Christmas Letter

Here is our Christmas Letter and picture for the year…I’ll be mailing some out this week too. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

MerryChristmas and Happy New Year!

It alwaysseems so hard to try to compress our whole year into a single page letter. ButI’ll try to hit the high points.

This pastspring (in April) Kerry started a new job with Manweiler Transports. Theytransport fuel of all kinds, gas, diesel, aviation gas and jet fuel (soundsexciting!). Kerry washes their trucks a few days a week. It’s not the mostglamorous, but it’s flexible, pays well and they really appreciate him. Thereis this “thing” among truckers called styling…they want the best looking truckson the road. Kerry helps them “style” I guess. Kerry is also still working asassistant pastor at our church. He gets to preach once every 5 or 6 weeks andwe are thankful for that opportunity. We are leading our high school AWANAgroup on Wednesday nights.

The boyshave kept busy with school and “boy stuff”. We took a spring field trip to Caveof the Winds and the Manitou Cliff dwellings. We had a great time learning andenjoying God’s creation. Gabe enjoys all things Lego and building things withhis hands. He is also an avid reader and enjoys “The Hardy Boys”, “Hank theCowdog” and anything that has to do with History. We make regular trips to thelibrary and always check out armfuls of books. Otto enjoys reading as well andis getting better every day. He tends to enjoy reading his Bible more thananything, but has also started reading “Hank”. Having boys who love to readmakes mom and dad happy because we enjoy it too! It’s heartwarming to hear thebig boys reading to their 2 younger brothers and it’s wonderful to hear themread our Proverb of the day some mornings during our Bible time.

Zeke isdoing well. We went to speech therapy this summer to help him put wordstogether a little more often and completely. He had a little bit of a delay,but the speech therapist attributed part of that to having 2 older brothers whotalk for him. We were able to wrap that up in July and he’s talking non-stopthese days. He is really excited to be old enough to be in Cubbies (in AWANA)this year on Wednesday nights and looks forward to saying his verses andplaying with friends each week.  Titus iswalking and making himself more vocal as well. He tries so hard to keep up withhis big brothers and watches them closely.

Erin isstill busy teaching. She teaches on-ground classes for Pueblo Community Collegeand online for several other schools. She enjoys it and is thankful for aschedule that allows her to be home several days a week. She has helped preceptseveral new faculty and Master’s degree students this past year and developed 2online courses for PCC as well. It’s kept her busy but she has learned manyvaluable lessons along the way.

In Augustour family was fortunate enough to go to camp! Gabe was a camper and Erin wasthe camp nurse. Kerry and the 3 younger boys came along for the ride. We wereat Covenant Heights Camp in Northern Colorado the first week of August. Gabeattended the last camp of the summer called “Adventure Camp”. The kids slept inoutdoor shelters and learned skills like shelterbuilding, fire building (this was a big hit), archery, and basic survivalskills. They also learned the art of not showering…apparently at Adventure Campyou don’t shower except for the day your parents come to pick you up, whichmade for some really dirty kids at the end of the week.  On the last night of camp the counselors andthe campers got to try out their skills in the wilderness. It was hard for thismama not to worry watching her little guy haul his stuff up on his back andtake off. But they survived and so did we. Erin enjoyed being a camp nurse, itwas a little different than teaching a group of student nurses, but in a lot ofways it was strangely similar. Kerry and the younger boys enjoyed being able tokayak, fish (we learned it’s better to feed the fish first…you’ll get morebites), and hike. Perhaps the best part of the whole experience was that wewere totally unplugged for a week. No cell phone, no TV and virtually nointernet (we had limited access which was enough for Erin to do her onlinework). It was DELIGHTFUL!

We wereexcited in September to find out we were expecting our 5th child. Wetold the big boys after a fall field trip to Garden of the Gods and a familypicnic and we greatly anticipated the little one’s arrival. Unfortunately,after a trip back to Kansas at Thanksgiving we found out our baby had died at15 weeks. Erin was induced on December 3rd and Knox Cornelius wasborn at 8:58pm that day. Erin had some complications after the birth, manyprayers for her recovery were answered and after surgery she was able to gohome the next evening. We are still grieving the loss of Knox, but trust thatGod has a plan and purpose for taking him early. We don’t have definitiveanswers for why Knox died as he was perfectly formed when he was born. There issome indication that Erin caught an infection (called CMV) that is relatively harmlessto everyone who gets it (and most people do) unless they are pregnant the firsttime they’re exposed. It shouldn’t affect future pregnancies if we are blessedwith them. We were incredibly blessed through this experience though by ourfamily, church family and friends who have supported us both with their actionsand with their prayers.

