Monday, July 28, 2008


So birthdays in the Stephens' family are usually a pretty big deal. For some reason my mom always made a huge production out of every birthday. Every year on July 24th before I fell asleep my mom and dad would climb in bed with me and tell me the story of how I was such a sick little baby. They would tell me all about their experience from the time I was delivered to when I was driven in an NICU ambulance to Des Moines to when my heart stopped beating, to my blood transfusion and on and on. Every year I just sort of sat there and listened because I obviously don't remember any of it. It all seems so weird to me now. Needless to say, my birthday is a time when I really REALLY miss my mom. Moms have a way of making you feel special unlike anyone else in the world. This year my friends did a really good job of making me feel special. It ended up being three days of celebration, starting with line dancing on Thursday night with Jess and Deb.
They had been telling me for a week not to make any plans on Thursday night because they had a surprise for me. They wouldn't tell me where we were going or what we were doing. The only hint I got was that I needed to dress like a cowgirl. We all met at Jess's house on Thursday night after work. It was kind of funny because I had to drive so Jess was telling me directions and I blindly followed her commands. We ended up at the 8 Second Saloon in a part of Indianapolis that I have never even seen before. As we pulled up we saw a couple in their mid-fifties walking out in their western get-ups. We were giggling the entire time! The last time I went line dancing was in a sketchy looking farmer hang out off the interstate 380 in Iowa. That place was a little less than glamorous but we had a good time. It was a couple of years ago and the main thing I remember is that I was TERRIBLE at the steps. I don't know how my mom was a professional dancer and I can hardly handle the hokey pokey. My shyness definitely comes out on the dance floor and Thursday night was no exception. Finally the girls made me go out and join in the choreographed cowboy steps and I managed to do a pretty decent job. It ended up being a night full of surprises and lots of laughs. We had such a good time being girls and enjoying each other. It was fun to dress up and pretend to be somebody else for a night. This kind of thing is so far out of my comfort zone but I always ended up loving it when I'm done. I even two-stepped! That was probably the funniest part of the night because my poor partner didn't know what to do with my extreme clumsiness. It ended up being ok though because he made up for my mistakes.

The three of us enjoying our night as cowgirls...

Jess and I. I didn't really follow the directions for the picture. Long story.

Throwin' the deuces for my 22nd birthday.
Doing the 22 Two Step.

Deb and I.

The celebration continued on Friday (my actual birthday) at work. The ladies from the office took me out for a nice lunch and forced me to wear an extremely obnoxious hat in the shape of the star that said "party". People stared at me and I looked away every time because I hate calling attention to myself. It was so nice that they took the time to celebrate my birthday with me. I felt so loved and appreciated!
All week long I had been asking my daycare kids, "Who's birthday is on Friday?!" And they would all say, "It's yours, Miss Cady!" I promised them that I would bring treats for their afternoon snack so I went out and bought popsicles and cookies and brought them in on Friday afternoon. I bopped into the room with my crazy star hat on and yelled, "It's party time!" They all SCREAMED and dropped what they were doing to join me at the snack table. They sang happy birthday and ate way too much sugar. I looked around after we were done and half of them had bright blue mouths. Their teeth, lips, and tongues were stained from their birthday treats. I think that partying with kids is the most fun. The simplest thing ends up being such a big deal to them!
My sister came into town on Friday night and was at my apartment when I got home from work. She did my hair and we laughed as we talked about our lives and the funny things that have happened to us lately. Then we went to dinner at the Melting Pot and enjoyed some birthday fondue. I got us incredibly lost on our way there and we ended up driving up and down 82nd street for 20 minutes before I realized we were supposed to be on 86th. Oops. We ended our night at the movie theater where we saw the late showing of "Mamma Mia!" We were both so tired by the end of it that we came home and went straight to bed. The next day we went to breakfast, bought books at Target, and laid out by the pool until Crissa had to go. It was a perfect day.
Cammi and I had a bunch of friends over on Saturday night. There ended up being about 10 people here and it was a great time hanging out and story telling. A bunch of our friends from Indy came along with my friend Jess from school. My friend Tim called and said he was in town from Nashville so he ended up coming over too. It was the perfect end to a perfect birthday!
Until next year...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The New Digs...

