Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Gratitude 449-461

Early afternoon on Christmas Day, we made our way across town to my Dad's house. As we sat at the stop light in the middle of town, I looked over. There it was again. The Reminder. The Constant Reminder of our loss.

She laid in that hospital for weeks and every time I drive through town, I'm reminded of that. As I sat there looking at it again, I was reminded of the many Christmas' that we came to their house. She was always dressed nice, dress pants and a sweater. The house was decorated, the table was set, the food was cooking, and the presents were under the huge Christmas tree. I never knew how much time, planning, and work she put into making everything perfect until she was gone. Her love and sacrifice for her family. It's just not the same without her there. This was our 5th Christmas without her.

I was also reminded of so many that were spending their first Christmas with an empty chair at their table. Friends this year who have lost a husband, a sister, a mother, a brother. And they will soon be starting a new year without them as well.

Death. An ugly reminder of the sin in this world.

Death. A reminder of why we celebrate Christmas. The Christ child, who humbled himself to come to this earth because we are sinners. The ultimate sacrifice. He became man. He suffered. He died.

All of this reminds us that in the imperfections, the hurts, the pains of this world.......We need to be Thankful. And so I continue my list of gratitude.


Love came down

Health on Christmas Day (after Brad and I both had strep throat)

A candlelit Christmas breakfast

A White Christmas


Kids reciting verses as we read through the Advent Book

Carol singing

Lights that remind me of "The Light"

Gifts that remind me of "The Gift"

Mounds of paper

Joy on Children's faces

Screams of delight

Good food

"in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
I Thessalonians 5:18

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all of you! I hope you all have a blessed few days celebrating our Savior's birth and spending time with family and friends.

 I thought I would share our Christmas letter with you just in case you aren't on our Christmas card list or I forgot to send you one.

Dear Friends and Family,

Another year has flown by and we are once again back to the holiday season of shopping, baking, parties, decorating, and for me….lots of list making! Every year I try to make it a little less hectic and stressful but have yet to achieve that perfect balance.

The year of 2010 has been a year of some exciting change around our house. For the first time we sent our kids off to school. Alexandra, Amanda, and Joshua turned 6 in July and started Kindergarten at Lansing Christian. Isaac turned 5 in August and started pre-k at the same school. They are all loving school and doing very well. I love to see their excitement when they come home and tell me all about their day. Especially when Isaac retells his Bible story, it’s one of my favorite parts of the day!

It’s fun to see them grow and it’s amazing how they all have such different personalities and interests. Joshua still loves watching and playing sports. He loved playing baseball in the back yard with Brad almost everyday this summer and played on a soccer team in the fall. Alexandra is my little artist. She could draw and color all day long. I love to see what she comes up with next and it seems her drawings continue to get more and more detailed. Amanda is our motherly child, she never likes to see anyone hurting, is always willing to help out and if she ever finds out you are sick, you will most likely be included in her prayers before bed. Isaac is our music lover! You will often find him with his guitar or his drums just singing is little heart out. He also loves to work and is always by Brad’s side. He has no aspirations of playing sports, he just can’t wait until he is old enough to go to work.

As most of you know, there is always a house project going on around here. This year was no different. The big thing that got finished was our back yard. We now have an above ground pool with a deck and we also put in a large back patio and fire pit. So you can imagine that we put that to good use. The kids had a fun summer of swimming, swimming and more swimming! They took lessons in June and are all swimming on their own now. They spent most of their time just throwing diving sticks in and retrieving them. I had to take on the horrible job of sitting by the pool all summer and watching them swim. It’s a rough job but someone had to do it.

For Brad, this year brought a change in jobs. It’s been about 4 years since he left Ford Motor Company but this past August they called him back. He went back for a 90 day temporary position and this month will be taking on a full time position as a supervisor at the stamping plant. We are adjusting to the new schedule and that it doesn’t give him the freedom that he had being self-employed.

And as for me……I am always kept busy by all the work around the house. For the second year in a row I am a Discussion Group Leader at a local MOPS group, which I’ve really enjoyed. About a year and a half ago I became a licensed insurance agent in Property and Casualty Insurance and then this past fall I went back and got my license for Life and Health Insurance and have been selling insurance part time for Midwest Insurance.

