Monday, May 29, 2017

Greece Trip Part One

I never want to forget this trip to Greece, therefore, I decided to have a written record of it on my blog. Got up at 3:30 in the morning to make it to the airport three hours early for our international flight from Portland to Amsterdam (10.5 hours). I have always been told how awful they are and boy were they right! The upside was Jackie and I realized that we probably hadn't sat down and watched a movie from start to finish in months. That was kind of nice! 
 Vern, Ethel, Jackie and I's feet on the carpet of PDX. Vern thought we were nuts!

 Waiting anxiously to board the plane!


On the airplane!!!

Once we arrived the Amsterdam, I was in culture shock. People didn't wait for you or move for you. I line was a suggestion. I couldn't believe how "rude" people were in my American eyes. I was terrified that Vern and Ethel were going to step out in front of a people move and die! They were going so fast! We had a three hour layover, so we went to a bunch of shops.

 The "lines" into customs were crazy!

 Ended up buying some tulip bulbs from Holland. Thought this was the best way to bring a bit of Holland to my home!

 These painted cows were all the rage! (Jackie)

 Of course beautifully painted wooden shoes!

 Got 4 hour flight from Amersterdam to Athens, Greece. Here is my first glimpse of the beautiful white city!

Flying inland to the airport.

This is when all the scary drama started! After we picked our rental car (that was a story in itself), we got lost in rush hour traffic in a city of 5 million people. Vern was driving and thought he knew the way to the apartment because he had studied the route so much on Google Earth. So we no written directions. After stopping twice and getting thoroughly lost in the seedy side of Athens where we were confronted by beggar children in a grocery store parking lot ( a whole other story in itself). When we got back on the right road to the right Marina, Vern started seeing familiar landmarks. We all realized that one of us should have bought an international SIM card so we could have contacted the poor man who was waiting at our apartment for two hours to give us our keys. By some miracle, we found the apartment and then PRAISE THE LORD, Manos was still there. I was seriously thinking I was going to have to sleep upright in this tiny car we had rented. I probably could have, considering I had been up at 30-plus hours at this point. 

 The apartment was amazing. Everything was inlaid in Marble. Floor, stairway, walls in bathrooms. Counters, tables and fireplace.

 We decided to go to bed at 7:30 p.m (Athens time). But the beds were not what we thought. We ended up making a makeshift bed for Jackie and I to sleep on by taking the cushions off two couches and the "mattress" off the hide a bed. It worked and as we laid down, Jackie said, " I just feel like crying." I replied, "Jackie, I am so sorry I got you into this!" We were both traumatized after all of our "firsts". Crazy Motorcycles, being lost, aggressive beggars, Motorists not yielding to pedestrians (I almost got killed 5 times just getting from the airport, to the grocery store, to the apartment! The next day, I almost got hit by a Tram, because there were no warning lights or sounds. I stepped onto what I thought was an abandoned track, when I got across all of a sudden there was a tram coming. Yowza!!! That was scary! I started looking very carefully after that!

The Acropolis is back there! Could see it from our balcony!

A remnant monument dedicated to the last Olympics held in Athens.

 So the next day we got up and felt the warm climate. We looked out the balcony and were just stunned by the view. We all met in the kitchen and processed the horrible previous day. We cried and hugged and prayed over the rest of our trip. It was good! We had coffee on the balcony and decided if we just stayed in this apartment with this incredible view, it would have all been worth it.
Never was brave enough to use this. They don't want you to put paper in their sewer system. Kind of a pain. 

 The City of Athens. One of our views from the balcony.
.
 We were in a very safe apartment-like section of town. The only thing that was gross was the smell of stray cat poop and urine. They were everywhere!


 We were on the seventh floor. Gives you an idea of how limited the parking is and how narrow the streets are. People parked on the sidewalk ALL the time..