My new bedroom. This is after all of my dad's hard work and 4 trips to the hardware store.

I am finally, after almost 7 weeks in Indiana, getting settled down! I moved into my new apartment on July 10th but didn't have time to unpack because Bible school began two days after I moved in and I was at the church 12 hours a day. It was such a restless feeling knowing that my closet was still a mess and my things were scattered all over the house but now it's all put away and I finally have a sense of peace when I walk in! That's what home is supposed to be, right?
Moving was a pretty crazy process. On June 12th I packed my tiny little Scion TC and moved to a temporary apartment. We couldn't get into our real apartment until July 10th so I spent a month sleeping on an air mattress and living out of boxes. My room was completely bare, not a thing on the walls, and I never actually unpacked all of my stuff. During our last week at the old apartment Cammi (my roommate) and I were counting down the hours until we got to move. FINALLY the day came! I had to work but luckily Cammi hired movers. I gathered all of my things together, went to the office at the new apartment, signed my lease, paid my rent, and headed off to work. I felt like such an accomplished adult! And by the way, I had never even seen this apartment inside. We had seen the model and we had seen the floorplan of this one but had never actually been in it. Let me just tell you, it is beautiful! I came home from work that day and wanted to scream when I walked in the door. Even though there was stuff everywhere and the place was a disaster, I still loved it! And the best part about it is that it's mine. I am paying for it and I am taking care of it. Independence is a beautiful thing!
My dad and sister came that Friday night and John and Danielle showed up to help us move everything in. My dad had driven through Chicago and picked up my sister along with all of the furniture she was giving me. We moved everything up to the THIRD FLOOR and all wanted to crash when we were done. Thankfully John and my dad did all of the really heavy stuff! The next day my dad, Crissa and I were off to find a headdboard and other necessities for my new living quarters. We spent the entire day running all over Carmel and eventually got what we needed. My dad put my bed together, hung my roommate's curtains, helped me hang my mirror and even took me out for my birthday! We had to celebrate two weeks early because I knew I wouldn't see them on the actual date.

Working hard putting the bedframe together. I helped him but he ended up redoing everything that I did. I got in trouble for not using the washers before I screwed the screws in. Who knew those things were so important?!
Crissa and I goofing off, taking pictures in the mattress store while my Dad found the bedframe. He looked at us laying on the bed with the camera and then walked out in shame. Sometimes he acts like we embarrass him but I know he loves it!

We all went to church the next morning and Crissa and my dad came to children's church to watch me teach. I could see them laughing out of the corner of my eye because I didn't know the actions to any of the songs we were doing. How embarassing. My dad had the time of his life because we did an experiment during small group time with the 3rd-6th graders. They got to put a spoonful of baking soda into a cup of vinegar and watch it fizz over. I was giving them all about half a teaspoon until my dad grabbed the spoons from me and handed them all HEAPING spoonfuls. Most of their cups overflowed all over the tables. They all screamed and Dan loved every minute of it.
Right after church they headed back to Chicago to pack up my sister's apartment. She is moving in with some friends until she moves to Chile in February so my dad had three solid days of packing up his girls and driving his trailer all over the Midwest. What would we do without him?
Now my apartment is completely unpacked other than a couple of things that need to be hung up. Hopefully everything will be finished this weekend when we have people over on Saturday night. The birthday festivities are fully underway, ending Saturday night with a party at our apartment. Tonight Jess, Deb and I are celebrating and Crissa gets into town tomorrow. I'm just glad I have a warm, comfortable place for all of them to stay!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Isaiah 43:18-19

