Sunday, June 30, 2013

Just one more thing...

Because I have been on the go, I am behind in catching up with all my blogging friends. And can I say as a side note, being on the go and summer should not really go together but for me it seems to!

Anyways, I was getting caught up on my blog reading this morning and came across this one from thebigmama that I had to share!


Hope you will read it and enjoy! As always, Melanie makes me laugh out loud and her perspective is one I admire!

A day in the life....

Every summer we try to travel home to Texas to visit with our family. When the kids were smaller, we would come for a week or longer. As they have grown and our summer has become more consumed with sports and church activities, our time to visit doesn't always last as long.

Traveling home this time brought a new experience however...

After being in the passenger seat for countless trips across I-20 this time Brendan drove us! I won't lie, it was a kind of surreal and maybe I kept my eyes glued on the road instead of in a book or magazine but it was nice to not have to do all the driving. He really did a good job and got us all the way to Vicksburg without any trouble!

As we continued west the kids begged to find the Duck Commander warehouse and in all honesty they did not have to twist my arm too much. So we stopped in Monroe, got some quick lunch, got a little bit lost, and then found our way right to the warehouse!

It was really neat to see where they film and to see the crowd gathered around the place. Koby even found a friend!! We shopped and took lots of pictures and waited to see if Willie (or Sadie) would walk by and then we got back on the road.

We finally made it home in time for the boys to do some fishing and entertaining for Aunt Glenda and Kamdyn was just in time for a "tea party"...

 And that is how we spent a day getting back home to Texas! We are looking forward to fishing, family and fun for just a few days before getting back on the road. More pictures are guaranteed to find their way on to the blog! Hope your staying cool wherever you are...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Enjoying our summer...

So we have settled in to our summer so far and I am happy to report that at last we are all home and under one roof! Koby made it in from Cincinnati yesterday evening, with lots of stories and dirty laundry. He seems to have enjoyed his trip yet again, although I can tell he seems to have connected a little deeper this time to the work involved with church planting and to the missionary there.

Kamdyn and I had an exciting Friday...

We have had big plans to spruce up her room for a while now. So, we found a great new comforter with just the colors she was hoping for and we set to work painting her dresser and a desk for her room. I have no idea why I thought painting Friday afternoon in the 100 degree heat and humidity was a good idea, but she and I did enjoy ourselves. My muscles did not so much enjoy themselves and I am still trying to recover from the squatting and the bending that comes with painting furniture! We were pleased with the results though and have since cleaned out and reorganized her closet and rearranged her room.

Brian recently saw a post on TexAgs  informing all Aggies that HEB (which is a grocery store that I have not heard of ever) in San Antonio was selling Whataburger ketchup!

This is like Brian's dream come true!!!

I feel like I need to tell you that Whataburger is an amazing hamburger place at home, by which I mean Texas, that also has breakfast 24/7. We love it and LOVE the ketchup!!!!! Maybe you can't relate but just indulge me as I tell you this story...

A good friend of ours has been in San Antonio for the last six weeks and was planning to stop at our house on his way home to West Virginia this past week. So, Brian sent our friend a text asking him to please bring us back a bottle of the ketchup and what a friend we have because he went to FOUR HEB stores before finding the ketchup in stock and then bought that last five bottles that the store had.

Hallelujah!!!!! I have no shame in telling you we quickly tore into one bottle and have planned meals for this week around the ketchup. It is hard to tell how long five bottles will last but hopefully until we can get to San Antonio to buy more!

In other exciting news, this Saturday a friend and I went to Starkville to meet Sophie Hudson, author of "A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet" and also known as BooMama on her blog.

I actually met Sophie last summer when I was with my girls at cheer camp in Birmingham so this wasn't my first time it was just my first official time. Plus, she signed my book so now I feel like we really know each other. Sophie even recalled our chance meeting last summer, saying she was just thinking about that event last week. I knew I made an impression!! Anyways, I am still making my way through the book but what I have read of it I have enjoyed and identified with. I hope you will pick up a copy of this very entertaining book and if nothing else stop by her blog. She is truly a treasure.

Not everything about this past week was as awesome and happy. Unfortunately we had to say good bye to someone that our family has become very attached to. On Thursday Ellie's family loaded up to leave Columbus for the sun and fun in Florida. The truth of the matter is this day has loomed in front of us for about 8 months now and I hated to see it arrive.

