The Van Epps Wedding Toast: The Songbird and the Tree

On Thursday we got to celebrate with my sister as she declared her love and became Mrs. Van Epps. Her new husband is one of the most thoughtful and considerate men I’ve ever met and we are so happy for them.

The wedding was small, intimate, and beautiful. My sister’s children stood up with them as best man, maid of honor and “wedding princess”. It was very sweet.

And, of course, I had to give a toast. I wish I could find a way to get paid to write individualized wedding toasts for people, cause I really love it. It’s like my secret skill that I only get to utilize once every few years.

So, here’s my toast for my sister and her new husband.


The Songbird and the Tree

Once upon a time there was a little song bird. She was beautiful and her song attracted people from far and wide. She had dramatic golden feathers and eyes that glistened like starlight. Her song was lively and vivacious, full of zest for life.

She had been caged. She had been wounded, but she was strong.

In another part of the forest there was a tree. Full of hope for the future, it’s branches stretched towards a sky full of dreams, and yet the little tree was grounded and rooted at the same time.

Sometimes various birds perched in the tree to rest, but none captured the heart of the tree. The tree was looking for something different, something unique, someone special.

One day the little song bird flew by the tree and landed nearby. The tree saw that she had been a caged bird and decided she wasn’t his type. But, then she began to sing. Her song was strong and fierce with conviction and the tree leaned in to hear more. Soon he was lost in the songbirds starlight eyes. And she in his strong stable branches. And before long the strong tree had become the safe place, the open haven, the little bird had been searching for.

He supported her when she felt weak, cheered her on when she wanted to fly. And gave her a safe place. He was thoughtful, considerate and kind. When the sun beat down he moved his branches to give her shade. When the winds blew he stretched big to protect her. And when her babies cried in their nest he softly rocked them to sleep on his branches.

The beautiful little songbird had found her home. And the strong tree had found his someone special.

Brie and Eric, may you both always be a safe home for each other.

May you recognize all that is unique and beautiful in one another and celebrate, and cheer on those things.

May you fly together into new dreams, touching the sky while also keeping your feet rooted to the ground.

May you have a relationship built on mutual trust, understanding and freedom.

May you speak truthfully and kindly to each other.

May you fight rarely and when you do fight may those battles be fair and productive.

May your life together be filled with joy.

And when you find yourselves in the twilight of your life may you still be holding hands tightly and finding joy in making one another smile.

And now, would you all raise your glasses with me and toast to Eric and Brie.

Cheers! And God bless!


Rejoicing in the journey,

Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

A Random General Life Update

Well, it’s September and Love and Marriage month here on my blog is officially over – not that I won’t write about these things anymore, but the official themed month is done. This was the first time I’ve done a theme for a month and honestly it was hard for me. There were a lot of things I planned on writing about that I never got around to and there were plenty of times that I wanted to write about other things that didn’t fit with the theme.  I’m kind of glad that it’s done now and I again have freedom to write about WHATEVER.

So, today is dedicated to a little “whatever”. This is my random processing about a whole lot of things…


Yesterday I realized that the baby and I have been sick in one form or another (from Roseola, to food poisoning, to viruses, to bad head colds) all but about 6 days this month (and those days were pretty spread out). Literally it has been one thing after another. Usually this is a pretty good sign to me that I haven’t been listening to my body and that there are some emotional/spiritual issues I also haven’t been dealing with. Guess I should start listening…


We have now been back in Prague for 2 weeks – most of that time we’ve been sick. Not exactly the best way to return to a foreign country or ease our way through the culture shock. Thankfully we are finally starting to get back on Prague time and get Thaddeus to take naps and go to bed at almost normal hours… almost being the key word there. This has by far been the hardest it has ever been for me to come back to Prague. I miss the states. I miss English. I miss my family. I miss Bryan’s family. I miss all the conveniences of being in a familiar place.


I’ve missed our friends here. They are what make coming back worth it. But, because we’ve been sick we haven’t seen very many people yet. Those we have seen have been so sweet though. One friend even made us a big batch of soup, which was WONDERFUL. What a blessing to not have to cook our first few days back. Then last Thursday we went over to dinner at some of our closest friends and it was just so nice to be with them and just relax with them. We need friends on this journey and I’m glad that I have the one’s I do.


