Monthly Archives: June 2013

Reflections: An Interview With The H.S. Class Of 2013

I’ve had the privilege of working with students for the greater part of the last decade. I asked my first group of sixth graders (who recently graduated high school) and the seniors I currently work with to share some of their thoughts on their high school experience, and what’s next. I hope you enjoy! 

What was the best part of your high school experience?

 “The best part of my high school experience was learning valuable lessons from my teachers. Many of the men and women that instructed me had good advice for inside and outside of the classroom. My teachers were dependable and experienced so I knew I could always count on them when I was confused or stuck. Good teachers create bright futures.” – Rachel Mahagan Georgetown H.S. ’13

“Definitely last football season.” (They went all the way to the state final game) – Mason Alexander GHS ’13

“Attending every football game, pep-rally, and getting involved in the Blue Crew Club. Getting involved and not just letting life go by was one of the best decisions I made.” – Addie Downs GHS ’13

The worst part?

 “Realizing how nasty people can be. How horrible this world we live in is. Everything in high school becomes so much more real. I feel like I still don’t know how cruel our world is because I have been sheltered living in Georgetown. So I guess a shorter version of this would be “growing up”.” – Kiersten Gonzales GHS ’13

“Trying to find true, good, genuine friends. That’s nearly an impossible thing to do. People change a lot in 4 years and most of [my friends] got involved in stuff they shouldn’t have.” – Ryan Rickerson GHS ’13

“Probably the school part. School definitely is not my favorite thing and does not come easy for me, which usually resulted in me crying every night before a math test, and many hours of hard work. I also lost one of my favorite teachers in the world and senior English teacher in a tragic car accident in January, which made my second semester even more difficult.” – Addie Downs GHS ’13

What’s the biggest thing you feel like God has done in your life in high school? How did that happen?

 “I think the biggest thing God did for me during high school was showing me that life isn’t always easy for people. Good people go through terrible things and it doesn’t make sense but if you keep your faith in him everything turns out okay in the end.” – Haley Jacobs GHS ’13

“After a couple of REALLY unhealthy relationships He taught me that not only is He enough He is more than enough and that my identity is found in Him.” – Charity Sagebiel Bangs H.S. ’13

“God had me grow up and mature a lot faster than I expected when my dad started working out of town. I was forced to take on more responsibilities” – Mason Alexander GHS ’13

If you had one thing you could change what would it be and why?

 “I wish I would’ve gone a little bit more out of my comfort zone to meet more people instead of keeping to myself at times.” – Amanda Bunch GHS ’13

“I wouldn’t change anything because it has made me the person I am today. I’ve made so many mistakes, I’ve been rude to people, I’ve done senseless things but hey I’m not perfect. I’ve learned from my mistakes and try very hard not to make them again.” – Kiersten Gonzales GHS ’13

“I’d spend more alone time with God. This summer 15 minutes a day in His Word has turned into hours! It’s amazing! I already feel Him changing my heart and my mind.” – Charity Sagebiel BHS ’13

What are you most looking forward to about college?

 “In college, I look forward to meeting new people and learning new things. I’m excited about getting into my major and beginning this “future” I’ve been told about for the past several years. I’m ready to break out of my shell and experience new things and I think college will help with that. Going to Howard Payne, I’m also excited about strengthening my relationship with God.” – Rachel Mahagan GHS ’13

“Starting out at UMHB I like the fact that its a positive environment encouraging students to keep their walk with God the biggest priority. I’m also excited about starting off with a great foundation of friends (cheer team)” – Amanda Bunch GHS ’13

“I’m looking forward to being away from home, making new friends, and some Texas A&M football.” – Mason Alexander GHS ’13

Most nervous about?

 “Getting around campus and College Station I’m horrible with directions and a bad driver when Im in an area I don’t know.” – Charity Sagebiel BHS ’13

“I am most nervous about managing my time. I am a big procrastinator. I work better under stress but waiting till the last minute isn’t going to fly in college.” – Kiersten Gonzales GHS ’13

“My biggest worry is how I’ll be paying for college. It’s going to be a tough time to get an education whil working a job and I might not be able to keep up with it all.” – Ryan Rickerson GHS ’13

What advice would you give an incoming freshman about the next four years?

