Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Shout Out: The Gray Family

We're David and Ashley Gray. We've been married since 2012. David is a youth minister and I'm an adoption social worker with a faith based non profit. We talked about adoption from the very beginning, even while we were dating. We thought that we would have biological children first then adopt. We were diagnosed with infertility six months after we were married. We did one round of infertility treatment and it was not successful. We felt that God was leading us to pursue adoption rather than be aggressive with treatments. 

In January 2014, we began the domestic adoption process. It's been so neat to be able to see God's hand in this- even in the very beginning stages. Adoption is not Plan B for us- it's simply God's way of growing our family. We're often asked why we are adopting. David says it best: "Why not?? We're adopted by God as His children." Adoption is a beautiful  picture of the gospel. 

We're doing a t shirt fundraiser through Bonfire Funds. We have to sell a minimum of 50 shirts (which we did on day 3!) to receive any funds. We have until March 12 to sell as many shirts we can. Our goal is 200. Our site is ..simply visit our site, order your shirt and they'll be shipped directly to you. 

We're also selling coffee through Just Love Coffee. We receive $5 from every bag of coffee sold. Our storefront site is

I hope you will partner with the Gray family in their adoption journey! If you are interested in a Shout Out on "Yes to Adoption" check this post for more detail. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Choices, Cookies & Kids: A Creative Approach to Discipline

I watched the brief video “Choices, Cookies & Kids: A Creative Approach to Discipline” by Dr. Garry Landreth. The concept of this video was that you should offer your children big and small choices, based on their development. Big choices should be reserved for older children, and small choices for younger. We should shape our consequences to actions on the basis that children are making a choice. He gave the example of his daughters fighting in the car, and that they were going to make a choice to lose their television privleges for the day if they chose to fight in the car. His younger son had to choose to put his pajamas away in the morning in order to choose to watch his Mr. Rogers episode.

Using this approach, we empower our children to realize they have options and they are making decisions that have consequences. Dr. Landreth reiterated to his children that the moment they made the choice of not obeying, then they had already made the choice for their consequence. Even if a child goes back to fix the mistake, then they still had to bear the consequence (a lost privilege such as television, games, or dessert). Dr. Landreth offered several personal examples of how his children made the wrong choice for a few days but soon remembered and no longer made those same choices because they did not want the consequences.

Dr. Landreth suggested starting this method around 2 years of age, adjusting the size of the consequences and choices as needed. He said his daughter went to the pantry and got a stack of Oreos. He saw her and gave her the choice to keep one Oreo or choose to put them all back. A different scenario is that his daughter wanted a cookie right before dinner. He said she could choose to have the cookie after dinner with ice cream or have the cookie after dinner with a glass of milk- thus redirecting the cookie eating until after dinner. He said to keep choices simple and not to “overdose” on choices. Work on one major thing at a time. 

This is just one approach to discipline, I thought the video was insightful so I should share a brief recap. I do not think that any one approach will be effective with every kid. Just thought I'd share! 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Empowered to Connect Recap

Last weekend Will and I went to Birmingham, AL for the Empowered to Connect conference. We received a generous scholarship from Lifesong for Orphans that allowed for us to receive free registration and also paid for our hotel and dinner. It was a great gift to us during this financially tight season. Since our anniversary is this month, we decided to celebrate our 5th anniversary on this trip!

The ETC conference is a 2-day, all-day event with Dr. Karyn Purvis, Amy and Michael Monroe, and Dan and Terri Colley. I'd heard Amy Monroe at Created for Care before, but was so excited to hear Dr. Purvis! She co-wrote "The Connected Child" which is a must-read for adoptive and foster families.

The conference met and exceeded my expectations. The presentations were research-based and testimony-driven. I was shocked to find out so much about brain development and sensory processing- it made me understand my adopted son so much more. Will and I left the conference with tangible skills to practice with our son about discipline, redirection, and connection. We even saw results practicing the TBRI methods the next day! I really like the attachment focused methods of TBRI, which you can learn about through The Connected Child. I am also looking forward to picking up The Whole Brain Child to learn more.

If you are considering going to Empowered to Connect, do it! I loved going with Will and knowing that we were BOTH equipped with the same new skills. I'm so grateful for the scholarship from Lifesong for Orphans for making our trip possible, and for Will's parents who graciously watched the kids for us!

(Disclosure: Amazon links are not affiliate links. Although Lifesong gave us the scholarship, all opinions are my own.)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Two Kids- Six Months In

Six months into parenting two kids, and I have to say it is a full, and rewarding season! Edie is 6 months old now and Israel is 2 years and 4 months. They are really best friends now, and it is so fun to watch them interact and light up when they see each other. Israel loves it when Edith gets close to him and "kisses" him, and is for the most part gentle with her!

