Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Home from Boston

We are home! And we are so happy to share that our time in Boston went so so well!! We found all the places we needed to be and made it to all of our appointments on time- yay!! (grateful for those prayers!) We felt the Lord’s gift of peace and so did Caleb. We had some sweet moments with him that involved discussions of his tumor that were new, discussions of how he was feeling and what to do with what he was feeling, and some sweet times of praying with Caleb.

And then we got some encouraging news from Caleb’s eye doctor. They tested him on his vision, and he once again has perfect vision- yay!!! His eye nerves do indicate that there is pressure being placed on both of his eyes- the left eye worse than the right; but the diameter numbers were exactly the same as his last visit; so no change in his eyes! This is very good!! Dr. Heidary did not feel that it was necessary to take any action since things were stable and his vision in perfect condition. We are so thankful!

And Caleb’s MRI went really well yesterday. He was a bit nervous; but the nurses were wonderful and things went smoothly. Today we got the results back from Oncology, and Dr. Manly said there were no significant changes in the MRI scan. There was a slight discrepancy, but not worth treatment over. He feels very comfortable waiting 6 months for another eye exam, and as long as that eye exam looks good, then he is fine waiting until next year to do another scan. This is great news for us! We are so very thankful to the Lord for answering our prayers in our favor. I will always be reminded when we go to these hospitals that each day we have our health is a gift from the Lord, and that we aren’t guaranteed a good report, no matter how many are praying. But we are so so grateful for today, and we will celebrate today!!!

Thank you for partnering with us, for walking with us and being a huge part of the Lord’s encouragement to our souls. You are a gift, and we are eternally grateful for you!

There are many of you that we pray for too in all that you and your family are walking through. It is an honor to lift you up! Let us continue to serve you as you have us…so let us know how we can pray for you today.

Grace upon Grace,
Nicole and Austin

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Boston Travels - Monday

Hey family and friends,

We wanted to let you know that we are headed to Boston on Monday (2/22/2016) for Caleb’s first MRI at Boston Children’s Hospital. Monday is a day of travel, and we have his eye exams and his MRI the following day, Tuesday the 23rd, with results from the MRI on Wednesday morning.

We are so grateful for the continued support from so many of you. We would love it if you could join us in praying the following:

  • That we would trust the Lord and experience His peace this next week. Also, that He would be glorified in all that we do, say, and think.
  • Travel mercies which would include trying to navigate Boston and the hospital. We are not too familiar with the place yet. We have 4 different appointments that are not all in one building with a shuttle to take between two of them, appointment times to keep, etc.
  • That Caleb faith would grow as he trusts the Lord in a new place. That he would have peace in the midst being put to sleep by new nurses, new doctors, new routines, etc. Also, that Caleb will have mercies to go almost the entire day without eating.
  • That his eye nerve exams will come back positive. The exams in the last year have shown a decrease in the diameter of his eye nerves which could indicate that the tumor is pressing down on his eye nerves. So we would love for those numbers to be up and the clinical exam of his eyes to show no vision loss.
  • That the MRI will show no increase in size and the cyst found on top will not be any bigger.
  • That all the doctors would have wisdom and be led by the Spirit as they review his exams.
Thank you, thank you!!! We will keep you posted!

In Him,

Nicole and Austin

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

New News

Dear friends and family,

We want to share with you some new news. First of all, we have seen the Lord open new doors for us in the last couple of months, and we feel excited and hopeful! We have just gotten back from Boston after meeting with the ophthalmologist and oncologists who reviewed Caleb’s scans and tests back in May. (If you remember, their opinion was to not treat at this time since there were no complications with Caleb’s vision. This opinion was in contrast to Vanderbilt’s.) We have been wondering if it were time to transfer our care to another hospital who shared our same philosophy, but we were unsure how any of it would be possible. 

