Wednesday, December 31, 2014

One Word :: JOY

“Light, space, zest—that’s God! So, with him on my side I’m fearless, afraid of no one and nothing. … I’m asking God for one thing, only one thing: To live with him in his house my whole life long. I’ll contemplate his beauty; I’ll study at his feet. That’s the only quiet, secure place in a noisy world, the perfect getaway, far from the buzz of traffic. … Already I’m singing God-songs; I’m making music to God. … Point me down your highway, God; direct me along a well-lighted street; show my enemies whose side you’re on. I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness in the exuberant earth. Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again: Stay with God.”
{From Psalm 27 in The Message}


I started this year thinking about the word LIGHT. And, of course, God has used that word over and over in my life. He’s taught me about living in the light and laying down details so my burden is light.

This year, I’ve started a journey of breaking free from some strongholds that are rooted so deeply in my childhood that I thought they were all just part of me. But God is showing me that doesn’t have to be true. He’s got a better plan. It involves forgiving and moving forward. It involves trusting him in a new way. It requires my whole heart.

This is a hard journey for me.

Those strongholds are so deeply rooted in my soul that they’ve overflowed into my marriage, my parenting ability, and daily life more than I ever realized – until this year when they were brought to light in a new way to me.

To continue on this well-lighted path God has me on, I want to embrace joy – not circumstantial happiness but joy that comes from living out the abundant life God promises. I want to know my soul is free – even on the hard days.

I’ve been thinking about this word … JOY. It’s such a simple word, but I’ve realized joy is hard for me because I want to hold on, even when I know the change that is coming is healthy and good. I paused with embracing this focus for the new year because it’s seems cliché these days, but I have no doubt God wants JOY – his joy alone – to seep so deeply in my heart that I am changed from the inside out.

Those verses from Psalm 27 were read at church recently. It wasn’t that translation, but sometimes I scroll on the Bible Gateway app during church to read different translations. This time The Message translation struck me, bridging how God wanted me to take what I learned about LIGHT and apply it to JOY. Of course, in God all things are connected, but these words made it so clear to my heart.

Light, space, zest—that’s God!

And that’s what God wants for me. I know it. But it’s like God knew I needed a reminder that the hard journey is worth it. Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again: Stay with God.

We’ve just celebrated Christmas and this one-word focus for the new year was confirmed over and over again as I listened to several different versions of “Joy to the World,” one of my favorite carols. I thought I’d share my favorite versions with you.


“Joy to the World (All Creatures)” by Shaun Groves
Joy to the World (You Are My Joy)” by Rend Collective
Joy to the World” by Bebo Norman
Joy to the World” by Jason Gray
“Joy to the World” by Randall Goodgame/Slugs & Bugs
Joy to the World” by Third Day
Joy to the World (Unspeakable Joy)” by Chris Tomlin


Like I did with LIGHT, I’m going to collect songs of JOY this year. So joining “Joy to the World” is Jason Gray’s “Laugh Out Loud” to start the new playlist.


“… I was alive but I wasn’t living
A prisoner of my fear and shame
But when you find you’ve been forgiven
Laughter will rise like a holy kind of praise

So I throw my head back and offer up my thanks!

Ha ha, don’t it make you wanna laugh out loud
Oooh oooh, and shout, “Hallelujah!”
Oh yeah, if you got joy go and let it on out
Ha ha ha ha

He said bring to Me, your heavy heart
Take my hand and we’ll go whistling in the dark …”

{From “Laugh Out Loud” by Jason Gray}


I can’t actually whistle, but I can trust God. I can offer up my thanks and learn more about this joy God is offering me. So, this is how 2015 begins for me.
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What’s your focus going to be this year? Some people choose one word instead of making resolutions. I’ve liked doing that because while it’s a focus, it’s still wide open for God to move. And I’m not failing at resolutions just a few days into the year this way!



I'm linking up with this post with Jennifer Dukes Lee's #TellHisStory, other God-sized Dreamers, Beth Hess' One Word 2015 post, Circles of Faith, and Holley Gerth's Coffee For Your Heart. Holley recently wrote about how laughter can sound like praise, helping confirm what God is teaching me. I also shared this post with the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood Gathering that Jen Ferguson hosts and Anne's Front Porch Inspired

Want more stories? "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family" is available at 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, December 30, 2014

4 Things I Learned in December


I know it's cliche, but I can't believe 2014 is basically finished. The harder I try to slow down and be in the moment, the faster time seems to go. December was full of Christmas, college basketball, and sickness for us. We love being with our favorite people and soaking in the season.

We simplified our schedule and the amount of presents bought this year, and those were welcomed changes. We held on to our favorite traditions and took life one day at a time, which mostly involved wondering if Cate was going to have a fever again and when Ben was going to have his turn being sick.

Before December ends and I have to remember to write 2015, I want to reflect on the month. Here are four things I learned this month ...


1. Amazon Prime Pantry will keep me from having to go to Walmart. I discovered the service on accident when I searched for Qtips on Amazon, thinking they would be an add-on item I could put in my cart for my next order. Turns out Qtips are part of the Prime Pantry! I got so excited I started a conversation on Facebook about it. Turns out I wasn't alone in my excitement.

