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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 15 comments

I am so excited to show you our new fire pit!  We started on May 18, thinking we'd have it ready for the start of summer.  Ha! We should have known better. With obstacles such as rain, temperatures in the 90's two different weeks and a stump that wouldn't let go, we finally completed our project July 27, just hours before our first bonfire.  Thank goodness for deadlines!

Here's a sneak peak at the finished product.  After the step-by-step photos, I'll have more pictures of the completed project at the end of the post.  

While we have ample property, the land we consider our back yard was small and all downhill.  In order to have a fire pit, we (ok, Bob) had to terrace the dirt and create a level spot down at the bottom.  That meant digging out at the top and filling in at the bottom.  

These photos give you an idea of how much of a slope we have and how much dirt had to be moved.

The patio you see in the background was another D-I-Y project from a few years back.  That project took two years - one to build the retaining wall and another to put in the fill and lay the pavers.

Bob used the stake to mark the center of the fire pit.  The second stake, attached by a string, was used to mark the location of the lowest retaining wall, giving it it's circular shape.

No wonder Papa is making such good progress; Dude is a great helper!  We used old stakes from when we had lawn service (back in the day) to mark where the tiers needed to be.

The tiers are coming along nicely, the lower landing is being built up and the hydrangea has been relocated to my sister's house.  If it wasn't for this stump, we'd be well on our way!  Evidently stumps are like icebergs - you only see a fraction of them above the surface.  This is what remained after THREE WEEKS of digging it out, chopping it with an ax, cutting it with a chain saw AND lighting fires beneath it.

Exactly one month after breaking ground we beat the stump!  This chunk is all that remains, and it was so heavy Bob had to roll it out of the way!  He'd already burned up two other pieces that size as well as numerous smaller ones.  I think it only fitting that this be the fuel for our first bonfire.

Now you can see some of our "found" materials.  We had to purchase a metal fire ring, but the landscaping blocks around it were left behind after someone stored some things in our barn (fortunately for us.)

Our daughter wanted to dispose of some edging blocks from her yard, so Bob turned them upside-down and used them as forms for the footings.

The walls were made with old blocks from a silo that had been torn down. They're extra-special because of the family connection.  With the first row of silo blocks in, Bob prepared to pour footings for the next wall and the step. 

We had some extra landscaping blocks, so they went in at the base of the plant bed to give us a level surface.  

Here's another re-purposed item, a log rack that had been next to the pole barn, covered with overgrowth.

Ah, now it's starting to look like something!  Two of the only items we purchased, pea gravel and landscaping fabric, were added down at the bottom level. Landscaping fabric because I already have enough weeds to pull out of my flower beds, thank you very much!  I pulled the big rocks from around the yard to make a backstop between the edge and the woods.

While I was at it, I replaced the weeds that had grown up in the steps between our hosta beds with more fabric and gravel.    

While the bottom two levels were covered with pea gravel, we left the top level dirt, thinking since it's farther from the fire it should be safe for plants. I split some of my existing perennials to give it a finished look.

Ta da!  Here's a rare photo of Bob sitting down!  One of my small contributions to the project was hauling the wood from where Bob cut it and stacking it on the log rack.  

I picked up some Tiki Torches, already marked down.  Evidently once the Fourth of July is passed, summer is all but over.  The torches not only helped keep the mosquitoes away (although we have plenty of bats around to help with that) but added quite a bit of light later in the evening.

God even blessed us with unseasonably cool weather for us to make our first bonfire more enjoyable.  Here's to many more!



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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 7 comments


It's no problem for me, I just pull them out of the ground.  Of course, that's when they're only this big:

In fact, I can usually pull them out of the ground when the "trunks" are up to 1/4 inch in diameter; anything more than that, I get the lopers out and chop them off or get the shovel and dig them out.  Yep, trees are definitely easier to uproot when they're small.  Larger trees are a different story.  Entirely. 
Several years ago we had an old maple tree behind the house cut down.  Our "back yard" is at a 45-degree-angle sloping away from the house so since we didn't use that area anyway, we left the stump and pretty much ignored it. 
Then, this spring my husband Bob came up with the brilliant idea of using that area for a fire pit, which I hope to unveil to you soon  you can see here!  He had already tiered off part of the hill for our hosta plants, so the plan was to do something similar in the area adjacent to them.
Then we came across the stump. 
I wish I had taken a photo beforehand, but didn't think of it until a week or so into the ordeal.  Yes, I think ordeal is a fitting description. 

He tried dig it out.

Burn it.

Chop it with an axe.