However, after meeting with these amazing doctors in Boston, we have walked away encouraged! It is possible! They affirmed the decisions we have made for Caleb over the last 8 ½ years saying that they can’t make Caleb any more “well” than he already is. Wow! Their philosophy was/is to leave him alone as long as he has 20/20 vision and his hormones are stable (meaning the pituitary gland does not seem affected by the tumor which is very close to it). They only want to see him twice a year (every 6 months) to assess his eyes and one time a year to have an MRI scan. Wow, again! This seemed doable. We walked away feeling at peace with our doctors being miles away and a weight lifted from our chest as we feel affirmed that we are following the Lord’s path for our son at this time. 

We are also blown away and humbled to see yet again God’s deliverance of our son from treatment. If you remember 2 posts ago on April 30th we shared that the word the Lord gave us for Caleb was “unscathed.” He also said, “This is not your problem.” And we have witnessed again His hand of deliverance from treatment at this time- Caleb walking away physically unscathed! Wow! We could not have imagined how He would do it or that 4 months later we would be sharing with you that we have new doctors in Boston caring for our son whom believe he’s perfectly fine right now to just be worrying about his 4th grade studies. Wow, it is undeserved!

And I can’t emphasize enough how humbling it is to see His will for our son at this time to be untouched- unscathed. Honestly, it is very hard as we have dear friends whose child is going through treatment and enduring so much at such a young age. And we pass child after child and parent after parent in these hospitals that don’t want to be there- just like us. When their babies were handed to them the day that they were born that was the last time they wanted to be in a hospital with their child; they never dreamed, nor I, that our children would have to face such harsh realities one day. And it breaks our hearts and makes us thankful in the same breath that at this time Caleb isn’t going through treatment. 

But I’m reminded that the reality is that we all as humans face extremely hard things in this broken world full of sin. Every time I enter these hospitals my heart goes out to the families around us; I wonder what their story is and what burdens they are carrying on the inside, realizing that no family’s story ends in a “happily-ever after” kind of way here on this earth even if they walk out healed from this hospital. We aren’t guaranteed a life full of good health and no problems. No, the hope that we have is that the Lord, the creator of the Universe, has seen our brokenness and suffering and has had so much compassion that He has come to rescue us ultimately from it all but also in the here and now while we are still suffering on this earth- not to take it all away, but to be with us in it.  He is the Emmanuel. He has promised us Himself; to be with us and in us (John 14: 17)! And He has promised us His power, His grace, and His mercies which are new every morning for whatever hard, whatever mountain, whatever deep forest we are walking through. (Ephesians 1:18-21; Lam.3:21-23)

We are truly so grateful for your prayers – the many many prayers for we know they are the fuel for each step each day. Honestly, the last 8 months have been some of the toughest, because we are tired. After almost 9 years of dealing with this hard (and it seems in many ways no light at the end of the tunnel) we just want to be done. We long for a complete miracle of healing. But once again we remember that each one of us human beings on this earth long for a complete miracle of healing from our “hard.” So, in light of that, we want to lock shields together with you and pray for you and each other in and through our “hards.” Prayers that we will continue to look up together, set our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith and run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1-2) For the Word says in Hebrews 12:1-2 that Jesus endured the cross because of the joy set before him. May I wake up each morning seeing the joy set before me!

Also, we want to share our tentative plans for the next little while. Our plan is to see our endocrinologist here in the next month or two to make sure Caleb’s hormones are on track with normal 9 year olds and to have another eye exam in about 6 months in Boston. There is still some concern; the ophthalmologist did confirm some thinning in the thickness of his eye nerves; so our prayer is that his vision will remain stable and that the tumor will not press on his eye nerves.  

Once again, we are grateful for your partnership in this journey, and we want to be with you in yours. So please share with us the “hard” that you face so that we can lock shields with you as you have for us. (we are so grateful some of you have shared with us- and we are praying!)

And, on a lighter note and the highlight of our summer…..we want to share that Annelise was baptized on June 6th! –right in our own backyard!!! It was such a beautiful afternoon, and truly one that I won’t ever forget. We had some dear friends and family come over to celebrate not only her 6th birthday but also her new birth in Christ!! Annelise, as young as she is, has understood the Good News, her sin, and the amazing gift of God’s grace to her through Jesus, and it was evident in her life that she had surrendered to Him.