Lately I have sort of really hated being a mom. I mean most days this week I just feel like I’m not cut out for this. I can’t do it. It’s too much. It’s too overwhelming. It’s too constant. It’s the worst on days when Thad doesn’t sleep (which is often lately). I feel like I can’t even sit down and have a glass of water without being pulled on or screamed at. Bryan has been a lifesaver and so sweet through it all. He’s taken Thad for a little bit each day so that I can rest and get better. But, he can only do so much – he has to work too. Even with all Bryan’s help there have been multiple moments lately where I have SERIOUSLY wished that I never had a child. I know – I’m a terrible mom for even thinking these things. Like I said, I wasn’t cut out for this. I am not a natural born mama. It’s just not me.


This is random, but I’ve realized more and more something else that just isn’t “me” – owning pets. I am just not an animal person. I mean I wish I was. I admire people who are. But, I’m not. I just don’t get the whole animal thing.


I’ve been doing a lot of processing about the blog lately. I’ve been really struggling with what direction I want to take my blog and what type of place I want it to be. I’m realizing more and more than I’m actually not really “a blogger”. I mean I love blogging and have for years, I love writing and I do enjoy the people I meet through it. But, I’m not good at marketing my blog, I’m not consistent with my blogging, I don’t want to write in a specific theme or with a specific focus. I don’t want to spend hours upon hours a day working on my blog to make it into a business. I am realizing that I am not that kind of blogger. But, I also know that I’m not really just a personal blogger who just writes about her kids and she did that day. So, where does that put me? I’m not really sure. I guess I’m still trying to figure it out.


Many of you who are regulars here may have noticed that I haven’t participated in/hosted Two for Tuesdays the past two weeks. I’ve been meaning to give an update on that and just keep forgetting – sorry. So, basically after much discussion and thought I’ve decided that the requirements for hosting are just too much of a commitment for me at this time. I just didn’t feel like I could do the event justice. In general I’ve been trying to weed through what aspects of blogging are really important and necessary for me and which aren’t – I have felt a little bit like blogging has started to interfere with my mothering and I don’t want that to happen. So, Two for Tuesdays was the thing that contributed most to my stress level and thus it was the thing to go. I do still love what the group is doing with it though and really like the other hosts who are involved. I do still plan on participating as a contributor whenever possible and I hope that you all will too. If you want to continue participating visit any of the hosts sites, for example, Alex at A Moderate Life.


I’ve felt very confused lately about the future. It looks so unclear. For so long even though the future was unclear it didn’t really bother me, I felt like I at least knew that I was where God wanted me and we would figure out the next step as it came at us. But, lately I want a plan, I want some stability. I am not 100% sure that we are where God wants us. I don’t know where He wants us to be. I feel less convinced than ever of my ability to discern that and more confused about where we should be and what we should be doing.


If you haven’t guessed from all that I’ve written already, Love and Marriage Month wasn’t exactly love and marriage month for us in real life. It was a difficult season, not an easy celebratory one. We loved each other well, and we aren’t fighting or anything, but it just feels like there’s a lot that’s been thrown at us both internally and externally lately. We’ve held hands and faced it all together, but it hasn’t left much time for turning towards each other. That’s been sad for me.

Well, that’s my random update for now. So, how are you all doing??

Rejoicing in the journey-
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Marriage: A Picture of God’s Love

This is a guest post from my husband’s “younger uncle”, Geoff. I haven’t spent as much time with Geoff as I would like, but what little time we have spent with him and his beautiful wife, Devon, has been a deep pleasure. They are a wonderful couple who are deeply seeking God and I am excited for the future that lies ahead of them. Geoff is also sort of special to me because my wedding and the people he met there had a profound influence on his heart and were indirectly involved in leading him to make some major life changes and get into ministry. I always prayed that my wedding would be life changing for someone and Geoff was that someone. Thanks for sharing this post, Geoff! I pray that my own marriage as well as yours would always be a beautiful picture of God’s love for all who encounter it.

