Friday, May 29, 2015

9 Things I Learned in May

May is my favorite month. And not just because it's my birthday. Although, I have told some people about how I was excited to turn 36 because it's my favorite number {nerd alert, I know!}. And, y'all, by the first week of my favorite month, I knew not much was going to top all the goodness.

But let's back up a little. Here's a list of what's happened in our life since April 22:

Greg opened an office in Hazel. We sold our lake house. We celebrated three birthdays with two parties and then Mother's Day. Ben has his tonsils and adenoids removed. We have another lake house under contract. We met a birth mom and began the adoption process, including the home study documentation. We've had fundraisers for our Guatemala mission trip. Cate had strep throat. Greg moved his main office in Murray.

That doesn't even include normal school stuff, soccer practices and games, church commitments, and hanging out with friends.

So, here I go, talking about adoption, school, TV, celebrations, household chores, and my new favorite drink before May totally escapes me.

Obviously, these things come to you in no particular order ...

1. "One Tree Hill' is a good show. I needed a new show to watch as I fold laundry and walk on the treadmill. This one is working for me. {Here's looking at you, fans of "Gilmore Girls," "Hart of Dixie," "Dawson's Creek," "Felicity" ... if you're behind the times like me! But it doesn't top the crew from Capside or Stars Hollow.}

And, hello, I love the theme song! I'm at the beginning of season three right now, and there's been a lot of good music. Oh, and Greg watches it with me now too.

But, seriously, these kids and their problems aren't in high school. No way.

3. Having an online book club where we discussed a chapter a week forced me to slow down and really soak in the message. And "You're Loved No Matter What: Freeing Your Heart from the Need to Be Perfect" by Holley Gerth was one my soul needed.

3. People really do celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Four friends and I went I celebrate my birthday a couple days late at a local Mexican restaurant we all love. We couldn't figure out why it was crowded on a Tuesday night. And then we realized we'd missed the memo on the holiday. We're cool like that.

4. People like free. In four days at the beginning of May, I offered my ebook for free. I'm so grateful for the hundreds (!!!) of people who downloaded it. {Hey, if you were one of the 1,682 people (!!!) who downloaded "Peace in the Process," I'd really love for you to leave a review once you've finished reading.}

5. We're buying a lake house. We'd been looking since before we closed in April on the sale of our other one that we really didn't even want to sell but needed to because of circumstances beyond our control. But we found another one that we may end up loving more. The property is amazing. And we have plans to make the house even better.

6. I have a third-grader and kindergartner. Okay, well, I didn't just learn this. But this just happened. I mean, it will happen in August. Which counts as now. BECAUSE SCHOOL'S OUT ... FOR THE ... SUMMER! In fact, I wrote about my Summer Not-To-Do List at Circles of Faith this week.

7. We're adopting a baby due in September! Yeah, I know, I just said I was sending my youngest to kindergarten. God's timing is funny ... and perfect. {And I've already written a whole post about this, in case you missed it.}

And, just for fun, you should know I initially connected with the birth mom and learned the lake house owner accepted our offer on the same day, which happened to be Cinco de Mayo. No wonder people celebrate it ...

8. Crystal Light makes a grape-flavored drink that reminds me of grape Kool-Aid. I lived off grape Kool-Aid when I was a kid. I was so excited when my friend Julie offered me this as a drink of choice at her house. She gave me a packet to take home and the item was immediately added to my grocery list.

9. Sorting dirty clothes by people before washing them is more effective than sorting them by color. I realize some of you just cringed. But, seriously, this is making my life easier. Each person has a bin in the laundry room, and then when it's full, I wash that person's clothes. It cuts out the sorting as I'm folding them and the rooting through baskets looking for something.

So, how was your May?

I'm linking up with Emily Freeman's Facebook page and the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood Gathering.

Here are previous Things I Learned posts :: {From 2013} June. July. August. September. October. November. {From 2014} January. February. March. April. May. June. July. August. September. October. November. December. {From 2015} January. February. March. April.

Want more insights? "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, May 28, 2015

Hillsong UNITED's "Empires" {a review & giveaway}

“My heart beating
My soul breathing
I found my life
When I laid it down

Upward falling
Spirit soaring
I touch the sky
When my knees hit the ground …”

{From “Touch the Sky” by Hillsong United}

I used Shazam the first time I heard this song on the radio. I wasn’t sure who was singing it, but I loved it and wanted to know. Honestly, I was surprised when it was Hillsong UNITED because I wasn’t a fan of “Oceans,” the popular song I’m pretty sure everyone else who listened to contemporary Christian music loved. But “Touch the Sky” was different for me.

Now it’s the kind of song I turn up when it comes on the radio. {Here’s a live version from “Today” earlier this month.}

“Touch the Sky” is one of 12 tracks from UNITED’s newest studio album, called “Empires.” After listening to the whole album several times, I also especially like “ Say the Word” and “Empires.”

The whole album goes along with the band’s mission to speak truth through unique sounds. For me, this album is a good one to have playing in the background when I’m doing other things. It’s different than other worship music I usually listen to, but that’s not a bad thing.

