Thursday, October 30, 2014

10 Things I Learned at Disney

October has been a crazy month. And I mean that in a good way. But, goodness, it’s flown by ...

We went to Disney World and then I came home and released a book. I rarely do one thing at a time. So, needless to say, it’s been an exciting month. And these two topics are pretty much what I’ve shared about this month. But I have a little bit more I want to share about Disney, so that’s what I’m doing today.

In no particular order, here are 10 things I learned while at Disney ...

1. Animal Kingdom is great.

It was on the schedule for our second day of parks, but I didn’t realize just how much we’d love it. Multiple of our favorite Disney things were there.

2. Magic Kingdom is best done over two days. 

And I liked that our two days weren’t back to back. We were able to do everything we wanted, except the new Seven Dwarf Mine Train. We saw both the afternoon Festival of Fantasy and the nighttime Electric Parade and preferred the earlier parade. Although all the lights at night were pretty.

3. Building in a day “off” was good for us. 

Two parks and then we went to Downtown Disney for lunch at T-Rex and some shopping, especially at LEGO Imagination Center. Then we spent some time swimming at the hotel.

4. Magic Bands, the dining plan, and Fast Passes are amazing. Magical, really. 

We didn’t regret the dining plan investment and loved the freedom and ease it created. To have that as well as our hotel entry, park admission, credit card and Fast Passes all on our Magic Bands was convenient. Even though I don’t normally wear watch, I kept looking at it to see what time it was! It’s not that magical!

5. Doing just Disney is more than enough. 

We would have loved Sea World, Legoland, or the beach, but I’m glad we focused on Disney. We didn’t even do EPCOT at Disney because I wasn’t sure my young kids would love it like the other parks, plus four days of parks just the right amount for us.

6. My kids – who are 4 and 7 – are at the perfect ages.

I’m glad we didn’t go to Disney any sooner and I’m glad we didn’t have to haul a stroller. Ben does still sometimes nap so he went the whole trip (minus 30 or so minutes while traveling from the park to the hotel) without a nap, which stretched him. But he managed and he slept well at night. We only kept them up late one night. Everything was really exciting to them. Of course, there’s still plenty to do if we go back when they’re older!

7. The My Disney Experience app is helpful.

Download it and maintain enough of your mobile device battery to use it throughout the day to keep track of wait times, Fast Passes, shows, and dining details. The only downfall is once you use the three Fast Passes you reserved ahead of time, you can’t add the subsequent Fast Passes. The Disney lady at one of the kiosks, where you can add Fast Passes, told me this feature is in the works.

8. Disney customer service and hospitality are top-notch. 

One of my favorite examples is not dealing with our luggage after checking our bags at the Nashville airport. Disney people retrieved them in Orland and then brought them to our room while we were out eating dinner that first night. Likewise, we checked them at the hotel before we boarded the bus for the airport and didn’t have to handle them again until we picked them up at the baggage claim in Nashville. Despite the hyperbole of Disney being the happiest, most magical place on earth, there really are happy, helpful people working there. And the parks are so clean, even with the crowds.

P.S. The customer service of the Disney planner we used also was fabulous. I highly recommend Wish Upon a Star with Jennifer Hart. And, hey, this service is free!

9. My kids can be rendered speechless. 

Everyone in our life except them knew we were going. We managed to surprise and shock them! More on that in an earlier post.

10. Buying souvenir items before we went was good advice from seasoned Disney traveling friends. 

It really nixed the “gimmes” that could easily come with all those Disney gift shops. I bought the kids some T-shirts, accessories, and pajamas that we gave them throughout the week. I gave them some coloring books and other Disney-related activities for both plane rides and had glow-in-the-dark bracelets and necklaces for the night we stayed late for the nighttime parade. Thanks to zulily sales, I found great deals on fun souvenirs in the months leading up to our trip and was able to incorporate gifts for the kids throughout the week. Ben’s gifts were wrapped in Planes paper and Cate’s in Frozen. They all were labeled for which morning or evening I wanted them to open them. They did each have some souvenir money from the grandmas, so they spent that at Downtown Disney, mostly on Legoes.

If you’ve been to Disney, what would  you add? 

Want to read more about Disney so, do so here: Our Favorite {Disney} Things7 Reasons to Use a Disney Vacation Planner. And you can see even more pictures here.

I'm linking up with Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky, who inspired me to document life this way. I love these monthly posts that document life. Read more previous posts: {From 2013} June. July. August. September. October. November. {From 2014} January. February. March. April. May. June. July. August. September.

Want more stories? Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, peek into my life on Instagram, follow 152 Insights at Bloglovin', or subscribe to receive "Insights in Your Inbox."

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Unforced rhythms of grace

Earlier today, I published a post about being reminded about the importance of rest – a lesson God put on my heart when my kids were sick for almost a week. And then I rejoiced because everyone was better.

And then my daughter cried this morning before school for personal reasons that I’ll attribute to a possible urinary tract infection.

I was almost embarrassed to call the pediatrician’s office. Again. Seriously?! Our appointment this afternoon makes FIVE VISITS IN EIGHT DAYS. Sure enough, she has an infection. I did go ahead and get Ben an allergy shot too. You know, while we were there. Again.

Back to that post I published this morning about God’s reminder to be still and know he is God. Well, I wrote it yesterday afternoon. And guess what our “Breaking Free” lesson last night was about? Yep.