 “Get involved as much as you can. Don’t hold back on introducing yourself and meeting new people. Also joining a club or group of people who are positive influences” – Amanda Bunch GHS ’13

“Try your absolute best in school, be yourself, don’t take high school too seriously, and whatever you do love people and keep a strong relationship with God.” Haley Jacobs ’13

What about to an incoming senior about their last year?

“Cherish the freedom you have at home before you’re shipped off to college. Free laundry and food are two luxuries that college will change for you. Mend broken relationships. My dad and I don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things and I don’t agree with the way he lives. However, the past year I have worked to respect him because he is my family and I don’t want to leave without him knowing that I’ll always love him despite his flaws. Make your senior year count. Go to all the school events and hang out with all of your friends as much as you can. There are a lot of people you may never see again. Lastly, don’t give up your grades. My class rank went up ten places because other people decided to slack off. Ten places is a lot in the top ten percentile. Grades are really important your senior year (even second semester!) because it’s the last chance you have to prove yourself before you start engraving numbers on your college transcript. Good luck.” – Rachel Mahagan GHS ’13

“Know your deadlines and apply for scholarships. Make a little booklet or something and apply for all the scholarships you can get your hands on – that’s a job in itself! You can reuse a lot of your essays too! But most importantly pray and listen to God’s direction. He might not even be calling you to go to college.” – Ryan Rickerson

“Don’t wish senior year away. Your time to graduate will come, fast…so don’t waist time wishing it would come faster. Enjoy seniority and see it as an opportunity to invest in those younger than you. It’s cool. Above all the fun— take the position you are thrown into as an opportunity to make a difference in your high school.” – Addie Downs GHS ’13

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Posted by on June 28, 2013 in Friday Interviews


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Prayer and Conversation

This summer I’m focusing on prayer with students. In my own life I’ve seen marked differences in times where my prayer life has been strong and steady, and when it has been weak – or non-existent.

What I’m focusing on trying to get students to understand is that prayer is less a magic eight ball that gives us the answers we want, and more a conversation with someone who is giving us an opportunity to share things they already know.

Conversation involves relationship. Even a conversation with a stranger. Our relationship to them is that of a…stranger.

Conversation involves talking. We have to take the initiative to say something. Anything. It doesn’t just happen – we have to be willing to share what’s going on for the conversation to be effective.

Conversation involves listening. This is hard for us. Listening involves the action of putting our lips together and not opening them. Listening, really listening, involves not formulating our responses (or making a grocery list) while the other person is still communicating to us.

Conversation involves accepting hard truth. What the other person says may not be what we want to hear, but sometimes it is what we need to hear.

All these things and more are important for us to take into our prayer life. We’re using the Lord’s Prayer (or “Model Prayer”) as a framework for our conversations on prayer. Each week as we start we pray it together as it is found in The Message:

Our Father in heaven,

Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
What do you do to strengthen your prayer life?

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Guest Post: Family Time

Last week Shanna shared about the idol of the “perfect family“. This week she wraps up her guest posts about family talking about managing time as a family in the busy, busy world we live in. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading Shanna’s thoughts! For more great thoughts on parenting (and to follow the lives of the Downs Crew, you can follow Shanna on twitter.

As the parents of five children, most people assume that we are super busy. I will say that during the summer months we are busier than usual but for the most part we have never been the family that had something every night of the week. Here are a just a few ways that we kept our extracurricular activities in check as we added children every other year for seven years to our crazy crew.

Not Your “Normal” Birthday

We decided with baby #3, our only son Micah, that we would no longer have a birthday party every year where everything seemed like a big blur when it was over. Nope. We would celebrate at home with some cupcakes, a roaring rendition of the “Happy Birthday” from their siblings (complete with “cha cha cha”) and homemade cards (now that they can drive, they can go buy their sibling one if they would like).  We have a tradition of making a video where we sit each child down and interview them on their birthday and ask them the same fun questions each year.

It was never a big deal or anything to fuss about that the yearly, over the top birthday’s ceased. We just started the brain washing process early that you only invite friends to have a birthday party every other year beginning when you are 1 and when you turn 8 you don’t have a big party again until you are 12 and then once again when you are 16 years old.  Somewhere in there, I try to throw in a surprise party for them, mainly because I always wanted one growing up so I figure I get five of them this way.