Cut it with the chain saw.

Any and every combination of above.

And still we were left with this:

The stump you see remaining here is about 1/3 of its original size.  We He spent THREE WEEKS working on this stump before the roots finally let go, time that could've been spent making progress on our project instead.  The remainder of the stump was so heavy that Bob had to roll it out of the way because he couldn't lift it. 
See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. ~ Hebrews 12:15

These stumps reminded me of how deeply sin can become rooted in our lives.  The sooner we eliminate it, the easier it is to remove.  But the longer we leave it, the more deeply entrenched it becomes and the more work it takes to remove it.  Masking the problem may appear to work for a time, but sooner or later it will need to be dealt with. 
Cutting down that tree was the first step in removing it from our yard, but rather than complete the job we stopped there, thinking that was good enough.  We left it and let other plants grow over and cover it when what we should have done was finish the job right then and there. 
Is there a sin that has taken root in your life?  Bitterness, envy, discontent, gossip, unforgiveness, addictions, lying...the list goes on and on.  Whatever it is, deal with it today.  Remove it, ALL of it.  It may be a process, but why not start the process today?  It may seem impossible on your own but with God, ALL things are possible.  Clear it out now, so you'll be ready for whatever God has for you next!
Father, please bring to mind the sins that we're so good at hiding, even from ourselves.  Give us the determination and perseverance we need to remove them completely from our lives once and for all.  We thank you that we don't have to do this alone, but that you will assist us every step of the way if we will but ask you.  Lord, we look forward to the day when this sin is no longer entwined in our lives and blocking us from a deeper, closer relationship with you!


I've been known to link up with: Living Proverbs 31, Soli Deo Gloria, Inspire Me Monday, Titus 2sdays, Tell Me a Story, Teach Me Tuesdays, Courtship Connection, Into the Beautiful, God Bumps & God Incidences, Word-Filled Wednesday, Winsome Wednesday, Simply Helping Him, Weekend Whatever, Spiritual Sundays, True Vine Challenge, Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday, The Beauty in His Grip, Playdates With God, Inspire, Thrive at Home, Knick of Time, Hope in Every Season, Funky Junk Interiors
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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 12 comments

As many of you know, much of this blog consists of lessons God has been teaching me through everyday life.  Since I do not work outside the home, my family has come to expect that they may at any time appear in a blog post. (Though I have been given a blanket consent, I do obtain specific permission for posts such as this.)  Not even my grandsons are exempt, but in an attempt to avoid scarring them for life - if it's not already too late - I decided early on that they should each have an alias.  Rather than invent something (since I'm not that creative), I decided to wait until they both had a nickname.  So without further ado, I'd like to introduce to you, "Dude" and "Bubba". 
Cuter than the dickens, aren't they?
I didn't have to wait long at all for grandchildren; "Dude" was born a month before his parent's first anniversary and "Bubba" was born ON his parent's second anniversary.  We just celebrated their birthdays with these cute "fishy" cakes;

"Dude" is now two and "Bubba" is one.
Since the last shall be first I will begin with "Bubba," a name that has been used around in my family since my children were little, back in the days of the oil-change commercials where a man is told he can also get a free fill-up on his washer fluid and replies, "You mean I can just say, "Hi ho bubba, my windshield washer solvent is a might low."?"  We've been tossing around the name "Bubba" ever since.
At thirteen months younger and only five pounds lighter than his older brother, the name "Bubba" just stuck on grandson #2.  He's a good ol' boy, big and sweet, easy-going and always smiling.  He just looks like a "Bubba" to me.
"Dude's" name is also a blast from the past, going all the way back to when his mama was in the second grade.
I must insert here that as a child, my father had stories about each of his daughters that he never let us live down.  Evidently we are continuing the tradition because now our children all have memories permanently attached to them.  The story behind my grandson's nickname is the one my daughter will be hearing for the rest of her life :)
We had just starting attending a new church and one Wednesday night my eight-year-old daughter came home very excited saying, "I know what I'm going to name one of my kids!  It's from the Bible!"
Curious, I asked her what the name was and she gleefully replied...
can you guess?
wait for it...
wait for it...
and my six-year-old son, who has always had a quick wit and a dry sense of humor, immediately responded, "Yeah, and we can call him "Dude!"
So it only makes sense that grandson #1 is affectionately known as "Dude."  The funny thing is, "Dude" has always had a good grasp of the English language, and shortly after his little brother's arrival he began saying his three syllable name as clear as a bell.  Yet he refused to say his own, simpler given name.  When asked, "who did that?" or "what's your name?"  he would simply point to himself...
...or answer "Dude."  Gotta love that!
I have to wonder if he should've been named Deuteronomy after all.  Maybe his mama was prophetic and that's his God-given name? 
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it." ~ Revelation 2:17
Father, I thank you for these two precious boys, and for allowing me to be a part of their lives.  Thank you for the privilege of caring for them and for all the lessons to be learned from them.  And thank you that you love us so much that you have a special name for each of us, chosen by you.