As a family we were able to do a little vacationing this year as well. In May, we headed to Bradenton, Florida for about 10 days with a little 2 day trip to Disney in the middle of that. It was great to get away as a family and just relax. We also made use of our camper a couple times. Once, in August in the extreme heat where we almost swore off camping for good, but we gave it another try Labor Day Weekend when it was perfect camping weather. All was good on that trip, so the camper is still with our family. Both trips were to the Indiana Dunes, we don’t like to venture too far away from home just in case we decide sleeping in our home is better. (Can you tell we love camping?)

We hope you all had a blessed 2010 and as you prepare for all your Christmas activities, that you remember to prepare for the coming of the Christ child, the greatest gift that was ever given.

Brad, Melissa, Alexandra, Amanda, Joshua and Isaac Vis

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Past

I love to go through old pictures of my kids and Christmas is no different. I thought I'd share some of our old Christmas cards and pictures taken of the kids at Christmas time. I know some of these I've shared before but they make me smile every time I see them so thought maybe you would too.

Awww! So innocent and sweet. And as you will see,
 the best Christmas picture ever taken by them.

Then the next year came, we added a child and Christmas pictures became a disaster.

You don't know how many tries it took and still this is the best we came up with in 2006.

2007, 2008, and 2009 came and things were starting to look better.

And here we are in 2010. Always has to be a goofball in the crowd.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Last year, for the first time, our family purchased an Advent Book. We spent 25 nights as a family reading the book together. It was a great time for us to take some time, sing Christmas carols, read about the coming Messiah, and we also prayed for those who sent us Christmas cards.

We all get so caught up in the shopping, wrapping presents, preparing food, and the anticipation of what we are going to open up on Christmas day. We head to church for a Christmas service, but do we really prepare for the day that we celebrate Christ? or do we prepare for everything else?

Our family really enjoyed taking the time to do this each night and my kids are excited to do it again this year.

If you and your family don't do anything for Advent and would like to start, I thought I would give you a couple helpful resources.

You can find the book that we use over at Celebrations and Traditions. They also have great ideas for things that you and your family can do to celebrate Advent as well as traditions you can start for celebrating other holidays and making them meaningful. They also have a newsletter that you can sign up to receive.

Also, if you've been coming here for any amount of time you already know that I love Ann Voskamp's blog A Holy Experience.  If you head over to her blog you can find a link to download a free Jesse Tree Advent Devotional Book.

How do you and your family celebrate Advent? I'd love to hear what you do.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Webster's Dictionary defines Gratitude as "the state of being grateful, THANKFULNESS".

What I found more interesting were the Synonyms and Antonyms for Gratitude.
Synonyms: appreciation, appreciativeness, gratefulness, thanks, thankfulness
Antonyms: ingratitude, thanklessness, unappreciation, ungratefulness

So, lets just think about this for a minute.

If you aren't thankful you are thankless and if you aren't grateful you are ungrateful. If we are constantly complaining about what we don't have and what we don't like in our life we are being thankless, ungrateful, and unappreciative towards God!

Larry Burkett says in his book The WORD on Finances:

Are we grateful for what we have, rather than resentful for what we don't have? When we look around, there's always someone else who has more. It's easy to ask, "Why did he (or she) get that instead of me?" Satan tries to get us to be discontented by comparing ourselves to others. The way to counteract that is to praise God for what we have and not let what others have affect us. Thankfulness is not based on an accumulation of assets; it is a positive attitude toward life.

Godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. I Timothy 6:6-8

As we just finished celebrating Thanksgiving, I hope you have all been reminded how important it is to be thankful, grateful, and content in all things and if you aren't - you are the antonyms. I don't know what your situation in life is right now but if you have Christ in your life - YOU ARE RICH! May that be your focus!

