Dad Brags

IMG_5680
Throwback to my sister’s high school graduation! We were standing in our living room/embroidery business/home school room.

I’d like to brag on my Daddy for a bit.

My Daddy (and yes, I still call him “Daddy”), is a man of many talents. I grew up with him leading worship in the church (is it any wonder I ended up marrying a worship leader?). I’ve also known him to learn new skills in order to take on various business endeavors.

I’m posting this now, because years ago one of those endeavors got him into a bit of trouble, and he has recently made it all right.

I don’t know all the details. Quite frankly, I don’t believe the details are any of my business, nor are they the important part of the story. I’ll give you a quick summary.

He started a business.
He got a business partner.
The business did well.
The complexities of running a business left a few details undone.
His business partner left in some tough circumstances.
My Daddy was left with a mess.
Debt. Taxes. $$$.

It was rough there for a bit. But you know? I’m proud of my parents. Momma, I love that you stuck by your husband in the midst of the mess and didn’t leave even when I’m sure that could have been a tempting option. Daddy, I love that you were not too proud to make it right.

Both of my parents have worked hard. My Momma is a successful pilates instructor. My Daddy has done a little bit of everything. When the embroidery business faltered, he started working in a Family Dollar warehouse. He was in Toastmasters for a while, hoping to increase income through a bit of public speaking. He worked in a mailroom at Derek Prince Ministries.

A mailroom. This man, a leader in the church and talented salesman, humbled himself to work in a mailroom. I am so proud of him for it.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Dancing with my Daddy on my wedding day. And yes, that’s a bounce house in the background. 

My Daddy didn’t give up. In time, he worked more hours doing odds and ends for Derek Prince Ministries. He taught himself new skills and took over the social media for the ministry. He learned how to update, manage, and create websites. In fact, in the last year, my Daddy was commissioned to build the websites for Derek Prince Ministries in multiple countries across the globe.

Do you know what that means?

After years of hard work, faith, and more hard work, my Daddy has paid off his debts. He is free. The phrase, “pray as if it all depends on God, and work as if it all depends on you” comes to mind.

I asked his permission to share this story, because don’t we all at some point have a weight on our shoulders we want to shake off? A huge goal we are striving toward that might seem impossible in the moment? My Daddy is an example of making it happen. And I am so proud of him.

He’s mentioned that people have asked whether he is excited to be rid of the financial obligation. His response? “I wish I was more excited! The truth is, I asked God to help me be content through it all, and He did.”

And I love that too. Because yes, we all have goals. We all have stuff. But our goals and the getting rid of the stuff isn’t the point. The point is clinging to Jesus and focusing on Him no matter where we are. Whether on a mountaintop or in a valley, the only way we can be truly content is to find our purpose in Him.

So Daddy, just in case you weren’t sure, I’m proud of you and I’m proud to be your daughter.

IMG_5559
My Daddy carrying my oldest girl.

“‘Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.’” (Isaiah 43:1-3)

Advertisements

Infertility: Jenni’s Story

When I first got the idea to write about infertility, I thought I might be a little crazy. I knew if I was going to actually do it, I would need to enlist the help of someone who could provide critical feedback. Someone who had actually gone through it.

My friend Jenni has been so kind to help me prepare my words and understand a little more of the details behind the struggle of infertility. She has also granted me permission to share her story.

Everyone has a different story. Everyone’s story has a different ending. In sharing stories I hope to shed light on how common infertility can be. I also hope to create a community that strengthens and encourages those who are facing such a hard thing, wherever they might be in that process.

Today, I bring you Jenni’s story.

Jenni & Evan

I first met Jenni and Evan way back when my husband and I were dating. We were in small group together and I always loved the joy and warmth they added to our group. When Eric and I got married, they joined several of our friends in helping set up for our ceremony. This is a couple who regularly used their time and efforts for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

Jenni was a very successful business woman with hopes of adding “Mommy” to her resume. A year after they decided to begin a family, however, she began to realize this dream might be harder to come by than she once thought.

The journey of seeking the help of medical professionals officially began. When a couple is dealing with the concept of infertility, the first question that must be answered by doctors is, “Why?” There are tests to be administered, results to be waited upon, and often various medications to try. It was several years before Jenni learned the reason for their waiting.

The answer was discovered after a reproductive endocrinologist administered a blood test to determine Jenni’s AMH levels. This is a test usually reserved for older women, which is why it took so long before her doctors considered offering it. In her case, the test revealed that Jenni’s body held an abnormally low amount of eggs. So low, in fact, that it was likened to a woman nearing menopause. Jenni was still in her twenties.

