Saturday, November 15, 2014

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Happy Birthday Brendon!!

I always get a little choked up on Brendon’s birthday as we sing Happy Birthday to him. I can’t help but think about all the years I longed for a child to celebrate a birthday with. And I can’t help but think about what his life may have been like if he wasn’t part of our family. I think about his biological mother and wonder if she remembers that it’s his birthday. 

For years I longed for a child, begged God to grow our family. I remember our first year with Brendon celebrating his birthday. He had only been with our family for a month when his birthday arrived. It sort of became his “coming out party” with our family. I remember him turning and looking at me and saying “who are all these presents for?” I said, “they are for you!” He was so excited and so appreciative of everything. He was so loved on that day (and still is)! And Jimmy and I brimmed with thankfulness. Thankful to our families for loving this little boy so much and mostly thankful to God for allowing us to care for him. 

I always seem to reflect on Brendon’s biological mother on his birthday too. I wonder what she’s doing, if she celebrates his birthday in her own way. I wonder if she reflects on his birth like most birth mothers do. I always say a prayer of thanks for her, especially on Brendon’s birthday. I thank God that she was somehow guided to chose life for this child. I thank God that she allowed us to become Brendon’s parents.

Brendon may not have come into our family the traditional way, not even a traditional adoption, but he’s my child, forever. And I’m so thankful to celebrate his life, especially on his birthday. 


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Happy 40th Birthday Jimmy

Today would have been Jimmy’s 40th birthday. I’m still heartbroken that he’s gone but I’m so grateful for all he taught me through his life. 

This past Saturday I had the chance to share our adoption story with someone facing infertility. Oddly enough it was during the process of choosing and ordering Jimmy’s grave marker that this conversation took place. I won’t go into all of the details but through telling our story I was reminded of how much I learned from Jimmy throughout our whole adoption experience. 

From the beginning of the whole adoption process, Jimmy and I were always in agreement about everything. It was such a blessing. We agreed that we were open to adopting an older child through foster care. We didn’t care what color the child was or what issues they might have. I truly believe this was all because Jimmy sought God in everything. He was always quoting Philippians 4:6 “In everything by prayer and petition” and that’s how he lived. He took everything to God. 

Every single time we had a phone call, a meeting, a hearing, whatever about our adoption, Jimmy prayed before. I recall driving to Nicholasville on the day we hoped to get custody of Brendon and Jimmy and I just begged God to give us a child. At the same time we told God we’d be content no matter what.

I remember before we even started the adoption process, I expressed some fears to Jimmy about having a child that wouldn’t look like us or have similar personalities to ours. Looking back I realize how silly this fear even was. When I shared this concern with Jimmy, he graciously reminded me that no matter if our child was biological or adopted, our only goal should be for them to look and act like Jesus. He reminded me that a parent’s job isn’t to raise a child who was a “mini-me.” It was to raise a child to love God and love others like Jesus would. 

Jimmy was so wise. I think that’s one of the things I miss the most, his wisdom. I know it came straight from God but he had such insight into God’s Word. 

Over the past 9 months since Jimmy’s passing, I’ve reflected on all the things he stood for, the things he believed in. I continue to live each day standing for and believing in the same things.

Here’s some things I learned from Jimmy:
  1. Trust God in ALL things, no matter the outcome. He’s got this!
  2. Pray all the time.
  3. Read and know God’s Word. All we need for life is in there.
  4. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.
  5. Love people like Jesus would.
  6. Have fun.
  7. Never stop growing and learning.
  8. Tell people you love them.
  9. Don’t be slave to a lender. Live without being in debt to others.
  10. Love God and Love People. That’s what it all comes down to.


Celebrate Jimmy’s birthday today by reflecting on the things you learned from him. Rejoice that he’s no longer suffering and that he’s celebrating his birthday with Jesus. Drink an Ale 8. Watch Goonies. Thank God that He allowed you to know Jimmy!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

School Supplies for Free

Our church is going to collect school supplies for our four local elementary schools so I thought I would share a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago about getting school supplies for free (or at least very cheap! Now is a great time to start buying supplies to donate once school starts!

School Supplies for Free
Yes, I said free. You can get school supplies for free (or very cheap!) just by shopping at the right time, at the right stores and being smart about it!

A little over a year ago I started couponing (not extreme, just normal) and I’m amazed at the amount of money that I can save when I shop smart. I’m not a fanatic about it. I only shop a couple of stores and if I don’t have time I just don’t worry about it. But when I do have time I save quite a bit.
Anyway, back to the school supplies. Staples and Office Depot (local chain office supply stores) both offer rewards programs and rebates that often allow you to get stuff for free or very cheap! I’m completely stocked up on pens, printer paper, printer toner, photo paper, and other miscellaneous items! (I really don’t think I’ll run out of paper for at least another year!)

