Millennium Park

Today we met our friends up at Millennium Park in Creve Coeur. We stayed a full 2 hours and the boys still didn’t want to leave. It’s a great park for older kids. Lots of neat things to climb.

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Luke’s 13th Birthday Party

Family Edition

I had grand visions of a massive, blow-out birthday party for Luke’s 13th, but several of his good friends weren’t available so we decided to do a family party near his birthday and a friend party in July.

It was a small gathering, but we had a nice time.

He opened some fun gifts…a fidget spinner from his little brother, a drone from my sister, Anna, and lots of cash.


He has been saving his money for a bass guitar. About a week ago I told Ben that I thought maybe we should get him a memorable gift for his 13th and Ben agreed. We hatched a plan to surprise him with a bass. It’s one he raved about after playing it at Guitar Center. We picked it up the night before. He was totally surprised and blown away. We’ve never given wither of them a big gift like this before so he was in total shock which is not easy to do with this kid!

Last but not least…

I didn’t get an up-close picture of the “Luke” wall, but you can see it there. Everything was decorated in a red and black rock theme.

My mom gave him a lazy bag. You fill it with air and lounge around in them. Sounds boring,but they are SO comfy. She gave one to Gabe for his birthday and now the rest of us have them, too.

So, my sweet baby is almost 13. It’s not the 29th, yet, so I have a few more days of denial.

This is such an interesting age to me. I feel like he’s all over the place. Sometimes he’s still my little boy, crawling into my lap asking for back scratches. Other times he’s fiercely independent. Sometimes he throws fits like a toddler, other times he says something so mature that it takes my breath away. I just never know from day to day what he’s going to say or do!

I love you, Luke Michael, and cannot wait to see what the future holds for you!


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Shaw Nature Reserve – Wetlands Trail

Our MOBOT membership allows for free entry to Shaw Nature Reserve so the boys and I decided to take advantage. The weather has been unseasonably cool these past several days. Normally we hunker down, but when it’s this nice we have to get out and stretch our legs a bit.

The nice lady at the visitor’s center recommended the board walk so that’s what we did.

First, you walk through a large field with beautiful wildflowers blooming on either side.

Bee Balm

Rose Milkweed

Then you get to a wooded spot with an observation deck. We didn’t see anything especially worth observing this day, but it was nice to get out of the sun for a bit.

After another walk through a field, we came to the boardwalk around a pond.

It was absolutely beautiful. I took a ton of pictures and will process more later. The fields were bursting with all kinds of beauty. This year, all around this area, we have a plethora of wildflowers. Queen Anne’s Lace, Coneflowers, Bee Balm, Daylillies, and so much more. It’s really stunning.

It was near dinner time when we were done so we headed straight home, but I think the boys and I will go back and try and do each hike over the course of the coming year. None are terribly long and they all explore different areas of the reserve. I’m so grateful to live in such a beautiful place!

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Grandpa’s 90th

We had the privilege of celebrating my grandfather’s 90th birthday part this past weekend. My aunts drove in from Nashville and we had a BBQ in De Soto to celebrate his big day.

Cake made by his Aunt Helen – who’s 98!

His mind is sharp and he’s witty – loves a good joke. I always enjoy talking to him. We told him we’re all rooting for him to give us another 10 years so we can celebrate his 100th!

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Lazy Days of June

We haven’t been doing anything too exciting around here lately.

Luke still has music on Monday evenings. Chiro every other Monday for all of us. Tuesday and Thursday mornings, Gabe has swim lessons. On Tuesday evenings, Ben has coffee club. He’s part of a group at church that sells coffee on Sunday mornings to support mission work. Luke goes with him on Tuesday evenings and he and the other kids swim. Wednesday is youth group for Luke. We try to get together with a friend or two here and there, but nothing big.

Ben was gone for a week to build houses for widows in Guatemala. The boys and I didn’t do much aside from our regular errands. I’m not used to having to take them to everything on my own. It really adds up! Between lessons, library trips, grocery shopping, church, youth, and volunteering, the week just flew by!

I did some straightening around the house, garage, and basement. Ben hates that type of thing so I cleaned and swept the basement and garage. Then I moved some lumbar and materials into the shed and cleaned up a bit outside.

