Building a Strong Marriage: Happiness Isn’t the Goal in Marriage


When the wedding is over, and the guests go home, married-life starts.

Many of my friends, including myself, are or were military wives. We know homecomings, military balls, ceremonies, and mandatory fun events are not the whole of our marriage. These happy times are mixed in with the, well, the not so happy.  
At times it’s easy to love our spouse, and even a wonderful experience to do so, but other times…after kids, juggling schedules, dinner fails, a 60+ hour work week, pay cuts, hurtful words spoken intentional or unintentional, conflict of interests…well, sometimes things like that can make marriage a challenge. 
But that’s ok. We want to build and strengthen something worth fighting for, something worth our time and energy, even if it’s a challenge. Marriage is worth that challenge. Anything God ordains is worth that challenge.
One of the ways we begin to strengthen our marriage is by shifting the focus off of our happiness. Yes, happiness is great and all, but if it’s at the expense of someone else’s happiness, is it even true happiness? Wow, that just got philosophical! 
I argue that a self-seeking pursuit of happiness is not happiness at all, but selfishness. Yes, we have needs, even wants, but by transferring our focus to our spouse and their happiness…well, something close to magic happens…we find happiness—actually, contentment, which is FAR GREATER than happiness. It’s deeper, heartier, full of substance and value, whereas happiness changes on a whim, based on our current situation.
If happiness isn’t the goal of marriage, what is?

That’s a whole other blogpost my friends, but to sum it up, a purpose, but most definitely not the sole purpose of marriage, is to make us into better people as we serve each other in love, putting the other before ourselves. 

How do we do this? How do we stop focusing on happiness as our sole goal in marriage?
   
         1) Think about your spouse. Write down the things they enjoy. What are their goals? What makes them feel loved? Perhaps ask them these things in order to find out, or observe them more often.
Keep this list, and work to meet those goals and do those things that make your spouse feel loved. I HIGHLY recommend learning your spouse’s love language. Check out The 5 Love Languages, and The 5 Love Language: Military Edition.
    
      2) Pray for your spouse. Make a list of things to pray about for them. Here are some suggestions to get started:

  • Pray for their relationship with God to continue to grow.
  • Pray that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control overflow in and out of their lives. 
  •  Pray for wisdom in the decisions they have to make at work and in the family.
  • Pray for them to get the rest they need at night so they are able to get through the work week.
  • Pray for their self-image—that they would see themselves the way God sees them.
  • Pray for their spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical protection.

Remember, happiness is great, but there’s so much more to marriage that’s worth our time in pursuing–like each other. 

The 1888 Journal: Mysteries & Entries part 1


Awhile back I came across this pocket-sized journal at an antique store in Nashville, dated 1888. HAD to have it! It inspired the post The Journal and the Journey: The One Who Knows the Way, but it hasn’t stopped inspiring or intriguing me. 

I’ve kept the little book on my writing desk, and looked it over many times thoroughly enjoying the entries—as close to time travel as I will ever get.  

 It wasn’t difficult to picture the owner—a young lady, mid-teens more than likely, modest attire. I picture her hair done up in a neat bun, custom to the time period. Educated, church going, and cares for her family, even helping out neighbors. Her evenings are spent working on stitch-work, and visiting with family. Peaceful really.

I’m not certain of the owners name, or residence, only can I speculate given the clues she leaves, but I’m certain many people will find her entries, and the mysterious abrupt ending, interesting.
Her writing is soft, elegant, and often times difficult for me to read or make out, so bear with me as I translate the entries, and feel free to look at the images and help me figure out some of the words.
The plan is to post her entries on the actual day she wrote them, but of course, this year has begun, and I’m behind—imagine that!
Please share this post. Perhaps we may be able to find out more about her, her life, or even locate living descendants.

Let’s begin! I think this journal once belonged to Sirra Hunt (That’s what I see…do you see another name)

Name: Sirra? Hunt?