ABOUT THE BAND & ALBUM :: Hillsong UNITED is a worship band that originated as a part of Hillsong Church in Australia. Formed in 1998 as part of Hillsong’s youth ministry, the band consists of several rotating worship leaders from the church. Follow the band online at its website, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. “Empires” officially released May 26.

GIVEAWAY :: Use the Rafflecopter below to enter to win a copy of this CD! The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents. I’ll randomly choose a winner on Thursday, June 4.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Many thanks to Propeller Consulting/FlyBy Promotions for providing both this CD for me to review in exchange for a post as well as a copy for this giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions on this blog are my own. If you've won this prize from another blog or another prize from Propeller/FlyBy, then you're not eligible to win. 

Want more insights? "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, May 27, 2015

Three Word Wednesday :: Welcoming Summer's Ways

Dear Summer,

I’m so glad you’re here. My daughter who is so very literal would remind me that you don’t officially arrive until June 21, but today’s the last day of school for us so I’m welcoming you now.

I almost always have a to-do list near me. If a notebook isn’t physically near me, I’m emailing myself something I want to remember or making a mental list. One of my greatest fears is I will forget. So I make lists.

But I don’t want to forget to live with you, Summer, either.

I look at our calendar and your days are filling up. We’re going to visit my sister and her family 11 hours away in mid-June. My husband, 8-year-old daughter and I are going to serve with a local mission team in Guatemala for a week in July. We have a weekend involving an amusement park and St. Louis Cardinals baseball game planned for later in July.

And, of course, the kids and I want to spend many, many afternoons at the pool with our friends. We want to pack our lunches and explore. We want to eat ice cream and read books.

These big plans mixed with these ordinary days are why I love you, Summer. {Tweet that.} You welcome a break from routine and foster adventure. In an effort to embrace this freedom and truly live with my kids, I want to write a not-to-do list that fosters joy and peace and grace and freedom.

{To read my Summer Not-To-Do List, join me at Circles of Faith today.}

Want more insights? "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, May 26, 2015

Run for life

Toward the end of last week, Cate started talking about running in a local 5K. I didn’t want to discourage her from doing so, but I wasn’t sure how that would go for my 8-year-old girl who had never done anything like this. So the day before our favorite local 5K, I decided to run too. Y’all, I hadn’t run since the same race THE YEAR BEFORE.

Life House Care Center’s Run for Life is our favorite 5K because it’s our favorite cause. Life House helps women choose life for the babies growing inside them. Life House offers women counseling and resources to prepare them for motherhood or adoption and provides support to women who didn’t choose life in the past. Greg serves on the board and helps organize the run. We’ve given diapers, money, and even the crib we didn’t think we needed any more to this organization so they can help more women and babies.

So, if I’m going to run in a 5K, this is the one I would choose every time.

I told Cate about the course and how she should be careful not to start out too fast. She didn’t seem unsure – especially when her cousin and a friend from church were going to run too. I loved seeing her excitement about this.

She took off at the start – so fast I tried yelling her name to tell her to slow down. But she couldn’t hear me. So I just jogged in the pack behind her. I could see the edges of her pink shorts beneath her too-big T-shirt she’d gotten when we signed her up to run.

Cate ran and walked and ran some more. And I’m sure she talked the whole way. She followed the group of runners in front of her and glanced behind her toward me. She told me later about the people she met on certain stretches of the 3.1 miles.

I hadn’t run in a year, but I ran the first three-fourths of a mile before slowing to a walk for a while. Then I ran more. I chatted with an acquaintance who was running her first-ever 5K. I thought about these women who face crisis pregnancies but choose life anyway.

And it took me about 2.5 miles to get close to my daughter again. I cheered for her run the last stretch toward the finish line. And then I finished not too far behind her.

My son – who had run a much shorter kids Fun Run earlier in the morning and already declared his intention to run next year – met me at the finish line with a bottle of water. I don’t really like running, but there’s nothing like finishing.

I heard people cheering for me – even though I was among the slower people to finish – and imagined that’s like the great crowd of witnesses that encourages us in the race God has for us (Hebrews 12:1).

The race we’re called to run isn’t always easy. But it’s marked with such goodness. {Tweet that.}

Keeping up with my daughter wasn’t really an option for most of those 3.1 miles, but seeing her independence and excitement brought much joy to my momma heart. Finishing the race marked before me gave me a sense of accomplishment that will encourage me in other endeavors.

In that sense, running is much like faith. Let’s keep going.

I wrote about this race last year too. 

Want more insights? "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."

Friday, May 22, 2015

We're adopting again!

The week before I turned 36, the same week my son was recovering from a tonsillectomy, three friends separately asked if we were still interested in adopting and then referenced specific situations. We said yes, yes, yes.

This came after Greg and I had some conversations – for the first time ever, really – about international adoption a couple weeks before. We’d even looked into different programs and Greg emailed a contact of his at adoption agency about Korea and Hong Kong. We asked our small group and a few close friends to pray for clarity of whether we should pursue any kind of adoption again.