Weanticipate this next year Kerry will be looking for a full time ministry job,wherever that may be. We don’t always know what the future holds, but we arethankful we know the ONE who holds our future. We wish you and your family aMerry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Why I still feel blessed

The last 2 weeks has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever gone through. Even in the grief of losing a child though, I have felt blessed. There have been many times these past 2 weeks that God has reminded me of His love, His redemption and His deliverance. For that I am so very thankful. So I’m going to share why, even with the loss of Knox, I still feel blessed…thankful…joyful and even hopeful. 

When I first started writing this post, I had thought I was going to be able to put all of the reasons why I still feel blessed into one post, but I’ve quickly realized that would be a really long blogpost, so I’m just going do post it in installments. So here is episode one…

I feel a little bit like I should start it like Tim Tebow starts every interview he does… “First and foremost I’d like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. And it’s true.

The night Knox was born as Kerry and I sat there holding him, we couldn’t help but marvel at God’s creation. We were deeply saddened and mourning, but holding Knox, we felt blessed. Blessed that God had given us another son, blessed that He had created this perfect child, blessed that I got to carry him for 16 weeks. I can’t even find the words to adequately describe why, even when I was devastated, I felt so fortunate. But I did. I was in awe of the child my God created. I was thankful, even when I was hurting.

In the days that followed, I felt blessed again to know that God was right there with me. I have relied heavily on scripture to carry me through, to help me see the next step to take and to try to understand this all. I read my Bible daily anyway, but in the last 2 weeks many of the scriptures have taken on new meaning to me, they apply to me in ways that I didn’t always see before. I have been so blessed by the verses, songs and prayers shared with me by friends, family and through my daily devotions. There were moments when I was in such despair, when a line of a hymn or a verse I learned as a child came to my mind and spoke to my heart.

When I couldn’t sleep I read the Psalms (especially 30-61). They brought me much peace and comfort. I spent many waking hours praying fervently for my husband, my children and peace of mind. There were times when I would fall asleep and wake up praying.

I downloaded a devotional for grieving mothers here from Raising Arrows. And it has helped me through some tough days. 

Psalm 34:18 particularly ministered to my broken heart… 18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted 
And saves those who are 
crushed in spirit.

As did Psalm 37:4-5 4 Delight yourself in the LORD; 
And He will give you the desires of your heart. 
5 Commit your way to the LORD, 
Trust also in Him, and He will do it. 

Psalm 40:1-3
 1 I waited patiently for the LORD; 
And He inclined to me and heard my cry. 
2 He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the [b]miry clay, 
And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. 
3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; 
Many will see and fear 
And will trust in the LORD.

There were (and still are) days that I worry because of the unknown, I let fear weigh me down and pull my thoughts away from God and my family. I had wonderful prayer warriors who I could text or call and just ask for prayer…I could feel the anxiety begin to lift and I would become more peaceful.

When I would pray and ask God what he has in store for me, I consistently got (and still get) the same answer… “TRUST ME”. For those who know me, I’m not a big fan of being out of control. I like to have command of situations, I’m a planner, I like to know where I’m going and what is going to happen when I get there. I like to be in charge. Regardless though, of how much control I think I’m in…God is the ultimate authority in my life. He is sovereign, He has a plan and I have to trust Him. TRUST ME God says…Ok. It’s not easy, but I have been reminded time and again why I need to TRUST.

I feel blessed because I have felt God helping me through this trial. I have felt blessed because He made me a mother, He created a wonderful baby when He created Knox, He has a purpose and I TRUST that. I am blessed because I have a God that loves and cares for me. I am blessed because long ago when I was a small child I TRUSTED Jesus to be my Savior. I am blessed because God gave HIS son as a sacrifice so that when I die I can spend eternity in Heaven. HIS son died, so that when my son died, Jesus’ face was the first face he saw. What a wonderful sight that must be and won’t it be wonderful that when I die I will not only be reunited with Knox, but will also  see the SON that died to make that possible. 


