About Me

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I am a wife, daughter, mother, bilingual teacher, poet, author, women's Bible study teacher, world traveler, orphan advocate, and an adoptive mother.  Our adoption journey has been filled with a lot of hurt and loss, along with even more hope, grace, and healing.  Through it we have experienced more of God than we ever bargained for and have watched Him miraculously redeem our story when we surrendered all the broken pieces to Him.


Surviving the Valley Series

Surviving the Valley Series
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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Less is more, so much more

I still remember helping my friend with her estate sale earlier this summer, as I watched her sell almost the entire contents of her house. Stuff she'd had for years. She and her husband answered the call to move to Hawaii, so they packed up only the absolute necessities and let the rest of their belongings go.

I remember thinking, "Wow. How freeing that must feel."

To stop holding on to ''stuff". To strive no more for the accumulation of more "stuff". To embrace only the necessities and let go of the rest. Honestly, all that "junk" just gets in the way of living an abundant life, anyway.

I know as a teacher, it's so true. Less is more. So much more. When I taught second grade, I had a classroom filled to the brim with extra supplies, manipulatives, books, files, etc. When I moved into my Pre-K classroom, I was so overwhelmed with "junk" that I started throwing it all away. I wanted to start fresh in an empty, clean classroom. After the first year, I threw more away (or gave it to other teachers). The less stuff I had to keep track of, organize, and store, the freer I felt to teach.

I heard someone at the Global Leadership Summit say, "Throw away all your notes at the end of each year, because every new group of students deserves fresh thinking."

Less is more. So much more. And so much better.

The less you have, the more freedom you have to move and live. The less you have, the more you appreciate what's really important in life (people, not things).

Having more doesn't satisfy, anyway. As soon as we get what we want, we're immediately wanting to add more to it.

This Christmas we finally brought our kitchen up to date by replacing old, broken appliances with new matching ones (for which I am very thankful). (I'm the thrifty queen, so I find more satisfaction in a good deal than I do with appearance. It takes me a long time to give in to replacing something that's been long broken or out of date.) I smile when I walk in the kitchen now and see that everything matches and looks nice.

Then yesterday I walked into my friend's kitchen to help her salvage what she could after the tornado destroyed most of her home. At this point, no one cared if her appliances matched or not. No one cared if she had nice furniture still standing. No one cared if the clothes in her closet were fancy or a certain name brand. All that mattered was that they all made it safely into her tiny bathroom before the storm tore the roof completely off the house. All that matters now is salvaging the necessities and a few memories.




When I walked up to her, the first words out of her mouth after she hugged me were, "It's all just stuff."

I will never forget the opportunity I had to visit a family in Montevideo, Uruguay back in 1997. They lived in the tiniest apartment and possessed very few belongings. Yet they gave of the little they had to feed three extra guests and host us for the evening. I remember the light in their eyes and the warmth that I felt in that home, and I remember thinking, "Those are the richest people I have ever met."

Less is more. So much more. The less you have, the more you appreciate what really matters. I hope that truth will stick with me and influence my decisions and my attitude over the coming year.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

15 Blessings from the year 2015

In keeping with tradition on my blog, every New Year's Eve I like to look back over the year and count my blessings. This last year was a difficult one with Mike being out of work for so long, but God carried us and never ceased to take care of us and bless us. I feel rather selfish sharing these blessings when so many people in my community have literally lost everything and are now living in temporary shelters as they begin the new year.  Yet God wants us to continually thank Him and praise Him for His goodness to us, so that is my point in this post. I am sure many God-fearing victims of this recent tornado will have their own stories of blessing to share over the next year, as well.

Psalm 107:8-9
Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for me, for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

(These are in no particular order of importance.)
  1. A spring camping trip catching up with friends we hadn't hung out with in awhile in an RV that held all of us comfortably


    .
  2. A summer camping trip right on the beach in Galveston, the first time David got to swim in the ocean. 