My list of gratitude continues:

435~ people who keep me laughing

436~ friends that hold me accountable

437~ passing my insurance exam

438~ heat on a cold day

439~ antibiotics

440~ a husband who so willingly takes care of things while I'm sick in bed

441~ well behaved kids that let me rest

442~ Isaac's retelling of Bible stories when he comes home from school

443~ pumpkin cupcakes

444~ cream cheese frosting

445~ licking the bowl

446~ blinds finally hanging on windows after years without them

447~ books that inspire

448~ secrets whispered in my ear from my kids

Join the Gratitude Community at A Holy Experience.

holy experience

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving from 2 Indian boys and 2 pilgrim girls (and their mom and dad too!)
May you all have a great day spending time with family, eating turkey, and being thankful to our God for all the good gifts He has blessed you with.
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Monday, November 22, 2010

My 2 Favorite Pumpkin Cakes

This week is Thanksgiving and that means Pumpkin Desserts! One of my favorite things to make! This year I was asked to bring dessert to 2 family gatherings. Although I absolutely love this, I am having a hard time deciding on just 2 pumpkin desserts! I have so many that I love. There are pumpkin cakes, pumpkin bars, pumpkin pies, pumpkin cheesecakes, pumpkin rolls.

You see my dilemma?

I thought I would share with you a couple of my favorite pumpkin recipes.

The first is just a plain old pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting that has become a favorite of my kids and many others too. I love to make this into cupcakes. It's a great finger food to just grab when you want a little dessert because you are too stuffed from turkey.

Pumpkin Cake

4 eggs
2 C. sugar
1 C. oil
1 (16oz.) can pumpkin

Mix together and then sift in the following: (I hate sifting,so I generally don't do it)

2 C. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp.salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves (sometimes I substitute allspice for this)

Place in greased 9x13 inch pan and a greased 8x8 pan. Preheat oven to 350 and bake for 25 minutes. If you decide to make these into cupcakes, bake them about 17 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 (3oz.) pkg cream cheese
3 T. butter

Beat until smooth and add 2 C. powdered sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla. I love frosting, so I make a double batch!


My second recipe is a Pumpkin Sandwich Cake. I made this a couple years ago and was a little worried with the Pumpkin/Chocolate combination. When I tasted this cake, I was IN LOVE! I think this is one of the best cakes I have ever eaten.

Instead of typing out the whole recipe, I am just going to give you the link.

Pumpkin Sandwich Cake at Better Homes and Gardens

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Christmas is Coming, A Gift Idea For Your Kids

Christmas will be here before you know it! I always like to be organized and be ahead of the game, that's why I have been freaking out lately because I haven't made all my lists of who I need to buy for, how much I'm going to spend on each of them, ideas of what I'm going to buy them....AHHHHH!

I know! Christmas is 38 days away!!!! For some of you that may seem like a lot of days and for some a little. For me, it's a little. I've already given up and decided half the people that are on my list (or will be once I make that list) are going to get gift cards.

Does anyone else ever have grand ideas of making a cute little something and handing it out to all your friends and then they ooh and ahhh about it as you give it to them about how crafty you are? I do this every year and then none of my friends actually get something. As you can tell, I've already given up on this idea. So, if you are a friend of mine....this will be another year that you are thought of but you get nothing. Sorry.

Anyway, since Christmas is almost here and I'm sure your kids just can't decide what they want because they don't really like toys have a million things on their list already but I thought I'd share something that I think should be on their list.

The Lightlings by R.C.Sproul is one of my favorite children's books. I actually think most adults will find this book interesting. He takes creation, the fall and redemption and turns it into a story that children will love. I love the contrast of living in darkness and living in the light. Why we are afraid of the darkness? Because we were made to live in the light.

One of my favorite things about the book is that in the back he has a few pages of questions and Bible verses to discuss with your children the deeper meaning of the book. Now that my kids are older we are able to go through those questions and I just love the discussion it brings up.

So, if you are looking for a good book to buy your kids this Christmas, this a must for your bookshelf. R.C. Sproul also has a couple more children's books that are on my list for my kids this Christmas.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Where do they come up with this stuff?

I won't make you guess this time as to what they are doing, I'll just tell you.

Isaac is a black cat and the socks on his hands are his white paws. He is laying in the house they built by making a wall of toys. Alex is also a cat and Amanda is standing in the Barbie house reading them the Bible.

Yes, it is all very odd and random.

(Sorry about the poor quality picture, I took it with my phone)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Imagination - UPDATED

*Go to bottom of post to find out the answer

Being part of a family that has 4 kids within 13 1/2 months has it's good points and it's bad. Sometimes I feel like my kids miss out on some things because of the closeness of their age, but there are also so many good things. Like the fact that they always have playmates. Since they are all around the same age, I love to see their imagination and their creativity as they play and what all their little minds come up with together.

