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.

    Monday, November 17, 2014

    Born of My Heart (Part 1)

    Pain comes in many forms.

    I've had my experience of a few different kinds.

    Physical pain is something I've come to see as a constant companion.

    Of course, there is that pain that is quiet. It is often hidden...only seen during those times of great heartbreak.

    I've talked about the pain of infertility a few times. I even had the privilege of sharing my thoughts with a woman's magazine and a newspaper.

    What I haven't shared a lot of on my blog is the whole story. I've shared bits and pieces with women's groups and close friends. Don't ask me why it's taken 23 years to get this story on paper/computer screen.

    I want to share my story through the rest of November (which happens to be a very special month here in the our house),

    I am a firm believer in sharing the good things of God. There are those "good things" that can only happen during one's darkest days.

    This is how it happened with me.

    Like most little girls I dreamed of my future children. I need to amend that just a little bit.

    I dreamed of my future husband and then I dreamed of my future children.

    I had no doubt that I would have a house full.  In fact, when Troy and I were dating we 'discussed' names. I think we might have freaked Mama Teague (my beloved mother-in-law) out when we talked about possible baby names in front of her. We hadn't been dating very long.

    I wanted to name our babies (get this) Luke and Leah.

    Yes I did.

    The irony is that The Muffin is not a Star Wars fan. That whole phenomenon somehow missed him. He just thought they were good Bible names. I didn't tell him that my name of choice when I was 12 was Gwendolyn Raquel.

    Our copy lady at Staples is named Gwen. She is a neat lady, but I'm glad I didn't succeed convincing my parents to change my 'handle.' I've had enough issues remembering the name I was born with.

    So obviously The Studly Muffin and I were married.

    I think it was about 4-6 months after our wedding that I started noticing strange things happening to my body.

    I started gaining weight. My skin had lost that creamy and flawless texture that had carried me through my teens. I started growing hair in odd places. And my monthly cycles were erratic.

    I took more than my fair share of birth control tests. I need to say that at this time I wasn't taking birth control pills. We did use some kind of protection. Is this too much information? I apologize. I am sure at this moment I have an uncle or two reading through squinted eyes. "Do I have to know that, Beke?" I just feel like I need to give you the full story so you don't make the assumption that what was happening to my body was a product of hormones that I was ingesting.. That particular nightmare was to come. I am generally very private about such things. I don't want everybody to know my 'bizness.' Which is kind of awkward for a girl with a very public blog.

    Back to the story. When I visited my doctor he wasn't concerned. He had seen me through my teen years. He told me to cut my calories. It was not uncommon for women to gain a little bit of weight after marriage.

    Now that I look back I think that I had more going on that first year of marriage than just being a new bride.

    I decided that my chosen career wasn't necessarily one I had chosen. There had been a horrible and devastating parting of ways with beloved family members. It is not something I would wish on my most vile enemy (no that I have many of those). I battled illness. Not anything life threatening. I just think stress and other factors just took chunks out of my immune system. I tend to be Miss Suzie Sunshine (when I'm not being Miss Snarky Sally or Miss Fruity Fern). Instead of looking at current stresses as something I need to manage I tend to set them aside and go to my 'happy place.' Unfortunately, the fairies and woodland creatures that live in my 'happy place' don't encourage me to get more sleep, eat right, manage my time better and do any manner of soul searching. They are content to munch french fries right along with me.

    It is important for us ladies who struggle with these sort of issues to be able to cope in a real and healthy way. We can't drown our sorrows in a gallon of peanut butter cup ice cream or take out our frustrations on our husbands. Have I told you that The Studly Muffin is a saint?

    I finally took myself to a gynecologist. She was a quiet older woman. I wasn't the type to ask a slew of questions. I only discovered my diagnosis by reading my chart.

    Just a side note: Ladies! Ask those questions!!! Don't feel like you are going to look silly. Don't worry about taking up too much of a doctor's time. If you don't feel like you are getting the answers you want do some research.

    My diagnosis was this. PCOS. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. 

