Saturday, December 31, 2011

Obligatory New Years Reflection

Yeah, along with every other blogger, Facebooker, and social media user, I’m gonna spend these last few hours of 2011 reflecting on the year that was and anticipating the year that will be.

As I scrolled through my news feed about, I don’t know… three minutes ago… I saw a plethora of people sharing what a big year 2011 has been. And yeah, it has been a year to remember.

As I type, I’m watching Yahoo’s Year in Review videos, highlighting 2011’s Biggest Moments…  from the rallies and uproars from fed-up people nationwide and worldwide using Twitter, Libya’s leader’s death, the occupy protests, Gabby Gifford’s amazing will to survive and the shooting in Tuscan, Japan’s earthquake and tsunami during which 15,00 people died (and the stories of people donating time and money and stories of hope that followed like the little 4 month old rescued from rubble), worldwide fascination with the Prince of England’s wedding, Osama Bin Ladin’s death in May, the official end of the Iraq war and the loss of 460 soldiers there this year, the public outrage at the results of the Casey Anthony trial, to the untimely deaths of Steve Jobs (56) and Amy Winehouse (27), and the loss of legends like Elizabeth Taylor (79) and Betty Ford (93). And there came amazing stories like the 44 year old who surfed a huge 90 foot wave, final flight of Atlantis, and that rare solar eclipse. Closer to home, the story about the man in Rock Hill named Steve Courtney who died protecting his daughter and granddaughter during a tornado, successfully completing my first full school year on the other side of the teacher’s desk, a friend who delivered a stillborn baby, my sister-in-law’s pregnancy, and my dad’s all-clear Cancer check up, my mom’s new car, more remodeling, a summer full of travels, the many growing families in our Sunday School class, and the bonds we’ve made at First Baptist (and finally joining back in February) all stick out in my mind as moments of 2011 I’ll remember.

Most obviously, this year has changed me drastically in that I have become a mother… twice. As I’ve said before, God has often whispered to me in a still, quiet voice that echoes through my heart that He has had been plans for me. And this year, 2011, I have seen the those plans begin to unfurl. I knew 2011 was gonna be big, and a pregnancy test this summer confirmed that. But when we discovered our Baby Zion’s time here came an end when I was 8 weeks pregnant, my faith was shaken and I felt like a line from a D.C. Talk’s song “What If I Stumble.” But, we pulled through it, only through the love poured out on us from family and friends and the grace and comfort God showered us with. Then, this fall, Mak entered our lives. One short conversation about a little girl in need of parents got my heart pounding. We did the soul-searching, uttered whole-hearted prayers, and I sought that voice reverberating in my heart. And God made it happen. And that’s how I became a mother the second time in 2011.

You know, at the end of every year, I say “wow, what a year it’s been.” I mean, we all do. We all look back with awe and shake our heads at what we’ve endured, overcame, and achieved, and then we all look forward with hopeful eyes for the things that we resolve to change, and grasp on to the brand-new fresh start that January 1st brings. But does it change? Nah. Big moments happen. In 2012, people will get pregnant, people will die. Tragedies will occur. Natural disasters will strike. People will make dumb decisions. Life will go on, and next December 31st, we will shake our heads again and our eyes will glow with hope once more for 2013. It’s life.

This year, though, has been a little more meaningful, for Jake and me. Our marriage has been solidified even stronger than I thought imaginable as we have held clung together to take on the challenge of being parents. Of giving up a child. Of taking a child. And even more importantly, of surrendering to Him.

2011 means the most to me because this year I have grown closer to my Savior. It’s the best resolution to make, and the most rewarding to keep. As 2011 ends, I am grateful for the blessings, and even the hardships that 2011 brought, and I look forward to 2012 with joy, not because it’s a fresh start. I’m not resolving to lose weight, get in shape, save more money. Heck, I’m not even resolving to be a better wife or mother or teacher. My only resolution is to work harder to die to myself each day so that I may serve Him more. I want 2012 to be all about Him so His glory and love are revealed through the actions and choices I make.

And through Him, all the rest will fall into place. Tragedies may strike and struggles may challenge us, but it will be a wonderful year because 2012 belongs to Him. Romans 11:36.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Steps Forward

Yesterday... Legally Ours!
Yesterday was our day in court. We appeared in family court to petition the court to transfer full custody to us. The judge was practical and attentive and I respected him a lot. It was nerve-wracking setting through all those cases. I found residual pain from my miscarriage rumbling within me as I watched people come before the judge and explain their cases... It was hard not to wonder why they were allowed to bear children at all, and others could not, but I knew I had to stifle the thought. I was totally taken aback when the judge decided to bring out the biological mom out of the jail and let her make a statement. She appeared, smirking, with shackles on her feet and hands, asking the judge not to let those people she's never met take away her baby. The judge handled it well, and told her he would grant her visitation on our terms, provided that they were reasonable, and suggested she get her act together so she could be in her life. Essentially, that means we just have to make clear our terms, which are simply that before she can see her at all (even then, with supervision, of course), she needs to have successfully completed a drug treatment program, hold down a job, and get out her own. In other words, when she's a clean, responsible member of society, we'll talk about visitation. Besides, all of this will be a moot point if she ends up in jail again, and by giving her an opportunity to be a part of her daughter's life will be helpful when we do apply to adopt. Still, she didn't object to the change, even if she did smirk, which tells me that she knows we are what Mak needs, and that gives me hope. My ultimate goal? One day, she will get her life together and Mak will be able to lead her to Christ. Anyways, the custody hearing was successful and we are now her legal guardians with full custody! <3


Today... Day One without Meds!
When Mak first came to us, her grandfather shared with us all of her medical information and history.  According to him, some preschool teacher (at a local day care/head start program that doesn't come too highly recommended) suggested he take her to some psychiatrist to get a test for ADD/ADHD and she was apparently diagnosed. Several years, numerous evaluations, and a few more doctors later, she ended up on two focusing/hyperactivity meds plus a sleeping aid, which, all in all, made her a very medicated little girl. The pastor's family who took care of her before she became ours had her down to just one of the ADD/ADHD meds, rather than the two. Since she's been with us, we've been slowly but surely weaning her off the sleeping pill, and knocking the one ADD/ADHD drug in half on the weekends. In making her life very procedural and structured, we've seen huge improvements, even as the medications in her system have declined. Today, we offically went medication free. Not a single behavioral med, no sleep aid last night. So far, so good. I'm proud of her. We've had more issues with her not wanting to listen, but it's been rectifiable. Big steps in the right direction!


Anyways, good steps in the right direction are happening, but we need prayers. I'm super excited about Christmas (she's gonna have a duck when Santa comes, that's for sure) but I'm almost paralyzed by fear of what will come down the road... what issues we will have to overcome. I'm just having to really let go and ask myself what I already know:  if our God is for us, who could ever stop us?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Oh, Christmas Tree… Oh, Christmas Tree…

Makinzy’s first Christmas tree last was a real adventure. I know she has had Christmas trees in the past, but never a live one, nor has it ever been big. Based on her reaction to decoration, it’s safe to assume she’s never helped decorate one either. Whereas I as a child couldn’t wait, we had to insist she help us. It was clear she didn’t know what to do! Eventually, she got the hang of it, and with the help of a little Christmas music, she finally got a little spirit. And the tree turned out beautifully.

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I think the best part was her traipsing through the woods descrimitorally passing from tree to tree, before finally “picking” the one I had already chosen. She was too cute.

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She continues to transition well, and I’m anxious to get her into the same school as her daddy. Scheduling wise, it will be a huge improvement for us. The last week or so has been better, and with more and more rest, I am starting to have some resemblance of myself again, at least a little bit. This week will be TOTALLY hectic, between meetings at work, meeting with DSS, prepping for the innumerable Christmas festivities and parties, cooking, cleaning, and shopping. Once upon a time, this time a year meant a vacation. In fact, I don’t dare reread older posts from my college days lest I cringe in jealousy of my former schedule full of opportunities for crafting, relaxing… Not that this isn’t a good trade. Her smile definitely makes up for it.

This coming weekend will be filled with a half day on Friday for me, (FREEDOM… Praise the Lord!) her school Christmas party, a parent-teacher conference (and this time I will no be behind the teacher’s desk for the first time), the humongous family gathering I host for my mom’s side of the family each year, church musicals, plus getting more family pics made… this time with Olan Mills for the church directory, and a plethora of other traditions like going to see the lights and such…Not to mention that I’ve only bought Christmas for one little big-eyed, ribbon wearing elf, and yet to start on anyone else, so add shopping in there too.