I have prayed for Brendan and Ellie since that time and I have begged the Lord to go before them in this time apart and give them peace and comfort that only He can provide. I think this will be a great life lesson for them both and pray that each of them will see only God is constant and only He can meet our daily needs. Their relationship has been a joy and Ellie has been a source of laughter and fun in our home for a long time. We will miss her and look forward to her being back with us very soon! I hope you will join me in praying for her as she adjusts to a new home and new school. I am confident the Lord is going to provide for her and Brendan both as they plan for their future.

So, this is what has been going on as we have been enjoying summer. I hope things are going well for you and yours!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Finally catching up...

So in the middle of starting summer and our beach trip and VBS there have been several things that I have intended to blog about but just haven't been caught up enough to do. Today I am sitting down to take care of that! Mostly because we watched the Bachelorette last night instead of putting it off until this morning so now I feel like I have some free time I was not counting on!

By the way, I really like Des and I am hopeful she finds a good guy on the show. Our family is also glued to The Voice on NBC and tonight is the final for it. Besides these two shows I am pretty much stuck on HGTV or Friends reruns. I have no idea how I have gotten sidetracked on my TV habits so let's move on!

This time of year I love to cook! Mostly because I seem to have more time to search for recipes and also because we are at home and not in a gym or on a field watching our kids play a sport. I was catching up on my DVR episodes of Pioneer Woman a few days ago and here is a recipe she made that I am thinking about trying:


MOCHA BROWNIES!!!! Yes please! Anytime or any day I will be happy to try these. Also Ree has the cutest mixer on the show and it does make me slightly jealous when I see her using it to mix everything! I am trying to be content with my $19.99 hand held mixer but who wouldn't want to cook more with a professional model stand up mixer! So, I'll let you know how it goes when I make these but I wanted to share the recipe with you now while I was thinking about it.

Our summer Bible study is "The Seven Experiment" by Jen Hatmaker.

If you watch the Today Show you may have seen Jen on last Monday. She is an amazing Christian blogger and author who makes no apologies for living a very real and authentic faith. This particular study is something Jen did to wage war on the excess in our lives in seven areas - clothes, spending, waste, food, possessions, media and stress. OUCH! She will be in your business in this study, but it has been very eye opening so far and I am trying to be open minded about some adjustments I need to make for myself and our family where we not only waste stuff but allow stuff to get in our way of serving God. This is also a stand alone book so if you don't want to participate in the Bible study you can just buy Jen's book.

I have shared one of her blog posts here before about teacher appreciation and she was on the Today Show because of her blog post about being the worst end of year mom ever. I am including a link to her most recent post about summer here:


If you have a chance, check it out.

I wanted to tell you what I am reading this summer. Two of my favorite bloggers have new books out and they are both AMAZING! Funny, true and inspiring are all appropriate descriptions of these books...

Sophie Hudson's first ever book is "A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet". In her book Sophie discusses her southern childhood, her walk with the Lord and how much she loves bacon! I think you can see why I relate to her. I have shared a post or two from her blog before, but if you have never read anything by Sophie please look her up at www.boomama.net.

I am also reading "Ever After; Life Lessons Learned in my Castle of Chaos" by Vicki Courtney. I have read lots of Vicki's books and this one is quickly becoming one of my favorites! She and her husband have raised three children pretty successfully and other than the fact that they are supporters of a college in Texas that I am not fond of, I read Vicki's material like she is my personal mentor.

This book is about the realities of marriage and motherhood, giving you pieces of her reality behind the fairy tale she thought she would be living out. I am relating in so many ways and this would be a great book to give a friend for their birthday or just as a happy!

Speaking of marriage, Brian and I have just celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary!

Here is an appropriate time for you to join us in shouts of praise because it is only by God's grace that we are celebrating 18 years. My fairy tale would not have included the ups and downs of the last 18 years, but I can see now how my faith grew in the valleys and carried me to the mountain tops. There is no doubt I am married to my best friend, constant comedian and source of strength for all of life's challenges.

By the way, I was 18 when we got married so I am starting to realize that I am in fact getting older! I have known Brian longer than I have not known Brian. I pray the Lord sees fit to bless us with many, many more years together!!