4155_86597503094_627823094_1842071_7986138_nI have to start off this post by saying that I am not necessarily writing out of experience. Because I have only been married a little over a year, and do not have the luxury of a 32-year marriage like my wonderful sister and previous blogger Lisa Stedman, I decided to share some thoughts that I have on the purpose and function of marriage, and the hope for my own marriage

What is so intriguing to me about marriage is what it is. There’s no doubt that if you asked 10 people what marriage is, at least 9 of them would say, “A commitment”. This is absolutely true. However, as beautiful as a lifelong commitment is and can be, if we reduce marriage down to only that, we miss out on the depth, beauty and purpose of marriage.

So if marriage is not just a commitment, then what is it? Well, to get the answer we must go to a source that defines what marriage is, the Bible. Probably one of the clearest definitions of marriage is found in Ephesians 5. Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus and speaking about this topic, and quoting the Creator of marriage Himself, he pens these words:

“’Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”’ (Eph. 5:31, 32)

Whenever God creates something, He does it with incredible purpose and marriage is no different. In fact, I believe that marriage has one of the greatest purposes in the world. And that is to be a picture to the world of what God did for us through Jesus on the cross, and our response to that.

Stories and pictures are tools used by teachers to help the listeners understand, with even more clarity, the point of the story. God is no different, and when thinking about how to clearly portray4155_86597533094_627823094_1842077_7995748_nhow fulfilling and beautiful a relationship with Him could be, He decided to use marriage. That’s why a couple verses before Paul gives his explanation we just read, he instructs husbands to “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”. And that the wives, in response to the sacrifice of their husbands, should “submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” If this is happening in a marriage, it is functioning as a picture to the rest of the world of what being in a relationship with God is like. I can’t help but think of Jesus’ words in John 17 when He says,

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

If nothing else, I hope this post serves as a reminder that there is such a beautiful purpose in our marriage that goes beyond ourselves. That if we fulfill our God-given roles in our marriages, the world might know that God sent Jesus and loves them even as He loved Him. In my opinion, there couldn’t be a more fulfilling or rewarding purpose for our marriages than this.

4155_86597133094_627823094_1842003_6622457_nGeoff Francian was married to his wife Devin in 2009. They currently live in San Diego, California. Geoff has spent the last 5 years in ministry at a local church. His passions outside of ministry include, in no particular order, both playing and watching basketball (Go Lakers!), golfing, reading, and movie nights with his wife, complete with a bottle of wine and a plate of assorted cheeses.

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

5 Things I’ve Learned in 5 Years of Marriage

One of my favorite bloggers, Vina at A Nourishing Home, recently posted a few links to articles on love and marriage. She graciously included my 5th Wedding Anniversary post. I really enjoyed reading the other links she posted and thought I’d encourage you to read them as well.

One link in particular caught my attention. It was a post called Five Marriage Tips and One Life Lesson from a couple that has also just celebrated their 5th wedding anniversary. I thought these were some great tips and loved the concept…so, I decided to steal it and put together my own list of 5 things I’ve learned in 5 years of marriage.

Here’s my list:

  1. Timing is everything. Well, maybe not everything but it is important. If you want to have a serious conversation trying to start it after a long hard day when your spouse is tired and edgy isn’t a good idea. Trying to discuss a major decision while the baby is scream is also not a good idea. If there’s stuff to be talked about TALK ABOUT IT, but find a good time to sit down together and calmly talk it through.
  2. “Encourage the positive”. That’s how my mom put it when I first got married and went complaining to her. Basically it means instead of focusing on and nitpicking at and complaining about your spouse’s imperfections (the negative), focus on and encourage and praise the good things about your spouse. It’s amazing the difference that perspective and focus can make.
  3. Share, share and share some more. Share experiences, share hobbies, share thoughts, share concerns, share worries, share about the little things that happened in your day, share life together. These little shared things bond you to each other over and over again.
  4. People fight differently, and they process feelings differently. Recognize your differences in these areas and try to meet each other half way.
  5. A marriage is a living breathing entity of its own – it grows and changes. It does NOT ever stay the same. The good, the bad and the really ugly don’t last. It won’t always be the way that it is now. There is an ebb and flow to the best and the worst marriages. Sure there are things that you can do to make the bad last longer or the good last longer, but know that no matter what no season of marriage lasts forever in its same state.

Those are my five little things I’ve learned (from personal experience) about marriage over the past five years.

What about you? What have you learned about marriage? What have you seen other people learn about marriage? I’d love to hear.