3. Six Flags season passes that came in handy quite often over a summer when all our vacation plans had to be canceled.

4. A quick trip to St. Louis to visit my parents.


5. A second post adoption tax refund that covered quite a bit of expenses while Mike looked for work. 

6. A friend who unexpectedly gave us a significant amount of cash to cover two weeks of our missed income and another family who gave us a check to cover at least five more weeks of our missing income.

7. Unexpected checks that came in the mail at times when we desperately needed them

8. I got to go to the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta with several other teachers from school. 



 9. Teaching a summer Bible study to dig deeper into the prayer of Jabez.
10. A new (used) fridge filled with food from friends who moved away.
11. Our ReEngage group at church for 16 weeks--and all that we learned about how to strengthen our marriage.



12. My book got republished with a better title and cover (and improved writing), along with an advertisement for the sequel!

Rachelle Alspaugh


13. Working with Authenticity Book House.

14. Mike's new job and all the financial blessings that came with it.



15. Spending an unexpected Christmas with my parents again and the chance to celebrate my mom's birthday with her now two years in a row.



What's on the inside

I love Christmas.

I am so thankful for my husband's new job and income so we could participate in giving to our children and our families this year. I love watching my boys think critically over how to spend the little money they had to buy something special for each family member. I love putting up the tree and letting its lights shine in the darkness each night and early each morning. I love baking sweet treats to share with my coworkers and friends. I love the thoughtfulness that happens at this time of the year when we take the focus off of ourselves and think about others.  I love learning about the significance behind each of our Christmas symbols that we use to decorate our homes. I love wrapping gifts and watching the pile of gifts beneath the tree grow over the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, knowing that we are all thinking of ways to bless and surprise each other. I love watching the childlike wonder in my adoptive son's eyes as Christmas drew near. I love how observant he is to each tradition he sees us keeping over the three Christmases we've spent with him so far.

We never go all out on Christmas. We've never done the "Santa" thing, and we don't make wish lists (although we did have to ask Juan David to come up with a verbal list of things he might like under a certain price since the original items he asked for were way out of our budget). We have always kept things simple. Even my wrap jobs are simple. Not real neat. No bows. No cute tags. Just covered in whatever paper I can find. The paper all gets torn off, anyway, and it's what's on the inside that counts, right? That's my philosophy.

And if what's on the inside is filled with thought, consideration, and love, then that's what matters.

Which leads me to consider that to be an overall life perspective, one that God began to challenge me with several years ago.

I can decorate and fill my house with a bunch of fancy stuff, but it doesn't fulfill anyone if my house is not filled with love and consideration for others.

I can spend a fortune of time and money making sure I walk out of the house each day with the best personal appearance possible, but if I don't take time to work on what's on the inside, then I've wasted all that time and money on nothing.

I grew up with an incredible sense of insecurity, always consumed with how I looked on the outside. Did I have the right clothes, the right make-up, the right hairstyle? Did I attract the right people? I spent an obsessive amount of time in the bathroom, looking in the mirror, popping zits, putting on make-up, and fixing my hair.

Then one day I started realizing that I saw people the same whether their hair looked good or not, whether they wore a ton of make-up or not, and whether their clothes were in style or not. If I didn't see them differently based on what I saw on the outside, then I realized that other people probably didn't either. I slowly stopped spending so much time on the outside because it didn't change a bit of who I was on the inside.

Then God challenged me to work on making myself beautiful from the inside out. There's only one way to do that, though. It's to let Christ have all of me and to let Him live through me.  I wrote a whole chapter in my next book about this transformation that took place in my life, but I realized that if I don't seek Christ first thing every day, then my focus gets skewed for the rest of the day. I start to worry about how I look or appear on the outside, and I forget that it's what on the inside that really counts. If Christ is not at the core of my being, people will just see a flawed, sinful, selfish me.

It doesn't matter how pretty we can wrap ourselves up. When the paper gets ripped off, what gift will others see inside? My challenge is to make sure they see Jesus instead of me.

Here are two songs to encourage you in that direction today and into the new year coming.