The excitement continued with 76 trash bags, 185 Qtips for kids, 500 regular Qtips, 18 ounces of body wash, 100 Ziploc sandwich bags, 6 rolls of paper towels, 36 rolls of toilet paper, 70 Tide pods, 16 ounces of angel hair pasta, 2 bags of animal crackers, and 32 ounces of ketchup showed up on my front porch.

While adding products to my Prime Pantry box, Amazon tracks how much of the box is filled. What percentage of the box an item will fill is indicated as I shopped.

The prices were similar or cheaper than what I usually pay. Plus the convenience is worth something, trust me! Amazon also had a promotion that day that included free shipping (which is usually $5.99) and coupons worth $3.63 that applied to my order. The coupons and free shipping were automatically applied and shown as discounts at the check-out page.

2. Rend Collective's Christmas album may be my favorite ... ever. It's been on repeat around here and is tempting me to stay in the rotation after Christmas.

3. Make-up school work is no fun but a slow start to the month was sweet. 

Cate started the month with almost three weeks of sickness. Walking pneumonia then a virus with a high fever. There were inhalers and much ibuprofen. And there were slower moments than I expected to start this month.

Specifically, she missed six full days and two half days of the 15 school days between Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. We went to the pediatricians' office four times. She had two finger-prick blood draws and another from her vein in the out-patient lab. And there was a chest x-ray.

And then momma Googled too much and temporarily became a hypochondriac.

Cate was fever free the week of Christmas. Praise God! And then Ben started running a fever the day after Christmas and was diagnosed with strep throat on Friday and flu A on Monday.

I'm thinking about asking Murray Pediatrics if we can get a frequent patient punch card ... 

4. Ben made it to his maintenance allergy shot doses. So now it's once a week for those two shots. We had been doing twice a week for almost 11 months so this is a welcomed change. Of course, he hasn't had an allergy shot in more than a week with Christmas and now sickness.

How was your December? Did you learn anything worth sharing? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.
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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. Read previous posts: {From 2013} June. July. August. September. October. November. {From 2014} January. February. March. April. May. June. July. August. September. October. November

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, December 29, 2014

The 2014 Book List


As a kid, I would sit at the kitchen table and read the back of the cereal box. Now as an adult, I have a Kindle full of stories and traditional books on one specific shelf awaiting my attention. 

I read in the school pick up line and while waiting for my son's allergy shots when he doesn't beg me to play Memory or I Spy. I keep an ongoing list of what I've read over at Goodreads, but I like to share it here a couple times of year too. {This is an updated post of the one I shared in July.}

And, yes, my own book is on the list. I read it many, many times this year before self-publishing it this fall. 

Fiction

Non-fiction // Christianity

Non-fiction // Parenthood

Non-fiction // Marriage

Non-fiction // Writing

What have you read this year that's worth adding to my Amazon wish list?
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You can check out my 2013 book list too. This post includes Amazon affiliate links. If you order through my links I receive a tiny percentage, but the price doesn't increase for you. Thanks for supporting this blog. 

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Friday, December 19, 2014

For All That You Have Done

“... From mountain top to valley low
through laughter and through tears
Surely the goodness of my God
Will follow all the years

For all that You have done for us
for every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless Your heart
For all that you have done

You know our failures and regrets
You always led us home
Redemption’s arm has raised us up
Our triumph in the storm ...”

{From “For All That You Have Done” by Rend Collective}


I cried yesterday – several times. I cried out of frustration. I cried when friends texted, Voxed, and Facebooked prayers and kind words. I cried when life seem complicated. This week has sort of been building toward that kind of day.

Tasks were taking extra steps – getting prescriptions filled for the diabetes supplies that I use EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE required extra phone calls, the grocery store was out of peanut butter chips for the Cookies in a Jar gifts I made for people so I had to go to Walmart, the food pantry was closed when I tried to drop off donations from neighbors and friends and then when I went back again a volunteer was blocking the parking lot and told me I’d have to come back again. My kids’ principal – who is also my friend – won’t get her Christmas gift until after the break because it wasn’t ready this morning.

And Cate woke up with a fever yesterday morning. Yes, again. She’s missed six full days and two half days of the 15 days of school between Thanksgiving and Christmas. There was walking pneumonia, and then virus, and now nothing really. Her blood work and exam were good. She doesn’t have strep throat, the flu, a virus, or mono. And she seems fine today.

But I couldn’t shake the momma instinct that something else was going on. I mentioned some medical history things to the nurse practitioner, who agreed Cate seemed tired and off. I think she heard me. I’m not usually a hypochondriac. I don’t worry about worst-case scenarios. But I Googled too much yesterday.

I told Beth how I was feeling and essentially apologized for whining and crying. She told me I could call it whatever I wanted but God catches all the tears. She reminded me about friendship and faith – two of the most precious things that aren’t really things that God gives us.

Sarah and I had an ongoing text conversation throughout the day. Despite her own troubles, she heard my frustrations. Kayse insisted on gifting me some essential oils to boost Cate’s immune system. Honestly, I’m not sold on oils yet, but I’m sold on friends who care and am willing to try what they have seen work in their homes. Courtney put on her nursing cap and heard my heart. The prayers and texts and Facebook comments sustained my weary heart yesterday and reminded me about what matters.