So now you are all caught up with me! Kamdyn is home, Brendan is wrapping up basketball camp and Koby is in Cincinnati alive and well. I wouldn't be certain except for the response he sent when I text him "You alive?" the other day and he replied "yes but my phone is only at 8%". Which I took that response to mean "can't talk but if I had battery life I would tell you how much fun I am having and how much I miss you and how I love doing this mission work". At least I think that might be what he meant!

Have a great week!!!!!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

This is my dad...

This is my dad at the beach a few weeks ago. And honestly, this photo is everything that my dad is!

The straw hat on his head will tell you he is Texan to the core, raised to love the land God created and to care for the animals that He put on it. I've seen my dad in this straw hat, in his black felt hat and in a variety of baseball caps all my life. I will never think of him that I don't see him in my mind with a hat on because that is who my dad is. In a house full of girls growing up we might not have always taken his fashion advice. Well, OK...basically we didn't at all but he still gave it and I loved him for it. In my phase of red lipstick, big permy hair or shoes he couldn't stand Dad always wore his own style with confidence - a hat in the appropriate season for the appropriate occasion and never at the table!

The red shirt will tell you he loves this country with all that he is. American through and through, dad spent time in the navy and then raised us to be proud of where we grew up and of the freedoms we enjoy. From local politics to presidential elections, dad knows what is going on and has an opinion. He probably doesn't know that I can remember how he would come home from work, watch the news and be willing to discuss with us anything going on in the world while we ate dinner. He kept me interested, informed and curious about the world around me.

The fun print he is wearing will tell you that at heart, he loves to laugh. I have heard that laugh forever - as we had friends over and talked about boys, as Brian and him formed a bond as deep as any father/son and as our children talk to him on the phone or Skype. My grandfather had that laugh, a smile that lit up his eyes and dad has that, too. I love when dad tries to tell a story and gets to laughing as he tells it. I love when I hear Koby telling the story and dad laughing at him. The laugh means he is listening, he is caring, he is creating one more memory.

Standing on the beach, dad is strong. The conqueror of my bad dreams, the pat on the back when my heart was broken as a teenager, the one who said "her mother and I", the hands that held my children at the hospital all came by way of that strength that I've always imagined he possesses.

Yep, this is the dad God placed me with- to raise me to love Him, love others and love this country. So Happy Father's Day daddy! Thank you for your love, strength, laugh and endless fashion advice. This only scratches the surface of who you are to me and who I am because of you.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

VBS and a bug that won't die...

On Monday we began Vacation Bible School at our church, which by the way is my most favorite week of the summer every year! On Monday at noon, I also began my battle with our beach bug.

It was not a good experience and could possibly have been the worst 24 hours of my life in recent memory. Thankfully Brian gave me sympathy and medicine, both of which I was in need of by Monday evening. And it is not that I thought I might miss a turn with the beach bug, it is just that I didn't expect to get the full fury and want to die!

So, that is how the beginning part of my week went.

I made it back to Vacation Bible School on Wednesday and I was so happy to be back!

Our church has the opportunity to reach out to one of the local camps for low income children and each morning we feed them breakfast so that they can come to VBS. This year, we had 54 that we fed and it is one of my favorite parts of the day.

These children are not only in need of a meal, they are in need of the spiritual food that VBS can provide them. While many children have parents who take them church or even read the Bible with them or pray with them, the fact is that there are children all over America that never receive any exposure to the one Father who will never leave them or forsake them. That is why we reach out to these children. It why I feel so compelled to love them!

I love music and at VBS music is one way that we can teach all the kids God's Word. The amazing thing is that once you pick up that tune, it sticks with you. Add some cool motions to a song and it is even more likely to remain on your mind. This year, the lyrics to one of songs were these words:

"change my heart O God, stir me up inside; I want to see Your glory shining in my life."

Those few words have stuck with me all week! Many of us need God to stir us up inside. Many of us sitting right in our church pew every Sunday morning need to say "change my heart O God!".

Our VBS kids learned this song and several others through the week...

