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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Saturday, January 30, 2016

It's on the way!!!

As promised, the painful wait will soon be over, as Painful Waiting is set to be launched on April 14th, just 75 days away.

I know, those 75 days still seemed pretty far away yet to me, too, until I realized how much marketing needs to take place between now and then. Not for my sake. I tell you very honestly that I wouldn't care if I never received a penny for this book. But at least 20 percent of sales will go toward an international pastor who recently had to flee his country, and I would love for our family's story to bring him financial blessing. I also believe very deeply in the vision and ministry of Authenticity Book House (abhbooks.com), and I am honored to share our memoir as part of that ministry.

I am currently setting up a launch team of about 25-50 people who can help me get the word out about my book. Marketing for Unexpected Tears was a bit complicated and messy due to it being a republication of From the Mountain...to the Valley...and Back! I apologize to those of you who didn't get the message that it was not the second book.

Painful Waiting, I assure you, is that second book I've been talking about for the last two years, the story I never dreamed would unfold after the first book was published. The sequel I had no idea I would write.

This story will tug at all of your heart strings and challenge your faith on many levels. It will warm your heart, draw your tears, frustrate you to the core, give you goosebumps and warm fuzzies, break your heart for the older orphan, and make you stand in awe of a personal God who orchestrates every last detail of our lives.

I hope you will consider joining my launch team. You can contact me at ralspaug@gmail.com or search for my new Facebook page, Surviving the Valley series to find out how. In another post, I will have several levels of marketing outlined with options for you to choose from. Depending on how much or how little you'd like to help, there may be some nice surprises for you along the way.  Thank you ahead of time!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Notes with Beth

I usually like to share a bunch of my notes and thoughts and favorite quotes after I get the chance to attend any kind of big Christian conference of some kind. However, since I know Beth Moore said she's going to be airing our sessions on her television program, I don't want to spoil it for anyone who might want to watch it.

I will share a few things she said that had a deep impact on me.

"A huge purpose for why you are on this earth is on the other side of that 'no' that you keep pleading to God for a 'yes'." When you plead with God for something and He still gives you a no, "there is something He knows that you do not know."

Had I gotten the yes I pleaded for over Juan David's adoption the first time, I would have missed the chance to write so deeply about God's faithfulness in the two books I wrote about that whole adoption experience.

As she quoted, "There is something on the other side that means something in eternity."

I pray every day now that God will use something, anything, I've written to bring just one person closer to Him. One person a day.

Our loss was the hardest thing I've ever experienced, but perhaps the way I wrote about getting through it will now impact someone's eternity.

She spoke on a pretty profound word, nevertheless. How she got so much out of one word is quite perplexing to me, but the sessions went pretty deep. The word nevertheless actually is used to tie two opposing statements together, starting with a statement that seems hopeless and then adding God to the equation.  (I'm alone; nevertheless God is with me. I live in fear and anxiety; nevertheless, I will trust God.)

My favorite and most challenging quote from the weekend,

"Nevertheless is where my faith lives. That's where my God will be faithful." 

In fact, I think I will write it on a notecard and pin it up on my wall so I don't forget it. Stay tuned to Beth's program on Wednesday nights so you don't miss it when this particular teaching airs.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Friendships of Women

My boys get on to me sometimes, saying I don't have any real close girlfriends. I guess they're right. I'm not much of a social butterfly. I'm usually pretty introverted and very focused on whatever I'm doing.

That's not to say I don't put a high value on friendship, though, and God blessed me this week with opportunities to connect with several other Christian women, all varying in ages.

Just a week ago, I was in the car with my new friend, Jan, driving back from an uplifting weekend in Houston with Beth Moore and several hundred other women on the Scripture memory team.

The following morning, I ran the booth for the Adoption Ministry at church and had a chance to chat and catch up with two fellow women's Bible study teachers who ran the Women's ministry booth beside me.

Monday I had lunch with a friend visiting from out of town, along with another dear friend that I haven't seen in a while. We all three used to meet together often for a small group and we carried each other in prayer for many years.

Thursday evening I spent a few hours having dinner and talking with several other ladies from the church who will be teaching women's Bible studies at church, one of whom I spent two cherished evenings with her family while we stayed in Colombia. How nice to reconnect here!

