Monday, August 31, 2015

{God-sized Dreams} Seeing your child know God


We’ve always told our kids about God. We’ve said prayers around the table, before bed, and when they’re scared. They’ve gone to church since they were newborns and now attend a private, Christian school.

The last several months, Cate wanted to talk about baptism and communion. So we had short conversations in the mini van and our row of chairs at church. She’s read her Bible more and asked deeper questions. She went to church camp for a few days not long before we went to Guatemala on a family mission trip.

I knew God was moving in her life.

My husband Greg and I knew this 8-year-old girl of ours was one reason we were supposed to go on a mission trip. We knew seeing poverty was different than talking about being generous. Our team of 13 people from our small town in Kentucky included four kids about Cate’s age. We served with Bethel Ministries International in Chichicastenango, Guatemala, where we distributed wheelchairs, built houses, visited families, and distributed food, clothing, and school supplies.

On our last day in Guatemala, we had finished our projects and were on the black sand beach of Puerto de San Jose enjoying some time with team, who had become friends. In the midst of the adults chatting and the kids digging in the sand, Cate came to me and said she needed to talk. I expected her to say something about the loads of sand in her bathing suit, but instead she told me she wanted to be baptized when we got home.

Isn’t that the dream of parenting? We do all these good things for our kids and expose them to God in all the ways we know how so they can actually know God.

I know I've already told most of this story here, but I'm sharing it today at God-sized Dreams. I'd love for you to join me there for the rest of this post.
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I'm linking this post with the lovely Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood Gathering. 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, August 28, 2015

7 Things I Learned in August


I'm just going to skip the part about how fast August has gone and how I can't believe it's basically fall. Even so, August managed to teach me some things. In no particular order, here are seven things I learned this month ...

1. Having Rend Collective release one song a time when I pre-order the album is fun and frustrating.

I love getting an email from iTunes telling me I have new music, but I wanted all the songs quicker than they were available. Talk about a lesson in delayed gratification. {The whole new album is available now.}

And, for the record, Rend Collective isn't the first band to do this, just the one I've been playing over and over again.

2. One Tree Hill went off the deep in end for season nine, affirming the fact shows should end at their peak and not drag on.

I loved OTH ... for about seven seasons. And I certainly liked moments of the eighth and ninth seasons, but more than anything I just kept watching because the end was in sight and I needed to know what happened with my friends in Tree Hill, even if Lucas and Peyton had moved on. I could have done without most of the ninth season, but the finale episode itself was a good ending.

3. Sometimes books are exactly what you need when you open them up. 

Okay, so I didn't just learn this, but I remembered it as I read Emily Freeman's "Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World" and Kristen Strong's "Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You Through Life's Transitions" this month.

4. Sending the second-born child to kindergarten at a school that also housed his preschool is totally different than sending the first-born child to kindergarten at a new school four years earlier.

This is a story from my life this month. And, really, as much as I like order in my life, getting back into a school-time routine always comes with some resistance, even from me. So we just jumped in, although admittedly we're all missing being able to jump into the pool! But we're doing well and the new school year is off to a good start for both kids. I've been motivated to get some things done while they're at school before we add a baby to the mix!

Seasons are a-changing ... 

5. Right Now Media has some good Bible studies. 

Specifically, I've watched two video series :: "Living Life Together: The Rhythm of Grace, Rest and Community" by Shauna Niequist and "Pulling the Thread: Unraveling Your View of God's Calling" by Jen Hatmaker. Greg and I also are making our way through "Have a New Kid by Friday" by Kevin Leman.

While watching each of them, I've scribbled notes and questions and scriptures and quotes in my journal. I've quoted things to friends and send invites to Right Now Media because I don't want people missing out.

6. The Project Life App is awesome. 

I've never gotten into digital scrapbooking. Sure, sometimes I print out blog posts to include among the pictures. But I've loved the traditional paper and embellishments of scrapbooking, even if I'm mostly fitting pictures into divided page protectors that are the foundation of the Project Life philosophy. But I downloaded the app a couple months ago at the recommendation of a friend. And then this summer I started using my iPhone for more pictures.

One afternoon at the pool I decided to mess around with the Project Life App and ended up scrapbooking five pages right there. On my phone. At the pool. And then I ordered 12-by-12 pages that showed up in my mailbox and were then slipped into page projectors in an album. I made another layout while sitting on the couch at my mother-in-law's after a fun afternoon. Just this week, I made five layouts on the way home from Louisville.

The quality is superb and the convenience is amazing. I'm looking forward to the most recent batch arriving in my mailbox.

7. As I was thinking about coming to college 18 (!!!) years ago as college student moved back into our small town this month, I realized HALF OF MY LIFE has happened since then. 

HALF. Whoa. That's a crazy realization and place to be in time. {And, of course, I wrote about it and then I submitted the post as a letter to the editor for The Murray State News.}

How's your August been? Tell me about it. 
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This post contains affiliate links, but I only recommend books and other items I really love.  

