Like Family


posted by Sarah in Family Fun, Friends & Fellowship

Meet the S Family – this lovely group of people found one of our blogs and started reading a while back… which led to following other blogs. Someone left a comment {which we all read}, mentioning a little about their family and life and entrepreneurial endeavors…


<The Billy Graham Library, Christmas 2014>

This past June we attended a homeschool conference in Nashville TN… and guess who sat in the row behind us that entire week…? I turned around at the end of the first evening session, and someone said “You’re The Country Muffin!” And that’s how our families officially met in person.

What drew our families together is quite a story. Through a series of divinely appointed events…


Their son Nathan started talking on the phone with David on a weekly basis, shortly after the conference in June. I started emailing the mom and writing the daughters. We exchanged occasional phone calls as well. Then in July someone came up with the big idea that we should invite this sweet family to come for Christmas.


<The Farming Game…>

It was really just a passing thought… I mean seriously, who is going to drive over 20 hours from KS to visit a family they hardly know for an entire week – and during the Christmas season?! It was a nice idea.


<Ice-cream sundaes on Saturday>

They liked it. We liked it.

But some sticky circumstances made it difficult. Dog care for 4 dogs. A place to stay on the way. Scheduling details {with relatives wanting to visit them as well}…

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We had to prepare ourselves *many* times to give up the whole idea. Doors kept opening, and closing… opening and closing. The visit did not look very promising… but we were still hopeful.

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<S & S sisters… and… a gingerbread house building contest!>

And then someone announced that it was happening. Actually happening! The news was shared with our family through a very creative message written on a whiteboard. We laughed and squealed, and talked and talked and talked about how *excited* we were! Gifts were prepared and special foods planned… and activities!

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<Games and puzzles… so so many! >

And then, Wednesday December 24th they arrived!! They were scheduled to arrive Tuesday evening, but terrible weather conditions made it that the trip took *much* longer than planned. Bethany and I were the *very happy* 2 who waited up until past 1 am to hug all our stranger friends as they piled in through the front door – exhausted, hungry, and happy. :-)


<4 on a couch>

What a week! 7 days packed FULL of excitement!

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Singing, games, football, basketball, thrift-store shopping, family devotionals, gingerbread-house building contest, a birthday celebration, laughing, fellowshipping over food, hugs, wrestling, reading, story-telling, baking, early mornings and late/early nights ;-)


On one occasion we took them to a fun grocery store, Trader Joe’s {they live a LONG way from just about any store that is familiar to most of us} – Mrs. S and all her daughters plus the 3 of us Stelzl girls. Many people stopped to ask if we were all sisters, and we had a lovely conversation with a sweet polish lady who was stocking shelves, and a fun mother of 4 whose bright smile encouraged us to stop and thank her for being a cheerful worker.


<The Billy Graham Library>

We played crazy football in soft squishy mud after lots of rain… slipping and sliding… and then indoors to scrub out all our clothes and be clean again.

The guys worked on David’s van, tightening the power steering belt and replacing the hose. :-)


We played basketball… a small injury resulted in unexpected excruciating pain a few hours later, and then a trip to the bone doctor day after Christmas to see if an ankle fracture had occurred. Many hands worked together to help me recover quickly. A tea soak, oils, crutches, a brace, and even a sweet sister climbing up into my bunk bed to wrap my foot up for me when I couldn’t move or help myself at all. Games helped the pain to be a little more bearable. The bruised bone {fractured tiny outer layer on the bone} recovered in less than 2 days and soon we were back outside playing football, capture the flag, follow the judge to court, and other fun games {including after-dark games}.

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We visited the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte and then drove to Mcadenville {also known as Christmas Town USA} to see the beautiful Christmas lights all throughout the town.

One evening the parents went out on a dinner date, and all the kids stayed behind to eat homemade pizza and have a blast!