Some of this year has been hard in a different way than this week. But I’ve never doubted God. I believe He will deliver goodness even in the midst of the pain. I know He redeems and makes new so many things – even when we can’t see how it all will work together. When I step out of my earthly, emotional fog, I see all around me what God has done and is doing for me. As I start the mental list of the blessings, I get teary in a different way. I see how God has blessed my husband’s business, our home life, our extended families, our friends who are like family, the kids’ school, our church, and so on and so on. The good definitely outweighs the bad and offers promise of what’s still to come.

That hope is alive because of Jesus – who is the reason for this season and for every day of our lives. And that’s worth believing regardless of the kind of day you’re having.
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Rend Collective’s Campfire Christmas has been on repeat around here. I. Can’t. Get. Enough. If you haven’t heard it, I recommend it – all of it.

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, December 17, 2014

{Three Word Wednesday} Talk about adventure


The wild tree in my living room reminds me that life is full of adventure as we seek God and the dreams He’s given us.

A few years ago, we decided to cut down a tree from my mother-in-law’s farm to use as our Christmas tree. We brought along some friends who did the same. Mimicking the children’s classic “We’re going on a bear hunt …,” our kids chanted, “We’re going on a tree hunt …”

If four years in a row can make a tradition, we made one – one that we never anticipated but continues to go down as a favorite holiday adventure.

This is the fourth year our living room is decked out with a tree from our hunt. I love the smell and the unconformed look of its branches wildly reaching out. God created this tree uniquely – just like he does each one of us and our dreams.

I prefer white lights and ornaments from places we’ve been and those that document my kids’ growth. I even like their handmade ones. Our tree is perfectly imperfect and radiates beauty. Maybe your Christmas tree is artificial with shining colored lights. It doesn’t matter – it’s yours.

And it’s okay if you don’t decorate for Christmas the same way every year. We’ve had artificial trees in the past, and in some ways that’s easier. But we like the adventure that comes with my husband Greg using a chain saw, hauling the wild tree home, and making it fit in a portion of our living room. The kids like to help decorate, stretching their little arms as high as they’ll reach.

I really love when the house is quiet and dark, but there in the corner of the living room is the glowing beauty from our tree. Sometimes I need the quiet and dark to see the glory.

I think about when God told us to adopt. We had no idea what we were getting into – talk about adventure.

I remember when I realized I was supposed to tell our infertility and adoption story because it’s my faith journey that taught me I belong to God. Yes, the earthly adoptions made us a family, but we’re also co-heirs with Christ. The parallels are exciting and the most tangible example of faith I’ve experienced.

I spend time with my community of people. It’s loud and chaotic, but God is there and I can’t imagine my life without them. That’s real life adventure right there.

{Join me at the God-sized Dreams website, where you can read the rest of this post.}

 

    An InLinkz Link-up
   

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I'm also linking up this post at Holley Gerth's Coffee For Your Heart, Jennifer Dukes Lee's #TellHisStory, and the Soli Deo Gloria Gathering that Jen Ferguson hosts. 

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, December 11, 2014

How to make homemade treats without baking


I don’t bake.

I like baked goods, trust me. But I don’t like baking. When I do bake, I choose Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Brownies from a box or Rice Krispy Treats, which don’t actually involve any baking. I do know how to make a tasty chocolate chip banana bread, so much so I think my family asks me to buy bananas at the store and then lets them go back so I will make them bread.

Even so, I have a couple holiday treats that I spent some time making recently. Please notice I said “making” and not “baking.” Because I don’t think melting chocolate is actually baking, and I’m okay with that.

Each year, I make up tins of goodies for my attorney husband to take to different offices he works with regularly. This year I’m including our pediatrician’s office because they’ve loved on my boy so well this year as he’s endured allergy shots – one shot in each arm twice a week.

Here are the two homemade treats – neither of which have an actual name – that don’t involve baking that I included ::

Peanut butter chocolate cookies that taste like Tagalongs

What you need :: Peanut butter, Ritz Crackers, chocolate candy coating, and wax paper

What you do :: Put peanut butter between two crackers (you know, make peanut butter and Ritz sandwiches!) and then dip cracker sandwiches into the melted candy coating. Just lay them on wax paper and the chocolate will harden in a few minutes.

Pretzels with Hershey’s Hugs and M&Ms

What you need :: Small pretzels, Hershey’s Hugs, mini M&Ms, baking sheet

What you do :: Spread out pretzels on baking sheet and put unwrapped Hershey’s Hugs on each pretzel. Bake 3-4 minutes on 250 degrees until Hershey’s Hugs are melty. (Yes, this involves the oven, but it’s not baking – just melting chocolate!) When they’re out of the oven, put three mini M&Ms on each kiss, which will flatten the kiss to the pretzel and add extra deliciousness.

Variations :: Other Hersheys’ Kisses work, but none seem to melt as well at the Hugs. My friend Sarah recently used Rollos instead of Hershey’s Hugs and those were yummy. You can use regular plain M&Ms if you prefer, but we like the crunch of the multiple mini M&Ms. One holiday I even sorted all the red and green M&Ms out so I could use only those, but this year I used the whole rainbow!

So I added those two treats with some candy in cute tins from Big Lots. And … voila … Greg has lovely tins to hand out to his people. And I didn’t have to bake.
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If you're still looking for gift ideas for the women and kids in your life, come check out my list. I'm linking up this post with Kayse Pratt, who is sharing some easy party dishes. 

