Monday, December 29, 2014

Patches & Pills

Well, we are back in the baby making business! LOL!

Back in November, Natalie harvested more eggs and she & Adam have 6 good looking embryos in the freezer. They upped Natalie's hormones this time and that seems to have yielded really terrific results!

On December 26th, I went in for bloodwork and a scan to check on my estrogen levels and to make sure my ovaries were "quiet." Everything looked good, so I started estrogen patches & pills on the 27th!

Please pray that my body responds well to the hormones! If everything goes well, we'll be doing an embryo transfer on January 15th.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Still Waiting... {A Surrogacy Update}

Lots of people have asked where we are with Round 2 of this whole surrogacy journey, and I guess the best answer is we still haven't started yet!  Man, this waiting thing is hard, and patience has never been a strong trait of mine!

However, Natalie and I did get to go visit with our doctor Tuesday morning, so we have a very rough timeline, and it looks like it we'll be doing another transfer sometime in December.  Dr. Milory is taking the month of October off and we are doing some extra steps and testing beforehand, so we'll have to practice a little patience and lean into God.  Probably the point, huh?

We were/are a little bummed for the long wait, but I also know that it will go quickly.  On the bright side, I've always been pregnant in that season (McKenzie born in August, Micah in October) so all my old maternity clothes will be perfect.  haha!

Ironically, our grow group met tonight and we've been studying the book of James this summer, and tonight we were in chapter 4 where it says "You do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, IF THE LORD WILLS, we will live and do this or that." (James 4:14-15, ESV, emphasis mine).

So, my update is this:  Lord willing, I'll be getting pregnant with Adam & Natalie's twins in December!

Anyway, that's the latest...  thankful for your continued thoughts and prayers!!!

Book Review: The Mess Detectives and the Case of the Lost Temper

The Mess Detectives and the Case of the Lost Temper by Karen Poth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We LOVE the Veggie Tales at our house. The kids love the hilarity of talking vegetables and wonder at how they can get so much accomplished without arms. Even Kenzie (who just turned 2) claps her hands enthusiastically and can sing parts of the theme song. So, since they love the shows and movies so much, I knew they would love some of the books. So far, I haven't been disappointed in any of the Veggie Tales brand of books, and we especially love the VeggieTales Bible Storybook: With Scripture from the NIRV.

This particular edition is of the "I Can Read!" line of books that uses short, simple sentences to help kids learn to read. This one is Level 1 so geared towards 4-8 year olds, but even younger kids will appreciate the story and illustrations. Older kids will get a lot more out of it and realize how silly it is to lose our temper. Micah (who is almost 4) asked me a lot of questions about why Bob (the infamous tomato) was upset and he caught on right away that they mysterious "masked door slammer" wasn't who the detectives (Larry & Bob) thought he was.

If your family likes Veggie Tales as much as we do, check this out!

View all my reviews

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book Review: "Love, Skip, Jump"

Love, Skip, Jump: Start Living the Adventure of YesLove, Skip, Jump: Start Living the Adventure of Yes by Shelene Bryan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was crying in the first 10 pages. This book is just a wonderful, beautiful work of art filled with stories about what saying "Yes" to God can look like. Shelene Bryan starts off with comparing the Kingdom of God to "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" and I was HOOKED. She's brilliantly creative and honest as she shares with us how she learned to broaden her vision of the world and her place in it as a child of God.

Intrigued by the title? I was! In a nutshell, here's what it's about...

LOVE - God loves us in such a grand way that if we had even a slight understanding of it, it would change everything.

"Gratitude for such amazing, undeserved love will compel us to give of ourselves and our treasure. His inexplicable love toward us will become the motivation for all we do." (xviii)

"The fact that such a majestic God does not treat us like ants to be crushed is wonderful and phenomenal all at the same time." (32)

SKIP - the attitude of self-denial in order to give to someone else.

JUMP - the action of doing something... the adventure!

"If you are not using your God-given gifts to help others, you've got to expend some energy to get moving. You have got to jump." (43)

I truly believe (and have experienced it in my own life) that following God is an ADVENTURE, so I loved that Shelene's subtitle is "Start Living the Adventure of Yes," and I'm so thankful she shared some of her adventures with us! Drawing on her experiences from travelling all over the world, witnessing God's amazing direction and provision, and allowing herself to get a little uncomfortable for the advancement of God's kingdom, Shelene inspires us all to do love, skip, jump in ways we maybe never thought we could or would! I highly recommend this one!

View all my reviews

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

He is Faithful

Tonight (errr, last night since I'm posting this after midnight), my amazing in-laws hosted a BBQ fundraiser for Adam & Natalie's IVF/surrogacy fund.  We had the best night!  There was karaoke, a silent auction, cotton candy, and an iPad mini raffle, and we raised over $3,000!!!  We didn't get an exact count, but about 100 people came out to support us and celebrate with us!

And God provided through all our amazing friends and family!  So thank you all for being there and giving generously!

Between tonight's fundraiser, cash Adam & Natalie have received, and the GoFundMe site (which we are closing down August 1st), we have pretty much entirely met our goal in just 3 weeks!!!

I can't express here how humbling and amazing it was to sit down tonight and count all the donations.  I think we were all (barely) holding back tears.

Praising Him!  Thanking all of you!

