If you remember this post, you’ll know that I didn’t do so well making my own homemade soup a couple of weeks ago….

But…I tried again and had great success….

We had homemade tomato basil soup for dinner tonight, and it was yummy!  With a side of bacon, avacado, egg, and cheese sandwich, I would say that I did well! 

Here’s the recipe….


Try it!

Our Letter

Every 3 months or so we write a letter to our friends and family, letting them know what is going on in our ministry at Great Oaks.

I thought you might want to read this one…

February 18, 2011

Dear Friends and Family,

We hope this letters finds you well.  We pray you had a blessed holiday season, celebrating Christmas and the New Year with family and friends.  We thoroughly enjoyed having my parents here for Christmas and they absolutely loved the snow!  Shortly after they left, we had a group of 145 from 3 different Korean churches near Chicago stay at camp for 4 days!  The ministry and income was great for camp but cooking 9 meals for that many people was exhausting!  So, Paul and I got on a plane and flew to Texas for 10 days.  We loved visiting family and many friends we had not seen since moving to Illinois almost two years ago.

That’s right.  Believe it or not, we’ve lived here for almost two years.  On February 23, 2009, we rolled out of Abilene, Texas, and began our journey here.  In certain areas of the ministry, it has been nothing like we planned, but in other areas, it fits us well.  Each day is a new day, set with new challenges and new ministry opportunities.  Some days it takes the form of answering the phones and planning bible studies and other days it might be cleaning toilets and plowing the roads (mostly for Paul).  We have learned new skills that we never thought we would learn but accomplished much during this time.

We are excited and at peace about a new step of faith we are taking starting in March.  Starting March 7th, I will only be working part-time at Great Oaks.  When we came two years ago, Paul and I had high expectations and great plans of what it would be like to work together, all day, everyday.  We loved (and still love) seeing each other throughout the day and spending time together, which is definitely a privilege as a married couple, but, as the last year has gone by, we have discovered that working together is not as ideal for our marriage as we thought it would be.  We still want to be part of the ministry but just not in the same capacity.  So, over the next couple of weeks, I will be transitioning out of the food service part of my job and will strictly be working in the office, about 18 hours a week.  Paul will continue his work full-time as Program Director, along with helping Jim on the ropes course and being in charge of the TRAIL program on Tuesday nights.

With this new opportunity, for us as a couple and as ministers here at Great Oaks, there are also new challenges.  My salary will be cut in half, so, of course, our finances will also be affected.  Please understand that although we have never been without and we have always had what we needed, we are still going to be transitioning into a new way of living (cutting our expenses) that is a little scary at times.  But, as I mentioned, we are at peace about this situation and know that the Lord will provide for our needs through prayer, gifts, and service.  I know many of you have given to us and to our ministry here at Great Oaks faithfully each month, and for that, we are grateful.  I also know there are many of you who have given us monetary support throughout the past two years and because of that, we are able to stay here and continue our work.  Please keep us in your prayers as we minister to guest groups and our inner city kids this spring, along with the staff as they begin to take on more responsibilities in my absence.

As spring approaches, please continue to pray for us.  Specific prayer requests:

  • Prayers of transition as we begin a new chapter in our lives as I am only working part-time
  • Prayers of thanksgiving as our TRAIL program has started up again this semester
  • Pray for our staff as our spring semester will start up again soon with guest groups filling our calendar each weekend

If you would like to give a donation on our behalf to Great Oaks Camp, please feel free to use the envelope that is provided.  May God richly bless you.


Paul and Callie









50/50 Chores

I read this article today on Yahoo….

If you don’t want to read the whole article, here’s the recap….

“Housework—who does what, when, and how often—is the source of many a recurring marital complaint.  Splitting chores 50/50 often seems like the answer, but couples who do often find themselves as resentful and unhappy as couples who set up no plan for dividing the work that makes a house run.”

“Splitting the dishes, laundry, vacuuming, and other household chores may seem fair, but an unbending line right down the middle can lead to more friction, not less, because no one is good and fast at all things.”

So….in other words, you and your partner should not necessarily split the chores, but instead find one (or two) that you enjoy doing and do it, regardless of what your partner may or may not do.

I shared this idea with Paul….here is his response.

“Well, then, that’s easy.  I’m not good at anything.”

Perfect….just what I wanted to hear.

And then he proceeds to tell me.

“Honey, have I ever told you that you are good at everything?”

Perfect…just what I wanted to hear.

On that note, I’m off to clean the bathrooms….since I’m SO good at it….