Hoping I survive the holidays,

-B

Friday, December 09, 2011

Becoming Mommy and Daddy

A good friend of ours at church described parenting like math. As infants, you start off with basic addition and subtracting. Adding love and subtracting diapers. As they become toddlers, you throw in multiplication (tantrums) and division (back-talking). You don’t get to things like geometry or calculus until they are big kids, and statistics doesn’t hit until the teen years. Like math builds, parenting skills build. And we’ve jumped in a calculus. And you all know I suck when it comes to numbers. Anyways, that’s hit the nail on the head. You can say “welcome to parenthood” to us, meaning well, or course, but it’s no where near the same. Transitioning, training, learning, and loving one another is the name of the game in our house. Not to mention balancing blending in positive relationships with biological family and protecting her from the negative ones, all while working through the legalities with our lawyer, DSS, and her social worker. We recently had family pictures made for our Christmas card, and I thought I’d share some. The daughter of a former coworker of Jake’s did them, and she did a fantastic job.

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I feel like I have huge bags under my eyes most all the time, especially weekdays. Like, purple suitcases hanging there. Every where we go, it seems like we show up 2 minutes late on two wheels, hair flying, holes in pantyhose, frazzled, with me doing the mom thumb-lick thing to get whatever off her face. Work has been extraordinarily crappy lately. I am fed up with it. Not to mention, our school was broken into earlier this week. It even made local news, and reporters came in. We had to cancel class until 11 just to get all the glass up. My room was hit, but nothing taken. Talk about a complicated Monday! All in all, work has just been difficult for both Jake and me… and having so much more to deal with so suddenly has only made us more groggy-headed.

Stepping back, though, I can see how truly blessed and happy we are despite the stress and exhaustion. One month ago today, a little girl looked up at me and said, “Can I call you Mommy from now on?”
Now, she’s mine. Legally (custody), she will be mine on Dec. 20, and then fully (through adoption) in May. Regardless, she became mine when she asked that simple question… would I have her forever, unconditionally, and provide for her the guidance, stability, compassion, encouragement, and strength she needs to face life? And, of course, I said yes.  And we’ve made so many memories in the last month. Our first adventure was getting her room painted and decorated. We tackled the awkwardness of the holidays head on, embracing Thanksgiving as time to meet and grow to love many more extended family members. She’s been horseback riding, target practicing, cupcake baking, and exploring libraries and museums. She’s growing and changing and learning to control her behavior. And I’m overjoyed at God’s glory in it all.

This weekend, we will go get our Christmas tree (we wait and get a real one, fresh from the mountains each year). I am so excited! I’ll update when I find a chance to take a breath. :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Adjusting

With Mak making three now,  our last few weekends have been spent getting her acclimated to our parents (Granny & Grandpaw and Nana & Pop), her aunt Jess, our home, our church, and our overall way of life. In addition. we’ve been working on her room, which she chose to paint bubblegum pink. Like a girl after her Mama’s heart.

We’ve worked hard on the weekends to move her from our guest bedroom (still girly from leftover dorm days) to her new room, complete with canopy, pink walls, green glitter furniture, and butterflies on the walls. We are learning her little nuances, quirks, and experiences. She likes olives but hates melted cheese, specially shredded cheese. She loves to dig up worms in the dirt. She’s fearless on a horse, At first, she didn’t like to be held when she got hurt. Case in point, she was riding her bike (which Santa will be replacing… her bike is a worn-out looking trike for a kid much younger than she is now) and she fell off, skinning her knee and elbow. As Jake scooped her into his arms to console her, she screamed, put me down. Once he explained that she wasn’t in trouble, she let sought our comfort. Things like this… figuring her out. It’s like a mystery. I guess I should have prefaced all this with a little info on her background. Mak’s biological mom loves her, and I’m sure always will, but has made some bad decisions and got involved in some sorred behaviors that imped her ability to be the mother that Mak needs. Her father has only seen her a handful of times and has made similar choices as her mother. Since she was an infant, she has been under the guardianship of her great-grandparents, mainly her great-grandfather. And I want it to be clear how much we admire and appreciate her grandfather. He has done is best with limited abilities. Despite his own setbacks, he has kept her busy and socialized in community programs, churches, and other activities. His health is what prevents him from caring for her. He isn’t able to provide the structure and stability, procedures and discipline she needs. He loves her dearly and understood that to remain in her life and keep her from becoming another child in the system, he needed to  seek a family for her, and we fully plan on letting him be what he was intended to be… a grandparent. As a result of her parents’ inconsistency in her life and her grandfather’s inabilities to parent, her adjustment to rules has been a struggle. She has learned to “be nice” in the company of strangers, but now that the novelty of “us” has worn off, she’s testing limits. A time out brings tears and crying for her grandfather, and it’s hard for us to distinguish what is I’m-struggling-to-deal-with-all-this crying and what is I-don’t-like-being-in-time out-and-want-attention crying. Balancing effective discipline while still nurturing her emotionally is just mentally exhausting.

I’ve recently read Kelly & John Rosetti’s book Wait No More (from Focus on the Family) and Kelly’s words have reverberated in my head. Loving our daughter will not change, no matter how difficult the whole scenario is. It’s opened my eyes to how deep our mission is, and as I see parallels in our lives with theirs, I find myself pulled (like Kelly) in the path of advocacy. One thing is sure, the rest of my life will be spent advocating for her.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Letting go of control.

I am a control freak.
Like, I’m one of those agenda-making, list-creating, color-coding, life-planning freakazoids. If I didn’t work, I’d be one of those crazy coupon ladies with floral printed organizers labeled by store and date.

I have always lived my life by my plans. Graduate with a full ride? Check. Fall in love with a manly man of God? Check. Move off to college? Check. Make awesome friends? Check. Have a fairytale wedding? Check. Live a few years in wedded bliss, purchase a home, travel, and get settled in teaching careers? Check, check, and more checks. Start a family? Hm. Here’s were my plans and God’s did not align so perfectly.

I always knew we’d adopt. It’s been a burden on my heart for as long as I could remember. But in my mind, it would have been something like this: married a few years, have a baby or two, then once potty training and other toddler obstacles/milestones were cleared, make way to adopt an infant, probably from another county.  Nice and clean and organized plan, right? Ha.
Then came infertility and miscarriage and learning to trust like I’ve never done before. Somewhere in that, I realized I had to let control of my plans in becoming a parent. Never once, not one little iota, did I question that it was God’s will for us to become parents. But trusting Him in the how and when was hard, because the type of surrender it took/takes is tumultuous and precarious. It means completely taking yourself out of the equation. How, you ask? A mental conversation with God moment-by-moment, second-by-second. It’s growing so near to Him that you don’t know when your conversation with Him ends. It’s just like your life IS Him. Prayer isn’t mumbled daily in your head, it’s chanted in your very being. And the second you start seeking this closeness, Satan is going to want to jump right on your back. Set backs, trials, all have to be viewed as little blemishes in the big, beautiful picture. And you have to keep remembering that He will take care of it.