Vern made us breakfast that morning. It was so nice of him. Watching him back in the place he loves is priceless. He used to live in Athens back in the 1950's and worked at the air force base for 2.5 years. He knew quite a bit of Greek and everyone was impressed at how good he did with their language. He kept being taken for a 50-60 year old even though he is 80! One waiter even guessed he was a pilot! I guess he just looks like one. Vern loves to fly and even had his own place when I met him.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Storms Result in Blessings

"Have you ever asked the Lord to make you more like Him? Have you ever desired the fruit of the Spirit and prayed for sweetness, gentleness, and love? If so, then never fear the fierce storms that even now may be blowing through your life. Storms bring blessings, and rich fruit will be harvested later." -Henry Ward Beecher

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Advice for When Your Firefighter Starts Slowing Down


I am going through a transition right now. It has been long, interesting and I think note-worthy. Maybe some of you are going through this as well? When I met my firefighter, Steve was 26 years old. He is now almost 50 and things have changed.

When I first got involved with Steve, he would go on 3-4 (two hour) call backs a day if he was not working. After we got married a year and a half later, I remember him having his pager on all night. He would get up in the middle of the night over and over again to go to the station. It was great money, but the interrupted sleep for both of us took its toll. 22 years later, he doesn't even have his radio turned on. In fact, I am not even sure where his radio is! He gets texts of calls sent to his phone but he keeps it on silent. It has been almost 3 years since he has gone on a call in the middle of the night on his days off.

Although my husband seems to never struggle with PTSD, (he puts on an extremely tough emotional front), yet I wonder if that will ever catch up with him. When we had children, he would come home and be very silent when he went on a bad call involving a child. He would usually open up to me by the afternoon and we would talk about it. I can't imagine the horror of seeing a dead child, let alone touch him, or work on him. This would be my worse nightmare. I don't know how he can not dwell on it and just move on. It scares me sometimes. What if all those images suddenly come back to haunt him and he may not be able to cope? I recently read an article about PTSD and firefighters. The article stated that a firefighter has a virtual Rolodex in his brain of all the bad calls he has been on. As he gets older, it gets bigger and bigger. I never thought of that. The only PTSD my husband has ever admitted to is when he is driving and someone is driving like a maniac around him. He gets extremely agitated. I finally asked him why he was so angry. He said "It is because I am the one that has to pick up the pieces when he wrecks." That made total sense to me. Crazy drivers take him back to his bad car wreck memories that are filed in his Rolodex.

Another change that has affected our relationship is the fact that since he doesn't go on so many calls, we have more time together. I used to be pretty much parent the six kids on my own. He was gone for work, or for overtime much of the time. I learned to be very independent. When, Steve started slowing down on the call back, he was around way more. That took some adjusting. We had to learn a different routine. Different but good. I feel like we are more "man and wife" now. Maybe this is how normal people live! LOL!

The last thing that has drastically changed is how tired he is after his shift. Even if he doesn't get up to go on a call (he is a Captain now, which means he stays at the station way more), his sleep is still interrupted by loud bells, lights coming on and radios blaring. This is so hard on people's bodies. Years and years of this has taken it's toll. Now when he comes home, he needs to take long naps. At first I used to get mad because it felt like he was just wasting the day away. Now, I realize how much his body needs that rest.

I would love to hear your stories as well!


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Pressed

"We were under great pressure,...so that we despaired even of life...But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead." -2 Corinthians 1:8-9

Pressed beyond measure; yes, pressed to great length;
Pressed so intensely, beyond my own strength;
Pressed in my body and pressed in my soul,
Pressed in my mind till the dark surges roll.
Pressure from foes, and pressure from dear friends.
Pressure on pressure, till life nearly ends.

Pressed into knowing no helper but God;
Pressed into loving His staff and His rod.
Pressed into liberty where nothing clings,
Pressed into faith for impossible things.
Pressed into living my life for the Lord,
Pressed into living a Christ-life outpoured.

(Author Unknown)

This poem resonated within my spirit. There is so much pressure from being "pressed". I once heard someone say, "When you are pressed what comes out of your heart? Is it hate, bitterness, or resentment? Or is it love, kindness, patience and gentleness? Oh, to be the latter!