Monday, December 28, 2015

Just hurry!

"I went inside the house to let the dogs in, but I didn't have time to look for the paper plates they asked us to bring."

"Don't worry about that. Just hurry!" Mike spoke a bit more urgently than normal. We were under a tornado watch, and I knew the storm was headed our way.

My mom, sister-in-law,Ang, and I had just left Painting with a Twist, where we'd spent the last few hours together for my mom's birthday creating our "masterpieces" to hang in our homes.

Rachelle Alspaugh's photo.

Rachelle Alspaugh's photo.

Rachelle Alspaugh's photo.


The session ran an extra hour over the predicted time, so we ran out in a hurry and stopped at my house to get my car. With the storm headed our way, we didn't know if we should seek safety inside my house or head out to my brother's house to join the rest of the family. Apparently the radar showed his home to be in a safer location, so I hopped in my car and followed my mom and Ang there as quickly as possible.

It was already dark, so I just prayed the whole way there. "Just get us there safely, God."

I got stuck a bit behind them, which made me get to my brother's house last. The tornado sirens went off all around us even there.  My sister-in-law cleared out a closet for us to seek shelter, but we never actually did. We all sat around the table eating dinner while the tornado touched down a few minutes away from my own house, completely destroying about everything within its four mile path.

After we ate, I saw the news all over Facebook.

So many homes destroyed, some completely leveled. Pets missing. People finding lost, scared animals all over the place. Cars were picked up and tossed over the overpass onto the road below, some a mangled mess.

An old co-worker posted that the tornado hit and destroyed her house, but she was okay. We didn't hear from her again after that for two days.

Photos from Fox4News

Nothing like a huge tornado ripping through your town on the day after Christmas to put life back into proper perspective. Suddenly people stopped posting Christmas pics with all their new toys and instead started asking, "Are you okay? Was your house hit? How can I help?"

I woke up the next morning with a deeper sense of gratitude. Grateful for a home to wake up in. Grateful my dogs and cats were safe and secure at home rather than roaming around scared and lost on a cold, rainy day. Grateful for warm clothes and a warm fire in the fireplace. Grateful for my family's presence and safety. Grateful for all of the belongings that I take for granted.


Most of all, grateful for life. I read today about the victims who lost their lives when the tornado lifted their cars from the overpass. A few of them were on the phone while unknowingly driving into the eye of the storm. One of them heard the words, "Just hurry!"

Just like I did when I left my house to drive to my brother's house, knowing a tornado approached, yet not knowing exactly where.

It could have been me.

My heart hurts for the family of the one who heard the words, "Just hurry!", but didn't ever make it home.





Friday, December 25, 2015

Excerpts of Christmas poetry

I woke up this morning thinking about some poetry that I've written throughout our long adoption story. They will both be published soon within the book, Painful Waiting, so I am only sharing excerpts of each poem. May they touch your heart today as you think about the children who didn't get to celebrate Christmas with their family.

Christmas as an Orphan 
(Written to Julian in 2011)

Now that Christmas has arrived again,
The gifts have all been given,
We enjoy a quiet peace,
Reflecting on our Gift from heaven.

I enjoy a morning cup of coffee,
My husband reads beside the fire,
My son still slumbers in his bed,
The dogs have once again retired.

There is a warm and cozy feeling,
The kind only a family can bring.
Makes me wonder what it’s like for you
Spending Christmas in an orphanage.

Is there a warm and cozy feeling,
In your home of twenty-seven boys?
Do you feel loved and cherished,
Is your home filled with all new toys?

I can only imagine the longing
Tucked deep inside your heart,
Wishing you’d spent Christmas with our family

Rather than over a thousand miles apart?

An Orphan No More
(Written to Juan David in 2013)

Everything changed for all of us
I still can hardly believe it’s true.
For the first time in years,
I didn’t spend Christmas missing you.

We sat side by side in church,
Sang carols by candlelight.
So grateful I was to watch you
Open our gifts to you that night.

