Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pierce & Havilah

Pierce adores his little sister. Several times, he's rocked her in the chair until she's asleep. Or he'll just sit and read books to her. Very sweet big brother...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Over the years, I have suffered from mild pain in my hips or lower back due to a slight curvature in my spine. For some reason, pain had escalated in my left hip over the last six months. Perhaps this was due to having my fourth child in October 2007. Daily the pain would start in my left hip so that I was in pain by nightfall. Perhaps if my physical load was lighter, it would not start hurting until the afternoon. Or sometimes it would start off in the morning. But every day, the pain would build without fail.

Emotionally I was feeling overwhelmed with this pain. With four children ages 8 and under, I needed my strength. It was disheartening to need to walk across the house in order to change a diaper and feel overwhelmed by that simple task. The words that always came to my mind regarding my hip joint as I walked across the house were 'dry' and 'grinding.' I cried out to God and asked Him to heal me of whatever was causing pain.

On Saturday, July 26, 2008 I was able to attend another Ministry Team Training at Calvary Community Church. The Lord had used these conferences to bless my relationship with Him incredibly. At past conferences, words of knowledge had been shared with me from brothers and sisters in Christ that did not know me at all - words that only God could have shared with them. The Lord used these prophetic words to show me that He knows me intimately and loves me. I'd been encouraged deeply. I had also witnessed close friends of mine experience physical or emotional healing, but I had not experienced that personally myself.

The morning of the July 26th conference, I thought, "If anyone mentions anything about left hip pain today, I'm getting up!" During the afternoon session, a regular part of the Ministry Team Training is to practice listening for a word from the Lord concerning needs of healing. Sure enough, at the afternoon session, someone got "left hip." I raised my hand in response. At the end of the 'listening' time, I went forward to join the group of believers who were to pray over my hip. A sister in Christ placed her hand on my left hip, and the team prayed for me. At one point, a college aged girl got a word - 'lubrication.' I thought to myself - "Yes, Lord! That is exactly what I need for this dry, grinding hip." I had not shared anything about my hip pain with the team. It was neat to hear this very fitting word.

The same girl also received another word, which I have had a hard time recalling since that day. It is something similar to 'strife' or 'conflict' - I remember thinking that I definitely related to the word in regard to the spiritual war within me while mothering my children. I had been struggling for years to show the love of Christ, while often feeling incredible anger or frustration. How wearying it was to 'lose it' with the children so often. How often had I asked the Lord to release me from this inner war? Very, very often...

I thanked the team for their prayers, but had nothing to report when they asked me if anything felt different. The pain had not started yet that day, since it had been a very easy day for me physically, attending the conference. I stood talking with a lovely older Christian woman named Carolyn afterwards, who happened to be a member at Calvary Community Church. She had led the prayer team that prayed for me. She shared her daughter's testimony of healing with me with great excitement when I mentioned to her that part of my issue may be due to having a slightly curved spine. Her daughter, Kathy, joined us, and they prayed again, this time for healing regarding my spine.

The day wrapped up, and once again I was blessed by joining the believers at Calvary for their day of sharing. A few days passed, and ironically I did not think about my hip once. It took me a few days to realize - 'Wait a minute!! I haven't had one speck of pain!' It has been almost a month now, and I have not had one minute of pain. Frequently as I go about my tasks, I recall the pain that gripped me daily, and I thank God over and over again for His merciful healing. I know that my new body will be a glorious, pain-free, sick-free body after this life. But what a treat to experience healing from Him on this side of heaven!

It took me a while longer to recognize that the war within me toward my children has been greatly relieved. Of course, with four young children, the days are a whirlwind. But I have not felt that hot anger inside of me swell up. What a wonderful relief!

Praise God for His mercies!


I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Ephesians 1:17-23

Wilder Allen

My sister forwarded this news story to me regarding a friend, John Allen, who went to Lipscomb University with us. Very cool story!

Nita Andrews, left, and Kendra Allen kiss Wilder Andrews Allen May 9 in Nashville. Nita Andrews was a surrogate mother for Kendra Allen and gave birth to Wilder in January.

Couples say faith, prayers part of surrogacy success

Women's friendship allowed Nashville family to welcome new baby

By BOB SMIETANA, The Tennessean Monday, May 19, 2008

NASHVILLE - Nita Andrews is the kind of friend you call when life falls apart.

So when Kendra Allen lay in a maternity ward at Baptist Hospital in Nashville two years ago, giving birth to her son John Wilson - whose heart had already stopped beating - Nita was there.

And when Kendra and her husband, John, were still paralyzed with grief, Nita and her husband, Al, planned the baby's memorial service.

In January, the two friends were back in the maternity ward. This time, Nita was giving birth, as surrogate mother for Wilder Andrews Allen, son of Kendra and John. It's not uncommon for some women to serve as surrogate mothers for hire, but Nita chose it as an act of love for a beloved friend.