    I didn't even know what that was! That was before all this information was available at our fingertips. I took myself to the library and checked out a few books.

    I was just a little disturbed by what I read. Mostly there wasn't a whole lot of things that doctors were doing at the time. It was known to be a cause of infertility, diabetes and uterine cancer. Those were the biggies. I was put on a regiment of Provera and birth control pills.

    I need to tell you that Provera makes me CRAAAZY. True Story. I would take the Provera (usually 10 days). I then would start 3 months of birth control pills. Then I would be off for 3 months. Then I would start the whole thing over again.

    Have I told you that my husband is a saint? A saint!

    At the time, I wasn't too worried about the question of fertility. I was more concerned about losing weight. I was also very private about what was happening to my body. I was self conscience. Especially when people I had known for years started making comments about the obvious changes in my body.

    This is not a post for weight loss. That is for another day. But I will say that it was something that got deep into my fragile psyche.  I have never been an extrovert. That isn't going to happen. Gaining weight made me hide my true self away. I didn't like to go to public functions. I didn't feel pretty. I plain didn't like myself.

    It isn't so uncommon being a woman without children in your early 20's. However, there are questions that will inevitably come up after marriage.

    "When are you guys going to start having kids?"

    In the early years I was able to laugh it off and say, "Not right now!" Later it got harder. I would sometimes tease my family that I needed to just wear a shirt that says....

    "I don't ovulate." Subtle enough?

    What is a common teasing question for newly married couples became a painful reminder of what was going on in my body. What is worse is because I was gaining weight people were asking if I was pregnant.

    When I was 23 Troy and I moved from our comfortable positions as Children's pastors in a "bigger than most" sized church. I had been teaching preschool. I had found that I had a natural gift of teaching. My baptism in the teaching world actually came as a child when my parents urged me to take a small group of littles and teach them a program for Christmas. I never thought about becoming a teacher. I wanted to be an archaeologist!

    Just a year after I married Troy I discovered my calling. I was given a job as a "teacher" in the nursery and toddler rooms of a daycare/preschool. It wasn't too long before I had lesson plans. I decorated bright bulletin boards. I created sensory boxes (before they were a thang), taught teaching songs and poems. My bosses let me fly. I snuggled babies and toddlers, wondered at their sweet baby feet and loved them like they were my own.

    When we moved from Missouri to Arkansas we left the familiar and moved in a whole different environment. We moved into the Mississippi Delta. Now I had been raised in the Boston Mountains of North Central Arkansas. I was surprised to experience a bit of culture shock. I can't even tell you.

    One of the biggest changes is that we became Youth Pastors. Yowsers! This was a whole new ballgame. The youth group of my teen years will always be precious to me. Those kids were my family. We were also fairly sheltered. The kids we would come to Pastor were exposed to things I never had even imagined. I will tell you that those were some of the most fruitful years of our whole ministry lives. Those particular kids in that small town located just a few miles from the Mississippi River amongst the cotton fields will always be in my heart. I still feel  like they are mine...no matter how far they have strayed from what we taught them.

    I took a job as a Nanny for some of the best people on the planet. My charge wasn't 2. She was gorgeous. Smart and she loved me. That experience kinda helped me decide that I needed to talk to Troy about maybe getting serious with the whole "trying to get pregnant"thing. I knew statistically that it would be hard.

    I also made the decision that I wanted to go to college. It had always been my heart's desire. I also knew what I wanted to be. A teacher.

    Over the summer, I fairly floated. There was a plan for my life! My gynecologist was going to put me on Clomid. My family who I nannied for gave me their blessing to begin my journey towards my new life. I got a job as a music instructor at the local elementary school. I enrolled in college.

    Everything was coming up roses.

    Along the first of September of that year (1996) my gynecologist took me off the Clomid. He told me that I needed to have a break. I had obviously not gotten pregnant and my body needed a rest. I was slightly disappointed. I tucked it into the back of my mind and went on with my life. We would try again in another month or so.