I came across this poem today.

How quietly he tiptoed into our world.

Softly, only a moment he stayed

but what an imprint his footprints have left upon our hearts.


Today was a “good” day for me. We spent the day as a family and while I thought often of our Knox, I was peaceful today. I am thankful for that.

What do we say then?

What you can say…

So I realized after my last (angry) post I should probably post about some things that have been said to us this last week that have be helpful, or at the very least not hurtful. Let me start off by saying a couple things…

First, I know that sometimes people say things without thinking or thinking they’re being helpful but things don’t come out the way they wanted them to sound. I get that. I stick my foot in my mouth more often than I’d like to admit. I also know that sometimes it depends on what generation you grew up in regarding what is appropriate to say and what’s not. For example, when women lost a baby 40 years ago, it wasn’t talked about, she wasn’t expected to grieve and things like “at least you have 4 healthy kids” were supposed to be comforting.

Second, trying to find the right words to say to a grieving person is tough, especially when it’s the loss of a child. I get that. I understand that awkwardness that comes when you see someone for the first time after they’ve lost someone. You don’t know what you say…you don’t know how to respond and everything you can come up with seems so painfully inadequate. I don’t blame someone for those kind of remarks, I really do understand. My anger towards the comments made to us were coming from the fact that the comments came from someone who usually has a knack for veiling insults in things that sound like compliments…and that same person (who probably doesn’t even read my blog) has been more than vocal enough about our family choices. I just needed to vent…

So…stuff that was helpful…

“I’m sorry”. It was hard for us to know how to respond when someone said I’m sorry. Do you say “thank you?” or “yeah me too”? But either way…having someone say they were sorry at least let us know the person was acknowledging our loss and our grief.

“I have no idea what it must be like for you, but I’m praying for you/thinking of you/I’m sorry”. When I was in nursing school one of the things we were told never to say was “I know just how you feel” unless we really knew what it was like to walk in their shoes. I have had people, who have been through a loss like this, say “I know what it’s like and I’m so sorry”. That’s okay. Really it is to say to someone (at least is was to me). Again, for us, having someone acknowledge the loss and our hurt helped a lot. It was more painful when someone (usually a family member or friend) just wanted to talk about stuff like the weather or Christmas trees or whatever without acknowledging the loss of our son. It was like trying to step around a huge elephant in the room.

“How are you?”…While I didn’t always know how to respond or if the person asking wanted to really know I appreciated being asked. I have a friend who often asks… “How are you…and I really want to know so please tell me”. Along this same line a very dear friend asked “how is Kerry?” or “How are you as a couple” I don’t know why, but I appreciated knowing that someone else was thinking about my husband and how he might be grieving as well as thinking about how we as a couple were grieving. Right after I got out of the hospital, I was worried about how I was going to minister to my husband and kids in the middle of my grief. I was thankful that others were asking Kerry how he was doing and were helping me care for him.

I had a good friend ask me as I was laboring and recovering “how is your heart doing”. She knew how I was doing physically, but she wanted to know how I was coping emotionally. I felt like when she asked me that, I could be totally honest with her and she really wanted to know. I don’t think she knows how much that question meant to me or how much it meant that she was willing to listen to all of the emotions rolling around inside me.

I can’t tell you what a blessing it has been to have friends and church family bring meals this past week. I know it’s not “technically” what to say, but it has been so helpful. We had someone in our church organize someone to bring us meals every evening this past week. To not have to worry about what I was going to feed my family when I couldn’t think straight most of the time was a huge blessing. We has people ask us “what can we do to help?” or “what can we do for you?” The blessing behind those words is that we didn’t feel like we had to reach out and ask for help, we didn’t feel like we might be inconveniencing someone.