In the last few weeks, life has changed so much. Back in the early fall, my heart’s desire was peace. Closeness. A feeling of “I got this.” So sought to trust Him. It was then that Jake and I decided God might be leading us into adoption from the foster care system rather than internationally. It was then when Jake shared that information with a friend, and it was then that we learned about sweet, seven year old Mak, who’s loving grandfather, her guardian since infancy, would loose her to the system if he did not find someone else to raise her. DSS was all set to take her. With incarcerated parents with a host of other struggles, he was her only “parent” and now his failing health made caring for her impossible, and her only future lay waiting in the U.S. Foster Care program. Heart-breaking. And I’ll never forget her story being shared with us. “Are you interested?” we were asked. My heart thumped. Pounded, really. I know it was like it was jumping into my throat. A seven year old? US? Okay, God, really? Yet the more we prayed, discussed, made pros and cons lists, and rationalized, the stronger the YES! came from our hearts. And within a week of that conversation, we had met this sweetheart, her grandfather, and the family from church she was currently staying with. We spent Halloween together. She came to Wednesday night supper with us. She began seeing us  regularly, and latched on almost instantly. Then her questions came. The Christian family she stayed with was so loving and understanding and when she flat-out asked, they answered her with loving honesty. Her grandfather, after meeting us and talking several times, felt connected to us. He said he knew it was us who needed to be her parents. And with that, they told her that we were going to be a her new family. Yes, we would adopt her. The whole time, I am almost screaming in my head, asking God if He was plum crazy. How could I become a mom overnight? And then I did. The next night, she knew she’d be coming to live with us, with her moving over the coming weekend. We took her to church with us and as we sat on the pew together, she tugged on my sleeve. “Can I call you Mommy from now on?” And, of course, I said she could call me Mommy or Briana, either one. I wanted her to know that I wasn’t rushing it- I knew she still had a person in her life she had called Mommy. But since then, I’ve been Mommy, Jake has been Daddy, and her biological mother has been called her first name. Thanksgiving will be two weeks since she moved in, and two weeks and one day since I became a mother. I realize that mothering is a self-less compulsory choice (compulsory choice sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not… mothers will know what I mean. You can’t not love your child. It’s what you were created to do. Yet, it is a choice because we see moms regularly leaving their child in the hands of strangers, or in no hands at all) to love a child, teacher her right from wrong, encourage, provide, and support. A mother is a safe place for her child, a source of renewal and peace, and a light or beacon that points her children towards Christ. And somewhere in the last two weeks, God’s been morphing me into that person. I know I seem like I’m not myself to many. I have had so many people, especially those who are “in tune” to my inward moods, ask if I was okay. I am so mentally and emotionally and physically exhausted, it doesn’t seem like it even to me. But if I were to cut myself and bleed, I think my blood would glow like some mutation in a comic strip… His love and energy is cursing through my veins. I feel like the Energizer bunny and HE is my battery. Without Him, I’m nothing. No forward steps, no beats on the drum.

The emotional side is taxing enough, but physically, it’s been “like whoa.” Bed time routines, meal time procedures, school work, parent-teacher info, car seats, time outs, and getting her bathed and dressed each day. Getting her room ready. I keep telling everyone I really have no clue what I’m doing, ‘cause I honestly don’t. And then some lovely soul reminds me that even infants don’t come with instruction manuals and I laugh and feel better about our blunders like forgetting she had gum in her mouth when she went to bed, or the fact that she has already skinned her knee. Oh, and let’s not forget the legalities are still in the process. We are working with our lawyers for full custody, and then for full adoption. And what a daunting process that is.

So… here I am. In the midst of learning how to be a mom. Teaching middle school full time. Focusing on Christ by the second. Becoming a family. Welcome to our this new awesome adventure. :)
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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Never tell God “don’t”

It seems when I tell God I can’t do something or that I won’t do something, He laughs… and it’s as if He says you can and you will, and then He guides me right into it.
I’ve had some pretty dark days in the last few months, but some really bright ones, too. I’ve had to swallow that lump of jealousy, sorrow, frustration, and doubt each time I’ve heard close friends and even close family announce their pregnancies. I thought that the anger and jealousy I heard described would miss me, that my prayers and faith would be strong enough to make me immune to it, but it hit me nonetheless. So, I started to just taking it day by day. And so, I was just blank for a while. Sad. Empty. Not really bitter, but sore (and I guess I still am) in my heart. And then, the news of other’s being pregnant just sat like a load of bricks on my chest- I want(ed) to be happy for them, but such a raw, human (read: sinful) part of me is bitter and angry and jealous. God and I were taking things on a daily basis. I prayed for peace, and felt nothing but sadness. I have come to realize the beauty in the fact that I was able to recognize these feelings and know that they were toxic. So daily, I’ve sought Him, even when I was angry at Him. And I can tell healing is happening. It’s slow and painful, but progress is happening.
Before we were pregnant, Jake and I were preapproved for adoption through a Christian adoption agency. In fact, we got the pre-approval the day of my positive home test. During the overwhelming weeks of learning we were expecting to finding out we were going to miscarry, and then the miscarriage itself, we kind of hit the pause button.  The agency wanted us to pick a program, basically a country or region in which to adopt from, before proceeding to the next stage of paperwork, since different countries sometimes have different requirements. We prayed for direction; most couples we’d talked to or who’s experience we had read about noted a specific burden or calling towards a country or people of group- and we just kept hearing crickets. As we waited for guidance, something to pull us in a direction, we had the miscarriage, so life just kind of stopped. Then, Jake and I both had a few tough days at school, witnessing cases of abuse in our classrooms and seeing little/nothing done. It was if we simultaneously got this wave of peace and direction over us. We started talking about pursuing domestic adoption rather than international. And that silence we felt from God was gone. So we signed up for classes to be come Foster parents in hopes to adopt a local waiting child who would be placed in our care through the foster system. We told just a few since the classes are until after the new year. Long story short, we told a friend about God’s urging us towards domestic adoption rather than international (he has a son through international adoption and has been a great confidant and friend, especially in this area of our lives), and within that week, he happened to had a friend who was caring for a little girl who’s guardian wanted to terminate rights so she could be adopted. The grandparent, who’s age and health had prevented him from caring for her any longer, knew DSS was going to take her and put her into the system, and wanted to find a family for her- something permanent- a family she would have for the rest of her life, something she could not have staying with him. Our friend’s friend was this grandparent’s pastor, and he asked him and his wife to help him search for a family. In short, our names were mentioned, and now we have met her twice, and we are smitten. Everything is pointing at us as her future home, so right now, we are prayerfully (very, very, very prayerfully) seeking guidance to see if we are 1. able to take this child and 2. called to a take this child. I guess number 2 would take care of number one, but still, it’s a heart wrenching, soul-searching question for which we are searching for answers.
I guess the best way to sum up my life right now is by these bare facts:
- School is tough to say the least. My kids aren’t as mean this year, but much, much more obstinate. On top of it, a co-worker’s sudden passing has broken our hearts. This is the third person who has died suddenly at our school in the last three years. It’s tragic. She was only 49.
- We are still trying to get pregnant. I went to the OBGYN on Friday and he said we’d try Letrazole (what got us preggo with Baby Zion- the name means Heaven, btw- since it obviously worked) starting again in December. We’d try it for three months, and if still nothing, we’d add a “booster” drug to add to its effectiveness, and if still no BFP, we’d try an IUI next summer. He seems confidant and I trust his expertise. I’m not stressing over the whole infertility mess. It won’t help, plus I have a lot of other things going on to distract me.
- We still want to move, but that will just have to wait until the right home comes available and the timing is right, so maybe in a few years. We have three bedrooms, so we are okay for now… just going to have to patient in that department.
- On top of it all, we might be adopting (and soon) a sweet seven year old. Yes, I may be a mom before I know it.
-Yes, you read that right. We are going to keep trying to get pregnant in the middle of adopting a child. Adoption for us has *Never* be a back~up plan for children- but something we would do additionally to having children the “natural” way… And this sweetheart would be an amazing big sister.
Yes, I know how crazy this all sounds. Her adoption (if we do end up doing this) would be open, which is something I never, ever would have dreamed I’ could do, much less adopt a child her age. It’s all so scary and overwhelming.  Sometimes I want to rewind back to summer time and just relish in the simplicity I didn’t realize I had. But that whisper I’ve heard in my soul for so long saying “Briana, I’ve got big plans for you” leads me to this… Sometimes He calls us to be radical. And no matter how crazy it seems to my rational, human mind, I’m going to listen to him… And right now, we are listening for wisdom, guidance, and direction. We are taking it one day at a time, getting to know this little girl and trying to adjust into the role of parents, hoping and praying for clarity that we are doing the right thing. Pray for us. Regardless of the outcome, I have a feeling my life is about to get even more crazy, and even more beautiful!

Monday, October 17, 2011

A cathartic tell-all of my life post-miscarriage is long over due, but alas, grades are due as the first nine weeks of the school year ends and report cards are issued, not to mention planning for the next nine weeks, so it will continue to have to wait. But, I can share a few things in these last moments of before I drift to sleep on this Monday night:
- My faith has been tested, frail, and I am so very weak. I am fighting each and everyday against myself, praying for Him to rid me of the doubt, frustration, and lack of trust that permeates my soul. I've been in a dark place lately. It's evident in attitude, prayer life, and even my nail polish.
- I want out of my district sooner rather than later. My ESOL calling is back full force, and I realize that after these 5 obligatory years are over, I'm out of SC, and moving on to life beyond room 126... or at least, as of now, that's my desire. Who knows what I will want by then? Walls are closing in right now though, and yet, I feel foolish for wanting to move on so quickly. I haven't even put a coffee stain on the carpet yet. Is that weird? Or is it an ebb and flow to the teaching profession? Do we start looking for outs when it gets tough, only to fall back in love a few months later? I can't decide if it's a life direction or just the mid-first-semester-blues?

