Auld Lang Syne

We’re bringing in the New Year, with our feet dragging a bit in the mud of the FLU (all five of us!) but we’re so very grateful for life, family, for our church, and for our health (even with sickness lingering).


As this year ends and I’m finally feeling normal again, I’m ready to share our year end letter of sorts.  Luke’s sketch is sweet, and will be mailed with our official card soon, so I’ll save that for your snail mail.  For now a quick update on how everyone in our clan is doing:

Luke David turned 40 this year!!  He continues into his fourth year as a Service Desk Specialist (SDS) with a local 401K record keeping company.  While we are always grateful for work, especially work that allows me to stay at home with our children, Luke’s job  has grown increasingly stressful, so he is applying internally for other positions that we hope to be a better fit.  We are hopeful good things are coming.  One of the sweet ends to these stressful days of work are thankfully spent together, around our late-dinner table.   Luke faithfully reads the Scriptures to us (this year the Psalms) and then a passage from Pilgrim’s Progress.  Christian’s journey brings us all reminders of God’s grace towards us, in that we are all so burdened until we find our rest in Him.

Birthday Surprise from Michael O!

Luke has also had a rough year health-wise.  Most of you already know, but for the last year+ he has battled a pretty bad case of psoriasis, particularly on his scalp.  He had a kidney stone in 2016 and a case of pneumonia (with a round of antibiotics) that kicked things off downhill, it seems.  Good news this year, though, is that he found a wonderful rheumatologist (a night owl who texts her patients at all hours, perfect!).   She has worked very well to find him the right medicine and execute a plan to get after what is now an official diagnosis of  psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.  The latter is the main thing right now, as Luke is in a lot of pain in his back, hands, and even sternum.  Prayers are appreciated for this man of ours!



Greyson Theodore (8)  is about halfway through our second grade at home, still using Ambleside Online.  His mornings are full of multiplication facts, the habits of copywork and narration, old stories for great literature, and nature, composer, and artist studies each week.  Thanks to Grey, the beloved piano sings daily to warm our hearts and home.  He has surprised us with this sweet talent and we’re grateful to be able to encourage it, even in our apartment home.  He says his favorite songs to play on the piano are “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and the “Sleeping Beauty Waltz.” Greyson has played chess with Daddy for a couple of years now, but this year in particular the game has gotten real.  Whenever possible, nightly chess games are becoming a routine and Luke is patient to gather everyone, even little Anna, to play and learn the game.   But building toys still rule this roost, and Greyson’s creations are getting more technical with motorized “Technics” and K’Nex added to the mix this year.  He is our little engineer!


Benjamin Michael (4) is the sweetest, cutest, thing ever!!  I think I write that every year! But he seriously is a doll and I still see my baby Ben in his face and find him ever a “rainbow baby” blessing to our family.  He is tenderhearted and stout.  The boy could climb a mountain and he braves up for almost anything, yet is afraid of loud sounds (still!).  This year, he isn’t officially schooling, but he has joined us for a bit of this or that around the table.  He asked me to teach him to read, so we’ve made that our goal this spring.  He has mastered writing his name, which he’s excited to share with you at the end of this letter.  His days are full of play with Anna, which we appreciate in order to get big boy school done by noon.  Ben says his New Year’s resolution is “to be more kind to my sister.”  We grateful for all the ways Benjamin brings joy to our life.


Anna Rebekah (2), my “favorite girl” as I like to call her, is our passionate, strong-willed one!  She keeps us on our toes.  Anna is the first child of mine to steal candy out of the jar (on top of the frig) or take all the toilet paper off the roll, or paint her face with my lip gloss.  She’s special, for sure!  Ha! She also is our sweet little artist.  She loves to color and even has surpassed her brothers in creating a “first real drawing” of sorts this early–two figures: one Greyson and one Benjamin, she says–which we memorialized on a bookmark for Daddy this Christmas.  Miss Anna is proving to be quick witted, helpful, ornery yes, but oh, so sweet.  She loves to be with Mommy wherever I go.  And I love it.



I find these “younger years” very difficult if I’m honest.  They are lonely sometimes and I mess up at mothering every single day.  I don’t say that to have a pity party, but to admit a real weakness in this operation.  If I’ve realized anything, though, it is that even though we’re wrought with stress and failures, there is so, so much goodness in it still.  My children are ever-forgiving, we are all ever-repenting, and God is ever-present and He is good.  His grace is the oil of gladness and the stuff that keeps the machine turning.  Luke and I often lay in bed at night and wonder at it all.  It’s all so messy, right?  But it’s ours.  God has not left us alone, we have many little victories in the midst of it all, and its’ only by His grace.  The stress is not trying to obtain perfection, but keeping that carrot of fake happiness out of sight.  Laying down that burden and resting in Christ Jesus.