On Thursday, our pastor presented the Gospel to the kids after morning worship. Following the invitation we had 15 children stay for counseling and 13 make professions of faith, 5 of which were kids that sat at breakfast every morning! AMEN and AMEN!
As we had more children than we had counselors (obviously we doubted the Lord and the way He would work) I grabbed my boys and some other youth and asked them to please help us in talking with the children. To look up and see your child praying with another child or talking with them about salvation is one of the most amazing experiences. Talk about having your heart stirred up! Brendan talked with a boy whose family is such dear friends of ours. We visited his family at the hospital when this child was born and because of the faithfulness of his family to expose him to the Word and through the movement of the Holy Spirit we were also there when he experienced a second birth that would change his life forever!
So, as you can tell VBS was another great experience this summer and will be on my highlight reel of life forever.
Kamdyn is enjoying her time at Disney and I owe a huge thanks to the Agerton family as they have let her be a part of their family vacation this week.
They sent me this picture of all of them at Epcot and I think it is safe to say everyone is having a blast! And because my daughter knows me oh so well, she has sent me pictures of things she has been eating this week at Disney...
 Apparently, this is the most amazing strawberry cupcake ever and at this point I was a little jealous that I was throwing up my toenails and she was eating amazing cupcakes. She has also eaten the best salad ever, the best rice krispie treat ever and much more. I have heard about the tower of terror and Animal Kingdom and a pearl that she got out of a "real oyster".  I have missed her this week and am thankful for the technology (iPhone) that allows us to pretty much stay in constant contact so that she can give me daily and sometimes hourly narratives of what she is up to.
Finally I want to tell you that Koby and 14 others left yesterday at 5:00 for a youth mission trip to Cincinnati, OH. Please lift them up in prayer for the next week as they will go and be the hands and feet of Jesus in this part of our country. Most likely I will not receive daily and certainly not hourly updates of what he is up to!
Have a great weekend where you are!!
2 Timothy 1:7

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Family, the beach and a bug...

Our family has just returned  from a vacation to the beach with my extended family and that is why I have not posted in a while. Not that we were on vacation that long, just that the packing for vacation, enjoying vacation and then unpacking vacation tends to take some time!

First of all, I should tell you that I love the beach.

There is just something about the waves, the sun and a good book! I even enjoyed a good old fashioned paperback book while sitting in my comfy beach chair.

Sometimes I forget how the sand gets everywhere and how windy it can be and how entertaining it is to see  people at the beach in their beach "attire". But I will never forget what it was like when I first saw the beach in Guam. I can remember seeing the water and thinking how far away from home I was, how so not like Texas that place was. In Guam I learned to love outside and the water and  it became a part of our everyday life.

Anyways, when mother mentioned all of us, by which I mean 16 of us, going to the beach to celebrate their 40th anniversary and dad's 60th birthday well it didn't take much to sign me up!

I love my family and spending  a solid week with us all in one house was  something that I was very excited about. Lots of cousin time, sister time, food and fun in the sun!!

It didn't take the kids long to hit the  water, and  they played and  ate and played and ate in a way that only kids can do. Brian got used to life in a hammock and Koby was a close second! And if you know our family, you know we had plenty to eat!

Koby was most excited about the steaks we were going to have Monday night! Here he is with daddy seasoning up his steak  and Luke and Levi picked up on the instruction too. We had lots of good food to eat through the week and on the final night John cooked us up a really special treat. Fresh shrimp is one of my very favorite foods and these were amazing!

And we also had to try some of the local food! We ate at Lulu's one night, where the kids loved eating out by the water and we ate some good seafood and sweets...

...and we also ate at Lamberts where they throw you the dinner rolls. We really enjoyed ourselves at both places!  And a big thanks to Gran for making sure we got good food to eat through week!!!!

So it was fun to spend time with our family at the beach! We had an amazing house to stay in right on the water and plenty of room to spread out and enjoy each other. But before you get too jealous of our vacation know that we also experienced the ultimate vacation stopper - a stomach bug. I am always amazed to see how a bug can pass through a family, especially with kids. So, from day to day we kind of waited to see who would be next? Should you eat and enjoy the meal or just nibble in case tonight was your lucky night to hug the toilet?

But we would not let a stomach bug stop the "Stephens Beach Vacation 2013"!! No not one bit! I  look forward to another  week at the beach and I already miss the cooking and sitting on the beach and laughing that we all did. I am so thankful God placed me in the family He did. Truth be told, my parents deserve ALOT more than a week at the beach with all of us for their 40th anniversary! I understand that my sisters and I should be very thankful to have two parents who love each other, who have stuck it out for 40 years, who have loved and been there not only for us but for our families now. I pray that God continues to bless our family and strengthen the bond that we have. After all, a bug passes, the beach is a vacation but family is forever!