Friday, May 31, 2013

{Five Minute Friday} Imagine

Acadia National Park. September 2011.

I'm participating in Five Minute Friday, a link-up writing prompt at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog. It's been several weeks since I've joined in, but I'm glad to be back today. This week the prompt is "Imagine ..." 

Five minutes starts now. 

GO ...

Five Minute FridayI could see myself in one of those pastel-colored beach houses. I'd want mine to be yellow. A pale, inviting yellow, not a high-energy florescent yellow. My neighbors would be my friends and we'd have bonfires on the beach. I'd like running because everything is better when it happens on the coast.

I could imagine myself living in a beach house.

And then I settled in landlocked Kentucky. I've lived here my whole life. I've lived close to a city, I've lived in a couple cities, and I've lived my favorite years in town smaller than anything I ever imagined liking. But it's here where I fell in love, started becoming this grown-up version of me, finally had a family, and learned that true community is better than that beach house I used to imagine.

We do have a gorgeous lake here. And while driving out to it as I often to, I like to crank up Needtobreathe and Zac Brown Band. My kids have wanted to listen to "that beach music" lately. They mean "Where the Boat Leaves From," "Jump Right In" and "Knee Deep" by Zac Brown Band, but they'll belt out "The Outsiders" and "Slumber" by Needtobreathe along with me. It's nice having sounds that take us where me imagine while still loving where we actually are.

Really, I can't imagine a better life. And you know the beach will always be there to visit.


Want to join us? Here are Lisa-Jo's rules: 1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking. 2. Link back here and invite others to join in. 3. Please visit the person who linked up before you and encourage them in their comments. That is like the one rule we all really care about.


Want more? You can read my past Five Minute Friday posts hereSubscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Like 152 Insights on Facebook. Or follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

{#TellHisStory} Even superheroes get bloody noses

He's cute and funny. And he has great cowlicks in his hair he'll probably hate when he's a teenager. He adores and annoys his sister in the same moment. He can run into a wall and not shed a tear, but he's emotional and tenderhearted.

He jumps and climbs and swings and runs and crawls and growls and yells and sings and talks. And he thinks he wears a cape. He's on full speed from the time he wakes up, usually before everyone else in the house, until he naps, which he often has to be convinced is a good idea, and then again until his bedtime.

I've written before about how being a boy mom is hard for me. I don't always get his way of thinking. I shush him and then feel bad about quieting his imagination. I tell him to stop and not to do whatever it is he thinks is a good idea instead of showing him what he could be doing with his energy and ideas. I yell when I should whisper truth.

Truth is, I don't want to stifle his joy. I don't want to squash the life bursting from inside him.

But, really, I'm not sure I know how to do be a boy mom. I do think I'm getting better. But the boy energy is like a foreign language to me. I have a brother who is 35 months younger than me. We get along so much better now that we're grown ups. But having lived with a brother in the next bedroom who often pounded at my bedroom door didn't prepare me for this.

I believe without a shadow of a doubt that Ben is meant for our family. God orchestrated our family. This little boy who stole my heart and challenged my mind from day one has taught me life is usually not what we expect. He has spurred me toward God, who created this boy and this momma and chose to give us each other.

But some days I'm so unsure of myself as a boy mom. This morning I had a bloody nose before I got out of bed because Ben, who had been sweetly snuggling with me, decided to throw his head back into my face. Ouch.

Then not long after, I sent my 3 1/2-year-old boy into the bathroom to exchange his wet Pull-Up from overnight for a pair of Toy Story underwear I'd just dug out of the dirty laundry. Hey, they were dry. Somehow in the changing of pants, he dropped the undies in the toilet ... and flushed them down! Really. I have no idea. First thing I did was dig through the dirty laundry again for another worn but dry pair of undies. Then I texted my husband, who called the plumber, who advised us to flush a few extra times and call him if the toilet bubbles.

Later in the morning, when we were at Big Lots conquering my random shopping list, I purchased 12 new pairs of Cars and Toy Story undies for my boy, who peed in the already worn but once dry underwear the moment I buckled him in the car seat to head home from Big Lots. At least the next pair he put on were clean.

And they stayed that way until we traded them in for a naptime Pull-Up. And a I breathed a sigh of relief because I'd made it through lunch time, down at least 0-4 as a boy mom but with an entire afternoon and evening before me.

So I sat in the quiet and reread a poem I read this morning ...
When the world around you mocks the seemingly small life in which you lead,
You are training future leaders, raising a generation, showing them what they need.
For the Lord grants us power and wisdom, if only we ask,
So, I challenge you, fellow mother, take off your mask.
Show the world that what you do is divine,
That our strength comes from above, that true power we can find.
Our cape may be a faded sweatshirt,
Our weaponry a shrill, ear piercing call.
Mothers, when everything around you is about to fall,
Remember: even superheroes start out small.

Boys know about superheroes even if nobody has introduced them directly to Superman or Spiderman. Boys know they want to fight and defend and save the day. But they begin little and it's no easy task training up this boy in the way he should go.

But Christie is right. Us mommas -- dare I say especially us boy moms -- are heroes too. We have a big job to do. And the big job is never really done. It's day after day, moment after moment, bloody nose after bloody nose. We start out small too, but God promises he'll finish the good work he has begun in us.

Thankfully, we serve a mighty God who knit us together before we born. He placed us here. He gave us each other. And even on the mornings I'm completely behind in the score, the creator of the universe has given me this boy with cowlicks in his hair and zest in his steps to love and to train. And we are in this together with the One who considers us his beloved.

I'm linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee and other storytellers as part of the weekly #TellHisStory. This is my story right now and it's forever God's story. 

And then on Thursday I decided to link up with Hope For the Weary Mom, where each week Dear Weary Mom posts encourage. What's more weary than flushed underwear and bloody noses? 

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

{God-sized Dreams} A Reflection

It's been a whirlwind first half of 2013 for me. Most of it has been ordinary days of striving for balance between mothering and writing, working and playing, going and staying. It's been in this process, God has done big things in my heart. I can't even seem it all, much less describe it all, but I know He's continuing a work he began long ago.

