Sunday, November 1, 2015

Check Out My New Website

Hi, everyone! I have recently created a new website. Be impressed! Please click on this link and it will take you to my new site - "Blessed Beyond Exhaustion." Take a look around and have fun exploring. Just remember that it's a work in progress!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Parenting is scary and overwhelming and it's not for the faint of heart. I wouldn't trade it for anything, but some days are definitely more challenging than others.

Right now in our house, we are dealing with a little bit of middle school drama. Nothing too terrible, mind you. Just a bit of moodiness and jealousy. But still, it's drama and you all know how I feel about drama...

Brienne has a really sweet group of friends here in Valdosta and I love when each of them come hang out at our house. The girls are all very polite and fun-loving and creative. One minute they are making music videos and acting really cool and "teenagery" and the next minute they are running around outside, making up handshakes, and playing on the trampoline. It's actually very interesting to watch the dynamics involved in this strange age between childhood and adulthood.

Recently, several of the girls in Brienne's friend group, including Brienne, tried out for state honor choir. (I'm not sure if that's the exact name of it. I'm a super observant parent, obviously, seeing as how I don't even really know what she auditioned for.) It was a very strenuous and difficult audition process - something I definitely wouldn't have been able to do. I probably wouldn't even have auditioned at all because it would have intimidated me so much. But Brie and her friends auditioned and only one girl out of the group was chosen to advance to the next level. And guess what? It wasn't Brienne.

It is unbelievably difficult as a parent to watch your child in her disappointment, knowing that she didn't quite achieve this thing that she was striving for. My heart ached for her and I began feeling a little guilty, thinking that maybe I could've done more to help her achieve this goal. (Honestly, I don't think I could've helped her, though, considering that I am NOT as musically gifted as she is.) Anyway, instead of being excited for this one friend who made it through the first level of auditions, Brienne and her other friends had a lot of trouble exhibiting happiness. They were envious that their friend had achieved this coveted goal, and their envy caused them to act irritably toward her.

I can relate to this feeling of jealousy. Can you? I have a terrible tendency to compare myself with others, and I have to work diligently to make sure that I am being true to myself. I want to be the woman that God created me to be but sometimes when I feel like someone else is succeeding "in my lane," I can feel the stirrings of jealousy in my heart. Here are some of the comparisons that will bring me down every time if I let them: body image, musical talent, writing ability/success, seemingly perfect children. I mean, seriously, I am forty years old and these things are still triggers for me. I have to be intentional in my happiness for others who are succeeding at things that I am not succeeding in. This is a life-long lesson that we probably all struggle with at one time or another. But because it's something that I constantly work on, I am (hopefully) better able to help Brienne get a handle on it too.

I feel like, even at the earliest age, little girls are pitted against each other in competition. Who can have the biggest birthday parties? Who will make the competition dance team? Who will get the solo in the church musical? You name it, there's a competition for it. But I don't really know why we always think the grass is greener somewhere else. I can't understand the logic behind our feelings that we aren't worthy. As I think about my own bouts with jealousy, I realize that a lot of our dissatisfaction comes from fear of failure. But Scripture tells us that we should "love one another deeply, from the heart" (1 Peter 1:22) and that "perfect love drives out fear" (1 John 4:18). When we choose to love our friends and to rejoice in their successes, our fear will disappear.

Here is something else that we need to remember:

Who we are is enough.

Who you are is enough.

You. Are. Enough.

We are all longing to experience fulfillment and love. We want to be accepted for who we are. We want to know that who we are is exactly who we were meant to be. God tells us that we are His masterpiece. Can you even imagine that? The Creator of the world formed us in the exact way that He wanted. He placed each desire and longing, each gift, in our souls for a reason. He created me and He created you, and we are each an original work of art. There is no one else in this world who is gifted in my exact way, in your exact way. God has a specific plan and purpose for each of our gifts and desires and He wants us to use those gifts to bring glory to His name.

