North Carolina

Three wonderful people live in the Raleigh-Durham area: Aunt Caroline Becker-Long, Drew Brown and Tyler Hansbrough. We had a great time visiting with Brian’s Aunt Caroline in her home as well as in many local restaurants. Aunt Caroline is always up to something interesting like traveling or a project that keeps the whole Becker clan well connected. She’s just plain fun to be with. For years she has served on the Eno River Association so we visited the beautiful Eno River where we saw the remnants of the old Cole Mill operation. We also visited Duke University campus and toured the Duke Chapel. I was intrigued by the downstairs crypt where we saw casts of the Duke founding fathers lying in state. Strange.

Dinner with Aunt Caroline

Many years ago Drew Brown was a youth in the youth group that Brian and I led in Poplar Bluff. We have always thought highly of Drew and after spending time with him in his home turf we are doubly impressed with him. Drew rolled out the red carpet for us and treated the four of us to a Tarheels game. It was amazing to witness how plugged in Drew is in the Greensboro-Raleigh-Durham area where he is a successful attorney in Greensboro. He is as well known and well loved there as he is in Poplar Bluff. He’s such a great guy and we had a blast with him.

And speaking of that Tarheels game… What a thrill to see Tyler Hansbrough play! Everybody knows that I’m not much of a sports fan BUT it was so exciting to see Tyler and witness the wild Tarheels home atmosphere with Drew. Tyler’s mom, Tammy, was in town and we were glad to visit with her for a while after the game and say hi to Tyler. The boys got a pic with Coach Roy Williams and were psyched to see Tyler and Tammy again. Ben and Jack have fond memories of the Hansbroughs from living in PB. Tammy would pick them up and take them to her house where they got to play with those giant boys, Ben and Tyler. It was special to reconnect with them as well as Drew and Aunt Caroline!

As we headed west toward Missouri for some family time Brian planned a special stop for me. We spent a couple of nights in Asheville, NC. where I got to spend a day touring the Biltmore Estate. Biltmore House took six years and 1,000 men to build; it opened its doors on Christmas Eve in 1895. With a 390-foot fa̤ade, the House has more than 11 million bricks, 250 rooms, 65 fireplaces, 43 bathrooms, 34 bedrooms, and three kitchens, all of which are contained in over four acres of floor space. The massive stone spiral staircase rises four floors and has 102 steps. Through its center hangs an iron chandelier weighing 1,700 pounds and containing 72 electric light bulbs. At its completion, Biltomore House was one of the most innovative and technologically advanced homes in the world with indoor hot and cold running water, elevators, indoor heating, a fire alarm system, refrigeration, electric lightbulbs, and 10 Bell telephones Рall unheard-of luxuries at the turn of the century.

Guess what the boys did while in Asheville. Fished 🙂

A Perfect Texas Christmas

We had such a great Christmas!! It is always a huge blessing to spend time at my sister Jenni’s in Texas. This time we had nine wonderful days including a memorable Christmas celebration with the Loden family. Each time we visit my sister’s family we know many memories are going to be made. We love where they live, we love hanging out with them, we love how welcome they make us feel, we love the fun we always have whenever we’re together. Once again, the kids immediately got swept up in the fun of playing together, eating up each moment of play time they had to spend. Christmas weekend was filled with baking and cooking for the big feast, shopping for last minute gifts, and wrapping. How much fun is doing all of that with a sister?! On Christmas Eve, the gifts were placed around the tree and they stretched across the room up to the landing of the upstairs stairway! Wow!! Christmas morning was wonderful – everyone was blessed. Later in the morning Larry’s mom and dad, Earlene and Jim, arrived and a little later still Larry’s brother, Mark, his wife, Lee, and their daughter, Ruby, came to celebrate. The whole day was festive with beautiful decorations, fun gifts, tons of yummy food and lots of conversation and laughs. One gift (of many) that stands out as the big hit was a parachute man that each boy was given. All the boys – including the big boys – had a ball launching those things into the air – as high as possible – landing them in several trees. Alexandria rescued Jackson’s from a tall tree with a ladder and long branch, much to Jack’s joy. We had another perfect time with the Lodens!

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One of the very best presents showed up a couple of days after Christmas, sending Brian to the Austin airport to pick it up. The story began several weeks earlier when Brian asked Jack what he’d like from Sissy this Christmas, Jack said, “Like probably a Hot Wheel car or some cowboy boots size 12 or maybe that you could come and visit us because that would be a great surprise, more better than anything else.” Now how can you say no to that? So when Brian arrived back at the Lodens’ home, the boys opened the door to find their Sissy, Elizabeth, beaming back at them! Perfect just got even more perfect!

