Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Reflection: Down and Out

I was cleaning out a shelf the other day. This is not news in itself, but I was applying my usual "cleaning out" technique I have used since childhood.

As I pulled things off the shelf, I looked through every single item. I might have even read a book. It's hard to resist such treasures.

While looking through the books, I ran across a journal. I have journaled quite a bit through my life...though not as frequently over the past few years. I tend to leave my rambling for the blog.


This journal wasn't filled with my day to day lamentations. Instead it was filled with reflections. One particularly touched me. Not because I had written so eloquently, but because I remember the occasion vividly.

We were living in the Memphis, TN area at the time. I dated my entry January 19, 2000.

I think it's appropriate during this time of year to count our blessings. To be thankful for what we have and use what we have to bless others. I see so many suffering in our world. How can I possibly be discontent with my warm home, full belly and fuzzy socks?

Here is what I wrote.

I had seen the homeless before. Shabby, ragged, grizzled. Old men, old women. Grizzled young men, frazzled young women. I knew the moment I saw him that he was somewhere in between the old and the young. Shabby, ragged, grizzled....hopeless. 

He was sitting on the green iron patio furniture outside the health food market. What an odd combination. The busy professionals in their suits and ties picking up their bottled water and sushi. The enlightened college crowd with their organic yogurt and sprouted grains. 

Then there was the homeless man with his torn coat and matted hair. He spoke to me softly. All he needed was $1.20. He assured me he didn't drink and thanked me for being so polite to him. 

Was I polite? Could he sense that I was uncomfortable? His eyes. They were infected. Swollen and runny. I wondered at the past indignations he had suffered. I sat down my recycled paper bag full of grains and nuts and quickly scrapped up every spare cent from the bottom of my purse, the pockets. I dumped the assorted coins into his cupped hand and apologized for all the change. 

He continued to thank me profusely and wandered back to the green patio furniture to sit back down. He hunkered over that bit of change...carefully counting it. 

Then he was gone. 

I imagined this was a daily routine for him. Begging for his breakfast, lunch and supper. I wondered about his life. Had his life before the streets been a normal one? Had he been happy? I wondered about what could have pushed to the streets. Dependency? Insanity? Life? 

It disturbed more than I would have thought.  I lay cuddled in my safe warm bed, in front of my color television set with my faithful cat. I am anticipating breakfast from a stocked fridge. I am ashamed of my discontentment, my anxiety, of my worry. Regardless of my trials and tests I have been blessed. Though not with health, but with healing. Though not with riches, but with comfort. Mostly, I've been blessed with hope. I pray that hope for that suffering man. May he find peace.

A Book Review: Parenting Unchained!

I am excited to be a member of the “Parenting Unchained” launch team.

This is a terrific book that is not only for new parents, but seasoned folks as well.

Here is a little bit more about the book.

In Parenting Unchained – Overcoming the TenDeceptions that Shackle Christian Parents, Dr. James D. Dempsey reveals the ten most destructive lies about parenting. He writes from the heart about the way these lies infected his own parenting, and illuminates the Bible's powerful truths that counter each lie. Both Biblical and practical, each section ends with home activities to help parents take immediate steps to develop their kids' character--character that lasts when they leave home. 

The last chapters focus on the most important adjustments parents must make with teenagers to prepare them for independence. Weaving humor into strong warnings, Parenting Unchained points out the hazards that derail the parenting journey.

Here’s the honest truth. Parenting is a tough job. I also need to tell you that I spent the first 10 years of my adult life teaching other people’s children before Josiah came into our lives. I had 125 hours of Early Childhood Education under my belt as well as a decade of practical teaching experience. There were times I have looked that this child of mine and thought….”All that experience and education did not prepare me for this!” I have made my fair share of mistakes.

Parenting Unchained gets to the nitty gritty. Are you just a bit curious about some of those destructive lies Dr. Dempsey lays out in his book? I can tell you I have been guilty (or am guilty!) of more than believing one of them.