It's amazing how God reveals himself to us in such unexpected ways. I was reading over some of my pastor's old sermons this morning. I started to look over one from when I visited the church with some friends in May. At that time the church was in the middle of their 40 Days of Community series and I was entering into my last week of my senior year of college. At that point I thought I had things pretty figured out. I had accepted the job here and I was anxiously waiting for it to begin, I had a roommate and a place to live, I was in a pretty serious relationship that we both thought would lead to marriage and my family seemed to finally be settling down after over two years of heartache.
Now I look back on that Sunday and think how wrong my perspective was. I had MY plan and I knew what I wanted to do. I wasn't waiting on God to reveal himself to me because I thought I had everything figured out. So selfish. The funny part about all of that is that the first point of Pastor Steve's sermon was that selfishness destroys relationships and selflessness builds them. I want to be selfless. I want to think of others before myself and I want to look to God to carry out his plan for my life, rather than making self-gratifying, shallow plans for myself.
A lot has changed since that Sunday. I am here, at Fall Creek, loving my job and the people I work with, which is funny because this job was the one thing that didn't make sense to me in my plan. I had a million reasons to turn it down but for some reason I knew that I had to come here. I knew that this was the place for me and if I went anywhere else I would be being disobedient. Now as I look back I can see exactly why God wanted me here and I praise him that he didn't allow me to go anywhere else! And God has blessed me with an awesome roommate and great new friends both inside and outside of church. But other than that, things haven't really turned out the way that I planned. My serious relationship has ended and my family is going through some pretty difficult stuff again. Sometimes I wonder when the insanity will end. I don't know that I will ever see wholeness and restoration brought to my family in this lifetime. I am so proud of my dad. He has come so far in his faith and in his leadership to us. He has had to make some heartbreaking decisions over the last couple of years and he has done so with strength, integrity and kindness. He has shown me what a true man of God looks like. It's funny because some of the normal people that I would usually talk to about this stuff are not a part of my life anymore but God has blessed me beyond what I could ever imagine with supportive people and amazing friends.
At the end of Pastor Steve's sermon outline I read this verse and it just made sense. I am so thankful that God cares enough to speak to me and give me just enough strength to make it through every day. Now I'm here, a preschool teacher and children's ministry director in Fishers, Indiana, waiting in anticipation for God to do something new. I may be waiting a long time but I know that He who has promised is faithful.

"But the Lord says, 'Forget the things that happened in the past. Do not keep on thinking about them. I am about to do something new. It is beginning to happen even now. Don't you see it coming? I am going to make a way for you to go through the desert. I will make streams of water in the dry and empty land'."

Monday, July 7, 2008

Fun on the Fourth

This year I got to spend the fourth of July with some of my best friends! I am so fortunate that I have such great friends so close to me since my family is so far away. I feel like I have my own miniature family here in Indianapolis and it is great to spend time with them!
We were all invited over to my roommate's boyfriend's house for a barbecue and then we made plans to go to downtown Indy for the fireworks. I was a little worried because it was pretty overcast and cloudy looking for most of the day. But thankfully the sky cleared up and the temperature rose in time for the fun!
Debra and I went to Jess and Nate's house to hang out for the day before we went over to Keith's for dinner and fireworks.

This is Jess and Nate's sweet new puppy, Roxy. She is just a tiny baby so she sleeps all the time. She's chubby and cute and we love hanging out with her!

This is a picture of Jess and Nate's dog, Sydney. I love playing with him when I go to their house! I wish so badly that I could have a dog, but until that day comes I just have to hang out with my "nephew," Syd.

We all had to bring food to Keith's house to go with kabobs. I freaked out at the last minute because of my non-existent cooking abilities and just decided to buy fruit. I still have faith that someday I will conquer my culinary fears and learn how to cook. It's a slow process with me though so I just decided store-bought, pre-cut fruit was the way to go. It ended up being ok because there was tons of delicious food brought by all of the other kitchen savvy party-goers.
Hanging out in Keith's backyard with Roxy.

Jess and Nate...

We spent a couple hours grilling out and watching as the guys lit off fireworks. I was a little nervous that they were going to explode my car with their insane pyrotechnic show but it ended up being ok. We left when things started to get a little crazy, avoiding a possible disaster.
Jess, Nate, Debra, and Deb's brother Tim and I all went downtown to meet Nate's parents and their friends to watch the fireworks. We weaved our way through the crazy city traffic and ended up finding parking in a public garage, (which was quite the accomplishment since most of the streets were blocked off by police officers and the parking meters were turned off.)
We walked through the downtown area which was jam-packed with patriotic hoosiers wearing crazy America-themed outfits and we ended up having a really good spot to watch the fireworks at the Indiana War Memorial.
And now I would like to take a moment to give a little shout out to Walnut Ridge Baptist Academy. All those years in the choir paid off for me as I joined with the Air Force band in singing every verse of the Armed Forces medley word for word (along with many, MANY other songs of American pride). Lets just say, my friends were a little shocked at my patriotism, and to think, I owe it all to Miss B and her Patriotic Program.