And to further prove God knows what I need to hear, Monday night I was crying to Greg about being exhausted about a couple hard things I’ve been processing. I verbally vomited on him through my tears and then said multiple times, “I’m really just exhausted.” I was weary of thinking about how to forgive and move forward. I was tired of having an emotional Band-Aid ripped off over and over again. I didn’t want to see my friend hurt anymore. I wanted her husband to step out of the deceptive illusions he’s been putting his faith in.

That kind of exhaustion was clouding my perception. And it had nothing to do with my kids being sick, except maybe I had more time to think about it.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” {Matt. 11:28-30}

And I really love those verses from The Message:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Unforced rhythms of grace.

Too often I try to force life. But that’s not what living in the light is about.

Nearly every word Beth Moore spoke in that video lesson spoke to me. I took so many notes in the margins. I don’t want to live in “captivity of activity.” So often rest is a mental, emotional state of mind, but sometimes it’s physically needed too.

I can rest because I don’t have to perform for God. He knows who I am. I’m not in charge of all my loved ones and their behaviors. God will fight for me and doesn’t always call me to defend my opinions or perspectives. I don’t have to keep repenting for the same sin. There’s grace and forgiveness.

I could go on and on about a need doesn’t necessitate a calling. I don’t have to set out to please everyone or anyone because, really, if that’s my motivation, I’m making myself a bondservant to whoever it is I want to approve me. Seeking Christ needs to be my only motivation.

The “Breaking Free” study has been hard because it’s pressed me to look at some childhood hurt. But it’s been packed with truth and wisdom that applies to specific situations in my life – and it’s setting me on the path toward freedom.

Perhaps I’m actually finding rest in a couple areas where my heart has been so heavy and exhausted. And hopefully my kids will be well again soon. Regardless, being yoked to Jesus is full of freedom and rest, even when life requires an antibiotic.

Read my earlier post from today and the beginning of this story here :: Be still & know.

Want more stories? "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family" is available on Amazon. Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, peek into my life on Instagram, follow 152 Insights at Bloglovin', or subscribe to receive "Insights in Your Inbox."

Be still & know

I spent most of Tuesday – Friday last week and then Monday at home with a sick kid or two. Other than my kids’ fevers, the first few days were glorious. I started binge-watching “Gilmore Girls” while I scrapbooked pictures from 2012. My kids were on their respective ends of the couch, under their own blankets, watching various shows and movies.

In those six days, I did take someone – or someones – to the pediatrician FOUR TIMES. I’m going to advocate for a frequent patient card where after ten visits we get a free allergy shot or something.

First, Ben had strep throat, but, of course, wasn’t complaining about his throat. I only took him in because he had a fever and NO energy for days. That same night, Cate started running a fever, so I called first thing the next morning to get her tested for strep. Because, really, why else would she be running a fever, right?


She didn’t have strep. So back home I went with two feverish kids.

Ben perked up Thursday, but Cate was still sick. That night her fever reached 103.4 even with ibuprofen in her system. So Friday morning I called the nurse. She suggested we redo the strep test that afternoon.

Still negative.

It’s not that the nurses and I hoped she had strep. We just assumed she did. Blood work revealed unnamed viral junk was causing the fever. Of course she woke up the next morning fine.

Hooray, everyone was fine on Saturday! Fine enough that Cate finished her make-up work from missing three days of school. THREE DAYS of school absences! There was a time in my life that would have been unacceptable.

But not now. I just spent more time with the Gilmore girls while my girl rested.

So we had a normal weekend at the soccer field, at the MSU football game, with friends at our church’s annual fall party …

And then Ben started coughing and speaking with a gruff, scratchy voice. He went to sleep fine Sunday night but woke up multiple times in the first couple hours crying, saying his throat hurt, and complaining that he couldn’t breathe.

Um. That seems serious. And he was still taking Amoxicillin for strep throat.

He ended up sleeping in our bed that night, which, if you know me, explains how bad he felt and how much sympathy and worry I had for him. I don’t like extra people in my bed. Even my favorite little people.

He coughed and grasped for breath all night.

So, yes, I started my Monday morning calling the pediatrician’s office. Again. 

Turn out he had croup. A dose of oral steroid, more children’s shows on Netflix, and a couple breathing treatments were what the doctor ordered this time.

When I wasn’t watching “Gilmore Girls,” I was reminded that resting is important. Our lives are so cluttered – and often with really great people and places. But we are never going to be able to do it all. Really, I’m learning that I shouldn’t really even try. Sometimes saying no to a good thing gives room for the best thing. And sometimes even extroverts need to stay home.

Dare I say he woke up Tuesday morning almost totally himself. And I rejoiced for his well-being as well as my own extroverted self who missed being out with her people. I walked and talked with one friend. And then later I texted another: I really want Qdoba for lunch. Any interest in meeting me there?

I felt my heart being filled back up again. And I knew those six days before had changed me in small ways, which when added to the other experiences and moments build on the story that’s being written.

{Turns out there's a Part 2 to this post. Read it here :: Unforced rhythms of grace.}

I'm also sharing an introduction of myself at Beth Stiff’s blog, where she will have a fun announcement next week when Three Word Wednesday returns.

I'm linking up this post with Jennifer Dukes Lee’s #TellHisStory and Holley Gerth’s Coffee For Your Heart

Want more stories? "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family" is available on Amazon. Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, peek into my life on Instagram, follow 152 Insights at Bloglovin', or subscribe to receive "Insights in Your Inbox."

Monday, October 27, 2014

{Giveaway} A Lifelong Love

In the middle of “A Lifelong Love” by Gary Thomas, I read paragraphs aloud to Greg. They reminded about where we’d been or our friends’ current marriage struggle. The words were true and offered hope that people can change.