My Mask

Although Halloween doesn’t grace our present calendar for another 8 months, the idea of wearing a mask has consumed me the past week.  Why, on that one special day of the year, do people bring out masks, made of plastic, rubber, vinyl, or cloth, adorn their faces and pretend to be someone they are not?  Is there a sense of gratification in becoming someone and achieving a new level of security in a false sense of identity, knowing that we will never become that person?  Why is that so attractive? 

And yet , even though the idea of decorating our faces in a false sense of self is strange, in some ways it is so freeing….for a small amount of time, you can become anyone you want and people accept it, with no question.

So, I wear a mask everyday.  And, if you are true to yourself and honest with who you see in the mirror, you probably wear one, too.

Here is my mask.


Look familiar.  I may not always look as nice (think no make-up and hair in a ponytail), but the message is still the same.

I pretend to be someone I am not.  I pretend to be happy when I am not.  I pretend to care when I don’t.  I pretend to love when I hate.  I pretend to “have it all together” when, in reality, “my world is spinning.”  Overall, my mask is not really who I am.  

Besides desiring a false sense of identity, I think we often wear a mask for protection.  It makes sense, if you think about it.  Doctors wear a mask to protect against disease.  Firemen wear a mask to protect against the flames.  A baseball catcher wears a mask to protect his face.  Protection, in and of itself, is not a bad thing.  But, what does your mask protect?  Who are we really protecting ourselves from, the world around us or our own selves?  Are we trying to hide who we are or how we feel? 

In reality, the act of pretending is not a bad thing.  There’s even the catchphrase “fake it til you make it” which is the idea of imitating confidence so that as the confidence produces success, it will generate real confidence.  Just as putting on a happy face when inside we don’t feel very happy can often lift our mood.  So when is it bad to wear your mask?

When you wear a mask and don’t ever let anyone know who you really are?

When you need help but are too ashamed to ask for it?

When you look at your life and feel that you’re living a lie?

When wearing a mask begins to hurt you?

Then it is time to take it off.

Who are you deep down, in your soul?  When people see you, who do they see?  Are they seeing your mask or the real you?  Maybe it’s time to take off the mask and be proud of who you are.  Be confident in yourself.  Be able and willing to share yourself with others around you.  Be real.  Be you.

Broken Homes

“I need some Jesus in my life.”  (This was a response to my question of, “How are you?” when I picked up one of our TRAIL kids on Tuesday night for bible study).

When we began our ministry two years ago at Great Oaks, the buzz word that was (and still is) thrown around a lot is broken homes.  A majority of the kids we work with come from broken homes.  They come from troubled homes and families.  They are not what we would consider “normal.”  They are hurting.  They are looking for love (some in the wrong places).  They need us.  And, I think we need them.

The Free Dictionary defines “broken home” as: “a family in which the parents have separated or divorced.”

Urban Dictionary.com defines “broken home” as: “a house containing a family that is set apart due to tensions and certain problems. ex: a kid’s parents constantly fight and he/she feels lonely, depressed, angry. that is a product of a broken home, who may usually get away from the problems by doing bad things (drugs,drink,etc…). broken home can range from a project in NY, a suburb, or ironically, a 5-story mansion”

Though I’m not sure of the origin of UrbanDictionary, I like the definition because it doesn’t say that the parents have to be divorced/separated. 

Even though a majority of our kids do come from homes where their parents are divorced/separated, some of them do have a two-parent home, but they live in a world of fighting, hurt, anger, and intolerance.

That’s where our ministry comes in.  At this point this is where it counts. 

On Tuesday nights I lead a bible study for 3 girls, ages 10-12.  Here are their family backgrounds, from what I know.


12 years old

Parents divored when she was younger

She lives with her mom, who is a single parent, because her step-dad just died last month (right before Christmas).  Her dad lives in the area, but I don’t hear about him often.

She has 2 little brothers

She really struggles in school and really struggles to find “her place” in school (her relationships with her friends are changing, and it’s hard on her because they are ever evolving and she’s not sure what it means or how to handle it)


She is 10 years old

She lives with her mom and step-dad; they’ve been married about 2 years.

When she was younger, ages 4 to 8, she lived in foster care because she was taken away from her mom.  She went back to live with her mom 2 years ago, right before her mom got re-married.

Her dad was in jail, got out in December, and is now back in jail (she doesn’t want to tell me why and I want to respect that)

She has 2 younger brothers and an older brother.

She LOVES reading the Bible and gets to excited about bible study….she is also quite a talker and loves to be the center of attention. 


She is 12 years old.

She lives with her mom, but bounces back and forth between her mom and her grandmother.  (I usually pick her up at her grandmother’s house).  She mentions her dad, but I have no idea where he is.

She told me she is thankful for her grandma and her “granny” who actually care about her and spend time with her.

