Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Look Back: My Most Viewed Posts for Every Month of 2014




It's that time of year.

What's left of it.

It's time we all take a look back and reflect upon the previous year. Personally, I haven't had much time to do much of anything..Let alone reflect. My goals for this week have been simple. Take down the Christmas stuff. Catch up on the laundry. Scrub the kitchen. Organize our homeschool. And...plan some stuff for the blog.

And on this very last night of 2014 I can proudly say that I have put up the Christmas stuff. And I really don't think I can admit to that. It is still in boxes and tubs in the front room waiting to go to our storage unit.

It is not for lack of trying. I really need a maid. Or at least the ability to grow an extra set of hands.

I thought it appropriate to share the most popular post of each month of 2014. Some of the results surprised me. There are a few reviews, a smattering of random thoughts and an occasional odd post.

Who am I kidding? All my posts are odd.

On to the Countdown! (I really feel like someone should drop a ball or throw some confetti at me)

The most viewed post of December was from a journal post I found from several years back. Maybe I should start posting more of these. My journal from 6th grade is especially enlightening.

December ~ A Reflection: Down and Out

In November, I shared my story of infertility, loss and adoption. This was really hard for me, but it apparently struck a chord. Part 2 was the most viewed post of the month.

November ~ Born of My Heart (part 2)

October brought many reviews, including this one for iWitness Books. We just visited a Bible museum and got to see some of what we had read about in these books up close and personal!

October ~ A TOS Review: iWitness Books

These Johnny Appleseed Printables I created in September received a lot of love.

September ~ Free Johnny Appleseed Printables

More Printables! I need to make more. I really need to clean my kitchen first!

August ~ Free Grocery Store Printables for the Kiddos

In July, I got to review great products from Diana Waring Presents! So much fun!

July ~ Experience History Through Music

I talk about Josiah's dyslexia quite often on the blog. Here are some of the reading strategies we employ.

June ~ Summer Reading Strategies for Struggling Readers

Another TOS Review for a great product!

May ~ A TOS Review: Logic of English

In April, I posted a series about getting your boys in the kitchen. This particular one was popular!

April ~ 5 Days of Culinary Adventures for Boys (Kitchen Boot Camp)

Need some New Year inspiration and a plan for housework. This review might be for you (the rhyme was free!)

March ~ A TOS Review: Motivated Moms

For the month of love, I wrote about my own personal love story.

February ~ A Love Story

I have no idea why you liked this particular post for January so much. Maybe you were just looking for some random advice from a fruity gal? In any event...read it again. You might need it for 2015!

January ~ Take My Advice (or Not!)

See you in the New Year!


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Christmas Letter ~ 2014

So I am sitting here posting from our Christmas headquarter's this year. Somewhere in Illinois at my Bro-in-Law's House.

Instead of stuffing my face with all of the candy and cookies that are just in arm's reach, I thought I would share a end of the year Christmas letter with you.

Such as it is.

When thinking about our comings and goings this year, I really don't have much to report.

We are simply....uninteresting folks. A little crazy. But uninteresting.

But here it goes. You have my permission to make up more colorful adventures if it makes the reading go easier.



This guy turned 13 in November. He's gotten a few zits and grown a few more inches.

This is his 3rd year on the YMCA swim team. He also has taken up cycling with his Dad. During the spring and summer they will ride together every Friday. Generally about 12-15 miles or so. Which gives me plenty of time to sit on the couch and contemplate being busy. I do it well.

We do homeschool and Josiah's favorite subject (other than lunch) is history. He also attends a PE class twice a week at a local university and we have a reading club every Thursday.

Josiah tends to be a Super Fan of his flavor of the moment. For several years, he loved Indiana Jones. He dressed up like Indiana Jones. He recreated his favorite scenes from the movie and wanted to be an archaeologist. Then he went through his Star Wars phase. This year the "flavor" is Football.

Mind you...he doesn't actually play football. He just has decided it is possibly the coolest sport on the planet. He has asked to be called Peyton Manning on more than one occasion and talks football stats like a pro. It is a bit frightening for this Non Sports Fan Mama. I just don't get it.

He is the Master Power Point Technician for Worship Service at church. He does a much better job than I do. I tend to daydream.


But I good reason to.


Isn't he the dreamiest?