First, let me give credit to the website where I get my shopping info, Southern Savers. She reviews the ads each week and basically makes your list for you. You just go through and check off the things you want to purchase and go to the store and do the shopping. She makes it VERY EASY. (No paid endorsement. I just love the site!)

Sign up the for the rewards program…
You’ll need to sign up for the store’s rewards program. Staples is called Staples Rewards and Office Depot is called Work Life Rewards. You’ll get a membership # but the stores can look it up by your phone number. You can also store it in your iPhone using the KeyRing app. When you check out you’ll need to give them your membership # or phone number. That way your purchase counts toward your reward.
How the rewards work…

You will see items in the ad and on Southern Savers marked “100% rewards back.” That means you’ll get 100% of the purchase price back as a reward. The reward will come to you in the form of an in-store credit that you can use to purchase other items at the store later. Every two to three months you’ll receive an email informing you of earned rewards. You go on the website, print your reward certificate and take it to the store and spend it on items you need and would have purchased anyway like printer ink, toner, computer accessories, etc.

Important thing to remember…
At both Staples and Office Depot you WILL NOT earn rewards for items that you also use rewards to purchase. So if you use your reward certificate to purchase something that says “100% rewards back” you won’t get a reward for that item.

Rebates…
Most of you have probably submitted a rebate for something before so you probably already know how it works. You pay for the item in the store* and mail in your receipt and proof of purchase and receive a check for some or all of the purchase price. It works the same way at Office Depot and Staples. And they make it very easy for you by printing out extra “Rebate Receipts” to mail back in. Staples makes it even easier by allowing you to submit your rebates online at Staples Rebates. My rule is to try to submit rebates (online and in the mail) as soon as I get home from making my purchases. That way I don’t forget and miss the deadline! I usually receive my rebate check(s) 4-6 weeks after submitting them.

*You can use rewards to purchase rebate items. It should not affect your rebate and is an easy way to turn your reward(s) back into cash!

You do have to spend some money out of pocket to get these items but you eventually get it back in the form of an in-store credit or rebate check.

What if the “free” items aren’t things I need?
Could your child’s teacher use them? If it’s something totally silly, don’t buy it because it’s free. I always tell people I don’t buy cat litter when I can get it for free because I don’t have a cat! Be smart. But also think about places you can donate the items like a church, school, shelter, etc.

I’m an example person so I’ll give you a quick overview of what might be on sale. Southern Savers does most of the work for me and helps me make my list. I check my local ad to see if our prices are the same. They usually are.

Staples
Bic Round Stic Pens $.01 with a $5 min purchase
Scotch Super Glue Gel FREE with $1.30 instant savings and $2.99 rebate
Staples Multipurpose Paper $.25 with a $6.49 rebate
HP Photo Paper $.50 with $.50 instant savings and $8.99 rebate
Bic Great Erase Dry erase markers $.50
Sharpie Markers $1
2014 Desktop Calendar FREE with $4.99 rebate

Office Depot
(All items are 100% Back in Rewards)
Avery Index Clear Label Dividers
Post It Super Sticky Pop Up Notes
Post It Pop Up Notes Dispenser
Mr. Sketch Markers
Uniball Gel Pens 12 pack
Sharpie Markers 12 pack
Clean Seal Security Envelopes

Questions? Leave them in a comment and I’ll try to answer! And be sure to check out Southern Savers for great deals. (Again this isn’t a paid endorsement. I just love the site!)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tips and Tricks for the Vera Bradley Outlet Sale

Let me preface this post with a few facts:
  •  2013 was my first year to attend the sale. I attended with several veterans.
  •  I love Vera!
  •  Vera Bradley isn't paying me to write this. But I’d certainly welcome it if they saw fit!

I’m headed to the Vera Bradley Outlet Sale (VBOS14) this coming Saturday, April 12th. I live in Northern Kentucky, right across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio, and we will drive up Saturday morning and come home Saturday night.  I’m attending with several friends and family members. Last year I attended my first VBOS. My friends and family had been going for several years so I was with people who knew the ropes.

For those reading who don’t even know what I’m talking about, let me explain. Vera Bradley, a handbag, luggage, accessory, etc. company based in Fort Wayne, Indiana hosts an annual outlet sale where they sell inventory at reduced prices. Vera Bradley’s lines consist of colorful, quilted patterns in a wide array of sizes, styles and uses. They have everything from eyeglass cases to paperclips and every type of handbag and luggage you could possibly ever need! Their products are popular with all ages! Their annual sale typically consists of current and retired patterns and styles at very reduced prices. Some styles may only be available in one or two colors. So you can’t go expecting to come away with a matching set of luggage, handbags and accessories.