 Sun. Jan 1, 1888

Cold, storming, and lonesome.
At home, all day. Aunt Maria stayed here last night and went away this morning.

 Mon. Jan 2, 1888
Pleasant.
Went to school this forenoon, and stayed at home, “dumphed [not sure what that word is] up”  this afternoon.
Tues. Jan 3, 1888
Pleasant.
Went to school

Wed. Jan. 4, 1888
Pleasant.
Went to school & went to meeting this evening [I can’t help but wonder what kind of meeting!!]
Thurs. Jan. 5, 1888
Pleasant.
Went to school.
Geo. [not sure if this is correct] Prority [again unsure of name] here this evening

Fri. Jan. 6 , 1888

Pleasant.
Went to school.
Mother, Scottie & I went over to Ona [not certain of name] Knapp’s this evening.
Sat. Jan. 7, 1888
A little stormy.
Helped do the work and wash. Cornmal [unsure of word]—
Need a pair of whislets [unsure of word] this evening

Sun. Jan. 8, 1888
Snowy.
Went to meeting twice. [What meetings!!???]
Mon. Jan. 9, 1888
Cold.
Went to school. Received a letter from B. M. H [oooohhh…a secret crush? Or something to do with the meetings?]

Sermon Notes for Kids: Helping Your Kiddos Grow in their Faith

click to downloadI grew up in church. Every Sunday and Wednesday. Summer programs too. And I’m grateful for my upbringing and foundations of faith.

Now, I wasn’t the most quiet child during church service. Dad pecked my head a time or two–kept me in line. Kept me from squirming, doodling on the back of the bulletin, humming, or tossing paper wads at my brother.  🙂 Church service was sooo boring, well, up until my early teens, and then I started paying attention. Started understanding the relevance of the Bible, and faith. Started taking notes. Still take them, and enjoy going back through them from time to time.

Now that my kiddos sit in church service with us each Sunday, I find myself wondering how I can help them pay more attention…let the sermon sink in…help them apply it to their lives, and grow their faith…and keep the paper wads from flying across the room!

How??? How ?

Sermon notes for kids!!! Of course!!

Apparently I’m not the first to think of this idea. A whole host of Pinterest pins offer a variety of sermon notes for kids of all ages.  Check them out if you get a chance.

So I took my time, scanned through the pins and posts, gathered ideas, thought about my kiddos, how our church service is laid out, and created one for them, which I’m totally sharing with you. Free of charge! You’re welcome. 🙂

The notes include a page that highlights the importance of memorizing Bible verses, Prayers, Praises, and answered prayers pages, as well as a notes page for dates to remember perhaps from the bulletin, or other church social events. 

My oldest, now 10, won’t have any issues with filling out/reading the note pages. My youngest, now 5, will need some help. I will also be tweaking her sermon notes booklet a bit, equipped with Bible verses she can trace, and things more suited for her age (I’ll share that when I’m done).

So the game plan is: print out the pages, enough for a years worth of sermons, and bind them together to create a booklet for my oldest to take with him to church every Sunday. Now, one could easily print out the papers, hole punch them and put them in a binder, folder–whatevs. 🙂

Enjoy!! Print them out, get’em to your kiddos!

Click Here to Download the Sermon Notes pdf

Pumpkin Flavored What? 5 Ways to Add Pumpkin to Your Family Meals

I’ve noticed no matter what I’m writing about, my characters end up in the kitchen making something that sounds delicious, and I always end up trying out the recipe, like petit fours (miniature cakes) Whitleigh in The Wounded Warrior’s Wife rocks.

Sad to say those sweet treats turned out better in my book than in real life.

Sigh. Frown.

The character in my latest work in progress, Leanna, is a vegetarian. So, well, that’s been interesting, but I’ve surprised myself with how much fun vegetarian recipes can be. Still, I love me some chicken.

In real life, I love food just as much as my characters do, and while they all have their own specialties, my love is pumpkin. Yumness! My characters can fill you in on their concoctions, but let me welcome you to my world of pumpkin foods!