We were also fortunate to have family stay with us for a little while. My mom was here with our boys while we were in the hospital. It helped to have her send pictures of the boys while I was laboring and keep us updated about what was happening here at home. I didn’t have to worry about how they were doing. Kerry’s parents came to stay with us for a couple days after we got home. They helped us clean our storage room, play room and garage. Those were things that I wanted to get done, but was never going to have the time or energy for. And it’s so nice this last week to not have those huge projects staring me in the face.

With grief there are no magic words to say that will take it away. There is nothing that feels like the “perfect” thing and there are few people who can sit it total silence and have a complete conversation with you. I am blessed enough to have friends who fill different needs emotionally for me as I move through this part of my life. There are friends who are praying for me even though I hardly ever see them. They’ve emailed and called to ask what they can specifically pray for. I’ve had friends who have sent songs or scripture that they felt lead to send me, and I’ve be blessed by those messages of love and compassion. I’ve had friends who have sent me a message every day to let me know they’re thinking of me and my family. There are those who I can be painfully honest with, they don’t shy away from my grumpiness, anguish, fear or even my tears. I am so thankful for everyone who has done something, no matter how small, to help our family.

I am going to post something we give our first year nursing students helping them learn what to say to a grieving person. Like the sheet says…they’re not necessarily word for word statements, but things that reflect the state of our “heart” towards the hurting person. Regardless of whether you feel like you have a right words…it is easy do know whether the person talking to you is really genuine. You can also find a link to the table below here.

What You Can Say. . .

The following suggestions are not word-for-word statements to make, but rather a reflection of a heart attitude you should have in reaching out to your hurting person.



At a funeral

I’ll always remember…

I’ll come by with dinner tonight.

He’s so much better off in heaven.

If there’s anything I can do, call.

A baby died

I know how much being a mother means to you.

You can always have another one.

Be thankful you have Jenny.

At least you never got to know it.


The future must seem frightening. I’ll stay close.

I’m sure this is a lonely time for you–let’s have lunch.

I never liked the way he treated you.

There are two sides to every story.

Legal crisis

It’s not important what happened. I just want you to know that I care.

Will you lose everything?

Tell me how it happened.

Handicapped child

She has beautiful eyes.

She is so loving and precious.

What are you going to do with her?

If you’d taken better care of yourself, this wouldn’t have happened.

Elderly parent

I know how much you love her, I’m sure you’re doing the right thing.

How could you put your own mother in such a place?

Loss of home

I’ve been a part of some very beautiful memories here.

Remember our home is really in heaven.

Friend moving

I’ve seen what special friends you are. I know you’ll miss each other.

Well, you can always write.

Pet dies

I know she was important to your family. Sometimes this brings back other sad feelings.

It’s only a dog!

You can always buy a new kitten.

During terminal illness

How are you feeling about what you are facing?

I’ll take you to your next doctor’s appointment.

I know a lady who had the same thing…

Won’t you be glad to be with the Lord?

After death of terminally ill

Even though he needed a lot of your time, I know you’ll miss his company.

It must be such a relief now that it’s over.

Death of a spouse

I know how much he meant to you, and how you’ll miss him.

You were so lucky to have him for 30 years.

Loss of a body part

I’m sure this will take a lot of adjustment. I’ll be with you every step of the way.

At least you still have your mind.

Be glad it wasn’t worse.

Brave Baby

I believe in living out your faith and convictions. I try by my example to show people what I stand for and what I believe. And truth be told, I’m a pretty outspoken person in real life. I have an opinion about just about everything and most of the time I’m pretty okay sharing it with you (whether you really want to hear it or not). But I have a little confession to make. When it comes right down to it…I’m a chicken about coming right out and sharing the gospel. I can tell you where I stand on birth control, abortion, politics and how I think you should solve whatever problem you’re having in your life. But put me in a situation where I need to share the gospel, something so integral to my life (and my opinions), and I fumble around like an idiot. I’m fearful because I may not have every answer you need to hear, I’m fearful because what if I say the wrong thing and turn you off from God forever, I’m fearful because I’m completely inadequate. It’s weak I know, it’s lame, I know and it’s completely wrong. While my actions may speak of my faith, if I don’t actually share my faith with someone…they may get the wrong idea…that I’m a “good person”. But I’m not, I am able to be and do what I do because God gives me the gifts and the strength I need.