They are really funny because they will be playing in the play room together happily while I am doing house work, but if I come into sight they will both start fussing for me to pick them up or fetch an out-of-reach toy. If I stay hidden they will play contently, but if I appear then they can get fussy. Sometimes that allows me to justify hiding from them, because they will be happily engaged otherwise :).

Last week I upgraded Israel full-time to a booster seat so Edith could take his high chair. She had started to wiggle out of the bumbo seat, so it was time for more restraint!

Edith and Israel love taking baths together, so we do it almost every night. They crack up at each other as they splash. We just put Edith in a bath chair instead of her mini bath tub, and she's having fun sitting up reaching for toys and splashing the water with her feet.

We've gotten settled in a routine for the most part. Mondays and Thursdays they go to school while I go to work, and we have at least one therapy or doctor visit or outing on the other days of the week. I'm so thankful for my double stroller, because it is the only way I'm able to get out and about efficiently! I don't go to the store with both kids often, but when I do I wear Edith in the Ergo and Israel rides in the cart.

The kids take naps at the same time mid-day almost every day, so I get at least one hour to do school or house work or eat lunch peacefully! I love it when I have time with just one kiddo, whether it be playing ball with Israel during Edith's morning nap, or giggling with Edie while Israel is taking a long nap. Those moments with just one kid are rare and treasured.

Our house is a mess right now. The kitchen is always dirty, there's always laundry to be washed or folded, and there is a huge pile by the back door of diaper bags and little coats. I rarely have time to do anything "for me" aside from school and taking a shower. My bible reading time is while I pump in the morning. I rarely finish my cup of coffee in the morning, and that is after reheating it 2-3 times. There are times (mainly at meal times) when both kids are screaming and I don't know how I will make it through the next five minutes. There are days where we watch an Elmo episode followed by another episode, because I'm lazy or tired or can't handle the fussing.

I'm not a perfect mom or wife, and the last six months have only highlighted my imperfections and pointed me to the grace that I need to claim. This busy season of grad school and interning and being a mom of two kids has been hard, it has stretched me and challenged me in new ways. There is a deeper love for my kids than I thought was possible. I miss them after being away from them for one hour during nursery at church or small group. I love to watch how they respond to each other and to everything around them. I just want to soak in all of the moments of wonder and beauty that they are. They are at my favorite ages right now- not because they are easy (they're not) but because each day I'm learning more and more about them and getting to celebrate the milestones and tiny accomplishments. Edith is so close to sitting up, and Israel is so close to being mobile and talking. I can't wait to watch how the next months unfold. I'm so incredibly proud and honored to be their mama. They are the best kids, and I feel so grateful and humbled that I get to be in the front row seat of their lives. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentines Day!

Happy V-Day from my little loves!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Edith: Six Months Old

Dear Edith,

You are six months old! How fast time flies, sweet one. I can't believe you've been a part of our house for half a year!

In the last few weeks you have just become SO MUCH FUN! You are You're not crawling, but you are rolling and wiggling and don't like to just sit and snuggle anymore. You're going to be on the move very soon.

You love your brother so much, he is still your favorite person! You have started to be a pesty little sister- you are always messing with him and stealing his toys.

You started baby food this month, and you're getting the hang of it! You still nurse a lot during the day but we're getting more of a routine. You are a growing girl- you weighed 15 pounds 10 ounces last week. You're wearing size 2 diapers, but some of Israel's size 3 nighttime diapers at night! You are wearing 6 month clothes.

This month you experienced your first snow! We only went outside for a quick picture but you sure were cute all bundled up!

You also had a bad cold this month- we went to the doctor and you were rolling all over the mat, ripping up the paper and having a blast. Thankfully it was just a cold and not RSV or croup. I'm glad you're feeling better!

FINALLY you are sleeping in your room! We started a week ago and it was just right for both of us finally. You are doing incredibly well with the transition, and are starting to sleep in longer stretches at night. I'm so thankful that you are an easy baby, but I do miss having you next to me in the pack and play at night! But not enough to move you back... I'm glad you're in your own nursery!

We sort of have you on a schedule for the first time. You typically wake around 6:30-7, nap at 8:30, nap at 12, and sometimes a late nap at 4-4:30. You go to bed between 6:30-7, depending on if you took a 3rd nap. It's great that you're finally getting more of a consistent schedule.

We love you Edie Bat! (That's our latest nickname for you). You are so precious, so silly and so happy. We are so thankful for you!


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Created for Care & Empowered to Connect

I am really, really, really bummed that this will be my first year to miss Created for Care, an adoption retreat for moms. I have gone the last three years but just cannot do two nights away from my little ones, especially since I'm breastfeeding. I will miss the community of adoptive mothers and the reunion of dear friends!