“Pursuing a more intimate union means wrestling with how radical this notion is that two people become one. This pursuit, through glorious, will go against every selfish fiber in our being. Many people want intimacy in the abstract more than they want it in reality – we want the benefits of being known and loved, but we hate the process of dying to ourselves that it takes to get there. … Once you get married, everything changes. Everything. Even something like sin becomes a shared burden. Nothing is faced alone. There is no dividing up, because you can’t divide one person without killing him, and you can’t divide spouses without killing the marriage.”

{Gary Thomas in “A Lifelong Love” – page 190}

I’m so grateful I’m not the same person Greg married 12-plus years ago. I’m sure he’s glad too. There were some hard years in there – mostly because I didn’t know how to love like Christ loves. Of course, I still haven’t mastered it but I’ve come a long way.

And that’s what Gary Thomas’ book is about. “A Lifelong Love” encourages people to make intentional choices in their marriages and equips readers with truths that can help them thrive in their marriages and lives. The subtitle alone prompts a question worth asking: What if marriage is about more than just staying together?

Oh, the possibilities.

“A Lifelong Love” builds on Thomas’ “Sacred Marriage,” which shows how God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy. Now, be encouraged to change the world around you, starting with your home and overflowing into the other places you go.

ABOUT THE BOOK :: Discover how to live out a sacred marriage. You believe your marriage has eternal purposes. you long for it to reach beyond your home and encourage others. But what does it look like to have a spiritually intentional relationship in the midst of dirty dishes, work deadlines, and car pools? This book includes discussion questions for couples. Hardcover. 316 pages. Official website.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :: Gary Thomas is writer-in-residence at Second Baptist Church in Houston, a frequent guest on Focus on the Family and FamilyLife Today radio, and a popular speaker. His award-winning books, including The Sacred Search, have been translated into over a dozen languages and together have sold more than a million copies worldwide. Thomas and his wife have been married 30 years and have three children. Author website. Twitter. Facebook

AND A GIVEAWAY :: One of you will win your own copy of “A Livelong Love” by Gary Thomas. Use the Rafflecopter below to enter. A winner will be selected randomly Friday, Oct. 31.

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Many thanks to FlyBy Promotions/Propeller Consulting LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winner and opinions are 100 percent my own and are not influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a copy of the book to review.

Want more stories? "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family" is available on Amazon. Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, peek into my life on Instagram, follow 152 Insights at Bloglovin', or subscribe to receive "Insights in Your Inbox."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

On living in the light

“You know, momma, I just don’t like the dark.”

Those words came from my 7-year-old girl when I was questioning about why she was having trouble going to sleep the other night. It’s a regular thing: She reads in bed reading for some time. She knows it’s time to turn out the light, but she’s hesitant. And she’s so much like me: Her mind gets going right when she should turn it off. But it’s not that easy, I know.

And, really, who likes the darkness?

So I give her a hug and kiss. I tell her I love her. I say a quick prayer for God to calm her and give her rest. And I don’t see her again until I check on her before I head to bed and then nearly nine hours later awake her for school.

LIGHT has been my word for the year. It’s a popular blogger thing to choose a word for the new year. Like a trendy resolution. I like words, so I’ve been going along with it the for past several years.

But this year has been different.

God has shown me LIGHT in so many areas. I’ve worked through some childhood hurt that has spilled over into my adult life. I’ve witness God’s glory in some hard days. I hear the word in songs and realize its meaning in my everyday life. Book after book I’ve read have pointed me the LIGHT – such a stark contrast the darkness so many of us fear.

And I’m in the middle of “Breaking Free” by Beth Moore. If you’ve gone through the study, you get it. If you haven’t, you should. So many times I’ve felt caught in the doorway between darkness and light. I want to shut the door to the dark room and live in the room with all the natural light coming in through the windows. I spend so much time there, but sometimes meander back to the darkness.

I’m learning how to let go of that tendency. I’m learning to grab onto God because with him there is no darkness. And it’s easier to close my eyes at night because I know I’m not alone. That’s what I want my girl to learn too.

She’s a talker and a thinker. For as many words as she says, I’m pretty sure she has even more thoughts. These conversations about the literal darkness have spurred on so many good words between us.

A few days passed after her confession that she just doesn’t like the darkness. Then she brought me three $10 bills and eleven pennies. She wanted to give it to me. I’m not sure why. She just said it was a gift. As sweet and sincere as the gesture was, I told her I’d like to her to think of something else to do with that $30.11.

After a few minutes, she said she’d like to send Roselyn, our Compassion International-sponsored girl in Guatemala, a gift. We are only allowed to mail flat things like coloring pages, sticker sheets, and letters, so I encouraged her to come up with some like that.

Then her big, brown eyes lit up: “Can I help some other kids like Roselyn?”

I’m not sure she comprehends how “kids like Roselyn” live. Truthfully, I’m not sure I do either. But the fact she wants her $30.11 to help someone else is good. She went to bed with a gift catalog – you know, the one where you can choose meals to feed the hungry and medicine to help the sick – and I didn’t hear about the darkness from her that night.

The next morning, she showed me what she had circled. “Mom, you may need to help me. These things add up to $67.”

You can’t put a price on LIGHT, but I’m certain $67 will buy more than some gospel tracks, hot meals, and medicine. That money will shine the light on some dark situations – in Guatemala, maybe in Ecuador, and certainly right here in my own American home.

It's nearing the Christmas season. I know. Choosing gifts for others is such a joy. We've loved helping others through Compassion International and have had good experiences doing so. I'd encourage you to check out those gift catalogs for a meaningful, life-changing kind of gift-giving. We've also loved sponsoring children through Compassion International. There's plenty of children who could benefit from your prayers, money, and relationship. 