Goodnight friends!  :-)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Through it All, Our Eyes Are on You

I know most of my readers here know Adam & Natalie, but some don't.  So for those that haven't had the great pleasure of meeting and knowing them, Adam is our Pastor of Worship Arts at Grace Community and Natalie often joins him on stage leading us in worship on Sunday mornings.  Inevitably, she is up on that stage after every round of bad news or traumatic experience they've had in their journey to have children.  They are absolutely amazing people and their willingness to share their hurts has touched so many people, and I know many are watching to see how their faith stands these tests, and I can tell you it is NOT broken.  Natalie sang this song at church this morning - I don't think there were many dry eyes afterwards (mine certainly weren't!).  I don't know how she got through it...


Through it all, through it all

My eyes are on You
It is well with me

I still don't understand, but I can assure you all that our eyes are on God.  

Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can't see

And this mountain that's in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

We are excited to give this surrogacy thing another shot and we're trusting that this mountain's gonna get tossed in the sea!  We continue to ask for your prayers, and if you are able, a donation towards Adam & Natalie's next round of IVF & Surrogacy.  Even if it's just $5, please consider helping us reach our goal of $13,000!  

Have you heard about the guy on Kickstarter who asked for $10 to make a potato salad and it somehow went viral and he now has $49,336 pledged to him?!?  I figure if he can get that much to make potato salad, we can get $13,000 to make a BABY!  Please visit our GoFundMe page, give what you can, and share it with all your friends too!  Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A New Day

So, the last couple days have been a blur, but the sun's out and life goes on.

When we got the awful call 2 days ago, both kids were still napping.  When Micah woke up, I asked Eli if we should tell him, and Eli said yes.  I sat down with him and I said, "Micah, you know Adam and Natalie's babies that the doctor put in Mommy?  They went to heaven."  He replies with the saddest, most serious face I've ever seen on him, "Oh man, why?!?"  My only answer was "I don't know buddy, God just wanted them with Him" and he immediately accepted that and was content with that answer.  It took me a minute to stop crying and realize that his incredible faith and simple understanding of life was exactly what I needed too.  Faith like a child.

I also have to brag on our incredible pastor Joel and wife Linda (who also happens to be Natalie's aunt), and they are supposed to be on sabbatical, but they made an exception to come to our house that afternoon, just hours after our bad news to pray with us and hug on us.  Love them so much, so thankful to be part of our local church family and under their leadership.

And then, we went out to eat with Adam & Natalie.  I thought we would go out that night, but I was convinced it would be a night of celebration.  It was not what we expected certainly, but it was a wonderful evening where we could begin healing and hoping again... and I am happy to announce here that we are going to try again!

Adam & Natalie have already invested a lot in this journey, but there are a lot of expenses that they will not have to repeat (initial doctor consultations, blood tests, legal work, counseling fees, etc.). However doing another round of IVF and another attempt at embryo transfer will entail another $13,000 in expenses for them.  One of my friends (thanks Trishelle!) pointed me in the direction of to help raise money for them, so please consider making a donation for them.  We expect that Dr. Milroy may slightly change our medications to give us a little better edge, AND we are hopeful that this time we will be able to do a fresh (not frozen) embryo transfer which will also improve our odds.  We are all so thankful for so much support from friends & family, and would be thankful for any financial contribution you can make, but most importantly we covet your prayers! Please pray that God would grant us success.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Not the Blog I Wanted to Write

After much anticipation, the call we got today at 3:04pm was bad news.  My pregnancy test this morning was negative.  The call only took 27 seconds, but shattered me.

By the grace of God, Eli's back was really hurting him this morning and he drove halfway to work and decided there was no way he'd be able to lift a patient, so he called in and drove home.  I am so happy he is here with me.

I held up OK until Natalie called me and I heard her ringtone.  Broke down.

I just felt so sure that our results were going to be SOOOOOOOOOOOO different than this.

I don't understand, but I am still trusting God.

I am thankful for all our friends and family who have been so supportive, loving, prayerful for us, and I know that everyone has been on the edge of their seats all day waiting for our news.  It's so miserable to have to share bad news with you instead of good news.

I already told Natalie that I'm game for trying again, but it's a great expense both financially and emotionally for her and Adam, so it's too early to know what's next, but keep us all in prayer.

Love you faithful readers!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Not in Control (Surrogacy Day 9)

I am a control freak, and you know what this surrogacy journey is teaching me / reminding me more than anything else?  I am NOT in control.

I know this is a weakness of mine.  In fact, it was one thing I prayed a lot about before embarking on this journey.  I wanted to be sure that this was in fact God's idea, God's way of blessing Adam & Natalie with a baby (or 2!) - and not my idea, not my way of trying to take control.

Well, God's having a good laugh at me now!  I am so NOT in control of any of this!

Even if these babies were conceived with a little help from science, and even if I'm on tons of hormones to make my body the perfect environment for them, there is NOT one thing I can do outside of God's will to ensure that this works.  I would like to tell you I am at peace about this, and sometimes I am, but it's a peace that I have to fight for every day.

I am so anxious for July 7th to get here!  Monday morning, I get to go in for the pregnancy blood test, and oh, I just can't wait to get that good news that all of us are praying for!!!  I probably will have my phone in my hand all day Monday waiting for the call after blood work is in!

I have been so hesitant to blog for these last few days, because there's not much to say except that we are waiting very expectantly, but I will say that I'm feeling increasingly confident...  I know that symptoms can be created from hormones alone, but I have never been so happy to experience heart burn, ab cramps, sensitivity to smells, general body changes, and "pregnancy brain!"