As an often frazzled stay at home mom and Army wife, I had a two strong longings: the desire for fall flavored lattes, and an overwhelming need to sneak vitamins and veggies into my family’s food. Pumpkin rose to the challenge, and long before the Pumpkin-Flavored-Craze swept the world, I was adding that orange goodness filled with vitamin A to whatever my taste-buds demanded.

What’s worked so far?

Chili:  Trust me, it’s great! Add 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree to a pot of chili. No one will know, and the fam gets the added bonus of pumpkin vitamins!



“Fall” Pancakes

Creamy Chicken Soup: Add 1/2 cup of pumpkin to a pot of creamy chicken soup. Now. it turns the soup a light shade of orange. If your fam is any sort of picky like mine, add some cheese, and/or a pinch of hot sauce to disguise. Ugh, how manipulative do I sound right now?

Pancakes: Instead of pumpkin pancakes, I call them “fall” pancakes. Add 1/4 or 1/3 cup of pumpkin puree to your pancake batter. Add 1 tsp of Vanilla extract, cinnamon, ground ginger, and pumpkin pie spice. Delicious!

Oatmeal: Yes, this has to be my favorite way to use pumpkin. I add all ingredients to taste, but to get started, add 1/3 cup of pumpkin to a pot of oatmeal meant for a fam of 4. Add about a tablespoon of brown sugar or maple syrup, 1 tsp of cinnamon, ginger, and pumpkin pie spice. I also like to add chopped almonds, chia seeds, raisins, and quinoa. It’s a hit!!

Smoothie: So many ways to do this, but one of my favorites…don’t judge, just try, is pumpkin, apple, spinach, and ginger with a squeeze of lemon. Add ice, 1/4 cup of water, 1/2 honey crisp apple, 1/4 pumpkin, handful of spinach leaves, 1/2 tsp of fresh ground ginger, squeeze of lemon, and blend!  YUM!! Plain greek yogurt, stevia packet, apple, and pumpkin with cinnamon is great blended up too. 🙂

Pumpkin Oatmeal

No matter how you decide to use pumpkin, you and your family will receive many health benefits! Long live the pumpkin craze!!

Thought up a crazy way to add pumpkin to your food? Let me know about it!

Let’s stay in touch! Sign up for the Letting Freedom Ring quarterly newsletter for more recipes, book news, sneak peaks, freebies and more!

Click to Tweet: “Two longings: fall flavored lattes & an overwhelming need to sneak vitamins & veggies into my family’s food.” http://ctt.ec/F62gY+

Click to Tweet: Pumpkin Flavored What? 5 Ways to Add Pumpkin Into Family Meals. http://ctt.ec/F62gY+

Helping Kids Cope with Deployment

September 11th means many things to Americans–many things we aren’t even able to put into words.

It’s been 14 years.

Doesn’t seem like it.

I’ve often thought it strange that my children cannot remember a time when our country hasn’t been at war, nor do they quite grasp why their Daddy has had to be gone for long periods of time to fight the bad guys.  So today, Dear Readers, we have a special Guest Blogger & Army Wife who is going to talk with us about helping our kids cope with deployment. We want to honor our brave men and women who keep our country safe, and support their families with all the love and encouragement we can muster.
 
Welcome, Julie Provost!
 
~   ~   ~
Helping Kids Cope with Deployment
 
My oldest son was only about 2 years old when his Dad deployed for the first time. By the time my husband deployed for the 2nd time he was 4 and his little brother was 2. By our 3rd deployment my boys were 6, 4 and 2.5 months old. Then the 4th they were 8, 6 and 2.
As I look back over the years I can see how each time they handled the deployment a little differently. This is normal because different kids in different ages tend to do that. Some kids can handle deployments better than others. Sometimes it is because of their personality, but sometimes it is because of their age and how much they can understand.