Other posts about LIGHT :: One Word. Songs of Spring. Living & Learning

I'm linking this post with Lyli Dunbar's Thought-Provoking Thursday

Want more stories? "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family" is available on Amazon. Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, peek into my life on Instagram, follow 152 Insights at Bloglovin', or subscribe to receive "Insights in Your Inbox."

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

God works in the wait

In celebration of “Peace in the Process,” the ebook I officially released last week, I wanted to share an excerpt. And keep reading because there’s another giveaway.

God had my season of infertility in his hands. He was working even when I doubted and wondered and tried to do it all myself. I wish I had known then that working harder isn’t always the answer. I would have rested in the promises of God and worshipped more instead of working harder.

I was ready to have a baby. My husband was beyond ready. But God said wait.

Waiting is hard, yet it is something we all do. Every day, many times a day, really.

We wait for lights to turn green. We wait for people to return calls and extend invitations. We wait for the mail to be delivered. We wait for dinner to be ready and bedtime to come. We wait for the next season and the next adventure. We wait for babies to be born, job promotions to come, sickness to pass, people to understand what we meant, the necessary finances to come.

We wait.

Waiting was a theme in God making me a momma. The waiting broke my heart, but I have since learned I didn’t approach that season the way God intended. I waited for a positive pregnancy test like I was wasting my time. I didn’t draw near to God or seek His truth in the moment.

Years after that wait, I read about Ruth waiting for Boaz to resolve the matter of caring for her and her mother-in-law, Naomi, in the proper way. In Take Refuge, a study of Ruth, authors Lara Williams and Katie Orr write about how waiting is active. “Wait” means to “bind,” which is interesting to remember while reading Isaiah 40:30-31: “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

What if while waiting to become a momma, I was binding myself to the Lord?

In “31 Days to Coming Alive,” author Jenn Hand prompted me to think about waiting again. Her words reminded me how waiting is always present and an active part of our faith journey. “… as believers, we are ultimately in the waiting. We are waiting for the fulfillment of the promise of heaven. We are in the here-and-now, created with restless pangs of longing for the promise-yet-not-experienced.”

We are sanctified and perfected in the waiting.

The light will turn green. Your phone will ring. The invitation will come. Dinner will be marinated and baked. It will be time for rest. Spring always comes. New life abounds. Healing comes. God provides exactly what you need.

I have no doubt spending an eternity with our Creator will be worth the wait, too. Until then, let’s not waste time mourning our wait. Let’s live, embracing the here-and-now, knowing waiting is an active part of life.

God works in the wait.

Let’s keep this party going with a copy of “31 Days to Coming Alive,” a devotional by my God-sized dreaming friend Jennifer Hand. I’ve told you about the book before and quoted it in my own story. And now I want to share it, thanks to Jenn’s generosity in donating a paperback copy for one of you!

Use the Rafflecopter below for multiple entries and a winner will be selected randomly Wednesday, Oct. 29. This giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


I'm linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee for #TellHisStory and Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart

Want more stories? Buy "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family" on Amazon. Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, peek into my life on Instagram, follow 152 Insights at Bloglovin', or subscribe to receive "Insights in Your Inbox."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

7 Reasons to Use a Disney Vacation Planner

When Greg and I started talking in January about taking our kids to Disney World, a couple different people recommended I talk with Jennifer Hart, who is a Disney vacation planner and happens to live in my town. So I sent her an email with some questions about what I was thinking for our trip that was being planned for nine months later. She emailed back quickly with advice and then quotes and then recommendations. She reminded me when it was time to book dining reservations and fast passes. And we even returned home to a sweet card from her.

Let’s welcome Jennifer here today as she answers the question “Should I use a travel agent to help me with my Disney vacation?” And, hey, you don’t have to live in Murray, Ky., to use her. We just happen to live in the same town, which was convenient for connecting a couple times before we headed to Orlando.

 "Should I use a travel agent to help me with my Disney vacation?" Well, because I am a travel agent, I bet my answer is obvious … ABSOLUTELY! You know that I am obviously biased, but let me tell you why …

1. The services I provide are FREE!

Really! I am paid a commission by the Disney for vacation packages that I book. There are no behind the scenes mark ups or hidden fees. Disney has very standard pricing and the company offers the same rates to all travel agents that it has on its website.

You may be wondering why Disney would pay a travel agent if they could book all of the travel themselves? The answer is actually pretty simple: Travel agents work to make your trip better. The more fun you have on your vacation, the more likely you are to go back.

2. I specialize in Disney, so I have knowledge, training, and experience. 

Not only do I have a LOVE of all things Disney and lots of experience, but I have also done training and taken tests to "earn my ears." I have to work hard to keep my knowledge current with extra reading, online training, and onsite training.

I often get calls from overwhelmed people trying to plan the perfect Disney vacation for their families. Let’s face it, there are a lot of moving parts to a Disney vacation: transportation, choosing a hotel, sorting out all of the ticket options, dining reservations, figuring out which park to visit on which day, what FastPass+ selections should you make, whether to buy the Memory Maker, and a million other decisions. It is a lot to figure out! I like to get to know my families a little bit, figure out the budget, and help them make the most out of their time and budget.

3. I know what the discounts are and where to find them.

I have worked with many clients who were very surprised when my quote was substantially less than the exact same vacation they priced out themselves. Sometimes, you have to know that there is a sale and where to find it on the website in order to get that price. Sometimes shifting your days or even adding a day to your vacation can make it cheaper. I help you figure out how to save the most money!