The Studly Muffin and I celebrated 23 years of mawage this year!

He is still working as the Associate Pastor at our church and at Gospel Publishing House. His big hobby is Cycling. During warm weather he rides approx. 60 miles every weekend.

In September, Troy completed his 2nd Bike MS. It is 150 mile ride from Springfield to Joplin and back. I'm so proud of him. He has all of the dedication and discipline I only wish I had.

He was able to purchase a new bike this year. It's current home is in our living room. Yep. We love that bike.


Obviously, my guys love to be together. They are my loves.

And then there is me.

If you read my blog at all you probably know everything there is to know about me.

I have been busy doing the usual things. Housework, laundry, dishes.

Okay. You got me. At least I try and do those things. Sometimes a nap calls.

We didn't get to go on vacation this year, but we did have visits from family.

We also got to participate in a Fun Walk. I know that for most of you walking a Mile is not a big deal. For me, however, it was everything. There was a time that I didn't know if I would be able to walk at all. It has taken many years, but the fact is that I made it. I was last....even the tiny kids out walked me. But I got there!

You can see my cheering section below. Fun Walk's are serious business. 


And my view was pretty great. I have some pretty neat opportunities this year. I got to speak to a group of YMCA employees and our local Y used me in a promo video. I got to talk about some of my experiences. I promise I barely embarrassed myself. I did forget to put an earring in. Yep. I wore one dangly earring through the whole piece.

I can't end a Christmas Letter without talking about our Pirate Cousin Camp.



My Mom and I hosted the 4th Annual Cousin Camp. We had more fun than anybody should have.


We are already planning this next Summer's cousin camp. We have the theme and everything!

You  might have to just stay tuned. I'm not ready to give away all my secrets.

This next year we are hoping for great things. God has been so good!

Mom and I are starting a new little online cottage shop (more info soon). This is a brand new venture so please keep us in  your prayers.

Troy and I  are praying that God just uses us and continues to grow our faith. We are always amazed at His faithfulness.

Our prayer for all of you is that everyone finds a real relationship with God. That you are blessed beyond measure and that you and yours treasure each moment together.

Merry Christmas (and have a piece of fudge on me...I am considering applying duct tape to my mouth)!


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.

Sorry.

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 car...my 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 D6Culture.com.

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 drive...my 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.


    Thursday, November 20, 2014

    Born of My Heart (Part 4)




    I realize I left my story in a sad place yesterday. You can read Part 1, 2 & 3. 

    The truth is that there is really nothing happy to say about miscarriage.

    Before I tell you about those days and months after losing our baby, I want to talk a little bit about the fears and doubts that tend to stalk an infertile woman.

    After flirting with Foster Care, I started obsessing about having a baby...or more to the point, "not having a baby."

    I lost some of my "Susie Sunshine" outlook on life. Everyone and anyone seemed to be able to get pregnant. Well. Not everyone, but you get my drift.

    I tried really hard not to let every conversation be about my childless state. I started feeling just a little bit sorry for myself. Just a little bit. People just didn't understand. I was impatient with folks who seemed to take their kids for granted.

    Of course, I've matured since then (I hope). Most of us do the best we can. We are imperfect people. It's easy to get distracted with all the garbage we've involuntary (or voluntary) brought into our lives. Bills. Relationships. Health. Life.

    My mom also talked to me. I have never been allowed to mope for too long. I had been thinking of having a baby in terms of my worth. I must not be worthy enough to be a parent. How could this person be worthy, but not me?

    She told me that to procreate is part of God's plan. It is built into our biology...into our DNA. In fact, even "rabbits have babies." It has nothing to do with their worthiness. It is simply something that happens in nature. My inability to get pregnant had nothing to do with my character. It was just part of life.

    Listen to me. You are worth more than this broken body you inhabit. Your ability to love isn't doesn't depend on functioning ovaries.

    I also understood that I couldn't stay in this "obsessive mood." I have some addictive behaviors that run in my family. For the same reason I don't take narcotics for pain I have also had to learn to redirect my obsessions. I also can't speak for every infertile gal. We all come with different sizes and colors of baggage. It was my goal not to be defined by that baggage (no matter now much I thought I deserved to carry it around with me). I was more than my ovaries. I am more than my ovaries.

