Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

“…I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

-Psalm 61:2

I went for a run at the trails as I often do several mornings out of the week. I run the same path, the same direction, and usually the same distance. But not this time.

As I was headed back on the final stretch of my run, there was a fork in the trail. I always go to the left as that way leads back to where my car is parked. But as I was jogging, I felt a tug in my heart. “Turn right and go up the hill.” Um, ok. I argued in my mind…I have a schedule, I have things to do. But…maybe I should welcome this quick break? Honestly sounded kind of nice…

You see, as the due date approaches quickly for our adoption and literally he could arrive at any time, we have been quite anxious and on pins & needles here. My stomach has literally been in knots as we wait for what’s to come…the next part of our story. So, in this moment at the trails, I felt like the Spirit was leading me to take a minute to just breathe before heading home and back to reality. I decided to listen. I stopped running and went right instead of continuing left. I walked up the hill and felt like I should just take a moment to pray over our adoption in the peaceful, quiet stillness surrounded by trees. Pray for the birth mom. Pray for Levi.  So, I walked up the hill and saw a big rock and thought it would make for a a perfect spot to just sit for a few minutes.

Tears started to stream down my face and join with the sweat that was already dripping.

I prayed for this brave birth mom who has been through so much. I prayed for her heart. For her pain. For her grief. For her future.

I prayed for this baby boy who is growing inside of her womb. Who we anticipate to be our Levi. I prayed for his arrival into this world. I thanked God for his life and prayed that Ryan & I would be the parents to him we need to be.

I prayed for our other kiddos who have walked this journey of adoption with us. They have endured broken hearts, God protect them. Help them to see the gospel through this process and love You more.

I cried.

As I sat on the rock, I felt this warm peace come over me and all I kept hearing inside my heart and mind was God gently reminding me that He’s got everything in his hands. The trees around me, the rock I sat on, the sun in the sky, Levi, Addi, Kam, Miles, Ryan and me…we are His creation and loved. “I’ve got you. Trust.”

As I walked away, I turned and snapped a pic to remember this sweet moment and share with Ryan about my experience. And THIS is the pic I got!

Sunshine beautifully circling the rock I just sat on. Tears flowed down my face as I stood in awe. God just gave me a warm hug. One that I didn’t even realize I needed in that moment, but goodness, I certainly did. I needed time with the Lord. I needed His peace and assurance. He wanted to comfort his stubborn child who tends to think she has to do everything on her own. I walked away knowing that whatever unfolds next in our story, God already knows. He writes the better story and my job is to stay the course and trust.

Friend, I would like to encourage you to today…when God interrupts your life and suggests you go in a different direction for a moment, DO IT. You just never know what He has waiting for you there.

IMG_1199

Baby Dixon Adoption Story: Part 8

So it’s been a while! 8 months to be exact. The last post in our adoption story was definitely unexpected and extremely hard. But this one brings new light and hope! Let me give you the real, raw low down on what’s happened over the past 8 months, friends…

After last year’s failed adoption in late October, it took us several months to process what had happened and work through the feelings & emotions. Crazy what all we felt. Honestly, there are still some days that we struggle with all of it. But God has been faithful and gracious, as always. His mercies are new every morning and His loves never fails. One day at a time, one step at a time, we stayed the course and got everything updated at the agency so we could start to be shown again to birth moms as they came in.

In early March of this year, we were making dinner and my phone rang. It was the agency. Anytime they call, my heart skips a beat. After a lengthy conversation regarding two different birth moms who were due one in August, one in September & some other special situations, the question was…”Do you want us to show your profile to either of them?”

The questions flowed in…are we ready to put ourselves out there again? Can we handle this? Can our girls handle this? Does this make financial sense? What if it fails again? But what if this could really be our son? Although we might not have felt strong enough yet to “do it all again” or “start over”, we knew God had called us to this and would provide what we needed. It’s not about us, but Him. It’s about a child’s life and the love we have to give.

“YES, you can show our profile to them.”

Fast forward just a few short weeks. Sitting at my desk doing some work late one afternoon and my phone rings. The agency. Is this it? THE CALL?

As the sweet lady from the agency spoke the words, “You have been chosen again…”, it honestly didn’t feel real. I think she was just as nervous to tell me as I was to hear it! It didn’t set in. I honestly felt nothing. And felt bad that I felt nothing. What was wrong with me? I realized in that moment how hardened & protective my heart had become. God, forgive me.

I hung up the phone and immediately called Ryan, then my mom, siblings, my best friends. I asked them if they were ready to walk this road again. We all were kind of in shock and not sure how to feel. We told our girls and they had the the we-will-just-wait-and-see attitude. I couldn’t blame them.

Don’t get excited. Don’t get your hopes up. This is all I could tell myself for weeks. As a family, we prayed. For the new birth mom. For the baby. But we didn’t talk much about it otherwise. We didn’t want to prepare a nursery. Not yet.

Ryan & I had the first official matching call with the birth mom. It was super easy. Quick. She was incredibly sweet and seemed excited about our family.

Late April, we had our first meeting set up with her. We were to meet for dinner with her & the agency rep. We were more nervous this time than I remember being last year. I think we were honestly just scared of being hurt again. But once again, we realized…it’s not about us. On the drive there, Ryan & I talked through all of this a lot. Thankful to have such a strong husband to walk this journey with. God knew we needed each other in this life.

As we waited at the front of the restaurant with the lady from the agency, the clock was ticking. She didn’t show up at the time we had agreed upon and worry set it. Had she already changed her mind? Did something happen? Is this really going to happen again, God? Ryan & I looked at each other and didn’t have to say a word. The agency rep was texting her as she walked through the front door. She was running late because it had taken longer to get her oil changed on her car than she anticipated. Sweet relief. She apologized and we headed to sit at our table. I know she must have been just as nervous or even more so than we were.

She was beautiful. She was so kind. We enjoyed our time with her just getting to know her. It was easy and honestly quite comfortable. It’s amazing how much love you feel towards a woman you hardly know. Not to mention the love for the tiny human being formed inside of her. It’s truly incredible. As we left and I embraced her, I felt God whisper to me, “Trust me.”

As we drove back home late that night, we felt very uplifted and good about it. Time to prepare the nursery. Time to embrace this really might happen. Just breathe and trust. Move forward. Do the next right thing. God’s got you. God’s got Levi.

12801539_10207447711845905_4326446415313688340_n

Over the next couple of months, we have texted and received many updates about our birth mom. All good. She is so independent. She is working hard to better her life, going to school and preparing for the future. She feels well even though it is extremely hot in Texas! Sonogram shows baby boy is doing fabulous. Her texts to me are always so sweet and thoughtful, even though I know she has her struggles and is also preparing for the grieving ahead. Things are moving forward positively and smoothly. No drama and no red flags (like last year). I thank God for this so much as last year took a toll on me many days.

We have prayed daily and feel the prayers of our amazing friends. It means the world the messages we have received just filled with encouragement and prayers. We are now two weeks away from due date. We have done some arranging in our house as we prepare. The nursery is officially ready. All of Miles’ tiny clothes have been washed and put away for baby brother.

IMG_0576

IMG_0572

IMG_0573

So my friends…

Our home is ready.

Our hearts are ready.

Our kids are excited to meet their brother.

We are ready to see what only God can do.

We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but beyond grateful we know without a doubt WHO holds tomorrow.

And now we wait for the next phone call…

Baby Dixon Adoption Story: Part 7

Well, this truly isn’t what I thought this post would be about. And honestly, I’ve been putting this off for weeks. Even sitting here now in our quiet home office while Miles naps, my heart aches and tears fall onto my desk as I type out these words…

Our adoption fell through.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again: Adoption is beautiful but hard. And you’ve seen here on this blog the good, bad and the ugly. And we have now officially been put into the category of having a “failed adoption.” We knew there would always be a chance in adoption that the birth mom could change her mind. But, we truly didn’t really see this coming. At least not the way it played out. It all felt so certain, especially there at the end. It all felt like it was so perfect. SO meant to be. We’ve been talking about having twins for a good part of this year and have two of everything. We were all set for our #dixontwins.

