Friday, July 18, 2014

Worth The Wait

This past week has been quite busy as we have had the opportunity to help with the Minnesota West SERVE at a local CRC. We have always had a passion for SERVE because I had gone to 3 when I was in high school (2 at the Benton Harbor/St. Joseph SERVE that Dan's dad ran for around 20 years). That means Dan had been around SERVE basically his whole life (not quite, but close!). I "met" Dan at that BH/SJ - he was the hot drummer, but in my mind, he was WAY out of my league! Little did I know that when I started my sophomore year of college, that Dan would be entering that year, also as a sophomore (he had gone to a community college for a few years). That move in day our sophomore of college was the beginning of what would be an end to our years of wondering who we were going to marry!

I knew that whoever I married, I would have to tell them that I had a heart condition. Our first date to Applebees consisted of dessert because I had politely told him I already had dinner (that's another story!) I will never forget that setting. Sitting over my brownie and ice cream dessert, I anxiously and hesitantly told Dan my heart story. I was fearful as to how he would respond. Not that I assumed I would marry this man that I just met, but I was nervous. Fearing a response of shock or fearing a response of not wanting anything to do with me because of my physical heart. It sounds ridiculous, but at that age, I only had to wonder and worry. But it took Dan coming into my life, to help me realize that my scars told my story.

A story that has been years in the making.

I will never forget one night, Dan was looking at my scar and put his finger ever so gently on my scar and said that my scars made me beautiful. It was my scars that made him love me even more. Tears filled my eyes as I could have only dreamed of hearing those words. Dan not only accepted my physical condition, but realized that it made me who I am and in his eyes, more beautiful.

Dan was my answer to prayer. Dan was the man I was to marry. Dan was willing to walk this journey with me.

The past 8 years of our marriage have been far from easy, but couldn't be more blessed. We look back on all of the blessings God has bestowed on us and we never want to look back and wish things were different. God has uniquely designed our life to look like it has and because of the road, we have never been closer to our Savior.

It has been in the waiting, that we have grown. Trust me, this has not always been a road filled with patience and understanding, but a road worth traveling.

This week I had to quickly run to town to pick up a few groceries for our mission trip the coming week and the song "While I'm Waiting" by John Waller was on the radio.

As I drove and listened to each and every word, I couldn't help but think of this song as the story of our life. Sometimes it was extremely hard to move ahead bold and confident. It was painful. Yet we strived to be obedient. Obedient to where God was leading. Yes, it even ended up in Dan losing his job, but it has been worth it. We look at where God has led us and we can only lift up our hands in under surrender and praise to Him. Our faith has definitely wavered. Peace about what God was doing was not always felt because we doubted.

But it has been worth the wait.

This little one inside of me has been worth the wait. This precious child has been worth every moment. No matter where God leads, we are ready and willing to follow.

While I'm Waiting
By: John Waller

I'm waiting, I'm waiting on You Lord
And I am hopeful, I'm waiting on You Lord
Though it is painful, but patiently I will wait

And I will move ahead bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience

While I'm waiting I will serve You
While I'm waiting I will worship
While I'm waiting I will not faint
I'll be running the race even while I wait

I'm waiting, I'm waiting on You Lord
And I am peaceful, I'm waiting on You Lord
Though it's not easy no, but faithfully I will wait

Yes, I will wait

And I will move ahead bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience

While I'm waiting I will serve You
While I'm waiting I will worship
While I'm waiting I will not faint

I'll be running the race even while I wait
I will move ahead bold and confident
I'll be taking every step in obedience, yeah

While I'm waiting I will serve You
While I'm waiting I will worship
While I'm waiting I will not faint
And I will serve You while I'm waiting

I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting on You Lord
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting

P.S. In case you are wondering, I am feeling absolutely GREAT! The week after finding out, my body was adjusting to all the newness, but I feel it now has adjusted and I eat fairly normal, I sleep great at night, and I have the symptoms of being pregnant. Again, Best. Feeling. Ever. If I didn't feel anything, this girl would be worried! I am not nauseous (yet) and just feel a tad tired and bloated. I like to think that it's my stomach growing (yes, I realize I am way to early to even show yet), but that is what I like to tell myself and I'm sticking to it :). I am so incredibly thankful for how great I feel because I know that is not the case for so many. And yes, I am extremely early in my pregnancy too and things could change. But until then, I am just humbled and thankful. We continue to pray for God to just sustain this little one's life and eventually be able to hold the little babester in our arms!