I've been known to link up with: Soli Deo Gloria, Living Proverbs 31, Inspire Me Monday, Titus 2sdays, Tell Me a Story, Teach Me Tuesdays, Courtship Connection, Into the Beautiful, God Bumps & God Incidences, Word-Filled Wednesday, Winsome Wednesday, Simply Helping Him, Weekend Whatever, Spiritual Sundays, True Vine Challenge, Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday, The Beauty in His Grip, Playdates With God, Monday's Musings, Monday Montras, Thrive at Home, Knick of Time, Hope in Every Season, Funky Junk Interiors,
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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 1 comments

In a previous post, I told you how God blessed our whirlwind trip to Kansas for a family wedding, where we had our first experience being the out-of-town guests. I knew it was customary to be invited to the rehearsal dinner, but our host and hostess went above and beyond. 

Friday 12:00 - Lunch at the bride's family home
            6:00 - Rehearsal dinner at the church
                    - Bonfire afterwards

Saturday 12:00 - Lunch at the church
                5:00 - Light dinner at the church
                6:30 - Wedding ceremony at the church
                7:45 - Dessert reception at a local hall

Sunday     8:00 or 10:30 a.m. Worship service at the church
               12:30 - Dinner at the bride's family home

Because of health issues this optional itinerary, coupled with the fact that we'd be driving 30 hours between Thursday night and Sunday night, seemed like an impossible schedule.   Had I relied on my own understanding, I never would've attempted this trip.  Thankfully I was trusting God (Proverbs 3:5) because what seemed overwhelming before we left turned out to be absolutely fabulous!  Literally everything was planned with the guests in mind. The obvious advantage was not needing to worry about meals since we always had the option of eating the cuisine provided, but the true beauty of this itinerary was that it allowed us to get to know the other guests.

"The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time.  You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing." ~ Psalm 145:15-16.

We left Michigan at 6:30 p.m. Thursday and rolled in to our destination in Kansas around 10:00 a.m. Friday.  That gave us a couple hours to clean up and relax before a lunch of grilled burgers at the home of the bride.  Since the wedding was held in a small town and there's only one motel, we were also given the option of staying with a host family.  Bob and I have always been blessed by the people who have stayed in our home, so we immediately decided that was the route we would take. 

The rehearsal dinner was only our second meal there, but we were already seeing familiar faces and getting acquainted as we waited for the wedding party to arrive.  The wedding reception the next day was so much more enjoyable knowing so many of the people there rather than just the few relatives that made the trek with us. 

Since the rest of our party was at the motel, Bob and I were without a vehicle, but thanks to our gracious hosts, that was not a problem.  Even though we did miss out on a trip to see the World's Largest Ball of Twine, (seriously!)  I'd take the experience we had over a ball of twine any day, regardless of how big it is!

Meet Mary and Tom, our hosts for the weekend and fabulous new friends.  After a fantastic homemade breakfast on Saturday morning they took us on a guided tour their charming town.

I absolutely love their courthouse!  It reminds me of the one Grand Rapids used to have before it was torn down in the 1970's.

The only time we walked through town - walking only because we chose to - we came across this nice little meditation area with the Ten Commandments in the center and the Beatitudes around the perimeter.  Otherwise, Tom and Mary were always there to shuttle us where we needed to go.  They really were the ideal host and hostess.  Not only did they provide us with a place to stay, they were also very flexible, giving us  the opportunity to rest when we needed to but also willing to visit ever we were able.   Sunday morning was bittersweet since we had to part far sooner than we would've liked, but not before we were blessed with the best cinnamon rolls west of the Mississippi!  (Luckily for me, my mother-in-law lives east of the Mississippi so I don't have to choose!)

There may be no place like home, but Kansas is a close second!

Father, I thank you for paving the way for us to attend this wedding, for all the wonderful people we met and the new friendships we made.  I pray this would not be the last time we see them, but only the beginning of a beautiful friendship.