The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology reported 256 surrogate births in 2006, while a recent informal survey by Newsweek found at least 400 instances in 2007. Some surrogates in the U.S. can be paid $25,000 or more for carrying a child, but for the Allens and the Andrewses, their surrogacy experience was about faith and friendship. No money changed hands.

Recently, the friends sat on the couch at the Allen house near Belmont University and tried to settle Wilder down long enough to get his picture taken. Kendra gave him a bottle, while Nita cooed and smiled at him.

"There's Momma Nita," Kendra told her 3-month-old son, as John and Al looked on.

The couples have known each other for nearly 10 years. All of them work as counselors and run in the same professional circles. And both families are members of St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in Nashville.

In many ways, the four seem like an old married couple. They finish each other's sentences, poke fun at one another and cry easily while recounting the story of Wilder's birth.

"We had fears - we were holding our breath all the time," Kendra said, "but there was just this undercurrent of … we are going one step at a time further down the path."

It began in 2006, when Kendra's doctors told her she would never be able to have another child. She had developed a serious condition requiring weeks of bed rest and intravenous fluids while carrying her daughter, Caroline, now 4. Her second pregnancy was even worse, and doctors warned she might not survive a third one.

The Allens considered adoption but eventually ruled it out and began thinking about finding a surrogate mother.

Kendra asked Nita and other friends to pray for her. Nita supported the idea but never thought of herself as a viable candidate.

For one thing, Nita was almost 49. She also had difficult pregnancies in the past, ruling out a normal delivery. When another surrogate candidate dropped out, Nita volunteered, provided she could have a Caesarean section.

There were several hurdles to overcome before the surrogacy could proceed. Not only did she need medical approval, but Nita also had to reach a legal agreement with the Allens. Although she would carry their child, Nita would have no parental rights.

The two couples also sought spiritual advice. Kendra and Nita met with the Rev. Jerry Smith, rector of St. Bartholomew's. He offered his blessing and pledged the church's support but also talked through the ethical issues.

Getting the support of their church family was essential, John said.

"In a church family - it's like a family in the best sense of the word," he said. "Some people bring casseroles, some people take Caroline to school, some people helped us pack, and some people would attend to your soul - that is what Nita and Al did."

Nita got the medical go-ahead to serve as a surrogate in 2007, around Easter. That was fitting, she says, as she saw her pregnancy as an act of redemption, of God bringing something good out of the pain the Allens had suffered.

The process began with seven weeks of hormone shots, designed to fool Nita's body into accepting the Allens' child.

Once Nita's body was prepared, doctors implanted one of Kendra's eggs, which had been fertilized with John's sperm. Then it was more shots and a long waiting process that stretched everyone's faith.

"We were going to pray about this and trust God, but a lot of people trust God for good things and they don't happen," Al said. "And we knew that it was a distinct possibility."

Overall, Nita's pregnancy went smoothly and Wilder Andrews Allen arrived in good health.

Since Wilder's birth, the Allens have adjusted to the chaos that a newborn brings, while the Andrewses have returned to life as normal.

While the Andrewses will always remain close to Wilder, they say it's time for them to fade into the background. They have two sons of their own, Hunter, 14, and Brent, 11.

Besides, they say, bringing up Wilder is the Allens' job, not theirs.

"It's not like we're going to be standing over their shoulders making sure he eats his broccoli," Al said.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Pork Chops and Sweet Potato Gravy

From Emeril Lagasse's "Louisiana - Real & Rustic" Cookbook - we tried this recipe for the first time this week, and it was a big hit. Mark, who doesn't usually like pork chops, loved it, and so did the boys. It was flavorful, down-home Louisiana comfort food. The yams help create a wonderful sauce which don't give the pork chops a chance of being dry.

24 - 32 oz. pork chops
2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onions
1/2 cup pecan pieces
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (omit this if you don't want a subtle spicy flavor to the sauce)
1 large can yams (~20+ oz)
3 tablespoons pure cane syrup, such as Steen's
1/4 cup chopped green onions

Spice Mix:

1 1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp black pepper, ground
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme

Blend the spice mix together, and rub it evenly into the pork chops.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chops and cook until brown, 2-3 minutes per side for thin pork chops, 5 minutes per side for thick pork chops. Transfer the chops to a warm platter and cover to keep warm.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the flour and, stirring constantly, cook until the roux is dark brown, the color of chocolate, about 3 minutes. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until wilted. Add the pecans, water, salt, and cayenne and mix well. Bring to a boil. Add the sweet potatoes and blend to make a smooth mixture. Stir in the syrup and green onions. Return the pork chops to the pan, reduce the heat, and simmer until the pork is cooked through, 5 minutes, basting the chops with the gravy.

Serve immediately.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Nurtured Family Storefront

The sign is up and the storefront is coming along! We hope to open in September.