Wednesday, October 18, 2017

When is my kid ready for cell phone?

I have a lot of fellow mom friends who are younger than me and know my oldest has a phone so I get this question a lot as they are working through the issue. I recently saw a campaign to get kids to wait to a specific age to have them. Let me answer the big title question right here:

Whenever you as the parents decide to give your child a cell phone.

No family, no kid is the same. It is truly nobody's business when your kid gets a cell phone. My 7 year old does not have one but if I were in a contentious custody situation, it would be a different thing.

I've had people tell me that our oldest was too young. She was 11 and I was on the other side of the planet. I wanted a way for her to talk to me about things that she might not be comfortable talking to her dad about. It worked for our family. If you are still pondering this and wondering the specifics of how the Stevensons go about this, here is what our family decided.

Our kids don't go on our plan. We started with a "pay as you go phone" and she had to use her own money to buy minutes. The phone was $50 and she got it as a Christmas gift. If she loses it or has to upgrade it, it's on her. I like the "pay as you go" plan because when you use up your texts...they are gone. We figured out that it was cheaper to get the cheapest plan from Tracfone so she has a month to month plan. It is $16 with tax and seems to serve her well since she is mostly on WiFi. She has her own debit card and she pays for it herself by babysitting and Christmas/birthday money.

Best wishes as you decide this for your family!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

At home gel manicure

My awesome friend Melissa just recently showed me how easy it is to do a salon quality gel mani at home so I figured I would post my lessons learned. It really is completely different from regular polish and lasts for at least 7-10 days without chipping.

You can buy the full name brand kit but after doing so, I made some money saving revelations. Here's a complete kit for around $80-$90 but you can do it for around $60 or less.

What you absolutely need:

acetone (aka "Artifical Nail Removal")  $1
alcohol (aka "Nail Surface Cleanse")...feel free to use some Purell wipes from Chick fil A ;) free?
LED lamp (get it cheap from Amazon) $8
Nail wraps (these make it easy to remove gel polish) $8
Gelish Fantastic Four (Walmart has it cheaper right now than Amazon) $28-$33 
Gel polish (you can buy off brand kits pretty cheap) $10-$15
Cotton pads/balls $1

Once you have all the products, I just googled the steps to see what order to go in and how long to keep under the lamp. Melissa shared the tip of doing all of one hand and then the other and I find that works really well. The whole thing from start to finish takes less than 20 minutes and I just do them while watching Netflix. The best part is that after the last 45 seconds under the lamp, they are totally dry. I'm always that person with no patience who knicks up her nails right after getting them painted and now I can't mess them up!

I will also caution you that colors can look different in the bottle than on your nail. I had a Gelish that was supposed to be nude but showed up as a horribly ugly mustard yellow. Turned out, as soon as I put them under the lamp, it became a beautiful nude color.

Not a great pic but I love the results and it is so nice to finally paint my nails and they stay painted until I'm sick of the color.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Bobcats and Coffee Mugs

There are few things more important to me than being transparent and honest. Here's the truth about me: as much as I believe God is real, I still have doubts. Most days they are fleeting but sometimes I wonder if He's really there and really hears me. I'm so grateful that He's an amazing father and uses those moments to grow my faith.

I remember the first time I went to China and met Liam, I wondered if I could find Him there. I was in a country that had basically made Him illegal and working in an orphanage full of fatherlessness. I wondered if we were ready to adopt and if we could manage a 6 year old boy. One night after getting settled in to Xi'an, we went to a local Wal-Mart type store looking for some supplies. I saw a large table display of coffee mugs piled high. All of them were plain or had some basic design but no words. After looking through them, I realized one had writing and it was a Bible verse. 

Early this Spring, I attended our church's women's conference for the first time. I remembered that they give our little cards to all the women who attend that are supposed to be a specific word for just that woman. I was excited to see what my card said but that nagging doubt in my brain said, 'It's just a random piece of paper'. When I was handed my card, I figured it was just a nice word of encouragement and wouldn't mean anything special to me. Then I turned it over.

Last month, I was flying to St. Louis in uniform and an older man behind me started talking to me about what I do and about his service. We finished talking and he took the seat behind me. I again, had this nagging doubt come over me about whether God was listening. A few minutes later, the man slipped a plastic version of this coin between the seats to me.
After all these little messengers, I feel like Joshua 1 is how He lets me know He's there. And I need to remember the powerful words He's saying in that chapter. He's really with me wherever I go no matter if that is into adoption, into a new season of ministry or to work.