Here is an example. “You’re Capable; You Can Do This”

This is Deception #2 from Chapter Two: The Lie of Self-Reliance. How often have I relied on my own wisdom instead of God’s? The practical Home Activities at the end of the chapter were something I could really sink my teeth into. From the task of listing all of those people God has placed in your life to help you to finding a balance between “prideful self-reliance and unhealthy dependence.

This is another Deception that convicted me. God Only Cares About Rules. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Dr. Dempsey refuted this point by talking about God’s love relationship with us. Parenting in God’s Model Requires a Love Relationship.

So many times we focus on the obedience…not on the relationship.

The last few chapters really ministered to me. They all did, but Josiah turned 13 just a few weeks ago. I feel completely inadequate to parent a teen. I just don’t think I am doing it right. Where do my husband and I draw the line between sheltering him and preparing him?

Consider this deception. Life Should Be Easy. How many times have I personally fallen into that deceptive mindset…even though in my heart and circumstances I know it not to be true? This chapter (chapter 10) is entitled “Sheltered or Sent?” Dr. Dempsey encourages us to not just let our children go into the world, but to prepare them and send them. Send them a strong foundation of relationship and the unconditional love that God has shown us. And to send them out with a mental imprint of a genuine life lived before Christ. We all have a mission in this life. We are followers of Christ and we must prepare our children for this mission.

This is such a mighty call.

I can’t recommend this book enough. I know that there is something in it that will bless and challenge every Christian parent. Right now you can grab a Kindle version of the book on Amazon for only .99! Act quickly because I’m not sure how long it will be that price. However, I think it is well worth the splurge, not matter the cost.

About the Author…

Dr. James Dempsey and his wife Gail live in Austin Texas.He is a presenter and Family Ministry Consultant for National Center for Biblical Parenting. You can find out more about his ministry at

You can find Dr. Dempsey on these Social Media outlets. 
Dr. Dempsey on Facebook
Dr. Dempsey on Twitter

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What's in the Bible Sale!

(aff. link below)

How's the Christmas shopping going? I'm almost done...yay! In the meantime, here is a good deal from What's in the Bible? We love these videos!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Random Thoughts (The Expired Tags Edition)

So I've been a bit of a turkey coma. And I've been stuck at home 'cause my car is illegal. At least it's illegal for me to tags are expired. More on that in a minute.

In honor of my Expired Tags I am going to provide you with a few Random Thoughts.

You've been warned.

1. So The Muffin took my car last week to get it inspected. Yes. I know that we were pushing it to the limit; That's how we roll. It was the end of November and my tags expired in November. We should of known better. But again...That's how we roll.

2. 9 times out of 10 my car will not pass inspection. The realities of driving an older car are grim. But cheap. Bertha the Buick is paid off. This time she needs an inner tie rod and some sort of back light. I called our family mechanic (who is my brother...who by the way is not really a mechanic at all, but just a whiz at fixing things). He was working double shifts and told me he couldn't get to it until this weekend. Being that it is now December....

3. You know how you have wonderful plans and then...BAM! Well. My experience hasn't been that dramatic. I was actually excited to have a week at home. I had a really good excuse for staying home. No Wheels! I was going to do laundry. Clean off my table. Wrap Christmas presents. Do crafty stuff. And make my family yummy meals. Sigh.

4. I am really one of those kinds of people who need to eat holiday meals at other people's houses and then just go home. Otherwise I eat leftovers. You know what I mean. Leftover turkey. Leftover mashed potatoes. Leftover gravy. Leftover pie. And more pie. We had 9 pies! And a birthday cake.

5. I have spent this week in a fog and with achy bones. My corner of the couch has been well-used. I need to clarify something, I suppose. We actually went to my Mom and Dad's for Thanksgiving. We all cooked (when I mean "we" I mean the girls). Then we stayed put. Mom and Dad went to OHHH-Klahoma to watch Baby Sister's Middle cutie in The Nutcracker. She was performing with the Moscow Ballet. Very special stuff. Meanwhile, The Muffin, Josiah and Cousin Maddy had the run of the farm...and the leftovers.