My favorite story is about a family who called and said that they wanted a vacation to Disney and knew exactly what they wanted. She just wanted me to book it for them. She was in a bit of a hurry, so I got the information I needed in order to book her vacation. As I began pricing out her vacation to book it, I realized that what she thought she wanted was not really the best idea. I called her back and asked if she could check in one day earlier. She thought that she was pretty set on her travel dates until I explained that if she checked in one day earlier, her entire vacation would cost $800-$900 less! A longer vacation for less money - SURE!

If someone books a vacation with me, I am constantly looking for sales and will apply the best sale. We cannot stack sales, so I always pick the best one to save the most money. If you book through Disney direct, you can do this too, but you have to watch for the sales and call Disney yourself to have the special applied. They do not automatically do it for you!!

4. I can help you save money in other ways.

Personally, I try to spend your money like I would spend my own. Sometimes spending a little extra gives you a lot, but sometimes spending more is just spending more. I also try to let my clients know where they should splurge and where they could save a few dollars. Sometimes you don’t need as much as you think.

On many occasions I have tried to talk clients out of a more expensive vacation. Yes, that does mean I make less in commission, but I am much more concerned that you feel like you got your money worth. I would rather make less and have you trust me than make more and have you feel like you overspent.

5. I am a great sounding board! 

When you are planning your vacation, you are going to have LOTS of questions. Even seasoned Disney travelers have a lot of questions. I have opinions that I will freely offer! More than that, I try to tell you why I like something or why I think you would like something or not.

We live in a world where information is at our fingertips. If you search the web, you are sure to find a lot of message boards, blogs, and websites who claim to be Disney experts. This can be good, but it can also be dangerous. I have on more than one occasion seen inaccurate information floating around cyberspace. The safest bet is to ask someone who is trained by Disney. I am kept up-to-date on changes and refurbishments.

6. I will make your Advance Dining Reservations!

Disney lets resort guests make their dining reservations 180 days before check in. I get up early on your ADR day to make your reservations for you trying to secure your preferred reservations. This is very important for those hard to get locations. You do not want to wait even a few hours later or those choices can change.

7. I will help you plan an itinerary!

Just because you use a vacation planner does not mean that you give up all the planning and control of your vacation. When you get ready to start planning your days in the parks, I have access to crowd predictors and am able to help you plan each day. Some people want to hit every attraction in every park, some want to see every character, and others want to leisurely stroll while hitting the highlights. We can work together to make a plan to accommodate your family and their needs.

Using me, a Disney vacation planner, is NOT giving up control of your vacation. It is making sure that everything is covered. My promise to you is that I will strive to make your vacation as MAGICAL as possible. My personalized planning services will help you save time and money, plus get all of your questions answered – resulting in a better vacation experience for everyone! Any family can benefit from my expertise in Disney Destinations. Best of all, when you book your vacation with me, ALL of these planning services are FREE! I can book vacations to any Disney Destination including Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Aulani, or Adventures by Disney.

Jennifer Hart is a stay-at-home mom and wife who homeschools her three children, ages 12, 10 and 4, and works full time as a Disney vacation planner. The Harts love all things Disney and love to vacation during slower seasons. Learn more about her Disney vacation planning services on her website, by contacting her at or 270-293-1975, or on Facebook. She also blogs and can be found on Pinterest and Twitter.

Want more stories? Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, peek into my life on Instagram, follow 152 Insights at Bloglovin', or subscribe to receive "Insights in Your Inbox."

Friday, October 17, 2014

On writing and processing and mothering

My writing friend Ashley Wells, who happened to endorse and Kindle-format my ebook, invited to share about being a mom and a writer at her blog today. She asked questions and I answered. I'm loving the format and look forward to reading more answers from other writers later this month.

But for now, join me over at Ashley's online place, where I talk about this:

Writing is how I process life – whether that’s spiritual growth or motherhood. So writing doesn’t overpower mothering or any other aspect of life. It’s inseparable for me, really, because I don’t know how to live without writing. In this season of having small children at home, sometimes I can’t write when I would like to because there’s laundry to wash and fold, lunches to pack, and kids who want attention. But I still find time to write. I’m grateful I don’t have to choose one or the other, but just rearrange what it looks like as I go through different seasons in life.

This season for me includes my ebook, which has been a fantastic journey. This week has been so much fun seeing my God-sized Dream of sharing our family's story encourage others. I don't truly know what God has in store with it all, but I'm eager to witness whatever comes next.

Happy weekend, friends!

Want more stories? "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family" is available on Amazon. Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, peek into my life on Instagram, follow 152 Insights at Bloglovin', or subscribe to receive "Insights in Your Inbox."

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Infertility was a lemon in my life

Mary Carver’s blog is one of my favorites, probably because the title alone – Giving Up on Perfect – is the lesson God teaches me over and over again. Plus, she’s among the people I’d love hang out with in real life one day. And she edited my ebook.

Speaking of my ebook, I’m sharing an amended version of the introduction from “Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Family & My Faith” at Mary’s blog today. She’s writing a series about making lemonade from life’s lemons – which is something I know a little about.

One day in December 2004, I realized the birth control pills I was taking regularly were preventing God from having his way with my family. Like every stereotypical young, American couple, we decided we were “ready” to have a baby. My husband Greg was already ready and was just waiting – quite patiently, I might add – for me to want a family.

My time table was a good one. I had the sequence of events figured out and inked on the calendar. But nothing was going according to plan.