This morning, I was out running in a local park and telling God that as much as I don't miss running in the Arabian desert every night, I kinda missed the desert foxes. Many nights last year, when I was out running, a little sandy colored fox would cross in front of me. Some nights it would have a mouse in its mouth, other times it would have a little trail of kits trotting along behind. They took me by surprise at first but they didn't seem to mind us there and I began to enjoy seeing them. A few minutes after I thought about them, a large bobcat crossed in front of me on the trail the same way those foxes did. He glanced at me and kept moving back into the woods. I felt my Father say, "I hear you". That might have been a scary moment to some, but to me, it was just a kiss on the head from my dad. 

I believe that He speaks to us corporately and personally. I believe He knows what will reach each of us if we listen. Some days we desperately need a word of wisdom but some days we just need a coin or a mug or a bobcat telling us that He's here, He's real, and He's listening.

Monday, March 27, 2017


I got my feelings hurt on Saturday. I threw a little pity party in my head to go along with it. I was mad because I was envious of a situation and realized that obeying what God has called me to is what led to not getting what I wanted. It took me about 24 hours before I looked up to heaven and said with all sincerity, "I want you more than what I'm throwing a fit over. I don't want to miss what you are doing and I'm not going to chase my own desires even if it hurts."

A couple of hours later I was in church and the first worship song started. I was thinking about obedience and how I was trying to obey Him more quickly.  I heard a whisper say, "What happens when your kids obey?"

Well, I can take them anywhere! I can take them to nice restaurants and not worry about them embarrassing me. I can take them on airplanes and on trips and we enjoy life when they obey.

Yes...what else..what about when your husband's boss came over?

I felt like my kids that night showed off my husband well. You know God, it showed that he was a good loving dad but when they acted so mature, it showed that he disciplined them well. I think it revealed some of my husband's character to others.

What about the other night when Susannah fell asleep on your shoulder?

Well, since she is such a good kid, it creates an environment of intimacy for us. We can spend time just being friends because I don't have to get after her about her attitude. We can watch movies and just be together without worrying about obedience because it is just a given. And I want to spend more time with her and vice versa because of that. you are saying that if I obey you
You can take me anywhere
I represent your character to the world
I help create an environment of intimacy where I can know you deeper?

I felt Him smile. He's not finished with me yet.

You are my friends if you do what I command. John 15:14

Monday, March 20, 2017


I heard several people say or post the following phrase after they had exhausted all their efforts recently: "I guess all we can do is pray".

It sounded like it was being said out of giving up as if they had done all the hard work and failed and now it was in God's hands. It didn't sound like faith but frustration. I posted on Facebook that prayer is the greatest and first thing we can ever do not a last ditch effort when all else fails. It is the greatest work in the kingdom and changes everything.

A couple of months later God, in a quiet voice in my spirit, asked me, "Did you mean that?" And here is the conversation that developed.

Me: Of course I mean it! You are the only one who can make the impossible become possible! Prayer is what moves mountains, changes the hearts of kings, and brings the dead to life.

God: What if I asked you to not worry about adopting in this season. No trips to visit orphans. What if I called you to pray?

Me: Well, that is different. You know I'm a 'faith without works is dead' kinda girl. I'm no prayer warrior. You created me to be a scientist and do things that can be measured and quantified. You might want to look elsewhere because I'm not qualified for this.

And then there were months of silence. China closed its doors for now for trips. We feel strongly that we aren't called to adopt again this year because of what God is doing in our careers. I saw families struggling every day with fundraising or their child's special need and I felt helpless.

Two weeks ago, in my Bible study group, we were supposed to quiet ourselves and just ask Him what He wanted from us. I didn't want to ask because I knew what He would say and I was readying myself again with all the excuses.

God: Are you ready to say yes? 

Me: What if I can't do this? What if I see no fruit from this? 