By the way, I have nicknamed our child "babester" (short for Baby Sterk). On the other hand, Dan has named our child something else - leave it to Dan to call our child "Cletus the Fetus". 

Oh so help me :)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A God Who Gives

One week ago, Dan and I were laying on our boat deck, joking, dreaming, and laughing with a hint of giddiness, of what it would be like to have our own kids.

That dream is now a reality and one week later, it is still hard to comprehend that THIS is our reality.

I still tear up. I still am just in awe of what God has done. All of the congratulations, the excitement, all of the love. We are completely overwhelmed and just humbled that God would choose us, mere humans, to show Himself in ways we never imagined. Inconceivable because our faith wouldn't have been able to handle it. Really. God knew He had to grow us through loss first.

Today in church we sang the song "Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord".

As I saw the lyrics come up on the screen, I couldn't help but think of the journey. My mind immediately flash-backed to when we became a family of 2 again, all too quickly in 2012. The chorus "You give and take away, you give and take away, my heart will choose to say, BLESSED BE YOUR NAME..."

Tears filled my eyes. The thoughts of losing yet so fresh, but the reality of life within, so miraculous. God has chosen to GIVE. I folded my hands and laid them on my stomach, with eyes shut, as I got lost in the words. Lost in who God is. Lost in the moment of our new reality. Lost in my love for my God who never lets go.

A song that too often brought the pain of grief and loss back to mind, yet quietly reminding me to never give up because "blessing the name of the Lord" is what we live for.

Blessing the name of the Lord would not be as heart-filling and as faith-altering, if it wasn't for the reality of loss first. Blessing the Lord's name is easy in the giving process - when we receive what we think is "right" and how life should be. But it took struggles and utter tears, to realize that God's sovereign plan of even taking away, is really what is perfect.

Because it is in the taking away, that we understand God's ability to GIVE. We wouldn't understand gifts unless we understood what it meant to not have.

Whatever season of life you may be in, remember GOD DOES GIVE. We may never understand His timing, but that is not for us to understand. It is for us to understand His unfailing love for us and His desire to make us more like Him.

Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Full Hearts

Our hearts are SO FULL.

One of the best weeks EVER.

This week has been filled with so much joy. I told Dan last night as once again, I couldn't fall asleep, that my heart is just so full. Yesterday, I was driving to town and I said to myself "alright, lets go babester"! Laugh all you want (because it's weird, I know), but to be able to carry someone else within me, everywhere I go, is a feeling that I never imagined having. To think that there is a little baby growing inside, my body changing and working to provide the right "home" for this little one, I count as such a gift and privilege. 

For THIS day, we prayed. For THIS day, so MANY have prayed.

On Wednesday, it hit me. I think my excitement the first 2 days just overwhelmed me. Then I had a moment to truly process what God had done in our lives. What God had done in my body. How God healed my heart enough so that I could carry. To even go as far as to knit together another human in my womb. I threw my hands up in the air, as tears streamed down my face, in thankfulness to God. For almost 10 minutes, the tears just fell. I feel so incredibly undeserving of this beautiful and miraculous gift. How He would choose now, as the perfect time to make this possible. How He saw this week as the week to yet again, change our life. 

This is why we serve Him. Not only for the "good" (in human terms) things that He does. But also for the struggles He has brought us through. This week would not be as meaningful, memorable, and as miraculous, if we did not go through what we did. If I didn't have a heart problem. If I didn't wait for 14 years to hear the words "I see no problem with getting pregnant." To go through the gestational carrier process and become parents for the first time. Realizing that half of our family is in Heaven, but that they are now getting a brother or sister! We couldn't be more humbled or thankful for the struggles. 

It wasn't until we went through loss, that we realized really what a miracle a child is. Holding my niece shortly after we lost our babies, was difficult, but we couldn't help but celebrate a miracle. Life. Is. So. Precious. When I was told that I wouldn't be able to carry for sure in 2010, I was angry. I was disappointed in God. Why would He not want this for US? Seeing children brought pain. But it was in my own brokenness, that God had to work in, to change my heart. It took losing two, to change my heart. Life. Is. Precious.