Sometimes this balancing is exhausting. And when I get there, it's usually because I've been holding on too tightly. Letting go really is good for my soul. And so is regrouping and stepping away from it all, which is what I did this weekend. I looked out at that lake. I enjoyed my parents and siblings and their families. I read a whole book. I stayed up too late and got up too early. But I didn't work or write or really even plan.

And now this morning, my body is tired but my mind and heart are rested. I'm looking out again, this time at the past six months and how God has moved. It's as vast at that lake.

Author Holley Gerth has led a group of us women these past six months as we pursue our God-sized dreams. I had no idea what would come out of this group, but it's been nothing like I expected and more than I thought possible through online friendships. This is the last official link-up post, but I get the feeling it's only the beginning to real-life dreaming.

As part of this God-sized Dream Team, I formulated a mission: I believe God has created and called me to communicate stories from my own life and others' lives for families to know God as the author and creator of every detail through writing, promoting and serving.

And then I listed out three dreams and now I'm including updates:
  1. Pursue publishing a non-fiction motherhood book I've been writing. I've been working on the book sporadically. Some friends have read it. A stranger-now-friend read it. I've added to it and put it in the hands of a couple other friends I'm still hoping will read it. It's certainly a work in progress, but it's still there and will be for awhile because I'm convinced it's a project that will be best spanned over time. It's one of those then-and-now stories that deserves time.
  2. Continue praying God would lead us to a birthmom for our third adoption. We're still praying and hoping and waiting. Our home study for an independent adoption has expired, but I have the paperwork to gather the information, again. 
  3. Build an on-the-side freelance business. This is the one that hasn't progressed like I expected, but it's certainly progressed. Along with managing our own vacation rental lake house for the second summer, I now also manage the details for another property owner's house. It's a niche I didn't realize I'd like, but it's a good work-from-home job for me. I'm also officially a freelance writer, having taken several writing assignments for a local parenting/family magazine
Photo taken by my brother-in-law Zac, who happened to have my camera and noticed the view.

These dreams aren't the only ways God has moved. In thinking about publishing a book and building a freelance business, I've worked on improving and expanding this blog space. I've written posts that publish about six days a week. I've connected with readers. I've had guests write here and I've written other places. {You can read my posts at Circles of Faith(in)courage, The Riches of His Love, and Gindi's.} In dreaming and writing here, God has meshed the dreams I laid out at the beginning and created new desires in my heart.

But the asterisk, which, really, is the foundation and not a footnote is that being a wife and mom come first. These are the most important roles in my life, just after seeking God, of course. Everything else comes after. In these six months I've gradually transitioned to a work-from-home mom, but it's the parenting questions and strategies that still weigh most heavily on my heart. My work-related appointments and commitments fit around my family on my calendar.

Yes, it's a balancing act, but the view is nice here. Yes, the horizon is vast, but it's a place I believe I'm meant to be.

Tuesdays are for God-sized Dreams here as I link up with Holley Gerth and many other dreamers. You'll find encouragement and community at her blog. If this topic is new to you, Holley has wonderful resources available as you discover where God is leading you: "The Do What You Can Plan" is an ebook that is worth every bit of the $1.99. "You're Made for a God-sized Dream" {$8.99 for Kindle; $11.71 for paperback} is packed full of encouragement.

I'm also linking up with Jen at Finding Heaven Today, where she throws a weekly Soli Deo Gloria party and offers much transparency and truth. 

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

{Weekend Words} Memorial Day edition

Kentucky Lake. April 2012. More reflecting and discovering coming this weekend.

It's Memorial Day weekend. May we remember how blessed we are as people and how much of that is because of the sacrifices other families made throughout history. Enjoy the people near you, find ways to love the ones far from you, and build on the legacy of those no longer with you.

We're going to eat, play, catch up with family, rest, swim, boat, and regroup at Kentucky Lake. Meanwhile, I thought I'd leave you some links to articles I loved. I was challenged and encouraged.

hands_free_mama_logoThe Important Thing About Yelling :: "As I let go of my internal and external distractions, the anger and stress pent up inside me slowly dissipated. With a lighten load, I was able to react to my children’s mistakes and wrongdoings in a more calm, compassionate, and reasonable manner." Hands Free Mama reminded me I'm not alone and gave me hope. While you're there, click around her blog. Her philosophy of living a less-distracted life is worth thinking about.

A Tantrum and Two Fools :: Again, with how we speak to our kids and what our behavior models. "We mistake our display of 'authority' for being the parent in charge, when in reality we are mimicking our child’s behavior and reinforcing it by our poor example. We become the fool." Hello, conviction. In a good way. Between this post and another she wrote this past week {A Sure Risk}, Amber seems to be peeking in on my life!

When Storms Rage On (And How to Get Through) :: The reporter in me loves that Jennifer Dukes Lee revisited a past story. The writer in me loves her storytelling. And the Christian in me is thankful for the hope she shares. "If Pastor Bill were asked to fill a pulpit in Moore, Oklahoma, this Sunday, he’d give folks the message he once heard from a therapist who spoke about the difficulty of divorce – 'The only way out is through.' As for the rest of us, the ones out here groping for answers? Well, he said that sometimes, it's best to say nothing at all. 'Just be there. Help people. Hold them,' Pastor Bill told me. 'Tell them that their pain is your pain too. We weep with those who weep. And rejoice with those who rejoice.'"

What are you doing this weekend? What have you read lately worth sharing?

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Friday, May 24, 2013

{Out of the Blue} A diabetic's journey

Her bedside demeanor was perfect for me when she diagnosed me with Type 1 diabetes in January 2004. I saw her every three months for the next almost six years. She helped me keep my blood sugar levels stable, transition from using syringes to insulin pens, and keep this chronic disease in perception. She was what I needed, and I was so heart broken when she decided to close her internal medicine practice in November 2010.

Not long after she closed her doors, I got pink eye. I hadn't settled on a new doctor and couldn't get in to see the one I thought I wanted to see. With two kids who were 3 1/2 and 1 at the time, waiting 24 hours to get eye drops wasn't wise. With a couple weeks until Christmas, I didn't need pink eye spreading through my house. I settled on someone else that day, but later ended up securing regular patient status with the doctor recommended to me more than once.

