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Today Russ and I are celebrating three decades of marriage. I am profoundly thankful for the life God has given us and the way He continues to work in our lives. More than anything, we want to honor Jesus with our marriage, and while we falter and fail on a regular basis, we pull one another up and press on.

In honor of today, I’m quickly sharing 30 things I’m thankful for in our lives.

giving thanks #1341 – 1370

10,958 days of faithfulness

adventures from WA to NY to CO to ID

Russ’ commitment to me and our children

high school graduation from rival high schools, college together

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giving thanks #1331 – 1340

our 30th wedding anniversary tomorrow

Russ’ faithfulness, courage, and love

the gift of three decades together

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We’re kicking off  Wedding Week! So many good things are coming our way in the next seven days.

Today we’re wrapping up the big yard work projects (I hope) and I have to say, our yard is looking good. Flowers are blooming, the crop of dandelions in our lawn has been conquered, and potholes in the driveway have been filled with new gravel. Somehow Russ managed to put in a vegetable garden in the midst of the wedding projects; I’m not quite sure how that made it on the list, but I’m sure I’ll appreciate it later.

DSC_0184sLast month Samuel graduated from the University of Idaho, making him our fourth UI graduate. Several people have asked how we fund college for our large family. I’ll let you in on a secret; our kids pay for their own education.

There are a number of factors that make that possible, some of which we can take credit for and some we can’t. Here are a six tips.

1. Choose  a school that offers a good education at a great price. The University of Idaho is a great bargain at approximately $6,500 per year for in-state tuition. It may not be glamorous to attend a state school, but there are huge benefits. I’ll say more about this at the end of the post.

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This isn’t really a post, it’s a, “Oops, I forgot to mention that.” I’m doing a summer Bible study with a few friends and I want to encourage you to grab a few and do it too. Living Proof Ministries (Beth Moore) has set up a program that looks easy to follow. You can do it on your own, with one friend, or a whole group. The schedule is simple and all you need is the workbook, Children of the Day: 1 & 2 Thessalonians by Beth Moore, and a Bible. You can order the workbook from Amazon with the link I just gave or from Lifeway. The schedule and information on how to do the study are on the LPM Blog (it starts this week, but it’s not too late).

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This is a big year for Noah. Most significantly, he and Katie are getting married on June 14th. Second in importance (and also quite incredible) he is starting medical school in the fall!

The process of preparing for and applying to medical school is intense. Noah considered med school early on as an undergrad, then changed his mind and pursued a degree in finance. In the midst of that degree, he realized that medicine really was his calling, so he while he completed that degree, he began taking prerequisites for medical school.

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Last Sunday Russ and I instituted a new family dinner policy – no phones in the dining room. I asked everyone to park their phones on the kitchen windowsill and leave them until dinner was over. There was a little bit of nervous laughter, but everyone complied.  Yes, there are 11 phones and one ipod in that picture; Andrew even parked his Kindle.

Sunday dinner is a highlight of my week, even if the days are crazy and I’m not sure what I’ll put on the table. I try to make it a good meal, and we nearly always have a yummy dessert. When time allows, we set the table with special dishes, flowers, and candles; I love a pretty table.

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Bee is the oldest of our adopted children and the last child to join our family. We met her on our first visit to Ethiopia in 2007. At the orphanage, she endeared herself to us as she carried my backpack, played with Eby, and stayed by my side. When I laid Little Man down to change him, the children gathered in a circle around me; Bee proceeded to hand a diaper wipe to each child. They all washed their hands and faces, then most of them them folded up the wipes and tucked them in their pockets or the waistband of their pants.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Yesterday I wrote a post explaining that I am transitioning to using all of my children’s real names on my blog. I thought it would be fun to write a short post about each of my youngest six and introduce them to you.

Ladybug’s real name is Annarose. Anna is a family name on Russ’ side and I have an aunt named Anne. We like all of our children to have a name with some biblical significance and Anna is the name of the woman in the temple who fasted and prayed night and day for the coming of the Messiah. This was her response when she saw the infant Jesus, “At that moment, she came and began to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).

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June marks my eighth anniversary of blogging. Eight years – there aren’t many things I’ve voluntarily and consistently done for eight years. Marriage, parenting, homeschooling come to mind, and of course there are others, but most of them are in the “need” category, not the “want” category. Blogging is nearly always a good part of my life.

Last November I wrote a post titled, Eight Ways to Help a Stuggling Family. Two adoption/fostering magazines contacted me about publishing it – which is evidence that the formula of using a number in the title of a post is strategic. If only I could remember that when I’m typing away at 5:30 am.

As I read the proof from one editor, my mind kept stumbling over the nicknames, Dimples, Sunshine, and the rest. While they are familiar and comfortable on my blog, the nicknames felt awkward and strange in the article. I’ve had the same experience speaking. In the midst of one 30 minute talk, I’ve unintentionally referred to my children by name and nickname interchangeably; it’s just a little confusing to those listening.