That is why we choose to tell. To tell of God's goodness. To tell of God's mighty hand. We chose to tell of loss and so we also choose to tell of life.

Psalm 100:5 says - For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” 

God is faithful to not only Dan and I's life/generation, but also our baby's. He will be faithful to our little one. And He WILL be faithful to us - His faithfulness is never-failing. It is MY faith that fails. That fails to trust. That fails to believe that God CAN do the impossible. Will He always do what we ask? No, because it's not for our eternal good. We long to meet our first two, but this week would not be what it is, if we had not lost. We would not have the relationship we have with our Creator Father, if it wasn't for HIS will, and not ours. 

The Lord IS good! He even works FOR THE GOOD of those who love him...

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

I recently told someone that I knew in my head that this verse was true. But in my heart, I didn't believe it. My trust was a roller coaster - if good things happened, then yes, God works for the good. But that is not how God works. Seeing our journey, it is evident over and over again, that God works for the GOOD. But good means earthly struggles as well. It is hard to understand, but that is why God says in Proverbs 3:5 to...

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding

Trusting God with ALL of my heart is not easy. I fail daily. I tried over and over to understand why God allowed what He did in our life. The pain. The struggles. The loss. The yearly appointments of telling me all of the risks if I got pregnant and how it could potentially take my life. But leaning on my own understanding only LIMITS God. It says that I know better and that I know why He acts in certain ways. It only degrades Him to humanity and fails to lift Him up as THE all-knowing and sovereign GOD. 

I wish I knew then, what I know now. But Dan and I both know that God hid our eyes from these miraculous events so that we would run to Him. To run full-force into His loving arms, as we had nothing left, but tears. To physically lose so much, to only gain a deeper relationship with Him. Something eternal. Something everlasting.

That is why our hearts are full. God had to empty our hearts of human desires so that He could fill them up with more of Himself. And we pray that God would only continue this process, no matter what the outcome is. We want to experience His steadfast love to the fullest and that only starts by trusting in HIM 


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Knitted Together

Oh the journey. Again, words are hard to find to describe what is going on inside of us, our hearts, our faith, and in our lives. So as always, this is going to take just a few posts to really explain. But two words keep coming to mind:

Knitted together.

What this has meant for the Sterks in the past few years:

Oh the pure joy of finding out that we were going to be parents back in September 2012. We will never forget that day! We knew the day that we were to find out if IVF worked and if our gestational carrier was pregnant. I had to work that morning and asked if I could be done at 1:00 so that we could go to our carrier's house and wait with her. We were hoping to hear before, but nothing. So off to her house we went. Unfortunately it was the same day Dan lost his job, but for that moment in time, we were not going to let that overshadow the news that was maybe to come. We waited for what seemed like a lifetime, talking, laughing anxiously, wondering what it would feel like if the tests came back positive. Then our carrier's phone rang. It was the fertility center, announcing that she was pregnant. Mouths opened wide, as we all screamed inside, listening as closely as our blown minds could, as the nurse described the results. At that point, all we cared about was a positive pregnancy test. God blessed us with parenthood that day.

As many of you know, God called those two little ones home 3 short weeks later. In those 3 weeks, we discussed what it would be like to be a parent. To have twins. To have a bond with our carrier and her family, that was unexplainable. Maybe a few nerves, but our excitement squashed them all. We finally knew what it felt like to have the privilege of being parents. That memory and those feelings etched in our hearts forever. Those memories we prayed, would come true again someday.

We just knew though, that since I was 17 (14 years ago), that the possibility of me having our own children just wasn't very high. The risks, too great. The decline in health it would cause and the possibility of even death. Risks that we just felt weren't worth my life at that point. As Dan often said, he would rather mourn what he couldn't have (biological children), than lose what he had (me). Biological children just weren't possible.

Fast forward 1 1/2 years. We have learned over the years to never put God in a box. Thinking that God is going to act in a certain way, and doubting that He can do something, only hinders us in every way and makes God look even less sovereign and mighty. Look at the gestational carrier process - talk about God thinking outside the box! That is why we have learned that contentment is the answer. It still allows God to work in the grand scheme, while we live day to day in His presence and our present circumstances. In May, God firmly showed us who is boss as He miraculously healed my heart over the past how many months (since my last heart appointment) to the point of being able to have our own children. Not perfect, but healthy enough to even carry a child. Again, utter shock, yet utter rejoicing.