<Gingerbread house building contest – Team 1: Abigail, Bethany, David, Hannah, Rachel, Jonathan>


<Team 2 – Sarah, Ruth, Josiah, Timothy, Nathan, Naomi>


We took a walk throughout the neighborhood on Christmas day, which involved a few of us girls chasing away 2 over-friendly dogs {we had brought along our 2 german shepherds} while the others started back towards home… and then we raced down the hill to catch up with them.


<Silly faces ;-) >

We talked about embarrassing moments. A few actually occurred during various outings planned throughout the visit, which made for much laughter around the table at dinner time! :-)



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Naomi and I {both in pink} have so much in common that everyone began calling us “the twins”. We discovered a few more pairs of twins between our families as well… and even 2 sets of triplets ;-) … which made things all the more fun!

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One thing we love about the S family is that they say “Good Mornin’ ” in a really fun way… no matter what time of day it is. It’s a fun greeting that makes everyone smile, and it’s especially funny when it’s later in the evening or well into the afternoon.

It’s rather contagious…in fact, it’s quickly becoming a Stelzl phrase ;-)

Just for the record, between our 2 families we have a lot of fun phrases and sayings in common. It’s super fun when you can say “You mean y’all say that too!?”

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<S & S Families Christmas 2014>

It’s rare. So rare in life that you meet a family that you hit it off with right away. A connection takes place, a bonding is established. You find yourself relating to them in so many ways… agreeing on big and small matters… seeing things from the same perspective. You laugh about the same things and share similar concerns. Simple conversations become heart to heart talks wherein both walk away encouraged and challenged toward a deeper friendship and a closer walk with Christ.

That’s how it was with the S family. It was more than a visit with great people. It was more than a time of getting to know friends as better FRIENDS. It was more then fun and food and fellowship.

It was beautiful connection.

As we said to one another all week long… y’all are like family now.

Thank you so much S family for coming *so* far, and going through *so much* to make this visit happen. We are grateful that the Lord worked this out, and are truly looking forward to the next visit!!

We love you all so much. <3

See more pictures here.


Smoky Mountain Backpacking Trip


posted by Stelzl Family in Family Fun, Trips & Travels

November 14th – November 16th, 2014

Smoky Mountains, North Carolina


At the trail head… starting off into the wilderness for 3 days. The field behind us was full of elk {they had moved farther down by the time we took this picture}.


The first evening… FREEZING and trying to keep warm around a toasty fire. The temperature was a high of 30’s that day.


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Food always tastes better around a campfire in the mountains…especially roasted hot dogs and toasted buns. Grateful to have remembered the ketchup this time ;-) !

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Keeping warm… warm fires were a highlight of this trip. :-)

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Approaching camp on the second day.




Morning sleepy faces – just for the record, the adorable little guy on the left *never* did run out of energy. ;-)



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Playing in the river… we did that for a while on the second afternoon after arriving at camp a little early.

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Historical site along the trail… this house depicts the lives of early settlers. Not far from the trail head there were a church and school house built in the early 1900’s, also 2 cemeteries that we passed.



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Heading home. :-)

Family Fun Day


posted by Sarah in Family Fun, Friends & Fellowship

Each Fall the families in our church like to get together and camp out for a weekend (at a local state park), or have a day of fellowship, food, and fun! This year we had the privilege of hosting the family fun day at our home.

Many hands (and thoughtful minds) worked together to organize games, relay races, contests, and fun activities for the families to enjoy together. Prizes were picked out for the winning teams (teams were organized by families), and meals arranged. It’s a tradition to have ‘walking tacos’ at lunch – basically a bag (or plate) of corn chips with all the mexican toppings. We ordered pizza for dinner, and made a bonfire with s’mores at dark.

Fun times! Here are a few pictures from the day. :-)


The first of many clues…

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Blindfolded obstacle course – fathers led their families around obstacles, by calling out directions (and others were allowed to yell all sorts of confusing directions to try and steer them off course).