All in all, know that I am surviving, but all that's keeping me together is His grip (He won't let go and He won't relent, even as I pound my childish fists into His chest... puts a new visual into calling Him "Abba," doesn't it?) and Jake's unfaltering love (he is soooo my escape from all things... just to nuzzle into his embrace makes me snap back to sanity), and of course, the simple fact that I'm too busy to fall apart.

New interests and hobbies to share soon:
-My addiction to Pinterest
-Fall happenings like the pumpkin patch, picnics, carving and decorating, haunted houses, and NC mountain apples
-Motorcycling
-Gelish manicures
-DIY updos, especially the sock bun
-Our new coffee pot
-The new SuperTarget
-Mom's new car
-Gradient eye shadow
-The Hunger Games
-13 Reasons Why
-My book writing
-Update on adopting
-Teaching Skills, Drills, and Thrills on Sundays

All coming soon. Provided I make it.
Ah, just keep going though the motions one day at a time.

Friday, September 16, 2011

What does help…

-Get Well/We Miss You cards from 90ish seventh graders.
-Talking to someone who knows what it’s like. Someone you can share the graphic details and psychotic thoughts and innermost notions, and they get it. Most people don’t. And that’s not anyone’s fault. Heck, before this, I would not have had a clue as to what to say to someone going through this. But, I’m just sayin’, it is very freeing to put your deep thoughts into words, those am-I-crazy feelings and have someone on the end of the line say, “Yep, I feel the same way.”
-Hugs. You know those kind that last a few seconds longer, the one ones that say, hey, I’m not doing this out of obligation, tradition, or awkward-moment-and-I-don’t-know-what-else-to-do, but the ones that say, hey, I really do love you and I really don’t know what to do but keep loving you. Yeah, those help.
-Letters. Old fashioned, lick-a-stamp letters. It’s that extra work that means so much.
-Laughter. I crave it. I want to smile, dance, and giggle. It’s like taking in a deep breath after weeks of gasping for air.
-Time with Jake. Oh, this is indescribable.
-Good neighbors who check on you.
-Random visits… just to see if I need help with laundry.
-My mom. Just her presence makes any wound, no matter how deep, start to heal.
-Most importantly, He helps. Listening and looking for His presence in the middle of the mess takes daily focus. But when I seek Him, I find Him.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cupcakes fail.

Is it too much to just want to be me again?
I’m not catatonic. I’m not even crying.

Yet, why is this couch the only place I want to be, and the place I most desire to leave?

I made cupcakes today. And it didn’t help. You know you’re bad off when cupcakes don’t help.

Lord, pull me out of this slump. I love you. Amen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Just sad.

What a week it has been.

Saturday we spent the day on the GA/SC line striper fishing. We didn’t have the best of luck, but I did have a whole lot of fun. I managed to find a dinky little place with Wi-Fi to get some school work complete. That night when we got home, what I had been waiting for (anxiously, nervously) finally happened.

I started bleeding from the miscarriage, just like the doctor anticipated. I just stared at it, sadly. Then, the tears came. Jake held me until I slept. Sunday, I still bled, but not so much that I couldn’t continue on with life. I assumed it would be like a period, last for a while, and fade away. But it didn’t. Sunday night I went into labor. Like, yes, pregnant and having a baby labor. Long story short, I was having contractions every five or so minutes, then passing a horrid amount of blood, including solid tissue. I called into work, and my very understanding principal took care of a substitute. I couldn’t believe it was so bad. I kept thinking it would end, and then I’d go to work. By the time Jake had to go to work, I had called my mom and she came to sit with me until Jake could get a substitute and get back to me… it just so happened he had planned a big day complete with a guest speaker and it wasn’t exactly plausible for him to not go in at all. And there wasn’t much he could do for me. So Mama came, and I continued to cramp and bleed, and it was much more horrible than I care to describe. By the time I got to the the doctor that morning, it was slacking off, but if you can understand how much I was bleeding, slacking off made little difference. My doctor, concerned about hemorrhaging, sent me straight to the hospital for a D&C. I’ve had mixed emotions about D&Cs mostly due to too many days and nights spent on pregnancy message boards. I was scared to have one right away on the off-chance we were wrong. I just couldn’t handle what-ifs. I was originally scheduled to come in two weeks after the miscarriage was diagnosed for one last ultrasound to see if anything had changed, and if I had not yet passed it on my own, we’d talk about the D&C. I was okay with this, because I wanted to give my body time to take care of it on it’s own. I mean, if it’s so smart to know to end a potentially dangerous pregnancy, it should be smart enough to complete the task, or at least that was my mindset. When he told me that he wanted me to have the D&C right away, I was relieved, much to my own surprise. At this point, there was no question it was over, and no potential what-ifs. Jake was already back from work and there, and so was my mom, plus the on-call doctor at the hospital was one many friends and family see, and without even knowing him, just hearing his name was comforting because of his reputation of having outstanding bedside manner, not to mention years of experience. I agreed right away, and they sent me straight to admitting. As it turns out, I didn’t really have much of a D&C, more just the C part… I was nearly fully dilated when they started, and I had passed most everything on my own, so it was just a matter of keeping me from continuing to bleed.
My experience in the hospital was as pleasant as could be for what I was dealing with. My emotions were stable, but I just felt overwhelmingly sad. The nurses, doctors, techs, even the lady at admitting, each offered love and condolences and some even prayed over me. They shared their own stories and situations, held my hand, and made sure I was as comfortable as possible. They were all so wonderful. My parents were there, and so was Jake, and even my aunt stopped by. Our Sunday school class members all wanted to bring food, visit, or help in anyway. By the time I got home, all I wanted was sleep, so that’s what I’ve been doing. Heather and Jonathon, two incredibly dear friends from our church, who have been through 6 miscarriages themselves brought us dinner on Monday, and they have proved to be a quiet, resilient source of strength for us. Since I’m at home recouping the rest of the week, I’ve been spending my time watching Hulu, writing, and sleeping. Just trying to sit and heal, physically and emotionally. Sometimes, I feel just fine. Like I should get up and move on. Go to work, bake a cake, and just be me. Other times, I feel like I can see myself sinking in a deep, dark hole. A place where I don’t want my grief to take me.

So this is where I am now. On the couch, trying to heal. Trying to move forward. Feeling a little stuck. Just stuck being sad. I feel like I’m writing a letter in my head… over and over.

Dearest Little Baby I Never Got to Hold,
I miss you already. I love you, and it sucks not have you in my life. They told me your blood type was O positive. I didn’t even know your gender yet, so your daddy and I keep calling you Baby O. I know I will miss you and think of you everyday. I don’t know why this happened, but I’m trying to understand that it was for a purpose, and I’m trying not to be angry about things that I don’t understand. Please, just know that you were loved more in your short life than could ever be put into words, and know that your mommy misses you. So, so, so much, sweet Baby O.
Love, Mommy.

I’m glad that the physical part of this is over, and I know that emotionally, time will help. Writing has helped, and has prayer and scripture, especially Proverbs 19:21… He knows what my heart wants, my I know His plans prevail. And my friends and family… oh, how the love and prayers have helped. Right in the middle of my sad, dark moments, a phone call, a visit, a hug lifts me up, dusts me off, and helps me smile.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Labor Day

In the words of CCR, here comes the rain.
As I sit here listening to the remnants of Tropical Storm What's-His-Face pelt the roof, I can't help but revel in how nice it is to just chill out in jeans and a hoodie, rather than my usual weekday uniform of khaki pants and "professional" blouses fit for the classroom.
Granted, I am still "laboring" away at grades and plans. but it's nice to be able to pause and bake something like pumpkin muffins, which to me, always usher in fall weather.

I just wanted to say I'm okay. Tomorrow marks one week since I let go and accepted the end of my pregnancy. Thanks to so many great people in my life, I've done a lot of smiling and laughing this week, which has helped.
I can't begin to tell you how many opportunities I've had to share, and how many people have reached out to me to say my words and my faith has been uplifting for them. And in the process of sharing my trust in Him with others, it strengthens and grows within me and I feel peaceful.