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, December 10, 2014

{Three Word Wednesday} Less is More


Our tree is smaller than those the last few years. I have less decorations out than usual – not that I decorate that much anyway. Instead of doing a photo card and newsletter, I just made a year-in-review newsletter for our friends and family. I don’t bake much under normal circumstances. I scaled back our gift-giving list this year, even though I love buying gifts. And I didn’t plan our annual Jesus Birthday Party that had become a staple activity on other family’s calendars.

Less is more.

I keep hearing those three in my soul and feel free when I embrace them.

I love the Christmas season. I love traditions and plans with friends. And I am certain doing less won’t mean I enjoy what matters – this Christmas or any other day.

That’s how God works. His Kingdom is nothing like the world. With God, the last shall be first and the poor made rich. He tells us all to come to Him like children. He becomes greater when I become less (John 3:30).

Less is more. I keep repeating the phrase in hopes it will sink into my heart.

In doing so, I feel free to chase what is holy – that which is not of this world. When I let go of burdens and expectations of this world, I’m yoking myself to Jesus, who promises a lighter burden and an easy yoke (Matt. 11:28-30).

Too often I yoke myself to feelings and tasks that don’t matter. I idolize productivity and things that aren’t going to bring peace. And yet I hear the Prince of Peace telling me less is more. I hear it when my kids play, when my family sits down around the table with friends, and when the UPS guy arrives with yet another box because I’ve been doing my Christmas shopping in the quieter moments at home.

The Christmas Story is the epitome of less is more.

“What kind of King would leave His throne in Heaven to make this earth His home? While men seek fame and great renown in lowliness our King comes down. … What kind of King would come so small, from glory to a humble stall? That dirty manger is my heart too. I'll make it a royal throne for You. Jesus, Jesus, precious one, how we thank You that You've come. Jesus, Jesus, precious one, a manger throne for God's own son.”
{From “Manger Throne” by Third Day, Julie Miller and Derri Daugherty}

God could have sent Jesus however he wanted to and he chose a young woman to give birth to the Savior of the world. The birth could have happened wherever God saw fit, yet newborn baby Jesus was laid in the manger – where animals come to eat.

The details matter because God orchestrated what seemed so ordinary to do something extraordinary. Yet wise men followed a star then and people continue seeking the One whose birth we still celebrate. Jesus feeds our soul with truths that don’t always make sense in this world.

Less is more. In a mighty kind of way.





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I'm also linking up this post with Holley Gerth's Coffee For Your Heart and Jennifer Dukes Lee's #TellHisStory. Just after I finished writing this post earlier this week, I read Jennifer's post on having a preapproved Christmas. Y'all want to go read that one too, if you haven't already. 

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, December 8, 2014

Gifting Christmas


I'm one of those gift givers who doesn't consult the registry or ask for Christmas wish lists. I like to find gifts for specific people. I know this annoying for some people, especially when people ask what my kids want and I won't hand over a list of specific things.

Honestly, talking about what we want stresses me out because we don't need anything. I don't want Christmas to be a time for wishing more. Rather, I want to celebrate Jesus and love on people.

And, yes, sometimes loving people means picking out a gift especially for them. I also like to give gifts that matter. So I want to share some ideas, most of which come from Amazon or DaySpring because those are my two favorite places to shop.

Gifts for Kids
"God Made Light" by Matthew Paul Turner :: Multiple kids in my life are getting this book for Christmas. It has a good reading rhythm and a message you'll want your kids to know. {It's available at both Amazon and DaySpring.}

"The Jesus Storybook Bible" by Sally Lloyd-Jones :: I know I've mentioned this Bible here before. But I love it. Yes, it's a children's Bible, but I read it sometimes when my kids aren't around.

Slugs & Bugs' Sing the Bible :: This is if I was going to recommend just one Slugs & Bugs CD. Really, your kids and your friends' kids and your neighbors should have them all. Browse the S&B Store for bundles and deals and other goodness.

"For Such a Time As This" by Angie Smith :: This is a beautiful book about the women in the Bible that I'm gifting to multiple girls this Christmas. {It's available at both Amazon and DaySpring.}

Gifts for Moms
"Sparkly Green Earrings" by Melanie Shankle :: This book made me laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. It's real. She also has one marriage called "The Antelope in the Living Room," which is also worth reading and gifting.

"Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family" by Kristin Hill Taylor (me!) :: Yeah, I know, self-promotion. But, seriously, did you know you can gift Kindle books and people can read them on any mobile device or computer? What I learned through our infertility season, two adoption processes, and the days since applies to more than trying to become a mom. And it's just $3.99.

"Small Talk" by Amy Julia Becker :: Another memoir of motherhood, but it's possibly my favorite. I wrote a review not too long ago, but it's basically like advice and entertainment all in one. It helped me pause amist the chaos and remember what matters.

Gifts for Women
DaySpring's Everlasting Light collection :: I love these products. I want so many more of them in my house. Nothing like pretty home decor that speaks truth.