There is a lot you can do as the Military spouse to help your children cope during a deployment. If you have a small baby, one who can’t even talk yet, you might just keep sharing photos with them. Some people will laminate them and put them up in the nursery. Just so your baby sees their Dad and gets used to his face.

For a toddler or preschoolers it might get a little more difficult. They might not be able to explain to you how they are feeling about the issue but they might act out a little more because they are missing their other parent. It is best to keep that in mind as you go through your day. Try to set up Skype chats if you can and just be there to help them through it.
When your kids get a little older and can understand what the word “war” and “Army” means you can sit down with them and have conversations about it. You can check in with them about how they are doing and what they might be worried about. Have them help you with care packages and have them talk to their Dad as often as possible. Just let them know that you understand how hard it is for them.
 
You can do some fun activities around the house that might help them through it. Have a chain of deployment days. Put up pictures of your spouse. Have them help make the homecoming posters. Get them excited when you know it is coming to an end.

Remember to pray with your kids for Daddy every night. Pray for his safety and the safety of his Company, Unit and the whole Army. It can be a good way for kids to get used to praying for others too.
 
There isn’t a lot you can do to change the fact that your spouse will be deployed when they are in the Military. It happens and could happen more often than you would like. But, you can be there for your kids and get them through the separations. You can be the person that they can always go to when they are feeling too sad about it. You can help them cope.

Tweet: “There is a lot you can do as the #MilitarySpouse to help your children cope during a #deployment.” http://ctt.ec/4Uc1o+


Julie is a blogger & social media addict living in Tennessee. She has been married for 13 years to her National Guard Soldier and has three boys, 10, 8 & 4. You can find her at Soldier’s Wife, Crazy Life and on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest & Instagram.

4 Reasons to Host A Backyard Bible Club


Hi! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

My name is Hannah Conway, Army wife for more than a decade, and the author of The Wounded Warrior’s Wife, and Wedding a Warrior from Olivia Kimbrell Press.
This summer, our family hosted our very first Backyard Bible Club! We want to share the experience, and encourage military and civilian families to host your very own Backyard Bible Club for several reasons:
 
1: We’re promoting community, and that’s always a good thing!
 
2:  We’re cultivating relationships when we invite your neighbors over, and living in a military community it’s so vital to make connections with others we can trust, learn from and grow together. So to my military families out there, I challenge you to host a club.
 
3: The third and most important reason to host a backyard bible club is, we get to share Jesus with kids! How often do we sit in our homes and ever really get to know our neighbors, let alone work up enough nerve to tell them about Jesus or even let them know we’re a follower. A backyard Bible club helps to bridge that gap.
 
4: The 4th reason to host a club…well, that’s pretty easy! We get to have a lot of fun…a lot of messy fun…or not so messy, but our family likes messy games…really messy games! We’ve got the pics to prove it!

Thinking of starting your own Backyard Bible Club? Check out Lifeway.com for easy-to-use curriculum or use any of our ideas, lessons/agendas, crafts, games etc.
 

Feel free to comment below with suggestions for next year’s club, or suggestions/advice for anyone interested in hosting their own club.  

Scripture Blocks Made From Scrap Wood, Paint, Construction
Paper, and Modge Podge.

Never Go to the Grocery Store Again: Whole Foods Living Challenge & GIVEAWAY!

The Whole Foods Life Without Ever Going to the Grocery Store Again!

Challenge & Giveaway! Use the giveaway tools button at the bottom of the post to enter to win The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila Your email address is ONLY used to notify a winner. J

Never going to the grocery store again, now that’s a dream come true, but my family needs to eat. It’s not like growing my own food and relying on local farmers for sustenance is a valid option, right? Actually, it is, and one family is making it work rather well!