I actually think I may have a few resolutions this year!  1) Speak kindly, always, no matter what.  “A soft answer turns away wrath.”  2) If at all possible, be at peace with all men (especially family) 3) Actually do that yoga thing on my phone.

Happy New Year, friends, family.  We send many, many kisses and hugs.

The Stivers





Auld Lang Syne

Eight Years Old!

We’re proud to announce Greyson is EIGHT!  I still can’t believe my first born is this old.  It’s surreal, this one!  It seems like only yesterday we were bumping along the highway in a Penske truck with that babe in the middle on our way out of Florida headed for the Midwest.  He is our Florida boy, our dear one.  He is eight!





Thank you to friends and family who gathered last night to celebrate this kid.  He’s blessed beyond belief with good friends and new Legos!  School’s on hold until his sets get put together!!  😉



Eight Years Old!

The Eclipse! #2017

What an adventurous day!  We started out up 291 and got stuck in a hailstorm!  We waited out the storm under an awning at a local Quick Trip, as we hoped to make it north to Fairhaven in one piece.20170821_100735

So glad we kept going, ’cause I almost threw in the towel!  It was SO much more incredible than I thought it would be.  These pictures don’t do the day justice.  I feel so blessed to have these new memories with my family!
















The Eclipse! #2017

Year 1 – Done!

A quick post to memorialize Grey’s year-end to First Grade.  He rocked through CC’s Cycle 2, Saxon 2, Logic of English Foundations C, and our books from Charlotte Mason’s “Year 1” curriculum via Ambleside Online.  We love, love this homeschooling thing.  It’s rigorous in some ways, but easy as pie in others.  So far, anyway!


I’m grateful to Luke for his support and for our home/work at Hillcrest that allows me the privilege of staying home with my kids.  Education is life, it’s unmeasurable in most ways, which makes me all the more grateful we’re able to do it as this pace, with these habits of ours.  Thank you, Love!


Greyson: I’m proud of all your accomplishments this year:  Your cursive is beautiful, your ‘satiable curiosity inspiring, O Best Beloved. 😉 Your quick wit is always welcome, you narrate stories like a boss, your piano-playing is sweet, and your ingenuity with all things Lego/building/creating is so fun to watch.  I love the way you appreciate good music, our birds, and our books.  You’re getting better at the habits of learning and I pray you continue to grow character and wisdom.  We love you and are proud of your first year.


Let’s keep at it: work hard and remember what matters the most.

School mottos from CC, “To know God and make Him known,” and from Charlotte Mason, “I am, I can, I ought, and I will!”

Year 1 – Done!

I Lift My Eyes Unto the Hills

So here I am, flying by the keyboard to put down a few words to remember this moment in our family’s life.  We’re first grade, little boys, and a toddler busy–life is FULL.

Anna Rebekah turns TWO!

I move through weekdays at wrecky-warp speed and then I fall apart in raw emotion come Sunday.  This quarter I’ve participated in a mother’s Sunday School class at Redeemer.  We are reading Melissa B. Kruger’s Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood.  I get around my dear sister-mother-friends and I weep.  It’s embarrassing.  I cry tears of shame and worry, of joy from the good teaching and sweet encouragement–but nonetheless mama tears that remind me to keep hold of Jesus.  Hang on for dear Life.

Mommy & Anna at Kill Creek Park (w/ Nana!)

     No matter the stage or station in life, I know we mothers worry and carry burdens too heavy for us to handle.  We desperately want other’s approval.  I personally question every single decision that involves my kids, “Are we doing the right thing?”


We can play all professional-like and put on our “I got this” face all we want.  But I don’t think the pressure and feelings of failure are escapable outside of leaning into Jesus and His kindness to us–remembering His grace.  If there are young people in our midst, others we are in ways responsible to, my guess is that we all will have rough knees and sometimes swollen eyes.  If not every Sunday, every time we really remember.

A visual for a “thorn-in-my-side”

Mothers and those who are mothering–hold on to Jesus.  We have nothing to prove to those around us.  Nothing.  Nothing to explain or justify.  Just live!  Live unto the Lord, but LIVE.

Daddy & Anna

I falter so much as a wife and a mother, but I know one thing, “God is not after great performances or great movements.  He is after us!” — Jennie Allen, Nothing to Prove.

