Friday, April 22, 2016

Unspeakable Joy Exchange Round Four Giveaway

This is a giveaway that I am hosting as a bonus to bless someone who has donated to Cleft Kids, signed up for the exchange, and shared about the event on social media.

I am so thankful to you for your donations, support, prayers, and willingness to get this out through word-of-mouth. Because of your generosity, this is for you.

One winner will be chosen after the exchange has closed through Giveaway Tools. If you are here by accident and have not completed the things mentioned in the first line, go back to here to get started:

This giveaway features a $25 Amazon gift card and a book called Fast Friends.

To enter, go here:

Unspeakable Joy Exchange Round Four- Cleft Kids

People assume that since a child is born in the U.S. with a cleft, they are able to have easy access to medical care. Realistically, many families in the U.S. don't have insurance or enough insurance to cover all the costs of medical care. According to Cleft, "the reality is that raising a child in the U.S. with a cleft costs approximately $100,000 more than raising a child without a cleft. The cost of a single cleft repair surgery often exceeds $25,000, with most cleft children needing multiple surgeries. "

Cleft Kids was founded by a cleft-affected family. They wanted to create a place for families to help support other families. They assist families who have needs to cover their medical costs. Also, they send out cleft care packages to those children getting ready to have their surgeries. You can read up more about this great organization by going to:

This organization is very near and dear to my heart as I have a baby who was born with a cleft. He is going to have his surgery coming up on May 9th. So I understand the worry and fear that these other families face. Our family is blessed with great insurance and wonderful support from our community. There are some children that don't have either of those options.

Here's our little guy, Jon Luke!

For this round, I am offering two plans for this fundraiser. Depending on what you are able to give, pick the one of your choosing to do. The first plan is you can send a $5 donation to their website that goes to help others in need. There are three options for donating: Paypal, credit card, or check. Go here for this option:

The second plan is you can sponsor a child through a donation of $15. This goes toward a cleft care package that is sent to the child of your choosing. This package is created to help the child through their surgery with items like a stuffed animal, books, etc. The link for their sponsorship program is here:

Here's the cool part! You get to decide how you are able to be apart of this round for the fundraiser. If you can only give $5, then choose the first option. If you can give more, choose the second option and send a care package. I will leave that part up to you to decide.

Are you able to pass on that Starbucks coffee today to help bless another family in TREMENDOUS ways? Let's do this, friends! Let's come together as a community and help these families out by bringing an anonymous smile to their faces.

After you have donated, please send the following information to my email at

Email Address:
Instagram/Facebook/ Or Any Other Social Media Info:
Favorite Bible Verse:
Home Décor:
Favorite Colors:
Favorite Snack:
Any Other Info About Yourself You'd Like To Share:
Prayer Requests:
Do You Mind Shipping Internationally? Y/N

***What is this exchange and why am I sending you this information? This is so you can be paired up with another Sister in Christ. You will send them a package in the mail and they will send one to you. It's a fun way to not only help a family anonymously above but also get to know another believer from around the world/U.S. You are also welcome to email me the above info to Here's more info about it below***

You have until May 2, 2016 to sign up for the Exchange. After that date, I will be contacting you with your mail partner's information. With the information you receive about your sister in Christ, you will send them some fun surprises in the mail based on the info they shared with you that would bless them. This time's challenge is to send your exchange sister: something with their favorite color, something from nature, and the last item of your choice. (Ideas: something with their favorite Bible verse, journal, Starbucks/iTunes gift card, scarf, book, coffee mug, washi tape, picture frame, jewelry, snack, lip gloss, an item that goes with their home décor, you name it!). Perhaps, you are a creative person. Feel free to make them something handmade. The sky's the limit!

There are 3 items total you will be mailing to them (or more/less depending on how you'd like to do this- please use this as a guideline to help you or be as creative as you want to be), and they need to go out NLT May 20, 2016. This does not need to be an expensive exchange. The minimum does need to be about $15.

Here are the steps for this exchange:

Step 1:
Donate to Cleft Kids using one of two options.  
Option #1: Send $5 to their organization at this link:
Option #2: Sponsor a child to receive a cleft care package at this link:
Remember, you cannot participate in the exchange until you have donated. This is the purpose behind the fun! :) We are helping to bless another family in whatever way we can.