    When my husband called the High Risk clinic and told them I had most likely miscarried, they told me to come into the labor and delivery emergency room. Thankfully, they didn't let me linger. I was ushered back into a dark little room filled with beeping sounds and blinking colors.

    The staff were so gentle. I lay on the table with tears running down my face clutching Troy's hand. I saw the empty womb on my ultrasound. I could feel the blood rushing from my body.

    It was determined that I had suffered a complete miscarriage. A DNC wasn't necessary. They sent me home with a super dose of ibuprofen. I had lost so much blood I almost passed out sitting in the wheel chair waiting for Troy to bring our car around.

    I went home, laid in my bed and slept.

    I actually got up the next day and went to church. I really should have stayed home. I think I thought that I needed to prove something to myself. Instead I spent most of the day crying. There were those who hadn't heard that I had lost my baby. I had a few well-meaning folks pat me on the head and tell me not to "worry about it." I was young and would doubtless have a house full of kids.

    Being that I like to do my suffering in private, I'm surprised I even went out of the house. I think I was able to manage as well as I did because there was still that other little baby. The baby who was going to be born in October.

    We went and picked out wallpaper for the bedroom. I put a few little outfits in the closet. We talked a few more times with the birth mother. Some how the idea that I was going to be holding a sweet baby boy in my arms in just a few short months helped me get out of bed every morning.

    A week after I suffered the miscarriage the birth mama called me and told me that she had changed her mind.

    I was calm. I asked her if she was going to keep him. She told me yes. I later found out she gave him to family members. I don't think she could stand to think of not being near him. I understand that. But I can tell you it shattered my heart. There is something that happens when you are an expectant parent. Even if you aren't the one going to be delivering the baby. I already had so much love in my heart for him. I had lost 2 babies in 2 weeks.

    I really, really struggled during the days and weeks that followed. I was angry. I was hurt. I was in pain. I didn't understand. I had decided not to go back to my classroom. Instead I took classes to finish my degree. It was difficult. My major is Early Childhood. At the time I was going to be certified to teach P-4th grade. I was also supposed to have a specialty in those early years. Birth-5. That particular semester in school was basically a nightmare. Don't get me wrong. I had wonderful, supportive friends. They coddled and protected me. I had terrific professors. But this semester our emphasis was on Birth-5. I left more than one classroom in tears. I had my favorite stall in the bathroom I could hide. I had to observe daycare nurseries. You will remember that a daycare nursery was where I got my start. I could barely even touch a sweet baby toe without squalling.

    So I was a mess. To put some of this in perspective I need to tell you that I started my classes just days after the birth mother had changed her mind. Just weeks after my miscarriage.

    I learned a lot about myself during this time. I had already been challenged with obstacles. I knew my meddle. I knew that I was tougher than I could ever imagine, but I also understood that that ability to cope had little to do with me. It was God's strength. Not my own.  I think one of the most painful experiences occurred when we had to go back to the High Risk clinic for a checkup. I sat in the waiting room with all the expectant mamas. I felt empty. I was so weary. My lack seemed so obvious. What was wrong with me?

    I want to leave you today with this thought. It is in those times of emptiness when God can do His work. I had to be empty for what was coming. Around late September 2001 I got this phone call. It would be a call that would change our lives. Would I brave enough to take a risk?

    I'm sure you probably figured out what's coming next. I'll talk at you soon.

    Wednesday, November 19, 2014

    Born of My Heart (Part 3)





    If you are just now popping in I suggest reading Part 1 and Part 2 of this story.

    When I last left you I talked about getting pregnant.

    I need to first talk about flirting with foster care the summer before. Keep in mind that I had a near death experience with a car. And then with heart failure. When my doctor assured me that I would still be able to carry a baby (be it high risk) I started thinking about babies.

    During one of my college classes, I had heard a talk about Adoption through Foster care. We also had friends who were fostering and wound up adopting 2 beautiful sons. I actually got to have one of them in my Kindergarten class when I taught school.

    We made an appointment to have someone come out and talk with us about it.

    Oh how I prepared. I even made freshly squeezed lemonade and homemade snickerdoodles. This lady was going to find me worthy to be a mother.