For a couple days they were outside playing this.

I went outside to take a picture and ask them what they were playing. I could easily tell you, but thought it would be fun to see if any of you can guess what they are doing.

So, use your imagination and take a stab at it and I will post the answer later.

**I can't believe that only 2 people took a stab at this one. Thanks to both of you and Anonymous- whoever you are, thanks for the laugh.

The kids are camping.

At first I wondered how this was camping, but I guess when we camp there is a lot of stuff in a small area.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fun with Food

I have been dying to make this cake that I saw on one of my favorite blogs for months now.

It's a banana cake with cream cheese frosting.

When we were going to be at my brother-in-law and sister-in-laws house on his birthday, I asked if I could bring a cake and it just so happens that he loves banana cake. Perfect! I got a lot of compliments on it and Alexandra told me it was her most favorite cake ever! Of course, I think any cake with cream cheese frosting is the most delicious cake ever! So, if you want to try it out for yourself, head on over to i am baker and get the recipe.

The same day I made the cake, I also made these little cupcakes.

Once again, I got the idea from i am baker. I love copying all her creativity! This is really very easy. Just bake cupcakes, take the wrappers off and smother them with lots of frosting! You can go to i am baker and get the exact details.  I used 2 batches of Wiltons Buttercream

The worst part was that the night before I was laying in bed and realized I did not have orange food coloring. I did have red and yellow, so I mixed and mixed but never did acheive the exact orange that I wanted. Then I went to get my green and it was gone. I loaded up my kids (whose hair had never gotten combed yet that day and were looking pretty raggedy) and we headed to the store to buy green food coloring. I must mention that I was looking pretty scary myself, but I was not giving up at this point. Moral of the story...... PLAN AHEAD!

I was told that these are very delicious but I did not partake in this sugar high.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Backyard project.....after!

If you didn't catch the before pictures of our backyard transformation, you can find them here.

But today you get to see the after!

Much better, don't you think?

Still have a few little things to get done but we've been enjoying it all summer and are still enjoying it this fall having fires in the firepit.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Backyard before.......

The beginning of the summer we started a large backyard project and I am finally going to post some pictures for you to see.

I have so many pictures, I figured it might be better in two posts, so today I'll post before and you can come back tomorrow to see the after.

I know! Really bad, right? Come back tomorrow to see the huge transformation!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 31 of Praying for our Children

A Passion for God

Lord, please instill in my children a soul with a craving for You,
a heart that clings passionately to You.
Psalm 63:8

As we come to the end of this month of prayer for our children, I hope that you have been blessed by this. I know I have. Also, that you will continue in praying intentionally for your children each day.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day 30 of Praying for our Children

Growth in Grace

I pray that they may "grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
II Peter 3:18

Friday, October 29, 2010

Day 29 of Praying for our Children

Respect (for others, self and authority)

Father, grant that my children may "show proper respect to everyone", as Your Word commands.
I Peter 2:17

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day 28 of Praying for our Children


Father, help my children not to be like many others around them,
but let them be "alert and self-controlled" in all they do.
I Thesselonians 5:6

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 27 of Praying for our Children


Lord, let salvation spring up within my children, that they may obtain the salvation
 that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
Isaiah 45:8, II Timothy 2:10

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Amanda  "Boys don't like weddings because they have to kiss."


Joshua  "I like the Bears and the Packers."
Brad "That's just not possible, you can't do that."


Isaac "Why do robbers do bad stuff?"
Joshua "Probably because their mom and dad didn't tell them about Jesus."


Isaac "When I get big I don't want to play sports I want to paint and then work at Ford and come home in the middle of the night when everyone is sleeping."

The next week Isaac tells me, "When I am in second grade I am going to paint with dad and then when I'm in high school I'm going to go work at Ford with dad and come home in the middle of the night."

(For those of you who don't know, Brad has been painting during the day and works the evening shift at Ford Motor Company. Someone really wants to be like his dad!)


We were reading a Bible Story about how God sent manna to the Israelites to eat but they could only take enough for one day or it would go bad.

Joshua says, "Kind of like our food, it goes bad sometimes too. And like our coupons, sometimes you have to throw them away."


Alex talking to her siblings, "If you take your check to the bank they turn it into money. They do! I'm not sure how they do it but you give them your check and they turn it into money!"