Yeah, I know it's Friday. Better late than never, right? 
It was a frustrating season of transition, but this new doctor turned out to be instrumental in improving my diabetes care. I was only his patient from the spring of 2011 until August 2012, when he moved away.

But he taught me so much about this crazy, chronic disease that affects my life and is affected by nearly everything in my life. With his encouragement, I started using an insulin pump in September 2011. {Of course, I never do one thing at a time ... and went on vacation less than a week later!}

I didn't know how I'd feel about having a pager-like device attached to my body via a small tube all of the time, but it's become my best diabetes management tool. I've learned from a couple people on Medtronic's staff and found freedom in having a little device literally at my side.

Transitions aren't always what we want, but sometimes they are part of the journey to something better. One stressful season of settling on a new doctor led me to someone who impacted my life in such a short time and to a piece of technology that truly has changed how I feel and live.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

{Dear Weary Mom ...} Let's let go

I know it gets old saying no.

No, we're not going to watch that movie. 

No, the pool isn't open yet. 

No, we aren't doing that craft right now.

No, we're not going to watch another episode of "My Little Pony."

No, we're not going back to the snow cone place. We already went there once today. 

No ... 

Sometimes the nos come because of circumstances completely out of my control. Other times they come because everybody does need boundaries. Somehow boundaries create freedom. Some nos are completely necessary. But some of my nos are because I don't want to be inconvenienced or interrupted.

Motherhood is going to make us weary. We are party planners, personal shoppers, chefs, taxi drivers, housekeepers, wives, friends, neighbors ... all at the same time. It's big job. It's a high calling.

But sometimes we don't have to say no. I'm telling this to myself.

I was reminded yesterday that letting your kids run and jump and splash and sit in a muddy puddle can be fun for them and freeing for momma. Yes, it created dirty clothes and dirty kids. Yes, I had to help them out of their wet clothes that clung to their bodies right there on someone else's farm. I brought dry clothes, but I didn't think about towels.

You see, I knew muddy puddles were likely going to be in our path when Jaclyn and I decided to take our five kids in five years to pick strawberries the day after some storms. So I packed the extra clothes, thinking I may need them if they got dirty and wet picking berries. Turns out, the berry plants sitting on higher ground weren't really surrounded by water.

Oh but there were puddles nearby.

They walked on in and we didn't stop them.

Then we picked berries ...

Before we left, they went back into the puddle. But it was more than walking through this time. It was jumping and splashing and sitting and twirling and chasing.

This picture above captures more of who I want to be as a mom. It's a weary job sometimes, but I want to say yes. I want to speak with a softer, kinder voice. I want to remember we don't always have to be in a hurry to get to the next thing. I want to let them jump and make messes. Yes, I want to teach them truth and problem-solving strategies. Yes, I want them to learn responsibility. But I want them to live joyfully.

I didn't exactly want to touch my dirty kids. But we accomplished our mission: 8.6 pounds of strawberries and some adventure along the way. And you know what? I felt less weary after letting go.

Mommas, we can do this. We can teach truth and allow adventure. We can foster independence and create boundaries. We can work and play. We can sit and run. We can encourage responsibility and let them explore. We can let them live.

I'm linking up with Hope For the Weary Mom today. If you want even more encouragement, "No More Perfect Moms" by Jill Savage is available at Amazon for $10.38 {paperback} or $7.76 {Kindle} and "Hope For the Weary Mom" by Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothin is available at Amazon for $4.49 {paperback and Kindle}. Affiliate links included.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Summer Favorites

Summer is upon us. And with that comes some food I love, mosquitoes that annoy, longer days, and more time outside. I wanted to share with you some products and services that are part of my life and will certainly be part of my summer.

A.1. Cajun Marinade :: Kroger stopped selling my favorite kabob marinade, but thanks to Amazon, I can have a whole case of it at once. No worries, we'll probably use all six bottles this summer. And, seriously, groceries showing up at the front door is fabulous.

Aveeno Anti-Itch Lotion :: Well, you know, we've already had a case of poison ivy and countless mosquito bites around here, so we'll probably need to buy another bottle of this. My kids call it "bug bite medicine," but it takes away the itch from poison ivy and other skin irritations. It's gentle, even on my boy's sensitive skin.

Life is Good hat :: I have a couple of these hats I wear constantly in the summer when we are at the pool, out by or on the lake, and when I decide showering will come later in the day. And you can relax with free ground shipping on all orders and always free returns at the Life is Good website. Sign up for the company newsletter and you can enjoy 15% off your next purchase!

Emeals :: We've been getting recipes and grocery shopping lists from Emeals for several weeks now and everything we've tried as been fine. Most recipes have been excellent. And I really needed the dinner inspiration.

Walgreens' Instagram prints :: I recently upgraded my iPhone so I could have a better camera. I already loved documenting life with social media and now it's even better that I can take and print photos right from my phone. The Walgreens app allows you to print right from Instagram. Facebook or your phone. Plus there are often photo deals happening.

What products are you loving these days?

I've included affiliate links, meaning I would receive a small percentage of any sales through those links. But I'm telling you about products and services I choose to use myself. Clicking from here doesn't change the retailers' prices. 

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

{God-sized Dreams} Summer To-do List

Hematite Lake. Earlier May 2013. And I want to go back.

I've already let you in on how I was feeling weary of the school-year routine and commitments. Well, Summer is here. Yes, technically, as my rising first-grader reminded me, it's not actually summer yet, but it's been in the high 80s and school is out, so let's call the rest of May "summer."

So, Summer, I'm glad you're here. I've got a little to-do list for us. Truth is, I've got a not-to-do list coming too. But, you know, I thought I'd start with this list of things I want to do with my family.