But, really, all that control I was scared to death to give up is like a big pile of lemons. Sometimes it looks pretty, but it’s often sour. Life was giving me lemons, and I struggled to make lemonade.

Nearly two years went by and for various reasons we were still childless. Yes, I cried out to God when friends announced pregnancies: “I told you I was ready!” There they were, sipping on their lemonade while I stared at the pile of lemons I was just making bigger.

The waiting made me weary. The medicine that helped me ovulate made me cranky. The whole season put a strain on my marriage.

I just wanted to have a baby.

That was the next step in life, in my plan.

But it wasn’t the next step in my life as God saw it.

Join me over at Giving Up on Perfect for the rest of this portion of my story. And stay awhile and browse Mary's wit and wisdom. 

Want more stories? "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family" is available on Amazon. Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, peek into my life on Instagram, follow 152 Insights at Bloglovin', or subscribe to receive "Insights in Your Inbox."

Peace like a river

I wrote a whole ebook about what God taught me about his peace as I yearned to become a mom. I wrote 24,049 words and used “peace” in the title.

And then I learned more about peace.

I’ve been working through “Breaking Free” by Beth Moore with 13 other women. While doing Week 2 Day 4 last month, I kept underlining and drawing asterisks. Here I was the author of a book with peace as its central theme, and God had {and still has, I’m sure ...} so much more to teach me. I often think about how Paul described to the Philippians a peace that passes our understanding, yet the truth about God’s peace being a benefit to being his child fell fresh on me.

“This is what the Lord says — your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow. Oh, that you had listened to my commands! Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea.”

Rivers don’t stand still. They move and flow, sometimes over rocks and debris. Rivers begin and end with other bodies of water, always dependent and connected. Funny thing is after I read those verses from Isaiah, I started jotting down notes in the margin about rivers and then as I read on Beth Moore elaborated on the same analogy:

“When God used the analogy of a river, he described a peace that can be retained while life twists, turns, and rolls over boulders. … To have peace like a river is to have security and tranquility of heart and mind while meeting many bumps and unexpected turns on life’s journey through change. Peace is submission to a trustworthy Authority, not resignation from all activity.

After all, Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Jesus filled my life with peace when I wandered out of the wilderness of infertility and into an adoption process that made me a momma. The same Jesus is still teaching me about peace because our life is about learning and growing and moving with the only authority that matters.

Obviously, I believe words matter and, more importantly, the Word matters. I’m loving DaySpring’s new Letterpress Blocks. Now we can have fun building words that matter to us to give as gifts or display in beautiful ways. We can see them and remember what God has done and what he promises to do.

In exchange for this post that mentions DaySpring's new Letterpress Blocks, I'm receiving a $25 coupon code to use at And because this a fun week around here, I'm going to give it away to one of you! Whoo-hoo! Use the Rafflecopter below to enter to win and a winner will be randomly selected on Monday. 

Congratulations to Jenn Hand! Whoo-hoo! Jenn, I sent you a message with the information, but let me know if you didn't receive that. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I'm linking up this post at (in)courage, where words and the Word really do matter. 

My ebook, “Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family,” is available at Amazon. Want more stories? Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, peek into my life on Instagram, follow 152 Insights at Bloglovin', or subscribe to receive "Insights in Your Inbox." This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How to Encourage Hurting Friends

This post was originally scheduled to publish in a couple of weeks, but my friends at Circles of Faith adjusted their schedule. So, today it is, along with my ebook release! Be sure to click over to my earlier post and join in that party ... there are gifts to be won!

Encouraging friends when they’re happy, healthy and successful is one thing. I can buy their books or like their social media posts. I can host a baby shower or a birthday party. Congratulations and well wishes can be texted, emailed, telephoned, or spoken aloud.

But what about encouraging friends when their life unravels?

Earlier this year, I watched people I love experience pain. Our community of friends was hurting – in more than one way at times. A marriage close to me has shattered. Another friend has struggled physically through all her pregnancies and each time she has more people to take care of while she attempts to function through the nausea. I’ve seen broken relationships and hurt feelings. I’ve processed some of my own childhood wounds. People at church are grieving and healing and waiting.

Certainly, pray for and with your friends. Acknowledge you believe God’s promise for everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

In her devotional “What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days,” Holley Gerth writes: “To encourage literally means ‘to give courage,’ and that’s what God wants to do for us on the hard days. He says to us, ‘I’m here. I will help you. I will give you strength to take one more step.’ He looks at your life with infinite love and tenderness. And he knows how hard it is to be us sometimes. He lived in this world. He experienced pain. He died on a cross. Jesus understands how brutal this world can be.”

Yes, God knows about and redeems the hard days, but they’re still difficult and exhausting when we’re in the midst of them. The pain doesn’t necessarily subside when we want it to, but we can share God’s love with our friends when they’re struggling.

{Read the rest, including five specific ways to encourage hurting friends, at Circles of Faith ...}

Want more stories? "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family" is available on Amazon. Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, peek into my life on Instagram, follow 152 Insights at Bloglovin', or subscribe to receive "Insights in Your Inbox."

On publishing my favorite story

Writing has long been how I best communicate. Being in front of groups terrifies me. Even on one-on-one conversations, I sometimes fumble over my words and wonder afterward if I said too much or not enough.

When I write, I find freedom.

I surprised some people – including myself – when I walked out of the newsroom for the last time on Sept. 14, 2007. But I’ve never stopped writing. But now instead of gathering information to tell other people’s stories, I often search my own life for what God’s teaching me. It’s easy to write about my kids. They’re my favorite stories.