We’ve always been interested in adopting again, even though we had much peace about not knowing whether it was going to happen. In December 2013, I knew I needed to lay down the desire and live the life right here. I realize that all sounds weird. But that’s the epitome of peace that passes understanding.

Initially, we most intrigued by what was the third scenario – a Kenya baby girl whom a missionary found in a bush. We have a dear friend from Kenya and immediately started a conversation with him about this. Turns out, international adoption from Kenya is nearly impossible. Our friend Daniel and his connections there offered some advice I passed along to the lady who was the go-between the missionary and me.

As I was drafting the email to this lady on May 5, my phone rang with a familiar number. Turns out, one of the other friends who had inquired about our adoption interest wanted us to talk to a local birth mother.

Stacy* and I talked about private adoption in general, our family’s previous experiences specifically, her motivation for making an adoption plan, and what would happen next. What happened next is Greg and I met her for face-to-face conversation later that same week and committed to an adoption plan with her. She had a sweet spirit and spoke of her relief to have a plan for this child.

Talk about clarity, for which we had prayed.

The following week, we met the birth dad at our attorney’s office. The four of us talked in the waiting room before our attorney shared with the birth parents what the legal process will look like. Our attorney is a friend and has pictures of Ben’s adoption finalization on his book shelf because he connected us with Ben’s birth mom in 2009. We’re thrilled God orchestrated this adoption in a way that allows him to be involved again.

Twenty-one weeks along, yesterday we accompanied Stacy to her doctor’s appointment that included an ultrasound. The BABY GIRL (!!!) wasn’t fully cooperating with her position, but everything seems good and we’ll get another look in a month when the ultrasound tech tries to get some more measurements. She’s due Sept. 28.

And, yes, I’m already working on the home study documents, aka The Mighty Stack of Papers. I bought more fire extinguishers and child locks yesterday not long before filling out more papers. And, speaking of papers, I found some Post-Its in Cate’s room this morning declaring her excitement  – "Yes! We're going to have a baby!" – and baby girl name suggestion.

It’s been neat to see God’s timing unfold before our eyes …

Greg and the guys in his Bible study had prayed we would have clarity regarding possibly adopting again Tuesday morning – YES, THE SAME DAY I RECEIVED THE PHONE CALL.

Remember I told you Greg emailed a contact about international adoption? Well, he thought it was strange he hadn’t heard back. In the weeks we never heard back, we learned his contact had left said agency for a different job. Someone else from the agency emailed Greg THE SAME DAY I TALKED WITH STACY. She apologized that his email was overlooked. We didn’t need the international adoption information anymore, but we did need domestic adoption home study information.

I already mentioned this, but it needs repeating: The phone call with the local birth mom came AS I WAS COMPILING AN EMAIL ABOUT KNOWING THE DOOR TO THE KENYAN BABY WAS SHUT. Y’all, I couldn’t have orchestrated this if I tried. One door closed, another one opened in the same moment, literally. {I mentioned three friends asked us if we wanted to adopt again. Well, the other of the three scenarios was quickly a closed door, obviously not meant for us.}

I knew Greg, Cate and I were supposed to go to Guatemala this summer. I didn’t like the idea of leaving Ben, but I knew God wanted us to commit to this mission trip. So we did. And now I see at least one reason why: I won’t be in a position to go for a while if we’re bringing home a baby in September.

We’d appreciate your prayers – for our family, the birth parents, and this baby girl – as the process progresses. Adoption is beautiful – but there are so many emotions for everyone involved. {And, yes, there will be more updates here.}

*Stacy isn’t her real name, but it’s going to be her public name, you know, for writing purposes. Obviously, my ebook will need an update ... one day! 

Want more insights? "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, May 20, 2015

Three Word Wednesday :: Consider It Joy

As cliché as it sounds, I can’t believe we are well into May. This year has been the Year of Joy. And I don't mean everything has gone according to plan and fit in a box, tied up with a pretty bow.

But God has been teaching me about his joy and how it flows from letting go and laying down and waiting and watching and serving and giving and loving and forgiving. I’m noticing joy in a way I haven’t before. I know deep in my soul that joy doesn't equate to happiness, but it does leave us peace that passes all understanding.

Joy is a choice. {Tweet that.}
Philippians 4:4 :: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” 
Joy doesn’t dictate our circumstances, but instead determines our attitude.
James 1:2-3 :: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
Joy comes when we know and seek God.
Romans 15:13 :: “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

I don’t get it right all the time, that’s for sure. But I’m so grateful I have these truths to come back to again and again.

My #choosingJOY list on my phone is growing as I count the joys I notice in my everyday life. Some days I’m more in tune to my list – and the joys themselves. Regardless, joy abounds when I slow my mind and notice, even if there is chaos around me. Joy comes even on the hard days because God is there too. I hear about joy in songs and see it in my kids.