"Loop" by Jennifer Camp :: This devotional is fresh and beautiful. The way Jennifer hears from God is inspiring and I'm grateful she bound up the truth-filled messages for us. {She was hearing sharing about light and truth with some "Loop" excerpts recently.}

"Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table" by Shauna Niequist :: This book is fabulous. It's about community and real life. And there are recipes. So, go read and it and then make Annette's Enchiladas. You won't regret either one. {This is available at Amazon and DaySpring.}

Trades of Hope products :: I especially love the bracelets and Christmas ornaments, but there are so many lovely choices. And your purchase helps empower and educate women in third-world countries. My local friend Becky is an ambassador for Trades of Hope and I'm so glad she introduced me to this company.

Homemade Gifts
Cookies in a Jar :: Jennifer Jackson Linck shared this idea and I'm going to make a few. Sounds like I can't go wrong.

Budget-friendly Gift Ideas :: Kayse Pratt shared all kinds of fabulous (and affordable!) gift ideas that I wanted to pass along to you.

The Easiest Christmas Ornaments :: I don't do elaborate crafts, so these are perfect for me. The kids made them for grandmas and aunts last year and their school has made them for a fund-raiser the past two years.

Crafting Christmas Coasters :: This was another simple craft Cate and I made a couple of years ago as gifts for grandmas. Plus, it involves Mod Podge, so you know it'll be fun!

What would you add? Feel free to share in the comments.
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If you wanted to load up on some gifts from DaySpring, you can save 30% with 30FRIDAY14 through Jan. 1. Most of these links are affiliate links meaning I will get a small portion of the sales through them, but the price remains the same for you. Thanks for supporting this blog. 

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."

Sunday, December 7, 2014

On sickness, colored lights & miracles

My girl has had a fever for seven out of the last eight days. 

She started running a fever when we got home from Nashville. It wasn’t surprised because that’s what being around a bunch of cousins always does! I ended up taking her to the doctor the next day because THREE of the said cousins had strep throat.

Turns out, Cate did not have strep throat. She had walking pneumonia. I would have preferred strep, but, hey, I don’t get to choose these things. So the treatment plan was azithromycin, ibuprofen, and albuterol. Wednesday morning she seemed to go to school, and that’s what the nurse practitioner had indicated would probably be the case. She said to call back if she was still running a fever on Wednesday.

On Thursday while I was with Greg at a holiday lunch at our local crisis pregnancy center that we support, the lady from the school office called to tell us Cate wasn’t feeling well. I went to pick her about two hours early and learned she had a fever again.

For as long as she’s been talking, Cate’s always said her eyes hurt when she has a fever. Sure enough, her eyes were hurting again Thursday.

And they’ve basically hurt since. The fever has come down when there’s ibuprofen in her system, but when that wears off, it’s been getting up to 102 regularly and even 104 on Friday night. We did go back to the doctor on Thursday – you know, because we were supposed to call. Flu and strep tests were negative, thankfully, but blood work revealed something viral going on.

So while recovering from walking pneumonia, Cate also picked up a virus of some sort.

Part of me says, “Well, ‘tis the season for all these germs.” But the other part of me is remembering October, when she also had a virus that prompted a high fever and kept her home from school for days. Enough is enough.

This weekend was pretty much all about Christmas – and I hated that Cate had to miss out. She got a little sad Saturday morning when she realized she was going to miss out, but I couldn’t blame her because I was a little sad myself. And, y’all, she’s been the best patient possible while rotting her brain on continuous episodes of “My Little Pony.”

I took Ben to the local Christmas parade, where we met up with some cousins and friends. And then we all went with our friends the Goodriches for our fourth annual tree hunt. It’s become a family favorite tradition – and the Goodriches didn’t care Cate had a slight fever. Plus, it was as low as it had been for as long as it been … until it decided to spike back up yesterday evening. She did get some one-on-one time with Gran-Gran while Greg, Ben and I went to watch our Murray State Racers beat in-state rival Western Kentucky.


Back to the tree ... Last year our tree was so big we had to keep trimming it so it would fit in our living room. It was wild and crazy. I loved it. But, you know, I love our tree this year too. Cate picked it out, which is likely the highlight of her sickly week. It’s a smaller tree, more like Charlie Brown’s and less like the Griswold’s, and will forever be remembered as the EASIEST TREE I’VE EVER PUT UP IN ALL MY LIFE. Y’all, that’s quite a title, but it’s true. It’s little branches can’t even hold all of our ornaments, so we chose to leave the heavy ones off.

Although I did for an instant wish we had white lights – which we did at some point. But Christmas lights don’t last forever. In fact, I threw away a strand today. I can’t deal with those tiny bulbs that go out and kill the whole strands. Last year, that big tree I mentioned required Greg to make a run to Big Lots to get some extra lights.

Anyway, our tree is pretty. And it fits right in with this less-is-more idea God keeps putting on my heart this Christmas season. I’m going to elaborate on that another day.

{Read about our tree hunts from 2011, 2012, and 2013.}

Meanwhile, I just keep praying Ben stays well. It’s a miracle, really, he hasn’t picked up anything yet. He had strep in October, but otherwise has managed to stay healthy. I realize I probably shouldn’t speak that aloud, but, hey, I’m craving conversation.

I say that like I haven’t enjoyed all this time at home. But, really, I have. I’ve purged, organized, cleaned, stuffed and addressed Christmas letters, scrapbooked, and read.