God brought us all together for a reason. Just not the one we thought.

So, what happened?

You know, honestly…we aren’t sure. And we may never really know. You see, up until the day that our birth mother delivered baby boy, we felt certain in the adoption plan. She even called us when she was heading to the hospital. But then, the next two days were quite confusing and emotional. Without going into much detail, I’ll just say this…the last phone call I received from the birth mom was in the middle of the night to let me know that “they were sending her back home because the baby wasn’t ready to come yet.” When in actuality, he was already born and they had decided to parent…which we later found out from the agency. That’s the last communication we’ve had with the birth mom. Which is hard considering we’ve worked for 5 months to build a relationship and felt like we had such a neat connection.

It’s been an interesting and rocky road for sure, but we know who ultimately is writing our story. It’s not us. And thank God that His ways are higher than our ways and His plans are always greater than our own. The story He writes is always better. So we trust and hold on to this truth. And we pray for the baby that was born that night. That God would protect him. That God would work miracles in the birth mom’s life. That she would come to know the Lord. That somehow they would be able to escape poverty and find a stable place to live. That the boy would grow up being loved and fully cared for well and one day that He would come to know Jesus. Addi, our oldest daughter, who we learn so much from daily, has been praying that for quite some time. She told me one day months ago, “Momma, even if (birth mom) changes her mind and that’s not our Levi, that he would still get saved one day so we can at least meet him in Heaven.” Oh precious, what a heart you have on you.

We grieved this loss greatly. And are still processing. It’s hard to see the duplicates of everything we have in the nursery. It was very hard to watch our girls grieve. That honestly might have been the hardest part! The emotions of a lost adoption are hard to explain. We have felt anger, confusion and most of all, sadness. We have felt so loved through this process by our family and friends. They have come and wrapped their arms around us, cried with us, brought food, sent flowers, fruit or an encouraging note and just loved us well through this time. God has blessed us greatly with these people. Our people. We are forever thankful. Thank you.

Now what? We pray, we trust, and we do the only thing we can. The next right thing…

So now, we are in the process of updating our profile with our agency and gearing up to go back in the “waiting families pot.” Now that we have sweet baby Miles (post to come about his birth soon!), we have to have a new home study and update everything on file. Moving forward with this is such a weird feeling and honestly hard to even think about it. We prayed about it for several days and came to this conclusion: God called us to this. We know in our hearts that our Levi is still out there. We must proceed and it WILL be worth it. What if Jesus gave up after things got hard? Look at all He did to adopt us into His family.

Because of the gospel, we have no choice…we take the next step. Now to see what Part 8 will bring!

12208339_10206524562167740_574246010717297347_n

#babyDixon Adoption Story: Part 6

Twins?

Let’s just talk about this for a second.

God sure is funny isn’t He? You know, we had our daughters very close together…Addi was 7 months old when we found out we were pregnant with Kamryn. So, we sort of did this once before! Had two babies about the same time. For years now we have been asked if Addi and Kamryn are twins. And it was crazy and is a complete blur and we had no sleep and on and on and on…BUT, we loved every minute (well, ok, most minutes) & it was obviously totally worth it. Let’s throwback to those times…here we are at the Tyler zoo pushing 2 strollers!

img_09342

So honestly, having two at the same time again doesn’t scare us THAT much! Plus #thoseDixons sort of like crazy adventures. Not sure if you’ve discovered that about us yet :) We are VERY excited. Yes, it will be different this time around because they literally are arriving within weeks of each other (or less)…not 16 months! But we are  thrilled about the “twins” that God has created to join our family very soon. When we originally heard that the birth mom that chose us was due just a short 2 1/2 weeks after I was, we just laughed. 2 girls. 2 boys. Goodness gracious, here we go!

What have we done to prepare?

After learning of the news that we had been chosen several months back, we have been on a mission! When I found out I was pregnant earlier in the year, we had already started to prep the nursery for one. Then, when we got the call from the agency in June, we just started doubling everything!

11895934_10205986311031798_7567645348220143017_n

We truly feel so blessed by the amazing friendships & family in our life. We’ve had friends give us baby stuff that they no longer need. Several sweet friends planned and hosted a beautiful baby shower for us. We’ve received so many generous gifts, it brings tears to my eyes!  We are fully loaded. We have so much stuff it’s crazy! Our drawers and closets are full of clothes. We have gadgets, bumbos, play mats, bouncers, bath gear, double pack-n-play, boppies and on and on. I also have some twin mom friends that have given me some fabulous tips…and will for sure be a resource I will tap into after they arrive! Thankful for these wise, beautifully brave mommas that are there to help. And you know Grandma is having a hay day with this! My mom & I have gone shopping a few times for various things and she’s loading up her house too!

11986578_10206269018539309_2046449109887425535_n

IMG_8703

A few frequently asked questions we get about our boys….

1. When are they due?

Miles will arrive on October 30th or sooner because I have to have a c-section (since I’ve had 2 previous ones). Levi is due November 22nd. 23 days later.

2. Do you plan to breastfeed both of them?

Yep, I’m sure gonna try!

3. What race is Levi?

He is African American. So yes, our twins will be one black and one white! Beautiful.

4. Are your girls excited?

Oh my goodness, they are SO very excited! They can’t wait. They talk about the boys all the time and even fight over who’s gonna get who. Kamryn thinks Levi will be sweet like her. She says Miles will be a “stinker like Addi.” Hahaha! They pray for the birth mom. They totally geek out and squeal anytime I buy new outfits or a gift arrives. They are giddy! And knowing how helpful they will be is awesome…they will be little mommas.

5. Is Ryan glad to have some boys in the house?

You know what…Ryan has been the sweetest and best girl daddy ever. It has been an absolute joy watching this over the past 9 years. Our girls ADORE their daddy. But YES, he is excited to play ninja turtles and trains with boys! He’s excited to think of future camping trips, hiking trails, and football. He’s pumped about adding two boys into our crazy fam. And I know he will be an amazing boy daddy too. Thankful for how he loves us all. By the way, he’s been such a fabulous support to me during pregnancy. He willingly eats whatever sounds good to me so he’s proud to show you his “pregnancy” progress!

IMG_8524

Well folks, that’s about it. Our adoption story thus far. We are prepped & ready. We have done and continue to do all we can. Now, we just continue to pray and wait to see how the rest of the story will unfold. God’s story is always better than ours and we hold on to Ephesians 3:20…”He is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.” We have faith that God has been and is in control of everything. From the timing of when the babies will be born. To the adoption process, those 48 hours at the hospital and all that that will entail. To bringing two baby boy bundles home and starting our life as a family of 6! We pray often each day for God to go before us as all of this is beyond our strength or power. We know He already knows how all of this will play out and this gives us hope and comfort!

THANK YOU for following our journey and your prayers & encouragement along the way. Your prayers specifically for the birth mother are much appreciated over the coming weeks. The final post in this series, Part #7, will be after babies arrive!!! We can not wait to bring them both home.

FullSizeRender

#babyDixon Adoption Story: Part 5

10509576_10203137606415963_8427858954203321764_n

Tears filled our eyes and many emotions and feelings filled our hearts after receiving that call from the agency that evening. “You have been chosen.” Words I will never forget. I automatically had a strong sense of connection and love for this birth mother who had just looked through our freshly printed profile book and picked us. Our family…those Dixons. We had been praying diligently for her, this person we had no clue who it would be, for months. Actually, for years now even at night as a family while tucking the girls into tiny twin beds.

When we got set up with our new agency, they connected us to their private Facebook group page with their other adoptive families. On this page, they post brief descriptions of birth moms that come in wanting to set up an adoption plan. When our birth mom’s basic info was first posted, we read the details and something just spoke to us about her and our hearts told us that this might be THE ONE. So when they called and told us that she had picked us, we almost weren’t surprised! And here’s the even crazier part – we found out she is due just a few weeks after me! God had brought us together for a reason and the story begins to unfold. Our twins.