As a parent, one of my desires is to show my children that they can still be joyful for others, even in the midst of their disappointments. Life is not endlessly perfect, and we won't always get what we want. But when others feel our genuine joy and excitement for them in their accomplishments, they will also be able to see Christ in us. And isn't that the point? To constantly point others to Him?

So the next time a friend achieves a goal that I am striving toward, I will be her cheerleader. And although it's okay to feel disappointed for myself, I can still show genuine joy and delight for her in her accomplishments. Because I know that I am right where God called me to be.

And that is enough.

Monday, October 19, 2015

9 Things I've Learned From Jonah's Autism Diagnosis

This month marks two years since Jonah was diagnosed with autism. Some days, I almost forget that he is labeled as autistic, and other days, life gets so ridiculous that I wonder if we all aren't somewhere on the spectrum.

But I have learned so much about life, about faith, and about myself over these past two years. In sharing some of these lessons, I pray that you will be able to use what I've  learned and apply it to your own family when life gets difficult.

1. God is good.
God's nature is goodness. The Bible tells us to "give thanks to the Lord, for He is good" (Psalm 136.1) and to "taste and see that the Lord is good." (Psalm 34:8) Because God is gracious, He can not be mean-spirited toward us. It goes against His very nature. He may allow hard things to occur in our lives or in the lives of our friends and family, but He uses those things to draw us closer to Him, not to punish us. Sometimes we just need to trust in the Lord and remind ourselves that whatever is going on in our lives, whatever diagnosis we get, God is kind-hearted and He is able to work it all together for His good and glory.

2. God has a plan.
When we first received our assignment to move to Valdosta, we expected to live here for two years at the most. We had other plans for "after Valdosta." (I'm sure God was laughing about those other plans...) Fifteen months after moving here, Jonah was diagnosed with autism and we began receiving behavior therapy. A few months after that, he began receiving Occupational Therapy services. He was also enrolled in a special needs preschool program with an amazing teacher. When we found out that we wouldn't be moving after our two year stint, and would actually be staying a total of five years, we were astonished. It had never occurred to us that we would be in Valdosta for that length of time, but Peter and I realized what a blessing it actually was. We were able to keep Jonah enrolled in all of the therapies and schools that he needed in order to be successful. We wouldn't have to move and start over from scratch with new therapists. We knew that, even though we had made all these great plans in our heads of where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do, God had the ultimate plan. He knows what is best for our family, and staying here in Valdosta a little bit longer than expected is exactly what Jonah needs.

3. You can overcome your doubts, struggles, and anger at God.
I have mentioned this before, but when Jonah was first diagnosed with autism, Peter struggled a lot with anger towards God. He just couldn't understand why the Lord would "punish" us by allowing one of our children to be labeled with this disability. Especially Jonah. I mean, we had been so faithful to heed God's call of adoption on our lives, and now He was throwing this diagnosis at us? It was a hard pill for Peter to swallow.

I can understand where he is coming from. It's easy to experience disappointment and anger when things don't go your way. When life doesn't turn out exactly how you expect it to. But this is what I know. We can either choose to believe in God or we can choose to believe God. Some of you may not see the difference, but in reality, there is a huge distinction. Lots of people believe in God. They believe there is a God somewhere out there in the universe. Even the devil knows God exists. But when we choose to actually believe God and trust Him with our children, with our time, with our talents, and with our hurts, this is where true faith shines through.

God never told us that our lives would be perfect and he doesn't expect us to always have unwavering faith. What He wants from us is a relationship. He wants us to come to Him with our doubts and our worries so that He can take those from us. If you are struggling today with insecurities or frustrations toward the Lord, seek Him. Talk to Him. Tell Him how you feel. He can take it. And He will bear the burden for you if you choose to let go. His strength is perfect.

4. I am stronger than I think I am.
Here's the thing. I can be strong when I have to be. When my kids are watching to see if I'm going to freak out or crumble, I can be strong in front of them. But there are times, and I feel sure it's the case for pretty much everyone, that my strength is gone. Times when I need to have a good cry. Those times are going to come and it is okay. Sometimes when life hands you lemons, you need to take a minute and spit out the seeds: lose control for a second, cry your eyes out, go outside and scream at the top of your lungs. And when you're finished, take a deep breath and start again.