Side note: In eight days starting with Thanksgiving, I read FOUR FICTION BOOKS. Along with Ben staying well, it’s a miracle. I devoured the series by Dani Pettrey and pretty much want to hang out with her main characters, the McKennas now. Of course, they live in Alaska, which I’m not sure I can handle right now. You know, all that literal darkness and coldness. And there are probably more germs I don’t need to be around.
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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, December 4, 2014

Blessed Chaos

On November 22, my writing friend Ashley Wells celebrated her one-year adoption anniversary by releasing her newest book "Blessed Chaos: A Journey through Instant Motherhood." This book is an inspiring memoir about Ashley's journey becoming an instant mother to four children through foster care. Below is an excerpt from the book describing when Ashley was utterly exhausted but knew she had already fell in love.


Nights were still hard and crying was a guarantee. That first week was so tiring. I didn't sleep more than ninety minutes at a time. I am amazed at how the Lord sustained us and gave us strength to press on each day and each moment. I remember feeling unbelievably exhausted, yet I was able to get through whatever obstacle I faced. As soon as Michael or I would find ourselves with feelings of not possibly being able to do anything else, strength would come and we would do what needed done.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.” {Isaiah 40:28-29}

God giving us the power to get through each day is the only explanation for how we made it. By His power, He gave us strength when we were faint and weary. Even when we felt like we couldn’t take one more step, we would move forward in faith and be sustained.

We discovered the children had been told, in the last moments with their biological parents, they would be returning home or living with their grandma very soon. It was on the fourth day with us Jazmine (5 years old) and Jonathan (8 years old) realized this probably wasn't true. It was as if we were soothing them on the first night all over again.

The nights were incredibly difficult. Many times there was just inconsolable crying until they would fall asleep. In those moments I would do the only thing I could think: hold them, rock them, pat their backs, sing lullabies, and pray over them. I wanted to do anything to make them feel safe.

On that fourth night I was tired, bone weary. It was a struggle to even walk from room to room. I put each kid to bed and soothed their worries one by one until they were asleep.

Christina (13 months old) was always first because she was the most difficult, and no one else could possibly go to sleep while she was still screaming. Once she finally closed her eyes I moved my attention to the top bunk where Jazmine had begun resting with a few books. Wiping tears away I gave her a hug, read her a story, said a prayer, sang a quiet song, and then finally I patted her on the back. She was a little bit easier.

Jonathan was next. He and Michael had been spending time together, with Kyle close by, as I got the girls asleep. Now it was his turn. He was ready and simply rested after a prayer. Kyle (3 weeks old, now) was the last one, the easiest of the four. As I held him and watched him enjoy his bottle, tears started to come. I couldn’t hold them back any more. I hadn’t cried yet. I was still holding it all in since meeting the kids. I let out all the built-up emotions from the week. I watched Kyle, so precious and comforted by my embrace. I was in awe of these kids and this life. I was in love. I was so happy. It was so hard. Yet I was doing it, thanks to God. In those moments I cried out of desperation and exhaustion, yet also amazement. Then fearful tears started to fall down my face fast and heavy.

I was already terrified. What if they left? What if I had to say goodbye? My heart would already be broken, and it hadn't even been a week. I couldn’t believe how I had already fallen in love with these children, despite any biological relation.

You wonder sometimes as you are preparing to adopt, will you truly love these children even though you share no DNA? Let me tell you: Yes. I was already absolutely undeniably in love with each of the children. What if they were with us for months and then go back to their biological parents? What then? How would I go on knowing what my life could be like? Now that I had experienced these precious moments with children, I didn't want to go on without these kids.

I cried and cried and cried, wiping my tears away with the burp cloth as I held Kyle and watched him take his bottle and softly fall asleep. I was so overwhelmed with emotion. Love. Fear. Awe. Excitement. Exhaustion. It was all too much.

Michael saw me crying and asked me what was wrong. All I could mutter out through the tears was, "I'm already in love." Michael joined me in our room where I put Kyle to bed with tears continuing to stroll down my face. Michael held me as we stared at Kyle drifting off to sleep and I cried a puddle of tears on my pillow. That night we enjoyed six hours of uninterrupted sleep and woke feeling new and ready to face the world again.


Ashley Wells is a wife, proud adoptive mom, writer, speaker, and sweet tea addict. She blogs regularly at blog.ashleykwells.com.
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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, December 3, 2014

{Three Word Wednesday} Quit doing that


A Murray State fan in front of me kept yelling, “Quit doing that.” He was obviously frustrated by what the players were – or weren’t – doing on the court. But the players couldn’t hear him. Even they could, he didn’t specify who was doing what that he wanted to stop.

As soon as I finished thinking about how pointless his yelling was, I realized I had done the same thing this morning with 5-year-old Ben. “Stop that.” “Quit that.” “Didn’t you hear me say stop?” “Why won’t you stop?” I emphasized my desire without specifying the actual request.

Too often I yell generalities and get frustrated when specific behaviors don’t change. But even if the behavior did change, that’s not ultimately what I want. I actually want my boy to learn and grow and mature. I want better decision-making ability to accompany a heart change.

That’s probably really what the fan wanted too. Some of the blue and gold faithful had gathered in Nashville – just two hours from home – to watch the Challenge in Music City. We’d all watched Murray State lose a close game Friday night and then get blown out in a second game Saturday night. As fans, we craved hope, and possibly better shooting. We wanted to see a change in the form of a win in Sunday afternoon’s game.