259. Multiple walks outside this week. ... 261. Stolen moments of quiet. 262. Winning a book I’ve been wanting to read. 263. Crystal Light Grape Drink! 264. A spring day in a stretch of days that felt like summer. ... 272. Walking and playing in the rain.

Joy is a tiny word but a mighty concept – and one I want more of in my life. {Tweet that.}

I'm linking up with Mary Carver's Works For Me Wednesday because choosing joy works for me!

Want more insights? "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, May 18, 2015

Hope from the weekend

Most Sunday nights I stay up later than I should because I don’t want the weekend to end. Cate has only seven days of school left – although one of those will be spent in Nashville at the zoo and the Aquarium Restaurant – so I’m even more eager than usual to break out of the weekday routine.

This past weekend was full of some particularly sweet, hope-filled moments.

In October 1990, a new family moved next door to my family in Mockingbird Valley subdivision in Oldham County, Kentucky. I don’t remember how long it took Katie and I to become friends, but I’m glad my life since has included her. Since moving out of that neighborhood, we’ve lived hundreds of miles apart, and we’ve lived in the same town. We’ve texted and emailed and talked on the phone. We’ve mailed letters and presents. We’ve been in each other’s weddings and loved on each other’s kids. Even though we aren’t neighbors anymore, we can pick up where we left off when we do get to hang out.

This time we got to hang out for not quite 24 hours. Katie treated me to the gift of time. She sneaked away from her family to come hang out with mine four hours away. We shared meals, caught up with stories, and sat around in our soft pants. She snuggled with my kids and laughed at their jokes.

We parted ways after eating Thai food, but we’ve talked on the phone and texted more than once since Saturday afternoon. Katie has known me and loved me since I was 11 years old. I cherish our history. A little time with her always makes me wish for more but leaves me grateful the conversation we share is ongoing.

The second half of my weekend involved conversations with newer friends with whom I share passions. Hope That Binds had a picnic for its volunteers Saturday evening on a beautiful property in Carlisle County. I’ve loved connecting with this adoption ministry and helping with the quarterly newsletter and some events that connection families who love adoption. The evening was full of adoption stories, many kids who loved the chance to swim even though it wasn’t even 80 degrees, good food, reminders that God created us for community, and hope of what’s to come next.

On Sunday, our Guatemala mission team had a Trades of Hope fundraiser. It was a win-win, for sure. Our friend Becky Lile donated her commission from sales from our party to our team’s fund for the needed supplies for wheelchair distribution, home construction, and food and clothing distribution. Trades of Hope has fabulous fair trade accessories – jewelry, bags, stationary, scarves, home décor – that empower female artisans who are working their way out of poverty. It’s more than charity because these women are taught how to run a sustainable business.

(Actually, the party link will open for at least a few more days, if you’re interested in coming along side us for this fundraiser.)

Hope was the theme – and not just because I spent time with Hope That Binds and Trades of Hope. Seeing hope is choosing joy for my soul. {Tweet that.}

The history of my friendship with Katie – and other friends who have walked through so many different seasons of change with me – gives me hope because those moments then helped make me into who I am now. Meanwhile, new friends offer fresh hope that what we’re doing together now matters.

How are you experiencing hope these days?

I'm linking up with the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood Gathering, where hope abounds. 

Want more insights? "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, May 13, 2015

Three Word Wednesday :: Inside-Out Transformation

On Monday afternoon, I already knew my week wasn’t going to look anything like I expected. My daughter had strep throat, my mother-in-law was on call to pick up Ben from school if we didn’t get out of the pediatrician’s office in time (which we didn’t), one appointment was postponed 10 days, another appointment was rescheduled from the previous week, neither of my first two childcare options were available to help me during a meeting later in the week, my own head and throat were feeling the effects a normal Kentucky spring, my husband had an unusually busy week …

I’m sure you understand.

We have all have Mondays like that. And sometimes Wednesdays too. Really, it doesn’t matter what day it is.

There are chores and kids and families and jobs and projects and deadlines and field trips and birthday parties and appointments and fevers and sports and thunderstorms and whatever else fills our days.

Sometimes I find myself wanting information on the whens and wheres and hows and whys of life. So many times I start out the week thinking my calendar is offering an accurate picture of life. It never does. Real life doesn’t fit into tidy boxes and our pre-scheduled time. {Tweet that.}

On Monday, my phone was dinging with texts between phone calls and I was scribbling new things on my calendar. And then I remember what really matters: God wants to transform me. It’s an ongoing, everyday process. And it doesn’t always means the Creator of time lets me in on the information and plans I want.

Transformation is greater than information. {Tweet that.}

I love thinking about how God is the perfecter of our faith. We can’t be perfected – as in the maturing process – without submitting ourselves to God. Although that’s indeed such a relief for those of us who want to keep trying to be better and do more, it’s still hard. It still requires approaching the throne of grace over and over and over and over again.

Especially on Mondays that offer surprises for the week. Especially on Wednesdays that have us weary. Especially on the weekends when we embrace rest.