    I was so anxious the day she came. It was a bit overwhelming. I have to say that I wasn't prepared for the whole process. In fact, there wasn't much of a process at all. I really thought that they would contact us again if we had "passed the test." It wasn't until sometime later that a friend told me that the foster care folks are really too busy to pursue potential parents. They expect the parent to do the pursuing. Silly me. I thought they didn't call back because they didn't like us.

    I also have to honestly say that if it had been something I truly felt at peace about I would have been more persistent. I am going to say something really controversial here. It is really hard for infertile folks to be foster parents. I think we are always dangling on the edge of feeling like we aren't worthy somehow to be parents. We had friends at the time who had a traumatic experience. A child in their home (who they were assured they would be able to adopt) had been given to a family member.

    It was heartbreaking. And it's a story I have heard time and time again. I didn't know if I could risk my heart. Our life was complicated. I had "issues." I have so much respect for foster parents. I recognize that the "system" is trying to do the best job it can. It is just awfully hard to see folks who would make lovely parents get their heart broken by bureaucracy.

    I realize I am only expressing my opinion from my narrow experiences. The truth is that we live in a broken world.

    Back to being pregnant.

    My euphoria of my new pregnancy didn't last very long. My gynecologist didn't even seen me. His office immediately made arrangements for me to start visiting a High Risk pregnancy clinic in Memphis. I had to initially start seeing the doctor once every 2 weeks. It soon turned into once a week. I didn't even get to see the same doctor twice. The clinic was part of a teaching hospital. It had also been the hospital I had recovered in after my wreck. The Elvis Presley Memorial Hospital. Also known as "The Med."  I have said this many times, but there are few medical professionals in the Memphis area who haven't seen my hinnie. There always seemed to be a line of students shuffling into my room.

    Every week my heart was monitored. My blood sugar tested. My urine analyzed. I was used to the attention...though it's not the kind of attention one likes to get used to.

    I started spotting fairly soon. The powers that be put me on bed rest. I laid in my bed, watched perky movies that wouldn't make me cry and ate popcorn. For some reason, I craved the stuff.

    Then came the visit when they couldn't hear a heartbeat. I was devastated. But they assured me that it could be that I wasn't as far a long as I thought and scheduled a pelvic ultrasound.

    The ultrasound found a 4 week pregnancy. I was again sent back to bed. It was during this time that something unusual happened. A lady from our church called me. Her sister-in-law was getting ready to deliver a baby. The circumstances were unusual and sad. I won't reveal her business here, but she was looking for someone to take her baby.

    We met with her. She asked us if we would raise her baby. Of course, we said yes. We contacted a friend who was an attorney and he began the process for us.

    Have you ever been in a period in your life when you felt something was just "off?" I knew that something was wrong. In fact, if I thought about it too hard I knew that I was losing this baby growing inside me.

    Some might say that I had a fatalistic attitude. I beg to differ. That is just not me. Deep inside I knew that I wasn't going to carry this baby to term. And it killed me.

    It happened on a Saturday. Troy was home. I had begun what I know now was labor. I wasn't sure then. I just knew I was dreadfully uncomfortable. I had even taken a bath to sooth my back. It's hard when a girl has artificial parts. Sometimes I have difficulty determining what part of my body actually is hurting. It all seems to hurt.

    I was laying in bed when I had the sudden urge to use the bathroom. I won't go into what happened next. It is too painful. But, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had lost this baby.

    I'm sorry to leave you at such a low point in my story. I promise it eventually gets happier. But I was getting to enter some of the most frustrating, heartbreaking, sad, exhilarating and precious times in my life.


    Tuesday, November 18, 2014

    Born of My Heart (Part 2)




    If you are just joining me for this story you can check out Part 1 here. 


    I finished my Part 1 of this story by telling you about my crazy, awful car accident. One of these days I am going to write that book. And in this book I will give you a few pieces of advice. One of those pieces of advice will be to never have a crazy, awful car accident.

    Not that I could have avoided mine. I think about it occasionally. Could I have avoided it?

    I just have to trust that God knows the beginning from the end. And He knows the number of my days. And that he loves me and has a plan for me.

    I've had to use that same attitude when it comes to infertility.

    But more on that a minute.

    I will say that the first few months after my car accident I didn't even think about having a baby. There is something about the combination of morphine (and other narcotics) combined with trauma and the near loss of life that clouds up the brain. It was months later that I had the thought that it was fortunate I hadn't been pregnant when I had the accident.

