Baby Dixon Adoption Story: Part 9

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Our bags have been packed. The nursery is all ready. All Miles’ baby clothes have been washed and put away for his tiny baby brother. A bag is packed for Levi with a few newborn outfits, a swaddle blanket and some diapers. Placed that bag & the infant car seat close to the door so it was ready to roll. We’ve upgraded both our vehicles to fit 2 rear facing baby seats and 2 pre-teens and all the luggage that our crazy life brings. Our plan with Grandma all set for her to watch the kiddos when the time came. We are prepared. Ready on every level to welcome our Levi. Just waiting for the call.

We did get a call, just not the one we anticipated…

“Traci, she’s not responding to our calls and texts. Will you try to reach out to her and see if you can get her to respond?”

I tried, she didn’t. This was over a week ago. The agency has been trying nonstop since then to call, leave notes, stop by her apartment, talk to family, call the hospitals to check there…nothing. She has disconnected herself from us and the agency…totally unexpected and we have no clue why. Birth mom: AWOL.

At this point, it appears as though she has changed her mind? However, the last sonogram did reveal that the due date may be closer to mid-August…so there’s still a small chance we could possibly hear from her when she delivers baby boy. But as of today, it’s not looking very likely that this baby boy was “our Levi” and we may end up walking this beaten road again. The agency is shocked. With tears and a shaken voice, the last call I received from them was “we are so sorry, we just can’t believe it.”

We are heartbroken.

Devastated, angry and so confused, this has been a week of feeling all these emotions again. No way! No way this can be happening again. With no answers as to why or what in the world happened. Lord, have we not been faithful? Where are you in this? From excitement last week to sadness, this. From anticipation to grief. Like a reoccurring nightmare. Here we go again. Twice? Really? Bonding through the tears this week and tenderly loving on our precious family of 5, we all have been counting our blessings through the healing but now reopened wound. Praying through the pain, yet holding on to the truth that God knows. He is here in this with us. There has got to be a purpose to this. Maybe this was actually the reason for the warm hug He gave me last week to remind me that He’s got this & to trust.

We have had precious friends & family love on us over the past few days and we are incredibly grateful for our community that surrounds us. Our CEO’s sweet wife sent me the link to this song this past week and I have listened and re-listened. Thy will be done. It’s not about me. The truth in that perspective is real but not entirely something we easily embrace. We often fight ourselves.

Friends, there really isn’t much else to say, this song truly sums up how I feel and what we hold on to as we seek for direction pushing forward…

“I’m so confused
I know I heard you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done

I know you’re good
But this don’t feel good right now
And I know you think
Of things I could never think about
It’s hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that you’re God
And I am not
So

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will

I know you see me
I know you hear me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness you have in store
I know you hear me
I know you see me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Good news you have in store

So, thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
I know you see me
I know you hear me, Lord”

By: Hillary Scott

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.

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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!

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#babyDixon Adoption Story: Part 5

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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…

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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.

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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…

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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

Will never take it for granted!

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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!

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#focused15

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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

The skinny on what’s been going on…

I just wanted to update you all on our journey with It Works! Global. As you all know, I signed up as a distributor back in January. It has truly been an amazing ride! The opportunity to get in on the ground level of a Christian based company that is growing exponentially has been huge for our family. The company has grown over 400% since the beginning of the year. They set an annual goal of $100 million for 2012…it’s only July and we’ve already accomplished this mission! With our “first to market” product, the Ultimate Body Applicator, and our all-natural supplements, this company continues to grow & expand by leaps & bounds. The crazy part is, this is only the beginning of things to come! The market is not saturated by any means and there are still so many areas & people that have yet to hear about It Works!

Ryan & I have been thoroughly impressed with not only the products but the people in the company. The corporate leadership team truly cares about the distributors and strive to help us as much as they can achieve our goals. They provide all the tools you need to be successful in this business. They strive to help families get out of debt. They want to put cash in our pockets, not just reward distributors with cars or other gifts, which I like! The CEO & his wife are precious, Christian people (former teachers & coaches), that care & pray for us daily. They have a servant leadership perspective which is why I believe their company is so blessed. We just spent this last weekend in Florida at a corporate training event with all of these awesome people and are coming home pumped & inspired! We definitely feel we are in the right place at the right time.