I knew He'd use this for His glory.

So, as the rain falls and lessons get planned and papers get graded and muffins get baked and eaten today, I smile and appreciate things like comfy jeans, laughs with friends, and peace that comes from above.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Spoken to me

I have been so overwhelmed (in the most literal sense of the word) by all the prayers and love we have been showered with over the last week. The messages, emails, calls… it’s all helped so much, and your love has been a source of hope and peace. I have heard God so clearly speaking to me in the kind, caring words of friends and family, through scripture, and through music, especially Josh Wilson’s song Before the Morning. It’s been hard to listen to- the first time I heard it after Tuesday, I sobbed… I was driving to work. It was like the words were been spoken out of the radio directly to me. It’s becoming easier to listen to now, because there’s a few lines that bring me comfort- I still have a reason to sing, joy is, indeed, coming, and there certainly is good for those who love God. I want to share the lyrics… I ended up printing them and taping them to my computer at work. No matter what we face, He holds us, guides us, and loves us!

Do you wonder why you have to
Feel the things that hurt you?
If there's a God who loves you, where is He now?
Maybe, there are things you can't see,
And all those things are happening
To bring a better ending.
Someday, somehow you'll see you'll see…

Would you dare, would you dare to believe
That you still have a reason to sing?
’Cause the pain that you've been feeling,
It can't compare to the joy that's coming.
So hold on, you gotta wait for the light,
Press on and just fight the good fight,
‘Cause the pain that you've been feeling,
It's just the dark before the morning.

My friend you know how this all ends,
You know where you're going,
You just don't know how you'll get there,
So say a prayer,
And hold on, ‘cause there's good for those who love God
But life is not a snapshot.
It might take a little time, but you'll see the bigger picture.

Would you dare, would you dare to believe
That you still have a reason to sing?
’Cause the pain that you've been feeling,
It can't compare to the joy that's coming.
So hold on, you gotta wait for the light,
Press on and just fight the good fight,
‘Cause the pain that you've been feeling,
It's just the dark before the morning.

Once you feel the weight of glory
All your pain will fade to memory
Once you feel the weight of glory
All your pain will fade to memory, memory, memory

Would you dare, would you dare to believe
That you still got a reason to sing?
‘Cause the pain that you've been feeling,
It can't compare to the joy that's coming.
Would you dare, would you dare to believe
That you still got a reason to sing?
Cause the pain that you've been feeling,
It can't compare to the joy that's coming.
Come on you've gotta wait for the light,
Press on and just fight the good fight,
‘Cause the pain that you've been feeling,
It's just the hurt before the healing,
Oh, the pain that you've been feeling,
It's just the dark before the morning…
Before the morning…

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Land of Limbo… The hardest week of my life.

I had planned not to be an “over-sharer” in this pregnancy, but the need for prayer, support, and understanding has trumped that, so I am going to share with you all what’s going on in our lives.

I knew pregnancy was an emotional rollercoaster, and fully expected to have plenty of ups and downs, but nothing could have ever prepared me for this week.

Tuesday (August 23), Jake and I went for our baby’s first ultrasound. Earlier that week, I broke down in tears and poured out to Jake just how much weight that ultrasound carried for me. I wanted to hear my baby’s heart and get that confirmation that there was indeed a living, breathing, growing child inside my womb, and that this really wasn’t some dream or fantasy. At my last doctor’s appointment, the prenatal exam (August 4), we had determined my due date to be March 30, which made me 8 weeks and 5 days pregnant on the day of the ultrasound…plenty far enough to see a clear embryo, fetal pole, and clear heart beat. A few days before the ultrasound, at the height of my anxiety and nervousness, I googled “8 week ultrasound pics” so that I’d get a good idea of what I should expect to see. When we finally got called back into the ultrasound room, I could clearly visualize an 8 week embryo appearing on the screen, yet my nerves never subsided. When the ultrasound tech pulled up the image, I knew immediately what I was seeing wasn’t the same thing. She said there was definitely a baby, but he/she was very, very small. My brain literally came to a screeching halt. Like someone through a wrench in a gear. I immediately began digging for some inclination that the furrow on her brow meant something, but our tech remained sweet and encouraging, yet blatantly vague, which made my fears continue to grow. She explained that it was too small to get a heartbeat, so that affirmation I’d so desperately anticipated slipped right out of my fingers. As I got ready to go back to talk to my doctor, I clung to the picture thinking and rationalizing what might be going on. The tech had said most of the time when a baby is smaller, the dates are off. So I kept thinking to myself about our conception, and that instead of conceiving sometime between the 1st and the 5th, it must have been between the 11th and 17th, which would account for the difference in size, or so I hoped.
When I came into his office, he immediately explained that his intentions were not to be a naysayer or to be negative or to scare me in anyway, however, he expressed his desire to be sincere, honest, and thorough. he explained that the baby’s size was very, very concerning, and that we definitely should have seen more. I asked about the dating mix up, and he expressed that while we may have been wrong by a week or two, we could not have been off by three- since that means I’d have had to conceive after I had already had a positive pregnancy test- which just wouldn’t have been possible, of course.  I knew then where this conversation was going. He explained very sweetly that, while he was NOT diagnosing me with a miscarriage (I think I literally winced at the word- one that I had not even dared whisper up to this point), he did, however have a great deal of fear that the baby had simply stopped growing and stopped living. My question was, where do we go from here? I had done enough research to know that a D&C was out of the question for me- I wanted more confirmation that it was over before that- and the doctor readily agreed, telling me that we were not beyond miracles, and of course, we needed more information to find out what was really going on with the baby. I left utterly deflated and crushed.
We left the office with an appointment for Friday morning for blood work to determine if my HCG levels were still rising and still consistent with a viable pregnancy. He wanted to do a quantitative which would give a more accurate number, and give them some idea of how far along my body seems to say it is, and we scheduled a follow-up ultrasound on the 9th of September, a full 2 weeks away. With no cramping, spotting, bleeding, or trauma, he left me the thought of remaining realistic and concerned, yet he encouraged me to be optimistic and hopeful, too. Trust me, that balance almost impossible to find.
Sharing that news was the most heart-breaking thing.
Wednesday, I woke up having one of those “Was it all a dream?!” moments. Reality that I might have had a miscarriage felt like a rotten taste in my mouth, and I felt overwhelmed with heart-sick fatigue. I explained the situation to my students, sharing that I was pregnant and that we were having some problems telling if the baby had passed away or if it was okay and still growing like it’s supposed to, and that it would mean I’d be needing a lot of tests, which would mean I’d be out of school some. They were so, so supportive and sweet.  My co-workers immediately reached out to me, and so have our family and friends. Wednesday night prayer was the most powerful thing as friends and church members gathered around us, laying their hands on us and lifting us up. Jake and I talked on the way home that if we had not found First Baptist, who knows how/if we’d handled this. I mean, spiritually… our relationship with the Lord has grown and strengthened so in the last year, I know now that I might not have had the strength to stand and hear the news that I may have lost my child, or maybe not, and it was just too soon to tell. How can one live in such limbo without coming undone, especially when they lack the strength that comes from knowing and trusting Him fully. Wednesday was hard. My eye lids looked a lot like vanilla wafers (that swollen look I get when I cry) when I went to bed.

Thursday was an “up” day. After spending Wednesday digesting Tuesday’s news and opening myself to the idea that I might have to endure a miscarriage, I found myself switching back and forth between moments of stoic, peaceful acceptance and sheer misery and debilitating grief. I looked at my cell phone after the kids had dismissed that afternoon, and saw my doctor’s office had called that morning. I called them back immediately. I was elated to hear the nurse say my blood work taken on Tuesday after my ultrasound was “perfect.” Right on tract, she said. I stuttered, and said, “Wait. Are you saying the doctor doesn’t think I’ve miscarried?” and she explained that while it wasn’t clear just yet, the rising HCG levels was a very positive sign that it was not. I almost melted right there. I shared with my team, several of which were still at school that day, and left feeling that Friday’s blood work just HAD to be good. I mean, this rollercoaster (up-and-down, up-and-down) just couldn’t continue, right?