Pick strawberries
Go to the Louisville Zoo
Pick blueberries
Pick blackberries
Swim, swim, swim
Play in water in the backyard
Read “Beezus & Ramona” and “Ramona the Pest
Watch Disney’s “Planes” (Comes out Aug. 9)
Hike at Hematite Lake
Play at the lake
Take the kids to a St. Louis Cardinals game
Go to the St. Louis Zoo
Eat at Belew’s
Play more board games
Host a neighborhood party
Participate in vacation Bible school
Go to Dairy Queen and snow cone shack {And I'm sure we'll be back again and again}
Getaway with Greg while kids hang out with Gran-Gran

Some of these things are on my calendar, so they'll probably happen. I'm sure nearly none of them will go like I expect. It's mid-way through the Year of Imperfection. Summer, you're my favorite time, so regrouping here with you makes sense. I want to enjoy the moment and make memories along the way to accomplishing these things come with you, Summer, and embrace unexpected adventures.

In an effort to embrace this freedom Summer brings and truly live with my kids, I wanted to write a not-to-do list. Balance, people. One time I wrote a list of things I don't do even though lots of other people do. It was quite freeing for a perfectionist like me who many days tries to do too much.

Perhaps it will help me not be so hard on myself and truly embrace this season. So here it is, my not-to-do list which has mostly been worded to really be a second to-do list. Yeah, I'm sorry, I've kind of confused myself.

Give my day to God before I get on Facebook
Close the laptop and be present
Don't cry over spilled milk ... or crushed cracker crumbs
Remember it's not all going to get done today
Speak softer
Walk instead of drive when I can
Plan not to plan every minute of our days
Say yes when I can
Let go

This all has been on my heart, so much so I let Ben skip his nap yesterday -- our first weekday of Summer Break -- so we could go to the spray park and then have snow cones. And you know what? It was fine. His behavior is so much better when he can run and play and discover outside. Yes, he went to bed willingly before 7 p.m., but our napless afternoon was good.

For our God-sized Dreams post this week, Holley asks: What part of your dream feels the riskiest? 

I wasn't sure what I was going to say. Then I realized the par that feels riskiest is this hard-for-me-to-achieve balance of work and play. Just because my kids are out of school doesn't mean my freelance job or lake house jobs stop. Here's the thing about these jobs: I gradually added on-the-side jobs and now, as I'm working out a balance, it seems like I accidentally went back to work.

Accidentally in the sense that I never said, "I'm going to back to work." But I did pray, "Give me opportunities to use what I know how to do." I probably shouldn't be surprised God led me here. The way it's been gradual has been good for me. I sense God building a foundation for other things to come. I've wanted to use my skills and talents in a way that lets me stay home but still promote and write things I believe in. So here I am. A work-from-home momma who surprised herself a little when she realized she's at the place she believes she's supposed to be.

All of this to say, being here feels risky for me. I'm an all-or-nothing kind of gal, so achieving balance is a constant process for me. I want to be a wife and mom before I'm a writer. The hows of that change as often as the weather. But, really, isn't that the beauty of seasons? 

For now, I'm here. And so is Summer.

Your turn. You've probably thought about what you want to do this summer. But have you considered what you don't want to do? It's worth thinking about. So, with that in mind, what are you going to do this summer?

Tuesdays are God-sized Dream days around here and I'm linking this post along with many, many other dreamers on Holley Gerth's blog. I'm also linking up with the Soli Deo Gloria party at Finding Heaven Today, where I was reminded for the second time in one day not to be so hard on myself. 

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Real life messes

My house was a mess. And I took pictures. 

The dishes on the right are clean, awaiting their return to their homes. The ones in the sink are obviously dirty. The dishwasher needed unloading and reloaded. Yes, that's grass growing toward the back. People, chill. It's a preschool project that's doing well.

Piles filled the counters and even some spots of the floor. School supplies and backpack contents spilled near the shoes gathered by the door. Please notice to the right the crushed Spiderman Cheez-It crackers. Those crumbs were there at least two days.

Let's take a closer look at those shoes by the door. Six pairs belong to my 6-year-old girl, who obviously likes sparkles; two belong to my 3-year-old boy who has a momma who clearly prefers shoes that don't tie; and one pair belongs to my husband, who would never walk out in the garage barefoot like I would. And, yes, that's some snack trash from my girl's backpack mixed in.

Six loads of laundry waiting to be folded. Another load in the washer waiting to be move to the dryer, which was finishing up its load. I told my girl on Saturday that her new chore is matching socks. She panicked a little. "Do I have to do it every day?"

No, dear. Clearly I don't deal with laundry every day. 

Saturday was a good just-the-four-of-us day. We're all social extroverts, so there is much inviting friends over for dinner {which, actually, I did for Saturday, but the other family couldn't come} and meeting friends at the park and playing games with friends and making an assortment of other plans with friends. But Saturday it was just us. And it was good.

We spent a couple hours going to yard sales, where we scored my boy a bike; drove some things out to our lake house; had lunch at Penn Station; worked outside; watched "Scandal" while Ben napped and Cate played in her room; played outside; cleaned some; ate pizza on the front porch; got the kids to bed early and us adults watched the rest of "Scandal."

Yes, the rest. Like we've watched all 29 existing episodes {seven in season one on Netflix and 22 in season two on Amazon/Hulu} in a couple weeks.

And, yes, notice the lack of cleaning listed in my inventory of our day. A little. Before I tackled the house, I cleaned out the van instead. Priorities, people. I bagged trash, vacuumed crumbs and wipes smudges while my husband used a machete to whack some weeds down near our fence. It's when we came in from doing those chores that we sat on the couch under the ceiling fan and watched "Scandal" for the first of what would be two times that day. We are were addicted and had to know what happened next with Olivia Pope, Fitz Grant and their friends, er, enemies.

The house got clean over the course of Saturday and some of Sunday. Of course, a boy who spilled his milk and got into his sister's nail polish, a girl who chose yet another pair of shoes, and a husband who reminded me Sunday was supposed to be a day of rest were involved. Only a little grumpiness from me was involved. The rest of the time, I enjoyed my family this weekend in and around this sometimes-messy house.

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Giddy up!

One of the best parts of motherhood is watching my child find joy. Recently, Cate has found joy in horses. She likes to watch "My Little Pony" and "Dreamer." She reads books that have horses on their covers. She writes about horses and draws pictures of horses. Her brother points out horses whenever we seem in a pasture along the road. We went to Keeneland this spring and gathered in front of the TV to watch the Derby.