Right now, I am feeling squeezed. Six children all in school. One about to graduate. Everyone except one child are in multiple sports. It is just so busy. When I am gone for games and appointments, the housework builds up and then I feel pressed even more. I feel pressed when I know my husband needs attention when he gets home from the fire station. I feel pressed when I know my children need their individual attention and I am always trying to build and maintain relationships with the ones that are struggling the most in their teen years. I feel pressed when it comes to ministry at the church, because I want to help. I want to serve and I want to see people taught in the Scriptures and discipled, there is always so much to do and there is only so much time that I have to do it. 

This is when I must remember the term "seasons". Ahhh, God knows this. Jesus had seasons, the prophets of old had seasons, I only need to do what God asks me to do and do it well. I need to listen to him and see what He wants me to give up before I add something new. 

Being pressed isn't bad. It makes me dependent instead of independent. It makes me willing to ask my husband and children for their help. It even allows grandparents and friends to represent me at a game if I can't make it. 

Are you feeling pressed? I would love to hear your thoughts and your encouragement if you have come through this season of life victoriously!


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Brown Family Christmas Letter 2016

(Most recent family picture, taken in Hermiston at the 1A State Championship game)

My sister, Jackie, is always so good about sending out a Christmas letter, so I guess I got inspired after reading hers. The truth is, I have no idea how to wrap up our year without writing out a page for each kid. I guess I also don't want people to think I am bragging about my children. I am proud of them, but they struggle and so do we as parents. So yes, you are getting the "abridged" version.


Steve is on the left.

Usually, I start with the kids, but I thought I would switch it up. Steve has worked for Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue for 24 years I believe. He is still the Captain of A Shift. He loves this position. He is a natural commander and it works well with his personality ;) Marcus was able to do ride alongs with Steve this year and saw a different side of his father. I think he has a whole new level of respect for Steve as he realized what his father actually did on a typical 24 hour shift. Steve is highly involved in Tae Kwon Do and is slowly getting closer to his black belt. He has a couple more belts to go. He has found friendship in his little community (class). Steve has also made it a goal to get to more games for the kids. There are a lot of them, but he realized how much he enjoys watching the kids and asks for a lot of time off so he can be there to encourage them. He made every one of the older boys football play-off games this year! Steve serves as a deacon in our church and mows the lawn during the spring and summer.

A tiny part of my garden! Love how it is filling out.

Jackie and I in Surrey, B.C.

My Miss Amanda!

Swinging in a hammock in Mexico!

I guess I'll go next. I am still a SAHM. I love being able to have this freedom. I watch a sweet disabled girl while the kids are at school. Her name is Amanda and she is an honorary Brown kid now (even though she is 26). She laughs as I make messes in the kitchen and drop things because I am in a hurry! I have recently become a world traveler! I was able to go with two dear friends to Barra De Potosi, Mexico in February. We had a wonderful time enjoying the sunshine and the relaxed pace of a tiny fishing village nestled on the Pacific by Ixtapa. Then in August, my sister and I took a trip up to B.C. and visited two blog friends. I can't believe I used my passport twice in one year! This year, I have been asked by my in-laws to go to Greece in May! My sister and I are both going, so my Christmas present to myself is a carry-on bag with swivel wheels. I never dreamed I would be able to stick my feet in the Mediterranean Sea and see the ancient city of Athens and Corinth. I am grateful to my husband who supports my dreams of travel even though he doesn't have an interest in traveling himself. I am still very involved in my church. I teach Junior High Sunday School, lead worship occasionally, am a deaconess. My friend, Kathi, and my Great Aunt and I have formed a "band". Kathi plays the drums, Aunt Esther plays the piano and sings back-up and I sing. It has been so much fun to discover new songs together and lead others in worship! My voice is stronger than ever and seems to be healed. It is exciting to be able to sing for longer periods of time without pain! It all started when we were asked to lead worship for a women's retreat at Camp Morrow in the fall. I could never have done that two years ago! My life is full. I love watching my children's games and helping out at the school when I can. Cooking, laundry and picking up after my family is a full time job, but somehow I am able to squeeze so much more in. Being an avid gardener I get so much satisfaction watching flower beds take shape!