For Father’s Day we went to a new board game cafe in the city. We had a great time and ended up staying for a while. I got all three of them to play Dream Phone with me! It was about as awesome as you’d imagine.

The biggest news of the month is that my sister and brother-in-law are having a baby girl! It’s the first girl in his family in over 55 years! I already have a niece, but she’s 10, so it’s time for another one!

The boys picked up a job taking care of some friend’s pets while they’re on vacation. Three times a week we go over and feed, water, and care for a cat and three guinea pigs. It’s been a blessing for me because they’ve been begging for guinea pigs for a while and now they can see, firsthand, how much work comes along with it!

So that’s about it for us here. As it starts to warm up we end up hunkering down more and more. I cannot stand the heat – can’t function in it – so we end up sort of going through another hibernation. But Fall will be here before we know it and we’ll be out and about in no time!


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Nothing to Prove

I just finished the book Nothing to Prove and the workbook Proven. Every Monday, for the past couple of months, 4 other ladies and I got together to discuss this book, pray, and encourage one another.

I really enjoyed this study. I felt like Jennie did a great job encouraging women to cease striving without going soft on the importance of spiritual disciplines and cultivating a true relationship with Christ. I find so many books, studies, and blog posts tend to sway one direction or the other, but she was able to maintain that tension and I was really impressed and encouraged.

“There are no spiritual helicopters out of the desert, just the old, common, gorgeous, lingering roads paved by our forefathers in faith and designed by God. Knees on the ground. Words formed to God in prayer. Bibles marked up and worn out. Hours spent with the only One who satisfies and delights our souls.”

“There is nothing holy about authenticity without repentance. Authenticity without repentance is narcissism. Authenticity is the necessary soil for repentance, but if healing comes from Jesus, then confession is only the first step.”

The main point of this book is that we cannot please both God and man. Our focus should never be on pleasing people and winning approval from others, but rather pleasing God. We must find our value, worth, and purpose in Him alone. When we do this we can cease striving and come into what he has for us.

“It’s not my curse that I believe I am not enough; it’s my sin that I keep trying to be.”

“We can’t make light of the vision, but we also cannot accomplish any of the purposes of God unless we do them with the power and the resources and the energy of God.”

“If I were your enemy, this is what I would do:

Make you believe you need permission to lead.

Make you believe you are helpless.

Make you believe you are insignificant.

Make you believe that God wants your decorum and behavior.”

“Maybe you belive that Jesus is enough, but then why are you not pulled up near to Him every chance you get? Why do we keep running to everything on earth except Him??

“Jesus lived with a deep security in His identity. He lived settled, content, dependent, with nothing to prove and with a clear goal of displaying His Father’s love to every person He encountered….He lived fully engaged with His whole heart, mind, body, emotions.”

That sounds amazing to me!

“Do you want to know why we are so tired? Because we don’t believe God. There is no remedy for your striving apart from finding your identity in Christ. He is your enough, and the degree to which you believe that is the degree to which you will stop striving, stop performing, stop trying to prove yourself.”

Those are much-needed words to a reformed people-pleaser like me.

The weekly study questions in the study guide, Proven, were pretty basic. As we finished the study we realized there is a facilitator guide in the very back of the book and we all felt those discussion questions were much better. Oh well, it was a good group of ladies and we never lacked for discussion.

I’m grateful for this study and am glad to have a hard-copy of the book to keep and refer back to and lend out to others. It was well done and makes me curious to seek out her other studies!





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Creek Day

Our field is so overgrown right now which makes it a pain to traverse, but we decided to face it so that we could check on the creek. You’d think, after 6 years of living here, that we’d have a path or trail blazed but no…so it’s a real adventure each time.


The flooding that we had in April really did a number on the creek! I was amazed at how different it is now. One part is completely blocked off by a number of downed trees. It’s deeper in some parts and the banks have been washed away in others.

The water was still flowing pretty well, but I know that won’t last for much longer. Sadly. I wish it was always like this. Of course, then I worry about what could be in that water. I have no idea where this water comes from. Hmm, something to investigate.


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Elephant Rock

Where did May run off to? I swear it was here just a moment ago!

Ben and I took the boys to Elephant Rock State Park with some friends. We had such a nice time. It was a perfect day.

Bouldering, or scrambling, is one of our favorite things to do. ERSP is perfect. You can walk the paved trail, through the woods, around the boulders, or you can climb on and through the boulders.