Rejoicing in the journey-
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

My Story: My Wedding Ceremony and Reception

I have a theory about weddings: On the day of the every one’s wedding something always goes wrong. Sometimes it’s a little thing, sometimes it’s a big thing, sometimes it’s easy and quick to deal with, sometimes it’s not. My friend had the ink filled tag left on her wedding dress and found it the day of the wedding. Someone else had a bumble bee fly up their pants. Sometimes the wrong flowers come. Something is bound to happen and it’s best to expect that, roll with it, and laugh.

The whole six months leading up to my wedding my parents kept telling me that “something is going to go wrong, you just need to roll with the punches.” You’d think they were paranoid I was going to go all psycho on them by how often they told me this. I guess they know me. I have a tendency to be a bit high strung and type-A and a bit of a perfectionist. I can be pretty bossy at times and especially when I was younger I had a temper to match my first-born reputation. Funnily enough I must have taken their advice to heart, or let my husband’s laid back personality rub off on me, because I think I was really calm for the six months of planning the wedding and during our Italy wedding trip. I had a few things that I really wanted – like something besides wedding cake for desert, and a good photographer, and I pushed for those things, but other than that I pretty much said whatever and let things just happen.

I decided early on that I didn’t want to be bridezilla. I didn’t want to make my bridesmaids and everyone else do and wear a bunch of things that that didn’t want to and I didn’t want to spend more than was necessary (I mean we did go to Italy, but other than that I wanted the wedding itself to be very simple). So, I let my bridesmaids each pick their own dress and I just gave them a few requirements so that they would all look good standing together. Basically I told them the dresses had to be black and had to be about knee length and that I didn’t want any of them to have exactly the same neck-line. It worked perfectly. They each choose dresses that flattered their body, that they liked and were able to wear again.

For flowers I was pretty picky about my bouquet (I wanted to have a lot of the same flowers that were in my mothers bouquet and I wanted to use some flowers that had positive traditional meanings/symbolism). But, I kept it simple and easy with the bridesmaids and had them each just carry a single long stemmed white rose. We didn’t have center pieces on the table, I didn’t pick place settings. And I let my dad pick out the menu and food for the evening.

I did sort of get in bossy take charge mode when it came to the rehearsal. I guess the director/choreographer side of me came out. And I did have one minor melt down the day of the wedding. You see the place where we were staying had three balconies. We had planned on having the ceremony on the top balcony since it had the nicest view and then doing the reception on the second balcony since it had this beautiful 900 year old tree that I thought would be lovely to eat and dance under. The day of the wedding the chef said that he wouldn’t carry the food down the stairs to the second balcony and we would have to have the reception on the first balcony. I’ll admit I did panic a little. We had to scramble to re-plan things and move the chairs and tables and we didn’t have time to rehearse the ceremony again – hence why the music for the me entering didn’t last long enough for the longer walk down the aisle on the second balcony. My dad and I ended up walking the last bit of the aisle in silence. But, really in the end I am SO glad that we switched it around. It ended up being so beautiful to get married under the giant tree and having the reception up above was perfect too. It was really how we should have planned it all along.

There were a few other little things that didn’t go quite how I wanted them – like I should have maybe been more specific in picking out our vows since I’d really wanted the old fashioned traditional “in sickness and in health, till death us do part” vows and I guess wasn’t clear enough about that with our pastor (my wonderful brother-in-law). I also didn’t realize that the photographer would want to take some more pictures after the ceremony, which I hadn’t really wanted, but it worked out fine in the end.

There are also things that I sort of wish I had done differently now. Like at the time I was uncompromising about the fact that I didn’t want posed pictures and I specifically picked a photographer who didn’t do posed pictures. Now I sort of wish we had a few nice posed one’s with some of the family. Yes, mom, you were right.

But, overall it really was the best wedding I could have ever imagined. And in the end I got to leave married to the man I love more than anyone else in the world. It was perfect.

Here are a few pictures from the day:


Getting Ready

Italy Pictures 554Walking down the Aisle

Italy Pictures 566The View From Above

J45The View from Below

J44The View from the Front

Italy Pictures 395The Reception from Above


Italy Pictures 405Leaving with my hubby (The dress I wore leaving is the same dress my mom wore leaving her wedding)

Italy Pictures 406Our Get Away Car

Rejoicing in the journey-
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.