“Who we are in our identity has been made perfect by Jesus once and for all. But our behavior is in the process of being perfected in him day by day.”
{Holley Gerth in “You’re Loved No Matter What”}

And that’s the transformation that matters, the one that changes us from the inside out.

Romans 12:1-2 is about not being conformed to this world. I especially love it from The Message:

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life — your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life — and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

In other words, focus on God and he’ll perfect you — perfect as the verb, not the adjective.

Want more insights? "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." 

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

On raising a party planner

Cate asked if she could have a Frozen-themed party for the second birthday in a row. I told her to let it go and then tossed out some other party themes based on her current obsessions. Praise God the Boxcar Children – and the 150 books about these kids – won out.

I’m not exaggerating about there being 150 books in the series.

And my girl can tell you exactly which ones she’s read.

She pretty much planned her party and I went along with her details. I suggested a few things she embraced, but it was all rooted in her idea. Party favors were Boxcar Children books, 10 color pens, mini notebooks, and fuzzy bookmarks that were meant to be colored. My cake-decorating friend Courtney re-created an edible boxcar. The girls made their own boxcars – because, hello, why wouldn’t there be decorative paper and glue at a party with 15 girls?

Oh and there milk boxes as the party drink. Here’s how that happened …

Me: Hey, Cate, what kind of drinks do you want me to get for your party? I could get root beer or Fanta.
Cate: This is going to sound weird, but the Boxcar Children drank a lot of milk. You could get those boxes of milk, the different flavors.

Um, whatever. I barely like milk at appropriate times – like the mornings or with a very chocolatey piece of cake. I can’t even think about drinking it when I’m sweating. But 24 boxes of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry milk were drank up before the day was done.

We broke out a parachute and jump rope my mom brought – Grandmom for the party win, really. {Side note: These girls had some jump rope talents I didn’t know existed!} Those items weren’t boxcar-related, but, well, this was the first time in almost all Cate’s birthday party days that Mother Nature didn’t pour water from the cloud. Seriously, we were so glad to see the sunshine – even if it meant 89 degrees in the single digits of May.

I’m apparently raising a party planner. She’s into the details, the order of event, the invitations, the list of who has RSVPed they’re coming, and, of course, the socializing. I hope she’s into writing thank you notes when she’s recovered from strep throat.

And, really, I couldn’t be happier about raising a party planner. I like to have something else in common with my girl – the one I know God planned for me, the one who quickly taught me sharing DNA isn’t the most important quality in making a family, the one who has a kind heart.

I'm joining Jennifer Dukes Lee for #TellHisStory because celebrations are some of my very favorite stories to tell. And I'm linking with Mary Carver's Works for Me Wednesday because raising a party planner AND having a book-themed party work for me!

Want more insights? "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, May 11, 2015

On dragons and dirt and changing the world {a review}

When I finished reading “Dragons and Dirt” by Dalene Reyburn, I immediately began flipping back through, re-reading the parts I had marked. And when I saw marked, I mean entire paragraphs with notes jotted in the margins.

That’s how good it is.

The subtitle is “The truth about changing the world – and the courage it requires.” I wouldn’t have always thought I could be a world-changer. When I was a kid, I would have told you I wanted to be a teacher. Then I outgrew that and realized I loved to write. So I wanted to be a newspaper reporter. And that’s what I was before I became a momma. Before I decided I wanted to be Mom, I didn’t dream of becoming a mom.

But now I am – and it’s the most life-changing thing I’ve ever done. I’m still a writer. I write press releases for organizations I care about. I help causes I believe in by stringing some words together. I wrote an ebook that tells my favorite story – ironically, the one about becoming a momma and how that built my faith – and have other ideas for other books. I share my story here and in conversations around tables in my community.

But I’ve never set out to change the world.

Dalene’s words make me realize that’s what we’re called to do. Maybe we do by being a wife, mom, sister, daughter, aunt, friend, neighbor, housekeeper, writer, lawyer, realtor, fashion designer, farmer, banker, chef … or any other endless combination of roles. Maybe we do it in one role for one season before God calls us to something else.

Regardless, we can change the world, starting in our own souls, spilling over into our homes and offices and neighborhoods and churches and social media channels.

Of course we all have dragons – things like change, especially the unpredictable, unanticipated kind; desires for pleasures, prestige and possessions, and the distorted believe we need those things; and all sorts of misconceptions. We chase all sorts of things and people and places that aren’t grounded in truth.

“Jesus knew this would be hard. That’s why he said, ‘Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need’ (Matthew 6:33). Which means it’s not wrong to get excited about doing a PhD or walking the Inca Trail or dishing up seconds. Relish the good things God gives – the daily bread and the dessert – for his glory. But be aware that like all good things, they’ll enslave you if you let them. Check your intentions before tucking into whatever is on your plate. God has set you free. He wants to keep you that way. I pray that you won’t let this dragon seize you.”
{Dalene Reyburn in “Dragons and Dirt,” page 44}

To be free, Dalene reminds us we have to declutter our hearts, really forgive, stop comparing, give thanks, be brave one decision at a time, and rid our lives of pride. Like she writes in the book, “Comparison forgets that, as someone has said, the Kingdom is a co-op, not a competition” (page 75).