6. I'm simple. Nothing I like better than a good book, some quiet and a piece of pie.

7. Sadly, Pie doesn't like me.

8. And then there was my Birthday Boy. 13 on Thanksgiving!!!! We celebrated with Grandma Teague's Redcake Recipe (only I made it green). I could say I made it green because I wanted it to match his "Football themed" birthday, but I made it green because I found .49 green food coloring at the Discount Grocery. Which is just about as good as The Thrift Store.

9. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures. At least not right now. We took pictures on my Mom's camera. I was digging frantically in my purse for my camera. Never found it until we got home Sunday night. I'll share ASAP. Josiah is a bit obsessed with Football. Just a bit.

10. Do you have your tree up? We don't. So sad. Our Christmas stuff is in a storage building in another town. We were going to go out tomorrow morning to get it, but The Muffin is working overtime. The plan is to go Saturday some time. After, of course, my brother takes a look at Bertha the Buick. Such drama! I've told myself I at least need to get my table cleaned off before bringing home the Christmas buckets. Instead I've been doing a little bit of this and that(while sitting on my corner of the couch).

11. So Thanksgiving evening the Girls (my Sis-in-law, my nieces, my mom and me) all sat around the table and colored. We were some coloring machines. My mom has started designing some beautiful Zentangle coloring pages. Part of her job is teaching Art to Seniors at the Nursing Home.There are some therapeutic benefits to Zentangles.

Isn't he just as cute as he could be?

This is one of my favorites. She can't keep enough copied for her sweet old folks. Anyhoo. We spent Thanksgiving night just coloring and laughing. It was a precious time.

12. As part of my devotions and quiet time, I doodle. I have been doing it a while. It helps me focus and meditate. Right now I am doodling Scripture for Advent. I think this is Day 3.

This is Day 1.

This is Day 4 (which was today). I'm still not quite done. It has been a wonderful way for me to really get the Scripture in my heart.

13. They don't take me too long....but can you imagine the laundry I could have been doing? It is hard to look around and see things undone when you have made a commitment to spend time in the Word and Prayer. But it is so important to make that time the priority.

14. We had a sad loss on Tuesday.

My sweet Great-Aunt Nadine passed away. She and Josiah adored each other. They were great friends. We actually got to see her on Sunday. Josiah got to hug her neck and even wheel her back to her room. I can't tell you what a blessing it has been to be able to share this precious lady with Josiah. Every time she saw him she said, "You know I love you, don't you?" Those who knew her loved her. She was kind and funny. Josiah has been sad. He's asked a few more questions about death. He is worried what would happen to him if something happened to his Dad and me. This morning he came in and told me, "At least, I will be able to see her in heaven."

Isn't that a wonderful thought?

Have a beautiful and blessed evening, my friends.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Born of My Heart (Part 6)

I've been fairly emotional this week. Call is what you will. Some might call it menopause.

It is tough revisiting certain feelings. Though this particular story has a happy ending it was a tough ride.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about I have been sharing our adoption story. You can read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 if you have a minute (or 90).

Today I did a little bit of preparation work for Josiah's 13th birthday. His birthday is usually very low key. It is on Thanksgiving this year. It's generally somewhere around there every year. We always celebrate with whatever side of the family we are spending the holiday with. He probably thinks Thanksgiving was created especially for him.

This year I am making a large collage of pictures of him. When we picked up the pictures I had printed off, Josiah spent several minutes pouring over each one. Such beautiful memories.

No matter what your situation might be I implore you not to waste the days. They fly. Even if you are still waiting on your miracle...don't let this season of waiting pass you by. Make something beautiful out of right now.

When I last left my story, The Muffin and I were heading out to await the birth of our son.

It was all rather unconventional. Birth Dad lived in one state. Birth Mom lived in another state. We lived in a completely different state. Because we weren't quite sure when everyone was going to sign the custody papers we had to sit tight.

When Josiah was born (November 27, 2001) we weren't at the hospital. That time was spent with his birth family. 2 days later we got to meet him at a foster care center. His foster care parents were an older couple who had been fostering for years. Josiah was their 99th child.