So the process works like this. Once the birth mother picks a family, they set up an initial “match call” with a social worker to talk, introduce ourselves and get to know one another. Then if that goes well, a face to face meeting would be set up. After that, the amount of times you meet up or see each other before the birth is really determined by both parties – the birth parents & us. Then, details regarding the birth of this precious baby and hospital would be worked out. In Texas, after the birth, the birth mom has a 48 hours minimum wait to sign off her rights and complete the relinquishment. Thinking through this brings tears to my eyes. Oh the pain, hurt, loss, joy, happiness, humbleness and more unknown feelings that I know these 48 hours will hold.

Our first call was scheduled just a couple of weeks after being matched. Ryan & I were super nervous. To hear this strangers’ voice on the other end of the phone. To relay on to her successfully how thankful we were she picked us, how brave we thought she was and how much love we already had for her and for the baby boy she was carrying. We dialed into the conference call number set up by the agency and immediately were connected to the social worker who was there with her. For the next 45 minutes, we talked. She shared.  She asked some good questions. We asked her some questions and got to know her. Our heart broke for her but grew bigger for her during these minutes. We told her how humbled we were and how we felt like God had brought us together. It was a special time and it just felt right. This was really happening.

After receiving confirmation from the agency that she too felt good about the call, we were on to the next step…setting up the face to face meeting! That was scheduled for just a few short weeks after our call. Date & location was arranged and we were praying hard…we knew going into this would be nerve-wracking for all of us!

In the mean time…my pregnancy was going well and my belly continued to grow. Sweet baby Miles was measuring in the 90% percentile (and still is). He’s going to be tall like Daddy, no doubt! This little guy moves all the time and, according to his sonogram pics, will have some chunky cheeks. So excited to meet him and kiss those cheeks! Precious little boy already has his momma’s heart. Here are some pics showing his growth during this time over the summer…

11039095_10205558926947463_7413869610442099636_n

11709726_10205689664255814_8870996847807275181_n

11866393_10205983750927797_7095842070499039681_n

So the day came for us to go meet the birth parents. We took a little road trip across Texas that morning to arrive in time for lunch. On the road, we prayed and we talked to some friends on the phone who had experience in this area and were able to give us some great advice and perspective. Ryan & I were both so nervous. Probably one of the most nervous times of our entire lives to be honest! Would we say the right things? Would we know how to act? What to do? How to respond? What is appropriate to say and what’s not? This was uncharted, very new territory for us and we had no clue what to expect. But we prayed and we decided to just be us, be real & go into this honest and open. God knows us and knows her and knows what this baby needs….we just have to be obedient and take it one step at a time. We knew she would be nervous as well and prayed that God would calm all of our nerves! When walking into the restaurant, we weren’t even sure what she looked like or who we were looking for. A few minutes after sitting in the lobby area, we see 3 people walk in – the social worker, the birth mom and the birth father. My natural response? I walked straight up and hugged her fighting back tears! We had a really good lunch followed by ice cream. Conversation seemed to flow easily and comfortably. We talked about pregnancy, families, their hopes & goals, what life for Levi would look like with us, etc. God’s hand was felt all over this day. We left amazed, exhausted, drained but fulfilled.

The consecutive months after this meeting, things have been up and down….some good days, some hard days. Adoption is amazing, but it is also very, very hard. It’s a roller coaster that is hard to explain. Words fail. We knew it would not be easy, but we never EVER doubt that it will be worth it. Levi will be worth it. God has called us to this. Since our initial call & meeting, the birth parents have dealt with a lot of drama, family issues, doubt, questioning their decision, some health concerns, fear, guilt, hospital trips and on and on. It has been difficult for all of us, but most definitely for them. Our love grows for the birth mother as this relationship develops. Our love for baby boy grows greatly. So much to all of this…constantly leaves us on our knees before our Creator. Each day might be crazy, but one thing always remains: God is in complete & total control. This is the stage of the game we are in currently…we continue to meet with them & talk to them on the phone off and on, we pray consistently and continue to prepare for the birth of both of our sons. We continually remind ourselves, this is not about us…this is about God’s plan. We are the clay, he is the potter. Definitely a faith building process!

Next up in Part 6, I’ll share with you guys more about what it looks like to prepare for TWO! Our #Dixontwins. A look inside the nursery, our babies shower and some of the goodies we’ve picked up or have been gifted as we get ready!

For now, we just ask you pray if & when you think of us…

Pray for the birth parents: for peace, comfort, healing, assurance in their decision and the actual delivery, hospital process, their family & health for birth mom.

Pray for our baby boys: for them to continue to grow and develop, for health, for their entrance into the world and into our family! And pray that the timing of their arrival works out as I will most likely be recovering from a c-section with Miles when Levi arrives.

Pray for us: that we would put our full trust in God and have complete faith in his plan through all of this. That we would have the right words to say and remain strong. Pray specifically for our girls and their hearts through all of this, the stress and worry they feel and for them as they prepare for a lot of life changes.

Thank you all! I can’t even express through words how much your prayers & support means to us throughout this process!

#babyDixon Adoption Story: Part 4

We’re officially pregnant AND adopting, all in one! YES. It’s true. Ryan & i were in shock for about a month! Did that really just happen? REALLY?!!! Seriously?! God’s funny sometimes. After multiple positive pregnancy tests and when I started feeling nauseas and extremely tired…things really started to sink in. This was happening. We were going to have 4 kids.

Quickly after this shocking news, we received word from our agency that there was going to be a get-together dinner in March to get caught up and meet other adoptive families. We were excited about this! We were still fully committed to the adoption and hopeful for some good updates/clarity at the meeting. Prior to going, we had started to discuss the possibilities of looking into additional agencies as we started to wonder if we should be more proactive after all of the months and months of waiting, not any action, and limited communication. We had no clue if this was even possible, some of questions that Ryan & I discussed were…

Can we be with more than one agency at a time?
Is this agency the best fit for us after all?
Does it normally take this long?
What if we were with another agency or more than one agency, would that better our chances?
If we change agencies, are we trying to be in control and not let God be in control?
What will the agency think of us being pregnant?

So after praying about this before the meeting, we decided that we would base our decision to search for other agencies or not after hearing the “updates” given. So we went, dined, chatted with some other couples, received the updates and left with no doubt in our minds. It was time to do more and work harder to find our son. We learned during that meeting that we would not be able to get an updated & needed home study for the year, which is required, until after the birth of our biological baby. And also, that the agency wouldn’t show our profile to any birthmoms until 6 months after delivery. Honestly, this was eye-opening and discouraging all at the same time. Ryan & I felt in our hearts that the pregnancy should not put any kind of delay on our adoption process. So to us, this was a clear sign.

We began to pray that God would show us what to do next. Where do we go from here? A couple of months past. First trimester came and went and I was starting to feel better & more energetic. We had been invited to Lubbock to attend a 40th wedding anniversary for some of our dearest friends and mentors in May. A couple of weeks prior to that trip, I so happened to remember that I had a friend on Facebook that worked at an adoption agency based out of Lubbock! A girl that we used to go to church with when we lived there years ago. So I sent her a quick Facebook message that went something like this…”Hey girl, would it be possible to come by on Friday, May 22 for a quick meeting to learn more about your agency?” To which she quickly responded saying that we could and that the director of the agency was available that afternoon at just the perfect time when we would be pulling into town after our 8 hour drive. All set.

The day before our trip, we went to the doctor for the big gender reveal. We currently have two beautiful girls who fill our lives with much joy and a little drama. :) We’ve always known in our hearts, we were supposed to have a son and assumed it would be through adoption. With this pregnancy surprise, we thought it would be so cool if it were a boy so we could have 2 sons since we have 2 daughters. 4 kids! WOW. We never really expected to have that many! #thoseDixons were about to go from 4 to 6! As soon as they put the ultrasound instrument on my growing tummy, he revealed himself proudly! It’s a boy! Tears of joy filled our eyes as we watched them explore our precious son who we had already chosen a name for, Miles Clark. It was a special moment and we felt God’s presence surround us. Sharing this news with family and friends made for a fun day! We were excited to learn all of this before heading West to celebrate with our friends.