I'm linking up with Emily Freeman for my favorite monthly recaps. Read other Things I Learned posts :: {From 2013} JuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovember. {From 2014} JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember. {From 2015} JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJune. July.

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, August 26, 2015

Three Word Wednesday :: Eyes on Guatemala


“Don’t excuse yourself by saying, ‘Look, we didn’t know.’
For God understands all hearts, and he sees you.
He who guards your soul knows you knew.
He will repay all people as their actions deserve.”

I ran into Kim at the pediatrician’s office one day last week and then at the soccer fields this week. She’s my down-the-street-around-the-corner neighbor who organized our Guatemala team. We had texted some but I hadn’t seen her since we came home from the mission trip. I hugged her and told her how I was surprised how much I already want to go back. And then we made plans to lunch together.

The next day I talked about the mission trip to my endocrinologist during my regular diabetes check up. He’s actually from Guatemala and has been in the U.S. for eight years. We talked about poverty and government corruption in his homeland.

I’ve been thinking about our Compassion girl Roselyn. She lives near Guatemala City. Logistics didn’t work out for us to meet her when we were in country, but we hope to some time.

While shopping at a consignment sale, I found a children’s book in both English and Spanish. It took my mind back to Guatemala, where I watched my daughter read the English words while Angelica read the Spanish words of several books. I bought “If I Had a Dragon” (aka “Si Yo Tuviera un Dragon”) and I figure I’ll get it into the hands of a Guatemalan kid one day, somehow.

All these moments collided in my mind last week. Driving to and from my endocrinology appointment, which is an hour a half away, I had “Keep Your Eyes Open” by Needtobreathe on repeat. {This is also the song I used for the video I made about our trip.}

“… Cause if you never leave home, never let go
You’ll never make it to the great unknown til you
Keep your eyes open, my love”
{From “Keep Your Eyes Open” by Needtobreathe}

I want to keep my eyes open. I want to remember what I saw and experienced in Guatemala. Talking to Kim and then Dr. Figueroa and thinking about our week in Guatemala and how we were so close to Roselyn makes me want to go back – and take that book.

We’ve been home 6 ½ weeks and I’m seeing things – most every little and big thing, really – differently. My life is being filtered by my experience in Guatemala. Yes, the poverty I saw makes me thankful for my life and all the many opportunities here. But it also reminds me people here have needs.

I saw God in a new way there. And I want to keep seeing him that way here.

“Don’t let the night become the day
Don’t take the darkness to the grave
I know pain is just a place
The will has been broken …”
{From “Keep Your Eyes Open” by Needtobreathe}

I am notorious for complicating things and holding on too tightly to people and reactions and plans. But, really, the people and places God has used to change me the most weren’t ever part of my own plan. That’s how Guatemala was. That’s how adoption has been. That’s how life in God’s kingdom should be.

And now that I’ve seen God in a new way, there’s no turning back. {Tweet that.}
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Read my other Guatemala-related posts here :: 

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An InLinkz Link-up
   
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, August 20, 2015

Shelter Point Retreat



“Brother, let me be your shelter.
I’ll never leave you all alone;
I can be the one you call
when you’re low.

Brother, let me be your fortress
when the night winds are driving on,
be the one to light the way,
bring you home.”

{Needtobreathe in “Brother”}


We want our lake house to be a refuge from the hustle of life. We want to make memories there with our friends. We want to step away from everyday routine and be refreshed. We want to appreciate a different pace.

And we want our lake house to be that for other people.

We had a hard time naming it. Wait, why does a lake house need a name, you ask? I guess it doesn’t have to have a name, but naming it seemed like the thing to do if we were going to invite people to rent it. With names, come identities, so I kept listing words that described what we wanted the lake house to be.

Greg was the one who threw out “shelter.” YES! I knew when he said that “shelter” was part of this house’s identity. I like the dual meaning and the fact I immediately started singing in my head Needtobreathe’s “Brother.” Of course a house is a shelter, literally, but I we want this house to be a figurative shelter – a refuge from the world where people can gather with their loved ones.

So, friends, let us be your shelter.

Shelter Point Retreat is now available to rent. On a point lot, the house has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, lots of windows in the kitchen and living room, and a beautiful view of Kentucky Lake. You can find out more about the house, rental rates, and availability at www.vrbo.com/741043. We also have a Facebook page or you can email me. {See pictures of the house here.}


“And when you call and need me near,
Sayin’ where’d you go?
Brother, I'm right here.
And on those days when the sky begins to fall,
You’re the blood of my blood;
we can get through it all.

Brother, let me be your shelter …”

{Needtobreathe in “Brother”}
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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, August 19, 2015

Three Word Wednesday :: Small Moments Matter


My boy and I had a rough morning the Friday his first week of kindergarten. Of course, I should tell you he didn’t start school until Wednesday, so we’re talking Morning #3. Anyway.