Say Hi to the Syner’s!
Hey guys! My name is Lisa Syner and I have been married to my wonderful husband, Cliff, for the past 12 years. I homeschool our 3 children on our small farm in Clarksville, Tennessee. I have a passion for the cultivation of the earth and the fruits of that labor, especially deep purple tomatoes and creamy Japanese sweet potatoes. Our family has chosen to follow Christ’s calling to love God and love others by stewarding this land and teaching others the beauty of tending, preserving and harvesting the bounty of His creation.

I had the great opportunity to hang out with Lisa and her family not long ago, see their farm, pick their brains, and soak up anything they wanted to teach me. They’ve taken a whole foods diet to a new level, and I’m intrigued.
Lisa and her family were stationed in Hawaii (whoop ,whoop for another Military family!). They saw firsthand fields of produce being mass produced, quickly grown, and sprayed with chemicals. She couldn’t shake the knowledge and concern of that food being shipped out and consumed by individuals who had no clue what gunk they were putting in their body, or where the food even came from.
Not many of us scan the isles of the grocery store looking for things that are harmful for us, well, sometimes I willingly purchase some sugary treat. For the most part, we buy things that seem healthy, or the box says it’s nutritional, so in the cart it goes.

Lisa says, “People are so disconnected from God’s creation. We don’t know how to eat.” I have to agree. We try to make the right choices, but we’re mis-informed. Before the Syner’s stopped going to the grocery store, they decided to only purchase and eat whole foods, meaning nothing from a box, and only organic, grass fed meats.

“Yes, it was expensive.” Lisa nodded with a grimace on her face. “We were spending $1300-1500 a month, easy.” I may have gasped or choked on my tongue at that moment.

And after the No Grocery Store Challenge?
“We eat the same quality of food, better actually, and we spend between $680-$740.”  Lisa smiled, and I’m sure her hubby is still smiling over those savings. “We used to have so much waste, but now, we use every bit.”

This lifestyle couldn’t have been easy?
“It’s been a learning process, but we base our meals on local, seasonal foods, and it’s healthier, and cheaper.” She also adds that there’s no pizza night to fall back on, so she’s got to be prepared.
It’s really just getting back the basics of how things used to be.
They “grow slow,” using heirloom seeds (organic, Non-GMO), and raise heritage animals that are able to adapt to their environment, making them stronger, less likely to get sick, and can forgo shots other animals raised for mass production require. Their chickens cluck about providing fresh eggs, and their sheep will provide much needed milk for homemade cheese, which Lisa is very excited about. A dairy sheep! How cool is that? Local farmers and farmers markets provide what they have not been able to produce.
“Everything is made from scratch.” And she’s not lying. Even mustard, and cream cheese! “If I don’t know how to make it, I look up a recipe.” I love that attitude. “If it’s not local, we don’t buy it.” Not lying their either.

Any concessions to this way of life? I had to ask that.
“Coffee is a concession.” Totally agreed with her. “Since there are no local coffee bean farmers, we buy the beans from locally owned coffee shops. We also eat out once a month, and if we’re at a friend’s house, we eat what we’re served.”
What about treats and sweets? No chocolate?
“No chocolate.” I’m kinda sweating over this. “Veggies are our snacks. Honey, homemade ice cream is a once in a great while treat when we have excess of milk, and local/seasonal fruit.”

Any health benefits you’ve noticed?
“I have so much more energy since beginning the challenge, and my seasonal allergies are much more controlled.” Her eyes widened in a ‘Thank the Lord’ kind of way.

What have you loved most about this lifestyle?
“The anticipation.” Her eyes lit up. “Food is a gift, each season for a purpose. There’s also a freshness factor. Before doing this, I never stopped to appreciate these gifts from God.” Lisa sat on the couch with me, hand propped on her head. “I’ve also love the farmers. We’re building new relationships, connecting in new ways, face to face, and able to share the gospel.”

Gardening tips?
“We use a no till method.” The Syner’s lay cardboard on top of the ground garden area, then pile on their fall leaves, mulch, and compost. “Start this process around February.” By planting time they simply push the leaves aside and plant into the rich earth. They actually water less because of how well the mixture holds moisture.
“Fish fertilizer.” Okay, that stuff is disgusting, but, as Lisa pointed out, the Native Americans used fish in their farming, so even though it stinks, it works.