Instead of me attending Created for Care, Will and I are both attending Empowered to Connect next weekend. We received a scholarship from Show Hope that not only paid for our registration fees, but for our hotel! It is a bonus because we will be using this overnight trip as our 5th anniversary vacation. Will's parents will watch our babies, and I will get a FULL NIGHT'S SLEEP!!!!! (Sorry GaGa- enjoy the Edith snuggles ALL.NIGHT.LONG).

It's really important to me to stay connected with the adoption world and to be reminded of ways to intentionally parent my children. I'm also excited that my coworkers will be attending ETC and that this conference will count as part of my internship experience!

Are any of you going to ETC in Birmingham, AL?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Life as a Pastor's Wife

Since Will and I began dating six years ago, I've seen him in various pastoral roles. He's been an intern for a college ministry, an interim youth pastor, an interim preacher at a Chinese Church, a small group leader, a young professionals intern, a guest preacher at summer camps and D-Nows, a college pastor and a teaching pastor. I've never known him to not be serving the church. I have seen his skills as a pastor and preacher grow and I'm so proud to see how Will serves the Lord faithfully.

I grew up in the ministry. I'm one of five children and in my life, my dad has always pastored large churches. I remember telling my Sunday School teachers that I could do what I wanted because "my dad owned the church." My birthday parties were held in the church fellowship halls and gyms. I lived the fish bowl life, knew how to plaster on a smile as soon as we hit the church parking lot because people were watching. My oldest sister was on a date one time and someone called my parents to make sure they knew. After moving to Alabama, my parents received an anonymous typed letter from a "concerned church member" because they felt that I had chosen the wrong friends.

As I have now crossed over into the ministry wife role, I have a few things that have been on my heart that I haven't had the courage to share. I worry about offending some, of being too vulnerable, or earning judgment.

Before I share my heart, please stop and read these recent blogs I've come across that really addressed life as a ministry wife:

Seven Things Pastors Wives wished they had been Told Before they Became Pastor's Wives (what really struck me about this post was the theme of loneliness written by pastor's wives in the comment section).

To Young Ministry Wives: Advice from Emily (I really like her points- especially accepting unique giftedness).

10 Ways to serve your Pastor's Wife (I want to scream YES YES YES to this list!)

As a ministry wife, I've learned a lot about myself and my marriage.

  • My spiritual walk is not my husband's. I can't depend on him to carry me. I also can't get by on his spiritual walk. I have to invest in my own relationship with the Lord. 
  • Ministry can be lonely. It's really hard to move to a new place and have the expectation for your new church to be one that you immediately love. It's almost like pastor's wives are expected to be extroverted and to initiate relationships. It took a few years to feel "at home" here and it took a long time for relationships to feel deep. 
  • Sunday Mornings are often the least favorite day of the week. I'm a single mom on Sundays. I have to get the kids up, fed, dressed, and to church by myself. Sometimes the morning is so rough that by the time I get to church I'm so exhausted. Don't get me wrong: I love worship, and I love going to church, but GETTING to church can be such a battle. My mom used to get 5 kids out the door and always had lunch on the table for us when we got home. I have no idea how she did this. Most Sundays we go through Taco Bell on the way home from church!
  • Having children took me away from my husband's ministry. Before the kids, I hosted a bible study and was at every event (camera in hand!). Now, our ministry meetings happen after the kids' bedtimes. If I want to go to ministry events, I have to pay a babysitter (out of our personal budget- which means no dates for the month!). I realize my children are my number one ministry now, but I miss being involved in what my husband is doing. 
  • Which brings me to... it is really important for me to be a part of my husband's ministry. Every time I go to our ministry events, I am reminded of what the Lord is doing in our ministry and through my husband. It gets me excited for him and I am more gracious to him when ministry takes time away from our home. I am seeing the fruit of our labor. I love seeing my husband in his element. 
  • Ministry is messy. There is real sin. There is a constant reminder to die to self, to elevate the gospel. Having your profession be devoted to serving the Lord is a privilege. 
  • Getting to be on the front row seat of a gospel movement is so exciting. In our marriage we have been a part of a church with an incredible heart for missions and church planting. We've seen God grow our college ministry from 10 students to 300. We've watched hearts change from death to life. We have been able to disciple students and get to see firsthand the joy and freedom of understanding grace. 
  • Being in the ministry allows for your life to be a spotlight- good and bad. Our adoption of Israel was public news, and we were able to show others how to grieve and hope for a son across the world from us. We were able to encourage others to adopt. We've been an example of a marriage that seeks the Lord and fights for each other. We get to open our home to students and let them see the beautiful chaos of raising small kids. We get to show people that we are NOT perfect but that we need Jesus. That just because you accept Christ doesn't mean your sin won't be an issue again- but that repentance and grace are a daily part of your life. 
I wouldn't change being a ministry wife. I didn't know that the calling also included roles of volunteer/ single mom/ photographer/ chef/ host, etc. 

So other ministry wives... please chime in! Am I alone in these things? How can we support each other? How can we ask for help?
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