"You're a grand ol' flag, you're a high flying flag and forever in peace may you wave! You're the emblem of the land I love, the home of the free and the brave!..." (You get the idea.)

Jess and I as we waited for the fireworks to start.

Debra and I enjoying the show!

Jess, (Roxy), Nate and I before we left. Jess and Nate are such great friends and such an amazing couple! I absolutely love them!
It really did turn out to be a great night. What more could you ask for on the 4th of July? And I felt a sense of personal accomplishment as I arrived in the parking lot of my apartment that night because I successfully navigated my way through the downtown area (complete with lane closures and one way streets), out of the city traffic and home to my humble apartment in Carmel. I used to get stressed out driving in downtown Waterloo on the fourth, but now I am on my own and I'm stepping up to the plate. Ahh...the American dream.

John Mayer and Friends

Last Saturday I got to go to a concert with a bunch of my friends from college. I found out Thursday night that my roommate's friend had an extra ticket to the Brett Dennan, ColbieCallait, John Mayer concert so I decided at the last minute that I wanted to go.

We had lawn seats so we were pretty far from the stage. But it was fun to sit on blankets in the grass with all of our friends.

It was so fun to be with some good friends and to relax and hang out for a night. However, getting my ticket turned out to be more of a task than I thought. I got the girl's phone number from my roommate and we made plans to meet at the Verizon Wireless center at 5:30. Our group got their early and they waited in line while Debra and I waited at will call to meet the mystery ticket girl. At about 5:35 Mystery Girl texted me and said, "We just left our hotel and we'll be there soon. I'm with a bachelorette party and we're all wearing matching shirts so you won't be able to miss us." Oh gosh. Here I am waiting at this massive arena with thousands of people trying to scope out the bachelorettes with their matching shirts and John Mayer tickets.
Debra and I as we waited for those darn bachelorettes...

The only problem with this whole thing is that the bachelorettes (that's what we called them all night) were from Illinois and didn't realize the stress that goes into the events at the Verizon Center. There is TONS of traffic coming off of I-69, tons of traffic driving into the concert center, parking is mayhem and then on top of all of that you have to walk up to the building and then wait in line again to be let in the gates. Let's just say, we waited for the bachelorettes until 6:45 when I finally decided to buy my own ticket and go in without them. I felt so guilty that I wasn't able to pay Mystery Girl for her ticket but I had to take matters into my own hands. All of my friends were inside, on the lawn, enjoying frozen lemonades and waiting for the show to start while I was trying to find the bachelorettes in the matching shirts. What a mess.
However, to put your mind at ease, it all ended up fine. I got an extra lawn ticket (which was a little overpriced if you ask me) and made it inside to sit with my friends. We had such a good time laughing and taking in the sights and sounds around us. And let me tell you, it was quite the experience.
Just the girls...

Everybody...such a fun group!

I got to see one of my favorite friends from school! I haven't seen Jess since her wedding in May so it was great to catch up, talk about life and laugh together. I definitely needed it!

Some of my good friends, Jess and Blake, the newlyweds.

Brett Dennan was surprisingly good, Colbie didn't disappoint and John Mayer was not only pleasing to my ears but also very hilarious. What started out as a somewhat stressful night turned into a great time with great friends.
All is well that ends well. That's what I always say.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Summers at the Lake