I went back today, Friday, for my blood work. I took the whole day off, thinking that if it took three hours to hear back from the lab, there was no point in going the 40 minutes to work just to sit on my hands for 2 hours, followed by the fact that who knows if it would be good news or bad news, and if it did turn out not-so-positive, we knew I’d be in no shape to deal with seventh graders, of course. After two unusually painful sticks, the sweet lady who drew my blood told me that it’s be 3 o’clock before we’d have any results. Ugh. No way could I handle waiting around that long, alone. So I went to work and told everyone I just didn’t know my results. My principal was so thoughtful to suggest I go ahead and plan go home early, just so I could learn my results in private, rather than have to face the hundreds of what’d-they-says coming from everyone. I thankfully agreed, and left my class with our school’s teacher assistant and headed out to my car. I got in my car, turned the air on and the radio down, and right as the clock changed from 2:59 to 3:00, I pressed “send” and called them. Being on hold is so hard when the possibility of your child’s life hangs in the balance.
Eventually a nurse named Lori picked up, and I immediately recognized her from earlier calls. She’d be the first nurse I told I was pregnant when I called to schedule the prenatal appointment. The familiarity was comforting. She explained that my levels had not doubled. I went from 39,000 on Tuesday to about 40,000 on Friday. I heard the tone of “not-so-good” in her voice, and my heart sank. Not content with letting that be the end of the conversation, I started asking her questions and discussing the whole situation, and then she seemed to have an epiphany. I asked her how I could have had “perfect” results Tuesday, and bad results on Friday? She got to thinking that the nurse/doctor who looked over my results (since mine was out of the office- his daughter was having surgery) might have gotten confused about the month difference between the HCG score of 187 at the end of June and the 39,000 on Tuesday, not noticing that the large amount of time between the two numbers. She immediately said, “Okay, before I say anything else, let me ask him what he thinks about those results.” I was so grateful. I couldn’t stand anymore speculation. After what felt like an eternity on hold, she came back and said that the same doctor who described Tuesdays results as “perfect” said that after about 5-6 weeks, HCG levels begin to level off, taking longer to double. I had read that after you reach the 6,000 mark that it could take more than 4 days to double, which makes sense in my case. The doctor who was in today, the same doctor who looked at Tuesday’s blood work, said that he thought the jump from 39,000 to 40,000 was promising, and my heart jumped. While he agreed I’m not out of the woods yet, and the possibility that I may have miscarried still exists, he said he did indeed see a fetal pole on my ultrasound, which dated the baby to be 5wks 5days, and he recommended a follow up ultrasound to see if we could finally see a heartbeat, which is usually evident after 6 weeks. I told the nurse I had one scheduled for the 9th, but the doctor on call said he thought it needed to be a week after the first, so we could get answers sooner. We’ll look for a heartbeat and compare the growth from Tuesday’s ultrasound with one exactly one week later and see if we can spot any signs that it is still living and growing. 

That leaves me with where I am now. I feel a little more hopeful, yet still terrified. I have had so much prayer, love, and encouragement from soooo many people, I’ve been totally overwhelmed. I’ve found myself on my knees more than ever, and closer to God than ever. I have never had to pray for God’s will knowing very well that His will might just be something I don’t think I can deal with, but I know beyond any doubt that He will sustain us through this trial. I’ve come to the conclusion that if it is His will that we miscarry, it will be for a divine and holy purpose. It will teach me something, prepare me for something, so that He can use me to empathize with someone later or minister to someone in need. He will use the situation to bring glory to Him through me because of it. And if that turns out to be the case, I find comfort in the fact that the little life inside of me had a purpose and fulfilled God’s will for it without ever having to set foot in a sinful world. 
God’s using this to bring me closer to Him, and I’ve never had to trust Him more. I have faith that we will be okay regardless of the outcome. I’m so thankful for the promising news so far, and I am waiting anxiously in hopes that next week’s ultrasound will be good, too.

Thanks for praying for us, loving on us, calling us, emailing us, Facebooking us, and keeping us surrounded in hope. it has meant so much. I will update everyone as I can. I love you all, and I am grateful for each one of you.

-Briana

Thursday, August 04, 2011

HodgePodge Observations

A random assortment of things I’ve learned/noticed this week:

- No matter how much you think you can get done at school when “nobody’s there,” there’s always going to be someone to talk to… and even though you get nothing accomplished, it’s almost always worth it in the long run.
-People pay more attention to who you are and the life you live than you ever realize.
-Cheeseburgers and orange sherbet make my pants too small.
-Forgiveness is the most liberating thing. Ever. (I knew this already… but He reminded me, yet again.)
-When you close a door, He can open it again.
-There’s something sweetly invigorating about sitting behind a teacher’s desk. Even when you are drinking water instead of your usual coffee.
-Speaking of which, I have gone one week sans caffeine, minus a few sips of a Jake’s soda. I (apparently) can live without it. Who knew.
-My husband is the most awesome human being walking the face of this earth. Seriously.
-I’m a spiritual work in progress.
-I’m starting to be known for the messiness of my poor car.
-I’m accident prone. 4 fingers burnt to a crisp from an AK-47 disguised as a hot glue gun prove it. (I borrowed one from a neighboring teacher when my puny one ran out of hot glue sticks and it dripped out on to my hand. Owwy.)
-Our parents will be crazy-amazing grandparents.
-A lot of people have said we are going to be great parents, yet I still wonder. I think that’s human.
-I know absolutely nothing about pregnancy and babies.
-I stay up way too late.

With that, loves, to bed I go.

Monday, August 01, 2011

The first.

While I am definitely pregnant, I’m definitely still me.
I don’t want to become someone who posts each feeling, each body change, on my Facebook, or on my blog for that matter. There are pregnancy forums and websites for that kind of thing. I don’t want to get so caught up in being pregnant that I forget my other ideas, thoughts, and musings! So, in an effort to keep my “pregnaciousness” to a minimum, I’ve made a pregnancy website/blog through the bump.com, specifically for that, just because I know not everyone wants to read about sore boobs and morning sickness!  Anyways, if you want to read all about my pregnancy, come check it out, but no hard feelings if you don’t.
Here’s the link: http://thewilsons.ourbabychannel.com/

Moving on.

August 1st. So begins my back-to-school blah! I have my roster already and plan to spend this week finalizing my room (just a few more posters to hang and decorations to fix), gathering student data, revising old lesson plans, and purchasing back-to-school supplies. I am super excited to begin this second year! I will continue to use love and respect as the cornerstones of my instruction, and I can’t wait to dive deeper into writing instruction using this book:
image

I used it last year kind of experimentally and had great results. I find that as August begins, I’m definitely blah and angsty as usual, but underneath those feeling is an even stronger amount of building excitement. I have a feeling this will be a blessed, productive, successful year! Yay!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

He works in mysterious ways…

Well, it has been a week of wonderful surprises in our household.


Yep. When we least expected it, we discovered we’re going to have a baby!
To answer some questions:
Yes, we were trying, but in no hurry. We were shocked that it happened when it did.
For those of you who have read my recent blogs… you may be thinking “What about adoption?” Well, yes, adoption will still happen in time. We are still looking into paper work. He laid the burden of adoption on our hearts, and I will continue to listen to Him. Adoption was not a second choice for us, not something to be done if we couldn’t “have our own.” it’s not like we will abandon his call just because we’re going to be parents the traditional way as well. We plan to be obedient to His will, simple enough.
Yes, I feel fine. I have a few symptoms, but otherwise, things are pleasant. At this point, we are a little more than 5 weeks with our due date (as of now) around March 30, 2012. :)

I’m aware that it’s a little taboo to announce pregnancy early, and many women like to wait until they are “safely out of the first trimester” so I’m sure there’s someone out there thinking I’m crazy for being so upfront so soon, however, I’d like to explain our rationale for “letting the cat out of the bag” now.
-For one, my folks couldn’t hold it in. :) Precious! Our families are so excited, so joyful, it’s been passed along relatives so much that it just seemed pointless to keep it hush, hush.  Furthermore, I’m bad at coming up with excuses and even worse at keeping secrets myself. It was more of a bother to keep it hidden.
-Also, and probably most importantly, I have no reason to fear my first trimester. I know that in any pregnancy, there is a real risk that something could go wrong at any time, but, albeit challenging, worrying about it is a sin that I’m not willing to commit. I have an overwhelming peace about this, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God’s divine love will lead us through whatever this pregnancy will bring, and I trust Him in all things. No fear, just Him. So again, nothing to hide.