    Eventually, when the subject was brought up with my doctor. He explained that I still had to contend with the PCOS, but also the injuries to my hip and pelvis were going to make carrying and delivering a baby a bit more complicated. It was going to be one of those 'wait and see' events. Frankly, I was okay with the 'wait and see' approach.

    I was so happy just to be alive, but I also went through a period of depression and started having panic attacks. I wanted so much to have a normal life (whatever that might be). My body was broken. Things had shifted. My brain knew how to walk, but my legs and hips didn't seem to remember. I didn't have that freedom of motion. I was unsure of the future and sometimes that left me paralyzed.

    Post traumatic Stress Disorder is a very real and debilitating condition. I couldn't consciously remember my car accident (still can't), but my sub conscience seemed to remember every minute. The things I did remember...the painful x-ray sessions, waking up during a surgery, having traction pins put into my bones with only a local anesthetic....those things were hard to forget.

    Eventually, I found a new normal. A year later found me back at the same college campus. This time I had a cane. I was cautioned to again take trying to get pregnant very slowly. I needed to recover from all of those internal things that had happened to my body.

    Just after my car accident, my little brother and his wife had twins. A boy and a girl. I can't even describe what I felt. You might be surprised. I was never jealous. I was ecstatic. They were my first niece and nephew on my side of the family. My brother and wife were so generous with me. I snuggled those babies like they were mine. There is healing with that kind of generosity. I felt a connection to those babies that I didn't expect. They were also close. When twins were about 3 months old, my brother moved his little family south. I could pop over, snuggle, drool over and even take one home with me! It was like having a real live baby doll!

    I need to say something. It is really, really hard when you struggle with infertility to be entirely happy for those who seem to eternally fertile. This is to be expected. It is human nature to compare our lives to the lives of others. A woman is who is infertile measures herself against expectations, instinctive desires and the deep need to nurture. She finds herself coming up short every time.

    What I want to express to you is how dangerous this attitude is. You cannot live there. I think that one of the reasons I didn't have the kind of jealous struggle when my brother's babies were born was that I was in a unique head space. Keep in mind that I had just fought for my life. I was extremely appreciative of every new day. I didn't take for granted those quiet moments with a cup of tea or gazing at a Mississippi Delta Sunset. I knew that I had survived. And I knew that God MUST have a purpose for my life. I think when we understand that God has our days in HIS hands....the rest of it seems to fall in line.

    I am not saying this was my mind set in years to come. I still had battles coming my way. However, I think it's best to keep our focus on God's plan...not our own.

    Something happened 3 years after the car accident that put any future pregnancies in jeopardy once again. I went into Congestive Heart Failure. I'm telling ya! I am so not the candidate for all of this drama. I am probably one of most low key, undramafied (is that even a word?) gal you will ever meet.

    Anyhoo. When all was said and done the verdict was that I had cardiomyopathy due to unknown reasons. The heart contusion from the wreck? My newly diagnosis of diabetes? A virus? All could have contributed to my condition.

    I was thrilled when my cardiologist assured me that while it wasn't optimal there wasn't any reason I couldn't expect to be able to carry a baby in the future. That made my heart sing! (No pun intended).

    It was a time of great healing in my life. I started teaching school at a small Christian school. I continued a full load of college courses. I started losing a little bit of weight.

    And then it happened. I got pregnant.

    Have you ever had that brief moment in life when everything seems to make sense? I thought that this was my time. We had been married for 9 years. Conceiving wasn't supposed to be this easy for me. I had survived a car accident, heart failure and Memphis traffic.

    I just knew that this was my miracle. That God was showing up in a big way.

    Friends and acquaintances rejoiced with me. Many of them had been with me through my long journey of healing. To have a little Teague take up residence in the nursery after the trials I had faced seem like the perfect gift from above.

    To me it almost seemed like God was saying, "Here you go. I'm sorry about all the rest. Thanks for being faithful."

    I am only admitting this particular thought pattern because I think our modern day Christian culture perpetuates the idea that our relationship with God comes down to a little quid pro quo. You act like this. You dress like this. You do all the right things and you are going to be blessed off your socks.

    Grace. That's all I'm talking about. I was going to learn about HIS grace soon enough.

    Next time I want to talk about pain. And heartbreak. And a miracle.


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