Yelling “Quit doing that!” isn’t going to help or inspire change. I found myself wondering how it would be different if I clapped my hands and encouraged with cheers instead of yelling general demands.

I get too caught up in justice and forget about grace, especially in parenting. That mindset poisons my words and heart and overflows on those closest to me.

As a basketball fan, genuine cheering means showing up even at the beginning of the season when the team is still finding its way. As a parent, encouraging means showing some grace and picking your battles. It’s a lesson I struggle with but one I know God will be faithful to teach. He will do more than yell at me to quit that because he’s compassionate, slow to anger, gracious, and rich in love {Psalm 145:8}.
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I'm also 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."

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Oh, the places we go ... {Nashville Edition}


A friend recently called me brave because I road trip with my kids. I’m not sure bravery has much to do with it. Road trips are just what we like to do. In a family of four extroverts, we like to go places and do things. My kids are good travelers, probably because we’ve loaded them up in the car since they were tiny.

Cate and Ben often spout the same questions when a road trip is nearing: How long does it take to get there? How many nights are we staying? Will we see anyone we know? What are we going to do there?

Our new-to-us mini van has a built-in DVD player, so movies were part of this road trip. Really, it’s the first time we’ve included DVDs on the road. They watched "Frozen" on the way down and "Dolphin Tale" on the way home.

We spent Thursday evening through Sunday evening in Nashville. First, I should tell you, don’t go on a road trip on a holiday without a plan for dinner. Otherwise, you’ll end up eating at McDonald’s because most places aren’t open and the ones that are require reservations or $40 for each adult plate. Yes, I know this from experience – this experience.

But we had a good time, watched some college basketball, stayed at a fabulous rental house, and ate well the rest of the time.


Adventure Science Center
800 Fort Negley Blvd., Nashville

I’ve got to tell you, I’m generally not a fan of museums. I don’t know what this tells you about me, but I’m grateful to be married to someone who agrees with me. Yet we both liked this one. Maybe because it’s not really a museum. Adventure Science Center is hands-on and has some great exhibits. The kids enjoyed themselves, although Cate wasn’t entirely sure about sliding out of an intestine!

{Learn more about the Adventure Science Center at its website.}


Ice! featuring 'Twas the Night Before Christmas
Opryland Resort & Convention Center at 2800 Opryland Drive, Nashville

Greg and I had been to ICE! before we had kids. The details are amazing, especially considering it’s all made from ice. Yes, Ben and his cousin Evelyn licked the ice. Gotta love 5-year-old kids with no fear. This isn’t something I’d go to every year, even though the theme changes, but I was glad for the kids to walk through the 9-degree exhibit in amazement.

{Learn more about this seasonal activity at its website.}


Dancing Lights of Christmas at Jellystone Park
2572 Music Valley Drive, Nashville

Ben has been asking to drive through the Christmas lights at our local park since he saw them being set up a couple weeks ago. I kept telling him after Thanksgiving we’d go. We haven’t driven through the local ones yet, but we did drive through this fabulous display that lasted almost an hour. The lights danced to music. Our group decided Go Fish’s “Christmas with a Capital C” was the most entertaining song of the bunch. Of course, our group was six adults and eight kids 10 and younger in a 15-passenger bus so we could make the best use of the $25 per vehicle admission.

{More information at this season's events website.}

Chuy’s
1901 Broadway, Nashville

My family of four met my cousin Jeff, who working as an orthopedic surgeon resident at Vanderbilt Medical Center, for lunch one afternoon. He picked the place and did a good job. The food was yummy and the kids enjoyed watching the handmade tortillas being made.

Pancake Pantry
1796 21st Ave S, Nashville

I have been wanting to go here since Greg and I were in Nashville in September and didn’t fit this into our overnight date. We all liked it so much that we went twice. On the Friday after Thanksgiving, we arrived with our party of 12 a little before 8 a.m. and didn’t have to wait in line at all. We returned on Sunday morning a little after 8 with a party of 16 and only had to wait a short time before they sat us at two tables. I ordered French toast both times. Yes, I realize I was at a restaurant that boasted about its pancakes in its name, but the French toast was one of the few things marked with the restaurant’s specialty ribbon, so I figured it was a good choice. As a French toast connoisseur, it was an amazing choice – possibly the best I’ve ever had.

Caney Fork River Valley Grille
2400 Music Valley Drive, Nashville

We’d eaten here before, but somehow I had forgotten about the sweet cornbread bites they serve that are really more like funnel cake than cornbread. This place is good for big groups and has yummy food.

DeSano’s Pizza Bakery
115 16th Ave S, Nashville

This was new to us, but I’m glad we went. We watched the guys making our pizzas and then enjoyed eating them when they came out of the wood-burning stoves. Plus they serve Mexican Coke in a bottle, which many in our group were excited about.

While in Nashville, we also ate at Five Guys Burgers and Panera Bread – a couple chains we love – and stopped at Rafferty’s in Clarksville, Tennessee, on our way home.

Do you road trip with kids? What would you add to your Nashville to-do list? 
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This is the third in an occasional destinations series I accidentally started recently. Murray Edition. Chicago Edition.

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, December 1, 2014

Look Closely Now: There Is Light All Around

Sometimes the internet seems loud. There's so much advice and so many books. Even the good stuff can become overwhelming. But Jennifer Camp's words always quiet my head and heart. She reminds me to be still and listen to God.