Take the Challenge!
What is your challenge for the readers out there, and any advice to help them meet that challenge?
“Try not going to the grocery store for 30 days by eating whole foods from local vendors.” Sounds sort of easy, but then again, we all know things are easier said than done. To help us stick to the challenge, Lisa says, “Be committed. Find your local farmers and artisans, and ask them questions about their produce. Plan and prep what you want to eat. Have fun.”
She ends with, “It’s not complicated, it’s commitment.”
How about it Dear Readers? Are we up to this challenge?
 
 
 
For More Info on Whole Foods Living & Resources, Connect with the Syner’s @ 

Liberty Star Farms
Liberty Star Farms on Facebook
Community Resource Guide

Other Suggested Reading:


Remember to Enter to Win a The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila, one of Lisa’s go-to resources.

 
 

4 Tips for Planning a LEGO Birthday Party

Welcome, Dear Readers!

This year I’ve set out to get to know you better, hear your story, what God’s done or doing in your life, lessons learned, trials, triumphs, recipes, and fun projects. I want to hear what you have to say, and so do a whole host of others.

Today we welcome Nicole Hines! Nicole is a mother of two, a Kindergarten teacher, and my sister-in-law! She’s got some great crafty ideas, and today she’s sharing some excellent tips on throwing an incredible Lego themed party!

Meet Nicole:

Hi everyone!
Since my boys birthdays are 3 weeks apart I decided to have a joint birthday party this year.  One thing both my boys love are LEGOs.  So I quickly decided on a LEGO themed birthday party and started surfing Pinterest for ideas. My goal was to spend as less as possible but make it look like I spent a lot. Here are 4 tips to how I got the job done!

1. Centerpieces:  I took glass mason jars and filled them with Legos.  I actually had my father-in-law cut some PVC pipe to place in the middle of the jar as a filler.  That way I didn’t have to use all my Legos for the centerpieces.  I then tied balloons to the jars for some height.  Under the jars I used some Lego mats from a Lego set I already owned. Finally, I sprinkled some jumbo Legos on each table too!  I think it turned out so cute!

2.  Cake: I love cupcakes!  They are so easy for birthdays, and so good.  So I bought some Lego molds off Amazon for $8.  I bought just regular white frosted cupcakes from Kroger.  I got red, yellow, green, and blue candy chocolate from Michaels craft store, and made Lego bricks to put on the cupcakes.  I was worried that the different colored chocolates would taste gross, but I had so many compliments on how good they were.



3. Games:  A birthday party is not complete without some type of entertainment.  The space I rented for the birthday party wasn’t big enough for an inflatable.  Honestly, I didn’t want to blow my entire birthday budget on one bouncy house anyway.  So I had to get creative in order to keep 15 little kids entertained.  First, we played pin the head on the Lego man.  Then I used the remaining Legos, scattered them all over the hallway, and gave each child a paper bag to decorate.  When everyone was ready, we had a Lego hunt.  The goals was to pick up as many Legos as possible.  After the hunt all the kids had to try and build the tallest structure.  To say they loved it was an understatement. 



4.  Party Favors:  I used the mini figure Lego mold and made Lego crayons (I got the mold from Amazon).  The boys loved helping me peel the crayons paper off, break them into pieces, and place them in the molds. We baked them in the oven at 200 degrees, for 15 minutes. Once removed from the oven, I used a toothpick to pop the air bubbles in the melted crayons, then set the mold in the refrigerator until it cools. Afterward, I popped them out of the mold. Easy! 🙂 Each child at the party left with 2 Lego crayons and a small little tablet. It was a hit!


Thank you for sharing Nicole!