I find myself always watching now,
like I’m on the outside looking in.
Observing every little thing you do,
studying your every reaction.

What has meant the most to you
Your very first Christmas here?
What goes through your mind
When you no longer see an orphan in the mirror?

How did it feel to see your name
Written on those gifts beneath the tree,
Knowing you’re no longer one of the many,
Now you’re just part of our family?


Sunday, December 20, 2015

El Shaddai

Here is story #7, El Shaddai. I love looking back at stories like these now that I've seen how God answered. It brings one of my recent memory verses to mind:

Psalm 143:5--I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.

https://communitymoms.wordpress.com/2015/12/19/el-shaddai-the-all-sufficient-one-the-lord-god-almighty-rachelle-alspaugh/

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Growing up :(

I keep trying to hold on to time, but it continues to slip right by me.

David transformed from a little boy to a tall, thin, handsome young man right before my eyes. He gets a kick out of the fact that I now have to "look up" to him. I don't think it's funny. (Grrrr.) The sweet confidence he always had in himself has turned into that awkward middle-school dance between over-the-top-arrogance and extreme sensitivity. Every word seems to turn into drama around here. Sigh. Wishing he could have stayed a little boy just a little longer. Even Christmas shopping is hard because he's changed so much in so little time. I can't believe we're looking at high schools already for next year.

Juan David turned eighteen and changed in his own ways, too. His whole attitude has stepped up a few notches, and he's looking more towards the future rather than the present. He said, "I know it's time to grow up, but I don't want to. I like my life!" But at the same time, he started to get serious about grades, responsibility, and wanting to prove he is ready to take a few new steps toward independence now.

In the last few months, he got his driver's permit, finished his driver's ed. course, survived his first job interview, and now passed his driver's test this week.


I know he's eighteen and quite a bit past the age to drive, but we very purposefully held off on the whole driving and working thing for as long as we could.  Here's why:

My son experienced independence and freedom far too early in life. Children are supposed to grow up with a healthy dependence upon their parent, knowing they will come to their aid and provide for their needs. When those needs are met, they develop a sense of safety and security, and they very naturally attach to their parent. That didn't exactly happen for him the way it's supposed to, so he learned early on how to take care of himself, making sure he'd be okay even if no one met his needs.

By the time he came home to us at the age of fifteen, he felt more than ready to embrace the freedom, the privileges, and the independence that most teenagers are learning to manage at his age. Yet by giving him those freedoms he so desperately wanted, we would have set our family up for disaster.

He needed to learn that we, his parents, would take care of his needs. He needed to learn familial roles before getting to go out with friends. As much as being a taxi-mom wears me out, he needed to learn that we are there to take him where he needs to go and to pick him up when it's time to go home. We make the meals, manage the finances, buy clothes, shoes, and school supplies, transport everyone all over town, schedule doctor's appointments, attend church together, communicate with his teachers, and show up for every soccer game we can possibly make it to.

Had we given in to the begging to "be like everyone else his age", we would have missed the opportunity to bond and to attach by meeting many needs he thought he could meet on his own. Whether we tell him this or not, he had a lot of catching up to do emotionally, so meeting those basic needs gave us some time to fill in a few developmental and emotional gaps.

Yet now I'm torn. I know my time with him at home is limited. I know our car rides to school together are limited. I know my control of his schedule is limited, too.  Yet while I want to hold him close just a little bit longer, I also have the responsibility to loosen the rope and guide him toward independence. I need to give him chances to earn and manage money so he can make mistakes and learn from them while still young. I need to let him learn the responsibilities that come with being a driver so he's prepared for the challenges and expenses that come with them. I need to give him that time away with friends so he can practice making choices away from us while we're still close enough to guide him.

I hate that we didn't get him until so late in life because of all the time we missed. But then I look in his eyes and remember what a gift he is, a gift we once thought we lost forever. Better late than never. I'll take what little time God gave us. I just hope and pray we don't waste a minute of that time or let it slip by without making the most of it.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

My hope as an author

"If it touches just one person or changes just one life, it's worth it."