Another thing that’s been on my mind is the absence of a congratulatory comment from a dear friend who has struggled with infertility. Here are my thoughts on this. Being the only one not getting your wish sucks. It’s hard to watch friends get pregnant when you can’t and feel smiley and congratulatory when you can’t help but feel jealousy and maybe even anger. I understand that because I’ve been there. It’s also hard to sit back and watch friends and family enter the childbearing stage without you when you are not there yet… maybe just married and no desire to begin  a family yet, or maybe not even married yet. When your life stages aren’t in sync, it adds a new challenge to your friendship, and sometime you feel left behind.  Kind of like you’ve been lapped. I get that, because I’ve been there too. If you remember, I ranted about so many of my friends getting pregnant not to long ago, because these feeling were all fresh with me. It’s human. But that bitterness is toxic if you let it consume you. I’ve found so much peace in letting go and seeking His heart rather than asking “why” and begging for miracles. And I feel blessed for that.

So, welcome to this new adventure in my life. I’m so blessed as a wife, daughter, and teacher. I am so thrilled to now add “mother” to that list. God is so, so good. <3

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Summer of the Suitcase… A Spiritual Journey

As I mentioned earlier in the summer, this summer has been one of travel.
A trip to the beach with my family… a trip to the SC coast to see my best friend, including stops in Garden City, Myrtle Beach, Georgetown, Pawley’s Island, and Charleston… A romantic and relaxing week in Puerto Morelos, Mexico (near Cancun) with the hubby… a week on St. Simon’s Island, GA chaperoning a youth beach trip… Plus, we still have one day trip and one more pilgrimage to the ocean before we call Summer 2011 a memory.
I feel as though I don’t even know my own house anymore. Through all our many adventures, you’d think we’d been more distracted from our growth in our relationship with Christ, but actually, this summer has been one of growth not only in terms of our marriage, but spiritually for us both.
Not long ago, God revealed to Jake and me (basically at the same moment, in one of those raise-the-hair-on-your-arms moments) that He has called us to adopt. And He’s put a major burden on our hearts for orphans, especially in Honduras. Does that mean we will adopt from there? I have no clue. Does that me we won’t consider domestic adoption? Not necessarily. All we know is this is on our hearts and consuming our thoughts, and it’s incredibly frightening to know God’s leading you into something big. Some of my fears are about the logistics, the financing. How will our friends and family react? Can I cope with this emotionally? How will I balance this with teaching? What about infertility treatments- should we totally abandon that? No, I don’t feel so.  
So here is what I’ve learned in July of 2011.
- I AM going to be a parent in some way, some day.
- At least one of my children will be adopted. God WILL provide a way for this.
- My heart is forever touched by the orphans of Honduras. I want to make a difference there, somehow.

Our travels this summer have been apart of this divine leadership and spiritual conversation have had with God all summer, providing a whole lot of quiet, relaxing time spent with Him. It’s like He purposely put me in an indefinite vacation/beach mode, since He knows that’s when my heart’s most open to hear- when I’m staring off at the breakers, sitting quietly in the sand. It’s funny how He knows me so.

In addition to these revelations about adoption, parenthood, and ministry, our vacations have afforded us a whole lot of fun. I’ve never spent so much time just laughing, relaxing, and having a blast!

Good times with good friends in Charleston…

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Adventures in Mexico…
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As I start (officially, this week) preparing for the upcoming school year, I am starting to feel that August angst I dread… the change, the ending of the summer laziness (not that we’ve had much time for that), and that overall sense of impending chaos that begins with a new year. I’m not as scared or angsty this year, now with a little time and experience under my belt. Of course, I’m nervous, but I’ve always heard that’s a common feeling for even 25 year vets.
I know this school year will be challenging to say the least, and I know that balancing that with our endeavors to begin our family (both through infertility treatment and through adoption) will cause stress. But I feel prepared. You know the Scriptures about putting on the armor of God? I feel like this summer has full of His outfitting me with His armor as I prepare for a battle. I know who my enemy is, and I know that I will fight a good fight. The injustices in this world are tremendous, the pain and violence overwhelming. But I am going to make a difference in the lives of young people this year. In my classroom, and in time, in my home as a parent. I am excited and blessed beyond all measure.

Plans (Written July 4, 2011)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

When I graduated high school, I think I heard this verse daily… on cards, banners, signs, even in our graduation program (one of the perks of living in the south… we still can quote the Bible and pray, for now at least). It’s always fallen into the category of Scripture I have in my head as applicable and meaningful, yet overused so much that it feels cliché. Sad, isn’t that? Right there with John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 13, and Philippians 4:13… able to be quoted by your average American CEH (Christmas, Easter, and Homecoming) church goer, yet, with all the people who know it, I dare say many fewer people actually “get” these verses. I know it wasn’t until our church did an in-depth (I mean, like, realllly in-depth. We’re talking year-long) study of the book of John, and only then did I start to gain insight on the real meaning and truth within John 3:16, and only then did the cliché sappiness of the verse start to transform into something more powerful.

Anyways, this weekend, Jeremiah 29:11 began its transformation from cliché, memorized Bible verse into God’s Holy Word, living and breathing and eructing power on my heart.

I could blog about the 4th of July holiday… about our trip to the symphany last night.. the AMAzing fireworks show they put on after the concert, running into friends from church, the scrumptious picnic we packed, but it’s all a blur. Nothing since Sunday morning can stay in focus in my head for more than a minute of so except that one verse… Jeremiah 29:11.
Well, let me back track for a moment.
Since I was 15, and I got my mind made up to live for Christ and met jake, I have heard the Lord telling me He was leading me.
Case in point: I’ve looked back on my old blog posts, just to see what God’s been doing in my life and I saw this-
On 11/11/2007, I wrote…
I know it's gonna be the same with us. God would not have lead us here if we couldn't do it. He says he will not lead down any path without helping you through it!!!
So, with this new week, and this new month , this is my goal. FAITH! To be faithful that God will guide us and help us, and to be the most faithful, helpful, loving wife for Jake and to be everything I can be for him. We'll make it I know it.

For the longest time, I have almost heard God’s whisper telling me that He was making plans for me. I think I’m getting hints about those plans and I’m so excited and scared to go along this path, but I can’t worry because I know He has walked it before me and will be my guide and leader!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Say Y-Y-Y-Y-YES to V-V-V-V-VBS!

As I have mentioned before, I absolutely love-love-love our church.
I also love-love-love VBS, which we just wrapped up, and it was just another reminder of how amazingly blessed we are to be surrounded by so many wonderful people.

Since last August, we have grown so much, spiritually. Being involved (not just warming a seat each Sunday) is so much more fulfilling. Getting involved means intertwining your lives with your church “family” so that that phrase is more than just lip service… We’ve been at First Baptist now for 10 months and in that time, between Wednesday night suppers and prayer meetings, Sunday School, Overflow, softball, 8:30 worship, and now VBS, we have gained so many friends we love and trust, people who will be in our lives for the long haul.
I can’t express how happy it makes me to see our new friendships forming and solidifying. Just last night, we had dinner with a few other families, then the Hubby and all the guys went out to a movie.  After Joy (one of the girls… her hubby went to the movie as well) got her infant daughter to bed, she had some of the girls in the youth group over and invited me to join, which was nice since we will be going with the Youth to the beach later this month. We watched Country Strong since we wanted a chick flick (I was stunned at the end, so I’m still not sure I liked it!). Following the busyness of VBS, it was the perfect chill way to end the week.
I’m still singing the songs, and I’m sorting through the many, many pictures we took this week during VBS now, loving the captured smiles and laughs. I taught a class of rising 6th graders, most of whom were boys, so I had my hands full all week. We did Lifeway’s Big Apple Adventure. The music for this theme was fantastic, and I really enjoyed the whole experience.

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Me with some of the kids in my VBS class! Loved them all!

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Tonight, we went out to dinner and then to see fireworks with our long time friends, Heather and Chase, and had a blast, and then on Thursday, we will be heading down to spend some time at the beach with my best friend, Whitney. Life is, indeed, good.
Between all of our amazing friends at church and the friendships carried over from college, I am so very thankful for the relationships my husband and I have with others, from the newest to the oldest.  God truly has surrounded us with good people who love Him and love us, and for that I’m thankful.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Confessions of a foodie…

I am 100% okay with the fact that I will never be skinny.
Ugh, so… maybe not 100%.