Extra Effort For Extra Curriculars

We also decided after we added Micah to our family that we would not start any child in extracurricular activities until our children were in elementary school. At that time, they could choose ONE extracurricular activity to participate in and they would need to finish the season before they could be done with that choice and choose something else.

We did alter our decision a bit with that sweet little boy of ours and let him play Upward Basketball when he was 4 and man, he was a baller even way back then! That was also the year that I realized that I would need to go on anxiety medication to continue to attend his games. One parent refused to believe he was 4 years old and was asking to see his birth certificate! That’s another post all by itself.

As far as guidelines on what they were allowed to choose, it was really up to them. We would introduce the activity and tell or show them something about it then lay their options out for them. We would then pray with them together about it and encouraged them to pray on their own about their decision. Another wise mom shared this idea with me to encourage them to pray about all their decisions and I adopted it.

Over the years one or more of the Downs’ children have participated in softball, baseball, piano, voice lessons, soccer, lacrosse, flag football, Pop Warner football, ballet, hip hop, gymnastics, Brownies, volleyball and swim team (which about killed me, as I am not an early bird mommy). When they are in 7th grade, they can participate in one school activity and one out of school activity. So far, it has worked very well to keep our weekly and weekend schedule manageable.

When They Don’t “Make The Team”

I remember well when one of my daughters tried out for a team and couldn’t open her letter that would tell her if she made the team until she was off of school property. I had prepared her and myself I thought for what was in the envelope, however, the tears came (from us both) as we read the news that she had not made the team.

Yes, it was a hard lesson however, if I am going to say that I believe everything in the Bible to be true then I must put my faith in action. When I tell my daughter that God has a plan and that may not include her making the volleyball team or if that we believe that HE is in control of every detail in our life then when something doesn’t turn out the way we want it to we have to accept it and move on. That might include practicing more in order to make next year’s team if that is your goal; it may also include looking into some other things you are interested in and exploring those options.

Have A Plan

David and I recognized early on as we added to our family that if we didn’t make some guidelines about how our family would spend and commit our time then it would quickly get away from us. We knew that it was important for us to spend time with our children teaching them things about the Lord and just having time to hang out….with NO real plans, just being with each other. With that as a parenting goal, we were able to establish what the plan would be for spending time on extracurricular things as a family.

In Tim Kimmel’s book, Little House on the Freeway, he says, “Everyday life must always be lived against the backdrop of eternity.”  What a great reminder!

Recommended reading:  “Little House on the Freeway:  Help for the Hurried Home” by Tim Kimmel, “Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, & Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives” by Richard Swenson and “The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family” by Patrick Lencioni.

Do you find your family fighting for time? What do you do?

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Posted by on June 25, 2013 in Guest Post


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Will Power Sucks.

Over the last few months I’ve started to be way more intentional about working toward personal and professional goals. I’ve been reading tons of blogs, articles and books on the subject of “dream chasing”, goal setting, and similar subjects. There’s several things they all have in common, but here’s the one I’ve struggled with the most:

Getting up earlier.

I’m a night owl. Staying up late is no big deal for me. But getting up early? That’s rough. I’ve become a master at knowing just how long I need to get ready and get somewhere and rolling out of bed no earlier than needed.The thing about night time? Even though I’m fine staying up later, I don’t feel like doing much of anything other than watching whatever tv show I happen to be cruising through (I’ve currently started “Hart of Dixie” and dropped “Gossip Girl”).

Then it happened. I was reading “Start” by Jon Acuff and he addressed this very issue. He talks about a research project that studied will power, he talks about several other books that use the same study to talk about habits and work…the conclusion of the study? We have a limited amount of will power. I stopped and thought…“Will-power sucks…” This great resource that helps us determine what will and won’t get done based on how much we want to…isn’t endless? Miserable. The point? If we’re looking to fully invest in the things we want to work on? Why not work on them when we’ve got the most amount of will power available to us? First thing in the morning.

So, for the last several weeks I’ve tried to do things incrementally. I set my alarm clock a little earlier every day. Unfortunately I haven’t gotten up any earlier once. In two and a half weeks, I just hit the “off” button on my phone alarm and keep on snoozing.