I love Vera and have for about 15 years. Their bags and accessories are great and last for years. I don’t think I’ve ever thrown one away and I’m pretty hard on my purses. Most can be laundered in a washing machine.

Now for my tips and tricks for those attending the sale:
  1.  I’ve never attended the part of the sale for which you purchase a ticket. And I still feel like there was plenty to pick from and plenty of good deals. I’m not telling anyone not to buy a ticket. But I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to get good deals.
  2. Don’t forget to register. You must register online before the sale. Don’t forget to print your registration and take it with you. If you do, there are kiosks available to guests to print out registrations.
  3. Take a photo ID. You have to have this to check out! If you have a Mini Hipster, there’s a special little pocket for it! The Mini Hipster is my favorite bag to carry to events like this! More on that in #4!
  4. Don’t take a big purse! All you need is money, keys, ID and your phone! A big purse will just get in the way.
  5. Don’t take little kids or strollers. No offense to those with little ones but this is just not the place for them. I saw a lost child last year and it broke my heart. There are just too many people there. And trying to navigate a stroller through there is just about impossible. Find a sitter, leave them with Dad. Just don’t take them to VBOS14.
  6. On a similar note, don’t take a wheelchair. There’s just not room to navigate it. Ladies, if you are in a wheelchair, send your friends and tell them what you want.
  7. Wear comfortable shoes. I don’t think I really need to explain this.
  8. Have a buddy. Last year my best friend and I stayed together at the sale. It helped because we could both look for a certain size or color of something. She’s also taller than me so she could see the price signs better because she could see over everyone! I’m short so I could crawl under the table and look in the boxes! We’re a good pair! 

  9. If you go with a big group, don’t try to stay together. You are all looking for different things and move at a different pace. Pick one person and stay with them. Don’t try to keep a group of 10 together. You’ll all be frustrated.
  10. Be prepared to be there for four or five hours. I think it took us about three to four hours to get through the actual sale. And we waited about 15 minutes to get in to the sale and another 15 minutes to check out. Sometimes the wait to get and to check out takes longer.
  11. Some people advise you to bring snacks. I’m not a fan of this because you’ll need to carry a bigger purse. Eat a snack before you go in and then plan to eat a meal when you leave. There are plenty of restaurants near the venue.
  12. As you go through the sale, pick up anything you think you might want. You can always put it back later. If you don’t get it the first time you see it, it might not be there when you go back. Last year they had price scanners throughout the venue so you could check a price. This helps when making final decisions about your purchases.
  13. Have fun!! Enjoy the day with your friends and get cute stuff at great prices.
If you’ve never been to the VBOS it’s hard to imagine just how big it is. Memorial Coliseum, where the sale takes place, posted this brief video on Instagram to give you an idea of the size of the sale. It’s rows and rows of cute stuff!

I hope you have fun at VBOS14!!

Love,

Jennifer
The ride there!

The loot!

We're done!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

I passed my tests!!!

As I drove to my testing site today to take my insurance licensing exams, I kept thinking about how Jimmy would always call me and pray with me when I was driving to an interview or an important meeting. That gave me such comfort. I know others were praying for me before and during my test today but I missed the comfort of knowing my husband was praying too.

When I pulled into the parking lot at the testing site a commercial came on the radio featuring Mandisa’s Overcomer. Divine providence. That song and it’s message were sort of my personal anthem throughout the past 8 months of Jimmy being sick, me being laid off very unexpectedly, starting a new job, Jimmy dying and me becoming a widow.

The very next song that came on the radio was another personal theme for me, Not For A Moment by Meredith Andrews. It talks of God NEVER leaving us, that not for a moment does He forsake us, that He is sovereign, and that He desires good for me. I sat there in my car alone belting out the song and the truths in it about God’s love and provision for me. I laid my test on His altar. And I had peace. He was in control!

I passed my tests. But even if I hadn’t, it wouldn’t mean God had forsaken me. I asked God to heal my husband on this side of heaven, but He didn’t. That doesn’t mean He’s forsaken me. I understand very little about the challenges and hardships I’ve faced in life. I’m infertile, I’m a widow, I’ve been laid off. But God will use every. single. thing for good.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I was (once again!) reminded today of just how good God is and that He allows us to go through tough stuff for good.

On my way home Cornerstone by Hillsong came on the radio. (I know, my soundtrack was on the radio.) I sobbed. “Weak made strong in the Savior’s love. When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest in His unchanging grace. To the storm He is Lord of ALL!”

Jimmy made sure Christ was the cornerstone of our family. That’s the legacy he left: Christ should be the cornerstone of everything you do. When you live life that way, it’s not all lollipops and sunshine, but it will be for His glory, and that’s good.

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33b

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic. Isaiah 28:16

Wholly His,
Jennifer