Ironically, or actually probably not ironic at all, but in God's perfect timing, we have been studying Abraham & Sarah's faith journey at church.  One of my favorite take-a-ways is that I have to let go of my "what-ifs" and focus on the "God-saids."  Working on that!

Until Monday...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Waiting Game (Surrogacy Day 2)

The question on everyone's mind today is NOW WHAT?

I continue to be on modified bed rest today and then get to resume normal activities tomorrow, although I still plan to take it as easy as possible!  I'm feeling good today, been able to get lots of rest, slept well last night, and so optimistic that these babies are making themselves at home with me!

I found this chart to find out what is going on with these precious little babies these next few days!


On July 7th (Day 13) at 8:30am, I go back to Dr. Milroy's office for a blood pregnancy test.   If (WHEN!) we get a positive result, I'll have to go back a couple more times so they can monitor the hCG levels and make sure they are increasing as appropriate.  When they deem that everything is progressing normally, they will transfer me to the care of my normal OBGYN, Dr. Wright!  

My understanding is that they may be able to *GUESS* if we're pregnant with 1 or 2 babies by the hCG levels, BUT we won't know for sure until we get our first ultrasound around 7 or 8 weeks!

So a whole lot of patience will be required these next few days.  Pray that Natalie and I can stay somewhat distracted and calm (and keep us from driving Eli & Adam crazy too!)!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Transfer Day!

Today was the big day!  Here's a little video I took of the kids this morning before we all left:

Big thanks to the Popes for taking care of them today!  They had the best 4 girls watching them, making marshmallow shooters, swimming in the pool... So thankful to all our friends & family for your support and love and prayers!  We have all been so absolutely blessed by your texts, Facebook messages, likes, comments, etc.  Amazing!

Anyway, today went very well.  The whole procedure was relatively simple and incredible to be part of.

When I got there, they had me go ahead and take my valium and put on my hospital gown, then Natalie scrubbed up to go back with me.   Meanwhile, Adam & Eli got to hang out in the waiting room together, and apparently even had time to slip out to QuikTrip for energy drinks!  ;-)

In the operating room, they had an ultrasound screen on so we could watch the catheter work it's way to my uterus.  The worst part of this was that my bladder was so full and the nurse had to press so much on it to see where they were going. Whew!  Anyway, after a few minutes, Dr. Milory had the catheter where she wanted it and pointed out where my uterus was on the screen to Natalie and me and commented that the lining looked nice and inviting (yay!).  Then the embryo specialist came in, and put in "Natalie Johnson's twins" as he called them!  He then walked out to confirm that the tube was empty, gave us the clear, and we were done!  I had to remain lying down for a few more minutes and then they wheeled me out in a wheelchair.  Eli drove the car around to pick me up, and then we all got to go to lunch.

For the next 2 days, I'm to be on modified bed rest - no aerobic exercise or lifting over 10 lbs as they put it - but can sit (blog, facebook, haha) and walk a little.

I took this photo of Eli and me as he was driving me home this afternoon, and I wanted to take this time to tell you all how amazing this man is!  He has been so supportive of this crazy surrogacy thing, so willing to follow God wherever He takes us, and has sacrificed no small amount putting up with me on hormones and steroids I'm sure!  And even now, while I'm on bed rest and can't lift either kid, he's joyfully and wonderfully taking care of Micah, McKenzie, and me!!!  I am so thankful for you and love you so much, Eli Casey!


Tomorrow at 11:30am, I have marching orders to arrive at Dr. Milroy's office with a full bladder and  my 1 valium pill in hand!  It's go time!  :-)  Tomorrow I officially become a "surrogate mother."

Natalie says it best here in this wonderful video - God knows what's going to happen and no matter what, I think he's teaching us all so much through this crazy adventure of what can happen when you say YES to God!

Please be praying for us, and the doctors, and those 2 precious embryos that are hopefully going to take up residence with me for the next 9 months!  :-)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Collaborating in the Miraculous (A Surrogacy Update)

Had a good ultrasound and blood work today! Estrogen levels are good and my uterus is nice and thick... getting ready for a baby or 2 in there!  LOL!

On June 19th, I get to add several pills to my regiment...  Right now, I'm just taking estrogen pills and patches.   On the 19th, I will add progesterone plus antibiotics and steroids to get my body ready!

 The big day is still June 24th!  It'll probably be around noon, but I'll post more details when we find out so
our prayer warriors can get busy!  :-)  The whole procedure is like 15 minutes, but I do have to remain lying down for an hour afterwards.  But still, in-and-out in 90 minutes!  Amazing world we live in!

We are transferring 2 blastocysts (5-day old embryos), and I learned something new today!  They have totally separate due-date calculators for IVF-conceptions!  So of course, I had to plug in June 24, 2014 just to see... praying all goes well, we'll all get to meet Adam & Natalie's precious baby(babies) around March 12, 2015!  Whew!  Here we go... it's getting more and more real every day!  :-)

I am so excited to be on the miraculous journey.  I'm so believing in God to do something beautiful here. I'm thankful for what he's already doing in my heart and teaching me in this big journey of faith and friendship.  I stole this beautiful graphic and quote from one of my favorite authors and bloggers, Ann Voskamp:  "Only those who believe in the beautiful can collaborate in the miraculous."  Read her blog here!

You can read more about all this on my post "The Back Story!"

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Book Review: "Notes from a Blue Bike"

Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic WorldNotes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's been a long time since I had a book that I found so inspiring! Seriously, I related to so much of what Tsh says here and kept thinking "yes, I want this life too!"