11037281_10205347538222877_3913100211838195048_n

So after arriving in Lubbock that Friday, the whole Dixon crew went to meet with the director of this potential new agency for about an hour and a half. It was everything we needed. She said things that spoke right to our heart about their mission and the way they approach this adoption process. They also said they left it up to God and the birth mom to decide if she would want to choose us knowing we were pregnant, so they continue to show profiles. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit with her and loved hearing her passion for what she does. We left with a fresh new stack of paperwork and list of to do’s to get the ball rolling yet again.

After a great time in West Texas, we headed back East to Tyler. On the long drive home, we started filing out the new forms, talking about baby names, and feeling overall more confident and excited about this new door of opportunity. We felt like this step was the right one and bringing us closer to our second son, who we even chose a name for on the drive home…Levi, which means “attached or united.” Perfect. The 2-3 weeks after that initial meeting we completed doctors visits, background checks, updated references, fire & safety updates, a home study visit and preparing a new profile book to be printed. We also had a 2 hour phone call with the agency discussing what circumstances, conditions, preferences, etc we would be willing to accept. This call was honestly very hard and exhausting. Questions like “Would you take a baby who’s birth mom smoked cigarettes? If yes, how many cigarettes per day is OK?” and “If your baby had XYZ, would you take him?” Heavy, heavy stuff to think through and answer. We worked fiercely to complete everything needed as we felt God saying, “move!” We had everything turned in to the agency including the freshly printed profile books by Friday, June 19th. Just under a month after our initial meeting. Whew, sweet relief!

3 DAYS LATER. June 22nd. My phone rings a little after 5 that evening. The call we had been waiting on for 2 1/2 years…

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 8.07.17 AM

 

11329856_10205610626799927_1649498043740256231_n

 

Miss the first 3 parts of our adoption series? You can read there by clicking on the links below! Stay tuned for Part 5. 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

#babyDixon Adoption Story: Part 3

So we continue along our journey to #babyDixon. We knew this process wouldn’t be easy but we always knew it would be worth it. Thoughts of our future kiddo helped us press on through any doubts or discouragement along the way.

At this point, June 2014, we were all set, in the “book” at the agency to be shown to birth moms, and daily wondering when our phone would ring telling us we had been chosen. Month after month continued to pass. We received a couple of emails that our profile was going to be shown, but never THE call. With those couple of emails, there was much prayer, hopeful anticipation and thoughts of “what if?”

 

We constantly had to remind ourselves not to get discouraged. From the beginning stages of submitting the first round of paperwork ’til we swaddle the tiny baby, we knew this thing was in God’s hands and we didn’t want it any different. We would patiently wait some more. Another holiday season came and went with no additional stockings to hang by the fire. Hello, 2015.

 

So, Ryan & I started talking about something we hadn’t talked about in a very long time. We started questioning something we thought we had felt certain of previously. The whole “should we try to get pregnant?” talk. Oh boy. But wait! Before we go into this, let me give some background…

 

After having our girls so close to together back to back in 2006 & 2007, this momma had honestly no interest in enduring 9 months of pregnancy again. I mean, for the love, I was pregnant for basically 2 years straight. I really felt that I was done. I knew in my heart that God had planted that seed of adoption and felt perfectly content and at peace with that being how our third child would come into the world. But, Ryan always said throughout the whole process of adoption (partially joking but not really), “You know if we have 3, we should have 4 right? He’ll need a buddy!” I always would laugh it off but just thought that maybe we would just adopt twice…you know, if he was really serious about the buddy thing.

 

So fast-foward to early 2015. Things were moving still extremely slowly with our adoption process and my 35th birthday was rapidly approaching. Thoughts of pregnancy crept in. See Exhibit A.

 

Exhibit A:
Maybe I was making a mistake by shutting that door? 
What if God wanted me to get pregnant AND adopt? 
I do like the thought of feeling the baby move, breastfeeding and my girls being a part of such an incredible thing.
Maybe I wasn’t done? 
Maybe I should try again before I turn 35? 
I’m too old.
Could I really endure that again? I mean, 9 whole months, really?
Could I give up running & wine for nearly a whole entire year?
I can’t. I just can’t.
Am I selfish?
Would I be able to handle 4 kids, owning our own businesses and have any kind of life?
What if I get stretch marks this time around?
What if I can’t get pregnant anymore?
What if it was a boy and looks like Ryan? I would just die.
Am I crazy?
I don’t even know how to have a newborn…it’s been over 7 years! What the heck is a Nose Freda?

 

When I told Ryan some of my thoughts, I could tell he was trying not to show his excitement and make sure this is something I really wanted to do. But his grin told me all I needed to know. So we talked through it, went back & forth for about 2 months. Should we? Shouldn’t we? Then finally one day, we decided something BIG. Something kind of crazy. Have you heard of the story in the Bible about Gideon laying out a fleece and asking God to give him a sign – if it were wet the next morning, but the ground was dry THEN he would know for sure? Well, we decided to throw out the fleece so to speak. But honestly felt in our hearts it was the only way to move on from these few months of uncertainty. God is gracious and patient with us humans, thank goodness huh?

 

So, we decided to really pray intently and try for 1 month. Just 1 month which technically is only a week or so. If God wanted us to get pregnant, we would. If not, we would just completely move on from this idea and be OK with it. But, either way, we’d move on with our plan to adopt as that never was a question.

 

So, we did. And it did. And He did. And now this…

 

11080904_10204990987909342_1390713840623093459_n
11707555_10205641477331171_4123882525334693119_n

 

Miss Parts 1 & 2? Here you go:
Read Part 1 HERE
Read Part 2 HERE
Stay tuned for Part 4. God really just starts showing off!

#babyDixon Adoption Story: Part 2

10849998_10204424718032949_8011803490564453543_n

Our journey had officially begun. Hurry-up-and-wait seemed to be the theme throughout this stretch…

In March of 2013, we left our first training at the agency with a clear direction, a stack of paperwork, list of required books on “Open Adoption” to read and a dose of anxiousness. The paperwork required, as expected & understandably so, was INTENSE. Very personal questions were asked, details of family history, childhood memories, copies of birth and marriage certificates, work & living history, doctor check-ups & referrals to ensure we were “fit to parent”, letters of references were requested, etc, etc, etc. The agency had told us the next step after completing this would be a 2 day seminar specifically about Domestic Infant Adoption, but they had just had one and it would be a few months before the next one would be scheduled. We thought that’s ok! That will give us some time to complete this huge pile of to-dos.

So, we worked on this paperwork and read the books off and on for the next few months…at night when the girls went to bed, on airplanes, Sunday afternoons on the patio, on road trips, you name it. Late summer, we mailed off a huge packet containing the completed paperwork to the agency. Everything was DONE! We felt so accomplished and excited. Maybe baby Dixon would be with us by Christmas? We would need a stocking for him and of course new family photos for a Christmas card! Ryan began painting our guest room that would become a nursery. We dusted off the beautiful crib my Dad had hand crafted for Addi and set it in place. We continued to move forward as we waited for the next green light. We read books, learned so much about open adoption…the good, bad, ugly. Ryan and I both felt 100% sure about having this openness (which just means you can have some sort of relationship with the birth mom and possibly the birth father after placement). We prayed for the birth mother often knowing the struggle and pain she would go through. A love in our heart grew for this person who would carry this precious gift.