Some people's books make it big. They find the right agent, land the right contract, make the right connections, and consistently find ways to grow their platform. Whether you're traditionally published or self-published, it's still a lot of work to get your book and your name out there. 

Personally, it's the part I like the least about writing. I know it's my responsibility as an author, so I am slowly, but surely, growing my platform and my audience. Since I work full-time, I don't devote near as much time to it as I should, though. 

I'm one of those authors that puts her work out there and hopes that maybe it will touch at least one heart. If it does, I'm content. My greatest desire is for people to read my work and draw closer to Christ because of it. If she (or he) ends up with a more intimate relationship with Christ, then the ripple effect will continue into every life she touches. Sometimes I feel like the little boy with the loaves and fishes, handing his lunch over to Jesus innocently and saying, "Use it however you see fit."

I don't watch the numbers or the sales because thankfully, since I work full-time in another profession, I don't need to depend on those sales or numbers. I try not to pay attention to how many "likes" I get or how many followers I have. To know it changed a life is all that matters to me.

Comments like these are the ones that make my day and keep my writing:

"I went out and bought The Power of a Praying Wife as soon as I finished your book." (Unexpected Tears reader, actually several readers)

"I haven't been to church in years, but reading your book made me think about going back now." (Unexpected Tears reader)

"Your poetry really ministers to me." (Unexpected Tears book blog reader)

"I am so glad I read this story. I now have hope for my marriage. Thank you for your authenticity." (Jehovah Rapha reader)

"I finished your book and immediately purchased Praying God's Word." (She just finished editing the second book, which isn't out yet.)

I am eternally grateful when I get messages like these. I am getting excited now as the production for my second book continues to progress. (First round of edits done and corrected and the cover is done now, too! She said possibly a few more months.)

Thank you if you shared any of these comments with me.


Adonai

Here is story #5 on the names of God.

https://communitymoms.wordpress.com/2015/12/05/adonai/

May it encourage you today if things aren't exactly going as planned.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Grateful for so much

I keep a daily gratitude journal (thanks to the Daniel Plan), so I didn't jump on the bandwagon on Facebook to document 30 days of thankfulness. But I have greatly enjoyed reading other people's posts.

I do want to share several things I'm so grateful for this year, though.

I am thankful for my home and the family God gave me to live in it with me. I am thankful for my job, my coworkers, and my husband's new job. I am thankful for a God who provides for all my needs, all the time. I am thankful for my boys and the relationship they are still building. I am thankful to still keep in touch with Julian so he and Juan David can continue to be a part of each other's lives.

I am thankful for my Christian heritage and for the legacy my grandfather left me when he left this earth a year ago today.

I am thankful to have family close by and for the recent chance to spend extra time with my brother riding rollercoasters and go-karts. I am thankful for my new oven to roast my turkey in today. I am thankful for my new fridge that my friends left with me when they moved.I am thankful for the comfy couch I'm sitting on that another set of friends gave us.

I am thankful to spend part of today working through the first round of book edits on my sequel, and I am thankful for the story God gave us to share to give a voice to the older orphan.  I am thankful for my writer's group, who never ceases to encourage me, challenge me, and inspire me to write with clarity, authenticity, and conviction. I am thankful for ABH Books and for the opportunity to write for such a great ministry. I am thankful for the many recent opportunities God has given me to share the stories He's put on my heart as a writer.

I am thankful for my church, my pastors, all the ladies' Bible studies, and my Lifegroup. I am thankful for the Daniel Plan and how it changed my relationship with food and with my body.

I am thankful for the movie War Room and the chance to see it with my boys yesterday. I am thankful that my own life is a testimony to the truth portrayed in that movie. I am thankful for my own Miss Clara who passed on her own prayer strategy to me years ago, the strategy that changed me forever.
I am thankful for my prayer corner and my front and back porch where God faithfully meets with me each morning.