Celebrating with our people matters. Giving things for all things – our things and their things – matters. Community and relationships matter.

“I flung my joy, not my spite. I reminded myself that God didn’t love them more than he loved me. I reminded myself that he has promised his best for me, too, and that I wouldn’t want anything other than that. … God has different Kingdom plans for different people. He has shaped each of us for his purposes. That’s cause for celebration – and relief. I let the truth wash clean over me: you don’t have to be anyone but you. That’s why God made you you.”
{Dalene Reyburn in “Dragons and Dirt,” page 77}

This book made me think and encouraged me where I am. It’s packed with stories and truth that are written beautifully. And it reminded me whose I am and that where he has me matters – and behaving as if I really believe that could change the world.

I was provided a free copy of "Dragons and Dirt" from Kate Motaung on behalf of the author in exchange for a review. I'm linking this post with the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood and Circles of Faith. This post also contains Amazon affiliate links. 

Read some other reviews of this book :: Katie ReidAshley HalesJen Daugherty. Kate Motaung.

Want more insights? "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."

Friday, May 8, 2015

Mission to Guatemala

Sometimes I get too caught up in my own life. My own frustrations, shortcomings, dreams, friendships, and daily routine consume my thinking. Even the good things in my life sometimes blind to me to the bigger picture.

God’s giving me a chance to really step out of my life and serve others. Of course, I can and do serve here in my ordinary life.

But sometimes going elsewhere gives perspective. {Tweet that.}

(I say that, but I’ve never done anything like this. But I do know God calls us beyond ourselves.)

Greg, Cate and I are going to Guatemala for a week in July with a local mission team organized by some neighbors who are becoming friends. They’ve been going to work with Bethel Ministries for seven years, distributing wheelchairs; donating food, school supplies, and clothes to families; and building houses.

Honestly, I hesitated to commit to go this year because in my mind I saw my family of four going together – like missions are supposed to be put in a tidy box with a pretty bow on top. But I realized the three of us are supposed to do this now, regardless of how hard it is for me to leave Ben. That decision has been affirmed more than once since our January commitment.

(And let’s be honest, he’s going to have a grand time splitting the week between two grandmas.)

My girl has been asking questions and collecting school supplies. We’ve had bins for people to donate pencils and crayons – things many of us don’t count our pennies to buy – so some Guatemala families don’t have to choose between putting food on the table or sending their kids to school.

I realize we can’t solve poverty with one week of service, but we can give a few families a few less hard decisions to make in the short term and hopefully love like Jesus to make a lasting impact.

We’ve been fundraising this spring to pay for the projects we’ll complete while we’re there. Our travel costs are taken care of individually and are not part of these fundraisers. We’ve sold coffee, incredibly comfortable sheets, ribs and BBQ sandwiches, and all kinds of randomness at a two-day yard sale.

Now we are having a Trades of Hopes fundraiser, thanks to our local friend Becky Lile. And you don’t have to be local to participate in this latest fundraiser, although, local friends are welcome to join us for a fundraising party on May 17. (Let me know if you want details on that!)

Trades of Hope helps empower women out of the sex trade, sweat shops and poverty around the world by working with artisan groups in various countries. In addition to selling their lovely products, Trades of Hope teaches them entrepreneur skills to help change their futures. I have bracelets, a bag, a picture frame, and a journal that I love. I’ve gifted ornaments and scarves.

If you want to order, you have until May 17 to do so through this link. Becky’s generously donating her commissions from these sales to our team.

We’re grateful for the support we’ve received so far and looking forward to see what else God is going to do – both here and in Guatemala.

Want more insights? "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, May 7, 2015

Exhaling Hope {a review & giveaway of Plumb's new album}

Plumb’s new album is about being breathing in God in a new way that happens with restoration.

But the message doesn’t stop with how we’re changed on the inside. The music encourages those who have been restored – which, really, can be any of us – to exhale and share our stories of redemption. In doing so, God is made know, despite our weaknesses.

“Exhale” is perfectly titled because as long as we have lungs we should be breathing in and out the hope only God gives. And that’s worship.

I love reading acknowledgements and thank yous in book and albums. Honestly, I don’t have many CDs, so one of the first things I did when “Exhale” arrived in the mail was read the lyrics and notes.

And I’m glad did.

Listen to what Plumb writes: “I have spent most of my life, much less my career, living for me. I believe in natural consequences, so, naturally, I crashed and burned in just about every way. In that place, I learned that I don’t exist for me but for the one who created me, died for me, forgave me and made me new. Jesus, you not only forgave me for my selfishness, and healed me and restored my home … you gave me a second change to use the gift you’ve given me to honor and glorify you with it, that others may know your hope.”

That’s what restoration is about.

Plumb sings about that in every song. Just look at the titles: Exhale. Lord I’m Ready Now. Resurrection. Great is Our God. Broken Places. Faithful. Restored.