Here are a few pictures our dear friend, Rebekah took. 

In Him,
Nicole & Austin

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Caleb update

Dear friends,

Thank you all so very much for your calls, texts, emails, and the many letters we've received from anonymous encouragers to let us know you were praying for us and that you are with us in this process. We are truly grateful as we feel the body of believers continue to minister to us. The news from Caleb is that we have invested several weeks in the process of trying to get an additional opinion on the conclusiveness and reliability of the options before us. This process has not been easy because it requires a lot of coordination and planning to get everyone on the same page, but we have been blessed to interact with some very caring doctors who reviewed the notes and tests we have on Caleb in a joint review in effort to give us an additional opinion on next steps. 

The doctors at Boston Children's hospital have returned to us with opinion that their advice to us would be that given he has no clinical complications, lack of a "curative" treatment and certain side effects of treatment options - we should continue watching. The clinical complications that we would be looking for would be a decline in overall visual function, peripheral, or color.  This news did catch us by surprise, but it was also a breath of fresh air at the same time. Our hearts were very troubled with the decision to treat for these very same reasons mentioned.

We are now in the process of reaching out to our doctors at Vanderbilt. We have let them know of our intent to continue the watch plan and are awaiting their reply. Our prayer request would be for the hearts of our team at Vanderbilt. In this instance this really isn't about a right or wrong answer, because everyone is trying their best to make wise choices. There isn't a certain choice to make as both have risks. Our situation is about weighing the risks and making the choice we as parents feel best about.

This has been a wave of emotions - up and down. We have been burdened, but we have not been overcome. We recognize that life has some very hard things to deal with, and for one reason or another this is one of those things for our family. We know that we have a heavenly father who cares for Caleb more than we do and we know there is a plan for Caleb. It remains a possibility that we will end up in treatment and it may be touch and go every three months for years, but today we are thankful that we are not entering the process immediately. 

We appreciate each of you very much and are blessed to be surrounded by the love you have demonstrated for our family.

Austin & Nicole


Thursday, April 30, 2015

MRI Results

Our prayers for yesterday were answered in many ways, and we are so grateful. Caleb endured the hours without eating or drinking much better than we thought. That was a “yay, God” moment as Suzanne Rowe would call it! And we walked into the prep room for the MRI and were greeted by our favorite nurse, Michelle, who has prepped Caleb for his MRIs 99 percent of the time since he was 9 months old! She was a breath of fresh air and made us feel right at home. Also, Caleb came out of sedation with little problem which was a relief since he had some congestion which increases some risks. Blessings and prayers were felt all around yesterday, and we thank each of you for being an instrument in that.

  However, Caleb’s eye appointment yesterday did not go as planned. We have had really positive reports from his doctor who has always said he would be the 1st to see signs of the tumor affecting his eyes. The testing of the diameter of his eye nerves came back, and they showed to be at the very lowest end of normal. The doctor said he sees a trend over the course of the last 4 years in the reduction of the size of Caleb’s eye nerves which is apparently due to his tumor. 

This morning we saw the oncologist who confirmed this report. He also said that the MRI showed no change in the tumor or cyst in 3 months (which is good news); however, with the new report from our Opthomoloigist that his eye nerves are being affected by the tumor it is pretty clear that we can wait no longer. It is time to respond with treatment. 

So, we left saying we needed a few days to process this information and would get back to him at the 1st of the week. We left a bit in shock but at the same time unshaken and here’s why:

We had an encounter with the Lord as we waited in the tiny room, floor number 6, door number 4. I had opened a book I’m reading by Marjorie Holmes called The Messiah to try to keep myself distracted while we waited. It’s the 3rd book in the trilogy Two from Galilee.  I am reading about Jesus’ ministry, and I was at the part where Jesus was yet again being bombarded by people wanting to be healed by him. And it said, “Too many parents thrusting their children upon the Master, asking Him to touch them, bless them, protect them from disease.” 