I wanted to share this with you guys for two reasons. First, if any of you (or anyone you know) has an interest in joining my team & jumping on board this great opportunity, let me know! I would love to help you get started. I get excited to share about it and would be happy to call you or email info. It is changing our lives and the lives of several of our friends & family every day. We have been able to start multiple savings accounts, get out of debt, give more, and travel more! It all sort of feels surreal and we are so, so thankful. The thing I love is that you don’t have to be a salesperson to be successful- you just share & people want these amazing products! Second, please pray for Ryan & I as our business & team continues to grow. We want to be good stewards with what God has blessed us with. We cling to the verse in Luke, “to whom much is given, much is required” and want to honor God along this journey. We also want to be good leaders as we help others reach their goals in this company.

Thank you all so much for your support & prayers!

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

Girl talk.

Today on the way home from school, Addi was talking (no shocker here) about what she wants to name her two girls when she has kids. Cute how she just assumes she will have two girls like I do! She said she would name one Haley and the other Janie. I asked her what their middle names would be to which she knowingly responded, “I’ll probably let my husband give them middle names.” Good plan. This comment quickly led to another discussion…as like most all our conversations, jumping from one thing to the next like a spastic ping pong tournament. She said, “Momma, I don’t know what my husband’s face will look like or what his name is.” I told her that she will meet him one day in the future. One day far down the road, a long time from now, when she’s older, like waaaaaaaaaaay later. [I mean, good grief give this momma a break and let Kindergarden get under way. I’m already an emotional mess about that one. I know I’ll blink once and she’ll be walking down the aisle!] She said, “Where will I meet him?” I told her maybe at college or church and they will become friends and then fall in love and then get married like Momma & Daddy. Bounce, on to the next subject…”Momma, when are we going to the Ranger’s game?”

This quick little conversation got me thinking. I pray all the time for present things for my children: for them to have a good day at school, for them to sleep well, for protection from injury and sickness, to not potty in the bed or suck their fingers, etc. But one area I have neglected is their future – maybe because I’m not ready for them to grow up! I really do need to spend more time praying for the women they will become, for them to seek after Jesus in all they do as they continue to grow, and for their future spouses. So, I made a new goal today as a Mommy. I want to begin praying now for those two little boys out there in the world that will one day grow up and marry my two little girls.

Addi’s right, we don’t know his name or what his face will look like. Only God knows what the future holds. I pray now that whoever this beautiful, precious girl gives her heart to one day will treat it, hold it, protect it, comfort it, nurture it in the same way my spouse does mine! Thankful for Ryan and the example he is to our girls. God truly did answer my prayer (and I’m sure my own mother’s prayer) by giving me a spouse like him!

This Week’s Quiet Miles.

Running in the Spring is amazing. Despite the air filled with breath-restricting pollen that is. This week’s running has been exceptionally good for me on so many levels.

For about a month now, Traci and I have been on a mission to get up earlier than normal with the intention to have about 1 hour each morning to seek our Creator. We roll out of bed, tip-toe our way to the coffee, separate and do some light stretching, push-ups and sit-ups to wake-up. From there it’s time to engage with the His written words. I do this routine specifically on the days I am not scheduled to run.

For a long time now I have enjoyed listening to podcasts during my miles. In talking to my ‘boys’, I often speak of how valuable these messages are to me, especially in combination with the milage that accompanies them. It really is an extension of my quiet time. Usually a Carter/Chandler message lasts about 45-55 minutes. Perfect for my new 7 mile route. Podcasts allow me to focus on the message and grow numb to the steps. A quiet time listening and absorbing His words.

This week I decided to pick up the miles and run consecutively, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Each morning, I laced up and headed out the door with my usual must haves. For some reason though, my iPod was not happy and would not play. Now I know why.

Tuesday, adorning my new kicks, I was set to do my customary “out to Rose Rudmen park and back” route. I walked out the door, sunk my watch with the orbiting satellites and pressed play. Nothing. No lights on the shuffle, nothing. I walked back inside my quite house and put in on my desk. Without any message or music to keep me entertained, I decided to spend the time in focused conversation with God. Usually He does all the talking but in lieu of the temperamental iPod I decided it’d be my goal to pray as long as possible. WOW! What an amazingly intense 54 minute conversation with the One who knows the deepest part of me, and still loves me.