When Jonah was two and I was dealing with all his behavior issues, I was also dealing with Vivi's sleepless nights and colicky personality. She wouldn't sleep so then I didn't sleep either. It was a very long and difficult season. But guess what? I made it through. And you know what's really amazing? I can hardly remember that time in our lives. (Maybe it was so traumatic that I subconsciously blocked it out...)

But what I learned is that I can do hard things. I can survive on no sleep and still manage to get Jonah to all of his therapies and fight for the things that he needs. I can be physically and emotionally exhausted and still manage to help Brienne with her homework and shuttle her to places she needs to be. I am stronger than I think I am. And I bet you are too. As moms, we just do what we have to do. We take care of our little people because that's our job. So when life gets stressful and you begin to feel overwhelmed, take a deep breath and remember: You Are Stronger Than You Think You Are.

5. Autism is not a death sentence
Far from it. I have friends who have been given diagnoses which resulted in death for their children. Autism is not one of those diagnoses. To be honest, it did feel like a death sentence at first. We had to mourn some of our goals for Jonah's future. But what we are learning as a family is that he is now able to do pretty much anything that anyone else can do. God has been so faithful in connecting us with great therapists who love Jonah and who are helping him become a productive member of society. And God has been faithful to heal Jonah of so many behaviors. He is even playing soccer this year, which is amazing considering that we weren't sure team sports would ever be a possibility for him. I have learned to look at Jonah's strengths and be thankful for what he can do.

6. "Normal" is different for everybody.
I remember a time, about a year ago, when we were still dealing with some really tough issues with Jonah. I was sitting in bed one night, praying and crying out to God because I just wanted Jonah to be normal. I struggled with that for a while because, as a mom, I desperately wanted things to come easily for him. I wanted him to be able to have quality friendships and to be successful in the classroom. But God opened my heart to the possibility that "normal" is relative. What one person thinks is normal can be completely the opposite of normal for another person. And not only is "normal" different for everyone, but we can create a new type of normal for our family. This might look like making extra preparations before going somewhere new, or teaching Jonah to transition between different activities appropriately. It doesn't mean that what we are doing is wrong or bad or abnormal; it just means that our definition of normal has changed a bit.

7. The best (and worst) in people will be revealed.
Autism is a tricky thing. The spectrum is so broad that honestly, no two diagnoses look the same. One child may be on the lower end of the spectrum and may not be able to speak or make eye contact, while another person on the higher end of the spectrum may look like a pretty typical child. It is really weird. I remember working as a Speech/Language Pathologist and having several students who had been diagnosed with autism. Their parents often felt very isolated because many of their friends and family didn't know how to deal with their children.

I have learned that it is my responsibility to set the expectations for my friends. If they know the triggers that may set Jonah off, then they will begin to feel more comfortable around him. And honestly, most people want to help. They want to exhibit kindness to our family. But we, as parents, must demonstrate how to interact with Jonah. We must teach others how to treat him, which in turn shows others how to treat us as a family.

Now, I have also experienced the opposite of this. Some people will just avoid us. People who have been our friends for years. It may be because they are uncomfortable or they just don't know how to act around Jonah. Through this, I've learned that I can't control how others perceive me and my family. But I've also learned not to judge people's reactions to our family. It may be that they just don't know how to deal with Jonah's inattention or his emotional outbursts. And it's okay for these friends to feel that way because let's be honest - sometimes I don't know how to deal with it either.

My advice to you (and to myself, for that matter) is to choose friends who will love you and your family through the difficult times. But be sure to give them grace when they don't know what to do because all of us are prone to make mistakes every once in a while. Be full of grace and mercy towards those around you who are trying to love you well.