So that’s what I did. I wrote an ebook about how I journeyed through infertility and adoption to become a momma. It rocked my world in more than one way. And it’s the story I will tell over and over again forever because it’s where I met God in a new way.

I always wondered if I’d write a book. And now I can say I have.

Sure, it’s an ebook. But it’s still every ounce of me poured out. The pages have been edited by friends, Greg, and myself – and then again by a professional. I’ve read them over and over both on paper, on my computer screen, and in my mind.

So, without further ado, I introduce you to “Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family,” which is available on Amazon. I pray the words bless you in whatever journey you’re on. I pray you’re encouraged by how God works while you’re waiting and he really does hear the desires of your heart.

I wrote this book. But I didn’t do it alone. In the back of the book, I thank some people. This list could have been so much longer, but I tried to limit it who had a direct influence on this particular book. Other friends are mentioned in the book itself because they’re intertwined with my story.

This is how I live life – with the people I love. Gathering around tables with them is part of our life – and you’ll see some of that in my book. And let’s do it virtually now. I’m glad you’re here.

Today is like a party – and what’s a party without gifts?! 

In honor of my book and my life, I’m giving away four copies of my new ebook and some other goodies!

  • Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table With Recipes” by Shauna Niequist :: My sweet friend Beth donated the copy “Bread & Wine” one of you will win because she encourages me well and loved the book as much as I did. It is the kind of book I’ve been recommending and thinking about long after I read the last page. I’ve made a recipe from it and hope to make others. I gave it to a friend because just a few chapters in, I knew she needed to read it.
  • P-E-A-C-E Scrabble decor by Cathy Baker :: This sweet God-sized dreaming friend of mine has an Etsy shop full of goodies and she donated this for my launch party. 
  • Under God’s Umbrella: Gifts of Hope & Encouragement to Shelter Your Heart in Life Storms” by Holley Gerth :: Sweet Holley write encouragement like she’s sitting at the table with you. I chose this book because it’s the kind of encouragement I could have used in that long season of infertility that began my journey to motherhood. Holley encouraged me to tell my story and endorsed my ebook: “Kristin Hill Taylor shares an inspiring and heartwarming story of how God created her family in a way she never expected. For anyone who has adopted, considered doing so or knows someone on that journey – this book will encourage you.”
  • DaySpring’s Grace Make-Up Bag from the Redeemed collection :: Straight from my closet of gifts, I thought this fit the message of God’s faithfulness to redeem the hard days and work everything together for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). {It’s like this one, but blue and brown and says “grace & peace.”}

This giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents.  Four winners will be chosen using the Rafflecopter below on Wednesday, Oct. 22. Each winner will receive a copy of “Peace in the Process” and another one of these gifts. If you’re an early reader of my book, free free to enter anyway because I can always send the winning copy of my ebook to someone you want to encourage.

And stay tuned because there are more giveaways and stories coming your way. Thanks for gathering here with me.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


I know a few people in my life who need to know how to read Kindle books without a Kindle. Good news is doing so possible with the free Kindle app, which is available for Android and Apple devices as well as a desktop computer. More info on that here. If you still need help, let me know and I’ll help you figure out how to read my book ... and, of course, any others available on Amazon!

I'm linking up this post with Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart and Jennifer Dukes Lee's #TellHisStory.

Want more stories? Buy "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built  My Faith & My Family" on Amazon. Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, peek into my life on Instagram, follow 152 Insights at Bloglovin', or subscribe to receive "Insights in Your Inbox." 

This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, October 13, 2014

{Disney} Our Favorite Things

Before we left the driveway Saturday morning, we turned on a promotional video to show the kids where we were going. They were speechless. Speechless. That reaction speaks volumes. My kids are talkers. Cate sometimes refers to herself as a chatterbox.

And not a word.

I'll take it. Greg and I are terrible at gift surprises. We get excited and give them early. The night before we left felt like Christmas Eve. I was about to explode with the news of the trip they didn't even know we were taking, but the anticipation was so fun.

Plus I wanted them to sleep before we filled Fall Break with amusement park rides, sugary treats, and all sorts of adventure.

Cate's first real comment was about someone else she knew was going to Disney. We saw Greg's grandma who lives next door as we pulled out of our driveway. We rolled down the window and Ben yelled with excitement, "We are going Disney World!"

That's right. We went to Disney World. 

As we've settled back into our regular life, people ask us what our favorite parts where. It's hard to say, really, but, personally, I was most pleasantly surprised with Animal Kingdom. I loved it there. Ben will tell you his favorite ride was Toy Story Mania at Hollywood Studios. Cate starts naming roller coasters at Magic Kingdom, but not Space Mountain, where she wasn't a fan of the darkness. Greg liked several of the shows.

But I didn't let our reflections start there. Before we even left Orlando, I asked each person to list their five favorites. Even that was difficult (and not everybody could even limit it to five!) because the whole week was so much fun, but we did our best.

Cate's Favorites

Ben's Favorites

Kristin's Favorites

Greg's Favorites
  • Frozen Sing-a-long
  • Expedition Everest
  • Splash Mountain
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle
  • "It's Tough to Be a Bug"
  • Toy Story Midway Mania

We also enjoyed our character meals at Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom with Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, and Tigger; Animal Kingdom's Tusker House with safari Donald, Daisy, Mickey, and Goofy; and Hollywood & Vine at Hollywood Studios with Disney Jr.'s Jake, Sofia, Handy Manny, and Doc McStuffins.

What's your favorite Disney attraction, show, or restaurant? 

There will be more Disney posts coming, so stay tuned! And feel free to throw questions my way. You can see all my pictures here.