We were anticipating the 2 day seminar to be scheduled “any day now” and felt like we were making progress. We waited. And waited. And waited some more. The agency thought they would have a seminar in the Fall of that year but it didn’t happen. Months came and months went. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years…and nothing. Honestly, we began to feel discouraged. At this point, all our friends and family were aware of our desire to adopt. As good friends and loving family do, they asked “How’s the adoption going?” to which we would reply with a sigh, “Just waiting!”. We knew adoption could be and usually is a long process…but every time we took a huge step forward, nothing much happened. We prayed. Mostly for patience but always for our baby who we knew God had already picked out for our family. Some days, we questioned. We had faithfully taken the steps…God, this was what you wanted us to do, right? Finally on a cold winter day in February 2014, we received word that we had gotten in to the long-awaited seminar! This was it! It was scheduled for late April, still a couple of months away, but we felt encouraged that things would began to happen!

With a newly found vigor and positivity, we attended the 2 day session that Spring. The days were filled with intensive training on adopting a newborn. What to expect, the process of being chosen by a birth mom, the match meetings, the hospital stay, etc. We learned so much and enjoyed every minute of it. We even heard a testimony from another adoptive couple who had been through the process. They had been chosen quickly and had a beautiful baby girl. They shared their story and it touched our hearts. We began to wonder even more…how would our story play out? Feeling more confident than ever that we were on the right track, we left with a few more items to take care of to get ready for our home study. One was to create a profile with pictures and a letter for the birthparents. This profile would be what they would show a birth mom when she was ready to choose a family. This was all the birthparents would know of us. Our one shot to make a good impression. We thoughtfully but quickly took care of this so we could get our home study scheduled and do all we could to “get in the books” as soon as possible. We were ready. We got a call to setup our final piece of the puzzle, the home study. It was scheduled quickly, the interview and home inspection was smooth and painless. Some general questions for Ryan and I, a walkthrough and even some Q&A with our girls on discipline and their happiness levels. The last official item was officially checked off. We left on a family vacation in early June with everything complete. Now, we wait some more.

Sitting outside on a porch while at the beach that June 2014, my phone rang. It was the agency. The first of many anticipated calls along our journey…our home study was approved and our profile had officially gone IN THE BOOK! So they would be able to start showing us to birth moms that they were working with. Tears streamed down my face as I looked at Ryan and told him. It’s happening…here we go. Knowing that from that day forward, the next time our phone rang, it could be THE call. The one to tell us we had been chosen. The one that would bring us closer to our son. The one that, unbeknownst to us, was still so far away.

10354185_10202823822011549_6541451722687897983_n

#babyDixon Adoption Story: Part 1

Ryan & I started feeling the push towards adoption many years ago. We felt God stirring in our hearts about this in a very real way since the beginnings of our relationship but always assumed it meant “one day”…like one day much further down the road. You know, when things were more “settled”, more established. We would have more time, more money. Our girls were still very young, practically babies, and financially we were broke. We had too much debt, too little income and fought for side jobs to bring in just enough for us to not wake up to a low balance email from the bank. We felt trapped, small and didn’t see the possibilities of getting ahead, let alone bringing other kiddos into our family. So, honestly, we didn’t think too much into the adoption idea. However, God is always bigger than any excuse or any circumstance. His power is revealed most great when ours is most pathetic.

 

A few amazing years past those heavy years, we saw Him work in ways we could never take credit for. That is another story in itself. We quickly realized that God was stripping away any excuse we had. A great business opportunity came into our life and rocked our world, thankfully leaving us in a better position with our schedules as well as our finances. We were able to pay off our massive amounts of credit card. Our girls were getting older. They started talking about how they wanted a “baby brother.” Ryan & I both quit our full-time jobs and decided to work from home with our new-found business and pursue our list of dreams. One of them, adoption.

 

Fast forward to the Fall of 2012. One Sunday evening on a road trip back home from Austin, we were listening to sermon that our cousin Aaron Ivey had preached weeks before at his church, The Austin Stone. The topic of the series? Adoption. God spoke loud and clear to us that evening, right there in our car. It was time. Overwhelmed by the reality of the gospel and our own adoption into His family, we were brought to tears and ready to embark on this journey. He made a magnificent path for us the past few years and there was no reason to wait for “one day” anymore. That day had arrived.

 

We began our research into agencies and officially and nervously submitted a pre-application in January 2013. This included general info about us and basically gets you into an initial “help you figure out which route to take” kind of class. We went to an informational meeting, clueless. We left with a clear direction of our route. Domestic infant from Texas of any race. Even making this decision made things feel more real. It’s amazing how God starts to give you this unexplainable love for this unborn child even at this phase. We loved #babyDixon…not knowing who he was or when he would be created. Taking this step just felt right. We were getting closer but little did we know we were still years away.

 

10330331_10203595056931940_7247962526340233677_n

Will never take it for granted!

5070_1171997015029_5119316_n

When my girls were little, all I wanted to do was be able to work from home so that I could be with them more. I worked a typical corporate 8 to 5 cubicle style job for most of their babyhood and well past their toddlerhood. Sat at my desk most days always wishing there was something more. I worked hard but felt like I got no where. Financially…or in life. It always made me so sad to drop off two sweet baby girls at daycare in the morning and only have what seemed like a few minutes each night to really spend quality time with them. I struggled with this for years but thought that was just the way it was. We didn’t have another option. We had so much debt and way too many bills. I always prayed that God would somehow allow me that freedom. To open a door for my family. I love to work and always have, but just wanted something that would give me the freedom to do it from home. I prayed and prayed and searched and searched. Fast forward to today. I am overcome with joy and emotion as I think of all that God has done in our lives over the past several years. The things he has brought us through, both ups & downs. I am so incredibly grateful that I have found IT. To be able to work a job that I love from home or wherever I choose and set the hours I want. My kids can be with me when I work. I love this so much. I am also thankful that this job doesn’t feel like a job to me…I help people achieve goals and earn income doing it. It’s also allowed us to pay off debt and dream bigger than we’ve ever imagined. It really is my dream come true. To live more. Such freedom for which I will not take for granted and will count my blessings daily as I soak up making memories with my babies!

10991323_10204692725292963_4695366946702436141_n

#focused15

10955720_10204598942708457_3600481091860797417_n

I have a friend who read a book called One Word That Will Change Your Life and told me all about it! In a nutshell it encourages you to pick just one word and let it guide you the entire year to help you simplify and go after your goals in all areas of your life. I decided to do this. I am all about setting goals and love the start of a fresh new year to go after brand new ones. Instead of making overwhelming resolutions I could potentially fail at, I decided to choose a word and let that push me to succeed in several areas and goals! I prayed about it and decided Traci’s word would be FOCUSED. Past tense because the end goal is to be more focused. That’s my destination (and my new hashtag). Let me explain…