To go along with her horse-themed birthday party, I scheduled a horse riding lesson with a friend from our church as her birthday present. I'm pretty sure that hour would rank among the greatest in her six years of living.

Pure joy, I tell you. 

Thanks to Gran-Gran, she was dressed the part. Isn't that belt buckle adorable?! And that hat is borrowed from our friend/instructor Emilie. Cate befriended Raj, a gentle 20-year-old Arabian and I didn't spot a single nerve from my girl.

While Cate learned about riding a horse, Ben found sticks and swatted at trees. You know, boy things. And then he got a turn to join Cate on Raj. By the smile on his face, he got a taste of the joy Cate had been experiencing.


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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Dear Weary Mom ...

Even welcomed transitions can be hard. We have one coming here. It's a small one, but sometimes the small ones are the ones that smack us in the face when we're least expecting them. School is {almost} out for the summer. Tomorrow is my girl's last day of kindergarten.

Cate was made for school. She likes hoarding school supplies, but she uses them too. She writes and draws and creates and learns and remembers and documents. She's a reader and asks millions of questions. She likes making new friends. She generally obeys and follows rules. But even she's ready for a break.

This school year has been good for our family. Deciding to enroll our daughter in a small, private Christian school was a big decision, especially for me. But I've gotten to know God better while I volunteer in those hallways and classrooms. And Cate has gotten to know you better while memorizing scripture, learning to count money and tell time, creating lots of refrigerator art, and writing stories.

But even the best of things can make us weary. Sometimes the journey is exhausting, even when it's filled with blessings. I'm ready for a break from the alarm clock and the homework and carpool that didn't work out like I planned.

I'm always surprised to remember Jesus was tired along his journey. He was going from Judea to Galilee through Samaria. "...and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon." {John 4:6Y'all. It was lunch time. And Jesus was tired. He'd be going from place to place, trying to teach and instruct people along the way. When he was sitting by the well, he asked a Samaritan woman to give him a drink and a ministry opportunity presented itself.

Weary mom, we've been there. We've been tired before lunch because we go from place to place, trying to care for these people who depend on us. Sit down. Take a drink of water. Jesus tell us to come to him. And remember you are not alone and this season is not forever. This is just one stop on the journey.

Samaria was changed because of that conversation at the well. Samaria knew about living water that always satisfies because Jesus, even when he was weary, spoke truth and made a difference. Really, that's not all that difference from our lives as moms.

So, yes, I'm ready to sit by the well.

I'm ready for afternoons at the pool.

I'm ready for impromptu lunches with friends at the park.

I'm ready for free time, when the kids have to use their imaginations and I can let some creative juices flow.

I'm ready for less commitments on the calendar.

I'm ready to pick strawberries and then blueberries and maybe even blackberries.

I'm ready for a getaway with my husband.

I'm ready for bedtime to be more flexible.

I'm ready for walks to Dairy Queen and the snow cone shack.

I'm ready for the sunshine that tints my kids' skin and makes us dirty and sweaty and tired in the best ways.

I'm dreaming of summer, friends. But that doesn't mean all our summer days are going be perfect. There will be messes and interruptions and plans that fall apart. People will disappoint us and not react like we think they should. Some days rain will keep us inside. Most days will be humid. We will be weary.

But God can be glorified in the imperfections. The truth can be made known in ordinary moments along the journey, even when we want to rest and have someone give us a drink of water.

And I have to remind myself to balance work and play. The writing and lake house managing needs to get done, and it will. But the lengthy to-list will always be around. Yes, I will fulfill my commitments, but it all doesn't have to get done today. I need to repeat that for myself: Not every last thing has to be done right now. 

Sometimes right now is better spent pushing my boy on the swing, going on family walks, playing Uno, and really hearing that song my girl is making up. Jesus decided to spend a couple days in Samaria because the people asked even though his destination was Galilee. {John 4:40}

These days aren't going to be perfect, but these are the days we have. I really do want to make the most of them, realizing life is a journey that changes us and the people around us. To get from here to there, we have to be willing to endure the road, go through transitions, sit down awhile, and let others walk with us.

Come along, weary mom. We're in this together.

I'm linking up with Hope For the Weary Mom, Jill Savage's blog hop about No More Perfect Days, and Chasing Blue Skies, where this week's Out of the Blue prompt was to share how a passage of scripture surprised us. You'll find encouragement at all of these pleases. 

If you want even more encouragement, "No More Perfect Moms" by Jill Savage is available at Amazon for $10.29 {paperback} or $7.76 {Kindle} and "Hope For the Weary Mom" by Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothin is available at Amazon for $4.99 {paperback and Kindle}.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

{God-sized Dreams} Right here, right now

I believe God wants us to make a different where we are. I've been guilty of thinking I'll make a difference ... when I get to be a mom, when my kids are older, when our life slows down. But God finally convinced me of the important living out my faith right now, right here.

Now, whatever season of life you're in my determine how and where and when you can serve. I finally got to be a momma and my kids are still fairly little, so some things would compromise the priorities Greg and I believe God wants for our family. But even then, while serving my family, while waiting for one season to end and another to begin, I can serve my neighbor and my God.

"... While I'm waiting I will serve You, while I'm waiting I will worship
While I'm waiting I will not faint, I'll be running the race even while I wait
I'm waiting, I'm waiting on You Lord, and I am peaceful, I'm waiting on You Lord
Though it's not easy no, but faithfully I will wait; Yes, I will wait
And I will move ahead bold and confident, taking every step in obedience ..."

{From "While I'm Waiting" by John Waller}

This week's God-sized Dream challenge from Holley: Share about your favorite nonprofit organization. They are all God-sized dream in action.

In last week's God-sized Dream post, I shared about one of my family's favorite nonprofit organizations. Compassion International makes sense to us because raising kids is where my husband and I are. My kids relate to the kids we sponsor. As I've learned about Compassion International, I've been impressed with how its staff executes its mission.

For this week, I thought I'd share about a more local project I've recently learned about and with which I've just gotten involved. The Needline Food Project is a way to incorporate regular giving into families' routines in order to help other families in our community.

The idea is each week when we shop, we'll pick up an extra non-perishable food or hygiene item and store it in a usable shopping bag designated for the project. The on the second Saturday of every other month, a neighborhood coordinator {in my case, that's me ...} will collect all the bags from the families on that coordinator's neighborhood list.

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"

Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

I heard about this food project idea just before I heard Jen Hatmaker speak about missional-minded living and loving your neighbor. I was already thinking about ways to get to know the families who live near us. We live across the street from one of the two local parks, so there are often kids walking down our street. Sadly, we've done a poor job getting to know our neighbors and I'm ready to change that.

We have a neighborhood party on the calendar and I'll be handing out flyers for that this week. This food project goes right along with what's on my heart now: I want to know my neighbors. I want to teach my kids to help others. And I want to make a difference here in this community that is my home.

Tuesdays are God-sized Dream days around here and I'm linking this post along with many, many other dreamers on Holley Gerth's blog

I'm also linking up with Jen at her Soli Deo Gloria party.

And on Wednesday, I decided to link up with Jennifer Dukes Lee, who is a master storyteller and asks others to #TellHisStory. 

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Celebrating motherhood

Just one week old, Cate had already changed my life and made me a momma. May 13, 2007.

I became a mother a week before my first Mother's Day. Our new family of three spent the first eight nights of our newborn daughter's life away from home -- one in a hospital room and the next seven in a Comfort Suites room -- while we waited for the green light from folks in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Frankfort, Kentucky, who were signing and mailing and filing interstate adoption paperwork.

There were years of yearning and months of waiting of this specific baby girl, yet in an instant I become a mom. She was not quite 24 hours old when the nurse made sure the car seat was secure in the back of our blue Oldsmobile Alero and then waved goodbye. We left the hospital and headed to that Comfort Suites that was closer to the state line. Just across the river were family and friends who were excited to meet this much-prayed-for and much-hoped-for baby girl. 

But becoming parents doesn't meant you don't want to eat, so we stopped along the way at Arby's. Yes, we had a day-old baby and stopped for curly fries. I even had to change a tiny newborn diaper in the public bathroom. Nothing like diving into real life, huh?

Except we didn't dive all the way in right away. 

For a week, we slept in a hotel, where my only mothering responsibilities included mixing and measuring formula, feeding a precious baby, changing diapers, occasionally answering a phone call from someone wanting to ask one more question regarding our adoption paperwork, washing bottles in a tiny sink, telling my mom and friends what we wanted to eat, and making plans of whether they were coming to our hotel room or we were meeting at a restaurant.

That's so not real life, where laundry piles up, dinner needs to be cooked, the crumbs need to be swept, phone calls need to be returned, appointments need to be scheduled, groceries need to be bought, and homework needs supervised.

But it's here in real life that I'm really a momma. Yes, that baby girl came into my life, rocked my priorities and perception of how I thought things would be, and made me a momma. That's quite a feat for a baby girl who didn't talk or walk and barely weighed 8 pounds, but I haven't been the same since 8:54 p.m. May 6, 2007.

That baby girl turned 6 six days ago and has a 3 1/2-year-old brother who adores her. We have stayed in more hotels, visited with more friends, eaten at other restaurants, filled out more adoption paperwork, and made so many other plans since her birth.

Motherhood is about living and doing and loving and teaching and caring and adjusting, all while these little people who grow up into bigger people watching your every move. I think they aren't listening, but they learn as I do so much more quickly than as I say, which is both good and bad. Moms pour their lives into other lives, creating a legacy that may begin in a hospital room, move to a hotel room, and overflow into real life.

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

{Weekend Words} The Mother's Day Edition

To Young Mothers of Toddlers and Babies :: "I am overwhelmed that the living God would take all those years of my not really knowing what to do, and all those years of my feeling like I was dying and wasting, and all that hurt, and turn them into a young man so bright and so beautiful." There is so much hope in this real post from Rebecca Reynolds at Story Warren.

Motherhood as a Mission Field :: This post was one a stranger I follow on Twitter shared. I emailed it to myself and was so glad when I finally sat down to read it. "Given in faith, that plate of PB&J’s will feed thousands. Given in faith, those presents on Christmas morning will bring delight to more children than you can count. Offered with thankfulness, your work at home is only the beginning. Your laundry pile, selflessly tackled daily, will be used in the hands of God to clothe many. Do not think that your work does not matter. In God’s hands, it will be broken, and broken, and broken again, until all who have need of it have eaten and are satisfied. And even then, there will be leftovers."

Mighty :: This video is based on a blog post by Lisa-Jo Baker. Both are worth your time. "Celebrating the small is directly related to recognizing the massive, Kingdom impact. Kids are forever. They are eternity with skin on. And we mold them like so much play-doh until one day they walk out the door and take every small moment of a family’s routine with them."

Happy Mother's Day weekend, friends. Have you read anything that needs to be shared?

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Friday, May 10, 2013

{Guest Post} All the moments that make a mother

Mommas need support. I'm blessed with friends right here in my small town who live this life with me, friends who have known me long before I became a momma, and more recently some women who encourage me from a distance, thanks to technology that expands our world. One of those women, Gindi, shared her journey to motherhood two weeks ago. Up next is another dreamer friend who shares my name and the spelling of it! 

Welcome Kristin Smith here today! While she's sharing her story here, I'm sharing part of my story over at her place, The Riches of His Love. Join us as we kick off this Mother's Day weekend.

The journey to and through motherhood is hard. Can I get an amen?

When I was expecting my first child I was young, and naive and my idea of what being a mother would be like was all happy, smiley babies and perfectly posed Christmas pictures. I was certain that because of my many years of successful babysitting jobs when I was younger that I would be the perfect mom.

You can probably guess where this is going, right?

Our first born (who doctors estimated was more than 7.5 pounds) came barreling into the world at a whopping 8 pounds 15 ounces after 24-plus hours of the worst back labor I have ever experienced. But he was here and he was perfect. For a few days we lived in a bubble of nurses helping and family holding the baby ... and then we went home to try and do this parenting thing on our own.

And he had colic – for months! Man, those days and nights were tough! My image of a happy, smiley baby were squashed and as I held him and cried more often than not, I was sure that I had failed as a mother.

Our second son is seven years younger than our first. The distance between them wasn’t our "choice." We struggled through several years of infertility and disappointments. Each month that we tried and we got another negative pregnancy test, a small piece of my heart died.

I couldn’t see God’s plan during this time and was certain that He was punishing us. It was reinforcement of the lie that I wasn’t a good mother ... because good mothers don’t have trouble getting pregnant, right?

Oh course I know today that God works all things for good. I know today that God wasn’t withholding a “blessing” from me. He wasn’t punishing me. But I had associated blessings from God as a reward for good behavior.

Have you ever been there? Clouded by hurt and disappointment, resentment and fear? It is hard to see the Truth through the lies the enemy bombards us with when our souls are weary.

There are six years between our second and third sons. Once again we faced infertility. And during that time of trying, we also had a miscarriage. The type of loss I felt would "never happen to me." Life became so much more fragile and my heart softened toward women who had walked the same path.

The entire experience of loss and then my subsequent pregnancy was a time that really brought me closer to God. I was able to see how He was making something beautiful out of my hurts. It wasn’t an easy journey but it has molded my faith walk in such a way that I wouldn’t change things today.

Our fourth child – and first girl – was a complete and beautiful surprise. One week after I stopped nursing our then 10-month-old son, I was pregnant. I had always hoped to have a girl and name her after my best friend. The timing of this pregnancy was such that this special friend was able to experience most of my pregnancy with her namesake. She (unfortunately for me) went to be with Jesus just six short weeks before the birth of our girl. But I was so very grateful that she lived long enough to see her ultrasound pics and feel her kicking my stomach. That time brought us both so much joy and I know she is with us today in spirit.

When I dreamed of being a mom, the dream didn’t include all of the difficult times. It didn’t include the hurts and disappointments, the health scares and hospital stays. It didn’t include countless sleepless nights and 3-year-old tantrums.

But each and every moment is a memory that I wouldn’t change today. My husband and I often say that the best part of us is our kids. They are strong and caring, smart and resourceful, loving and kind, energetic and imaginative. Each moment of their lives has made every day of mine better. And I am so, so grateful.

I know there are days where it would be easier to throw in the proverbial towel. I know there are women out there reading this that want nothing more than to have a child but for various reasons can’t. And women that have taken up the incredible commitment of foster parenting and adoption. Each of you is special, and we are all on a journey ... don’t miss these moments. Try not to be overwhelmed by unreasonable expectations. (Especially the ones you set for yourself!) Trust God with all things and know that you are loved. Even if there isn’t a baby in your arms tonight – your mama heart shines and it is beautiful. Happy Mother’s Day!

Kristin blogs at The Riches of His Love and says this about herself: "I am a wife and a mother, but, most importantly, I am a daughter of the King, redeemed by His grace and so very grateful for it. Through the past 16 years we have walked some hard roads, many of them difficult by our own doing. But despite our choices and at times lack of faith – God loved us anyway. We have seen and continue to experience the riches of His love."

Thursday, May 9, 2013

'Then what we gonna do?'

Photo by Jenn Hall King Photography in October 2012.

"Momma, what we gonna do?" my 3-year-old boy asks when I pick up from school, before he goes to bed, and when he wakes up. He’s carefree, fearless second-born child and this need-for-a-plan mentality surprises me from him. His 6-year-old sister has been asking for a plan for as long as I can remember. He’s probably learning it from her. But, still, it surprises me he cares. And it surprises me even more he remembers.

So I tell him, "You’re going to take a nap when we get home."

Almost immediately, he asks again. "Then what we gonna do?"

Annoyed by the repetitiveness, I list things in order. ...

As soon as I consider myself annoyed, I realize that’s ridiculous. I do the exact same thing with God. I may be 11 times my boy’s age, but I still lead a busy, messy life. ...

{Join me at (in)courage today to read what comes next!}

(in)courage is one of my favorite blogs, so I'm super excited about posting there. I wrote the post you're reading today in January. The message remains true. And my boy still asks "What we gonna do" countless times a day. Good news is he's decided wearing big boy underwear and using the potty really is better than diapers. Whew. 

I'm also linking this post with Kristen at Chasing Blue Skies. Today is the Out of the Blue link-up over there and this post seemed to be a fitting springtime surprise. Even though I knew it was coming, to see my words on a well-read blog is still surprising. I wrote these words in the winter, but here they are today in the spring. Plus, I talk about how my boy surprises me with his questions of asking what's next, regardless of the season.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Books worth gifting

Psst. It's almost Mother's Day. Consider this your reminder.

As a busy momma and writer, I don't really know how I've managed to read books lately, but, goodness, I've devoured some good ones. And there are some deals on them, making them excellent gifts to stock up on or give away right now. If you needed some Mother's Day {or Teacher Appreciation} gifts, these may do the job and would be immediately available if you were buying for someone with a Kindle.

Really, it's hard to go wrong on giving a book you've loved because you're sharing a message you appreciated with someone that matters to you. And aren't some of the best gifts those things the receiver won't go spend money on for themselves.

Mommas always need a reason to sit down and take a break, so with that in mind, I recommend these funny, encouraging words for four different authors. I picked a favorite quote from each, but those words are just tiny snapshots to the bigger stories told.

"Sparkly Green Earrings" by Melaine Shankle :: You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll want to call your friend. AND IT'S FREE RIGHT NOW for your Kindle {UPDATED on 5/9/13 ... it's no longer free, but $8.54 isn't bad!}. But, hey. If you'd rather pay for the old-fashioned bound copy, it's totally worth the $11.07.

"Because raising a child is a fleeting moment in time that sometimes gets swallowed up in the daily routine of car pools and soccer practice and Can I get away with serving tacos for dinner again tonight? And yet it’s quite possibly the most important thing we’ll ever do. It’s the daily balance of treasuring the moments even as we wish some of them away. It’s treading water in a sea of imperfections. It’s a delicate dance of guilt and joy."

"Bittersweet" by Shauna Niequist :: I know, I know. She's since written another book. And there was her first book. But this is the one I had, and it's the one I can speak to. Her others are now on my list. Yes, I liked this one that much. {It's $10.67 for the Kindle version and $12.79 for a hardback copy.}

"The big story really is actually being told through our little stories, and by sharing our lives, not just our sermons, we’re telling God’s story in as reverent and divine ways as it has ever been told. God’s story was told in Hebrew and Greek, and I believe that it’s also being told in whispers and paintings and blogs and around dinner tables all over the world. ... My life is not a story about me. And your life’s not a story about you. My life is a story about who God is and what he does in a human heart. My story is about the people on my street, the things I read, the way we raise our child, the things I’ve done and the things that have been done to me. A story is never about one person. It has a full cast of characters, connected by blood or love or jealousy."

"No More Perfect Moms" by Jill Savage :: I'm like a broken record, but, seriously, every mom should read this. AND IT'S JUST $1.99 for your Kindle right now. The paperback {$7.45} is worth it too, if you prefer.

"Control is really a mirage. The only control you and I can really have it self-control, and the Bible says that is a fruit of the Spirit. In other words, we can’t have self-control on our own; it comes from letting God be the real leader of our lives and the manager of our hearts."

"Start" by Jon Acuff :: Talk about motivation. This book will jump start all those ideas you have in your head. {I reviewed it here.} It's a new release, but the hardback is just $12.99 and the Kindle version is $9.99.

"We want to plan the road to awesome. We want to talk about our ten-year visions. We want to detail every step before we take a single one. To make sure there’s no room for mistakes or failure. But when we do that, when we squeeze our lives and purposes that tightly, we eliminate any room for surprises. We don’t have time for them. They don’t fit within our plan. They don’t have any runway in our day to land on. We scowl when people interrupt what we’re doing at work, grumble when neighbors want to talk at the mailbox, and curse momentary distractions to a day we’ve planned. The road to awesome, though, is defined by the surprises. It’s not a block in a downtown city laid out long ago by methodical city planners. It’s a rambling dirt road with twists and turns that offers something new at every corner. Let’s leave room on our maps for some surprises."

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which don't change the price but generate a little financial support for my blog. And the deals I've mentioned were current when I hit publish. I can't promise how long they'll last. I updated the post to enter it in a contest about the best Mother's Day present for less than $25. Really, who can go wrong with books?!

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Dreaming with Compassion

I struggle with stuff. I get overwhelmed at birthdays and Christmas because I worry my kids are going to miss what's important. I talk a lot about sharing and I try to live my life in a way that demonstrates generosity.

We live a blessed life. We go on trips. My kids have plenty of toys and games and craft supplies. We don't have much debt and what we have we're paying down. I worry how as parents we'll combat the greediness in our culture.

Now, don't misunderstand me. I love giving gifts. To my kids. To my husband. To our relatives. To our friends. To strangers. It's one of the ways I show love. But I don't want excessive amounts of gifts to drown out what's important.

Birthdays are about celebrating life. I want to rejoice over the life of my kids, who we adopted as newborns. Their birth moms chose life for them. That is worth celebrating each year and each day, really. There is joy in unwrapping a gift that someone chose just for you. I get that. And I want that for my kids.

But I don't want stuff to drown out compassion for others who don't live the kind of life we have. Kids don't choose the circumstances into which they're born.

I know there are mommas in other places, probably closer than I realize, who spend time thinking about how their kids will have enough. I can't imagine wondering if my son will be educated and medicated in ways that will help preserve their future. To wonder if my child will ever break out of poverty is foreign to me. I know there are mommas who are scared their daughter may not have enough food.

When Ben turned 3 in November, we celebrated the life of Jean in Ecuador. He's one of the Compassion International kids we sponsor and share's my boy's birthday. The kids at my son's party made Jean birthday cards and donated money for us to send to him. We asked for the donations instead of gifts. Of course, some people still brought gifts. But they chose to bless Jean while celebrating Ben.

We recently received a letter from Jean. He thanked us for the money we sent and told us what he bought: two pieces of cloth to make a school uniform, a backpack, a pair of shoes, a ball, and two pairs of sandals for his sister. Y'all. Seriously. My kid got dinosaurs and superheros and Jean bought himself clothes and shoes for his little sister.

This is why I spend time thinking about stuff. I can't imagine Jean's momma wondering how she was going to buy her 11-year-old boy school clothes. But I can imagine how proud she was her boy wanted to share his birthday money with his sister, who needed shoes.

So we did it again when this past weekend at Cate's birthday party. My girl turned 6 and was willing to ask friends to bring donations for Roselyn, our Compassion girl in Guatemala who turned 6 about six months ago. Yes, this meant she got fewer gifts, but, let me tell you, my girl was blessed with some new horse toys, a cute cowgirl outfit, new crafts, and other goodies. She unwrapped joy.

But we also collected $147.54 for Roselyn and her family. The girls at the party colored pictures and made her cards. One sweet friend brought a Zip-loc bag full of change, the money she usually uses to buy stickers to send to her Compassion friend. I get the feeling Roselyn will unwrap joy when the stack of colors and blessings arrives at her house.

That's paying it forward. That's celebrating life. And that's compassion at its finest.

Tuesdays are God-sized Dream days around here and I'm linking this post along with many, many other dreamers on Holley Gerth's blog. This week's prompt was: Find a way to pay it forward. You’ve been encouraged in your God-sized dreams by your sisters here the last few months. How can you spread that encouragement forward by investing in other dreamers? Every momma is a dreamer when it comes to her child no matter where they live. 

I'm also linking up with Compassion Bloggers, who are joining together to be a voice for mothers. Please let me know if you want to know more about sponsoring a child. You can also help mommas and their babies by making a one-time donations or providing on-going support of Compassion's Child Survival Program

And on Wednesday, I decided to link up this post with Jennifer Dukes Lee and other storytellers as part of the weekly #TellHisStory. This is one of the big stories in our lives right now and one that remains on my heart in what has been a busy week.

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