Saturday, April 27, 2013

A week in Big Sandy, TX with the Duggars...

We are on our way back home from the ATI conference in Big Sandy, TX. It really challenged us in our Christian walk, faith and parenting. Just like with anything new our discernment was heightened and ready to decipher error. We didn't find any here. We found families that love the Lord with all their heart and in turn want their children to love the Lord. In the week we spent camping with all the families there was nothing but encouragement, even when one night it poured down rain all night, the temperature surprisingly dropped to the 40s and numerous tent campers got completely soaked, only the words, "the Lord is so good" slipped through smiling lips and sweet demeanors. The true joy of the Lord was abounding at this conference and everyone was a shining light of peace. There was no snapping or loud remarks when dealing with children (and there were A LOT of children!) just gentle words of correction and no griping in the hour long latte line just sweet fellowship with brothers and sisters. I don't think I have ever been so encouraged to meditate on the Word and put prayer first so that I can make that true joy and peace part of my daily Christian walk. I need to know the Savior I serve so I can love to go to work for Him everyday in all I do!
Yes, we met the Duggars and the Bates. There were really just families. Families that love to serve the Lord. Families with normal children that misbehave. Families that stop to take the time to lovingly correct their children instead of getting frustrated and resorting to yelling. Families that love each other because they know where true love comes from. Families that are not perfect. Families that express their daily failures that lead them closer to their need for their Savior. I did get one on one fellowship with Michelle Duggar, she and I sat in the dim light of the campsite, past 10pm and just talked. I picked her brain on homeschooling, parenting and time for marriage with so many children. She really is just another mom in the daily grind, looking to Jesus for guidance, messing up, apologizing and teaching her kids God's Word. She has 24 years of parenting experience of 19 different personalities which makes her far more wise with much more time to learn from bumps and mistakes along the way. Since the Duggars were parked directly behind us I had a chance to just observe for 4 days. Too many times to count I saw Michelle tidying up the campsite, chasing lost socks and gently pulling little ones out of the dirt. She truly is serving these kids with her life. I had the chance to speak with Jana, Jinger and Jill, all of which were stunningly beautiful, very wise and full of joy. They took a great interest in our little ones and were so sweet to them, saying "hi" to them by name every time they passed by. Josie was quite the wild child but Michelle was so gentle, yet faithful to stop what she was doing time and time again to remind Josie the proper way to behave. Anthony found many friends in the Duggar boys and when telling us stories about their play together I was pleasantly surprised that their character-focused God-centered curriculum was really showing through in their behavior. We went to the Bates dorm parties two separate nights and they were so giving and definitely have the gift of hospitality. We mainly went there for a sweet couple of 7 kids, the Dempsters, they had staying with them that has adopted and I just loved picking their brain and sharing stories!
Here are some pictures from our week in Texas!
 Family Picture!
                              Our campsite                               Folding picnic table I found on craigslist for $15!

                     Two little poppers!                                                       Maggie and Josie Duggar

                         Mirabel tight-roping                                                      Dirty Maggie!

                    Mirabel at Pre-Embassy                                               Anthony at ALERT cadet challenge

            Blanket time during conference                          The only way I can keep track of 2 little ones

Risa with friends, Josie is hanging upside down :)            Risa and Maggie with Jen and Josie Duggar

Late night fellowship with Jill, Ally and Christie!                 Babies napping at conference session

The big Friday night Duggar cook-out, our backyard                 I love Mrs. Dempster! (at Bates dorm)

We loved little Esther! She is 3 with Spina Bifida           Daddy, kinda, sorta, bought a new toy ($600)

                   Flying in the golf cart                                      Thank you Gator for reinforcements!!!

We had such a great time! We made lifelong friends! We will be going back next year, God willing! We have such an awesome God-given Nanny and Gator who take care of us and our kids like grandparents! We are going to stop in Mobile, AL to attend Steve Lawson's church in the morning then only a 4 hour trek home! Once home I will have to hustle to unpack and repack the RV in two days, because May 1st Brian and I are headed to Nashville, TN for the Christian Alliance for Orphans - Summit9 conference!!!
Click here for our blog post about the 2014 conference
Click here for our blog post about the 2015 conference

Posted by Shannon
Soli Deo gloria - Glory to God alone


  1. I am so glad that God gave you this incredible time with Christian families.

    1. Thank you Karen! It truly was a blast and such an uplifting encouragment!

  2. Countdown until your return has commenced! Hallelujah!

    1. Thanks for coming to see us last night! The kids loved sharing their stories with their favorite Gator!!!

  3. I'm not quite sure how I can across your blog but I find you and your family so inspiring! So cool that you guys met the Duggars! They seem like such kind-hearted people. And now they are praying about adoption! :)

  4. I just happened upon your blog today and I'm so glad. My family and I attended the Big Sandy Conference last year for the first time too. We loved it! The people were so sweet, genuine and Godly. We can't wait to go this year. I hope we get to meet you there. (We'll be in the dorms this year) Btw, you have a beautiful family.

    1. We visited the Bates dorm often last year to see their friends, the Dempsters, staying with them. We will be doing the same this year so I am sure I will see you there!

  5. Hi!! My name is Becky. My husband and i have four boys and another due in december. Weve just recently trusted God with our fertility and decided to become debt free!Ive really enjoyed reading your blog and was excited to read that you passed through Mobile since thats where we live! Were struggling to find likeminded local friends :( i would love to get to know you better through email if thats ok! Mine is
    God bless you and yours!

  6. We are looking into attending the conference in 2015 I hope we get a chance to meet your family as well as others.