According to her doctors, Jenni had a less than 1% chance of ever becoming pregnant without medical intervention, and her chances with IVF were barely an improvement. After years of failed attempts, tests, and procedures, they were at a crossroads.

Questions flooded their minds. “What is His heart on this issue?”  “Is the cost of IVF worth the chances?” “How will becoming parents ever be possible?”

Jenni says these months were an emotional rollercoaster. In addition to this unending yearning to be parents, they were facing the repercussions of a natural disaster that almost totaled their home. There were days she was numb to the idea of parenthood and ready to give up.

Ultimately, they decided to give IVF at least one shot. The process is designed to harvest eggs that can then be placed in the best environment possible for reproduction. Jenni’s experience was a disaster. Her body had an adverse reaction to the medication and shots she had to inject daily. After one month, zero eggs were harvested. None. No hope of a baby. They concluded this was not the right direction for them.

As Jenni and I talked about her experience, she shared with me the discovery of how much God loves to create life and how she felt released to run after having children in less conventional ways. Through these painful circumstances, she was learning about various medical advancements that can allow couples to become parents.

Some women, once learning their womb is unable to carry a baby, become mothers by having a surrogate carry their new life for them. Other families might have a situation similar to Jenni, and choose to adopt an embryo available from someone else who has gone through IVF. Still others, might have the opportunity to become pregnant through the process of egg donation.

Jenni loved the idea of adoption, and equally loved the idea of carrying her child through the 40 weeks of pregnancy. With much prayer, she and her husband decided to visit one more office before ending their 6 year journey of fertility and proceeding with adoption. They were also considering the concepts of egg donation and embryo adoption.

Before the visit, Jenni penned the following thoughts. Her words bring tears to my eyes:

“At the beginning of learning how grim our outcome was, I asked God to teach me more about who He is and to understand him. Here is my take away: the Father gives good gifts. He is the giver and sustainer of life and he gives GOOD gifts. This doesn’t explain why we don’t sometimes receive something we want, but I know my Father gives only good. I know he holds every tear I cry. I know he loves us and his angels are singing over us. I believe it is the Father’s heart for us to have biological children even if that isn’t what we receive. I still believe it is in His heart and nature to give life. We live in a world where we can’t explain our circumstances and we aren’t promised a life without pain. As Evan and I look back over the past very difficult years, we are not thankful for the pain, but we know it has deepened our character and how we respond to others and we KNOW our Father loves us! We know He has given us amazing hearts that can grieve, heal, and dream new dreams.”

It was a standard visit. They were seeking a second opinion about whether there were any other steps they could take to have a child of their own. The nurse took Jenni’s blood just to ensure she was not already pregnant. Jenni assured her this was not necessary.

Later that afternoon, Jenni answered an unfamiliar number and the words, “You are pregnant” sang through the speaker. Jenni dropped to the floor in tears as the seemingly impossible became reality in her life.

Nine months later, after 10 years of marriage and 6 years of walking through infertility, they welcomed beautiful and precious Evie into the world. What the doctors had said to be impossible, God had made possible.

Jenni’s story is unique. She believes God gave her a miracle and wishes each person’s story was able to have the same miraculous ending. She gives God all the glory and hopes his plans for her will include more children.

Jenni, Evan, & Baby

On Seeking Advice a.k.a. Temper Tantrum Survival

1004087_10100765225548911_508797427_n
Photo by Alexa’s Photography

My not-quite-two-year-old wanted to walk. She had developed a habit of dashing out into parking lots, so I decided that lunch time at Chick-fil-A was not the time to allow her to practice being independent.

When I scooped her up in my arms, she immediately began to throw a full-out temper tantrum. She screamed, clawed at my face, told me to “go away”, yanked at my hair, and convulsed her body in such a way that I could barely hold onto her with my one free arm.

We somehow managed to make it to the car safely, but I was flustered. This wasn’t the first time she had responded to me that way. My daughter, who was usually very affectionate and loving, was making it a habit to behave in a way that could not be tolerated.

Our discipline often involves giving our children the opportunity to make choices, and then giving appropriate consequences when poor choices are made. My instinct was that this method would not work in this situation. In the midst of such a violent temper tantrum, I certainly could not expect my daughter to make, let alone verbalize, an appropriate choice. Neither did I want to invoke a physical consequence for a situation in which she was lashing out physically.

I knew I needed to seek advice.