Keeping time


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The marshmallow race – grab your marshmallow, put it on a spoon. Run to the other end of the yard and back (without dropping it!). If you drop it, pick it up and turn around three times without dropping it. You are racing other members of the opposing teams and want to get your team through the fastest!

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Write 4 words – the goal is for the person at the back of each team line to pass up 4 words (one letter at a time) – and the person at the front of each team has to correctly collect the letters as they are passed up (written on backs, no talking allowed!) and write them down. The team with the most correct words wins.



Friends :-)

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The balloon race…tie on your balloon(s) (a certain number of balloons required per team) and run across the yard and back without popping it or losing it (both happened by the way!). In the end you have to pop it so your next team member can run. Get your team through the fastest. If you lose your balloon or pop it, you have to get another one on and finish!


Move the mulch pile relay race!! Oh yeah! Families work together to get 6 big buckets of mulch collected and raced down to the garden (a designated trail and dumping place were marked out in the garden).


The H family discusses who will shovel, run the buckets, etc. Only 2 people allowed to shovel at once. Teamwork here guys!!


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Go teams go!!

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Volcano game… move your family across the yard with pieces of cardboard. No one can ever step off the cardboard pieces, and you have to always have a free piece of cardboard to keep the team making progress! Cardboard pieces are lost by letting go (which means you can choose to run the entire yard and earn one back) or stepping off.

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Sweet brothers at play.



Family/team legged race!



IMG_2563What a blast! We so enjoyed our time as families – fellowshipping, participating in the different activities, and eating fun foods together. Thank you to all the sweet families who came to spend the day and make our time extra special! We are looking forward to next year’s event (whatever that may be)! :-)

P.S. Thanks to Hannah for *all* these fun pictures! :-)

Family Connection


posted by Stelzl Family in Exhortation & Encouragement, Ministry Opportunities

Earlier this week we had the wonderful opportunity to host a Family Connection Evening in our home! A team of bright young people have been traveling around the United States sharing encouragement with groups of families who come together for a weekend (in our case evening) of fellowship, food and exhortation!

We were so privileged to have David and Priscilla Waller (along with 3 of David’s brothers and another young man) and their little son Paul (plus a little one on the way!!!) here in our home. We were blessed to have many families come and spend the evening here, including several that we had not met, or did not know very well at all.

The evening was filled with wonderful messages and testimonies, singing, and sharing… One of the young men (Gabriel) challenged us with a deeper understanding of what it means to meditate, and why we need to be continually meditation on God’s Word, hiding His truths in our hearts. It was a powerful testimony that really convicted and encouraged each of us. We were grateful for all that was prepared and shared by the team!

Thank you Wallers (and Gabe) for traveling here to share with us! We so enjoyed the time spent fellowshipping and learning, and studying God’s Word together. We pray the Lord’s blessings on your team as you continue to travel for several more weeks, and also for each of the families that will come to be blessed and refreshed – as we were. :-)

Cheesecake… a Family Outing


posted by Stelzl Family in Family Fun

Following our arrival back home from Honey Brook Farms, the entire family took a special, fun outing! Some very sweet friends blessed us with a trip to the Cheesecake Factory! What a fun surprise – you should have heard the happiness when that day when someone brought the mail in and found gift cards!! :-)

Several in our family have been to the cheesecake at one time or another, but we’ve never been altogether as a family… and even then it’s been years! So what a treat… and one that we enjoyed to the fullest!


We shared *huge* meals – so much deliciousness!!

And then we picked out our flavors of cheesecake (pumpkin, tiramisu, chocolate peanut butter, and dutch apple) – which by then we were all almost stuffed anyway, so everyone took 1 or 2 bites and brought home the rest to enjoy the following day. :-)

Fun times, and what a sweet and relaxing way to finish off a long day of travel (for the 3 of us that were returning from the Wilkes’ in VA) and be together again as a family.

Thank you to the sweet family who surprised us with this very unexpected and SPECIAL gift. We so appreciate you, and love you! The Lord bless you richly in return, for your kindness and generosity! :-)