I really love “When You Walk Into the Room.” It’s a song that cries out to God, knowing he brings light to any darkness. “Faithful” is anthem to cast out fear of isolation. So many songs proclaim the character of God – worthy of praise, true love, strong, faithful, our champion, healer, and protector.

“… I believe in resurrection
Stones will roll away before my eyes
I believe in new creation
You make all things new
Nothing's impossible for you
I believe in resurrection”

{“Resurrection” by Plumb}

I do too. And that what kept coming to mind while I listened to these 12 songs.

ABOUT PLUMB :: Tiffany Arbuckle Lee, better-known by her stage name Plumb, is a songwriter, recording artist, performer and author. Plumb has sold more than 500,000 albums and over two million singles worldwide, co-penned songs for numerous other artists, including Michelle Branch, Mandisa, Mandy Moore, Jaci Velasquez, and Natalie Grant, and had music placed in many films and television shows. Originally signed as a Christian Contemporary Music recording artist in 1997, Plumb is now known as well as or better in alternative rock, electronic dance music, and for the use of her music in film and television than she is in the CCM market.

ABOUT THE ALBUM :: “Exhale,” the seventh studio album from Plumb, expresses a new focus and vision. After the runaway success of “Need You Now,” which coincided with her own moving story of brokenness and ultimately healing, Exhale brims with worshipful songs of gratitude and hope.

The defining concept of “Exhale” was born from a sermon at Plumb’s home church, where her pastor Pete Wilson expressed the notion that the church doesn’t exist for itself. Rather, believers come to church to breathe in grace and truth, be changed, and then go out and “exhale” that hope into their surrounding community.

“That idea of exhaling hope hit me right away and I couldn’t get to the Notes section on my phone fast enough. I started writing the chorus of ‘Exhale’ right then and there,” Plumb said. “I have been made new by the ultimate hope, and I want to share and exhale that hope in every way I can.”

Learn more on social media :: Website. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. iTunes.

GIVEAWAY :: And I have a copy of this CD to give one of you! The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents. Just use the Rafflecopter widget below. A winner will be randomly selected on May 14.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Many thanks to FlyBy Promotions/Propeller Consulting LLC for providing me with a copy of this CD in exchange for this post as well as the one for the giveaway. The opinions expressed here are my own. If you have won a prize from FlyBy/Propeller in the last 30 days or have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win.

Want more insights? "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, May 6, 2015

God's got us {aka Celebrating Cate on her 8th Birthday}

In honor of Cate's 8th birthday, I thought I'd share an excerpt from "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family" with you. Because we really like birthdays around here, my ebook is FREE through the end of today! Stick around because afterward is my traditional letter to my girl on her birthday ... 

God didn’t give me my way in December 2004 because his way in May 2007 was even better than I could imagine. Less than nine months after I stopped trying to become pregnant, I got to hold my daughter. …

My cell phone ring jolted me awake at 5:47 a.m. on Sunday, May 6. I’m not an early morning person, but I was thrilled to hear Mandy’s voice when I answered.

“My water broke and I’m on the way to the hospital,” she said.

Cate’s bags had been packed for weeks, but somehow Greg and I hadn’t packed our own clothes. Only the beginning of parenthood, I soon realized. We managed to be out of the house by 6:30 a.m., ignoring the dirty dishes on the kitchen counter as we locked our back door. Little did I know, this would be the first of many times in my life as a mother that dirty dishes (or any other chore) would have to wait.

We were at the hospital by 12:10 p.m. to await Cate’s arrival, which came about 14 hours after the birth mother arrived there and called us. Mandy was amazing, even during the back pains and labor. It takes a brave woman to be generous, gracious, and strong when she’s preparing to deliver a baby she believes was meant for someone else.

We were in the room when Cate was born, and saying I’m thankful for that experience is an understatement. People asked if being in there was strange, and I would have thought I’d say it was. But, like the whole adoption process, the birth experience was meant to be – something I can only say because the Creator of the world orchestrated all the details for it to happen, leaving us with the peace that surpasses all my understanding. We saw our 8-pound, 20-inch girl as soon as she entered the world.

Cate had some inconsistent breathing at first, so they put on her the smallest oxygen mask I’ve ever seen. We watched as they cleaned her up and tended to her. She gripped our fingers. Then they took her to the nursery and kept her on oxygen for a short time.

Finally at 4 a.m., the nurse brought our daughter to us. I fed her and then held her for three straight hours. Those were the moments for which I’ve been waiting. And, man, were they worth it.

And you know I’m not even a morning person.


Cate and her great-grandma Anna Faye, who is her middle name sake.

Dear Catherine Anna,

I like to tell your story – about deciding to adopt, meeting your birth mom, being there when you were born, bringing you home, and mothering you since – because it’s my story too. Becoming a mom was a faith journey for me. Revealing more and more details to you has been special the past couple of years.

Reading the story of your actual birth makes the day seem like yesterday. But it was eight years of yesterdays ago.

I was driving the other day to pick you up from the bus, thinking about what I want to tell you this year. You’ve seen the picture of Mandy holding you when you were less than 24 hours old. You know the basic story. And you’ve met her.