I can tell you this. When I first held Josiah in my arms it was like I knew him. I recognized that face. Troy and I just sat and took turns holding him. He was sleeping most of the time, but right before we had to go Josiah opened his eyes and looked at me. They, of course, were chocolate brown.

Josiah was about a month old here. 

When we left the Foster Care center Troy and I both cried.

I mentioned that the whole set up was a bit complicated. Before Birth Dad signed the papers he wanted to meet us. Did I mention that Birth Dad was only 18? He also had been born in India. He and his family had immigrated to the US when he was 8. He and his brother drove down to meet us. He also wanted to see Josiah. We met with the foster parents and Josiah. I could tell he was overwhelmed. Afterwards we took the boys to eat Chinese. We visited, laughed and talked. He was charming. He also told us that he knew that he was too young to raise a baby.

After word reached Birth Mom that Birth Dad had met us she decided she wanted to meet us to. We met her at the Foster Care Center with her grandparents. She was a beautiful blonde blue-eyed doll. She was only 15. She held Josiah gently and then handed him to me. She told me that she wanted to give this gift to me.

I cried.

We went with her and her grandparents to Golden Corral after spending time with Josiah. It was surreal.

I have to say that we have had the best relationship with her grandparents all these years. They are so careful not to intrude. They have even been in our home. I send Birth Mom a packet of pictures and a letter every year around Josiah's birthday. This past year she sent me pictures of Josiah's half-sister.

I know that every situation is different. I have always felt like there never could be too many people that love Josiah in his life. It hasn't been an issue. Josiah has a very close bond with both sets of his grandparents. He adores all of his aunts, uncles and cousins. I don't think this boy has ever felt lonely or different.

Josiah's birthday mom was absolutely lovely (still is). I thank God for her every day. I recognize what a sacrifice she made. I don't feel like I am the one that did the good deed. I reaped all of the benefits.

2 weeks after Josiah was born we got the call that all the parties involved had signed the paperwork. We showed up the next morning at the courthouse where we were granted parental custody. 12 days after that we got the okay to go home to our state of residence.

We brought Josiah home just before Christmas.

This Daddy loves this Boy. 

Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends all swarmed to our house to meet our new addition. I was just glad my mom and sister-in-law made sure my house was clean!

I can't say that the next few months were easy.  I worried that Birth Mom would have a change of heart. All of the sudden I had a new baby! Don't get me wrong. I loved it. I will tell you that the first week we had custody of Josiah I felt like I was babysitting.

I was given the advice to hold him as much as I could. I did exactly that. I could hardly take my eyes off of him. I felt like I was dreaming.

Around 6 months after he was born the adoption was final. It is quite an experience. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I would have done it again the next day. And the day after that.

Just the sweetest. I fully planning on photoshopping a skinnier me into this picture. I have lost a lot of weight, but still have more to go! But I shared anyway. The best day ever!

Unfortunately, the opportunity has never presented itself again.

Tomorrow I want to finish up with just a few thoughts. It's hard to tell you everything I know. Though I can try.

Right now I am going to go plant a big kiss on this face.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Win a Kindle Paperwhite and more!

I am excited to be part of the launch team for Parenting Unchained: Overcoming the Ten Deceptions That Shackle Christian Parents. I have been toting the book around with me everywhere I go. It is filled with advice I can really sink my teeth into.

My review is coming shortly. I know this book (by Dr. Dempsey) will bless your socks off. Right now I am pleased to announce a giveaway! 

To celebrate the release of Parenting Unchained: Overcoming the Ten Deceptions That Shackle Christian Parents, we are joining other memebers of the Launch Team in a wonderful giveaway filled with a Kindle Paperwhite, $25 Amazon Gift Card and several biblical parenting products! A value of more than $300!

Here's what you could win: 
Unlike tablets, Kindle Paperwhite is designed to deliver a superior reading experience:

  • No screen glare in bright sunlight

  • Read with one hand—over 30% lighter than iPad mini

  • Battery lasts weeks, not hours

  • Built-in light—read without eyestrain
  • Your Kindle comes loaded with 2 biblical parenting books right at the start: 

    Parenting Unchained Kindle Edition ($4.99 value)

    In Parenting Unchained – Overcoming the Ten Deceptions that Shackle Christian Parents, Dr. James D. Dempsey reveals the ten most destructive lies about parenting. He writes from the heart about the way these lies infected his own parenting, and illuminates the Bible's powerful truths that counter each lie. Both Biblical and practical, each section ends with home activities to help parents take immediate steps to develop their kids' character--character that lasts when they leave home. 