It hit me – an image in my mind so vivid of Austin and myself being those very parents- running to Jesus, trying desperately to get to him in the sea of people, knowing that He could heal our son if we just got the chance to get close enough…and then I had this thought, “We are doing that, Lord! I don’t have to have lived back 2000 years ago- You are the same Jesus, and I’m running to you with my boy! And the next thought that came to me was…No, Jesus you only have to say the word, and he will be healed. My boy will be healed if you just speak the word…

And then He did speak- He spoke to me in my spirit. I heard Him as clear as day- He said, “Unscathed.” Now there is a back-story to this word-He has spoken this word over us for Caleb over the years, but he said it again today. And then I began a dialog with him. I said, “Well, Lord, you see, we have a problem. We feel 99 percent sure the doctor is about to walk in here and tell us we need to treat and what are we to do about it?” And I heard him again in my spirit say, “It’s not your problem.” “It’s not your problem.”
And at that moment a song came flooding over me called “I Am” by Jenny Owens. I pulled out my phone and googled the lyrics to make sure I got them all right… and a flood of His peace and His love came gushing. 

The lyrics say this: 
“Now Lord, are you sure? He’s just a shepherd boy, too small for battle gear with a giant to destroy. What on earth can he do with five stones and a sling. 

It’s not your problem, God replied. Cause I can do anything. There’s a bigger picture you can’t see. You don’t have to change the world, just trust in me. Cause I am your creator I am working out my plan and through you, I will show them. I am the first, I am the last. I am the present and the past. I am tomorrow and today. I am the only way…”

I can’t understand exactly what God has meant or means today when His word over Caleb is unscathed- maybe in the years to come it will be revealed, but what I can understand today is that this big huge problem- this situation that we find ourselves in so often with Caleb is NOT my problem- it’s God’s. He has a plan- He’s the creator- He can do anything and He’s working out His plan. My part is to trust Him – to give Him my problem- to rest in the shadow of His wings and in the comfort of His everlasting arms. There is a bigger picture, I can’t see, but He can! And He is trustworthy! 

Another song He’s been singing over us the past 3 months is from Isaiah 43 and it says,

When you pass through the waters I will be with you. And the waves they will not overcome you. Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine. For I am the Lord your God. I am the Holy One, of Israel Your Savior. I am the Lord.

I’m sharing this with you for two reasons:

1) I want to shout and proclaim His mercies! We received the hardest news to date in 8 years but we aren’t devastated, because he met us in it today. We realize we have a hard journey ahead- one we never wanted our son to walk, but He promises to be with us-we are not alone. Caleb is not alone, and it is not without purpose that we will suffer. Life is full of suffering, but for the believer it is not in vain- He will bring something good from it! 

2) I’m sharing so that I will remember- that I will be able to look back and recall His faithfulness and draw strength from remembering. 

Thank you all for your many prayers. We will keep you posted on exactly what’s next. We would ask that those of you who will be in contact with Caleb would be sensitive to the fact that he doesn’t know any of this new stuff yet. We would love prayers for just the right words as we move forward. 

In Him,
Nicole and Austin

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

MRI Today

We just wanted to let everyone know that we have another MRI coming up tonight- that is Wednesday the 29th. We would love prayers for all to go well with his sedation (he has some congestion with a cold and this complicates things a bit). Also, that the Lord will give him the grace to go all day without eating. We are fixing him a big breakfast, but after that he can’t have any more food until late tonight.

We have an eye appointment this morning as well and results from the MRI with the oncologist tomorrow morning.

We can’t thank you enough for each of you. We are feeling His presence and peace and are so incredibly grateful!

In Him, Nicole & Austin

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Caleb Update

Hello Friends....

So many of you have walked with us, prayed with us and encouraged us over these last few weeks - for that we are grateful beyond words. The comfort of the extended body of care you have provided has been the very grace of God poured over us. Thank you for the way you have loved our family.

Reaching a decision for our next steps has been one of the hardest decisions we have ever had to make. We have poured out our hearts and sought the wisdom of our Heavenly Father, an extended body of doctors from around the country and many friends and family. Over the course of these elapsed weeks we have ranged in emotion and wavered in the level of peace we have carried. We were confident that the wisdom we so desperately wanted would come if we were patient and waited for the Lord's timing.