The possibility of having our own children again? The memories so fresh of our last two. The ability to even try to have our OWN? To allow God to possibly KNIT TOGETHER? A dream that I held onto so lightly because in my wavering faith, I doubted this would ever come to fruition.

We decided to wait one month to try and conceive. You may think we were crazy for waiting, but it would've been days after we found out that my heart was healthy enough to carry. We wanted to celebrate and take time to soak it in. To celebrate being KNIT TOGETHER in a completely different way as a couple. Again, call us crazy, but we have waited 8 years and we thought, let's celebrate this time in our life and enjoy the process. We prayed the day we found out, that God would bless us with another little one of our own.

Many told us to not stress while trying to conceive. We were FAR from stressed as this was the first time we didn't have to worry ABOUT getting pregnant. Seems kind of opposite, right? It truly was a stress reliever! No worries about death. About what would happen if I did get pregnant (only just a few risks). We were free and it was the most freeing feeling. We were FREE to conceive. To allow God to KNIT TOGETHER if it was His will. So June we tried.

The waiting period sure is a tough one though. Wow, did I want to take 100 pregnancy tests! I did take 3. The first one was WAY too early, but I thought it would be fun to take one, so I did. Why not? Who thought that taking a pregnancy test would be so much fun? I couldn't WAIT to wake up in the morning. In fact, Saturday night, I couldn't sleep because I knew the second test was right around the corner. I woke up way too often, but I knew that Sunday, July 6 would be a good day to take the test, even though it would be a few days early. My nerves, emotions, and excitement were firing on all ends. I waited the recommended time, and what I saw was a faint line. I right away ran into the bedroom and woke Dan up. I whispered...

"I think I'm pregnant!"

His eyes got wide, I showed him the test, and we were trying to decipher first if this was real, but also if the line was dark enough. After our initial joy and giddiness, we decided that Monday, July 7 would be a much better read. So Sunday we spent dreaming - just a little. That just MAYBE I WAS pregnant. We spent the night just us two, fishing, laying on our boat's deck, dreaming what it would be like to have a little child to fish with. To teach them how to fish. To teach them about life. To walk life together. It is one of the most treasured moments of my life that I will never forget.

Monday morning rolls around and of course I woke up a little early. I right away decided to take the test (as they recommend anyways), and


This time I decided to wait until Dan woke up. When I heard him awake, I rushed into the room and said "Good Morning Baby Daddy!"

His face was priceless. The cutest smile, the light in his eyes, the joy of seeing the test - the room filled with cheers of joy, hugs, fighting back tears, the golfing cheer of the arm and leg at one time, and of course, staring at the results.

Could this REALLY be true? Is there REALLY life KNIT TOGETHER within?

I seriously walked into the bathroom at least 10x to reread the test. I wish I was joking, but I am not. Dan too, kept checking to "just make sure." We sat on the couch and just talked about every dream we had. How God brought us to this point. How we never imagined this, yet Dan always felt like he would someday have his own. But really, our minds just couldn't conceive this idea - for too many years it was inconceivable.

To think of the journey. To think of the roads God has driven us down, to get us to this point. We just couldn't be more thankful. We couldn't be more in awe. To explain a joy that only God can give, human words can't explain. How DO you explain a joy that comes from an inconceivable God? A God who is rejoicing with us and was waiting to give us this gift. A gift that we and so many others have prayed for for so many years. A gift 14 years in the making.

And then we asked each other...well now what?

We knew we had to call our parents. We just couldn't wait. We had to share the news with them because they have been through it ALL with us! Tears and screams of joy filled our phone lines. We just never dreamed of making that phone call.

To say the words "I AM PREGNANT".

I can't even begin to tell you what joy those words bring. What inspiration for my faith. What love I have for a little one growing inside. And here we sit, doing the what we thought was the impossible - saying those very words. We sat and read Psalm 139 - reflecting on how GOD is the knitter of life. How HE knew this child would be, even before we were even born. He knew this child would be a gift like no other. A life KNIT TOGETHER by the very hands of God.