    I enjoyed my job teaching 2nd Grade Music. I took to my college career like fish to water.

    It was after one of my college classes that the unthinkable happened. On September 1996 I had a massive car accident. I won't go into the details here.

    I think sometimes that we fail to see how God has protected us. Protected, you say? How could I have been protected? I had to learn to walk again. I received a contusion to my heart that most likely caused my current condition of cardiomyopathy.

    One day, months after my accident, I was convalescing at home when this thought crossed my mind. If the Clomid had worked I would have been just a few months pregnant. God knew that the loss of a child as well as what had happened to my body would have been too much.

    God had something else in mind. And it was more than I could ever imagine. Only it still 5 years away.

    Next time I will talk about those years of yearning and how healing can take many forms.

    Today Only! 15% off of What's in the Bible stuff.

    (This post contains affiliate links)

    Take advantage of this great offer from What's in the Bible! I love this stuff. I've used it both at home and at church. Click on the coupon to check it out.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2014

    A TOS Review: Snake Oil (It Cures What Ails Ya!)

    Have you ever purchased a product that promised something beyond your wildest dreams? This has nothing to do with my wildest dreams, but one time I purchased a fancy paint roller from an infomercial We were getting ready to paint our house and I just knew that it was going to save us oodles of work. After all, the product they showed me on TV seemed like magic. Let's just say that we spent more time cleaning up after the fancy paint roller than actually painting. And don't get me started on the products that promise miraculous and easy weight loss. Honey. If they worked we wouldn't have an obesity epidemic in this country.

    We just had a chance to review Snake-Oil-Party Potion from Out of the Box Games.

    Snake Oil? If you are a fan of history you might have heard the term. During the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, Chinese laborers introduced a product that users could rub into  their muscles after a day of working on the railroad. American, in typical entrepreneurial fashion, took off with the ideal. Only some products didn’t contain any snake oil at all. Promises were made. Money was made. And folks were swindled.  

    Snake Oil-Party Potion is an award-winning card game. It is intended for players ages 8 and up. Now I snuck in a few Littles but we will discuss that in a minute. This particular version of the game has easier words. You can combine this game with the original Snake Oil game for even more fun choices. This game costs $14.99.

    How to Play

    You need between 3-6 players to play the game. However, there are variations so that a party or classroom of kids can play together.

    Snake Oil-Party Potion comes with over 100 word cards. They words that the players can combine to create an outrageous product to sell to the customer. The players will draw 6 cards and chose two of them to combine.

    Someone in the game will need to be the Customer during each round of the game. We took turns from  youngest to oldest. There are 12-double sided Customer Cards.

    The Customer will draw a Customer Card and assume that role for the round. The players must tailor their product to meet the particular needs of the Customer. The idea is that after every child has chance to be the Customer the game is over…and the player who has the most Customer cards is crowned the winner. We played until everybody looked like they needed a nap. Which took a while <)

    I was so thrilled with the resourcefulness that went on in choosing their products. 

    I have never heard such persuasive speaking. This guy is only 4. His Mama helped him. 

    This one is 6. She couldn't read all the words, but I helped her. The kicker? She picked out her cards and created her product completely on her own. No shy salesman here! She could have given a used car salesman a run for his/her money.

    Some of these products were just too funny.

    And often larger than life.

    But we all listened attentively!

    Courtney (age 6) chose Cookie and Soup for her product this round. Cookie Soup. The user simply has to spritz the Cookie Soup on their person every morning. The result is that they will feel like they are always munching on a cookie. Sign me up!

    Mr. Corey (age 10) is a Boss. He played this game like a master. Not only was he meticulous about matching up his product to his characters, but he created some of the most fantastical products. He also really got into is sales presentation.

    When Josiah was selling his "Butt Duster," Corey decided he knew exactly what that would look like. He went into his Mama's Laundry Room and snatched up the duster. He then modeled the handy "Butt Duster."