The choice before us ultimately seems best described as a choice between two risky options, and therein lies the trouble. Without getting into the mechanics of how we arrived at this decision I think it best to say we have chosen the path we feel led to walk, and we have peace in this choice. We are going to walk the path with the risks we are most comfortable with at this point in time - we are going to continue observation and not treatment.

We readily admit and recognize that we may eventually end up in treatment - but we are going to wait until there are presenting complications to make this decision. We know from conversations and research that the treatment options carry risks, and these risks are more than mere compromises of comfort. The risks of treatment are very likely, and in the face of a presenting problem to remedy the choice seems much clearer. However, given our current situation we are choosing the keep the risks of treatment at an arms length in exchange for the possibility of complications from the growth - or perhaps the hope that troubles will not ever manifest.

As I said before - there is not a clear option which can be described as "good" - there are two choices which carry risks, and we are choosing the risk we feel led to assume.

As for what is next - we are going to double down on eye doctor visits and likely have another mri in the near future. The eye doctors are wonderful and the capacity they have to analyze his vision is fantastic. We will rely upon his visual function tests to keep us informed. Secondly, we are headed for an endocrine review this Friday. Those tests help gauge his pituitary function. All of these visits are critical to keeping tabs on the progress of Caleb's health.

So... In conclusion we will share this from scripture:

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (‭Philippians‬ ‭4‬:‭6-7‬ ESV)

We can say that this verse has come true for our family. In this decision no doubt, but honestly over these past 8+ years it has proven true over and over again. I will leave you with simply saying that we are at peace with the path we are on and we covet your continued prayers for wisdom and ultimately healing.

Thank you for your continued support, love and encouragement.

Austin & Nicole

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Friday Prayer

Dear friends...

Many of you are already aware of the changes in Caleb’s health but for those of you who are not we will give a short recap. A few weeks ago we had a scheduled checkup MRI and in that MRI a portion of the tumor has begun to grow a cyst. The growth of the tumor was very hard news to hear and as you can imagine we have been in a flurry of activity trying to get opinions from around the country as to what our next steps will be.

Vanderbilt has stated that they believe we should begin chemo treatment as soon as we are ready to begin. The fear is obviously that the lack of symptoms will not continue if the progression of the tumor is not stopped. The treatment plan is a year in duration with treatments approximately 44 out of 52 weeks. While there are several clinics around the country that agree with treatment there has also been one respected clinic who urged caution in the treatment, and has considered continued monitoring.

The newly found cyst is on top of the tumor and while growth is not a good thing we do realize that there are blessings we can take joy in. The greatest blessing we take joy in right now is that the growth has not impacted his vision in any way. By all clinical signs he is a healthy 8 (almost 9) year old boy. This is the hardest part of the next decisions we have to make. We know treatment will be hard on his body and spirit, and in the absence of complications the choice is a hard one to make.

We recognize that we have been on this journey for over 8 years now and that many of you have been with us each step of the way. We continue to be amazed at how covered in prayer our son and entire family are by this extended body of believers who care for us. While this is not our first run in with the idea of treatment this time feels different, and the stakes seem much higher.

Tonight we are writing to ask you to join with us in a day of prayer tomorrow (Friday 2.27). We are asking that you pray for clarity, for wisdom and for unity. We are not promised that life will be without troubles and if this is the path for us we are willing to walk in it. We know that God loves Caleb more than we could imagine, and we know that He has a plan for our son.

My friend who is walking through some hard things with his daughter said something a few days ago that struck home with me. In paraphrase he said that God has numbered his daughter’s days. He knows the duration of each one. We are here as parents to enjoy each of these days and walk with our children through them. This is a hard thing to meditate on, but at the same time it is a freeing lens to look at life through.

Nicole and I desire to be a source of strength for Caleb. We desire for Caleb to know all that God is to him and how great His love is for our son. We know that this journey may be tough but we are confident that God will be with us through it.

