Friday, November 30, 2012

Highlights from the tea...

Tonight was the Tampa city-wide women & teen girls tea at Celebration! It was amazing! I'm on a cloud and don't want to come down. So just leave me here. :)

Two of our Celebration members who are professional photographers took a ton of photos but they are not ready to publish them online  yet so all I have are the few I took with my iPhone in between everything else I did which included speaking. :)

Here are some highlights of the night...


Most of all, hearts were touched...lives were changed. That's what it's about even more than tea.

** Update below with some photos from Dinah Velasquez of Dinah-mite Photos **

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sisterhood Rises Up To Change Lives Forever

God is in the business of preserving families. It is His heart. It's my heart too. And, I'll unabashedly say here that I believe it should be everyone's heart.

Everyone likes good news and I've got some for you today. If you are in doubt that God still speaks today and that He uses people to accomplish His work, I pray this will speak to you.

Last night I was sitting in service at Celebration Church where we are pastors, and my husband was preaching. His message was about what we want to be remembered for in life, and he made the statement that we can't change our past but we can change the future.  In that moment, God spoke to me. He began to give me my next post for Lost Daughters, where I'm also a blogger. To be honest it's more than just another place where I blog. It's a sisterhood. A lifeline. A place that has come to mean a great deal to me, because of the amazing women who are there.

During the service I basically had this entire post for Lost Daughters downloaded into my head from God, but I had the thought, "Hmmmm...this is really on the spiritual side, and Lost Daughters is all about adoption, not spirituality and I don't really want to push the envelope there...I mean, I'm there to write about adoption, not spiritual stuff."  I just thought, "alright, so I've got this post in my head but maybe I'll mull this over a bit and if it's too much on the spiritual side I'll save it for my future adoption blog site."

I went home after the service and I checked my e-mail before going to bed and there was a message from Amanda, the founder and editor of Lost Daughters. She said, "Deanna, I'm wanting a spiritual column at Lost Daughters and am wondering if you would be comfortable in writing this on a regular basis? We'd have your photo in the side column with a short excerpt of one of your recent posts beneath it with a link to read the rest of the post. Does that sound OK to you?" 

Oh my stars. I almost fell over.

I was honored. I was overwhelmed. (In a good way!)

Of course I immediately said YES!! Amanda has already added the column. Although I haven't written a new post for it yet, for now they are using a previously published one.  You can see it here.

God has totally changed my life since becoming a blogger at Lost Daughters. If you haven't read about my journey of landing there, you can do so here.

Beyond making a different in my life, the sisterhood at Lost Daughters has made a huge difference here in Tampa. It's an amazing story of women coming together to change lives.

Recently I became aware of a young lady in Tampa who has just given birth and was kicked out of her home. Her parents would not let her come home with the baby. She was encouraged to have an abortion but chose not to. Like most mothers, she also felt strongly about keeping and raising her baby.

I believe in family preservation, not separation. I believe adoption is not a first response, but a last resort when there is absolutely no option whatsoever (kinship adoption, etc.) for a baby to stay with their original family . I also believe it is the loving and compassionate thing to do to rise up and make it possible for moms to keep and raise children.  When a young lady is pregnant, I believe God calls us to say, "How can I help you?" not say, "have you considered adoption?" Lost Daughters believes all those things too. We not only believe it, we put our money where our mouth is. But I'm getting ahead of myself here...

I was delighted that a friend, Alexa McGrory, took this young lady under her wing and "adopted" them both so to speak. (Not legally or anything, just reaching out to love and care and help provide so they could stay together.) Alexa is very strongly involved in pro-life causes as that is her passion and she does whatever she can to help mothers and children.  Something leaped in my heart as soon as I became aware of the need. Part of that was not only in giving of my own resources, but using my connections and influence to help in whatever way possible.

I first spoke to the Lost Daughters bloggers, to let them know of the need. They rallied immediately and began sending finances and care packages to Tampa for this young lady. They were so excited, so passionate about coming alongside to do whatever possible. Alexa and the young mother of this child were absolutely overwhelmed when almost overnight, $50 checks, $100 checks, clothing for the mother and child and much more started coming in the mail. Daily they have received blessings in the mail from the Lost Daughters sisterhood! 