8. God provides exactly what you need.
So often we get bogged down in the details of parenthood. All the stresses and frustrations that come along with discipline and carpools and trying to come up with a meal plan and laundry and blah blah blah. It can be extremely overwhelming. But I have discovered that God does actually provide the encouragement that I need at the exact moment when I need it. Philippians 4:19 says that God will supply all our needs. And here's the good thing about this. Not only does this mean that the Lord provides for our physical needs (things like shelter and food and water), but He also provides for our spiritual and emotional needs. Isn't that such an amazing promise? The God of the universe actually cares about the details of my emotional health.

Here are some ways that I have seen God's provision.

     *As I memorize Scripture, He leads me to verses that I will need before I even know that I need
     them. The Holy Spirit prepares me for situations in advance so that I am better prepared to handle
     *After several rough weeks at church, a kind life group leader mentions how well-behaved and
     compliant Jonah is becoming in class.
     *In a recent IEP meeting, teachers at Jonah's school mentioned how very intelligent Jonah is and
     what a pleasure it is to work with and teach him.

Sometimes we just need a little encouragement to know that what we are doing is working. I am thankful that the Lord provides that encouragement along the way, just when I need it the most.

9. Love shines through.
Sometimes I am overwhelmed with such an immense love for my Savior because He has given me such good gifts in my children.  I pray that I am instilling this same love into their little lives each and every day. Some days are hard but the struggles are definitely worth it.

One night I was sitting by Jonah's bed, going through the nightly ritual of story and prayer time, when Jonah reached up and began tracing my face with his hand. I was overcome with such pure joy and adoration for this child that I could hardly hold back the tears. He leaned over and said this to me:

"I always wanted you to be my mom. I love you."

Tears are streaming down my face even now as I think about that statement. The Lord knew what He was doing when He knit Jonah together in his birthmother's body. He knew what He was doing when Jonah was placed in my arms the day after he was born. He knew what He was doing when Jonah was diagnosed with autism.

And sweet mom, when you are struggling, remember that the Lord knows what He is doing. He is good and has a plan for  your family. He will provide what you need. Let go of your fears and give your worries to the Lord. He is strong. And He loves you.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Terrebonne: Party of FIVE: I Don't Do Stress

Terrebonne: Party of FIVE: I Don't Do Stress: Y'all. I had to go to the dentist yesterday. Not my favorite place. It's been years since I've had any dental work done (besides...

I Don't Do Stress

Y'all. I had to go to the dentist yesterday. Not my favorite place. It's been years since I've had any dental work done (besides the normal semi-annual check-ups), and I gotta say I was sort of freaking out. Once they numbed my mouth, I started having a mini panic attack because I thought that I couldn't breathe. Of course, I could breathe. But I was freaking out that I couldn't.

I think from now on, anytime I have to be given medication, I will probably freak out just a bit thanks to the fact that I had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic several months ago and went into anaphylactic shock. Yeah. That wasn't scary at all. Feeling your throat close up so that you can't breathe and watching your husband talk calmly on the phone with 911 when what you really want him to do is scream and yell and GET SOMEONE HERE NOW! Not. Scary. At. All.

It was also a little unnerving to realize that apparently I go into major panic mode whenever I am in a stressful situation. I didn't really know this about myself. (But apparently, Peter would confirm that I'm a "panicker.") All I could think was that I was going to die right there in my kitchen while my babies slept peacefully down the hall. Dramatic much? But it's good to know that Peter reacts so calmly in a high stress environment. I'll be the first to admit, however, that his statement "I was just going to trache you if the paramedics didn't get here quickly enough" didn't really soothe my nerves. I mean, that was your backup plan? Traching me?? I don't think you're qualified to do that, honey...

So, I've been a little stressed lately, thinking about Peter's upcoming deployment and wondering how I am going to handle everything in my life that he is currently helping me handle. Carpool and supper time and bath time and getting all three kids where they need to go. Ugh. And things just got a little bit trickier because Brienne made the Pine Grove Middle School basketball team. We are super excited about it but between her practices and games and Jonah's soccer practices and games, I'm going to need a nanny. Or a clone.

Just thinking about it can send me into a tailspin.