#focused15

  • I wanted to be more focused as a mom. I want to have time with my children where I fully focus on them and relish each moment with them as they are kids. Because as time has already proven, it speeds by. How are they already 7 & 8? I mean, really. Life is crazy and I love crazy. BUT. I want to slow down enough each day to have intentional focused time with my munchkins. It’s in those sweet moments where memories are made and hopefully impacts their hearts. I don’t want to miss it…at bedtime, reading a book, cuddling, playing a game of basketball, looking them in the eyes, holding their hand.
  • I want to be more focused as a wife. With Ryan & I both having our own businesses, we tend to be in “work mode” often. And we both enjoy working. However, I want to have even more time with my husband that is fully focused on us. Not our kids. Not our businesses. Not our long list of to do’s. Just us. Our friendship and our love. Date nights need to be just that. A night together to laugh, talk, look into each others eyes, and just be. Ryan deserves that from me. Our marriage deserves that. We do fairly well in this area but there is always room for improvement! I am blessed to have an amazing man who not only is my best friend but also business partner. I want to be able to fully focus on the most important part of our relationship as husband and wife first!
  • I want to be more focused in my business. Working from home is a total blessing of which I’ve dreamed about my whole life! I love what I do and the freedom it allows me. Wouldn’t trade it for anything! However, something I have learned about myself is that in order for me to truly focus and get more done, I have to do a few things. Which is my goal in this area for the year! That is to utilize my planner to help me plan out my weeks and months better. To make my list of things I need/want to accomplish and mark them off each day. If I don’t write it down, chances are, it’s not happening. I also have decided in order to focus fully on getting stuff done in my business, I work so much better from a coffee shop! When I’m at home, I sometimes get distracted by “home stuff”…i.e. laundry, dishes, my dog, the piles of toys, etc. But when I take my computer to the local coffee shop, I get a ton done and can intently focus on building my business. I love it. Plus the coffee is amazing and that’s always a perk! I have a big goals for my business in 2015, so being & staying FOCUSED is key.
  • I want to be more focused with my running. Last year, I ran. But honestly it was half-heartedly. I didn’t give it my all. I didn’t do it as much as I would have liked or pushed myself as hard as I could. The races I did were hard and I didn’t even really try. As I ran across the finish line of the Dallas Half in December, I determined then & there that I wouldn’t let another year pass like that. I know there will be a day when I’m older where running is a thing of the past….hopefully that day will be when I’m like 90! I want to relish in my runs all that I can. So this year, I am focused. Focused on getting better. Getting faster. Doing more. Running with purpose. It clears my mind, I get my best ideas while running, and have some of my best worship experiences. It’s my “Traci time.” I need this and it’s good for me! Dedicated to being more focused and the runner I know I can be.
  • Finally, but most importantly, I want to be more focused in my relationship with the Lord this year. I have started getting up early & I was not an early morning person! But slowly I’m becoming one. And loving it! I need to have more focused quiet times in the mornings to get my heart and focus where it needs to be each day. JESUS. When He is my focus, everything else falls as it should. I don’t let as many things affect me in a negative way, I’m a nicer and more patient momma when my girls wake up, I’m a better friend. I have determined that I can’t do this life thing by myself (duh) and God doesn’t expect me to. He’s there always and is continuously faithful. I need to let him guide my days instead of bringing him in on occasion when it’s convenient. He is bigger and greater than all things….I need him in ALL areas, not just a few.

My prayer at the end of 2015, as we are celebrating another year with our amazing friends & dancing the night away at our annual New Year’s Eve party, is that I’ll look back over the past 12 months and know that I FOCUSED on what’s most important. In each moment of each day of each month of the whole year. I want to make it count and live it to the fullest.

I challenge you to pick a word and join me in striving to be the best version of YOU that you can be this year! And I would LOVE to hear about it if you would be willing to share!

Much love,

Traci

Remain in my love.

In December of 2009, I heard an amazing message at church on that particular Sunday morning. Jon Jenz preached on John 15:9 which says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.”  

I even blogged about it here.

I distinctly remember leaving church that day with that verse permeating every bit of my being. Oh how much Jesus loves me! To die for me. To pay for all of my many sins. To love me inspite of me, just like the Father. Unconditional, sacrificial, undeniable love. I remember thinking how I wanted to be reminded daily to REMAIN in that love. To walk in that love. To show that love. Each and every day. We went to lunch at my parents house right after church, just as we had done on many Sundays. I told my Dad how cool I thought it would be to tattoo the word “remain” on my wrist as a reminder of this sweet verse. He agreed…my Dad was cool like that. He himself even talked about getting a tat!

Fast forward to June 4, 2010. The absolute hardest and most tragic day of my life. My Dad, the man who taught us so much about living life to the fullest and making the most of each opportunity, suddenly passed away that morning from a heart attack.  He went for a run early that morning, came home and that was it. He went to heaven and is now running the streets of gold. Through much grief, pain, reliving many good memories, and a ton of prayers, my family made it through that dark time. We still miss him like crazy, quote him often, still laugh at his jokes, and strive to live MORE because of all he taught us.

So, back to the verse. After he passed away, I still had not gotten that “remain” tattoo. But this verse had now become two-fold for me. Now, I wanted to remain in Christ’s love and also hold on to the love of my earthly father as well. I felt that my Mom & Dad both rooted my life in love from the moment I was born. I told Ryan that I wanted to get a tattoo about that verse and all that it now meant to me and asked him to draw something up for me. Since my love knows my heart more than anyone else, I trusted him with this endeavor. He came back with the absolute perfect tattoo…

Print

Rooted in love. 30 heart leaves for the 30 years I had my Dad in my life. 2 pink hearts that represent my children. I absolutely LOVED it. Remain and grow. Live more, give more. It was perfect.

I held on to this drawing for the past 3 1/2 years knowing one day I would actually have the courage to go and get it tattooed on my body. I wanted it. I knew it would happen. I just never did it. Until this week in San Diego!!!

Next week marks 4 years since my Dad passed away. I thought what better way to remember and celebrate his life and all he taught me than to go on my birthday trip to finally get this marked on my inner calf. So we went & we did it! It was an amazing experience.

photo copy

We added 2 connected hearts on the tree itself to represent Ryan & I’s love for one another. The tattoo artist nailed it. I absolutely love it. I love what it means to me. I love that it gives me an opportunity to share my story. I love that I can tell others about Christ’s love, about what I learned from my 30 years with my Dad and about how our family currently strives to live more and give more.

Oh and Ryan got one too! ;) He blogged about his inevitable tattoo a few years ago. He finally got it…we are always better together. The shirt on his “running man” is orange, which is significant because my Dad’s favorite shirt was orange. He wore it all the time. Here is Ryan’s, I love it too!

photo

Doing the next right thing.

Last night we went to a mentorship training at our church for a program we are involved in called Gospel Village. (Which they are desperately needing more mentors by the way, if you have an interest, please let us know! The demand from Tyler schools is very high. There is a great need.) Anyways, at the training, they made mention of an email that Ryan had sent to the director about his experience thus far mentoring. She said it “flooded the church offices” the day he sent it. I had not read or heard about this email until it was mentioned last night so immediately when we got home I asked him to send it to me!!! I read it and it brought many tears to my eyes. Our mentee boy is changing OUR lives through this program. And wow…I am so incredibly thankful to be married to a man who has a heart like this:

“The greatest hour of my week is now on Tuesday.
Every Tuesday I now have a very special appointment from around 11am till noon. I drive 1/4 mile down the road in my late father-in-laws, beat-up, blue Chevy truck to Caldwell Elementary. I get out, check in at the front desk, then head though large halls of this worn-out school towards the cafeteria.
I walk though the doors and am greeted with chitter chatter and turning heads like a celebrity just walked in. I then use my “where’s Waldo?” skills to find the prettiest face in the room, my daughter Addison. She waves at me with the hugest smile and welcomes me over to her table and the space that she has saved for me.
I spend about 30 precious minutes in conversing with her all-the-while in awe that she is mine. I ask about her day so far while she eats her usual peanut butter only, peanut butter sandwich. She doesn’t stop smiling. Neither can I. Her table buddies can’t help but fill me in with all they have going on in their little lives as well. Surrounding table kiddos make their presence know as well which usually results in [school counselor] and the other lunchroom adults working to control the volume.
At around 11:25 [mentee’s] class walks into the room. Addi alerts me of his arrival, makes me hug her, tells me she loves me and then goodbye. I leave her table to join up in the lunch line with [mentee] and his class.
I greet him and his buddies with a high five. [mentee] usually says with a smile, “Hey Mr. Ryan!” and asks “Did you bring money for food?” to which I always say “YES!!!”. We go though the line, he helps be get chocolate milk, juice and the usual Tuesday flavorless and undercooked pizza option. I see the underlying pride in his step as he seems to really appreciate that I am here. Here for him. We check out at the register and walk outside to the vacant metal picnic tables overlooking the playground.
For the next 30 minutes, we have time without the cafeteria clamor to talk. Simply talk. Life, goals, sports, school, friends, influence and Spiderman. He was just awarded the opportunity to participate in a student leadership council meeting by his teacher, Ms. [teacher], which meets every Tuesday. This has provided some great talks for him and I as we discuss leadership, good versus bad and examples of both. A golden opportunity for me to share great things that my mentors in life have taught me.
My late father-in-law “Kip”, Traci’s dad, was an amazing mentor to everyone he came in contact with. He had an crazy way of motivating people to go above and beyond. He truly was above the norm. He preached and lived a life that was intent on living it to the fullest. Today one conversation that came up was in regards to leadership and making good decisions. I told him that one of my favorite things the Traci’s dad taught me is that, “When you don’t know what to do next, you do the next right thing.”
The lunch time goes so quickly. We ate then played a game of UNO as we talked. We then leave to throw away our trash and put up our trays. By this time his class is usually in line to go back to their room but today we got a bit distracted by our game. I walked him to his room, dismissed with a high 5 and then said our simple goodbyes. I always end with, “Thanks for having lunch with me. I’ll see you next week” which usually receives a simple “Ok. Bye Mr Ryan.”
I then walk differently down the stairs, past the undersized administrations office and back though the doors that I came in less than 1 hour ago. The difference now is I am full. Full of a sense of worth, value, purpose and positive impact. I drive back home in that old, battered, blue truck reflecting on my influence and thankful for those who have influenced my life in the even the simplest ways.
When presented with the opportunity to serve in this manner, I really didn’t feel comfortable with the one-on-one as that is honestly, not my style. It is a heavy responsibility and one that I did not want to take 1/2-hearted or without focused intention. When debating with the decision to become a mentor with Gospel Village, those words of wisdom from my favorite mentor, Kip, rang true again. When you don’t know what to do next, do the next right thing. This has been not only the right thing to do, but has also become literally the greatest and most important hour of my week.”