Then I spoke to our Celebration Church women. They rallied round and in a matter of days, everything on the list Alexa had given me of the current needs for the mother and the baby was provided!! Gayle, one of our Celebration ladies, provided a brand new crib and mattress! The mom has a new job and needs appropriate clothes in size 4. Of course, the baby needs clothing for all sizes as they grow. Many items for both mother and child immediately began to come in. It has been overwhelming! The very day I announced the need, diapers and wipes arrived on my doorstep from Celebration ladies. Alexa is currently working on a trust fund, to assist in the future needs of mom and baby as they progress. 

It's amazing what happens when women come together to meet needs. Women are a solution!!!

At this time the identity (names) of the mom/baby are protected however I have been given permission to use this photo to give everyone a glimpse of who we have helped.

I am so grateful to God for opening the doors he is opening for me to share from my heart and  bring awareness to adoptee issues, joining a much larger Sisterhood who are all making a difference in their own unique way. I have received much healing myself (it's still a journey) and am able to be a part in bringing healing to other people's lives.

Thanks once again to all of my Lost Daughters sisters, and Celebration sisters, for making a huge difference.

There is nothing greater than helping people.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What If We All Did This With Our Spouse Every Day?

Let's dream together...

What if we all managed to show our husband or wife in just one way, every day, how much we love them? It wouldn't always have to be something big or dramatic. Although on occasion, big and dramatic is good. On most days, it could be as simple as bringing them a cup of coffee in bed, or warming up the car before they get in it (or cooling it down if you live in Florida). Perhaps it would mean taking initiative to do a chore for them that they absolutely hate to do. Or maybe making time to join them in the shower before work? Just imagine...what if? What if we all did at least one thing each day?

The awesome thing is, we don't have to stop at dreaming...this can be our reality.

 Recently I blogged about how to get through to your spouse when nothing else is working. I shared about appealing to their five senses in communicating.  A reader mentioned the book The Five Love Languages in the comments of the post. I love the book and highly recommend it. There are many ways to reach your husband or wife's heart. What have you tried lately?  

Doing something special for them everyday is great even when you're not experiencing difficulties in your relationship. In fact, if you make a habit of reaching out to them in a special way every day, hopefully you'll have a lot less than needs to be fixed.

Today is a day I'm definitely not going to miss, in being a blessing to my man. It's his birthday. I'm so blessed that God gave Larry to the world, and to me.

On his birthday I usually make carrot cake which is his favorite. I've finally got this recipe down to perfection and  it always means a lot to him when I make it. This is the photo from his family birthday dinner here at home, last year. 

This year I was ready to try something different, yet meaningful. I remembered that he shared with me that as a child his favorite pie was butterscotch with meringue topping. In all the years we've been married, I only remember him having this treat a few times. An elderly lady, Lois Dye, from our church in Ohio where we were youth pastors, would make him butterscotch pies topped with meringue and bring them to church. It was her specialty and my husband always appreciated it so much.

I don't consider myself a baker. I'm a really good cook or so they say. Whipping up dinners for small or large groups or doing events with things like appetizers are things I do well. Occasionally I'll delve into the realm of cake making or desserts and I do alright it's just not my forte. But I really want to bless my husband. So, I decided to try to make the pie.

I researched a bunch of recipes and found one that was given five stars by everyone who tried it.

My results were a perfect meringue:

And the inside wasn't bad either!

He seemed to really enjoy it, but I'll have to see whether he wants this again or the carrot cake. Or maybe both!

Whatever he'd like is what I'd like to give him.

Savanna and I also have another little surprise up our sleeve for him today. Can't wait!

Happy birthday're the best.  I thank God for you and want to be a blessing to you, all the days of your life.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dating? Watch Out For Fakers!
Five Ways to Discern & Avoid them

This post is for three groups of people:

1) Christian teens who are dating.
2) Parents of Christian teens who are dating.
3) Single Christian adults who are dating.

Disclaimer: If you are not a Christian, this post is not for you. If you have no desire to meet and marry a Christian mate, this post is not for you. Don't get your panties all in a bunch about it. This post is exclusively for people who hold strong Christian values and desire a life partner who shares the same.

If you fit categories 1, 2 and 3 above, I'm imploring you to watch out for fakers. In this post I'm going to show you five ways to discern them and avoid them.

Let's talk about something I know for sure, aside from dating.  I've learned that when someone wants something they can put on a good act in order to get what they want.  I've observed that some individuals do a really good job of it even for several years.  People can't fake it forever, but they can persevere for a good while. When we  want something bad enough, we do what it takes to get it.