It is such a chaotic, busy life that we live in and it's almost impossible to NOT be going in a million directions at once. Her family's choices and goals to slow down and live simpler are so in line with what I would love to be able to do.

They have prioritized travel, books, and time together over expensive material things. She talks about her time living all over the world and encourages her readers to make sure their families get out of the US at least once. She's also very realistic about the finances (and financial sacrifices) a goal like that takes and references how they turned their life around with Dave Ramsey's advice.

She also talks a lot about shopping at the local farmer's market while living in Turkey and how she wanted to continue that fresh approach after moving back to the states. It's a lot harder, but can be done. She definitely sparked my interest in more local farmer's markets, the slow food movement, etc.

I so appreciated her style (honest, autobiographical) and could relate to her life...

"I cannot remember one day in five years when my to do list was completely finished. Not one." (For me, it might be closer to 4 years - Micah's age - but yeah!)

And here's one of my favorites - perfect justification for my obsession with children's books and the library...

"According to the US National Commission on Reading, the most significant factor in a child's educational success is an introduction to books."

Tsh asserts that the most important things we can give our kids are "books, open-ended toys, and access to the outdoors." Open-ended toys = LEGOS, art supplies, train tracks, cars, etc.

She shares many valuable lessons that her family has learned and what has worked and not worked for them (home schooling vs. public schooling, for example), and I just highly recommend this for any family that wants to really start simplifying and re-prioritizing life.

View all my reviews

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Review: "A Woman After God's Own Heart"

A Woman After God's Own HeartA Woman After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great book on sorting through our priorities as Christian women.

#1 God
#2 Husband
#3 Kids
#4 Home
#5 My Spiritual Growth
#6 My Ministry Activities
#7 Other Activities

The only thing I found a little disheartening about the book is that it definitely assumes stay-at-home mom. I'm sort of a hybrid work-at-home, work-outside-the-home mom in my life and career, so I did find some parts a little hard to reconcile. But, to be fair, she does address this in the updated version and comments that when she wrote it less than half of Christian mothers worked outside the home, and now over 70% do. My biggest failure in this area (I feel) is taking care of the home. I don't have fresh-cut flowers, perfectly clean rooms, or a home-cooked meal every night, though I would love to, it's probably just not too realistic this stage of our lives. Plus, Eli's not coming home for dinner every night (he's coming home for breakfast after 24-hour shifts!).

That being said, the basics are so timeless! Time with God helps us grow and impact others exponentially.

One of my personal favorite takeaways from this book is Elizabeth's advise to create "Five Fat Files" - to pick 5 areas that I want to grow in and fill it with articles, notes, etc. to help me learn that topic with the goal of becoming an EXPERT. Examples she gave include hospitality, health, child-raising, home-making, Bible-study methods, attributes of God, fruits of the Spirit, biblical counseling, teaching, heroes of the faith, parenting, organization, holiness, etc.

I think I am going to modernize the concept with either Pinterest boards or an Evernote notebook for my "Five Fat Files."

1. Raising Kids to Love Jesus
2. Intimacy in Marriage
3. Christian Leadership in the Workplace
4. Slow Food ( also inspired by another awesome book I'm reading - Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World - more on that later!
5. Time Management!

This is a read, but my favorite Elizbeth George book (so far) is still Life Management for Busy Women: Living Out God's Plan with Passion & Purpose!

View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Surrogacy Reads

OK, if you know me, you know I like to read... a lot... so of course, I've been reading up on surrogacy...

There are a lot of sites and forums out there on the world wide web that I've spent some time on.

And oddly enough, I was looking at a friend's Facebook wall, and noticed that one of her friends commented about having strange cravings being pregnant with a baby that wasn't hers genetically, so that peaked my interest, and I've been corresponding with her and following her blog too... "Their Pea in my Pod."

In books, I've read "Embryo Culture" by Beth Kohl and found it informative, but my favorite has probably been "Delivering Hope" by Pamela MacPhee.  The author of this one recounts her story being a surrogate mom for her cousin and his wife.  So it was nice to read a story from the surrogate mom's point of view, and helped me know what to expect... psychically, emotionally, etc.  "Everything Conceivable" is still on my to-read shelf.

Maybe one day this crazy journey of ours will be a book too!  For now, I'll just keep blogging away!  ;-)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Good Morning Girls - You Are Loved

I've shared with you here before how much I love the Good Morning Girls and their awesome Bible study ministry, I've done everything they offered over the last 9 months or so, but when they announced their summer study was a book study (albeit an awesome one written by 2 very awesome women, Angela Perritt & Sally Clarkson), I wasn't sure I'd be in.  Then, last Monday, I got my GMG email and I noticed they were still using scripture along with the book, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

I thought a study on "You Are Loved" would be too basic for me to get anything out of.  This is so foolish I know.  Did I really think God couldn't speak to me through His Word and 2 very godly female authors?  But honestly, I was thinking to myself "I get that God loves me, I'm good on this."  Then, I started reading these first verses...


Check out Zephaniah 3:17 for yourself, but here it is:

The Lord your God is in your midst, 
a mighty one who will save; 
he will rejoice over you with gladness; 
 he will quiet you by his love; 
he will exult over you with loud singing.

All last week's verses were awesome, but this one really spoke to me. God rejoices over me and exults over me with singing? Singing? God? It's too amazing to take in really. And oh, how I need him to quiet me at times. I'm thanking God for this "simple" Bible study that I thought I would get nothing out of! Feel free to join along too, and let me know if you're doing it! (It's also available as a plan on the Bible app!).