God: Just say yes

In that moment, I remembered what Bill Johnson had said at our church a few months before. I had written it in my Bible. "When you agree to do what you aren't qualified to do, that is what qualifies you." I saw a picture in my mind of all the fishermen who didn't lay down their nets, all the missionaries who never left their home, all the well-intentioned people who thought about adopting but never filled out a form. The only thing that would have qualified them was saying yes. I felt (and was!) completely unqualified to adopt a boy who had lived a life in an institution with a life threatening condition but He authored and completed every step. Because ultimately, it isn't about me at all.

I don't know yet what will come of this, how long He has called me to this, or where it is going. I know that He is changing my heart every day I get up, open my Bible, and say yes to praying for these children and families.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Ringing in the New Year

I've seen some Christian parents who want to keep the cultural significance of Chinese New Year in their child's life but have concern with the emphasis on spirits and luck.  I started reading all of the traditions that come with Chinese/Lunar New Year and I saw Jesus all over it. Christians have taken other cultures' traditions and holidays and used them as a way to celebrate God throughout history. I believe there is a way to remember the Chinese stories behind this holiday while modifying them for a Christian home.

The preparations for Chinese New Year begin with cleaning out your home and just having a fresh start. This is a great opportunity for all of us to do some early Spring cleaning and talk about the new life we all get with Christ. He washes away our sins and gives all of us new life. This could also be a great time to donate items that we don't need to those in our community who do.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

People put up "god images" and/or Chinese phrases on their doors. Maybe this would be a good time to put up a new scripture in your home. This could be a word that God has laid on your heart for this year or this season. I believe we should be surrounded by His word.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Having a meal with friends and family on Chinese New Year is one of the central parts of celebrating. This is such an easy, fun way to bring Chinese New Year into your community. Invite people over and make or buy your favorite Chinese dishes. Fellowship and share stories of what God has done this last year.

They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Acts 2:46

Another very big part of Chinese New Year is the color red and the giving of money in red envelopes. Instantly, I think about the precious blood of Jesus and the incredible gift He gave us all by dying for us. My kids earn money each week through doing their chores but I think it would be a beautiful way to celebrate if I gave them red envelopes in addition to their weekly "commission". We could talk about how Jesus gave himself for us, not because we earned it but because of His great love.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1 Peter 1:18-19

There are various ways people honor their ancestors during Chinese New Year but I think it is beautiful to stop and remember those we all have lost in our lives. Instead of having a shrine or sweeping tombs, a Christian family can talk about what we loved about those people who we have lost and the glorious hope we have of seeing them again. 

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13

The lantern festival is the end of the whole New Year celebration and an opportunity to talk about being a light in our community with Christ shining through us.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14

So this is how our family will celebrate Chinese New Year. We will also talk about the Chinese origins and hopefully attend some local events by cultural groups in our area.

Friday, December 30, 2016

One Little Word

A couple of years ago, the church we attended urged us to prayerfully consider a word for the year. I felt that my word for 2015 was going to be "savor". I didn't know what that meant in the midst of our adoption process but after feeling confirmation, I went with it.

That year God took me through savoring the lessons He was teaching me in humility through fundraising our adoption. I learned to savor our little family of 3 girls while we waiting for our little emperor. I savored our time in China even though it wasn't easy. I savored the six months I had with our new family of 6 while I waiting for my deployment to start. All year long, I savored the sweetness of God as He walked us down difficult paths I didn't expect.

As 2016, was about to start, I again asked Him for my word and got the word, "peace". I wrestled with Him over it as I was literally days from leaving my family to go to war. How could "peace" be my word? As the year went on though, I saw His peace surpassing all my understanding as I left my family and served my 6 month commitment on the other side of the world. I felt His peace when things didn't make sense, when I worshiped, and when I asked questions and didn't always like the answer.

Now we are on the edge of 2017 and I've asked again and He's again given me a word I never would have expected.


As an adoptive mom, that's not a word I love. He quickly took me to the definitions as both a noun and a verb and I am already seeing His will in this little word.

Abandon: to give up control of, complete surrender, yield oneself

Already, I feel him calling me to:

...abandon constantly checking my phone and be more present with my family
...abandon my plans for the year
...abandon my expectations of my friends and family and embrace what I do have

and also
...worship Him with complete abandon

I hope that members of our family will be going to China this year to visit orphans. I'm planning on a busy year for our family and our business. But I'm learning to abandon those expectations and make Him Lord of my calendar.

What's your one little word?