Wednesday, our Azalea 5K route was the goal. An easy 3. I decided to forego the iPod. There has been a lot in our minds recently with our current housing situation. That and mission have created excess brain activity for me lately. I settled into my pace and began to just let go. Quiet, restful, dark and peaceful are words that would describe my run. Refreshing and exactly what I needed.

This morning I picked up my shuffle that had been resting on the charger next to my bed since Tuesday. With every intention to finally hear part 3 of Chandler’s Authority series, I walked out the door, sunk my watch with the orbiting satellites and pressed play. No message. Just 2 songs. Bummer. I wrapped up the cables, tucked them into the clip and clipped it to my shorts. Bummer. “Ok, well apparently I’m suppose to have a quiet week!” I thought to myself. I walked to my starting point, turned on my blinky red light, pressed start on my watch and was off. Off to another great 7 miles of quiet contemplation and conversation.

Running is SO INCREDIBLY therapeutic to my soul. Ask any long time runner and they’d agree. Days that I set a goal to get out at run, and for whatever reason do not end up running, I’m a cranky mess. I NEED to have this time. This week’s miles, however quiet they were physically, were louder than my earbuds can scream. At the end of each day’s quiet, hour-ish run laced with prayer and processing, I am ready to take on the world. In that hour I have thought through multiple angles of many circumstances, dreamed big dreams and warded off my cranky tendencies. Most importantly though, I spent solid time seeking the wisdom of my heavenly Father and sharing my desperate need of Him.

Thank you God for ensuring this week’s “quiet” miles.

Pray now!

We can learn a lot from our kids, we really can. The other day, Kamryn reminded me of something I needed to hear…

Addi has sucked her two middle fingers since birth. I remember asking our pediatrician about it and her telling us not to worry about breaking her from it unless she doesn’t stop by the time she’s four. Well, she turned four last August and she still sucks them when she’s tired, upset, or nervous. It’s starting to concern us more, because it can obviously cause dental problems. So lately, we’ve talked a lot with her about trying to stop and praying about it. She told me, “Mommy, I don’t need to suck my fingers anymore, but I like to.” Poor little thing…I think she really knows she should stop, but she honestly likes to – it provides her comfort. She’s done it her whole life and it’s not something she can easily give up.

Some of you that know me, know that I have a nasty habit of picking at my thumb. I start to pick the cuticle and eventually, it goes all the way down to my knuckle. I will pick, pick, pick until it bleeds. This is a stress-related habit that I’ve always struggled with. I will quit, it will heal up and I won’t pick it for months, then something will happen and I’ll start right back up. It’s a vicious disgusting cycle. Well, I’ve been picking it non-stop since last summer…the longest I’ve ever done it. It’s bad, I mean real bad. I’m certain it’s going to leave a scar this time. I try to keep a bandaide on it, to prevent myself from touching it. Its a weird stress relief, what can I say? Sometimes I’ll do it and not even realize I’m doing it.

So, the other day we were riding down the road and I told Addi that if she would pray for Mommy to stop picking her thumbs, I would pray for her to stop sucking her fingers and hopefully the Lord would give us strength and help us both overcome these bad habits. Kamryn was listening and chimed in quickly, “Mommy, I’ll pray for you right now! Dear Jesus, help Mommy stop picking her thumb and for it to get better. Amen!”

So unexpected and such a sweet reminder for me. When we are faced with issues, we should stop and pray right then & there. Why wait? The Bible does tell us to pray continually, after all. When our friends/family are faced with something, we should pray immediately. How many times has someone told me something they were struggling with and I said, “I’ll pray for you.” And then, I hate to admit it, but time passes and life happens and I totally forget to pray for them! Not good.

Kamryn, with child-like faith, was a perfect example for me that day. I thank God for my kids! Since then, I’ve set a goal to stop and pray right when requests or situations arise…not just during my quiet time or at dinner or as I lay my head on my pillow at night. When Ryan comes home at lunch and is having a tough day at work, I will pray then. When a friend shares a concern, I pray then. When I am thankful for the things in life that God has blessed me with, I pray at that time. Obviously God does not want to be a sliver of my daily routine, He wants to be my daily routine. I feel that one way this can be made true in my life is to “pray now”.