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To Dallas In December

A trip through the Lone Star State is just not complete without seeing the Dormadys in Dallas. What a treat to visit them a second time on this RV adventure. But first, this story about our parakeet, Lizzie. About half way from Missouri to Texas our little Lizzie, started squawking and freaking out. I put her on my shoulder to try and calm her when I saw blood and noticed that she was frantically picking at it and pulling feathers out. It looked like a job for a professional, so we located a bird vet in Dallas right on the way to the RV park where we’d be staying. She was an exceptional patient the doctor said as he pointed out that she’d severed a pin feather, definitely reason to bring her in. Then he convinced Brian that the food we’d been feeding her was less than optimal and encouraged another high perf brand. All this took about 40 minutes but he returned with a mended little blue bird and a bill….for 213 SMACKERS!!!!! Lizzie cost $10 – do the math. And the food they recommended which cost $25 a bag is disgusting and Lizzie would rather starve to death than switch from her less than optimal seed mix! I should have been a bird vet.

Anyway…we stayed at the Grapevine RV park where we stayed the last time we were in Dallas. We got to see lots of all the Dormadys. I went to a ladies Christmas party at Lisa’s church, Gateway (http://www.gatewaypeople.com) , and enjoyed it very much. We ran into a young woman from their worship team that Lisa and both think is extraordinary. Her name is Kari Jobe and I encourage you to listen to this amazing worship leader for yourself by visiting her website http://www.karijobe.com. We enjoyed hanging out at the Dormady’s house and doing some Christmas shopping at Grapevine Mills. Our boys enjoyed a sleepover in the RV. We got to celebrate Mike’s successful year as line coach of the Colleyville Heritage football team. And those twins!! How cute are they?!! God has been good to the Dormadys, moving them to this exciting town, placing them in an awesome church and settling them all under the wing of His faithfulness.

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We had the great pleasure of having dinner with Mylon and Christie LeFevre, two people who have had a major impact on my life. We feel very fortunate to be partners with them in their ministry. As a matter of fact, if you’ve been wondering where to tithe or donate lately, I highly encourage you to consider participating in this pure work of God in the world at this time. Check out their website http://www.mylon.org and see what you think. They are two of the truest hearted people I have ever met and I’ve witnessed personally how strongly God moves through them. And for those of you reading this who live near Sikeston Missouri, they will be ministering at the Powerhouse of God Church on February 25, at 6pm. This is where I encountered their ministry a few years ago and, as I alluded to before, it was life-changing. GO SEE THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Tell them Toni and Brian sent you. J

Brian and I got to attend church at Eagle Mountain International Church in Fort Worth. Because our connection to a “church” has been hit and miss over the past several years, we are grateful that Kenneth Copeland Ministries has been accessible to us through their TV and internet broadcasts. Creflo Dollar Ministries also rocks – FYI!!!!!

Early Christmas In Missouri

The first Sunday in December found us in Nashville which gave us the chance to visit The Peoples’ Church. Brian and I went to a Sunday School class that we really enjoy. After church we got to have lunch with Nathalie (the amazing vocalist on my Cds) and Daniel Whisnant and her parents. We decided to head back to Missouri right after lunch in hopes of making it to PB in time to watch the cousins perform in their Christmas play at church. And make it back – we did. The kids really enjoyed the drama and we hauled the three thespian cousins, Kaylin, Andrea and Coulton, back to Williamsville in the RV.

Though there was no white blanket of evidence of winter, the temperatures were a dead give away. One night while nestled, all snug in our beds, we ran out of propane and woke up to chilly noses and toes. No white Christmas celebration with the family but a very special celebration anyway. My sister-in-law, Pam, received scary news at a rather routine Dr. appointment which revealed that she had a cancerous growth contained within the walls of her kidney. Meaning: surgery to remove the growth by removing the kidney. Pam, my sister-in-law, is a very strong woman of faith. No one wants to receive the news, let alone go through the ordeal of invasive surgery, but Pam’s true colors beamed through as she met the challenge with faith and grace. The surgery was the ticket to a clean bill of health and Pam is getting back to full-swing duties as wife, mom, choir director, teacher, Bible study leader… Thanks God. Anyway, our early Christmas with the Becker side of the family was very special this year with so much to be thankful for and to celebrate.

We had a great time at the semo.net Christmas party held at Las Margaritas. Brian and I are always grateful for the exceptional people who help run the company. Each one is special and vital to semo.net’s success. Not being a techy in any sense of the word, I, personally, admire all of them highly for their knowledge. In our travels, whenever people inquire about Brian’s ability to run the company from an RV, I never miss the chance to brag on the amazing people he has working for him in PB.

Though the time in PB was brief we did enjoy spending time with some of our favorite people. We really appreciate the time we get to spend with our friends when we are back home.

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We decided to head to Texas on a Thursday. Packing up and last minute errands took most of the day. By the time we reached PB it was dinner time so we parked the RV out in front of Hardees South. Then we realized that because our satellite doesn’t track well we were going to miss “Survivor” and we just couldn’t have that! We decided to linger in Hardee’s parking lot and watch “Survivor” before taking off. We even had visitors! Bobby, Grace and Garrett Hudson happened to be in the neighborhood and stopped by. These are the times when I realize that my home is a big truck rolling down the road with everything I own, not to mention everyone I love, in it. On this chilly night our home was smack dab in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping traffic shooting up and down Westwood Boulevard. At least until Survivor was over.

 

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