Will you join us in prayer on Friday? Will you help us ask the Father for the wisdom that only He can provide? We know that there is a path we are to walk, and right now we are seeking His wisdom to make the next right choice.


Austin & Nicole

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

MRI Results - Great News

Hello Friends... Today was our review of the MRI with Caleb's Oncologist. We are thrilled to say that we got wonderful news. The news was that we have gone a year since the previous scan and have no change in the size of the mass or other findings in the brain. This news is huge because each passing scan where there is no change adds stability to the situation. We left the office with a skip in our step and joyful hearts.

We are so grateful to each of you who called/texted/prayed for us today. Your prayers and words of encouragement are such a blessing to us. God has graciously blessed us to surround us with folks that care about our family.

I was reminded today from a few of the writings in "Jesus Calling" that God is near to us - very near. He uses all sorts of mechanisms to show us this and one of the ways we experienced it today was through you. Thank you for being a voice of encouragement and love to us.

The passage that stood out to me today was Isaiah 26:3 - You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Today as we went into meeting we had no idea what the outcome would be - but we can say that our hearts were peaceful - though not perfectly - and we knew that regardless of the discovery that we were placing our trust continually in Him.

Tonight we celebrate this provision and this great blessing of a good report on our lovely son.  Here is photo that we took as we went to the park this afternoon to enjoy the fresh air and Spring.


Austin & Nicole

Thank you all for your many prayers yesterday. We truly felt covered throughout the day. I felt the Lord give me certain very meaningful passages from His Word along with a reminder of an awesome song out that many of you may know called “He is with us.”

In light of all that it doesn’t necessary mean that what we walked through yesterday was a breeze and that everything went perfectly. However, what I do know is that we experienced His grace and it created some opportunities for future growth for Caleb.

Caleb was really confident walking in until I realized I forgot our special numbing cream that we ALWAYS have. Needless to say his demeanor changed quickly, and I felt really bad. He was courageous to take the IV even when he didn’t want to. He cried, but we reminded him that courage doesn’t mean you don’t cry or show emotion- it means that you face your fear and with God’s help you don’t run away- and that’s what he did, so we were proud of him.

He was excited about the movie goggles and the Child-Life specialist was really great to prepare him for the MRI. Overall the MRI was successful- we got the images that we needed and for that we are very thankful. However, Caleb did struggle with being in there for so long. He kept moving his feet; he needed to wipe his eyes, etc. He was informed often that he couldn’t move a millimeter, and I believe that was very nerve-racking for him. He said he was sore coming out, and I believe that’s because he tensed his muscles up the whole time. We had hoped he would “get lost” in the movie; but that wasn’t the case. The noises were loud and although he could hear and see the movie, it didn’t distract him enough. He came out saying he didn’t want to do that again!

So, our prayer for future MRI’s will be for wisdom to have just the right words to help Caleb take steps of faith to do something he really doesn’t want to do. It’s been in these moments that the Lord has grown and stretched my faith. And that Caleb will not develop a negative spirit towards these experiences.

 So, the positive is that I know the Lord can use this and future MRI’s to grow His faith and dependence on Him. It still hurts my heart, but we will trust the Lord with that as well.

Thanks again for loving us well with all your prayers and support. We will update probably tonight if we can after hearing the results.

In Christ,


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Spring 2014 Prayer Request

Well, I can’t believe it’s been a year since our last MRI. It has flown by. I've been meaning to update the blog since I last posted in October, but life has been a bit too busy…we've had a few appointments since then with his Endocrinologist and his Ophthalmologist. Both doctors have been pleased with their findings, and we've been thrilled.