Guest Reader Jessica Adkins: Living Love Loud by Becoming a Surrogate

Welcome, Dear Readers!
This year I’ve set out to get to know you better, hear your story, what God’s done or doing in your life, lessons learned, trials, triumphs, recipes, and fun projects. I want to hear what you have to say, and so do a whole host of others.


Today we welcome Jessica Adkins! Jessica has quite a testimony to share with you, and it seems quite fitting given that it’s Easter weekend, and we have so much life to celebrate!

Meet Jessica:

 
I’m 28 weeks pregnant with a precious baby boy. The twist? He’s not my husband’s baby…or mine! I am a gestational surrogate for an international family. I am just the incubator, or an extreme babysitter, for another family’s biological child. 
 
Meet Jessica Adkins
At this point, there Is no hiding that I’m pregnant! So, there are a lot of questions and comments from random people. Everyone loves a pregnant person! Or maybe it’s just they love to give advice and talk about your size! Most comments are from strangers making small talk who don’t know I’m a surrogate. I often struggle with knowing when to tell people that I’m carrying for a family or when to just smile and say, “Thank you.” 
 
My desire during this journey was to be open and vulnerable and make the entire process known.  I wanted people to see my heart, how The Lord was working through this, and what an amazing blessing this has been for both our families…it’s just kind of hard to share that in a 3 minute conversation! When I do mention that I’m a surrogate there are some people who are instantly supportive, but I mostly get a really weird sideways glance with three responses, “Why would you do that?” “I could never do that” and “Won’t you be too attached?” 
 
I totally understand all of those questions! I thought those too. I have been living through this process almost two years now and often times it’s still crazy to me that I’m pregnant with another family’s baby! I didn’t enter this process lightly and without prayer or guidance. I completely understand people have different opinions and values that they are entitled to.
 
THE WHY? 
 
We have 2 small children of our own. They are such a blessing and bring so much joy to our lives. Daily they humble us and teach us amazing truths about God’s love…but we feel complete with our family! No more planned babies for us! However, maybe that would convince my husband to buy me the minivan that I so desperately want…
 
When we made that decision not to have anymore kids, my heart was kind of sad! I am not a great pregnant person who loves every second of being pregnant if that’s what you assume! I complain about being pregnant every day that I’m pregnant…but there was still this longing to help create life, or carry life. Crazy woman hormones. 
 
As I’ve gotten older, I was taken back by the amount of infertility struggles that so many women and our close friends were struggling through. Honestly, I didn’t know surrogacy was a valid option until I quickly researched it. Once it was on my heart, I couldn’t get it off. 
 
One of my favorite versus is 1 John 3:18-24; “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth…” 
 
When I read this verse, it always hits me in a different way depending on my stage in life. How can I ‘love out loud’? I wanted to not only have a heart for families by being supportive and praying for them…I wanted to find a way to love them with actions. My body could carry a baby and there are families that desire a baby, so why not?! Obviously, there is more involved, but those were my beginning prayers! 
 
We chose to pursue surrogacy through an agency for the protection of our family. There are a lot of laws, medical, and legal issues that come along with surrogacy. Having an agency handle the business aspect allows us to focus on the relational side. We were matched with a wonderful couple based on our interest and personalities. It has been the greatest match. The mom had tried IVF 3 times before cancer was found and she had to have a full hysterectomy. They were on the adoption list for several years, but waiting up to five years is common. They chose to come to the US to pursue surrogacy since it is illegal in their country. 
 
Aren’t you going to be attached?
 
Precious Baby Boy
Right now, I am focused on enjoying this process. My husband and I are loving the relationship we are building with the parents. Being able to meet a couple we would have never known and call them family now is amazing. A pregnancy has never went by this fast in the past! It really is enjoyable…maybe because I now realize how amazing of a gift being pregnant is?! I love to feel him move, kick, and punch because I know he’s growing and is healthy. My husband feels my belly and is protective over my pregnancy and health. We both love the baby and his parents. So, yes we are attached! 
 