For instance, let's say a person leaves one church after causing trouble, to go to another and they want to gain a certain position in the new church.  They can fake it with their new pastor for months, maybe even a year or more. Some people can keep up the charade for a loooonnnnng time to gain their trust, get in their good graces and then once they get what they want, BAM!  I've had people fake it with me for up to two whole years. Yes, I'm serious. Two. Whole. Years.

Every pastor out there can tell you these people exist. They wreck havoc upon the church and the body of Christ. They will put on a performance worthy of an academy award to receive the object of their affection.

Now, I'm here to inform you that people do this in dating. 

There are individuals who fake it to gain a guy or girl's trust and they do it for various reasons. Here are three reasons I often see:

  • Purity is attractive.
  • There's nothing hotter than a man or woman who passionately worships God.
  • Sometimes aware and probably many more times unaware, people are used as tools of the enemy to try to sabotage the God-given destiny for someone's life.
So, this partially explains why people who don't have the right motives to marry Christians, will sometimes  pursue them very strongly and go to great lengths to live out a charade in order to get them.

I know an absolutely gorgeous and pure Christian girl who was pursued by a guy who faked it in order to get her. Seriously, this girl is all that and a bag of chips and there's no guy on the planet who wouldn't want her. The guy came across as the "strong silent type". It was known that anyone who dated her needed to go to church with her, so he started attending there. He got involved, went through all the motions to fit in - even became an usher at the church and showed up at work days. He kept up this act for over two years. They got married and to her shock, a few weeks after the wedding, he stopped going to church. Devastated, she asked him why and he said, "Look, it's you I'm in love with... but I've never been crazy about that're really all I ever wanted..." Feeling very strongly that marriage is for life she stayed married to him, and they have three children. She ended up a "single mom" at church --taking them to services by herself every week, and hopes they'll be Christians although their father has no interest.

We encountered this same thing with a girl our son dated. Her charade was really, really good. She wanted our son more than a fat kid wants chocolate cake. She began attending services every time the doors were open, and became active in the ministries of the church. He was completely fooled for a long time. But through prayer, God exposed the lie. Even during the breakup, she maintained her supposed faith in Christ and strong conservative Christian values. This was all in an effort to get him back. (Parents, this is why intercession is so important!!!) Ultimately the deceit was completely revealed. Once it was clear there was no hope of a future relationship, she began to openly live out her true values. She holds some of the most hedonistic beliefs you can imagine. I shudder to think that this person came dangerously close to being my son's wife and the mother of my grandchildren.

If you fit one of the three groups above and you are an absolutely committed Christian with a desire to marry someone as committed , I beg you to WAKE UP and BE AWARE there are people who will DO ANYTHING to have you. Some of them are quite will find them to be physically and emotionally intoxicating at times. How do you discern a faker and keep them from sweeping you off your feet and ensnaring you in a trap?

Fast and Pray and Then Fast and Pray Some More

I suggested this to a dating teen couple and the girl's mother was miffed and  said, "Pastor Deanna, seriously...get real. Did you fast and pray when you met Pastor Larry or did you just fall in love? Is love really meant to be that complicated?  Don't some people just fall in love and work it all out later?" In my experience of working with and observing thousands of couples, these things don't just work themselves out.

I did actually fast and pray. It worked rather well for me.

Ask Deep Questions

Move past the soft ball questions. Go right for the deep stuff.  Ask open ended questions (not ones that can be answered with a yes or no) about what God is doing in their life. When you get answers, ask follow up questions. Not just one time - talk about it everyday. If they aren't comfortable with talking about the things of God everyday and how the Bible personally applies to them, there's your first red flag.  If they seem touchy every time you delve into deeper spiritual topics, and they keep backing away into more superficial things, you might just be dealing with a faker.

Watch for Excuses

If you get feedback that they are just "more private about their faith" and "love the Lord but just don't talk about it as much as others"...consider that your next warning.

If they claim to be chasing God but all they seem to want is your bod...consider that your next red flag.

If they say, "Don't get me wrong, I love God but I love you too, and I just want you soooo much..." and proceed to tell you they believe "God understands, and will forgive you for whatever you end up doing even though it might be wrong..." WAKE UP!

Develop Accountability 

It's not always easy to discern a faker by yourself. Especially when you are attracted to them. There really is some truth to the statement that "love is blind." It helps to purposefully select a few mature Christians who will assist you in this area of your life. I strongly believe in this whether you're 16 or 42. Accountability is so valuable whether you're married or not. I have people in my life who hold me accountable in many different areas of my life, to keep me on track.