My eldest son is very non-confrontational. He’s a firstborn in every sense of the word EXCEPT he’s not really the most assertive kid around. He wants to be “perfect” and works really hard to please those around him. He likes to be bossy and in charge, but really isn’t a “grab a challenge head on” kind of guy.
Last night we were out for dinner with a family member “P”. We have had a difficult relationship lately, but we all love “P” and Gabe has a tremendous amount of respect for P. We agreed to meet for dinner as a step of faith and forgiveness. During the course of our meal the boys had good conversation and interaction with P. Towards the end of the meal Gabe leans over to P and says “Do you know how to be a Christian?” P says “yeah I do”. Gabe responds “Well I’m going to tell you anyway because won’t it be wonderful to be in heaven when we die and to know God?!?” He continues “You need to believe that Jesus is the son of God and that He died on the cross for your sins. You have to confess your sins to Him. You also have to believe that Jesus died and then rose again 3 days later.” P is getting a little uncomfortable, but listens politely simply saying “yeah”. Gabe then tells P “You should read your Bible. A good place to start is reading the Proverb of the day. There are 31 Proverbs and whatever day you’re on is the day you should read…there’s a lot of wisdom in the Proverbs…or you could read Psalms. There’s more than 31 of those, but you should still read them.” P just says “thanks.” and the goes on with another conversation with one of our other boys.
Now I don’t know about you, but if I had tried to share the gospel with someone and got a cool response like that I would have been kind of bummed and really maybe even a little embarrassed with myself. But not Gabe. He just went on like nothing had happened or like the response hadn’t even phased him, like it was an everyday occurrence to share his faith with those around him. He even talked later in the car with Otto about when he wasn’t a believer (when he was 4) and what that was like. Gabe was so willing and so matter of fact about what he was saying I was amazed. He was so bold in sharing about God and what it means to have faith in God. It was so uncharacteristic for my oldest son to be bold about it and to continue pressing on until the message was out and he was sure P had heard it.
I would like to take all the credit truthfully. I’d like to say “yep…it’s because we raise him in such a Godly home or because we live the gospel in our house” But it has nothing to do with me. Sure we make sure he goes to church each week and that he has a good Biblical foundation but you know what…I have nothing to do with making him bold for Christ. I have nothing to do with how God chose to use him yesterday. It was totally a God thing. I don’t know today the impact that Gabe’s witness had on P and I may never know for years or even until I get to eternity. But I am thankful for the grace and mercy God has shown and I am thankful that He used my totally un-bold son to share His message.
Oh to be like a child.

Our Menu for this week…

I’m sharing our menu for this week. I recently revised (and am still working on) our family menu and shopping list. We’re getting ready to leave back to visit family on Friday so it’s a little lighter toward the end of the week.

Monday: BBQ Meatloaf — it’s a great twist on the “stand by” our kids love it and it’s easy enough that my husband can make it if I’m not going to be home. You can see the recipe here. I change mine a bit and use regular mustard and instead of bread crumbs I use oatmeal.
Tuesday : Broccoli and cheese soup and Semmel. Here’s the recipe I’m using for my soup…I’m still trying to find the perfect one. I plan on sauteing some chicken to add to it for a little protein. Semmel is a German hardroll that is fairly easy to make and really yummy to eat. I’ll add the recipe at the bottom of this post.
Wednesday: We have AWANA and 2 young ladies from our church have offered to help make dinner for our family each week. We have to be there from 5 – 8:30pm. It is such a blessing to have them willing to do this for our family, and takes a lot of stress off because I usually work on Wednesdays.
Thursday: Breakfast pizza (it’s actually called heart attack breakfast pizza). I got the recipe from a new cookbook, so I don’t have a link yet, but will include it in the future. This is the first time I’ve made it so we’ll see how it turns out but it sounds really yummy!
Friday: Leftovers. We’ll probably eat leftovers during the week for lunch too. But I’m guessing we won’t have as many as I hope. We’ll use this night to clean out the fridge before we leave on Saturday morning.
Here’s my recipe for Semmel:
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 package dry yeast
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup milk
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt

Mix warm water, sugar, milk and dry yeast and let rise for 10 minutes.