Regardless, I am positive that my passionate love affair with my kitchen and the deliciousness that emerges from it will keep my thighs thick and my bottom wide, and there is not much I can do about it.  Like any true blue Southern gal, I love sugah and buttah and eat it wayyyyy more than I should. If you know me well, you know I love go cook, bake, and eat like a mad woman, especially homemade things, (ironically, we just watched the episode of Doogie Houser—it’s on Hulu and we’ve gotten addicted to it—when Doogie sets Vinnie up with Wanda’s “fat” -she was overweight, but still gorgeous, and by no means as big as they made her out to be!- cousin, so Doogie learns about women’s distorted body image and perception of food…) and if you read my blog with any regularity (hahaha…) then you also might have noticed the lack of many recipes or food posts. Well, time management between “me” things and “job” things is still a work in progress. Anyways, to make up for my immense lack of recipe sharing and food posts, I’m going to attempt to make a list of confessions… confessions of deliciousness I have made recently (and in some cases, not so recently, yet still documented on my butt and on my SD card), so hopefully, I’ll read this again in a few years and make them again, or perhaps someone else will get inspired. Enjoy (y’all)! …tee hee hee, Oh, man, I love me some Paula.
So, in no particular order, here are some recipes I’ve been hoping to pass along.

-Company Chicken
Okay, this is not so much a recipe as it is evidence of a well made product. I had a Pampered Chef shower before we got married and I got one of these:
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1. I don’t sell Pampered Chef. No endorsement here.  
2. I’m not one of these “gotta have it” people. I rarely find something I just “can’t live without.”
BUT, you reeeeeeeally need one of these. It makes The. Best. Chicken. Ever. The flavors the stone retains just work wonders!
Basically, you just plop a whole chicken, and spices (and veggies if you like… sometimes, I add onion, other times, I go all out with potatoes and carrots, too) and a 1/2 cup or so of broth to keep it moist then bake. I bake at 375 for about an hour and then reduce the temperature way down to about 180 and cook for at least 3 more hours. What you get looks exactly like this picture I found online of a Pampered Chef cookbook:
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It is 100% fool-proof and always a crowd pleaser. It’s soooo moist and flavorful. I call it Company Chicken because it is one of my go-to recipes for having guests over.

-Spinach & Mozzarella and Sausage & Cheddar Popovers
Earlier in the spring, Hubs and I went to Merlefest and stayed at a cute little bed and breakfast. Ms. Brenda, one of the inn keepers, did the cooking and kept us wanting more with all her yummy treats- including popovers she made us one morning. After I ate 3 (okay, maybe, like, 6), I asked for the recipe and she kindly obliged, making me a copy. She actually found it on the back of the packaging for the popover pan itself when she purchased it at Williams Sonoma. She made them plain and served them with (awesome) honey butter, but said they were easily adaptable.
So ,I got to experimenting and tried them in muffin cups to see if they’d work for breakfast for our day in Sunday School class. Worked. Like. A. Charm.
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At the suggestion on the recipe copy, which mentioned serving with jam, I topped them with a little sweet blackberry sauce I whipped up to serve over a lemon pound cake earlier in the week. It was good, but I couldn’t help but want them more golden and puffy and savory.
Fast forward to Sunday, and I’ll tell you how they went from yummy to scrumptious. I decided to forgo sweetness and added in cheddar cheese and sausage in one batch, and mozzarella and spinach in the other, keeping Sheldon, our Sunday School class’s resident vegetarian in mind. I also filled the cups up almost to the top rather than three quarters of the way to get more of a pop-over effect, and I cooked them a little longer, getting that golden color on top I wanted. Divine! :)
Here’s how you make them:
1/2 stick of butter, melted
6 eggs, beaten
2 cups of milk
2 tsp salt
2 cups of flour
1-2 cups of cooked sausage or spinach
1 cup of cheese
Mix melted butter, eggs, and milk until smooth. Slowly add in flour and salt and mix until smooth. Add in the spinach & cheese or the sausage and cheese. Ladle into greased popover pan or muffin pan or use cupcake liners. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes, then 325 for 15, or until the tops are puffy and golden. Serve warm.
Sorry that I don’t have a picture of the improved recipe, but trust me, they are quite beautiful, and a very impressive brunch menu item.

-Chicken Tortas
In my obsession of Hulu, I started watching a lot of cooking shows, indulging since we don’t have even basic cable… I found a bunch of epiodes of Mexican Made Easy, one of those to minute recipe shows on Food Network. I watched the one where she made all kinds of Mexican street food, which totally spoke to me! I had visions of this…
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… the streets of Mexico! I took those pictures on our Honeymoon, so I was full of nostalgia and and excitement to try the recipes. The one that caught my eye was the Chicken Torta, which was essentially a Mexican fried chicken sandwich with a twist. First, you make some chipotle mayo, (I don’t eat mayonnaise, but I loved this sauce!) using lite mayo and Herdez Chipotle sauce, chili powder, and a splash of lime juice. Then, get three bowls for breading the chicken, filling one with flour and a little salt & pepper, one with a beaten egg or two, and one with plain bread crumbs. Use a meat pounder to beat your thawed, trimmed boneless chicken breasts into thin cutlets. Dip each in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs until fully coated, then pan fry in some canola oil. Don’t turn to quickly, or the breading will come off. Once firm and cooked all way through, the tortas should have a nice golden color. Slice open your bread (I used French bread, but next time I’ll get something more authentic from our local Hispanic supermarcado). Pile on some dark lettuce, sliced tomatoes and onion, then add the torta and a heavy spoonful of the chipotle mayo. Add some crumbled queso fresco if you’re feeling extra special and top with the other half of your bread. Be prepared to bite into the most delicious chicken sandwich of your life. :)
If you want to see the Food Network version, click here.

-Mexican Casserole
With us getting ready to go to Mexico in a few weeks and my discovery of Mexican Made Easy, I felt like something Mexicany for dinner one night and played off of my MIL’s recipe, Enchilada Casserole for inspiration. I basically just cooked some white rice and mixed a little paprika and salsa to make it more flavorful once it was cooked. In a casserole dish, I layered round tortilla chips, my Mexican rice, rinsed canned black beans (No one likes the goo that they come in canned! Be sure to rinse!) and then corn, drained, of course. Then I added a layer of browned ground beef seasoned with southwestern seasonings like paprika and chili powder and garlic. Then I added a thin layer of salsa and cheese, topped off with another layer of tortilla chips, more cheese, and sprinkle of cilantro. I baked it until it was all melty and golden… maybe 20 minutes. It was great!

-Strawberry Lemonade Bundt Cake
Last week, I wanted to go over to my parents’ house and cook with my Mama. Just because. So, she and I whipped up some meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and such for dinner, and me, being me, HAD to bake something for our dessert. It’s like a compulsory itch. No avoiding it. So I just started throwing things in a mixing bowl. True story. And it was scrumptious. To the best of my recollection, here’s what I did.
-I mixed 2 cups of cake flour with a cup and a half of sugar, and blended in two heaping tablespoons of butter. And then I threw in another spoonful because I like butter. I resisted the urge to add even more. I added a tiny-tiny pinch of salt and three eggs, and then milk. I have no idea how much milk I added, just enough though to turn it from cookie batter consistency to cake batter consistency. Then I added a box of instant vanilla pudding to make it moist, and added more milk to keep the batter at a creamy, pourable consistency. Then, I added a handful of frozen strawberries I ran through the food processor until they were just tiny bits. I didn’t, but if I had had some strawberry extract and red food coloring, I would have added a little of that, too.  I poured my batter into a greased and floured bundt pan and baked until it was firm and golden, maybe about 30 minutes. I topped it with a powdered sugar/lemon juice glaze. Perfect summer cake. It was a hit!

I have more to share, but this post is getting loooooong, so I’ll save them for another day. Can’t wait to post these-
-Asian Pork Loin
-Coconut Candy
-Lemon Curd Birthday Cake
-Cream-cheese Filled Red Velvet Cupcakes
-Heirloom Tomato Pie
-Classic Cupcakes (I know, you ask, why? But, simplicity is sometimes a very beautiful thing…)

It goes without saying, I’ll add more as I find pictures on my camera or dog ears in my cookbooks. Smile