    Home Improvement Kindle Edition ($4.99 value)

    This book contains eight principles every family needs written by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN. You'll learn practical, handon ideas for helping your kids deal with their anger, constructive ways to end discipline times, and keys that will help children change their hearts, not just their behavior. Turansky and Miller offer tried and true strategies in a refreshingly new family-friendly format. This is the parenting book you can read to your kids. 

    $25 Amazon Gift Card 

    Buy even more books for your new Kindle!
    The Christian Parenting Handbook contains nuggets of parenting wisdom condensed into 50 short chapters, each one biblical, practical, and relevant for parents of children ages 2-18. Learn appropriate ways to correct, instruct, and set limits. Glean wisdom for dealing with emotions, conflict, and developing closeness in your family… and much more. These 50 strategies provide you with hands-on tools for parenting children of any age. 

    The Companion Guide is a workbook of 50 lessons along with 50 audio tips to take you through The Christian Parenting Handbook step by step. Each lesson contains advice from Dr Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller in a 5 minute audio tip and then offers teaching, an assignment, a Bible verse, and a prayer to help you apply each idea or strategy in your family. The tips are available to you as MP3 downloads and access to them comes in the workbook.

    The Family Toolbox ($99.95 value)

    The Family Toolbox has 8 lessons. Each one has a 1-2 minute scene of a family living life and experiencing common challenges in their relationships. A discussion guide prompts dialogue between parents and teens and a 10-minute teaching session for parents featuring Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN gives practical tools to use right away.

    As your family works through the lessons, teens learn 16 Life Success Principles and parents learn valuable tools.

    Philippians in 28 Weeks Digital ($18.95 value)

    It is easier to share the Word of God when it is etched upon your heart. Philippians in 28 Weeks™ is a delightful and painless way to commit the entire book of Philippians to memory. This streamlined approach uses memory cards carefully constructed to present Philippians thought-by-thought, copywork versesjournal questionsweekly reflections,recitation charts to test your retention, and an optional tracking tool called “The Log.”

    To enter the giveaway, use the Rafflecopter below. U.S. residents, age 18 and older. Void where prohibited by law.

    Join us for the Parenting Unchained Facebook Release Party. There will be even more prizes and giveaways there and the author of Parenting Unchained will be present to answer your questions! 

    RSVP today so you won't forget! 

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    Born of my Heart (Part 5)

    Howdy. I'm back. You can read Parts 1, 2, 3 & 4 if you are a bit unsure what all this is about.

    I'm spilling my guts.

    When I last left you I had just had a miscarriage and we had an adoption attempt failure. Within the space of 2 weeks.

    You can say that I was really, really bummed.

    Before I get into the next phase of my story, I need to talk to you about the dreams I had been having for several years.

    I need to first tell you that I am not in the least superstitious. Well, not most of the time. I don't think you can be a hillbilly and not be a little bit. For years I had been having dreams about people giving me babies. Little brown-eyed babies. These dreams occurred long before we toyed with the idea of adoption. It could have been my subconscious.

    I don't really think so. These dreams happened at least once a week. I had that dream and the one about the tornado. So the tornado is coming and no one believes me. I still have that dream.

    I have already explained a little about my state of mind at the time. I was a mess. I tend to cry when I am upset. In fact, after we resigned our last full-time pastorate I cried for 2 years every time I talked about it. It made for some uncomfortable conversations.

    I can blame some of this one the physical trauma I had suffered over the past few years. I was also just sad. We had been married for 9 years at this point. And almost every one of those years had been filled with some sort of crisis or near death experience. Have I mentioned that my husband is a saint?

    I want to talk a little bit about husbands another time, but first I need to continue with my story.