Hormone Time!

My Regiment
Thursday morning at 8:30am, I went in for some blood work and an ultrasound to make sure I am where I should be to begin the hormones.  After a good report (thin uterine lining and low estrogen = good I guess), I got the green light to begin taking estrogen pills and wearing estrogen patches.

This is actually my 2nd attempt at this because I mixed up 2 of the hormones back in May.  I was very distraught at the time (just ask the poor nurse who I was crying to on the phone last month!), but this round is already going smoother, so I know it's all for the best that we were delayed a month.

For the curious, all of these special IVF/Surrogacy medications come via a mail-order pharmacy (Walgreens).  Natalie and I both got all our prescriptions delivered to our door.  I guess our local Spring Hill pharmacy doesn't carry all this stuff!  LOL!

Now, the goal is to get my body ready for the big embryo transfer day on June 24th!!!  After June 24th, I have to take it easy for 2 days, and then my understanding is that after 12 days, I will go back for a test to confirm pregnancy!  I already know those are going to be the LOOOONGEST 12 days ever for me, but also for Adam & Natalie and probably Eli too!

I will go back in on June 16th for more blood work and another ultrasound to see how everything is progressing.  After that, I will start adding additional hormones to my regiment.

So far, I'm feeling just fine.  I've had some headaches, but I'm attributing that to being a little worn out from a big fun weekend we just had in Iowa to see some friends (Eli's work partner & her now husband) get married!  Our kiddos partied hard and we had a pool in our hotel so we went swimming at least 4 times in 2 days!
Micah, McKenzie and Me on a Covered Bridge in Madison County, Iowa

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Book Review: "Cold Tangerines"

Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday LifeCold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life by Shauna Niequist
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Author Shauna Niequist shares her journey in small little chunks - each chapter is a poignant slice of real life. I love the subtitle "Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life" - so often we forget how extraordinary every day, every moment truly is!

This is probably one of my favorite quotes from the book:

"Everything is interim. Everything is a path or a preparation for the next thing, and we never know what the next thing is. Life is like that, of course, twisty and surprising. But life with God is like that exponentially. ... Life with God is a daring dream, full of flashes and last-minute exits and generally all the things we've said we'd never do. And with the surprises comes great hope."

Isn't that so true? I love that about life with God, but I've never been able to express it so fully.

Another quote I love and is also on the back cover (of my edition anyway):

"I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don't want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. ... I want to read books so good they make me jump up and down, and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift."

Amen, right!?

View all my reviews

Friday, May 23, 2014

Surrogacy & Kids

Wow!  We have just been overwhelmed by everyone's love and support after our big announcement!  Thank you all for your prayers and well wishes!  We appreciate every one of you so, so much!

We just heard back from the doctor's office that the big embryo transfer date is set at June 24th!  I'll have an ultrasound and blood work done on June 5th, and then if all looks good, start my round of hormones the next day!

But in in the meantime, I wanted to answer everyone's biggest question:  What will Micah and Kenzie think? 

Kenzie is only 22 months old and not quite vocal enough to voice her opinions, but perhaps she might be at the end of the pregnancy.  Micah, on the other hand, is pretty aware of what's going on.  He was old enough to remember Adam & Natalie's 2nd miscarriage (if not their 1st) and often references their baby being in heaven with other things going on in his life.  For example, when my mom & Steve lost their dog Champ, Micah immediately said, "he's in heaven with Adam & Natalie's baby now."  These are the moments that make a proud mommy's eyes water!

Adam & Natalie with Micah
So, we've been pretty honest with him from the beginning.  God's making Adam & Natalie a baby at the doctor's office and the doctor is going to put it in Mommy's tummy and then Adam & Natalie will have a baby for you to play with when he or she gets bigger.  He's very happy about this.  One morning, Eli & I went to one of our initial doctor visits/consultations, and Adam & Natalie came over to watch the kids.  Apparently, as soon as Micah woke up and saw Adam & Natalie here, he proudly announced "Mommy & Daddy are going to get you a baby!!!"

So, I think they'll be OK.  They are at the glorious age where they don't know enough to think it's weird, and they don't know enough for me to answer awkward questions either!
Adam & Natalie with McKenzie

On a side note, when I first started thinking of this surrogacy journey, I googled it (of course) and I remember coming across a website for a surrogacy agency recruiting potential surrogates and it suggested that the ideal surrogate already has 2-3 kids of their own and is in their 20s or 30s.  Eli and I are quite content with our biological offspring, and feel very complete having 1 boy and 1 girl, and now hope to help Adam & Natalie complete their family by God's grace!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Back Story

I feel like I'm writing a prequel to this really great story that is still being written... a story that's being written
by the Greatest Author; the One who knows the ending, the beginning, and everything in between; and the Creator of all things! But I am sooooooooo excited to be a part of this little story, and I am ready to share it with the "world" (or my little world who will stumble across my little blog at any rate!)!

 This is going to be long... here goes...

 Eli & I left some of the best friends we could have ever imagined in St. Louis when we moved back home to Kansas. In fact, it was kind of a lonely 1st year back here, we were close to family, had a church home and served there in the youth ministry, but missed our small group. I think that sometimes God gives you empty spaces in your life so you'll appreciate what He fills them with all the more. In September 2010, we decided to start a grow group with a fun young couple who'd been serving in the youth group with us - Adam & Natalie Johnson!  Our group has grown to 9 families that are our family. It's the most amazing thing to see what doing life together can really look like. I wish I could get everyone in a small group (grow group, life group, community group) for this experience. You celebrate a lot of joys together (new babies, promotions, weddings, moves, graduations, birthdays), but you also have someone to go through all the harrowing times with.