Slow Down

One of the red flags in any relationship is when it moves too fast. Are they in a hurry to make it official? Do they want you to get engaged or marry them quickly? This is a huge red flag. It is ALWAYS a danger sign to me when anybody is pushing me to do something quickly. On major life decisions, always take adequate time to pray them through, gain wisdom from mature people in the faith, and get the peace of God. Delay is better than disaster.

Photos courtesy of free digital photos

Monday, November 26, 2012

Why Appropriate Touch is Super Important
(No Matter How Old Your Kids Are)

When I was a young mother a few people cautioned me about rocking my babies too much. They warned of the dangers of "spoiling" them. I don't believe for a minute that an infant can be spoiled. Infants don't have the capability to formulate a plan to emotionally manipulate anyone. They simply cry and express their needs in the only way they know how.

I'm so glad I never listened to those who warned of "spoiling." How precious are the memories of hours spent rocking and soothing the precious children God gave me. This was key to our bonding as mother and child, and to their emotional health and well being.

As children grow, some also believe that parental affection should wane. I've heard some parents say, "My kids know I love them, but I'm just not an outwardly expressive or affectionate person." I believe that's dangerous and strongly disagree with that philosophy. Appropriate affection doesn't have to stop and in fact, it's vitally important to children's health and well being . Studies show that lack of proper parental affection is one reason many teens become sexually active. They end up "lookin' for love in all the wrong places."

How can we appropriately express physical touch to our growing children, teens and even young adults? A few ideas:

  • Appropriate hugs
  • Appropriate kisses
  • Snuggling on the couch while talking or watching TV
  • Gently placing your hand on theirs while you talk about something important
  • A gentle/soothing pat on the hand
  • Rub their back while they watch TV
  • Dance together
  • Brush their hair 
  • Give them a gentle touch on the cheek when you express love to them. 
Receiving affection from both mom and dad is important.

Christmas hugs with Dustin
 Some of these suggestions will vary based upon the ages of  children. Dustin and Jordan would look at me like I'm from outer space if I offered to brush their hair. At 21 and 23 years old, that's just...kinda weird. But each day when we see each other we hug, and I give them a kiss on the cheek. Usually we hug a lot more than once a day. The other day Jordan had something I needed in the kitchen. I asked him for it and he said, "hold on Momma... ya gotta dance for it." Confused, I said, "what?" And instead of explaining, he held out his hand to me, and put me in position to do the waltz. He proceeded to waltz me right around the kitchen for several minutes before he gave me the item.

Jordan insisted we dance by the Christmas tree when our picture was taken last year.
 Savanna likes watching movies while I scratch her back. She's not a real huggy person, in fact sometimes she seems downright opposed to a hug, but she's always interested in a gentle back rub.

She didn't seem opposed to a hug for this photo, which was super-nice!
Respecting our children's personal boundaries is important. We can meet them where they're at (in their comfort zone) and still show appropriate affection no matter their age.

Not only is appropriate affection a wonderful thing, but you never know what we might be averting in their lives by making it a priority. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Weekend Potpourri

What a great weekend. I'm sad that it's ending but so excited to be starting another fabulous week!! Our Thanksgiving was just phenomenal. We have so much to be grateful for. I was just overwhelmed by the love of friends and family. We actually shared 3 Thanksgiving meals together. I seriously have probably gained at least 10 pounds. Not happy about that, but so grateful for all the love and laughter that was shared around dinner and dessert tables this past week.

Our house and the church are both fully decorated for Christmas. It gives me a warm and happy feeling inside just to be in both atmospheres. LOVE it!

The topper of the weekend was a visit from very old friends. Well, they're not old. But we've been friends a loooooooooong time. They've known me even longer than my husband has. Nancy Tallagsen Coradi grew up just a few streets over from me, when we were kids. We went to school together and sang in the choir. We've got lots of memories together.

Nancy and her wonderful husband Mike were visiting family in Florida for the weekend and decided to come spend the day with us. It was all pre-arranged. If it wasn't the holiday season we'd have gone out to lunch afterwards or had them to the house. But I couldn't break away from church this afternoon because we had full run through rehearsals for our Christmas show. So, I invited Mike and Nancy to join us for our music ministries luncheon after the service. At least we'd have a meal together. They did one better than that! They asked in advance if they could stay all afternoon for rehearsal and see the show. Our team welcomed them with open arms and were so glad to have them a part of things today. The rehearsal wasn't perfect -- there are rough edges we're still working out (in preparation for the big night - December 16) but they got to see it today in it's current form. They loved it!!