Messy Night.

Tonight after dinner, I was doing my nightly ritual of cleaning up. You know, the usual…dishes, wiping the table & faces, picking up the toys on the kitchen floor as well as the socks and shoes that I’ve tripped on a few times, etc. After starting the bath water, I continued cleaning up books in the hallway and then on into the girls’ room which was utterly disastrous. Stuff was everywhere. I honestly felt annoyed by all the mess. If you know me, you know I prefer order and organization. Things have a place and they belong in that place. And just as some not nice words were about to escape my mouth and regrettably enter loudly into the house for all to hear, something smacked me in the face (and heart) so hard that tears came to my eyes.

You see, at this very moment there is a mommy out there in my city who is mourning the loss of her precious 3 year old daughter. I can’t even fathom that. And here I am griping and moaning about the mess my daughters have made as they happily played in their room this evening. For those of you from Tyler, I’m certain you have heard about Haven Grace. For those of you who haven’t heard, please take time to watch this. What a blessing this child was to so many and what an amazing life she lived in her short time here. My heart has been heavy for this family for the past few days. Sad for her mommy & daddy and their incredible loss, but also inspired by this sweet little girl, her caring heart & her courage. Wow, what an angel.

So, how dare me & my complaining tonight. I should thank God for this mess we call our home. Lord, forgive me for being so stinkin selfish at times. Stepping on that toy while cooking should remind me…I have healthy children who are simply being kids and enjoying life. Instead of being annoyed, I should hold them close & give them a big fat kiss while thanking God for them. And the fact that He loves me and doesn’t shout out ugly words even though I’m a mess at times.

Prayer Life In Training

A couple of weeks ago, our pastor preached on prayer and the importance of it. It was such a good message & sweet reminder for me. Obviously to have a good relationship with your spouse, your children, your friends – there must be open communication. Same can be said with God. He wants to hear from us. He wants us to talk to him daily. He clearly loves us. I’m going to be brutally honest here and say that I struggle with this area of my relationship with the Lord. Praying does not come easy for me. At least not on a daily basis. Oh, I can pray when there is a need – when I’m struggling with something, my kids are sick, when Ryan interviewed for his new job, when there is a death in the family, a friend has lost a job, etc. It’s easy for me to remember to pray when there is something wrong or someone is hurting or something big is going down. But it’s hard for me to remember to pray on the days when everything is going A-ok. On that random Tuesday when nothing major is happening and everything is just fine…I may forget altogether to pray that entire day. Do you struggle with this?

I’ve read books like A Praying Life and Forgotten God. Mentally, I know what is right and true. I know I need to pray to my heavenly Father, just like I talk to Ryan every day and just like I expect my own kids to talk to me. We need to “pray continually” as it says in Thessalonians. Spiritually, I have to work on this. Just like training to run this marathon, I have to train myself to pray each and every day. After hearing Doug’s message, I told Ryan that I was going to work on this more. So here is what I’ve challenged myself with: I need to realize that prayers do not always have to be requests, so I am going to pray more thanksgiving prayers. Prayers to just praise God for all that He has blessed me and my family with. Thanking him for the creation I get to run through, my children’s health and their beautiful faces, my warm cozy bed, good tasty food, my loving husband, great friends to share life with, freedom of worship,  our house, my morning cup of coffee, the fact that this world is not my home, etc. After all, any and everything good comes from Him. He deserves a thank you, every day. I tell my kids this all the time…I need to apply it more in my own prayer life.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” – James 1:17

Life is hard and usually there is something you can think to lift up in prayer. But when all is going ok and there is not an immediate need, simply praise Him for that! There is really always something you can talk to God about. He desires that. The creator of the universe cares for us more than anything. His love for us is indescribable. He wants to provide for our needs, yes. But more than anything he wants that sweet relationship with us. Each day. How awesome is that?

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” – Ephesians 3:17-18

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” – Matthew 6:26

Bird on the Coast of New Hampshire, November 2011

Inexpressible joy?

1st Peter 1:8-9

You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.  The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

Do I exhibit “inexpressible joy” was a question I posed to myself this morning. Do I?

Saturday night Traci and I attended another Switchfoot concert. Everytime I listen intently to their lyrics or attend one of their concerts, I can’t help but come away with a sense of urgency to truly live life. I know that might seem extreme but it really does. Every album since the beginning of their history is all about motivating people to live a life worth living. It is after all, very short. I left the concert Saturday night wanting to fight the world, save all the orphans and live life without the day to day funk.

I really want to have the joy that Peter mentions in this passage. I really, really do. I want my life to be more “half full”; heck… overflowing right? “My cup runs over” is how I really want it. Obviously life is a grind. Even the book of Ecclesiastes is all about life, the struggle of it and inevitable death.

In reflecting on this verse it spoke to me.

To me the answer to living a life full of inexpressible joy is in the preceding lines.

Peter, whom if you remember did life with Jesus for 3 years and even fellowshipped with Jesus after he rose from the dead says,

You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him;

Obviously he is speaking to those who have chosen to embrace the reality of Jesus. People who “see Him through faith”. He says that even though we are not an eye witness of Jesus, His miracles, His love and His realness as Peter did personally, our faith is what produces this “inexpressible joy”; this joy that cannot be robbed by circumstances.

I find it no coincidence that this passage comes from a man who took those steps out of the boat that one night. Peter saw Jesus with his own eyes and stepped out of the boat and began walking on the water toward Him. Then, he lost his focus and began to sink.

I guess my take away and something that I am planning to really focus on this week especially is, “Does my faith in my future life trump the funk in my present”? I want it too. I want my faith, love and trust in Him to pick me up off the floor and live the life worth living. I need to keep my eyes focused on him and my perspective, heavenly.

Don’t you?

Here is the bridge and chorus to “Afterlife” by Switchfoot.

That’s just what He does.

I woke up this morning with a case of the mommy blues. This is the final day before the big day. Tomorrow is Kindergarten! I know this is not a sad thing, I really do. It’s a great thing in fact. Maybe I’m just being silly. I’m a worry wart by nature, so I have that working against me. Honestly, I was feeling quite sad today. My mommy friends tell me this is normal which makes me feel better and less like a cry baby.

But baby, I got the blues.