Friday evening I had a chance to attend a Parenting conference at church with a new friend, (who just happens to be the mom of my youngest son's female "friend"). The more we get to know each other, the more we find we have in common, besides the fact that our kids are attracted to each other. I am really thankful for this new friendship.

Made for a busier than normal week, but I feel so blessed and refreshed after spending such quality time with these lovely Christian friends, from my age to my grandma's age. I cherish each one of these friendships the same.

I also got an e-mail from another sweet friend from my writer's group, who recently edited my book, saying my book got sent to the formatter. We're so close to publication!  She completely made my day, my week, and my month. I can hardly wait to share this book with you, the true story sequel I had no idea would ever follow that first original book.

It's been a week full of blessing.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Siesta Scripture Memory Team Celebration 2016 (#SSMTC16)

What a fun, inspiring, uplifting way to start a new year--celebrating with women from all across the country who invested their time to memorize two verses a month throughout the year 2015. I met people this weekend from California, Virginia, Arizona, Washington State, Missouri, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Oregon, and other parts of Texas. (Probably more states, too, that I am not recalling at the moment.)

I am so glad my friend, Jan, told me about this amazing group of women and challenged me to join in!

If you've never heard of it, let me explain. On Beth Moore's Living Proof blog, you have an opportunity to sign up at the beginning of the year to be a Siesta team member, dedicating yourself to post and memorize a Scripture verse on the 1st and 15th of every month during the odd years. They started this in 2009, and then they have continued in the years 2011, 2013, and 2015. Then in January of the even years, they have a celebration retreat (for free) at her previous church where she served and taught for 30 or so years. There at the retreat, you get to attend an evening and a morning worship and teaching session with Beth and her worship team (with Travis Cottrell). There is also a set time for everyone to partner up with someone to recite their verses to each other, something that I found very beautiful to witness. Everywhere you walked, you saw and heard people quoting Scriptures that they'd been meditating over for the last year. Your notebook of Scriptures is your "ticket" to get in.

I will post another day about the highlights of the teaching that stood out to me, but for now I will post pictures. (Oh, and Beth just started her own TV program with Living Proof on TBN each Wednesday night, so they will be airing the teaching we sat through on her show sometime. Stay tuned to the Living Proof blog for more information.

We had front row seats the first night!

Stay tuned to the Living Proof TV program to hear the teaching on this fascinating word when used in Scripture, nevertheless.

Women writing their favorite verse on the wall.
Mine was Colossians 4:2--Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

My friend Jan in her moments of fame when she got to go up on stage to play Wheel of Favor.

Jan finding out what prize she won, the audio version of the book Audacious that she'd just bought.  

(Pictures with Beth)

Women reciting their verses to each other all over the building, and even outside.

I hope to go back in 2018 with a bigger group of women from my own church with new notebooks that say SSMT 2017.  Who's going to join me?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Putting 2 and 2 together

My word for the year: JOY. I want to find joy in all areas of life, to make each day, hour, and minute count, to live in the moment. Truthfully, though, I'm not good at that. At all. I am either reflecting over the past (writing about it) or planning for tomorrow (stressing over details). But what about today? Right now? The present moment?

This is a real challenge for me.

My motto for the year: LESS IS MORE. I've been trying to put this into practice in all areas, pulling back and finding some margin. As a mom, a teacher, a writer, a traveler, etc. I even skipped my beloved writer's group this month in order to have one night with all of my family at home this week. Plus I'd prefer to save my energy for the retreat in Houston rather than wear myself down with too many activities and end up sick.

I'm trying to focus more of my attention on the task at hand. One. Thing. At. A. Time.

While talking to a colleague this week about the changes in kids these days due to their constant stimulation, I started putting two and two together.

I struggle to find the joy in life so often because I'm too overstimulated. How do I expect to truly enjoy the present moment or the task at hand when I'm so busy doing twenty other things at the same time? We call it multi-tasking, but all we're really doing is giving twenty things a smaller percentage of our focus, and then we're not fully engaged in any of them.

I looked around my living room the other night to see the TV on while one son had his headphones plugged into the IPAD so he could watch music videos and the other son sat glued to his cellphone texting three or four friends at once and also playing a game. My husband read e-mails on his phone while I sat reading new Facebook posts on mine. Later David and I decided to play a card game, but not without constantly checking each of our phones for new messages or status updates.

