicians invited us to the dance floor and we enjoyed a couple of slow dances together.

I just want to brag on how awesome they were, from beginning to end.  No other class of students has done anything like this – we felt so honored, and commented on what a cool job my husband has, that his students would think to, plan and execute such a night with excellence (and humor!).  It was the perfect evening.  We love you guys!  Thanks for blessing us with an unforgettable date night!

4th of july

A little late, but it’s been a busy week around here.
Here’s what the 4th is like around here…

We celebrated all 4 of the cousins birthdays in one party. (May & July)Cutest. 🙂The 4th always includes lots of popsicles at DeeDee & Papa’s house.And lots of silliness.  If you know you can’t get a serious pic, just go for the nonsense. (more popsicles)These two cousins are gonna be besties.

We are one crazy bunch!  And we didn’t even have everybody.  My younger brother, and my older brother and his family couldn’t make it this year (proud Air Force guys serving across the country), so we were missing them.  Maybe next year…  We can always add to the craziness!