This morning during church, our worship leader started the service by praying that we could focus & put aside whatever we brought with us today. I prayed along with him but my mind was consumed. My focus was elsewhere, at least at first. I was standing there during worship feeling very weepy as we sang, “all of my life, in every season – you are still God, I have a reason to sing…” Thoughts of my baby girl starting Kindergarten in the morning flooded my mind. I wondered if we have taught her everything she needs to know for this. I was figuring out what I should send her for lunch and if she would stop talking long enough to have time to actually eat it…or would she starve all day? I was thinking about how hard it was to believe that I was even old enough to have a Kindergartener! (Not to mention the gray hairs that are sneaking up a little too fast for my liking.) I imagined what it will look like as she walks into her classroom in the morning in her cute new outfit & pink princess backpack. Will she cry when I leave? Probably not. Will I be able to stop crying when I leave? I have to, I have a meeting to get to. One chapter of life ends and another one begins. Tears.

Then out of the blue, I started thinking of and missing my Dad terribly. I thought to myself how proud he would be of Addi & how he would have given her a pep talk just like Grandma did yesterday. How he would like her school- the old building with such character, he would think it’s neat. I thought about how this was yet another milestone that he will not be here for. And friends, I felt downright sad. But the song kept on going, “I will rejoice, I will declare, God is my victory and He is here.” Dad would tell me to do the next right thing, I told myself. Chin up, Traci. Keep on keepin’ on. Then, I’m not even kidding, the very next song started….”turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face…” My Dad’s favorite hymn!!! While pastoring, he would have the church sing this song at the end of the service before leaving as a reminder of where our focus should be. This song was even sung at his funeral. More tears.

In that moment, it felt like the song selections were just for me. Maybe Dad put in a special request for me? :) I felt God’s presence so real – He was listening to the cries of my heart. He doesn’t think I’m being silly. He loves me. He knows how much I adore my Addi and how much I daily miss my Dad. When I’m sad or worried, He provides comfort. He held me in His arms this morning and let me cry. He reminded me to focus by turning my eyes toward him and “the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory & grace.”

He saw my heart and gave me that song, I just know it. That’s just what He does.

I blinked. They told me this would happen.

To my dear Addison Kate,

Today I took you school supply shopping. I’m not exactly sure how this happened given that just a few days ago, you looked like this…

But it’s true. You begin a brand new phase of life on Monday. You start Kindergarten! People have always told us not to blink because our kids will grow up so quick. I’m really starting to believe it now, sweet girl. I blinked and here we are.

Today, as we shopped for crayons, glue sticks, and big girl jeans, my heart was bursting with pride and tears filled my eyes. I love you so much, I can hardly stand it. Your curious mind, tender heart and fun sense of humor are such a joy to your Daddy & I, baby girl. I know you will absolutely love school. Your love of learning, structure, and schedules will help you adjust to this new phase quite well, no doubt. You are a social butterfly and are so kind to others, I know you will make new friends quickly. I’m sure your teacher will appreciate you helping her, as I know you will, to organize, instruct, and control your classmates. The excitement in your eyes when we talk about Kindergarten thrills me and eases my anxiety. You aren’t nervous at all like Mommy is, you are so brave!

As we left the store today, you said, “Mommy, hold my hand.” It was all I could do, as I felt your little hand in mine, to not start crying right then and there while walking to the car. I thought to myself how I wish I could go with you to Kindergarten and hold your sweet hand. You know, just to make sure you get through the day OK. Wipe your shirt off when you spill on it, wash your hands before lunch in the cafeteria, dry your tears if you fall down in the big huge hallway, and straighten your hair after recess. But I can’t, big girl. And you probably wouldn’t even want that knowing you! I reminded myself that you are a gift to us straight from the Lord. You ultimately belong to Him and we just have the amazing honor to care for you, help you learn and grow, and love on you like crazy for as long as we have each other here on this earth. And you know what? HE will be holding your hand at school every single day, which is even more important! That brings gobs of comfort to Mommy’s heart and it should your’s too. You are in good hands, punkin. And when that bell rings each afternoon, I will be right there waiting for you. Excited to hear all about your day as I know you will have much to say, as always.

I love you Addison Kate and I love being your Mommy. We are proud of you and know that God has great things in store for your life. Now…I’m gonna try hard not to blink again because I’m certainly not ready for any graduation or marriage ceremonies!

Your love remains the same.

A few days ago, I went up the gym to run & lift weights…change up the pace a little from running outside in this miserable heat. While pounding the treadmill trying to get in a quick 3 miles (which is about all I can handle on that blasted thing), I listened to the Jeremy Camp “Stay” album. Good stuff. His songwriting has always inspired and encouraged me. There is one song in particular that has stuck with me all week…one line from it really…

“Nothing I can do, nothing I can say
Can make You love me more, Your love remains the same.”

I love this line. I’ve been soaking in this all week. How sweet is it to know that there is really nothing we can do or say that will make God love us anymore than He already does? Think about that. His love is truly unconditional. It remains the same. He already knows the mistakes we’ll make in the future, but still loves us. He knows our past, but chooses to toss it. He knows our every thought, but still thought enough of us to send His son. Amazing really. His love astounds me! We should feel comfort in that and complete security.

I recently attended the Girls Night In event at my church. Sheila Walsh was the speaker that night and it was awesome. Her testimony was so neat to hear! She talked about how Jesus came for the broken – and we are all broken. She spent a majority of her life trying to win the approval of God by being the best “christian” she could be – wearing the right clothes, participating in a ton of church ministries, being friends with the right people, etc. Not that those things are bad, but she said she was doing them for the wrong reason. Then, after wearing herself way too thin and some other traumatic experiences, she came to the realization that it was not about winning His approval. She didn’t have to do that. It was about accepting his LOVE. It’s not about us – it’s all about Him. There’s nothing we can do, nothing we can say to make Him love us more – His love remains the same. Wow. That should spur us on to 1. love Him more (worship) and 2. love others more!

“…And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:17-19

Bounce Your Eyes.

Lust is a big deal! Temptation is EVERYWHERE, especially for men. I have had recent conversations with friends and family about this very topic. Seems as though it’s an attack on all sides. You can’t even scroll down news sites without topics of sex and pictures that promote sexual thoughts or activities from hitting your eyes.

There are plenty of sexually attractive women in our world. Many great men have been beaten into submission and entrapment with lust in the way of pornography, addictions and improper relationships. Most of these have lost friends, careers and even their precious families as a result of not keeping this built-in weakness/susceptibility in check. As anyone who has struggled in any area of sexual lust and temptation would tell you, it all started with a glance.

A handful of years ago, we took our FUSION youth group to a conference in Dallas. One of the main topics of the weekend was sexual purity and why it’s important to your integrity, your future spouse and honoring to our Creator. One of the speakers mentioned that the best way to snuff out visually stimulated lust was to “bounce your eyes” from the attraction before it took root in your thoughts which then usually leads to action.

Practical application being when you see an image (still or in motion) that sparks that sexual nerve, you literally make it a practice to look away while stopping sexual thoughts and redirecting them on something else. Paul gives this great list of things for re-focus in Philippians 4:8.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

From media to college campuses to the corporate world there is no place immune to the reality of temptation. Actually while perusing around the post run tents Sunday after the 2 Hot 2 run 15K, an attractive, breast-pressed, provocatively dressed 20 year old was passing out samples of AXE hair gel to men. Another one of those, “sex sells” marketing campaign that we see so often. Unfortunately for us men, it can be crippling and even works..

God created us to be sexual beings. For us to be attracted to attractive women is not a problem nor a sin. God created us with this attraction and desire… AND a remedy to the desire by way of His design in marriage. The problem isn’t when we are visually stimulated but when that “glance” provokes lustful thinking and that hunger then fed with thoughts or actions.

So, all this to say I have been practicing the “bounce your eyes” concept for years now and it really does help. It seems as though I have actually had a lot of opportunities recently to strengthen my eye muscles! Not that I am perfect, but practice and prayer are our best allies. A destroyed testimony and marriage is victory for our enemy. My encouragement is to add this habit to your arsenal like I have to help fight this battle. Your integrity depends on it. Your God, family and your wife are worth it!