Greyson @ Goalie!


Easter Family
Easter, 2017

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
            From where shall my help come?

      My help comes from the LORD,
            Who made heaven and earth.

      He will not allow your foot to slip;
            He who keeps you will not slumber.

      Behold, He who keeps Israel
            Will neither slumber nor sleep.

      The LORD is your keeper;
            The LORD is your shade on your right hand. 

Psalm 121:1-5


I Lift My Eyes Unto the Hills

This year, faithful

I don’t have many, if any, resolutions this year.  I’m about done with them, honestly.  This year, I’m going to try instead to just keep going with the little things.  Perhaps a word for my resolve:  faithful.


My life is messy right now, in small ways.  In first world ways.  But messy nonetheless.  We’ve faced a few afflictions lately, affronts to our faith and those of the refining type.  The type that is uncomfortable, embarrassing, and vulnerably scary.


Disappointment breeds selfishness, and selfishness, anger.  All that jazz can creep in and destroy a mind and heart.  I’m guilty, he’s guilty, we are all guilty.  Christmas came and went and we have a dying tree still hanging out in our living room.  It (the tree) wasn’t as glorious to me as it has been in years past.  In many ways it was the best Christmas ever–because we missed all the typical pre-Christmas activities and obligations–and instead were forced to sit quietly and soak up all the junk around us, literally and figuratively.  And Jesus.  The gift of His entrance into the world remembered this year was especially powerful to me.  As that light filled ’round the sanctuary, proceeded from the tall candle among us, I felt His peace.  Even though I was bouncing a toddler most of the service, I still heard His voice whispering in the light.  Immanuel is here.


I’m done complaining, I promise.  It really wasn’t all that bad now that it’s over for the most part.  I’m okay, he’s okay, we’re going to be okay.  The tree still stands kind of Charlie Brown ugly-ish, but it has taken on a symbolic sweetness for me.  Our Christmas card is on the way, I promise.  Luke drew a beautiful picture this year!  He’s crazy talented.  The kids are grateful and busy with their new play things.  Thank you to all who rallied around us to prop us up a bit this past month.  We’re grateful.


It’s such a peculiar thing, having peace in the midst of the crap the world throws at you.  Wait, I’m a Calvinist, the “crap” the Lord throws at you.  And that’s exactly the point.  All of this is from the hand of God.  All of it.  And it’s good.  He’s working for His glory, not mine.

“For my name’s sake I defer my anger; for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off.  Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned?  My glory I will not give to another.    Isaiah 48:9-11


The good is beautifully good.  The ugly is beautifully ugly.  It’s not up to us to fix the world.  We can’t.  I’ve tried to fix mine.  I can’t.  It will always be finite and broken.  It can be better, don’t get me wrong, but it cannot be completely fixed until glory.  It will frustrate me until I relax and let it be.


The only thing to do is trust in Jesus and be faithful with the little things.  In the faithful doing, there are better things, I trust: better choices, better days, better ambitions, better parenting, better teaching, better working, etc.  But for now, I just have to press on and be faithful with today.


Two things that have reached my heart this month are these:  Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie and, though admittedly cliché, 1 Corinthians 13.  I can’t shake thinking about and trying to love better.  But it’s the stuff of life, love that is.  God is love, He loves me, what greater love can I give?

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

My New Year prayer is that the time spent in affliction will shape us to be lovers.  Lovers of God and lovers of men.  May God be praised in all this jazz.





This year, faithful

Grief & Home

Planning a trip home is always exciting, unless you’re reason for the trip is to stand by as someone you love is laid to rest. We honored my youngest cousin, Robbie, and wept with our family in his death.

Death is a sucker-punch.  It’s untimely and raw and it has the final word.  It is a reckoning for every living thing–for in death we will all face things spiritual and real.  Our hope is not in the grave, but in the One who took on Death’s dark night and defeated it with His word.

We trust in Christ who alone can bring the dead back to life.  Redemption and our resurrection are not mere myth, but our blessed assurance in this rotten, broken world.  If Jesus did not defeat the thing that takes life from this world, and if He does not raise His own indeed, then our faith is futile.  What beautiful hope is for those who call on the name of Jesus.

Despite the grief of our recent trip home, we grabbed time with the Browns, Christmases, Pollards, Joneses, and the BEACH, of course:





Grief & Home

Never be within doors when you can rightly be without. C.M.