“Pray without ceasing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

I will follow you.

The girls love listening to music when we ride in the car. They mostly prefer Mickey Mouse, but we’ve been trying (for our own sanity) to introduce them to some other artists other than animated ones, no offense Mickey. Over the Christmas holidays, we got the new Chris Tomlin CD and have been listening to that a lot this past week. I think its very good by the way, if you haven’t bought it – you should! Addi picks up words to songs so quickly and after several times of listening to the songs on this CD, she knows most of the lyrics. Its pretty incredible really. Of course, I think the child is a genius, but I am a little bias. There is just something so sweet about hearing your children sing worship songs. Especially when they have thrown many fits, aggravated their sister a lot, and refused to eat their dinner that day. When their sweet voices lift up words to the Lord, it melts your heart & makes all of the frustration fade away. It reminds me that these children really belong to God. I just am blessed enough to care for them, teach them, lead them, love them and be called “Mommy.”

Today, on the way home after spending some time at Grandma’s, this song came on & Add sang right along with Chris…

As she sang, all I could think about was the fact that she would be starting Kindergarden this Fall and how THIS was my prayer for her. That she would choose to follow Him. I’m not gonna lie, I get so nervous when I drive by the big, huge building they call “elementary school” – its overwhelming to this momma to think that my baby girl will be there in a few short months! I’ve talked to several friends lately about this very subject. I have some friends that choose private school, some that are considering home schooling, and others that choose public. Its interesting to hear people’s stories and reasons for making the choice they made. I honestly believe that God presses upon parents’ hearts what is best for their particular child – He gives us the knowledge we need to do what’s right for them. We just have to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit guiding us in our decisions.

Even though it scares me to death to think of my child entering into this new phase of life come this Fall, I have to trust and have faith. Knowing that God will be there with Addi and that He loves her even more than I do, helps ease my fears and nervousness tremendously. Our prayer for both of our little girls is that they will always choose to follow Him in every area of their life! Not only that, but that Ryan & I can be that kind of example for them.

Are you scared?

Is there something you are scared of? It could be something silly or something big. It could be something that probably would never happen, but you still worry about it regardless.

If I’m being completely honest, which I always try to do on this blog, I have to say that I’ve always sort of been chicken when it comes to running, or at least where and when I run. Don’t laugh, but my two biggest fears are the following:

1. A big ferocious dog will chase me down and attack me. Yes, I’m 30 and scared of big dogs.

2. A big scary man will jump out and attack me.

Sounds somewhat silly, I know. But this is why I never would run alone on the back country roads in Quitman. This is also why I never ever run in the dark. Ever. I always run in the daylight, in neighborhoods or trails where I know/hope dogs will not be on the prowl, and usually in a place where people are constantly around.

So, needless to say, to hear that earlier this week in OUR own neighborhood and around a popular park here in Tyler, a runner was attacked while running along a street that I run on often…it shook me up. At 5 a.m. in the morning, a man jumped out and tried to attack her. She was very prepared though, kicked his butt and escaped. She had mace and a foghorn. I want to meet this runner! I am so relieved to hear she got away. A friend of mine that lives right next to the park actually heard the fog horn and her scream. Wow, how scary. I bet she won’t run in the dark anymore after that!

As I ran yesterday at the trails (at 9:30 a.m., in the broad daylight, with many people around), I found myself being a little afraid. Instead of admiring the trees and thanking God for his creation, I found myself peering into the trees looking for a man with a ski mask and holding my keys in a way so that they could be used as a weapon if need be all while planning my defense.

Then, I heard my thoughts and told myself, “STOP IT!” God did not give me a spirit of fear. It was seriously ruining my run. A time when I usually have the best worship and quiet time was being overcome with fear. I was stressed and worried. I told myself I was not going to let the evil in this broken world ruin a time during my day that I look forward to, always thoroughly enjoy, and feel is very beneficial to me in so many ways. I said a little prayer and continued on, trying to change my focus back to where it should be. I’m thankful to know that God is in control and right there with me with each step I take. That calms my nerves and fears!

2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God has not given us a spirit and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

Psalm 46:1 – “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.”