    One day in September I was sitting at home. I got a phone call from a friend from church. I can remember picking up my phone that was hanging on the wall in my kitchen.

    She said, "I tried to call your mom so I could run this past her. I didn't want to spring this on you because I know you are hurting right now, but...."

    She went on to tell me that her brother pastored a church in another state (this I knew). He had recently asked another sister for some advice.  She was the principal of a school in another state. My friend had talked to her sister (the principal) about me. She knew of my history and what had just happened. When the pastor brother (we'll call him Pastor Brother) called and asked for her advice...I was who she thought of.

    Long story short. Pastor Brother had a young girl in his church who was pregnant. She was living with her grandparents. She was due in early December and wanted to give her baby to a loving family. She and her grandparents had approached Pastor Brother for some good council.

    My friend went on to tell me that she would have her brother call me if Troy and I thought we could take this baby.

    I can tell you that at first I was terrified. I didn't want anything to go wrong. Troy and I talked and prayed and talked and prayed. I knew my heart was fragile. But my mom, once again, gave me some wonderful advice. She told me that sometimes the best gifts in life are the ones we sacrifice the most for. Sometimes that sacrifice seems like it might be too much. We never know unless we try.

    Could I sacrifice my heart? Troy was willing to do whatever it took. He just wanted to make me happy.

    Pastor Brother called us. He asked me to write a letter to this sweet, precious girl and tell her a little bit about ourselves. I did.

    A short time later she wrote me a letter and asked me if we would raise her baby as our own.

    We decided to take a step of faith.

    Let me tell you something. A private adoption is complicated. It's very expensive. Troy and I had to hire attorneys in 3 different states. The down payment alone was 2500.00. (the final bill was ginormous) That might seem like trump change, but we didn't even have $15 to put down. We were still paying on my car accident and heart failure...not to mention the miscarriage I had just had.

    If I told you everything that happened in the next few months to make this possible you wold be amazed. It was simply a miracle.

    1. Our church took up a sizable offering for us.
    2. My parents dug into their savings.
    3. I took a first-aid class and met a social worker. She put me in contact with a man who did home studies. Our homestudy was a wonderful experience. We learned so much from him.
    4. We wound up having one of the best family attorneys in the area. I really believe it was God who lead us to her. Her paralegal was my lifeline. She emailed me every single day to let me know what was going on.
    5. A family in our church emptied out their attic of baby supplies. Another sweet friend gave us a beautiful Jenny Lind baby bed.
    6. My mother-in-law bought the new baby enough baby clothes to keep him in clothes for a year.

    It was a whirlwind. I was still a mess. I had started having panic attacks again. I was paranoid. But God seemed to be doing His thing despite my state of mind.

    The day after Thanksgiving 2001, we got a phone call.  It had been determined that they needed to take the baby early. Did we think we could drive up in the next few days?

    My mind was going a 100 miles an hour. What about finals at school? We were going to have to stay with my sister until it the state we were adopting from let us go home. Would we even be home for Christmas?

    My professors were wonderful. I had been so meticulous with my studies that I didn't have to take finals. I finished that semester with a 4.0. We threw enough stuff in the car to get us by for a few weeks. It was one of the most exciting and nerve wracking trips I have ever taken.

    I want to talk a minute before I leave you about those adoption attempts that don't have a happy ending. For every adoption that has succeeded I have heard of 2 that haven't. So many friends have had experiences that have been heartwrenching. We were blessed in our adoption attempt failure. I didn't bring the baby home. I hadn't bonded with him. Of course, all of this was going through my head on our way to adopt this new baby.

    I kept going back to what my mom had said. Could I risk my heart? Was this worth the risk? I had decided it was.

    Maybe there is something in your life right now that requires some risk taking. I can tell you that first you have to dial down the self-pity or self-condemnation. I speak from personal experience. Some things are just out of our hands. Not every story has a happy ending, but eventually you are going to get where you need to be if you risk your heart and life and put both in God's hands. He will never fail you. There are times when I've had my doubts. There have been times when I have felt picked on. Regardless of my feelings...He is still faithful.

    Next time, I want to share with you some pictures and our happy ending.

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