This morning? I was determined. I was going to get up at 6:15 and hit the ground running. Instead I woke up at 3:28 a.m. with a  migraine. I don’t know if you’ve ever had an honest to goodness migraine headache, but they’re pretty much the worst. This one was mild compared to some I’ve had that have rendered me completely useless. I got up and popped some medicine anyway – I wanted to be rested to wake up in a few hours.

I never got back to sleep. The migraine left, but I kept tossing and turning. It was like my body was determined to keep me awake for my wake-up call. At 5 I got tired of listening to our neighbors rooster. So I got up, showered, made breakfast, spent time reading my BIble, spent time in prayer, and wrote this post in place of what was supposed to go up today.

Alright, hang with me. Maybe we actually do need to get up earlier. If you’re like me, sometimes you get a Case of the Mondays because you feel like there’s not enough time to do the things you want to do, and the things you need to do. There’s never going to be more time in the day, but we can use the time there is better. It may mean going to bed earlier (first to build the discipline, and then because you’re exhausted).

This week I’m going to keep getting up at 5. I’m giving this whole idea a one week trial run, because I’m tired of getting to the end of the day and having the desire to read, or write, or do something I enjoy, but not having the will power to do it. So. If you’re up at 5 a.m.? Call or text me and keep me honest. If you’re up for it, join me this week to get up at 5 a.m. and do whatever it is that you wish you had the will-power to do at 9 p.m.

Are you a “night owl”, or a morning person? What would you work on if you had more will-power at the end of the day?

Grace & Peace,


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Posted by on June 24, 2013 in Cases of Mondays


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A Wife, A Mom, And An Artist: An Interview With Casey Stippick

Casey Stippick is my sister in law – but more than that has become a good friend. I’ve watched her raising three wonderful kids with my brother as well as develop her love and passion for painting. Over the last few months she’s been able to work harder at this than in the last few years and things have been going really well. I’ve been really interested for a long time in talking with her about her art and this week she took the time to answer some of my questions. I hope you enjoy.

Tell my readers about yourself.

I am a wife, and artist, and mother to three little ones, Eden who is almost 6, Jude who is 7, and Kane who is 8. For the past five years, I have worked as a commissioned artist while staying home to raise my children. Last year when my youngest entered kindergarten, I began taking steps to turn my artistic passion into a career. Now I finally get to take my art in my own direction.

How long have you been painting/drawing?

I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. When I was very young, probably around four or five, I used to sit with a sketch book and draw scenes from Disney movies for hours. Since the movies were on VHS, I would get the movie to the scene I wanted to draw, then hit the pause button and sketch away. The plan was flawed though. The VCR would only stay paused for a couple minutes before the video would automatically begin to play again. Every drawing was a race against the VCR’s internal timer. Little did I know, timing sketches is actually a common technique used in art classes to develop speed and accuracy, but are usually, you know, a little less princess-y. I had sketchbooks full of all the greatest Disney princess love scenes.

 What first got you into it, and what is it that draws you to that?

I think that I have always had this intense desire to capture the world around me. When I see something that is beautiful, I just want to put it on paper, to keep as a little reminder of the things in life that have moved me. In a way, it is kind of like taking photographs of emotions– little snapshots of the times I’ve felt the joy, and sadness, and beauty of the world.

What do you use for “inspiration”? If a reader were to go to your Etsy shop they’d see some pictures of owls, a fox, a deer, things like that – do you use a photo, or ones you seen, or do they…spring up from your mind?

I am most inspired by nature. For the animal pieces, I usually start my work from photos to get the initial form, but after that, my imagination takes over to fill in the patterns that create the textures of the piece. Once I have been drawing an animal for long enough, I start to get a feel from the creature and begin to work without referencing photographs.

How difficult is it to start from absolute scratch for a painting? Without something to go off of?

It can be hard to get started on a piece, especially from scratch, but I have learned that if the piece presents too much of a challenge in the beginning, then it is not the right piece for me at that time. When I am inspired, it all goes pretty smoothly. I just need a very clear idea of how I want to start the piece, and then it all naturally flows from there. Very rarely do I know how a piece will look when I first begin it.

Which do you do more of? Having something like a photo or “live object”, or just what’s in your head.