I asked them to share their honest impressions with the team, afterwards. Their feedback: "Very anointed! Will change a lot of lives! Keep pressing on through the coming rehearsals to get the rough parts worked out. It's going to be so worth it!"

They were so touched by the production, they took a stack of advertisements to give to their family in Florida in hopes that they'll attend the night of the show.  

We had such a good time afterwards just talking about the goodness of God...happy tears flowed as we shared what God has done and is doing in our lives.

Aren't visits from friends old and new, just grand?

In other news, our tea for women and girls that's happening this Friday night is completely SOLD OUT. We have a packed house, and I'm ready, ready, ready for what God is going to do!!  Here's to another great week.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

What Gift Would You Give Yourself?

Today I looked through some old Christmas photos and came upon this one from 2006. We had been in our new home for just a year or two and the kids were still so young. Old pictures bring tears to my eyes. It seems we blink, and they grow up.

I got to thinking as well about things I'm still dealing with that I said I'd change. All in all it's a wonderful life, but quite honestly there are things I've never changed that I should have. I'm determined this is my year, somehow, some way, it's going to be different come this time next year.  It's on my mind a lot as 2013 nears.

If I can pull this off it will be one of the greatest gifts I've ever given myself.

What do you want to give yourself in 2013?


Friday, November 23, 2012

Keepin the Home Fires Burning...

I love to sleep but love my daughter more. She enjoys waking at the crack of dawn on black Friday to go out. I must confess while I normally wouldn't be caught dead outside the house without my hair styled and makeup applied, I don't care on black Friday. I'm just not gonna awaken at 4 am to do all that. So, she wakes me up at whatever ungodly hour she wants to leave. I take about 10 minutes to wash my face, brush my teeth and change from my pj's into clothes and we head out.

We shop at one department store (usually Bealls) and then we go to breakfast. Her choice is Waffle House. When we've been sufficiently smothered and covered, we hit the road to go to more stores for a few hours. When we're too tired to shop anymore we come home to do the Christmas decorating at the house. This always gets completed on black Friday.  Usually we have seven Christmas trees but the past two years we've been down to five, since two of them bit the dust.

The Christmas spirit is in full swing at our home. I took a few photos tonight when we were all done...

If you were here, I'd welcome you in for tea...

I'd bring you right on in to the living room where we've got our family tree...

We call it  the family tree because it's got all of our homemade ornaments on it that the kids have made down throughout the years. I've made a lot of the ornaments on it too, mostly with family photos and momentos.

And then we'd mosey on in the kitchen where we'd come to the fruit of the spirit tree, filled with sugared fruit...

 When we were done having tea and laughing and solving all the world's problems, I'd see you off in the driveway and head back in to get ready for bed.

I always prepare a tree for the mister and me...

We've gotta go to sleep with Christmas beside us every night and wake up with it with us...

Nothing like the Christmas spirit in the bedroom to keep the home fires burning. 

In between all the Christmas shopping and decorating the house, our family managed to scoot over to our friends Bernie and Lisa Currie's home (just a few streets over in our development)  to share in their family Thanksgiving dinner. We are more like family than friends. Their daughter Emilie and our son Dustin are also courting. 

Here's how you do Thanksgiving Florida style...

 Lisa did a fabulous job of hostessing, as usual and a great time was had by all...

We enjoyed pumpkin pie and coffee (and brownies and apple crisp), and I headed home to put the finishing touches on the house. Jordan didn't get home from work til' 10 pm and wanted me to wait to put the ornaments on the family tree so he could do it with me. He loves doing it, for sentimental reasons. What a great time we had putting the ornaments on and getting the angel on top, just right as we worked together. I know it sounds like something out of a Norman Rockwell picture. Truthfully, we have some moments like that but we also have ones in our house where I'm pulling my hair out and wanting medication.

 It's been an absolutely wonderful holiday weekend so far and the best part of all's not over!  Can't wait to see what tomorrow holds.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

We Love Food...
But It's Not about the Food

Turkey and all the trimmings were on hand at our house today, along with a plethora of pies and other moan-worthy delights. Twenty-eight people feasted on it all, not once but all throughout the day.

And yet, it was not about the food. The food was just the backdrop.

It was really all about family, friendship, conversation, and love. We laughed, and laughed and laughed some more. We thanked God for our blessings, and talked around the table about what's most important. Faith and family...what could be greater?

All of these things and more...I am so grateful for.

Thank you, Lord...for all Your blessings on me.