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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 6 comments

One of the many fabulous things about Grand Rapids, MI is ArtPrize.  If you're ever in town mid-September/ early October, it's something you won't want to miss.  Three square miles of the downtown area is brimming with art work from people all around the world, all free and accessible to the public.  And it's the public that determines who the winner of the $200,000 grand prize. 
Now, this is not your standard, stuffy art show.  Anyone can enter anything from traditional paintings, sketches and mosaics to paper airplane and Chinese lantern launches.  This year, inspired by the work of Global Love Letters, Mary Colborn will display "two giant love letters with thousands of others - written expressions of love, hope, gratitude and encouragement - hidden throughout the city of Grand Rapids for anyone to find."
Photo courtesy of Photo
Doesn't that sound fabulous?  Love letters hidden all over the city!  Imagine how fun it would be to come across one.  Imagine the encouragement and joy you could give by writing one! 
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children.  ~ Ephesians 5:1
We have all experienced the love of God and are all called to share this love with others.  What an awesome opportunity this is for Christians to share God's love in a totally unthreatening way!  Just jot a little love note, send it to Mary and she'll take care of the rest. 
Send your love letters to:
The Love Letter Project
P.O. Box 111
Hopkins, MI 49328
You can also get some ideas for letters on The Love Letter Project facebook page.

I've been known to link up with: Soli Deo Gloria, Inspire Me Monday, Titus 2sdays, Tell Me a Story, Teach Me Tuesdays, Courtship Connection, Into the Beautiful, God Bumps & God Incidences, Word-Filled Wednesday, Winsome Wednesday, Simply Helping Him, Weekend Whatever, Spiritual Sundays, True Vine Challenge, Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday, The Beauty in His Grip, Playdates With God, Monday's Musings, Monday Montras, Thrive at Home, Knick of Time, Hope in Every Season, Funky Junk Interiors, Think Pink Sunday
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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 5 comments

I originally saw this idea in Parade magazine a month or so ago, and both of my grandsons had a birthday coming up.  My daughter agreed that the boys would love them, so this was our project for the big birthday bash last weekend. 

WHAT YOU'LL NEED (for one cake)
There's no special pan needed, just two round cake pans.
1 cake mix + ingredients as instructed on box
2 cans frosting OR 2 batches of cake decorator icing (recipe below)
Food coloring
A few toothpicks
1 large marshmallow
M&M's, sorted
1 peach gummy ring

Decorator Icing (optional)
(two batches are needed for 1 cake)

1 cup Crisco                        
1 teaspoon vanilla                
4 cups powdered sugar         
2 Tablespoons milk               
Blend all ingredients until smooth.

Prepare and bake cake mix as instructed on the box; cool.  Turn one layer upside-down so the flat side is facing up.  Spread about 1/2 cup of frosting over the surface and top with the remaining layer, flat side down.  The two flat sides should be together.  You can see (below) there was a mishap with one of the layers.  I just stuck it together with icing and it was fine. 

At this point, put the cake in the freezer for a couple hours (or overnight).  That way it won't crumble as you cut and assemble it. 

While the cake is in the freezer, cut the marshmallow in half crosswise.  Place a dab of icing in the middle of each piece on the uncut side and attach a brown M&M.  Set aside and allow the candy to adhere.

Remove the cake from the freezer and cut off a slice about 2-1/2 inches at the widest part (see photo above); then cut off 1/3 of this slice.  That 1/3 will be the fin, and the other 2/3 will be the tail.

Place the three pieces of cake on a serving platter with the largest piece standing on the cut side, the smallest piece alongside it to make the fin and the remaining piece on the small cut edge to make the tail.  Coat everything with one thin layer of icing if using my recipe.  Allow it to harden.  This will be the crumb coat, locking in all the crumbs so they won't show up on the outer layer.

Put on a second layer of frosting, smooth over the face area. I used a leaf tip (104) to make scales on the rest of the body, but it works just as good to put the icing on thick and form scales using the back side of a spoon. 

I used a "grass" tip (233) to make the long strands covering the fin and tail, but you could also put a thick layer of frosting on these and either make lines in it with a toothpick or just leave it smoothed over. 

Here's what we have so far - now we're ready for the finishing touches!

Adhere an eye to each side of the fish's face using icing.  I had a hard time keeping these on the fish, so I ended up using a toothpick through each eye to hold them on. 

Using icing, adhere the peach ring on the lower front side for the mouth.

Press the M&M's in the icing at random intervals to add "scales."  I chose to color coordinate with the icing and voila!

 Here are the birthday boys! 

Two-year-old "Dude" being very careful...
and one-year-old "Bubba" - not so much! 

They both loved their fishy cakes though! 



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