Because I thought I was going crazy, I decided to get a confirmation from my doctor on Tuesday. I truly sometimes thought this was just a dream. I again, checked the pregnancy test OVER and OVER. Lo and behold, the first words out of the doctor's mouth were "You are pregnant! Congratulations!" I could have cried. She asked if it was our first time trying and I said "well, yes, but..." I wanted to share with her our journey because it is GOD'S story and I want to share it. I found out after telling the WHOLE story in a very reader's digest version, that she too, was a believer. I told her I just couldn't tell that story without talking about God, as we both teared up. I left that office celebrating at the top of my lungs in the car! I was glad to find out I wasn't going crazy and imagining things!

Yes, they say wait until you are 3ish months along to tell people, but this is our perspective: if God has created life within me, we are going to celebrate this life, no matter how young this child is. Even if just a few weeks old, this child is part of our family, as our other two Hooties are as well. If God wants to call this little one home, then He will do what He sees fit. What He sees as part of HIS perfect plan. But right now, we will celebrate this little life to the fullest.

March 2015 can't come soon enough! We know the lil Hooties are rejoicing with their heavenly Father too. I can't imagine the party up in heaven right now!

It is just unfathomable to us what God is doing in our life. All PRAISE, GLORY, and HONOR to HIM ALONE. Only GOD can do the unfathomable. Only GOD can rescue fallen dreams and make them whole again. Only GOD can create life, grow life, and sustain life. And we pray that God will sustain this child's life for years and years to come.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Our Weekend With Family Visitors!

This past weekend, we had the privilege of hosting Dan's brother, his wife, and their 4 kids at our home! We saw them for a little while when we were on my family's vacation in Michigan 2 weeks ago, but of course with anytime with family, it is always "too short." That is why we were excited to have them out here 4 days later!

As with any family that visits, we of course can't WAIT! We had our basement set up so that all the boys could sleep downstairs with Uncle Dan, but unfortunately our basement flooded, so we had to rip up the carpet and dry it out. We were wondering how we were all going to fit, but we just switched bedrooms and it worked great! Thankfully his brother's family is flexible and generous to make it work in small spaces!

It was supposed to rain the whole weekend, but it only briefly rained a few times! What an answer to prayer! One of the things they were all looking forward to was fishing out in Minnesota. Of course we brag about how good the fishing is out here (because it is!), so we would've been devastated as well, if they weren't able to go fishing. But God held off the rain each time and it ended up working out just fine!

On Saturday, we headed down to the Alexander Ramsey Falls. There isn't a TON to do around by us only because everything is a bit of a drive - we live in the COUNTRY to say the least! Although, the falls are only about a 45 minute drive and it is worth EVERY minute!

The fun bridge that leads to the falls

Because of all of the water and flooding, the falls were just ROARING. We were shocked to see the water so high, yet at the same time, it was a beautiful sight.

The Boys! It was just too cute - they just couldn't WAIT to go fishing with Uncle Dan. Granted I can understand why because he is very fun to fish with, but it was so cute to see kids so excited to be with "Uncle Dan!"

The Girls! It was so good to spend QUALITY time with them!

While it was raining, we had some pretty serious Mario Kart races! 

And some fishing pictures!
Ninja warrior right here!

Dan caught a big one and let her reel it in!

The face says it all :)

We have been so blessed with such quality family time lately and are thankful that even though we live 10-11 hours from them, that we can still keep in touch. We live in an area where family are extremely close and not having family nearby, we treasure every moment we have with them. We are blessed to be enveloped though by families here and having people "adopt" us into theirs! 

Such a WONDERFUL weekend together, doing life together, and sharing life together!
I think I am finally caught up on pictures over the past you can see why I have been slacking in posting lately :)

We look forward to the 4th of July festivities here in Prinsburg tomorrow! There is always so much going on! July also brings it's own busyness, but goodness too. We are helping out with the SERVE that is happening at a local CRC church near us everyday in 2 weeks, and then the next week we leave for our youth group's mission trip to Wisconsin! We are going to an Indian reservation and helping a missionary that we support through one of the churches. This summer has us moving around quite a bit, but we have loved every minute of it!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Family Vacation on Stony Lake

I know I am a little behind, but here are a few tidbits of our family vacation on Stony Lake!