If I needed financial advice, I would have asked someone who uses a strong financial knowledge to handle money well. If I needed legal advice, I would have gone to a well-known lawyer whom I could trust to point me in the right direction. If I needed medical advice, I would have booked an appointment at my doctor’s office.

Facebook wouldn’t be the place to answer my questions.

Facebook is a great way to connect with people, and can often be a great place for resources. But certain questions require an expert in the field to answer them. I strongly believe that when it comes to seeking advice on raising my children, I should always consult an expert in the field.

Think about it. Let’s say I posted my scenario on a mommy board. Undoubtedly, I would receive quite a few responses from all kinds of people giving me their take on the situation. Might some of the advice be good, even great? Absolutely. But how would I know where to start? What credibility do these individuals have when it comes to answering my question? Do these families hold similar beliefs to my own? Do their children behave in a manner that I want my own children to model? Do I even know them?

I don’t take the raising of my children lightly. I have been given a huge responsibility and I want to get it right. My Facebook community may have been able to help me feel less alone in the struggle, but it wouldn’t be my source for seeking advice.

For this situation, I decided to ask an expert in the field. Kathy White is the Children’s Pastor for nursery and preschool ages at Daystar Church. She has worked in ministry with little children most of her life. She has raised three respectful boys of her own. I knew that by asking Kathy, I would have her years of experience on my side. I could trust what she would say because I had seen the results of her labor of love in ministry and at home.

Her advice? It was simple. She told me to hold my daughter close and take her hands in mine. While looking into her eyes, I should quietly, yet firmly, say things like, “We do not hit. We use soft touches.” I should then take her hand and use it to gently stroke my face. “Soft touches.”

It wasn’t long before I had a chance to try out my new response. Her sister had something she wanted, so she yanked hair to get it. I calmly took her hands in my own and let her know we do not pull hair. She simply smiled and said, “Okay, Mommy.” And then gave her sister a kiss and an apology.

Situation diffused. It’s been weeks since I’ve witnessed a full-blown temper tantrum. We will always have moments when we need to discuss the appropriate response, but for now, I get to witness her becoming more and more mature as she learns to respond with kindness instead of frustration.

I am proud of my little girl. And I am thankful to know an expert like Kathy White.

“Joyful is the person who finds wisdom,
    the one who gains understanding.
For wisdom is more profitable than silver,
    and her wages are better than gold.
Wisdom is more precious than rubies;
    nothing you desire can compare with her.
She offers you long life in her right hand,
    and riches and honor in her left.
She will guide you down delightful paths;
    all her ways are satisfying.
Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her;
    happy are those who hold her tightly.” (Proverbs 3:13-18; NLT)

*Kathy has a blog of her own at https://theworldaccordingtomrsfarquhar.wordpress.com. I highly recommend you check it out as she has many words of wisdom.

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 30

I do believe that as the month of November continued, my list of names grew longer, rather than shorter. I can think of two reasons for this:

Reason number one: I am living an extraordinarily blessed life. I am surrounded by people who love me and encourage me. People who have had made significant impacts on my life through their words and/or actions. I never want to lose sight of all the goodness God has given me.

Reason number two: The more I was able to honor people, the more people I saw who I wanted to honor. We live in a culture that loves to embrace the negative and bring to surface all the faults a person may posses. This is tragic. We are called to something greater. Our words have the power to bring someone down, or lift someone up to their full potential. Let’s focus on the latter. My hubby had the opportunity to speak at church yesterday, and his message was all about how positive thinking can be life-changing. If you missed it, check it out here! You won’t regret it.

Grand Canyon
A photo from a trip we took to the Grand Canyon about 6 years ago. I chose this because we are just on the horizon of what God has in store for us. Such grandeur, and our eyes cannot see it all.

There is always someone else to recognize. Another person who could benefit from a little love and encouragement. On this final post, I would like to highlight a few more people. I know I am leaving out more than I am including, and I wish this were not so. But demonstrating gratitude and honor should not be a month-long event. It should be a lifestyle. Will you join me in this?

I think of people like Dallas, Emma, and Ella. My go-to babysitters. It takes quite a bit of trust to be able to bring someone into my home to care for my little girls. I want these ladies to know how grateful I am to have them. They are trustworthy, love the Lord, and my girls adore them. I am so so grateful for them.

There are several staff members at Daystar that I didn’t get a chance to mention. Seth, our youth pastor, is so good at what he does and will one day be directly impacting my own children! Jon does community outreach and is working on a special serve day that will make a huge impact in our city. Jennifer is a counselor and has a sweet disposition, yet a powerful woman of prayer. All of these staff members are important and deserve great recognition.