Heat 3/4 cup water and 3/4 cup milk in a saucepan until warm.

Sift flour and salt onto pastry board. Make a groove in the flour and mix in yeast mixture and then warmed milk and water. Knead or beat with wooden spoon vigorously for approximately 10 minutes until dough makes air bubbles and is soft and smooth. Let rise for approximately 1 hour or until doubled in volume. Shape into round rolls and let rise again for 10 minutes.

Bake in 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Brush with water for crispness. (I don’t do this)

April Showers bring May….

Babies!! At least in our family this year. (Kerry said technically it’s not April showers, but I thought it made a cute rhyme). We are expecting baby #5 at our house around mid-May. We are thrilled!!

For those who are wondering…
Yes. We’re planning a home birth again. Our last one was so awesome why not?
No we weren’t “trying” for a girl…we’d be delighted with another son (our 5th) or a daughter. We can’t put an order in anyway so we’ll take what we’re blessed with. One that note though…Otto and Zeke were praying for a sister. We’ll see.
One of the next questions (or comments) that comes up…at least this week is “are you competing with that lady (Mrs. Duggar) who is going to have 20 kids”. No. Having babies is not a competition…BUT we, like the Duggar family, leave our family size up to God. We believe that children truly are a blessing and that if we desire God’s blessing, that we should allow Him to decide what He sees fit for our family. We realize it’s not a conviction everyone has, but it’s one that we have. We believe that “He who gives mouths…will give meat to feed them”. We trust God for His blessings and His provision.
We know that having a larger than normal family is unusual, but we’re okay with being “weird”. 🙂 In addition to trusting God for blessings we also trust His timing. The space between Z and T is 21 months, the space between T and this baby will be 21 months.
So that’s the big news at our house. We’re all pretty excited. One of the neat things about our large family is that the big siblings don’t dread having another baby…they look forward to it with anticipation. The think about what this baby is going to look like and who gets to hold the baby first. They’re excited to be big brothers again and we’re excited to welcome another child to our family.

Just one more bite

So it’s that time of year again when I’m going through our menu list and taking out stuff we don’t like anymore, are tired of, or that we just didn’t eat and I’m replace them with new meals for our meal rotation. I plan our meals on a 2 week rotation and *try* to buy groceries once every two weeks. There is still the occasional trip to the store to stock up on milk, bread or pick up sale items.

I have to say I’m kind of excited. I really like to read cookbooks. I like to scour them for recipes that I think my family would enjoy, I like to see what other people cook. Sometimes I read the recipes and I think there is no way anyone has ever made this. And if they did…they had way too much time on their hands.
One of my favorite things to do is to look at cookbooks from various parts of the US and see how the “tastes” change. For example, I have a cookbook from the “United Methodist Ladies in South Texas”. It seems like every other recipe calls for green chilies or corn bread. The one I have from Pennsylvania doesn’t have a single mention of green chilies OR corn bread. I have a new Pueblo West Women’s League cookbook that I’m really liking. Again…green chilies, but we have lots of Italian folks around here so there are some pretty great pasta recipes too. The funny thing about this cookbook is that there are a lot of recipes for alcoholic beverages. Something you’d never find in my Mennonite cookbooks from Kansas. But you’d never find a recipe called “head cheese” in the PWWL cookbook either. 😉
One of my favorite cookbooks is the one my grandma gave me when I was 9. It’s one that is blank. She started it with the recipes we cooked that summer…butterscotch pie, cream puffs and coffee cake. I filled in other family favorites and as I got older added some of our family favorites. I can flip through it and remember where I was when those recipes were introduced to our family. I have peanut butter popcorn from when I lived in Manhattan with my future sister in law and we read a recipe calling for 8 cups popcorn as 8 cups UNPOPPED popcorn. We had to do something with it. I have a recipe for chocolate covered bonbons that I got when I was in highschool and made treats for the football team on Fridays. I have a recipe for “The Swap Bark” that I made when we first started homeschooling. We also have a recipe for “Due date soup” that Kerry and I made up when I was very pregnant with Zeke.
So the menu revision isn’t just about coming up with something new for our family, but also about remembering where we’ve been.