Celebrating New Year's Eve 2013
Adam & Natalie's first miscarriage (@ 11 weeks) actually started at one of our Thursday night meetings. They left for the hospital, and we prayed together like we'd never prayed before. We grieved with them and tried our best to comfort them by bringing them meals, always knowing that only God could heal this hurt.  Not long after this, Natalie visited St. Jude's hospital where as a little girl she had been treated and had beaten cancer!  We were having dinner one night (summer 2012) and Natalie told us that their take on her situation was basically "It's a miracle that you ever got pregnant.  Maybe you should consider surrogacy."  I think I pretty much immediately blurted out, "I'd be your surrogate."  Eli probably raised his eyebrows, and we left it at praying and waiting and seeing.

That night and lots of following nights, Eli and I talked a lot more about my crazy offer.  Thankfully God blessed me with an amazing husband who was willing to support me and shares my love for Adam & Natalie, and he didn't totally freak out about the idea.

Some time passed, Natalie's OB told her she could try again, and one day, Natalie was telling me she was pregnant again!  It was truly another miracle and we rejoiced and prayed and prayed.  There are so many horrible things about what happened to my sweet wonderful faithful friend that awful day in June 2013, but while at a Nazarene District Assembly with her worship leader husband and our pastor and his wife (who happens to be her aunt and uncle), Natalie had her 2nd miscarriage (@ 14 weeks), just hours after announcing to our church via video their good news.  This time, Natalie's life was really in grave danger, and by the grace of God, she survived though her baby boy did not.  When they made it back to KC, we went out to dinner and I remember eating on the patio at a restaurant while Adam told us how narrowly Natalie survived this one and insisting that he would not allow her to go through this again.  At this point, I reiterated that my crazy offer was still there.

Carriage Ride on the Plaza
For the next couple weeks/months, we prayed, talked, prayed, talked, prayed, prayed, prayed.  I remember one night praying to God, "God, is this just my crazy plan or is this from you?" and very clearly getting the answer spoken into my heart, "Katie, no one would think of this on their own."  HA!  That was so comforting and reassuring to me.  Yes, my pregnancies had been healthy and relatively easy, I'd had plenty of energy and no problems; but at the same time I needed that word from God that this was His will.  He reaffirmed this for me in so many ways - through friends & family, through Pastor Joel's sermon on Ruth (of all things!) through His Word and in my prayer-time - that Eli and I went back with a resounding "YES!"

And so that's when it all began...

Now, fast forward through Natalie getting the green light to go, my OB giving me her blessing, trips to the doctor for blood work and interviews, an afternoon with a counselor making sure all of us were mentally and emotionally fit for this journey and had thought through all the worse-case scenarios (yuck!), lawyer visits, a lengthy contract with more scenarios that you hope you never go through with friends, and now here we are.

I'm going to be a "gestational carrier" for a baby that is genetically 100% Adam & Natalie's - in other words, Natalie's egg, Adam's sperm, my uterus, Eli's patience.  ;-)

Natalie has been taking all kinds of hormones and shots and yesterday (May 14, 2014), our wonderful Dr. Milroy of the KU Med's Center for Advanced Reproductive Medicine retrieved 8 eggs from her.  Adam made his biological contribution (lol!) and now they have 4 fertilized embryos growing.  After 3 days, they will freeze them, and in about a month, Lord willing, 2 of those will be implanted in me.  (The stats on 2 embryos are very good, roughly a 75% chance that 1 will make it, a 25% chance that both make it).  I'm game for twins, in fact, I'm hoping for a boy and girl for them, though I know God already has a plan in mind!

OK, this is where you my faithful reader who has made it to this point comes in.  We need your prayers.  This is a crazy cool medical miracle that God is working on, and we covet your prayers for this process and the future baby(babies) of our best friends.   My prayer has been and is "O Lord, God, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to Adam & Natalie" (Genesis 24:12).  Please when you think of us, pray for us.  I appreciate you so much!

Check out Natalie's video-blog for her side of this amazing story.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Book Review: "Praying for Boys"

Praying for Boys: Asking God for the Things They Need MostPraying for Boys: Asking God for the Things They Need Most by Brooke McGlothlin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this thoroughly practical book on how to pray for boys. Author Brooke McGlothlin shares her own life and experiences (the humorous and the serious) and how she used them to teach her sons truths about life and God. Her commitment to praying for her boys is inspiring. She also provides detailed guides and even fill-in-the-blank (with your son's name) prayers based on scriptures and specifically fruits of the Spirit. I plan to use and reference these in my own prayer time for Micah - to remind me to pray for him and to guide me when I don't know where to start! Brooke also really motivated and challenged me to think about and realize what a great task it is to raise a good Godly man (they're hard to find, huh?)!!! Our world definitely needs more men who are willing to pray, serve God, work hard, provide for their families, stand up for others, be faithful to their wives and in their giving, and be a true man after God's heart. I pray that Micah will be able to grow into all of these roles.

I highly recommend this to all moms of boys (no matter what age!). Never too early or too late to pray for our sons!

View all my reviews

Monday, April 28, 2014

Morel Season!

It's one of my favorite times of year.  Spring is officially here when the morels start popping.  It means we've had some rain and some warm weather, and it's not too hot yet.  I'm a 3rd generation morel hunter and so going out and looking for these little beauties always reminds me of my Grandma Bece who was an expert on them!  My mom and I carry on the tradition (and now so do my kids!).