Today is the fourth of July, a day to celebrate American Independence, grill out, laugh with friends, and watch explosives in the sky. This is my favorite holiday because it always brings back such great memories from when I was a kid.
Our family spent every fourth of July at our cabin in Clear Lake. All of the kids (the Stephens, the Knapps and occasionally the Bauers) would swim until our muscles ached. We would walk up the hill from the lake to the cabin, barely making it to the top. By the time the sun went down, at about 8:30 pm we were absolutely exhausted. The sun had sucked all of our energy dry and all we wanted to do was eat whatever it was my dad was cooking on the grill. After devouring our dinners we peeled off our swimsuits, which during the summers pretty much felt like an extension of our bodies, and changed into our sweatshirts and jeans for the fireworks.
Every year before we piled onto the boat for the fireworks we sat quietly and acted like we were paying attention while my dad gave us his safety speech, "You will not stand, scream, jump, or yell in the boat when we are out on the lake. There are going to be hundreds of boats out there and most of those people will probably be drunk. Keeping this in mind, you will listen to my voice and do as I say so that we can make it back to our dock safely at the end of the night. Got it?" We always nodded, trying to contain our excitement but knowing that there was no possible way we could sit still the way he asked us to.
I remember one year we were driving back to our dock from the middle of the lake, surrounded by boats on every side. A speedboat driven by college coeds zipped right in front of us and my dad yelled, "Are you drunk or just stupid! I've got kids on board!" I was always so embarrassed when he did things like that. I would bury my head in the boat's vinyl seat, but deep down I was proud. I loved that my dad stood up for us and that he wasn't afraid of anyone. I always thought (and still do) that he was the strongest man in the world.
After escaping death and making it back to our cabin my dad would always pull out his illegal stash of fireworks for our personal show. He has a terrible habit of driving across the Missouri border and purchasing an obscene amount of fireworks, which are illegal in the state of Iowa.
Once again, I would feel so embarrassed that he was calling attention to our cabin by shooting fireworks that were big enough for the entire town to see, but I also thought he was pretty cool, a fearless rebel.
We would fall asleep at night to the sound of fireworks shooting off all over the lake. The blasts would shake our cabin and we would all try to comfort our poor dog as she shook in fear. We would open the windows to our bunk room and listen as the neighbors partied late into the night. Some of the best nights I have ever slept were at that cabin. The cool summer breeze filled our room as we finally surrendered to our exhaustion and fell asleep. Then we would wake up in the morning, strip off our pj's and jump immediately into our swimsuits, forgoing all regular clothing choices and do it all over again....
That is why I love this day. And that is why I love summer.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

What is "Normal" Anyway?

Today I got to spend some time with a great, great friend of mine. Angie came down to Indy for the day and we were able to meet for dinner. It was so fun and refreshing to share a meal with her and reminisce about our summers. We have both been learning a ton and we are able to challenge each other by sharing our experiences. I thank God that he has provided me with such amazing friends. Other than that I had a pretty normal day.

Angie and I went to dinner at Paradise and then I brought her back to the church so she could see my office. I made her sign the chalkboard wall. One piece of advice: if you ever want little kids to think that you are the coolest person in the world, just paint a chalkboard wall in your office and let them color on it. It works. And please pay no mind to the mushroom house. It was just a kindergarten boy being creative. I promise my kids aren't on drugs.

I worked from 9-6 and now I am EXHAUSTED and ready for bed. Today my daycare kids seemed extra loud and extra energetic. So, I quickly solved that problem by busting out the Number Bingo. For those of you who don't work with kids: number bingo is a ridiculously simple version of the beloved game, Bingo. Basically you pick up a number and shout it out. Then the kids put a marker on their page if they can find the number. Last week we played 22 games in one afternoon. Something about this activity is incredibly stimulating and exciting to the kids so I let them play as much as they want.Really, I think they just like to scream, "Bingo!" violently in the other kids' faces. They're a pretty competitive bunch.
Right now my big project at church is making connections with all of my volunteers and setting up a secure check-in/check-out system for the kids. I have spent the last few days at work laminating name tags and working on excel sheets.

In other news, I've been learning a lot lately about God's wisdom and His plan for my life. I've come to realize that sometimes God shows me just a little bit of truth and then slowly reveals more and more of Himself to me through that truth. I always think that I am learning and gaining so much and then I realize....oh wait....I still have a lot left to learn. But for the most part I like knowing that things are out of my control and that God is bigger than my insecurities, fears, relationships and concerns. What a relief to know that I don't have to have it all figured out! I've also been learning about how to cling to God's truth and let the unwarranted criticism of other people roll off my back. I am so convinced that right now I am exactly where God wants me to be and I know that He has called me to do exactly what I am doing. This assurance has helped me through the past few weeks when I have encountered difficult people. God is teaching me what joy REALLY means and how to find it in the difficult situations. Right now I am content exactly where I am and I am excited to see what God has planned for the future....