So when I had the opportunity to get away for an extended weekend with Peter, to relax and regroup, I jumped headfirst. As I mentioned in my last post, Peter and I enjoyed a little beach getaway a couple weekends ago. It was originally planned as my 40th birthday trip, but when we found out that Peter would be deploying this winter, the beach trip seemed to come at the perfect time. It was so nice to spend a lazy weekend reading at the beach, browsing through my favorite stores (My new favorite store is Altar'd State. If you haven't been in one, you should check it out!), eating dinner without having to plead, beg, and force kids to eat, and just hanging out with my husband. We went for long runs through a beach community and Peter had me in stitches. He was so dang funny that I could hardly run for all the laughter and tears. I even thought to myself, "Hey. This guy is hysterical. I actually really like hanging out with him." Maybe some of you can't understand this but it is often difficult to just hang out with and enjoy your spouse when you are disciplining kids, making lunches, carpooling all over town, helping with homework, and giving baths. Every couple needs a little "away" time to ensure that they are connecting with each other. And let me tell you - I felt so refreshed after we returned. I couldn't wait to get my hands on the little people in my house.

You know what else de-stresses me, besides some much-needed beach time? Writing.  I am trying to make some writing goals for myself. One of my goals is to blog weekly. We'll see if that actually happens considering I'm about to be a single parent for six months. Then again, I'm sure I will be stressed out on occasion and writing de-stresses me so maybe I actually will blog on a weekly basis. Another goal is to write something daily. Not for this blog. Maybe not for anyone else except for me. But I feel like I have something to say and even if I have to say it to myself, it's probably worth saying. (And maybe I actually need to hear what I have to say.) That probably doesn't make any sense to anybody else but me...

Stress occurs in everyone's life on some level. It may be the daily stress of working and providing for your family. Or the stress of raising children. Maybe you have excessive stress resulting from a terrible loss or financial difficulties. Life. Is. Stressful. I think it's important for each of us to find things that help relieve our stresses instead of things that add to our stress. It might be exercise or relaxing with a glass of wine at the end of the day. It might be having a mid-morning coffee date with your girlfriend to decompress. Whatever it is, I encourage you to take time for yourself to regroup and maybe even delegate things in your life that can be done by someone else.

The Bible tells us not to worry about anything. Philippians 4:6 says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." It's often difficult to remember to go to Him first, but when we do, He is faithful to show us ways to manage our stress.

Now if only I can actually remember this instead of freaking out all the time!

And hey! I just want to thank everyone who has purchased one of my books. If you are feeling generous, head on over to Amazon and write a review for me here. And if you haven't purchased a book, you can get your copy here or you can download it to your kindle here. Christmas is right around the corner and they would make great gifts for all your mommy friends!

Now, I would love to hear from all of you about ways you combat the stress in your life. I think we can all benefit from other's successes and failures. Don't be afraid to share!

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Big 40

Well, I'm about to turn the big 40. I honestly can't believe it. I mean, seriously, I still sometimes think I'm twenty-three. Until I hang around a twenty-three year old. Then I realize that I'm actually forty...

For my 40th birthday, I coerced Peter into taking a trip to the beach. Just the two of us. He really doesn't love the beach like I do. I could sit in the sand or by the pool for days on end, reading book after book, but he's an active guy and can't sit still for long. However, the thought of four days of carefree, childless vacation time wooed him. So we're headed to the beach Saturday while my wonderful parents come to Valdosta and keep the kids. I sort of felt a little selfish for wanting to celebrate my birthday at the beach but then we got word that Peter will be deploying for six months in December, so this little vacation came at just the right time. A much-needed getaway for just the two of us with nothing to distract us. (Namely, a twelve year old, a four year old, and a three year old...)

Also, for my 40th birthday, I fulfilled a huge dream.


Yikes! It's basically a compilation of a lot of my blog posts set in a devotional format. It's called "Mommy Has Crinkles," and it's a devotion for moms of young children. Each chapter begins with a Scripture, has a short story about my wonderfully hilarious (or misbehaving) children, and ends with a prayer. Perfect for those busy days of motherhood when you barely have five minutes to yourself. I had so much fun putting it all together and I found the publishing process to be fascinating. (And a lot of work.)