Step 2:
Sign up for the exchange by emailing me this info to
Email Address:
Instagram/Facebook/ Or Any Other Social Media Info:
Favorite Bible Verse:
Home Décor:
Favorite Colors:
Favorite Snack:
Any Other Info About Yourself You'd Like To Share:
Prayer Requests:
Do You Mind Shipping Internationally? Y/N

Step 3:
Pray for the family you sponsored!!! Or pray for the Cleft Kids organization that they will be able to get the help to someone in need. Get the word out about the exchange through your social media sites. Even if you do not intend to participate, we need to get the word out in order to get enough participants in this exchange. So share away!!!

Step 4:
You will receive your exchange sister's name/info NLT May 5, 2016. I am generally quick with getting that info out. But in the event that something happens, you will have that info by that date above. Be sure to check your email for the info. If you do not receive it by that date, please let me know. I may not have received your info for the exchange. After you've received your sister's info, pray for her the next couple of weeks. Feel free to send her an email and introduce yourself. If you have a social media account, find her there.

Step 5:
Get the package together over these couple of weeks. Feel free to use this as a guideline as to what to send them:
  1. Item of your choice
  2. Something from Nature
  3. Item with their favorite color.
If you have another plan of what to send them, you are welcome to it! If it's only one item or more than three, that is up to you.

Step 6:
Mail the package by: May 20, 2016. I am trying something different with this round. I am asking that you send me your tracking number once you've mailed it ( I want to insure that everyone receives their package. If I do not receive your tracking number, I will contact you. If you do not receive something from your exchange sister, please let me know. I don't want anyone to walk away from this exchange empty-handed.

Step 7:
If you have an Instagram/Facebook account, please share what you are sending to (all wrapped up) or receiving from your sister. Include the hashtag #unspeakablejoyexchange2016 and #unspeakablejoymovement This helps those in future rounds to know what to expect. (You can look back at other's examples using #unspeakablejoyexchange2015)

Step 8:
Finally, share about this exchange with your friends and family. The more we have involved, the merrier.

PLEASE NOTE: Even if you will not be able to donate at this time, please pray for the children listed on that site who are getting ready to have their cleft surgeries. Even more, please share this with others. My prayer is that we can help other families out with donations, prayers, and word of mouth!

NOW... If you have donated, submitted the info for the exchange, and shared about this with family/friends through email or social media, you are eligible to enter into a giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift card and a new book called Fast Friends. Wendy Simpson Little was a former teacher of mine and a friend of our family. You will be inspired by her new book.

Follow this link to the giveaway page to enter. You can enter in daily until the exchange closes and a winner will be chosen at random by Giveaway Tools. Go Here Now...:

Thursday, April 14, 2016

To My Cleft Baby

Dear Jonathan,

God knew what I needed before I knew you existed. We'd make great companions through this journey called life. He knew I needed you during the tough times of life when I feel like I am failing. He knew I needed you during everyday battles when a smile goes a long way. Because as you know, when you smile at the world, the world smiles back.

God knew I needed your smile. He knew your smile would be a reminder of His love for me. When the days are the hardest, I can look over at you. Your smile is wider and happier than any I've ever seen in this world. He knew it'd be perfect for me.

And it is perfect.

He made you with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. It only occurs in 1 in 700 babies. You are one of those rare wide smileys that brings the perfect uniqueness to this world. Not everyone can be blessed with your smile. Only 1 in 700 babies are chosen by God to be gifted with this marvelous treasure.

And I know I'm not the only one who enjoys it.

When we pass people in public, they remark on the smile you carry around. When your siblings are in the heat of a moment, they see you smile and can't help, but turn happy. When daddy arrives home from a long time at work, you remind him of why it was worth the hard, long day. When life hands me lemons, your smile turns it to lemonade.

I didn't always know it'd be this marvelous.

When I first talked to the doctor after the 20-week ultrasound, I had so many questions. I didn't know what it'd be like or how hard it would make life for you. I didn't know much about it at all. I wondered why God would give this to you. Little did I know, it was for us all to enjoy.

Then you arrived and were placed in my arms.

I looked down at you and instantly felt love in my heart. You were a quiet, calm newborn. You hardly ever fussed at all. The worry of how feedings would go and the care of your cleft were quickly overshadowed by your soft head pressed against me. Instantly, I knew this gift that had been entrusted to me was a precious one. I knew your very being here would change the world.

Soon after, you gave me your first smile.

Not only did you smile with your sweet mouth, but your face also lit up the room. Your eyes smiled with it. And so did my heart. It was just what I needed as I faced a brief season of winter. Life was crazy hard at that time. Yet, your smile helped keep us together. It reminded each of us of God's amazing grace.

Your brothers and sisters fell in love with it too. They marveled over how fun it was to have you in the family. They took turns holding you, reading books, and playing peek-a-boo games. You smiled brightly which showed your interest in them. So they continued to entertain you some more. You have enchanted us all with this beautiful, amazing gift.