They are delicious, but the joy of the hunt, and the excuse to be outside may be the best part!  :-)

First the find... I love finding them in clusters like the little bunch of 4 pictured here.  Found a nice big one (pictured with my Jawbone UP for perspective).  By the way, mushroom hunting will DEFINITELY help you meet your daily goal of steps!

The next step is to prepare them.  Soak them in a bowl of salt water for an hour or 2.  This will kill all the bugs.  Don't watch them all come out of the mushrooms if you are faint-hearted.  (But if it bothers you, feel free to donate your morels to me!) LOL!  I like them sauteed in a little butter OR dipped in an egg-milk mixture and then breaded with flour, salt, pepper and fried!

And the last, most important step... enjoy them!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Book Review: "Lean In"

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to LeadLean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fantastic book on so many levels. Sheryl Sandberg draws on her extensive life experience (she has worked as the chief of staff for the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, for Google, and is COO of Facebook) AND uses and references plenty of outside research to make her points about gender differences in the work place and beyond.

She talks about basic differences between men & women in the work place, and gives good advise on how to overcome some of negatives and capitalize on the positives.

A main point she makes throughout is that "when a girl tries to lead, she is often labeled as bossy. Boys are seldom called bossy because a boy taking the role of a boss does not surprise or offend. As someone who was called this for much of my childhood, I know that it is not a compliment" (19). I imagine most every girl I know has been called "bossy" I know that I have been; and reading this book has given me a great motivation to make sure that I avoid calling my daughter bossy.

She also addresses a question that I am always debating internally:
Does working outside the home hurt my kids or my marriage?
Sandberg says no, but she also makes the point that WHATEVER you decide is what is right for you.
She quotes the founder of the White House Project, Marie Wilson - "Show me a woman without guilt and I'll show you a man" (137).
There is no 100% cookie-cutter solution. She encourages women on every front (work @ home, work from home, work out of home) to SUPPORT each other. She wants to remove the debate all together. Hallelujah!

Obviously I think any woman in any sort of leadership or business role should read this, but beyond that, ANY woman could benefit from this. And for that matter, any man married to a woman, any father of a girl, and any male employer that has women employees should also read this.

Example: "I don't know of one woman in a leadership position whose life partner is not fully - and I mean fully - supportive of her career. No exceptions." That's why you men need to read it too! ;-)

View all my reviews

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Book Review: "Sit, Walk, Stand"

Sit, Walk, Stand: The Process of Christian MaturitySit, Walk, Stand: The Process of Christian Maturity by Watchman Nee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this was a great little book based on Ephesians.

At first I thought the title was a little backwards... shouldn't it be stand-walk-sit, but after reading it, it does make perfect sense.

First, we have to SIT with Jesus. Or have faith that we will be seated at his right hand. After all, faith is not anything that we DO, but what has already been done for us.

Once we have mastered sitting, we get to WALK - that is "the practical outworking of that heavenly position here on earth" (loc 248).

And finally, the STAND - the STAND is against spiritual warfare. I thought this quote summed it up nicely:

"For no Christian can hope to enter the warfare of the ages without learning first to rest in Christ and in what He has done, and then, through the strength of the Holy Spirit within, to follow Him in a practical, holy life here on earth. If he is deficient in either of these, he will find that all the talk about spiritual warfare remains only talk; he will never know its reality. Satan can afford to ignore him, for he does not count for anything." (loc 533)

And another quote that really inspired me:

"God never asks us to do anything we CAN do. He asks us to live a life which we can never live and do a work which we can never do. Yet, by His grace, we are living it and doing it."

View all my reviews

Monday, January 20, 2014

Good Morning Girls' New Study

I've been semi-following Good Morning Girls' blog for probably a couple years now, but never actually participated in one of their Bible studies until this past fall when they were doing one in Luke... and I loved it!  It has really changed how I spend my quiet time with God (quantity, quality, AND consistency), and how I study the Bible!

They use what is called the "SOAP Method."  I'll show you what mine looked like today:

SCRIPTURE: read Ephesians 5:1-14 then wrote out Ephesians 5:1.  This is really helpful to me to write out the verse, forces me to FOCUS.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

OBSERVATION: One thing that struck me today is that I want to imitate God so that Micah & Kenzie will imitate God.  They imitate Eli and I in so many ways, and I think as "beloved children" that is how God wants us to be too!  I also realized that you can not imitate someone that you are not intimate with.  How would you know how to act like someone if you weren't around them or familiar with how they act?  It would be impossible!

APPLICATION:  Spend more time every day teaching God's truths to Micah & McKenzie.

PRAYER:  And then you pray!  I like to write out my prayers too - keeps my mind from wondering.  I have a major problem with multi-tasking.  ;-)

Today was the first day of their new study "Intentionally Focused" and if you subscribe to their email updates via the blog you will be able to download the study guide + they have some cool children's resources to go
with it!  If you are interested in the study, but have trouble downloading, let me know, and I can email you the PDF.  Every week they also provide a memory verse and a challenge.

The challenge this week this week is to be intentional about where & when you spend time in God's word every day.  For me this is 7:15am at the kitchen table.  USUALLY kids aren't awake until around 8am, so this works out well.  But I am also challenging myself to be asleep by midnight every night, so that my mornings can be better!  ;-)

This week's memory verse is one of my favorites!  Hebrews 12:1!

There you have it!  I might share more nuggets as we go, but I would encourage you to subscribe to the Good Morning Girls' blog.  They have a video post every Monday and additional posts on Wednesdays & Fridays.  If you've got the YouVersion Bible app on your phone/tablet, the Good Morning Girls Intentionally Focused plan is on there too!  :-)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Rick Warren + the Daniel Plan

Seems like I am starting off 2014 with a lot of Rick Warren. I'm reading his daily devotional on my Bible App reading plan, and loving it, and now Eli and I are starting to read The Daniel Plan.

 NOTE: This is NOT the Daniel Fast - which I have read, but not attempted in it's full glory - I know it is a "fast" but 21 days without meat or dairy products might have to wait until I'm not cooking for a 1 & 3 year old every day!  ;-)  Though I did do a strictly water-to-drink and no sweets mini version to start the year, and enjoyed reading the 21-Day Devotional part of the book during that time.

 I should also note that I am a big Rick Warren fan. You may know him from his famous book "The Purpose Driven Life."  He pastors a very large church in California (Saddleback) and is pretty influential in many ways.  When "The Purpose Driven Life" made it big, he paid the church back all his salary for 25 years!  WOW!  I think that is so cool!  (You can read more at Wikipedia)

 Anyway, Rick Warren's "The Daniel Plan" is named for Daniel, but not necessarily based on his all-vegetable diet of the Bible (he was refraining from meat that had been sacrificed to idols). Reportedly, he realized that he was not treating his body as "God's temple" and asked if anyone in his congregation was interested in losing weight with him.  Well, it took off and Saddleback got a lot healthier for it.

But this is not just a weight loss book, which I like... he focuses on five "Essentials" which I will outline and comment on below since we are supposed to access where we are before we get really started!  ;-)

  1. FAITH:  This is an area that I don't believe we should ever be satisfied in.  There is ALWAYS room for improvement if we are striving to follow Jesus.  
  2. FOOD:  Probably my WEAKEST area.  Eli & I do NOT eat healthy.  We have good intentions, but get busy, fail to plan, and succumb to macaroni-and-cheese more times than we should!  ;-)
  3. FITNESS:  Believe it or not, I actually like to exercise.  Love to find time to get on the treadmill.  Love to visit our gym.  Love fitness DVDs.  Love to take the double stroller and dogs out.  However, unfortunately it gets pushed out just for lack of time too often.  My Jawbone helps keep me motivated these days.  
  4. FOCUS:  I tend to have a pretty positive attitude and always remember to SMILE.  :-)
  5. FRIENDS:  So thankful for an awesome Grow Group and church family, we are not doing this as a small group though... so biggest props to Eli for being my best friend AND spouse AND motivator.

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Year, New Goals

I am a very goal-oriented person.  I love checking things off a to-do list and results that I can measure.

However, in reviewing my 2013 goals, I'd probably only give myself a C or so.

I met most of my reading goals and my real estate volume goal...
... but Eli and I went out for probably 8 out of 12 date nights for our (once-a-month goal)
... bought a new car, but didn't get both credit cards completely paid off (although we've made HUGE progress
... made some fitness strides (joined a gym, etc.) but not back to where I was pre-kids (will I ever be? lol!)
... grew a nice garden, but didn't get a new deck
... ETC, ETC!

As a result, many of my 2013 goals, I am carrying over for 2014, let's try this again.  Feel free to hold me accountable to these when you run into me.

  • Time with God every day (preferably first thing every morning as long as kids cooperate)
  • Reading Sarah Young's Jesus Calling devotional this year
  • Will probably try to do all or most of the Good Morning Girls studies
  • Read at least 6 spiritual growth books
  • More accountability & growth in and with our small group
  • Doing 2 reading plans in the YouVersion Bible app (with Eli)
    • OWNit365 One Story
    • Rick Warren's Daily Devotional

  • At least once-a-month date nights with Eli!
  • Read at least 4 marriage books & 4 parenting books
  • Regular devotional time with kids
  • More active & outdoor family time


  • Read at least 5 business books
  • Finish my KS broker license & start MO broker license
  • Put on a new deck, paint exterior of house, partially finish basement
  • Pay off credit cards!

  • Eat more veggies!
  • Exercise more!  (I got a Jawbone UP for Christmas, and I can't tell you how motivating it is to get to my daily goal of 10,000 steps.  If you have one or are thinking about getting one, do it and add me to your team.  It helps to have encouragers!)
    • Make it to our fancy gym (thank you to Eli's employer for making that possible!) at least 1x week
    • Walk outside or on treadmill at least 4x week

And my good friend +Tim Morgan decided to have a "theme song" for the year (his is HAPPY! which I love, but cannot steal), so mine is Steve Curtis Chapman's "Love Take Me Over."

Favorite Reads of 2013

Every year, I pick out my 5 (or so!) favorite books of the year for their own special shelf on GoodReads (if you are on there, add me as your friend!) and this year, I had 8!  A couple are kids' books so I figured that would be OK to include!

Here they are for the curious... a little something for everyone I think...

Katie's 2013favs book montage

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
My Sister's Keeper
Odd and the Frost Giants
The Skinny Rules: The Simple, Nonnegotiable Principles for Getting to Thin
You Are My Sunshine
Less Blah Blah, More Ah Ha: How Social Savvy Real Estate Agents Become Trusted, Preferred, Referred - and Rewarded
My Big Book of 5-minute Devotions

Katie Casey's favorite books »