However, it’s just different. I don’t feel like he is my baby (because he’s not). I don’t have a crazy plan to ‘keep him’.  It could be because I’m not spending that time nesting in our home and planning his future. I feel like I love him and want the best for him…for him to be with his parents who love and desire to finally be able to hold him in their arms! The excitement and anticipation of that moment make it all worth it. 
 
I am not just helping to create a baby for a family…but a future brother, son, uncle, husband, father, and grandfather! That makes my role in this feel so small in comparison of what God can do through him. 
 
I would love your prayers for the rest of this pregnancy and over this sweet little boys life! If you would like to follow our journey you can check out my blog at: www.letsnotjusttalkaboutlove.weebly.com

Thank you for being with us today Jessica! I’m moved to tears, and I will be praying for you, your family, this precious boy, and his family. You’ll have to come back and give us update info and pics!!

Bucket of Blessings: Our Family’s Christmas Advent & Devotional Time

Jesus is the Best Gift of All

And that’s why we celebrate Christmas. Love’s Pure Light came to Earth to free us from our sin and give us the gift of eternal life if we choose to accept Him as our Lord and Savior. (John 3:16-17, Romans 10:9).

God gave so much–all He had, to rescue us.  What a blessing. He gave and so we give, not only at Christmastime, but all throughout the year, so each year our family participates in Bucket of Blessings to help us remember why we celebrate Christmas.

We LOVE the Bucket of Blessings and hope your family will enjoy it as well!

Bucket of Blessings

Purpose: To highlight the fact that Jesus was and is the best Gift of all, and how we are to bless others just as Christ blessed us.

Let’s get started:

  • Find or purchase a bucket or box. Something small or large depending on what you’d prefer or have lying around. Feel free to decorate it with your kiddos. 🙂
  • Choose an Advent/Christmas devotion/Scripture reading. This year we are using the God’s Gift plan from the Bible App. We’ve used other sources before and you can create your own devotion time using the Bible as your guide. The book of Luke Chapter 2 is where you will find the most popular version of the Christmas story.
  • Decide how many days/nights you’d like for this to last. This year we’re doing 9 days only because that’s how long the devotion lasts. We typically do 5-7 nights.
  • Choose a time & location to do the Bucket of Blessings with your family. For us it’s after dinner sitting near the Christmas tree. For you it may be in the morning at the breakfast table.
  • Schedule Blessings for each night. Here’s what we’re doing this year, feel free to take these ideas or come up with your own:
    • Day 1: The Blessing of Words. I found a .99 book from GoodWill for each of my kiddos. It was my night to give them a blessing.
    • Day 2: The Blessing of Fun. We will play “The Candy Cane Game.” It’s basically a “Mom hides candy canes and whoever finds the most wins,” game, but the kids love it.
    • Day 3: Bless Your Neighbor. We will make/sign Christmas cards and take them to our neighbors.
    • Day 4: Bless Your Brother or Sister. This night each sibling will have several minutes to talk about only the good things about their brother or sister.
    • Day 5: Bless a Stranger. This year we will be putting a few quarters in the shopping carts at Aldi’s. It’s fun to be someone’s quarter angel!
    • Day 7: The Blessing of Grace. Grace is getting a gift we don’t deserve, so this year, each kid will be able to pick one of their nightly chores for me to do for them as an act of Grace.
    • Day 8: The Blessing of Sugar. Something sweet is to be celebrated! Right!? This night Daddy will be choosing a sugary snack for each kiddo. It’s his night to give a blessing!
    • Day 9: A Blessing is a Blessing just because. So on this night the kiddos will have an extension on their bedtime! Yay for them, but more prayers will be needed for us! 🙂
  • Begin and enjoy! I find giving the blessing after the devotion/scripture reading time is best for attention purposes.
  • Note: Gifts that are not tangible are hand written, rolled up, tied with a bow and put into the buck of blessings for the kids to pull out and read.

I’d love to hear how you’ve taken the Bucket of Blessings and made it your own! Have Fun!!