Joshua and Marcus after a home game

Joshua:

Joshua turned 18 in September. He is a senior. Joshua continues to live with his grandparents about 7 minutes away from us. He is doing good there and they take wonderful care of him.  He had a ranch hand job this summer and was able to upgrade from his little truck to a small car that actually goes the speed limit! We are proud of how hard he worked this summer and saved his money so he can pay for insurance, gas, and repairs. He is learning responsibility and he isn't afraid to work. Joshua played football this year (on the team who won the 1A State Football Championship) and is now currently playing basketball. He says he is going to play baseball in the spring. He has never played baseball, so that should prove interesting. He is on track to graduate in June. School has always been a struggle for Josh, and yet he has stuck with it and he never quit. He is looking into a career as a welder.  We are proud of how hard he has worked to overcome his challenges.

Marcus watching the game (note knee brace)

Marcus:

Marcus turned 16 in September and is currently a Sophomore. Marcus worked for Papa last summer bucking hay and then went and worked in a vineyard for the second summer in a row. He earned enough money to buy our old car from us and to buy insurance and his own gas and repairs. He hurt his knee pretty badly in June right when school was ending and tore his ACL and his MCL. This caused huge problems in his knee and created too much play in it. He got through football season by some miracle (hurt it several different times but was able to push through) and now has had a major surgery on it a few days ago. While the doc was in there to give him a total ACL reconstruction, he found out Marcus had a significant tear to his meniscus. The doc went ahead and repaired it. Marcus has a long road to recovery but he is hoping to be back in action by August for football practice. He also looks forward to playing basketball and baseball next year since he missed out on it this year due to his surgery. Marcus loves video games and friends. He also likes the freedom of driving his car around now that he has his license. Marcus says his goal right now is to become a paramedic and firefighter like his father.

Jessica playing summer ball

Jessica:

Jessica is a typical 13 year-old girl. She loves make up, clothes, shoes, friends, social media, but most of all sports. Basketball seems to be her thing, but in addition, she plays volleyball, and does track. She was able to play summer basketball with the highschoolers this summer and had a lot of fun playing against girls that were much bigger than her. She is fearless! She loves camping and going on trips. She was able to go with Grandma Kricket and Larry Pop to Alvord Desert, and went with me to camp in the rain at Heppner. She is pretty adventurous and likes to ride four-wheelers. Right now she says she wants to become a forensic scientist. She is pretty quiet until you get her around her friends.

Andrew enjoying a bit of target practice at the ranch

Andrew:

Andrew is now 11 and is the atypical Brown kid. He is our builder and likes working with his hands. He isn't into sports but we have discovered what he really enjoys is going out to the ranch and working with Papa. We make sure he gets plenty of time out there. He has become Papa's little right-hand man and I think Papa really enjoys the company. I like knowing someone is out there with my dad in case something goes wrong and he falls. My dad broke his leg bad last year and is not as stable as he once was. Andrew is now in Junior High and has grown so much in the past year! He is a Junior Deacon and loves to help out at the church whenever he can. He is a servant and many people are blessed by how quickly he comes to their aid. Andrew has always been quieter than the rest of our kids and can fall through the cracks. So we have to be extra intentional to not let that happen. Andrew is really into guns, so I got my .22 out and we have been doing some grey-digger hunting and target practicing. He loves to be on his IPad, so it is always good when we can get him out of the house.

Jacob enjoyed helping me in concessions during baseball season.

Jacob:

Jacob is 9 and is in fourth grade. He is full of energy and loves music, dancing, friends, basketball, baseball, video games, and riding four-wheelers. He is a talker and likes having good conversations. He questions everything!  Jacob loves the Lord and is not afraid to talk about Him at school. He knows the importance of prayer and asks to pray for people who are hurting. Sports have been good for him as he has had to learn to get along with others and take direction from coaches. He is very independent.