I generally bounce back and forth between drawing animals, found objects, and illustrating my own poetry.   I have a huge collection of shells, fossils, arrowheads, plants, driftwood, and other nature trinkets that I use to create my found object art.

Which do you prefer, and why?

I wouldn’t say that I have a preference necessarily. I mostly do whatever inspires me most at the time. I would say though that I really do love creating “found object” art because many of the items are little keepsakes that my kids have collected from our vacations and their daily exploration of the outdoors.  These are items hold sentimental value to me, and turning them into artwork makes me, and them, happy.

Do you have a favorite piece you’ve done? Why was it your favorite?

My favorite piece tends to be my most recent piece, but then I make a new piece and change my mind. I fall quickly in and out of love with my pieces. I think that it is probably for the best when you are in the business of selling your art though. Sometimes after spending 50+ hours on one piece, the thought of seeing it go is really hard, but then you make the next piece and feel less attached to the piece from before. Every once in a while, I just can’t see one go and decide to hold onto it.

You have three kids under the age of ten…how does being mom, wife, sister, homemaker, all the hats you wear…how does that work? How do you balance that?

The key is flexibility and division of household responsibilities. Being a mom and wife come first, always. If the kids are happy and well cared for, I have much more time to work on art. The kids and I have learned to balance my work needs, and family time with the division of household responsibilities. They help with the laundry, dishes, cooking, and housework, while I am working on my artwork and keeping up with my online shop.  In return, I have more time on my hands to do the things they want to do, like swimming and rollerblading. They love the independence, and feel proud of their contribution to the family. My husband, Joe, has always been my biggest advocate and supporter. He believes in me when I don’t believe in myself. He has always encouraged me to follow my artistic pursuits. It often takes the whole family working together, and there are still a lot of late night hours for me, but all in all, it is working out nicely.

Has there been anything about having kids, or married life, or life as you know it now that’s inspired any of your pieces?

I think that some of my love for nature has come from seeing the world through my kids’ eyes. When you have very small kids, they are delighted by so many small wonders in nature- from bugs, to leaves, to stones. My children like to collect these items and give them to me as gifts. Listening to the kids explain to me that this rock is special because it is shaped like a heart, and this beetle is amazing because it changes color in the sunlight, and this feather is pretty because it has stripes has changed the way I see the little things in life. 

Just over two months ago you opened up a shop for your pieces on Etsy, what’s that been like?

It has been a little nerve wracking and very exciting! It is a little scary to share my art with the world, and I worried about whether others would like it. My shop is still very young, but I am so excited to what the future holds. Etsy is a great business tool!

How has that been different from doing specific pieces for people you likely know or who were referred to you?

After working mostly on commission pieces for the past few years, creating my own original pieces is a welcomed change. Now I get to work exclusively in my own style, with subjects that move me. The freedom is especially fulfilling.

You’ve got some pretty exciting news about your paintings coming up. Can you tell us about that?

Yes, very exciting! I am still in the process of getting all the details nailed down so I can’t talk about it in full yet, but basically I will be merchandising some of my work for a home décor line.

That’s incredible, how’d that happen?

I was contacted after being discovered on Etsy!

So, when can people expect to see some of that come to fruition?

Hopefully in January 2014.

Do you know yet where people will be able to get those pieces?

I don’t, but I will be sure to announce it on my Facebook page when I know for sure!

I’ve had the privilege of knowing you for quite a few years – I remember times where you were doing window art for some local businesses – how does it feel to see your dream go from that to where it is now?

I have truly enjoyed all the artistic things I have done to get to this point, but I am really excited to be doing what I am now.  I just feel unbelievably lucky to get to make a career from doing what I love. There is no greater feeling for me as an artist than creating a piece of art that someone else loves enough to purchase for their own home.

Any advice you’d give to someone just starting out?

I would say to surround yourself with people who support you, and stick with it. It isn’t always fast or easy, but if doing what you love is always worth the wait and hard work.

Where can people connect with you and your work online?

You can see all my work, both originals and prints, currently for sale at my online Etsy shop here.


You can follow me on Facebook here:


You can email me here:


Do you have any questions for Casey?


Grace & Peace,



Posted by on June 21, 2013 in Friday Interviews