Dan and I always look forward to family vacations. To dream about spending a whole WEEK together as a family, is such a gift and blessing, as we know that the feasibility of doing family vacations is not always easy; therefore, we treasure each and every one. We made the 13 hour drive (that was fairly uneventful) to New Era, MI. We left at 4:00am, in the dark, as the electric company shut off all power to the town for maintenance. Thankfully I am married to an outdoorsy man, so we had lanterns and headlamps all set up. 

Stony Lake is one of our most favorite places on earth - the beauty, the quiet, the birds (we saw a bald eagle soaring hours after we arrived), and the calmness of God's creation, is what draws us back to this area every year. And of course, our family time. Even though families are changing, our love for one another only grows!

Tubing with our nieces is something that never gets old. The water was a tad cold, but Dan had all the right gear to make the experience that much more enjoyable. Of course our nieces didn't care what temperature it was!

Fishing is always high on the list of things to do! Nice size crappie that I pulled out of the water one morning

My sister Katie painting toenails

Oh how I love living in a swimsuit for a week!

Sisterly love!

Our annual golf outing to Benona Shores - if you are ever up for a good laugh, go golfing with us. Never a dull moment as we take down leaves, search for our balls, hit trees and still end up on the fairway, swing and miss all too often, and golf SO WELL that we get par for a round of 18 (even though we play 9). It's a blast and always look forward to it!

Fishing off the dock

Everyone's faces tell the story!

While on this vacation, we celebrated my parent's 40th wedding anniversary! I am humbled to call them my parents and am continually encouraged by the example they have set in marriage. We did a family photo shoot since we were all together in such a beautiful place. Love them so much!

Dan has some pretty good skills in skiing (me...not so much)

It was fun to cook/bake with the girls. Making monkey bread is definitely a job that any kid can help with!

Love this girl :)

Kari and Emma tubing 

Just had to post this picture - once a Tiger's fan, always a Tiger's fan - even eating my Tiger Trax! Gotta love good ole Hudsonville ice cream! I miss it!

Dan and I decided to go snorkeling in the lake - it was a tad cloudy, but I almost caught a large perch with my bare hands!

Another annual event is tubing down the creek - basically we are all a huge blob, trying to get down the creek in one piece. We always end up in foliage, but it's part of the experience!

What a fun week it was! Of course we had a really heavy storm (which happens every year) where it rained SO much! We also played a LOT of Ticket To Ride (US and European edition). It is just what we do :). We are so thankful for the opportunity to spend time with family - especially living further away from them. 

We have had a lot going on, so I will try and update here more frequently! We also have a family vacation with Dan's family coming up, and we also enjoyed an amazing time with Dan's brother and sister in law, who came to visit us last week! This is why we LOVE summer. So blessed!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Our Junior High Retreat in Duluth

We are back!

It has been a crazy past few weeks, but we are now home sweet home!

Two weeks ago, we took our junior highers to Duluth for the week. We were looking so forward to this trip because we don't get to spend as much time with the junior highers as we'd like to AND we had never been to Duluth before! Since moving to Minnesota, everyone kept telling us that we are going to LOVE Duluth, that it is very "us." Well, they were right! We had such a fun week with them while in Duluth! 

We stayed at the Edge Waterpark and Hotel, which helped us ALL become kids again! Never a dull moment in that waterpark! 

This was the view from our hotel room balcony! It was also a retreat, so Dan led us in lessons each day. Such a blessed week! Here's a glimpse of pictures of what we were up to.
 One morning overlooking Lake Superior
 The shoreline was beautiful!
 Skipping rocks became our competition - Dan was hard to beat with 10 skips!
 Checking out a little cave
 The water was SO clear!
 Crazy boys - that's why they are such great leaders!
 THE bridge...
 The bottom part goes up and down so that large boats and barges can go through - otherwise it is a road for cars. There was a boat coming in from Liberia that afternoon!

 Gooseberry Falls - what a magnificent place! 
 Love this man!
 On a hike...

 Da Group
 Shoreline along Lake Superior
 Love these girls!
 Our Junior High Group - we had a BLAST with them!

After we arrived home from the junior high retreat, we left 12 hours later for Michigan, for my family's vacation! It was a hectic turnaround, but everything fell into place and we left again at 4am Friday morning! Pictures to come!