Jennifer lives in California, but I'm so grateful we've connected across this big 'ole country. How she says things, how she shares what she's heard from God, and the heart behind the words have blessed me so. And now some of those words are bound up in a beautiful book. 

"Loop: What Women Need to Know" is a one-year, twice-a-week devotional for busy women hungry to hear God’s voice right to their hearts. The books is full of devotions that have showed up in my inbox and that I know will quiet your soul. 

Purchase "Loop" by this Friday, Dec. 5 and receive six art downloads to print out and hang in your home or give to your friends for Christmas. Or purchase 10 or more copies and receive the new audio book of "Loop" by Feb. 1. (Just email Jennifer the receipt at jennifer@gatherministries.com.)

And, now, a guest post from Jennifer ... 
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I walk through dirt path this morning, my friend's little girl calling loud, "Come with me! Come this way!" Her little boots scuff crisp leaves and fallen acorns. She finds two pine cones on a picnic bench – her strong, determined fingers grasping hold and flinging fast. I stay close, watching wisps of fine hair flow behind as she pumps little arms and trudges uphill.

Deep breath.

Yellow sunlight shines bright through leafless trees. Rays of gold, warmth raining hope. I remember, a few days ago, how words – sweet whispers – came fast.

This is not the end, you know. Even though, this day, it may feel like it. This is the day I begin again. The day I begin again in you. 
Your weariness is only temporary. Your sadness is fleeting, even though it feels like it will never end, never subside, never go away. You, my love, are sunshine. You are kisses of light upon flower petals when they stretch for light, for Me. I’m here.

I lift her into the swing. Thick black anchors her in and she leans forward, eyes closed, cheeks crinkled, smile wide. "I'm flying!" Her hands grip the front of her seat and she leans forward, then back. "Higher!" And my hands reach, pressing to the swing, and let go. She soars away and back, head down now, watching her feet scuff the tanbark when she lets them stretch long.

I'm here.

In moments. In light. In shoes scuffed. In paths unmarked. In whispers. In laughter. In wonder. In tears.


"I am present, my daughter. I kiss your face with my hope. I grasp hold of sorrow with a single hand and I usher it away, bit by bit. I know you want it washed away with a quick brush, a dashing movement. I could do that. But I want you to look to Me, now, child. I want you to wait on Me and recognize Me when I come for you. I want you to practice recognizing beauty and hope."

I lift her out of the swing. It is time to head back.


I want you to wait on moments where hope feels too far away to imagine it as real. And then I want you to throw out doubt, just throw it out to the depths of hell, where sin was cast with the last breath of my Son’s words, choosing Me, seeking Me, looking to Me.

Practice recognizing beauty and hope? Practice seeing You? My efforts, my practicing  will be enough, then? I begin again, this day, by looking to You? By trusting You? By waiting and practicing recognizing You, all around? Will You show me then what You so readily see?

I cannot stop loving you. I cannot stop. I cannot stop chasing you, pursuing you, looking for you. Oh, girl, you are not my lost one. You are not hopeless or far from Me. I am here, and I come to hold you and lift your head to the light shining brightly on your face. Do you see it? Do you see how light comes to shine? Do you see how it came for you and how it rescued you and how light shines through all darkness so darkness, with Me close, is no more?

You will let me take steps toward You, and I will reach You. You are here. I look to You and wait. I look to You and do not remain passive, powerless, overwhelmed. You give me tools--your grace and strength within me to throw out lies. I don't have to stay here, weary and sad. I don't have to stay here, hopeless and lost.

Your power within me, your grace within me. Emmanuel. You are here. You are what is true. ... But I am scared. I fear I will soon, again, feel so alone.

Do you know how all shadows are chased away with a choice to see Me? You can do this. You can see Me. You can see Me moving you, one step at a time, from this place where you feel you need rescue and I show you how I have already come and I come again. I never stop coming for you, my daughter. You are not alone, and it is not too late, and you have not done anything to chase Me away. You cannot chase Me away.

I am not lost. You have found me. I am not hopeless, shrouded in darkness. You lift my head. I look to You, and You help me see You. I surrender to You, and You show me your light. I claim your power in me – breaking agreements with darkness and sin and shadows – and You fill me. I choose You and wait on You, and You are here. I begin.

You are beloved and holy because I have made you so. You are lovely and clean because I have made you that way. You are brand new and adored and shame cannot find you. Find your name written on my hand; respond to my voice; know the name called out to you, in the light – my voice calling out when darkness feels all around but I show you I am here. In the light. Darkness isn’t around Me. And you are with Me. So darkness is not there, too.

I need You desperately, Father, and this desperation is my strength. I cry out to You, and You carry me, showing me I have what it takes to stand. You have come for me and come again. You never leave me and never forsake me and pursue me with a passion and intensity I don't deserve.

But I desire You, and I receive You.

Yes, I receive You.

Yes, I see You.

Yes, come again.

Light all around my love. Light all around.

What helps you to see? How do you remember, in whatever you are facing, you are not alone?


Jennifer Camp is the author of the newly released "Loop: What Women Need to Know." You can also find Jennifer writing regularly at her blog, youaremygirls.com, and holyentanglement.com, a blog she writes with her husband, Justin, about the hot mess of a holy marriage. 
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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."