What goes up must come down.


Tight Quarters


The park is about 1.5 hrs from our house so we packed a lunch and ate there. The drive there and back is so pretty and peaceful. Lots of winding, country roads. I’m glad we went and hope we can make it a regular occurrence!

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Nolen Family Vacation 2017: Days 14 and 15

Friday, April 28th

Homeward Bound

We got up and were packed and ready to go at a good time. We’d planned on stopping at Rock City, but they closed at 6 and we didn’t arrive until 6:30. There was still plenty of daylight so we thought we’d stroll downtown Chattanooga, but we ended up passing up the right exit and by the time we ate dinner and then figured out where we needed to go, it was getting dark. Instead, we drove a bit further before stopping for the night, knowing that would put us that much closer to home the next day.

Saturday, April 29th


After weeks with little to no rain, we were coming home to the exact opposite. There was talk of flooding and some were predicting that the flooding would meet or exceed what we’d experience just a year ago!

We made great time and pulled into the driveway at about 2:30. Before doing anything, I had to vaccuum. 2 weeks of cat hair during shedding season is something to behold! After unpacking the car and trailer we loved on our kitties and then I set to work unpacking. Ben grabbed dinner since we had no food in the house and by the time we went to bed that night I’d unpacked everything, finished the laundry, and put everything away. It was almost like we’d never left!

The cats had really missed us. Boy Cat had a large bald spot where he’d been pulling out his fur. They both followed us around and needed a lot of affection and reassurance.

I’m so grateful for this vacation and they time we had to see new areas and spend time together, but there truly is no place like home. We’re blessed to call Missouri our home and while I love visiting other places, there is nowhere else I’d want to live!


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Yard Work, Yard Work, Yard Work

That has been our theme lately.

Ever since our addition, we’ve been doing a lot to recover our yard. The machines that were driven back and forth tore up the yard horribly. We did a lot of grunt work filling in low spots, spreading grass seed and clover, and even resorted to putting down sod.

Our next step was to put in flower beds. I had a nice bed right in front of the porch, but we needed something on the right, in front of the right “wing” of the house, and in front of the left “wing” of the house. I put a row of hostas on the right because it’s shaded by a massive oak tree. The left side was harder because it’s a bigger bed and partially shaded. I planted a few things last Spring, then a few more last Fall. I even resorted to transplanting some pretty-ish plants from our field, just to fill in some space.

After getting home from vacation we were gung-ho to get started on the yard, but we had a solid week and a half of rain. Once that dried up we could get started. We decided to tackle The Beast.

The Beast is the side yard between the addition and the driveway. It’s been a pain in our backsides for 2 years now. At first, it was just dirt and rock. Nothing would grow here. That’s how poor the soil was.

We were able to bring in some good dirt and spread that around, but we had so much rain that we struggled to keep the dirt from washing away. Finally, we had some dry weather so we put more dirt down, dragged a huge log over, and even put down some sod up at the top just to keep it from all washing away. That Fall I’d picked up a few end-of-season plants and just planted them randomly at the top. Weeds and grass, but mainly weeds, began to grow and we were so grateful to have something to stop the soil erosion that we just let it go.

The sod we’d placed was in random spots and therefor difficult to mow. Ben doesn’t do much weed-eating so it grew up straggly and ugly. It was such an eyesore!

Finally, after vacation, we decided to tackle this area. I decided to do plants and mulch at the top and garden beds at the bottom. Home Depot had a great deal on garden beds so I got 2 4×4 beds for $40 shipped, right before we left for vacation. Once home, Ben put the beds together, leveled them out, and then put weed barrier down.

We had a food-grade barrel floating around that we decided to cut in half, spray paint, and then fill with dirt to act as planters. The boys helped us fill/top off all of the planters with the trailer of dirt we picked up and pretty soon we had this:

It’s still ugly, but it’s progress! More planters will go behind the beds in the bottom picture – Ben has one build already. Smaller beds will go in front. We’ll spread pea gravel between the beds on the lower half and much on the upper half. One day, we’ll put in a nice fence to keep the deer at bay. This year we’ll just see hope for the best.

So, we’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s coming along! With a yard as large as ours there’s always something to be done, but it will be so nice to have this ugly area cleaned up and looking pretty and producing veggies and herbs.

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