I should also note my mother-in-law went with us and is one of my favorite people to travel with. I would have included her favorites, but she flew out of Orlando before us and joined another trip touring the Northeast. Perhaps she'll join in the reflections when she returns!

Want more stories? Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, peek into my life on Instagram, follow 152 Insights at Bloglovin', or subscribe to receive "Insights in Your Inbox."

Monday, October 6, 2014

Pure Eyes, Clean Heart

Jen and Craig Ferguson tell a brave story that can encourage couples in so many areas of life. Yes, they share about the shame, anger, insecurity, and hopelessness they experienced because of Craig’s addiction to pornography, but their story is about so much more.

They learned how Christ could rescue them – individually and together – out of the darkness and free them into the light. As I read “Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography,” questions came to my mind: What lies from Satan have I believed that created division in my house? Is there anything I need to bring into the light?

I thought about convicting words and condemning words are not the same thing. In fact, they have the opposite effect on my life. Those times I was given the gift of truth are important to point me to God.

This book for both men and women is packed with resources and practical advice that are based on the Bible. Jen and Craig alternate telling their story and encouraging couples to talk and pray through their own struggles. Questions throughout are likely to prompt meaningful conversations about all sorts of subjects.

Jen is my friend who lives too far away. A momma to two girls, she is the facilitator of The Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood and loves to encourage women to bring their true selves out into the light. I wanted to share a little from her about her book, so welcome my sweet friend and her words here:

It took my husband about five minutes to decide to write this book with me.

Could this be humiliating? Yes.

Could this make people see us differently? Yes.

Would this be hard for us to try to explain to our kids? Yes.

But then…

Could bringing this shameful struggle to light bring freedom, not only to others, but to us as well? Yes.

Once we got fully engrossed in the writing but before we knew we got the book contract, we realized that even if this book never saw the light of day, we were grateful. Writing about things such as anger, forgiveness, respect, control, love, intimacy, and surrender to God means working through issues that impact our own marriage.

Whenever we have problems in our marriage that we choose to push aside and deal with “later,” it gives the enemy an in. Satan thrives in the darkness. He uses it to twist our thoughts and harden our hearts against our spouse. But when we agree to work them out, no matter how messy the process is, we bring those issues out in the open, exposing them to light. No longer can they sit and fester, but in the opening up, we allow Jesus to touch them.

And when Jesus touches, He brings healing. We see this throughout the Bible.

The demon-possessed? Healed. 
The bleeding woman? Healed. 
The leper? Healed.

Jesus wants to bring His healing touch to our marriages. Whether we struggle with porn, bitterness, alcoholism, anger, betrayal, or insecurities, Jesus wants to help us fulfill our marriage vows.

But we have to be willing to let Him in. We have to let Him work. And the hard truth? While as wives, we sometimes label our husbands as “the one with the problem,” we have our own issues to work out, too.

Craig and I made many realizations and changes in our marriage through God’s healing grace and mercy. We’ve gain great insight into each other and ourselves. This book shares our story. It offers hope. It offers compassion. But it’s not a cure.

Because only Jesus heals in ways everlasting and eternal.

As much as this book is about journey through my husband’s porn addiction, it’s about my own addiction to control. Just as much as he confesses, I confess, too. Because my initial response to his porn? Control. And if I’m controlling, guess whom I’m not allowing in?

Jesus. The One who heals.

Learn more about the book at or Amazon.

I received a copy of "Pure Eyes, Clean Heart" from NetGalley and Discovery House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. But, really, I love Jen and this message she and Craig are sharing. 

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

{Review} Deceived by Irene Hannon

I stayed up too late one night last month finishing “Deceived” by Irene Hannon. It was so worth it, I didn’t even regret sacrificing some sleep when my alarm sounded the next morning. And I am not a morning person.

Deceived” is the third in Hannon’s Private Justice series, which I have loved. In addition to the clean action with Biblical truth weaved through, these books explore male friendships. Three guys come together to form a private investigation agency and in doing so realize life is better when it’s shared. Each book in the series concentrates on one of the guys and whatever case he’s handling, but storylines from the previous stories linger throughout.

In “Deceived,” a mother trusts her instincts and the PI love interest believes her. Together they figure out what’s going on and risk everything to make the situation right. The story begins with a mom grieving the death of her 4-year-old boy and his dad, so you know this momma’s heart was tugged a few times. Characters are developed as the plot twists in this page-turner that is worth your time.

ABOUT THE BOOK :: For three years, Kate Marshall has been mourning the loss of her husband and 4-year-old son in a boating accident. But when she spots a familiar-looking child on a mall escalator, she’s convinced it's her son. With police skeptical of her story, she turns to private investigator Connor Sullivan for help. As the former Secret Service agent digs into the case, the boating “accident” begins to look increasingly suspicious. But if Kate's son is alive, someone is intent on keeping him hidden -- and may go to lethal lengths to protect a sinister secret.

Other Private Justice series books :: “Vanished” and “Trapped.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :: Irene Hannon is the author of more than 45 novels,  including the bestselling Heroes of Quantico and Guardians of Justice series. Her books have been honored with two coveted RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America, a Carol Award, two HOLT Medallions, a Daphne du Maurier Award, two Reviewers’ Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews magazine, a Retailers’ Choice Award, and a National Readers’ Choice Award. In addition, she is a Christy Award finalist, and Booklist included one of her novels in its Top 10 Inspirational Fiction list for 2011. She lives in Missouri with her husband. Learn more at her website.

I received a free electronic copy of this book to review from Revell Books. These opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

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