( excerpt from Streams in the Desert)

I am thankful for a fun day at Six Flags the other day so we could take this cute picture. :) 


I am thankful for all the time we get to spend as a family, including today.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

David's birthday

Things got busy around David's actual birthday, and I never got around to sharing pics from his special day. I am still in denial that he is another year older and probably a foot taller. :(






After school, we went out for dinner and then came home for salted caramel cheesecake for dessert. 

The never-ending birthday party

I hate parties. I am slowly, but surely, beginning to understand and embrace the introvert inside of me. It's not that I don't like to be around people. I just need some alone time to recharge my batteries between social events. But hosting a party is just not my thing. I absolutely hate feeling like I need to entertain others and keep everyone happy. It's just not me, and I'm finally realizing that that's okay. David and Mike are very similar, so we've never seemed to have any issues.

Then came Juan David, the social butterfly.

So we attempted a party this year at Speed Zone. We only invited a few guests due to the price, plus it was enough of a distance away that made it hard for guests to get there anyway unless they rode with us.

We chose Speed Zone for the go-carts, a big hit with teenage boys, plus it was something we all enjoyed doing together in Colombia.

Then it rained on party day, and we were stuck inside an arcade for 3 1/2 hours with four teenage boys and two ten-year-old boys, looking out the windows, longing to be on those go-carts. (There's that part that I hated, feeling like I had to entertain and keep everyone happy. So. Not. Me.)

However, Speed Zone treated us well as customers, and gave us a raincheck. Yesterday we cashed in on the raincheck and had a blast on the go-carts. Two of the guests didn't get to come back with us, but the one guest that couldn't make the first party got to come this time.

When I got on-line to book and pay for a 3 hour party, I thought we would get 3 hours of unlimited access to the arcade, the putt-putt, and the go-carts within those three hours, plus two large pizzas and two pitchers of soda.  With the rain policy, this is what we actually got for our money:


  • Three and a half hours of arcade time
  • Two pizzas and unlimited drinks for the actual party day
  • A round of putt-putt at the end
  • Three and a half more hours of unlimited go-carts (and arcade) when we came back on a non-rainy day
  • Another round of putt-putt at the end
I'd say we got our money's worth. Here are a few pics of our fun yesterday:












And then a stop at Cici's on the way home.

Now I can relax, knowing my boys had a nice, extended birthday. We all are needing to recover physically, now, especially David and I after crashing into each other so many times on the go-carts. Ouch. I hurt all over today. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Sunday, November 15, 2015

When the words aren't there

In light of a weekend filled with a reality that's so hard to swallow, I haven't even had the words to share. In addition to the horrible tragedies in Paris, my friends and family here are struggling with health issues and unanswered questions of their own.  An unexplained, on-going illness. A bad reaction to medication. Awaiting results from a catscan after a cough that won't go away. A concussion out on the soccer field.

As I tried to find the right words to pray for each of them, the Holy Spirit reminded me that sometimes I don't need words. He prays on my behalf.  Other times He tells me to simply open His word and read.

I heard this song while in the car tonight, and I think it says it better than I can. The song fits well with the weekend.

http://youtu.be/JTY-UKgLlXs

My little boy

How did this sweet little thing . . . 





















 

 


. . . turn into this giant boy?



After today, we will have successfully survived 13, and my sweet little boy will turn 14 years old tomorrow. But this mama is in quite a stage of denial. This year brought more than just another year. As you can see through the pictures, his body decided to grow and stretch like never before, to the point that I hardly recognize my "little" boy. I now have to reach up for a hug, and he has to look down  to maintain eye contact with me. When I watch him run on the soccer field, I can't get over how long his legs are. At the rate he's going, he's not going to be the "little" brother for much longer. I wonder if he'll pass up both his brother and his dad within the year.

Sigh. My youngest and my first-born, I love you more than words can say. You carry my heart with you wherever you go. I am proud of who you are becoming, and I look forward to sharing this new stage of life with you. But I will always miss that sweet little #7 running around on the soccer field (top picture on this post).