We have an upcoming MRI scheduled for next Tuesday, April 8th at 7:00 pm (yes it is a late MRI). This MRI will be a bit different. We've decided to try a non-sedated one this time! We have been skeptical in the past, but we feel really good this time around. He will be watching a movie with some special goggles for an hour.
So our prayers this time are:
  1. That the MRI will go smoothly: Caleb will not move at all; they will get clear images, and that Caleb will not be fearful but peaceful throughout the MRI. 
  2. As we always ask- that the Lord might see fit to do a miracle in our son’s life and remove the tumor completely!
  3. However, if that’s not His plan, that we will trust Him wholeheartedly and rest in this journey.
  4. That the doctor’s will have wisdom and that we would ultimately have wisdom from the Lord on what course of action to take at this time.
We continue to be blown away by those that tell us they continue to pray for Caleb- wow! What perseverance you have! We are so incredibly encouraged by your faithfulness to us throughout this long journey. It’s been 7 years now.

We will be going back for results the next day on Wednesday the 9th. So, we will keep you posted.

Here’s some highlights of the last few months…

Caleb's 8th birthday- Revolutionary War!!
 Caleb has been loving American History and has wanted to read and read about the Revolutionary War. When his birthday started to be talked about, he begged us to have a reenactment of the war - and he wanted to be George Washington who led to Patriots to victory!! How could we say no! ;)

The Lord blessed us with a beautiful day for the party. Here Caleb and Annelise are smiling with a new friend we've made this year, Ms. Sheila. She's a dear and loved being a spectator of the war.

Here Emily and Luke have decided to join Washington's side with their blue vests ready- I made these out of Kroger sacks, and Austin painted them!

Here some are signing up for war- they had to decide whether to be a Patriot or Loyalist.

Dad played too...the kids brought their modern day rifles- Nerf Guns- to the party and had a blast running around pretending.

Here some of the Loyalists lined up for battle. Chase, Austin's brother, was a big kid too!

The Patriots hid behind trees as they chose Gorilla Warfare as their style of fighting.

Caleb's cake has a funny story that I'd love to share if you ask...and if you are wondering what I have on...yes, that's a colonial dress I HANDMADE in high school for a history project!! ha!! I saved this dress for a time like this!!I told Caleb I was Martha, George Washington's wife. He didn't think that was funny.

Caleb here is excited over a new SkyLander for the Wii he just received. His passion endears me to him. ;) 
Happy Birthday, sweet boy. You are a gift from heaven and we love you more than life itself.
Caleb got a bow and arrow set from Mimi and Grandaddy- he loves it!!
For Valentines, Annelise got to go to the Daddy Daughter Dance with her daddy for the 2nd year in a row. Boy was she excited! She got a chance to have daddy to herself and enjoy Frozen music, dancing, crafts, and some treats. I think her favorite part was seeing her daddy shave off his scruff just for her! ha! She wants him to stay clean shaven all the time, but Austin tells her that her mama likes the scruff and so it stays! ;)  But just for her date, he shaved them off. What a sweet daddy!!! She grinned from ear to ear.

here she is with her corsage Austin gave her. One of these days some other boy will be giving her a corsage for a date...I hope that day doesn't come for a long time. We've told Annelise she just has stay little- maybe she will...
Here we are celebrating Austin's dad's birthday. Yay! Happy Birthday, Kevin!

Annelise has really started reading over the last 6 months! We are so proud of her!! This past summer she was reading sets of words for us and loving it, but she has been reading little readers to us since then. Here she is reading to Ma!

And reading to Papa!
And to Grandaddy when he was in the bed after surgery on his foot. He is doing better, and we pray that he will be able to walk with much much less pain than before.
We came over to take care of Grandaddy one day. We made breakfast and watched some fishing with him!

here Caleb and Annelise are eating dinner with Grayson at Five Guys. Grayson is wearing Caleb's old, favorite sweatshirt when he was his age. I love it!
I had to add another of Grayson- he's such a doll and we love seeing him whenever we can. Mom and Dad finished their house, and it's so lovely. This was our first dinner in the new kitchen!!!