    This game is much more than about having fun. Which is pretty great in itself. I was so surprised the resourcefulness and vocabulary that came out of these kids mouths. They had to be creative, persuasive and speak up.
    My Josiah dislikes talking in front of a group of people. He gets really self-conscience. During the game it wasn't evident that he has this difficulty. I’m sure that Snake Oil will help him develop his confidence. 

    This is a game you have to have in the game closet. I plan on taking it Thanksgiving, bringing out on lazy Friday nights and using it for those days we just need to break loose. I'm not worried about it wasting our precious schooltime. Snake Oil posses an equal amount of fun and educational value. 

    Check it out!

    You can read more reviews by clicking on the banner below. 

    Click to read Crew Reviews

    A TOS Review: Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation

    Did you know that if our moon was much larger or it was closer to the earth it that it would create devastating tides? These tides would have a catastrophic effect on our planet and mankind. If the moon were much smaller or farther away from the earth the tides wouldn't be beneficial to mankind.  As is it, the moon is perfectly placed. It is a perfect size for just right gravitation pull and tides

    Did you know that one of the camel's stomach chambers can hold up to 30 gallons of water? This,of course, makes the camel an ideal method of transport for those living in the desert. Or that eating beautiful apples can help prevent scurvy, fight dysentery, limits gall and kidney problems, fights heart disease and more? 

    Shew! You'll have to excuse me for a minute. I need to go munch on an apple!

    All of these things point to a Purposeful Creator. It is incredible to think of the marvels of our universe and our planets. All work together in intricate and marvelous harmony.  

    I just had the chance to review a truly beautiful book.  Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation by Jay Schabacker. Purposeful Design seeks to present the undeniable evidence of a gracious and loving creator. The world and everything in it was created with purpose.

    Purposeful Design Review

    This is a hardcover book is for all ages. It is not only gorgeous to look at, but it is Biblically accurate as well. The cost for the book is $18.95. 

    Every morning, Josiah and I read together. Currently, he is reading out of Psalms. I am also reading to him a devotional especially for young men. I added Purposeful Design to our list of mornings reads. It has truly been delightful.

    What is so special about this book is Mr. Schabacker takes complex scientific information and weaves it together effortlessly with Biblical truths. 

    The book is divided into chapters that coincide with the Days of Creation found in Genesis 1. 

    Chapter 1 ~The First Day: Creation of the Heavens and the Earth - the Foundation of it All (What Keeps Things Going?)

    Chapter 2 ~The Second Day: Creation of the Atmosphere and Water (Quenching the Thirsty Earth - The "Rain Cycle")

    Chapter 3 ~The Third Day: Creation of the Dry Land and Vegetation (The Importance of Vegetation and Plants to Humans)

    Chapter 4 ~The Fourth Day: Creation of the Sun, Moon, and Stars (The Sun's Ray and the Earth's Tilt; Use of the Preciseness of the Sunrise; The Many Benefits of our Moon; The Beneficial Ocean Tides; and Stars)

    Chapter 5 ~The Fifth Day: Creation of the Birds and Fish (Why the Birds and Fish Were Created; Instinct; and Why Does Ice Float?)

    Chapter 6 ~The Sixth Day: Creation of Land Creatures and Humans (God Made Domestic Animals for Us and The Amazing Uniqueness of the Human Being)

    Chapter 7 ~The Seventh Day

    I just had to share this picture. I apologize for the quality of my pictures. I think that someone has been using my camera for secret missions aboard an alien spaceship. 

    Anyhoo. This guy looks how I feel most days. Throw a pair of dangly earrings on him and he could pass for me. 

    Purposeful Design: Young Explorer’s Club

    You can also take advantage of the Young Explorer's Club. This is a workbook that can be used as a companion along with the book. There is also a teacher's edition as well.

    It is intended for elementary readers. 

    I think this would be a fantastic gift (it would make a beautiful coffee table book), a help when studying Creation or just for reading with the family. 

    You can connect with Jay Schabacker on his blogFacebook and Twitter.

    You can read more reviews by clicking on the banner below. 

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