Yes, your adoption matters. Mandy chose life for you and then chose us to be your parents. But our story doesn’t stop there. God chooses us too. We’re part of his family forever and ever. {Tweet that.}

Like Daddy and I want you to know you are chosen and loved by us, God wants us to know that too – yes, on our birthdays, but every other day of the year too. He chooses us when we mess up and when we need to apologize. He chooses us when we do well and pass the test. He chooses us because of what Jesus did on the cross and not because of anything we can do here on earth.

It’s message my soul has needed for a long time. And it’s the message I want you to know too, sweet girl.

When I was driving along in the mini van recently, thinking about this and how you’re turning 8, a song came on the radio. I had to Shazam it because the words were perfect.

“Be strong in the Lord and
never give up hope.
You’re gonna do great things
I already know.
God’s got his hand on you so
don’t live life in fear.
Forgive and forget,
but don't forget why you’re here
Take your time and pray …”

{From "The Words I Would Say" by Sidewalk Prophets}

I know God’s got his hand on you because he has from the beginning – he long before you were created in Mandy’s womb and well before I held you in those early hours of May 7, 2007. In these past years, you’ve taught me more than I imagined a kid could. But, really, we’re a lot alike and God’s used that to grow me and change me. Mothering you has forced me to understand myself better.

I pray you are strong in the Lord forever, never giving up hope. With God, you’ll do amazing things. Cling to the peace that passes all understanding, not the fear that can creep in. And let’s not forget why we’re here.

Cate, I’m so glad you’re here. It’s a joy to be your momma.

I love you, sweet girl.

Other birthday posts :: 13456. 7

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Monday, May 4, 2015

Work of Worth

Around our house, we talk about thinking beyond ourselves and helping people. There are so many ways to do that in our everyday lives.

I really love when I can shop online and make a difference in someone’s life while doing so. I used to think the whole fair trade concept was trendy. And while it is trendy, it also provides opportunities to invest in others.

I have some necklaces, bracelets, bags and T-shirts that are more than accessories. They have stories behind them. They’re handmade from people in other countries who are working to better their families and communities. They support adoptions and local artisan groups.

So when a Work of Worth representatives emailed me asking if I could help spread the word about that organization, I was intrigued with the mission and the products. I ended up ordering a set of silver-toned bangle bracelets, like the gold ones pictured below.

Worth of Work is a non-profit organization that sells jewelry, notebooks, bags, scarves and other accessories made in developing countries, helping to counteract poverty and human sex trafficking while promoting dignity for generations to come. WoW exists primarily as an import and distribution company, for the purpose of connecting entrepreneurs and businesses in the developing world to the Western market.

The result becomes people of worth who are transformed, sustainably employed, part of the changing poverty cycle, and freed from trafficking. WoW implements a vetting process to ensure that each of their partners model Work of Worth’s standard of ethical treatment of their employees.

The products online seem lovely. I actually wanted to order more, but some of the items that interested me were sold out. I hope they’re restocked soon so WoW’s mission can continue and I can do some more shopping.

I was invited by Work of Worth to be among the bloggers who chose favorite items as part of its online Curated Collections.

Want more insights? "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, May 3, 2015

Happy birthday to me! {and a gift for you!}

I really like birthdays. I like my birthday. And I like other people’s birthdays. I like to have parties and give presents make invitations and eat cupcakes and give goody bags.

Honestly, I thought I may outgrow this at some point, but I turn 36 today … and I haven’t, apparently. And, you know, there are enough hard days in life that celebrations are good – regardless of the day or the number of candles on your cake.

Speaking of candles, I don’t think anybody is going to give me a cake with 36 candles on it. And that’s fine – as long as somebody gives me a cake, preferably one that involves chocolate and peanut butter together. And while I’m sharing preferences – I like the party but not so much the singing “Happy Birthday.” See, I’m an extrovert in some ways {hello, birthday parties!} but an introvert in other ways {I do not want to be the center of attention, ever.}.

And I need to tell you that 36 is my favorite number and I’m super excited to be at this point in my life. Yes, that whole sentence and declaration is a strange combination of weird and nerdy.

So, anyway, it’s my birthday and I like to give gifts. And, hey, my daughter’s birthday is in three days. She turns 8. And, yes, that’ll be her birthday but it’s also the anniversary of God making me a mom. I talk about motherhood often around here – especially how becoming a mom was such a faith journey for me and how nothing has been more sanctifying than actually being a mom.

Add all of that up and you’ll get 36. No, not really. But add all of that up and you’ll get my ebook – “Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family” – for FREE.

Absolutely free.

No strings attached.

Just go to Amazon today through May 6 (aka My Birthday through My Girl’s Birthday!) and download my ebook for free. For reals.

Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to Cate. And happy day to you.

{Oh, and if you want to give me a birthday present, although you certainly don’t have to, tell your friends to download “Peace in the Process” too. And when y’all finish reading, come back to Amazon and leave a review.}

Want more insights? "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."