And now we head soon into surgery.

I realize your smile will change. Although it's for the best, I know that the way God created you is better. It has changed me in many ways. I look around at the world and notice the things that make us unique even more. It reminds me of the different ways God makes us all according to His image.

I don't want to change it. Now that we have you here, I know that wide smiles are the best kind of smiles. I feel like we are apart of a cool "smiles" club and being a bilateral cleft means the even cooler kind. It's all going to change as they close it all up soon. Your smile will still be amazing. But I will miss the original one you were given.

Now I leave you with this one last thought.

I want to remind you that if you ever look back to read and wonder how you were born, you will know that you were given one of God's exclusive designs. And even after the surgeries you have to repair it, I hope you know that this is part of a purpose He has for you. Find what it is that He is leading you to do in your life and remember He chose you to be apart of the 1 in 700. He chose you to be cleft strong.

Love forever,


Thursday, April 7, 2016

When Life Doesn't Make Sense

Job 6:11 (NLT) But I don't have the strength to endure. I have nothing to live for. (spoken by Job while longing for death to end his misery)

Ever come to a point in your life where you wonder where the punch line is at? The events are part-laughable and part-misery.  Suddenly, there are moments where you cry out wondering if your life story is starting to run parallel to Job? You ask yourself, "Why is all of this suffering necessary? I would just LOVE for things to calm down. Where is my break? This doesn't make sense. How can things turn out so wrong?"

The very things we dream for our life become the uncertain plan. We think our dreams are unquestionably, honest to God going to be the path we will take only to find out it wasn't meant to be. It becomes this mental, wrap-around explosion of confusion. It doesn't make sense and it starts to become a disappointment. For some, health issues change things. For others, relationship issues can do it. Whatever the case may be, it's disappointing, difficult, and deeply distressing at times.

Sometimes dreams become a distant cloud floating away across the sky. Other times, dreams shatter like a piece of glass and cannot be put back together. Dreams of great adventure turn to everyday, monotonous activities. Dreams of exciting ideas don't even get the chance to happen because of change. Dreams of hope feel out of reach and leave you almost breathless. Dreams of pure happiness are broken by some relationship's bad aroma. And dreams of peace are disrupted by annoying anger. 

It happens. It happens to you and me. Our dreams can change in an instant. Or they could be stretched out over time with long periods of uninterrupted U-turns. But we must be prepared for when it comes. 

Job 23:13-14 NIV "But he stands alone, and who can oppose him? He does whatever he pleases. He carries out his decree against me, and many such plans he still has in store." 

Job 42:2 "I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted."

God has his reasons beyond our understanding for things to happen in our life. He is Sovereign over all of His creation. When we give our life to Christ, we give Him full reigns over us. We say, "Ok, God! I trust you and you alone. Take my hand and lead me where you want me to go." And He wants to do that very thing.

We have to set our dreams aside and turn to what God has planned. In retrospect, Ruth never imagined her first husband would die. If he hadn't, she wouldn't have met Boaz and under that line came Jesus. Jonah's plan to run from God was interrupted when he was cast overboard to be swallowed by a fish. If he didn't take that boat ride, he wouldn't have made it to Nineveh to turn hearts back to God. John Newton, a wealthy slave trader, turned to God after a scare across the waters in which he wrote one of the greatest hymns of all times, Amazing Grace. It wasn't until many years after that time that he actually began to publicly speak up on the horrific environment of slavery. 

The thing to remember is that God uses our sufferings, stories, and change to do something. We may never know the true reason for His plans while on Earth. It doesn't mean it's going to be easy. We aren't always going to accept these plans with grace. Likewise, Jonah didn't want to accept God's plans. He would rather run away on a ship. I imagine Ruth wasn't always sure about the idea of traveling with her mother-in-law to a new land. Remember how bitter Naomi was about everything that had happened. Traveling with a bitter person couldn't have been easy. And even John Newton had to be hesitant on sharing what he really knew about slave trade as he didn't publish his forthright pamphlet on it until years later after coming to Christ. 

But they each had a purpose. The same goes for you and your life. Your dreams may change but the dreams planned for you are greater. God wants the best for you.

One of my favorite songs by the Cranberries has similar lines. When I hum the song in my head, I almost relate it more to my relationship with Christ. Life changes every day and so do my dreams. However, as much as we want our dreams to exist, when we give full reigns to what God has planned for us, we are better for it. 

Listen to the lyrics and try to apply them differently as in reference to God. Feel free to play the video here. This newer version is sung by a different artist: