Friday, August 29, 2014

On Real Life :: A Peek Into My Week

Standing in our lake house kitchen last weekend, I was talking to my friends Katie and Aaron when I noticed one set of cabinets was coming apart from the others, creating a gap where there wasn’t a gap earlier in the week. We kept talking, catching up because we don’t see each other more than once or maybe twice a year.

And then I wondered if the cabinets were going to fall. Such a thought interrupted a good conversation.

Greg and Aaron came back to our house that evening and retrieved some tools. They ended up securing the cabinets enough that we didn’t have to worry if they were going to fall on one of the five children 4 ½ years and younger who ran through the kitchen countless times as us adults continued catching up. Then Greg called his professional handyman Monday morning.

Slanted cabinets aren’t a big deal, but they require attention that we hadn’t planned on giving them.
And such as been my week.

Cate’s adenoidectomy – that’s a fancy word for a surgery to remove her adenoids – has been on the calendar for Wednesday morning for a month. So, of course, I wasn’t surprised when Ben woke up with a splotchy, red, swollen face Tuesday morning.

Thankfully, we only live three blocks from the local Medical Arts Building that’s attached to the hospital because I was there first thing Tuesday morning to sign some papers for Cate’s procedure 24 hours later and then went back about an hour later so Ben could get an oral steroid prescription to dry up his poison ivy that was nearing his right eye. And, yes, he had it on one other body part I probably shouldn’t discuss on a public blog.

His favorite nurses tried to teach him about poison ivy. “Leaves of three, let them be,” they said. They demonstrated with their fingers what poison ivy looks like. I showed him pictures on my phone. He listened and later repeated his own version: “Leave of three, don’t touch ‘em!”

Well, yes.

Of course, this is his second bout of poison ivy in the latter part of summer. And, no, I’m not surprised. He’s a boy who loves the outdoors – and is officially allergic to trees, weeds, and grass already. He takes allergy shots for those and apparently the occasional oral steroid for those leaves of three.

At least this time the steroid didn’t make him nuts, although I do think it’s interrupted his sleep. The nights run together, but I’ve lost count of how many nights he’s come into our bedroom while it’s still dark out because his nose was bleeding, he was restless, he wanted to check to see if Daddy had left for work yet, he wet the bed, or he thought it was an acceptable hour to start the day.

I don’t wish surgery of any kind on anyone ever, but the ENT removed “a big mess of adenoids” and in doing so she should be able to breathe better and be congested less. So that’s good news.

She was anxious going in, but she was brave. She came out of the anesthesia well. Even with a still-scratchy voice when the nurse wheeled her bed back to the room where we waited, Cate wanted to tell the nurse how she was going to eat chocolate pudding her friends Noah and Emma brought her.

We were home from the hospital by 9:30 a.m., so my girl and I spent the rest of the entire day at home. That part was especially glorious – right up there with the goodness that was the cinnamon roll Greg brought me for breakfast once Cate was back for surgery.

Silver lining, people.

She would tell you the silver lining of surgery involves treats and presents from friends. We’re dearly loved, that’s for sure. Plus Cate is well stocked in coloring supplies, new reading material, and treats. The texts, visits, and Facebook were more than social noise; they were reminders of community.

Her recovery is going well. Her throat is a little sore, but she returned to school the next day with only limitations at recess and gym class so none of her classmates would accidentally hit her sore throat and slow her recovery.

I’m grateful for health insurance because we’ve milked our plan for more procedures and appointments that would have seemed possible or necessary when this year started. I’m grateful to end the week with an Cracker Barrel breakfast with college friends this morning while the kids were in school. I’m grateful the no two days are ever the same.

Of course, not long after I published this post, I took Ben to get his twice-weekly allergy shots and when the nurse hoisted him up the table, she and I both noticed new patches of poison ivy on his ears, neck, arms, and legs. So much allergy shots. How about a steroid shot instead? Yep. 

And, yes, I’m grateful for normal life. Of course, by normal life I mean the one with sometimes slanted cabinets, conversations shared over all the other noises in life, and poison ivy that approaches a boy’s eye.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

LIGHT :: Living & Learning

Holley Gerth offers free words like these for your use.

My word for the year has been LIGHT. God kept bringing those five letters to mind, long before I knew what this year would be like.

Songs about light and finding our way out of the dark have really struck a chord with me. Josh Wilson’s “Pushing Back the Dark” is among the songs that will remind me of this year, when my heart broke for my dearest friend, when I faced scars I thought had healed, and when conflict invaded a peaceful sanctuary. I heard him talk about this song the other day on the radio: “We are all called to fight against the fall. … We can't do everything but we have to do something.”

Isn't that the truth? All this darkness isn’t always our fault. Yes, sometimes are actions have consequences we would have rather avoided, but human nature contributes to plenty of the darkness. Even so, we need to do something when we know the One who provides lasting light.

We need to mourn with friends and walk into their darkness.

We have to say yes even when we are scared and no when we are tempted otherwise.

We should give more than we get and believe in hope even when a situation seems impossible.

We need to move and lead and trust. Just standing around complaining and wishing isn’t going to change the world. But how we treat people in our daily lives, how we spend our time and money, and where we invest ourselves will.

Changing the world seems daunting, but God has been showing me it’s about making a difference where I am – in my kitchen, around my table, at my kids’ school, in the check-out lane at the grocery, in my car when other drivers can’t even hear me, and wherever else I step in this small town I call home. We don’t have to travel across the ocean or speak multiple languages – although that’s fine too.

We just have to shine our light, which is really God’s light. Just, I know. Easier said than done, but I’m thankful we get plenty of opportunities to try. And as we do the darkness will be less and the light from God alone will spill into the lives around us. Like the sun rising. Like a crack in the blinds. Like a flashlight from heaven.

Let’s not settled for barely being able to see in front of us. Let’s trust that God is leading us and preparing us for a place where darkness is no more. Let’s push back the dark and embrace the light.

So many great songs have reminded me of this message this year. I have an ongoing playlist that will remind of this time, this journey. I’ve shared some in previous posts {here and here and here}, but here are some more songs that are part of my playlist ::

Chasing the Light” by Mat Kearney :: “ ... Every bridge that keep on burning, every leaf that you keep on turning, every road that you find uncertain, pray for you now ... that you’ll figure it out. Every hope and dream that’s dying, every time that I see you crying, every step that you keep on climbing, pray for you now ... as you keep chasing the light. ...”

Learning to Be the Light” by Newworldson :: “I'm learning to be the light ... that makes the shadows hide. The light that breaks the curse of pride. The light that takes the weary in its arms. When it all came crashing down, there was only darkness all around. But in the distance I could see a flame ...”

Christ is Risen” by Matt Maher :: “... Christ is risen from the dead. We are one with him again. Come awake, come awake! Come and rise up from the grave. Oh death! Where is your sting? Oh hell! Where is your victory? Oh Church! Come stand in the light! The glory of God has defeated the night!”

Wanted” by Dara Maclean :: “From the day you were born and took your first breath, you opened your eyes and in came the light. He was watching you. But all of your life you couldn't shake the lies in your head, saying you're a mistake. Oh but you were made by a God who knows your name. He doesn't make mistakes ...”

Rise Again” by Needtobreathe :: “... We crawl through the abyss then we came through the other side. Heaviness is only temporary the daylight will soon break in. The sunlight can change a heart in the wake of a bitter end. Oh I know I’m gonna rise again. Set my sights on where I’m going and my goodbyes to where I've been ...”

What are you hearing these days from God and in song?

I'm linking this post with Holley Gerths Coffee for Your Heart, Beth Stiffs Three Word Wednesday, Jennifer Dukes Lees #TellHisStory, and Lyli Dunbar's Thought-Provoking Thursday.

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Peace in the Process :: The Launch

I wrote about 24,000 words, came up with four more as a title after much talking with friends, and slaved over eight others to be the subtitle. I have a manuscript that has been edited multiple times by friends and a professional. I have an absolutely beautiful cover that a talented graphic designer friend designed with very little input from me.

“Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family” is the story of God's faithfulness through a season of infertility, two adoption processes, and the days since. Through it all, I learned God hears the desires of our hearts, even when the words of our prayers don't truly capture them.

How God made our family has long been my favorite story to tell, so I’m thrilled to share it from beginning to end as a testimony to God’s faithfulness. Yes, it’s about how infertility was hard and adoption was a gift from God, but it’s also about the bravery of two birth moms and how God teaches so many lessons while we wait.

In mid-October, I’m going to release a self-published ebook on Amazon. Writing has long been my therapy, but making this book happen has taken more than my words.

This week while I’ve been working on putting the finishing touches on the manuscript, chatting with the cover designer, and making a launch plan, I read these words:

“Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.” Psalm 96:3

What encouragement from the One who wrote the story I’m getting ready to share with the world! I’m grateful for people who have and will come along side me to share about what God has done.

Some dear friends – both ones from my real, everyday life and ones from the bigger, online writing world – have said they will help spread my story. I’d love for some others to join me too.

Here’s the short version of what being part of my launch team means: I’ll give you a PDF version of my book at the beginning of September. You’ll read it and then help me promote the book starting Oct. 15 with status updates, tweets, pictures, and reviews. You don’t have to be a blogger. But if you are a blogger, I’d be happy to guest post at your place and/or would love to have you share a review of “Peace in the Process” sometime starting Oct. 15 and continuing throughout November, which is National Adoption Awareness Month.

If you’re interested in joining Peace in the Process :: The Launch, let me know either in the comments below or by emailing me at kristinhilltaylor (at) gmail (dot) com. I’ll give you more details and add you to the private Facebook group that will keep us connected the next few months. Otherwise, stay tuned for purchasing information and some fun giveaways coming in October.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Worthwhile words for your weekend

The kids may be back in school, but we're still soaking in some summer. This weekend we'll be at Kentucky Lake with friends, where we'll eat well, laugh much, swap stories, spent time on the water, and surely get in the water with a heat index that's expected to be in triple digits.

We've been spoiled with a cooler-than-usual summer, so I feel bad even discussing this heat. But, you know, it's hard to ignore when sweat is dripping down my back.

So, let's move on. 

How about some worthwhile words for your weekend?

NEEDTOBREATHE has some great live music I found on the Internet this week. You're welcome. {And, yes, now I'm way too eager to see NEEDTOBREATHE live in less than a month in Nashville!} I particularly love this version of "Something Beautiful."

"... And the water is risin' quick / And for years I was scared of it / We can't be sure when it will subside / So I won't leave your side, no I can't leave your side
Hey now, this is my desire / Consume me like a fire, 'cause I just want something beautiful / To touch me, I know that I'm in reach' / Cause I am down on my knees, I'm waiting for something beautiful ..."

And now for more somethings beautiful ...

I really can't get enough of Shauna Niequist right now. I'm reading "Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes." And then there's this refreshing blog post that supposed to be about what July taught her but encourages me in what God's teaching me:

"Here’s the good news, new information for a girl like me: I can rest when I’m tired, read when I’m hungry for words, reach out when I’m lonely. I don’t have to be strong all the time, or on all the time, or working all the time. And under that, creating a deep foundation for that, more good news: God made us, he loves us, and he’s inviting us into a way of living that’s drenched in grace, in true rest, in connection and communion with him and with each other."

Speaking of books, the ever-encouraging Holley Gerth has a new one out. It's a devotion called "What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days." I have no doubt it's packed with truth and wisdom. My copy is in the hands of the U.S. Postal Service somewhere. You can get yours from DaySpring, where the code HGFRIENDS will give you 20% off, or Amazon.

Meanwhile, I can't stop listening to "Greater" by MercyMe. My kids know I will turn it up every single time it comes on the radio and may even have it on repeat when they get in the car after school.

"Bring your tired / Bring your shame / Bring your guilt / Bring your pain / Don’t you know that’s not you’re name / You will always be much more to me
Every day I wrestle with the voices / That keep telling me I’m not right / But that’s alright /‘Cause I hear a voice and He calls me redeemed / When others say I’ll never be enough / And greater is the One living inside of me / Than he who is living in the world ...
Bring your doubts / Bring your fears / Bring your hurt / Bring your tears / There’ll be no condemnation here / You are holy, righteous and redeemed ...
There’ll be days I lose the battle / Grace says that it doesn’t matter / ‘Cause the cross already won the war ..."

You can listen here.

What's on your weekend agenda? Have you read or heard anything worth sharing?

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mid-week relief for all your days

Sometimes I get to Wednesday relieved I survived Monday and Tuesday.

When I start my to-do list of things that need to happen the next week, I always write it on my Monday calendar. And then I spend Monday running errands, replying to emails, and taking care of all sorts of business – like it all has to be done before lunch the first work day of the week.

Whatever doesn’t happen Monday is rolled over to Tuesday. And surely I get it all done by Wednesday, right?

Of course not!

There’s always something to be done. It’s not always important or even necessary. Some days I get the priorities messed up. And other days I realize it’s OK to sit down with a fiction book that may not help me solve all the world’s problems.

My tendency is to bow down to productivity. I’m such a work-before-play girl. But I’m slowly realizing that’s no way to live – not on Mondays or any other day of the week.

Because it doesn’t all have to be finished today.

It’s impossible it’ll all be done today.

So don’t forget to rest. I’m encouraging you while reminding myself: Read your Bible. Write someone you miss a letter. Call your friend on the phone. Pick up that fiction book you’ve been waiting to read. Get a pedicure. Go on a walk with a friend. Play a game with your kids. Bake a pie, if that’s your thing. Watch a movie with your husband.

Or just sit there.

There’s no right way to rest.

But there’s power in remembering that to-do list doesn’t haven’t to be conquered by lunchtime on Monday. I’ve been telling myself: It’s OK to slow down and sit down. In fact, there are plenty of days it’s not until I sit down I remember to Whom I should bow down. I lose sight of God when I’m rushing around, striking the next task off my Monday calendar like it owns me.

I’m linking this post with Jennifer Dukes Lee’s #TellHisStory and Holley Gerth’s Coffee for your Heart. I've written on this subject before, inspired by Jennifer Dukes Lee's "Love Idol."

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Out there where God calms my soul

I loved my view this weekend.

Greg kept calling it a lake, but I disputed that and referred to the body of were as a big pond. I have no idea if there’s a scientific difference, but we’re both stubborn like that.

I used to say I didn’t like the country. But now I sometimes dream about the quiet out there. Out there isn’t a specific place, but it’s away from the hustle and bustle that happens even a small town. It’s out of my extroverted comfort zone. It’s where life moves slower.

My out there involves water. I may live in a landlocked state without an ocean, but lakes are peaceful too. No, oceans and lakes aren’t the same, but both sing God’s glory.

And calm my soul.

My specific view Saturday involved my husband fishing off a pontoon, the kids going back and forth between fishing and talking about everything that came to their curious minds, my eyes reading the pages of my fiction book, Cate building a sand castle, sharing lunch around a picnic table, Ben playing in mud and then cleaning himself by swimming, Ben discovering the echo out there, and my mother-in-law gracefully joining us in the adventure.

But it wasn’t just around that lake/pond that offered a soul-filling view this past weekend. We had friends over three nights in a row. Another view I love: People around my table. We fed them with food and they fed me with conversation and community.

It’s a new week with another weekend on the horizon. I’m guessing God has all sorts of views ready for me and I don’t want to miss them.

Tell me about a view in your life you’ve loved lately.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Only & Never :: On God Being the Only Absolute

As a preschooler, I wanted to wear only pink and purple dresses. As a young adult, I refused to eat at the local Chinese buffet, telling my husband adamantly I didn’t like Chinese food.

I never wanted to live in Murray after I graduated from college, work for a specific small-town newspaper we criticized in my journalism classes, or send my kids to a private, Christian school. Of course, I also assumed I would have kids biologically when I was ready.

You know that cliché about “Never say never …”? Well. I’m here to tell you, it’s true.

And while you’re eliminating “never” from your vocabulary, but go ahead and strike out “only.” Never and only create absolutes that are impossible to uphold.

Truth is, we don’t have any authority to create absolutes. Only God is absolute.

God is The Way, The Truth and The Life (John 14:6). Unlike my childhood clothing preferences, God never changes. He’s steadfast and constant too – something that can’t be said about my food choices either.

Here I am, regularly wearing jeans, T-shirts and flip flops while eating (and sometimes even cooking!) Chinese food. I’ve been back in Murray for 12 years since moving away briefly after graduating. That newsroom I swore I’d never enter turned out to be the job I loved. I only left that job because God called me to something better and harder – mothering. Of course, those kids weren’t born in my way or my time. But God wrote a story of adoption that built my faith like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.

{Read the rest of the post at, where I'm thrilled to be a regular contributor.}

I'm linking up this post with the weekly Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood Gathering.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Words for your weekend

The Internet is full of much stuff. Some of it's good. Some it's offensive. And, well, I could go on and on. But I've read some good stuff lately that I believe is worth sharing. Below I'm just going to share some favorite quotes from each post, but they're worth reading in full if you're looking for some encouragement this weekend.

Because, really, there's some good stuff out there.

When You Ache Because of the World's Suffering by Kristen Strong

"... and she helps me clean up the mess before fetching me a new carton of blueberries. One soul can do that for another, help you through the mess. She can reflect Jesus Who is a helper, not a hinderer, Who is a burden-easer and shame-defyer. And what’s more, our Savior does this for all of us. He puts everything right again."

What Really Defines Motherhood by Kayse Pratt

"You are a momma. Nothing can change that. It’s not defined by the way your baby comes into this world, or how you feed that baby, or what material you use to catch their poop.

Can we get off our cause-driven soapboxes and agree on this one thing? God has made us mommas. He has filled us with wisdom and intuition and an intense, desperate, all-consuming love. We would do anything for our babies. God has given your child to you, and given you to your child. Your place as his momma is a divine appointment, and you can trust that He didn’t make a mistake!

Our stories are different. Our decisions are different. And that’s okay."

Public, Private, Or Home School? How Moms Can Support Each Other Regardless by Kim Hyland

"As Christian parents, our methods may vary, but we share the same goal: to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Keeping that common end goal in sight enables us to stay focused and determined as we walk out all the ups and downs of our education choices. Moreover, it frees us to support our fellow moms in their choices."

Other words I've read lately have come from books, both of which I highly recommend ...

"Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes" by Shauna Niequist

"Life at the table is life at its best to me, and the spiritual significance of what and how we eat, and with whom and where, is new and profound to me every day. I believe God is here among us, present and working." 

"Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity" by Jen Hatmaker

"He often healed people first; they believed second. If I’m wrong, the worst thing that could happen is that some desperate people are cared for, and I’m guessing Jesus will look the other way. He seems to favor unmerited grace. To me, this is a wheat-and-weeds issue, and since that’s not my call to make, I’ll just err on the side of mercy and let Jesus sort it out at the harvest."

Happy weekend, friends! Have you read anything good?

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Walking into a new season – together

Jaclyn and I used to meet at the park between finishing work and cooking dinner and walk laps. She told me about her day in an elementary school classroom and I shared stories from the small-town newsroom.

We talked about marriage and careers. We reminisced about our college days at the beginning of our friendship. We made plans and dreamed of what would come next.

And then neither of us got what we wanted next when we thought we wanted it.

Both of us, her first and then me, we wanted to be moms. Charting temperatures, having countless vials of blood drawn, going to more doctor’s appointments, keeping a calendar on paper although we knew it so well in our heads, and crying out to God dominated our conversations for what seemed like a long time.

She had a miscarriage not long after she first saw a positive pregnancy test. With one tube, she went on to birth three healthy babies in five years. Meanwhile, I never got good news from a pregnancy test, but adoption made a mom – twice in less than three years.

Together, we have five kids in five years.

And for the first time since we became mommas, they all went to school on Wednesday. Her first two and my oldest are all about a year apart, but then there’s 19-month gap before the next two, who are almost exactly nine months apart. So we don’t have a kindergartner between us this year, but we do have third-grade, second-grade, first-grade, and two different preschool classes covered.

I texted her Tuesday night: “Do you want to walk tomorrow morning WITH NO KIDS?”

Her response: “YES!”

We’ve spent some time as adult friends while our husbands or some other childcare provider had our kids, but it’s not regular. We mostly do life with these five in five years – or more recently some smaller combination of them – tagging along. We’ve pushed single and double strollers and figured out what to do with our kids who were too big for strollers while we walked. We’ve picked up toys our kids dropped while trying to share {or steal!} from each other. Those same kids have shared fruit snacks, claimed Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star as their song, and ended up in each other’s strollers.

That’s fine and good – and, really, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This is what we longed for. 

Seeing these kids who don’t know life apart from each other is the best testimony to God’s faithfulness. He heard the desires of our hearts. But walking our laps at the park Wednesday morning reminded me of just how far we’ve come.

Yes, we’re mommas now, but we’re also not the same people who walked and talked a decade ago.

We’ve experienced joy and pain in ways we never expected. We’ve settled into a community here that we weren’t sure we’d ever have. We’ve quit jobs and taken on new ones. We’ve changed more diapers than I’d ever care to count, swapped kids to help each other, and gathered around each other’s tables and in each other’s mini vans.

This is our life. And here we are in a whole new season – together.

Linking up with Lyli Dunbar's Thought-Provoking Thursday.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Fresh Start :: On Brokenness & Restoration

Sitting on the front porch, the spring-like breeze made me forget today was our last day before school starts tomorrow. The kids played in the front yard while I finished editing a friend’s book. A couple guys worked on building us a deck in the back yard. The kids read/browsed books of their own while I soaked in the silence.

We met Greg for lunch at the Thai restaurant of the kids’ choosing to celebrate summer’s end. Honestly, I haven’t felt like celebrating. Summer went too fast. It’s not that there was more I wanted to do, but I want more of what we’ve done. I want more adventures and more afternoons at the pool.

But today has been good for my weary soul.

This summer has been full of fun times – with friends, at amusement parks, on the road, in our front yard, in our pajamas, on the calendar, and in spontaneous moments.

And this summer also has been a time of processing old wounds.

Watching a dear friend walk through a family situation that reminds of my own history that left the deepest scars has brought me to a place I wasn’t expecting. I’d walk through the hard days with this friend over and over again, but I wasn’t emotionally prepared for where her journey would take me. I wasn’t ready for the scabs in my heart to be ripped off. I thought the scars were fading, but I realized this summer they still need to heal.

So today as the spring breeze blew through my last summer day, I typed out some words I’ve held inside for decades. A relationship that plagued me when I was 8 is still haunting me at 35 years old. Through my husband’s encouragement, my friends’ support, and God’s grace, I’ve realized I need to forgive. The anger I’ve held onto for so long has overflowed into my life as a wife, mom, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. The bitterness has robbed me of the joy and peace God wants me to know.

I get the sense there’s freedom on the other side.

Yes, the kids will go back to school tomorrow. But our adventures don’t end here. Hopefully I’ll get to the point of forgiveness sooner rather than later. Because that’s just the beginning of whatever God has for me next.

“I don’t want to get so stressed about bedtime this year,” I told Greg at lunch while my kids listened. They all knew what I meant because they’ve regularly witnessed by nagging, rushing of putting the kids away because I’m often tired by daylight’s end. Really, I’m weary from the inside out.

Bedtime sounds minor, but it’s in the ordinary moments I’m realizing God is continuing a work he started long ago. And it’s here in the process of getting to the other side of forgiveness that I’ve learned only through brokenness does God have a chance to restore.

“Become broken and poured out for hopeless people. Become a living offering, denying yourself for the salvation and restoration of humanity. …

Doesn’t this concept of being broken for others ring true? It’s a spiritual dynamic that bears out physically. Why is it so exhausting to uphold someone’s heavy, inconvenient burden? Why are we spent from shouldering someone’s grief or being an armor bearer? Why is it that lifting someone out of his or her rubble leaves us breathless? Because we are the body of Christ, broken and poured out, just as He was. 
Mercy has a cost: someone must be broken for someone else to be fed. The sermon changed your life? That messenger was poured out so you could hear it. The friends who stood in the gap during your crisis? They embraced some sacrifice of brokenness for your healing.” 
{Jen Hatmaker in “Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity”}

It doesn’t feel like summer anymore – both with this relief in humidity and the school calendar looming. But I want to hold onto a summer mentality that recognizes one more book, an extra song, or an adventure that stretches beyond 7:30 p.m. is okay. More importantly, I want to remember what God’s taught me this summer: Our brokenness can feed each other and give God a chance to make us new.

Perhaps a fresh start with the new school year won’t be so bad after all.

I'm sharing this post with link-ups at Jen Ferguson's Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood Gathering, Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart, Beth Stiff's Three Word Wednesday, and Jennifer Dukes Lee's #TellHisStory

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Soaking in what's left of summer

We’ve been soaking in summer before school starts again. Several of my friends sent their kids back to school this week. I’m thankful we’ve got until Wednesday. Six more days.

I might be ready by then.

I might not.

But it doesn’t matter if I’m ready. School starts Wednesday.

I’m pretty sure my kids will be ready ...

Seasons are like that. They come when they come, even if we’re not ready. They overlap sometimes too. It’s probably not going to cool off just because my kids are going back to school soon. We’ll probably still get to swim on the weekends for the rest of the month.

I left my calendar blank this week so we could fill it as we wanted. So far the kids and I swam with friends two different days, spent another day at a nearby water park, and eaten dinner out with friends. Greg and I watched movies and TV – “The Big Wedding” the other day; “Covert Affairs” on Tuesday night; “Tiger Eyes” on Wednesday night only because I loved the book as a teenager; “Stuck in Love” last night – after the kids crashed in their beds.

{Don’t worry. I bought the kids’ school supplies a couple weeks ago in an effort to take care of business so I could avoid worrying about school until I absolutely had to. Good plan, huh?}

I told Greg I would resume cooking and cleaning eventually. He was satisfied when I made some chocolate chip banana bread out of our too-old bananas.

I may go to the grocery today, which would be a good step toward resuming that cooking chore I’ve neglected. The kids and I may organize and clean a little more. Or perhaps we’ll drop off that pile of stuff I’ve purged.

Of course, we are still in our pajamas and it’s almost lunch time.

The one thing I know for sure about the rest of this week, the weekend, and a couple days next week: We’re still soaking in summer.

When do your kids go back to school? Are you ready? How are you soaking in the remaining tidbits of summer?

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Dozen Years

I have no idea how many times in our 12 years of marriage Greg has said, "I have an idea ..."

Honestly, I haven't always been on board with his ideas. Especially in the early years. Yet some of his ideas have been good ones.

That's how marriage is. Two people. Lots of ideas. Some are more mutual than others. Some are better than others.

But marriage is best when the ideas are welcomed. Some ideas won't come to fruition. Others will fail. And still some turn out way better than expected.

It's in the dreaming and discussing and pursuing ideas together that make a marriage. There are times I should be slower to reject his ideas I'm not so sure about.

Ideas go both ways. Greg has embraced plenty of my ideas, but, of course, not all of them. It’s a balance that can be hard to achieve. But, I’ll tell you this, I like marriage more the longer I’m in it.

If people planned for marriages like we planned for weddings, families would be better for it. People have Pinterest boards with wedding ceremony and reception ideas for who knows how long before their wedding, but do people pin advice on how to be a good husband and wife? Do people research how to love their spouse well?

Greg and I got married on the hottest day Louisville had had in five years – which I know thanks to my almanac-quoting uncle. Four friends and my sister stood next to me and Greg’s two brothers, my brother, and two of his friends stood with him. Friends played music, snapped the pictures {with a film camera!}, cooked the food, and baked the cake.

The day was smooth and simple – as far as weddings go. Nearly everyone we loved was gathered together in one room. We spent so much time talking to them at the reception that we didn’t get a chance to eat and ordered Domino’s when we got to our hotel room.

Our wedding day isn't going to show up on any Pinterest boards or Instagram feeds, but I wouldn’t change a thing about our ceremony or reception.

But I would have spent more time preparing for marriage. I could have supported his ideas quicker, initiated less conflict over the ideas I didn’t like, and nagged less about my own ideas. Marriage, along with motherhood, has been the most sanctifying experience of my life. I’m a better person because Greg chooses to love me – and my crazy ideas.

Some years have been harder than others, but there’s nobody else I’d rather be in it with than my entrepreneur, college sweetheart husband. Here’s to our 12 years, the years to come, and more ideas than I can even count.

Other anniversary posts: Five yearsSix yearsSeven yearsNine years. Ten years. Eleven years.

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Friday, August 1, 2014

{Review & Giveaway} Wherever the River Runs

I've never been on over-seas mission trip, but reading about Kelly Minter's adventures in the Amazon resonated with my heart. There's no guilt to serve people and Jesus like she did, but there is encouragement to love and serve somewhere.

In "Wherever the River Runs," Kelly tells of how spending some time in the Amazon with its people changed her faith and perspective. The way she tells these stories is really more like taking me there with beautiful word pictures. Scattered throughout the descriptions of life in the Amazon are nuggets of truth that flow naturally and make me think.

I appreciated how Kelly brought the lessons she learned home. Yes, she served the people of Amazon for a week at a time, but she lived what she believed regardless of where she was.

"Sometimes it takes encountering a world vastly different from your own to wake you up to what's right in front of you. ... I was quickly going to realize that Jesus's specific call to love my neighbor was going to be, in some ways, more difficult than loving the people across the ocean with exotic wildlife. Loving the poor for a week at a time with your family and best friends on an exquisite adventure is rather different from slogging through the complexities and choices that surround the suffering and needy who dwell in your own community."
{Kelly Minter in "Wherever the River Runs"} 

Lately, I've realized being needy isn't always physical. People make choices that have ripple effects on themselves as well as their spouses, kids, friends, and relatives. Loving on people who are making poor choices near your own community is hard.

But it's necessary.

"It was Jesus who said that we are to do His work while it is still day, and as long as I have breath, I want to make the daylight count, whether at home or in the Amazon."
{Kelly Minter in "Wherever the River Runs"}

His work looks different for everyone. Sometimes feeding a soul means making a meal for someone who had a hard day or inviting a family over even on a school night. Loving someone may mean helping her find a home, a job and a car. We offer money, time, prayers, food, a listening ear, advice based on truth, rides, and invitations, but sometimes more than just that we can offer Jesus to someone who needs to know his love. "Wherever the River Runs" reminded me of such.

ABOUT THE BOOK :: In "Wherever the River Runs," Kelly Minter invites us on a journey down a river teeming with piranhas and caimans, as well as machete-wielding mothers, heroic jungle pastors, faith-filled children, and miracles too seldom experienced in our part of the world. Kelly's honest and engaging narrative pulls back the curtain on one of the most captivating places on earth as well as on parts of the gospel we may be able to recite but have never fully believed.

On this beautiful adventure through the jungles of Brazil and the tangles of the soul, Kelly rediscovers Jesus among a forgotten people living well beyond the corners of her previously defined faith -- a people who draw her back to their country, their pain, and their hope in Him, again and again.

This book officially released today.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :: Kelly Minter lives in Nashville, Tenn., and serves the Lord passionately both across the U.S. and internationally in a variety of creative roles. An acclaimed author, musician, Bible study creator and teacher, she is passionate to see women impacted by Jesus and the Bible.

A GIVEAWAY! Use the Rafflecopter below to enter to win a copy of this book. Only U.S. and Canadian residents may enter. A winner will be chosen randomly on Aug. 8. Congratulations to Elise Daly Parker, who wins this book! It's coming your way soon, Elise.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

FlyBy Promotions provided me with the book in exchange for this mention on my blog and will mail the winner of the giveaway a copy. I only recommended products my family has used and I believe you'll like too. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. 

I'm linking up this post with Circles of Faith's First Friday Book Faves and Creative Home Keeper's monthly Book Notes.

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