She has 5-6 brothers (I can’t remember, exactly).  Two of them are in jail for murder.  Two of them have been kicked out of high school repeatedly for truancy and disrespect. 

She asks me every week to pray for her brothers.  This week she asked me to talk to her brothers.  She wants me to teach them a little bit about respect (in her words).

This is real life to them.  This is what they deal with everyday. 

Talk about broken homes.  I don’t think it gets anymore broken than that.  My heart breaks for them.  There’s nothing I can physically do, except pray.  And commit.  And show up every Tuesday night.  And love. 

Frederick Douglas said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

We are definitely trying to build strong children.  Through love.  Through relationships.  Through respect.  Through studying God’s Word.  Through laughing.  Through caring.  Through praying. 

The two greatest commandments from the Lord is to “Love God and Love People.”  It’s what we do.

“In violent streets and broken homes, the cry of anguished souls is not for more laws but for more conscience and character.”
Cal Thomas

What’s for Dinner?

This was not my night for cooking….

I tried two new recipes (one for dinner/one for dessert)…they both failed…

We’re lucky there is a pizza place 3 minutes away and that someone else is bringing dessert to small group tomorrow night…

Two and a half hours….

1 pan, 1 skillet, 2 pots, 2 bowls, 1 blender, 1 food chopper, 1 mini muffin pan, 40 muffin liners, 1 cutting board, 2 measuring cups, numerous knives, forks, and spoons, a really dirty counter, and tons of dirty dishes….

the smoke alarm going off 3 times while cooking….

So….what’s for dinner?

Pizza Peel!

I totally ruined dinner and Paul went to pick up pizza!

What food is in your house?

This morning, while going through my morning routine at work (i.e. checking e-mail, Facebook, news, etc), I found this article on Yahoo. 

Twelve “must-have” foods in your kitchen….

Twelve of the “healthiest” foods to have in your house…

Here’s the run-down, if you don’t want to read the article:

1.  Mushrooms

2.  Barley

3.  Walnuts

4.  Whole Grain Pasta

5.  Peanut or Almond Butter (Natural)

6.  Oatmeal

7.  Quinoa

8.  Skim Milk

9.  Almonds

10.  Lentils

11.  Blueberries

12.  Bulgur

I was proud.  We have 6 of those items.  We sometimes have 7, but, let’s face it, almonds are expensive. 

Let me tell you what we probably will never have.  Mushrooms.  Lentils. Bulgur.  Barley.  I don’t even know what Bulgur is.  Pretty sure I’m not going to eat it.

Now, here’s my question.

Where do the Oreos fit into that list?  Not that I’m saying we have those, but if we did have a half-eaten package of Oreos that are supposed to be used to make a dessert, which I haven’t made yet and might not get to, if we keep eating the Oreos, instead of cooking with them, where would they fit in?

Back to Happy Snacking!!  🙂

The Culprit

On Tuesday, January 18th, we returned home from Texas. 

That night, during the night, I heard a noise near the bed.  Now, normally I would blame it on Paul (because he snores), but this was coming from the floor, so I’m pretty sure it wasn’t him (unless he had crawled under the bed to sleep). 

I will say that we do have mice that come visit us at times, but I have never seen one in our bedroom (note:  I have never seen one, doesn’t mean they haven’t been there).  The noise was coming from the vent. 

The noise continued for the next couple of nights:  a scratching noise, a thumping noise and even a hammering noise against the wall.  The noise continued during the day, too.  I would usually hear it in the evenings, in the vents between our bedroom and the living room. 

Jim saw a hole in the side of our house, so he boarded it up, thinking it would keep the animal out.  (We concluded it was probably a raccoon, opossum, or a rabbit). 

Over and over we looked in the vent and we never saw anything. 

This continued for a week.  Jim set a live trap underneath our house, hoping to catch something.  Nothing.

Tomorrow is February 8th.  Three weeks to the day that the noise started.  Today, we caught the culprit.

It was F-A-T!!!

It was probably exhausted from living under our house for 3 weeks!

Looks cute, huh, all curled up at the bottom?

Look how big it is?!!  It can’t even stand up all the way in the cage?!!  (You might have to click on the picture to get the full effect)!

Let’s just say….he has a new home by Hopewell.  Maybe he’ll go visit Jay and Paige!!  🙂

The Ninja Cowboy

Paul wanted me to put this picture up on the blog….

Paul said he looked like a ninja.

I’m not so sure….

I think ninjas wear more black.

So, I told him he looked like a cowboy ready to rob a bank….

What do you think?

(Or maybe just someone who has to plow for the 4th day in a row, twice each day)!!