Lily caught her first fish up at Camp Baldwin. Here is Pastor Tim seeing if she wanted to hold it. The look on her face is priceless!

Lily got to ride Lancer this year. Hoping next year we will find more time to ride horses out at the ranch.

Lily:

Lily is now seven and is in second grade! She is a bright little thing but struggles like her mom and dad in math. She loves to please her teacher and the only thing she really gets in trouble for is talking out of turn (she got that from me too). She is beyond excited that she gets to play sports now like her siblings. She played T-Ball last spring and gets to play basketball for the first time this winter! Lily is a mama's girl and hates when mom goes on trips and leaves her behind. She would be permanently attached to my hip if I allowed it. She has so many friends at school and is learning to stand up for herself instead of always trying to keep the peace. She has such a tender little heart for hurting people and prays a lot for them. She loves, music, movies, books, and sports. She is my most enthusiastic, bubbly child who expresses herself continually! She has lots of personality.

Whew! That's why I don't do Christmas letters much anymore. That is a lot to recall. But it is good for me to see the blessings and the struggles. Makes me grateful for my wild, crazy, imperfect life!  I could have chosen something so different if we would have just had the two children we had planned but God had something different in mind. Now I pray for the energy to keep up with it all. I love having things to look forward to, like my Greece trip in May. God knows how and when to bless me with rest and rejuvenation. He is amazing!

May you remember Him and His coming to this earth this season. He came, He died on a cross and He rose again so we would have eternal life and we could be with Him forever in paradise. I cling to that promise!

 Many blessings to you and yours,

Stacie, Steve, Joshua, Marcus, Jessica, Andrew, Jacob and Lily




Saturday, December 17, 2016

Rangers Win 1A Football State Championship (Two Years in a Row)!!!

Since August, our world has revolved around football. Josh and Marcus are playing on a team that takes it seriously and it has paid off because the Rangers have won a whopping total of EIGHT State Championships!

Here is a pic of Josh #60 at Days Creek during the Quarter finals.

I couldn't help but post this!

 Before the team left for the Championship game, the community organized a pretty amazing send off! They painted the bus, gave the boys food and drink and gave them a send off parade!

 Our new Ranger sticker! I love the star!

 Ready for the Championship game! Had to drive to Hermiston for it on Thanksgiving weekend. We were dressed for freezing weather, but it ended up not being that bad after all! Several family and friends from Pendleton came over to watch!

 This shirt says it all!

 We played Crane for the second year in a row. We were down by 10 points twice in the game. It was probably one of the most intense games I have ever watched. But the Rangers never quit and pulled some unique moves to prove why they are champions! So proud of them! The starters were exhausted at the end! Josh and Marcus weren't able to play one down of the game, but they can feel good knowing that they have been part of an excellent scout team and had LOTS of playing time the rest of the season.
 Steve and I are so proud of our boys!

 This was Josh's last high school football game since he is senior. What a way to go out! Marcus still has two more years. He is getting surgery on his knee. A complete ACL reconstruction. He will be able to start football in August if he gets it down during Christmas break. It won't be a great Christmas break for him, but at least he won't miss too much school this way.

 Our whole family was able to go this year to the championship! Steve and I look so short compared to Josh and Marcus!

A pic of the whole team!

 I love this picture of Papa's proud smile! He is probably one of the Ranger's biggest fans! He missed last year's championship game because he was laid up last year with a broken leg so he was pretty happy to make this championship game!
 Russell (Josh and and Marcus's good friend). I love their numbers this year. They were easy to spot! 50, 60, 70!
Award's assembly. Their trophy was presented to them. Such a big deal for our tiny school of about 350 kids total from K-12. What a celebration for our school and community. Football has been so good for this community. It allows the Dufur people to have something in common. It is a blessing to see everyone come together and support the kids.

So that's a wrap! Congratulations, Rangers! Let's go for NINE!!!
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