You can buy a copy on Amazon here or at the CreateSpace estore here or you can download a copy for your kindle here. Or if you are local, I will be getting a few copies in a couple of weeks and you can buy directly from me. (It feels weird to advertise myself like this.)

Anyway, I really just wanted to have a permanent record of all the adventures my children have led me on and now I do. I hope you will enjoy it as you read it!

If you think about it, say a prayer for my parents this weekend as they take care of the kiddos. Everyone is looking forward to it, but it's going to be a lot of work getting three kids to all the different places they need to be.

I, for one, can't wait to sink my toes into the sand. It's great to be (almost) 40!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Choosing to Dance

Today the kids went back to school. Glory! I shouldn't be so excited that school is back in session, but... YAY!

This has been a hard summer. I remember last year at this time I was mourning the end of our summer vacation. And it seems like just a few weeks ago that I was running around the house singing "School's. Out. For. Summer!" at the top of my lungs.

But at the start of this new school year, I'm rejoicing. The little kids are at an age where they are constantly fighting. The screaming and yelling and arguing over toys - I'm over it, people. And look. I've tried everything. Spankings. Time-outs. Hand holding. Scripture. If you can name it, I've probably tried it. Nothing has worked. Nothing. But now, they will be separated for eight glorious hours a day. 

I. Can't. Wait. 

Look, this doesn't mean I don't love my children. I do. With all my heart. I've loved watching Jonah's creative spirit flourish. I've loved being entertained by all of Vivienne's antics. I've loved hanging out with and leading Brienne and her friends in a summer Bible study. It has been a good summer in many ways. But it's time for these precious little people to head back to school. 

I know that many of you probably can't relate to my feelings. You're sad to see another school year start. And I'm not necessarily looking forward to all the carpooling and running around that we'll be doing. But this year, I really feel no sadness. I'm actually excited to see what this year has in store for each of my children. (Now, I am aware that my feelings may change when Vivi starts school next week. I mean, she is the baby so I'm sure a few tears will be shed. But I'm thinking that after the first half hour, I'll be fine.)

I do know, however, that so many of us moms are mourning how quickly our kids are growing and how fast time is flying. It's tempting to mourn our children's growth and wish we could turn back the clock. But here's the thing. I love watching my kids grow. It's exciting to see the young lady that Brienne is becoming. It's encouraging to watch as Jonah learns to read. And it's particularly thrilling that Vivienne is sleeping through the night. 

Instead of mourning the end of summer, we should rejoice with our kids in their accomplishments and we should commit to pray for them. Here are some things I'm praying for my children this school year.

Brie: kindness towards those who need a friend; purity; boldness in her faith; protection over what she sees and hears (Middle School, y'all...)
                                                               7th grade - really??

Jonah: improvement in social skills; developing real friendships; obedience and fewer meltdowns (and patience for his sweet teacher!)
                                                 Sweet boy was so excited for "big school!"

Vivi: obedience; breaking out of her shell; kindness towards others
                                             Technically, today is only "Open House" for Vivi.                                      
                                       And she wasn't thrilled about having her picture taken.
                                       (Honestly, I had to bribe her by telling her I would take 
                                                       her shoe shopping today. This girl...)

I can't keep these precious children little forever and even if I could, I'm not sure I would want to. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I might be a little delusional. I realize that I still have small kids and I may feel differently when they're grown. But, people, having small kids is HARD.

Ecclesiastes chapter three, verses one and four say that "there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance." I am excited for this season of our lives. I'm thrilled that Brienne thrives at school, I'm excited (and admittedly a little anxious) that Jonah is in a regular pre-K class, and I'm happy that Vivienne has the opportunity to attend preschool a few mornings a week so that she can learn about Jesus and realize that it's alright to be away from Mommy for a bit.

This is a good season for us as a family. So today I won't be sad, I won't weep, and I won't mourn.

Today I will choose to laugh, and rejoice.

Today, I'm choosing to dance!