No wonder life seemed so much more fulfilling when we had less gadgets to occupy us, less e-mails that needed to be checked, less social media begging for our attention. Between Facebook, Twitter (for school), multiple e-mail accounts (work and home), Instagram (to follow my boys), and any kind of self-marketing I'm supposed to be doing through social media as an author, I often feel like I'm drowning in it all.

I struggle to fully engage in anything these days. It's not even about slowing down, taking on less responsibility, leaving empty space on the calendar, or finding time to be still. It's not about finding breathing room.

It's a need to fully engage in whatever I'm doing at the moment. Talking to a friend. Writing a story or a blog post. Watching a movie. Playing cards with David. Watching Juan David's soccer game. Going out for breakfast with Mike. Eating lunch with a coworker. Teaching a new lesson to my four-year-olds. Reading a book.

My new challenge to myself is to focus on doing one thing at a time. I bet I might end up finding that joy I seem to be missing when I follow my own advice, seeking a less is more lifestyle.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Houston bound!

I sure am looking forward to this upcoming weekend. Friday morning a friend and I will be meeting up to drive to Houston together for Beth Moore's 2016 SSMT Celebration.

A lady in my Bible study two summers ago talked about Beth's Scripture memory challenge to memorize two verses a month for a year and then attend a celebration at her church the following year.

I thought it sounded great, so I decided to give it a try. What a lifeline those verses became to me through quite a challenging year. I am now headed to Houston to celebrate with my new friend, Jan, the same lady that showed up in that Bible study two summers ago. I can hardly wait!

Here's my ticket to get in: my collection of verses from 2015. 

A new Scripture memory challenge will begin again next January for the year of 2017. My new challenge for the current year is to continue learning verses while applying art to them. I bought myself one of those new adult coloring books that has a verse on each page. I love it! Adding art back into my life has really helped me to slow down, unplug, to relax and refocus. I highly encourage it.

I'm thinking maybe some of the pages I color will need a frame to go up in my prayer corner, aka war room. :)

Stay tuned for pics  and for my reaction to my weekend in Houston.

Names of God

My last story on the names of God, Jehovah Tsebaioth, came out yesterday. (A new one I had not shared with any one yet.)


I hope these stories have encouraged your heart and challenged you to hold on to God's promises even in the midst of trials. I learned personally that we cannot know God by many of His names without struggling through trials because they give Him the perfect backdrop to show up.

He is there in every one of them, though. He is our treasure in the darkness.

I will continue writing short stories and blog entries for this blog on a weekly basis and for the Me Too Moments for Moms blog on a monthly basis at least until I get word from ABH Books that my next book, Painful Waiting,  is coming out.

After that, I will see where God directs my writing. 

View photo in message
(The family pic on this is actually different from the final cover because that is a picture of us on the day we met Julian for the first time. But I don't have a current cover photo since we changed the pic.)

Thank you for faithfully reading. Please feel free to share any of my stories with someone who needs to hear them. Rather than focusing extra time and energy that I don't always have for self-marketing, my new daily prayer is that God will use something I've written to touch at least one person's heart each day and draw them closer to Him, whether it be through a book sale, a blog entry, a Facebook share, or word of mouth.

Also, check out all the great stories and entries on the Me Too Moments for Moms blog. Lots of great parenting and spiritual insight.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Friday, January 1, 2016

A different approach

I'm going to break my tradition on my blog today in an effort to stick with my new "less is more" focus.

I am not making resolutions or setting a bunch of goals. Last year I wrote that I wanted to budget more effectively so I wasn't caught off guard as much by all the boys' expenses, and I wanted to give more. Then four months into the year, Mike lost his job and stayed unemployed for nearly five months. Instead of giving more, God put us in a position to receive more from Him than we ever imagined. Instead of living securely by a carefully planned budget, we had to live week by week, month by month, not knowing where the money might come from to keep up with the expenses of raising two teenage boys.

Not quite the year I had envisioned. It never is, though.

So here is my verse for today, one I hope to claim for the year ahead. It is on a notecard, stapled to the wall in my prayer corner, along with a written prayer underneath.

Psalm 118:24-- This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Thank you, God, for everything on the calendar today, for the life I am blessed to live, and the people I am blessed to know. 

My motto for this year: take it one day at a time, with a grateful heart. Make each and every day count.

(I guess another way to say it might be, "Stop planning and start living." As we've recently seen with the tornado, you never know what tomorrow might bring.)