Rick and Amber have been in our lives for a number of years and I have learned so much through their wisdom. They kept our girls for a few days for us while we went on a trip this fall. They give a great deal of themselves to so many people and it is an honor to call them friends.

Then I start to think about people who have impacted me at various times in my life. College friends like Hannah, Rachel, Beth, Amber, Maddie, Kristen, and Vickie. Each of these women left a positive imprint on my life and I love the memories that we have shared together. I also greatly treasure friends from my childhood like Emily, Sarah-Eileen, Caitlin, and Kaitlin.

Trish was someone I always looked up to spiritually. She and her daughter Ashley threw me a baby shower for my first born. The two of them have a special place in my heart. Ashley, we need another girl’s night soon!

In this month I was able to mention all of my immediate family members, but didn’t get a chance to touch on my extended family. There are too many names to list them all here, but I love each and every one of them. They are spread all throughout the country in places like South Carolina, Delaware, Kansas, California, and Hawaii. Some I have known better than others, but I value each moment we have spent together.

My thoughts travel to one who is no longer with us. Leigh Lane was a precious friend of mine during my last two years of high-school. I was a homeschool girl transitioning to public school, and she was such an inspiration to me. She lived with unstoppable joy and had a great peace about her. She was the type of person you knew had a special relationship with the Lord. I wish I had more time with her.

I could go on. There are so many more. But it doesn’t have to stop here. It doesn’t have to be a blog post or a Facebook status. It can be a card in the mail, a text, a phone call, a gift. Let’s live a life that brings honor to others.

30 Days of Thankfulness: Chelsea & Taylor

Most of my posts have been “categorized”. I’ve had posts about family, friends, Daystar staff and volunteers, and people who I don’t necessarily know but who have blessed me in various ways. This one is a little bit different because the two ladies I’m going to talk to you about are friends and Daystar staff members!

Chelsea

Chelsea and I met at Daystar and would chat regularly on Sunday mornings. The first thing anyone will notice about Chelsea, is that her laugh is contagious! She has a kind and genuine smile that is always refreshing to be around.

During my transition between teaching and becoming a stay-at-home mommy, I worked in the Daystar office. This is the same time frame that Chelsea joined the staff, and I loved every minute of it! We giggled together incessantly about all kinds of nonsense, and were able to share about our lives and encourage one another.

Chelsesa
I was going to put up a sweet picture of Chelsea and her hubby, but I decided I liked this one better. I love her excitement!

You will probably recognize Chelsea from the Sunday morning announcement videos, but her role at Daystar is so much more. Here are a few things that Chelsea does as Communication Director that you may not have realized:

 

  • Designing/approving graphics
  • Creating and distributing the bulletin
  • Updating and maintaining the website
  • Managing all Daystar Church social media accounts
  • Special events planning
  • Organizing the timeline of announcements

And yes, that’s just some of what she does. She is a valuable team member and friend. I have so enjoyed the times when Chelsea and I got our nails done and went shopping together. She is full of joy and life and makes a positive impact on those around her.

Chelsea, I admire your hard work. I love listening to your stories and every chance I get to chat with you. You are a treasure!

Taylor

The funny thing about my relationship with Taylor, is that we have walked very similar paths four years apart. I met Taylor one night at the Tap, Daystar’s college ministry. She and I were getting to know each other and discovered that we were both recipients of the NC Teaching Fellows Scholarship and had pursued a degree to teach math. She was just beginning her job search, and I was about to leave my position. In jest, yet with all seriousness, I asked her, “Do you want to take my job?”

Of course, I really didn’t have much say in who would come in after me, but she ended up taking my exact job! When I left teaching, I began working at Daystar Church. When Taylor left teaching, she began working at Daystar Church! My first baby was a little girl, and now Taylor is expecting her first child… a baby girl. I love that our paths have been so similar.

Taylor
Taylor and her hubby are so excited about their baby girl!

Taylor’s role at Daystar is that of Connections Director. She, like Chelsea, is on the announcement screen on Sunday mornings. The times when they do announcements together are my absolute favorite. These two are hysterical and play off of each other. I love it.

Taylor’s responsibilities are all things A-Team. She oversees Growth Track, works with the leaders within the A-Team to make sure everything is running smoothly, and ensures that any special events have the people needed to make it a time of excellence. On any given Sunday, Taylor might be hopping from campus to campus to make sure everyone has everything they need.

Taylor, one of the things I love the most about you is your enthusiasm. Whatever you do, you do it well with a passion that inspires others. I am so glad to know you!