Isaac, "Sometimes I wonder about you Chuck."

This may not seem funny to you, but if you hear him say it, it's funny! He says it with an accent and it makes me laugh every time.

Day 26 of Praying for our Children


Lord, please clothe my children with the virtue of compassion,
 that they may care for others as You do.
Colossians 3:12

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 25 of Praying for our Children

A Love for God's Word

May my children grow to  find Your Word "more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb."
Psalm 19:10

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day 24 of Praying for our Children


"Let love and faithfulness never leave (my children)," but bind these twin virtues
 around their necks and write them on the tablet of their hearts.
Proverbs 3:3

Friday, October 22, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day 21 of Praying for our Children


Grant, Lord, that my children may learn to live a life of love through
the Holy Spirit who dwells in them.
Ephesians 5:2, Galations 5:22

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 20 of Praying for our Children


God, help my children to love justice as You do and to "act justly" in all they do.
Psalm 11:7, Micah 6:8

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gourmet Potato Soup, Chicken Nuggets and Applesauce

Today I posted on Facebook that I had canned applesauce and then was going to make potato soup and homemade chicken nuggets. I then got a few requests for my recipes and thought it easiest to just share them here.

First is the Gourmet Potato Soup and may I say it is FABULOUS! This is the first time I made it and it is delicious!

2 c. diced potatoes                                            8 oz. Sour Cream
1/2 c. diced celery                                            2 T. chives
1/2c. diced onion                                              2 T. Flour
1 c. water                                                          1/2 c. Shredded Cheddar
1/2 c. Chicken Broth                                         1/2 c. Bacon bits
1 c. Milk                                                           Salt to taste
1 c. Heavy Whipping Cream

Combine potatoes, celery, onion, water, chicken broth, and salt in a large saucepan. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add 1/2 c. milk and 1/2 c. heavy cream. In a medium bowl, blend remaining cream, sour cream, chives and flour. Gradualy pour in remaining milk. Pour some hot mixture to bowl to slowly raise temperature. When mixed, pour bowl into hot mixture and cook until thickened. Serve with cheddar and bacon bits sprinkled on top.

I'd recommend that if you are making this for your family, you should probably make a double batch.

Recently I was at my friend Dori's house and she made me and my children homemade chicken nuggets and they were so delicious! I had to try to make them myself. I'd say that this is a work in progress. Sorry, I don't have exact measurements so I'll just tell you what I did.

Boneless Skinless Chicken
Corn Flakes

Trim fat off of chicken and cut into pieces.
Dip in butter and then coat in crushed cornflakes. Put in greased 9x13 pans. I then baked them for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

They didn't turn out as delicious as when Dori made them, but they were still pretty good. I think I cooked them a little too long, my chicken ended up a little dry. Next time I will either lower the temperature or adjust the time.

Next on to my applesauce. Once again, I don't really have an exact recipe but I will share what I did.

First, you enlist all the help that you can. We had our own little applesauce sweatshop going on. Brad happened to be home today too, so he got suckered into helping for a little while.

I like to mix my apples. I used half bushel of Ida Red Apples and full bushel of Fuji. Fuji is really sweet  and Ida Red's are more tart, but really you can make any combination that you want. I like my sauce sweet so that I don't have to add sugar.

You can go to any farm stand to get your apples, but I recommend VanDerGriend's Red Barn in Lansing because my Brother-in-law owns it. Ask for Scott, he'll hook you up!

Next, invest in buying some sort of machine to make your life easier or find someone you know that has one and become good friends with her so she'll let you borrow it. My aunt has this magnificent machine that hooks onto my Kitchen Aid Mixer! This is the second year I've used it and I love it!

I quarter my apples and cook them in a large electric skillet with a little water until they are soft. Then I simply put them through my machine and add cinnamon to taste.

In years past I put it into plastic containers and froze it. This year I just don't have enough room in my freezer, so I canned it. Just transfer your sauce to jars, put the lids on and then you have to process them.

To process, I put them in the oven (thanks to my sister Nikki for this suggestion!) at 320 degrees for 20 minutes. Take them out of the oven and you will soon hear your lids popping. Once they've popped you know they are done.

Hope this helps everyone who was asking. Enjoy!!!!