“We are all meant to be naturalists, each in his own degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.”  Charlotte Mason

I’ve often thought of how different my life would be if there wasn’t time to enjoy the outdoors with my children.  I like being with them, and I relish fresh air and beauty.  Maybe it’s the melancholy in me, or my upbringing, or my bent.  I can’t deny it’s a chief reason for my faith, even:  the cosmos, the firmament, and the ground beneath my feet all speak of One who causes the sun to rise and fall, the earth to tremble, and kingdoms of man to do the same.  He, it, all of it is inescapable.

Spicebush Swallowtail

The children and I have kept our habit of watching and studying birds, plants, trees, insects, creepy things, beautiful things.  Our preschool years and even now into GT’s “Year 1” have had nature study as their primary focus.


I was influenced by a 19th century educator back in 2004, when I first set foot in a school to teach.  Dorothy Sayers’ “The Lost Tools of Learning” had me at hello.  She and another educator, Charlotte Mason, have both given us our core philosophical reasons for pursuing a classical education.

“This idea of all education springing from and resting upon our relation to Almighty God-we do not merely give a religious education because that would seem to imply the possibility of some other education, a secular education, for example. But we hold that all education is divine, that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from above, that the Lord the Holy Spirit is the supreme educator of mankind, and that the culmination of all education (which may at the same time be reached by a little child) is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God in which our being finds its fullest perfection.”  ― Charlotte M. Mason

Argiope aurantia2016_nature5

“…my object is to show that the chief function of the child–his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life–is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses…”    C.M.

We educate at home and in the woods because for now, we can, and it’s preferable.  We like the pace of it all, the slow and steady, sit awhile and wait for it way.  It’s difficult some days to get to that quiet, secret place of solitude in learning, but when we do it’s glorious.


“For we let our young men and women go out unarmed, in a day when armor was never so necessary. By teaching them all to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word. By the invention of the film and the radio, we have made certain that no aversion to reading shall secure them from the incessant battery of words, words, words. They do not know what the words mean; they do not know how to ward them off or blunt their edge or fling them back; they are a prey to words in their emotions instead of being the masters of them in their intellects.” – Dorothy Sayers

Our children are happiest these days reading, playing barefooted, ‘cooking’ at my side, sandy, and singing.  I really might just be a hippie at heart, but these free-range years are so precious to me.  I write this evening, on the evening of the busiest day of our week, during the busiest time of my life thus far, and I am exhaustedly overwhelmed.  Should be in bed.  Yet, I sit so very thankful for it all.


“The question is not, — how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education — but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?”   C.M.

Perhaps my little people will read these posts one day when they’re bigger and know deep within their hearts what words cannot express.  I am tired, oftentimes failing miserably, but we’re here, there is joy, and He is sustaining us.  Like a friend of mine mused recently, “[We] lack nothing.”


Buckeye (Brushfoot)

“For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Deuteronomy 8

I write tonight to encourage any readers, any mothers, any educators.  Be still and be faithful.  Fight for the little minds, hearts, and entrust those souls in your care to the Almighty.  Fight to believe for yourself and for them.  Trust in the Lord, for He has given you everything you need.  Rejoice in the difficulty of it all, in the sometimes rigorous and even the mundane.  Humble yourself, lean in to Jesus, and press on.



Never be within doors when you can rightly be without. C.M.

Sunflowers in September, and SEVEN.

We’ve taken to sunflowers in September since moving to the Midwest.  Really, in MO, it’s mainly the wild, beside-the-highway perennial variety.  As it happens, though, the Sunflower State of Kansas is next door!   And so we drove out about an hour outside of state today, to see these:2016sept_sunflowers5

We had hoped to grab a good picture for Nana too, but that didn’t happen at 2:00 p.m.-said time otherwise known as naptime.  (Don’t worry, Nana, we’ll keep trying.)


The outtakes are hilarious, though, and totally reflect life with these three sweet ones:


There was still some sweetness, of course:




Well, this is a recent sans children, “Date Selfie”–couldn’t resist.





And the sunflowers…  The pictures don’t really do these justice.  They were pretty big.  The farm allows you to pick some for a small donation, so we had fun finding just the right few for our table.

Greyson thinks his birthday and sunflowers just go together perfectly.  They are his “early birthday gift” every year.  We learned at home later that sunflower farmers do what they do for sharing the beauty with passersby, and for the birds.  (Sings my heart!) The birdseed that will be harvested from these beauties in December and shipped all over may just have had their beginning here in Kansas (MO has fields too).  Go figure.

He’s almost 7.  Hard to believe!
These boys!  Love!



Another reason to love Kansas.  🙂

Sunflowers in September, and SEVEN.