If you want to know what Caleb's been up to the last several months- well, here's what he's been doing- sticking his nose in a book...sitting on the heater in his batman P.J's or in the car, or at night before bed- he's loving everything from The Boxcar Children, The Littles, and Stewart Little to biographys like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. His latest right now are these three- reading them all at the same time: Indian in the Cupboard, Joan of Arc, and I survived the Titanic! It's so sweet to see him loving this new world of adventures right at his fingertips.
I could post a ton of Christmas pictures, but I'm not- here are just a few- we were so blessed to have a sweet Christmas again this year. Caleb and Annelise never cease to amaze me with their understanding at such a young age the true meaning of Christmas. We are seeing the Lord moving in Annelise's heart as her prayers have really begun to change lately. She is praying for people's hearts, for people around the world to come to know Jesus, and she's even stopping us at random times to say a prayer- whether for a friend who's sick or for me with all my neck pain. She is growing sensitive to the Spirit and we are really encouraged by her growth.

The kids were in our church's Christmas play this year!! It was so sweet. Caleb was a shepherd and Annelise was his sheep!

Here we are celebrating Christmas with Austin's dad's side. We played some fun games and ate some yummy non-traditional Christmas food- Mexican!!

We gave Chase and Krystle their 1st baby books for their soon-to-arrive baby girl!!! Yay!!!
Here we are with Austin's mom side. This year we dressed in tacky or dated Christmas sweaters- that made for a fun day! We enjoyed little Jonah and a fun game of Bingo!
sitting in our sweaters with Grandma and Pa

Ha! Look at Caleb and me in our puff paint sweatshirts that my mom made back in the late 80's! wow! I even sported a side-ponytail and big hoop earrings! ;)
And here's the goofy side of my side of the family...Christmas this year was at our house because Mom and Dad's house was still under construction. It was a joy to have everyone-well, not everyone- Hunter, Leslie, and Grayson couldn't make it last minute because Grayson was really sick. That was a sad part of Christmas- it wasn't the same without them.

And Christmas at Ma's is always a good time- with the same traditional reading of "It Aint the Gift," to eating the perfectly scrambled eggs and country ham with gravy to watching the little ones pass out the gifts and the room to go crazy with wrapping flying everywhere. What a gift family truly is.

Another sweet memory I'll cherish from this Christmas was taking Annelise for the 1st time to the Nutcracker. It is always a beautiful performance but most of all it takes me back to all my years of dancing. Christmas just isn't complete without the Nutcracker, and it was so special to share it with my baby girl.

Here she is getting a special collector's Nutcracker to take home as a keepsake to add to our collection.
In November we enjoyed taking a weekend trip to Knoxville with Kathy and Jim to see the Vol's play against Auburn. Although it was a terrible loss for us, we loved sitting in the stands and watching the band, the T, the cheerleaders, and screaming for the Vol's no matter what!

yes, we screamed and had a ball!! I love being silly with this sweetheart of mine. And I love those big blue eyes!! ;)

Halloween was fun too! Caleb was a ninja and Annelise was a fairy. They both loved getting dressed up--Annelise loved me putting makeup on her. ;)
And going back further into October...we enjoyed a weekend with our dear friends at the farm. It was a memorable time like always. The farm is wonderful time to let the kids be kids- explore and play out in God's nature- the creek, the barn, the pond, the fields, the playground and around the fire with their family and friends.

The kids are growing up-they seem so tall this year!

here Caleb and Annelise are loading up in the back of the truck to head down to the pond.
Ma came up one fall day and watched the kids while I got my hair done. The kids get so excited to see her coming!

Here we are again at the Pumpkin Patch with a bunch of dear friends. It was a beautiful day!

We've multiplied so much the kids can hardly fit on the truck! ;)

We were delighted to have the Morrows in town for the weekend of the Pumpkin Patch. The kids miss them so much- and we do too. It's been a step of faith for all of us. We love you, Morrows and can't wait to see you again.

I thought this one was so sweet of Annelise in her Hello Kitty shirt playing in the corn.

 And lastly, here's the 1st day of Shepherd's Heart for Caleb AND Annelise! This was her 1st time to go to preschool. (and Caleb in 2nd grade) She has absolutely loved school both here and at home. Shepherd's Heart is truly a blessing and we are so grateful for it.
Well, that sums up our past several months in a nutshell. We are so grateful to have had ordinary days with our family in many ways. Thank you for your prayers. We will keep you posted.
In Christ, Nicole