I also should tell you, he’s a morning person, and I’m not, really. He likes to start the day singing, tickling, playing, and talking. I like to start the day quietly and doing what needs to be done to get out the door, if we have somewhere to be.

You can probably already see the issue.

He changed his breakfast choice so he could copy his sister instead of making his own choice. He talked while he brushed his teeth while wearing in his school uniform shirt. He played with LEGOs instead of getting his shoes and socks. He skipped and ran and got distracted along the way.

And instead of seeing him as an active boy who loves life, I started nagging about hurrying up and not making messes and doing what I asked when I asked and being nice to his sister. Greg warned me my tone was condescending, but I kept on.

We mostly regrouped with a prayer and some hugs before Greg took the kids to the bus stop. And then I cried. Parenting is sometimes exhausting, especially when personalities clash and the momma feels a like she’s letting down her boy.

Greg ended up calling once he got to work and we talked. Well, I, of course, cried some more. We evaluated some of the current issues – most of which I had more to do with me and less to do with Ben. And we talked through some strategies.

I realized (or, rather, remembered ...) I default to demands that try to control the outcome when I’m frustrated. When I’m being honest, I realize that only ignites the situation – especially with my boy Ben.

I’d finished reading “Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World” by Emily Freeman the night before. I read the book quicker than I should have because the book was so in sync with what my mind and soul are experiencing but struggling to put into words. I marked paragraphs about child-like faith, everyday faith, smallness being great in the kingdom of God, and love.

Emily’s words made me fall in love with Tuesdays – the most ordinary day of the week – and benches. I’ve long loved having my people around the table, sharing real life together, so the bench analogy for relationships makes sense to me. Jesus didn’t go around building his father’s kingdom by constructing massive cities; he built relationships with people sitting on benches and wells, meeting them in their ordinary life.

{Read my whole review here. And enter to win your own copy!}

The same needs to happen in my house, where my family and I invite God to build his kingdom. Too often though, I try to dictate the reactions and outcomes. I try to force my kids – well, let’s be honest, the one who is less like me – into following my timetable and method for doing things. My way seems neater and more efficient. His way is certainly more fun.

I know God is teaching me here. I know these small moments matter for my family. {Tweet that.}

“As parents, we want so badly for things to turn out well, for the kids to get into a good school, make right choices, be safe and cared for. But this desire sometimes ends up polluting all the Tuesday moments, and we accidentally find ourselves building cities all over the laundry and the leftovers.”
{Emily Freeman in “Simply Tuesday,” page 133}

I pollute our house with demands and frustration over things that don’t really matter. When I do this, I rob the joy and peace from the kingdom God is building here.

I picked up my kids from the bus Friday afternoon with a refreshed perspective and grateful for the forgiveness that comes easily for children. My boy had a new Band-Aid on his leg, plans to play Super Mario Bros., and no worries for what was to come. And I headed into the weekend with an appreciation for the small things that really are the big things.
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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, August 18, 2015

{Review & Giveaway} Simply Tuesday


I read “Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World” by Emily Freeman quicker than I should have because the book was so in sync with what my mind and soul are experiencing but struggling to put into words. I marked paragraphs about child-like faith, everyday faith, smallness being great in the kingdom of God, and love. I thought about purpose and where God has me.

Emily’s words made me fall in love with Tuesdays – the most ordinary day of the week – and benches. I’ve long loved having my people around the table, sharing real life together, so the bench analogy for relationships makes sense to me. Jesus didn’t go around building his father’s kingdom by constructing massive cities; he built relationships with people sitting on benches and wells, meeting them in their ordinary life.

The pages of “Simply Tuesday” are filled with questions I’m in the process of answering and stories of everyday faith that encourage well. I remembered faith is lived out in our actions, how we spend our time, and wherever we go. I saw scriptures with fresh perspective and longed for smallness that only makes sense in God’s kingdom.

“In my search for smallness, I’m finding the kingdom of God one inch above the ground. It doesn’t look like I thought it would or think it should, but there it is, hiding under the piles of everyday life. God is where he always said he would be – in the whisper, in the shadows, in the seed. … Most of life happens, not in the brightness of in the darkness, but in the medium light of a regular day. … What if, instead of thinking we have to choose between our ordinary life and an extraordinary life, we began to realize they’re the same thing?” {From pages 16-17}

As I was reading, I texted friends quotes that made me think of them. I referenced sections in conversations with others. I stopped to pray and mark sections I know I’ll revisit. I quoted it on Facebook. Consider those things the recommendation for this book because it’s one you’ll want to tell others about.

“Small things don’t always turn into big things. But all things begin small, especially in the kingdom of God. Acorns become oak trees. Embryos become president. Life starts with a breath. Love starts with a hello. Tuesday reminds me to accept the beauty of smallness, hiddenness, and the secret work of Christ in the deepest part of who I am. I want to let him come out of me in any way he wants, no matter how it may seem to me – whether that be in one big way or in a million little ways.” {From page 239}

ABOUT THE BOOK :: “Simply Tuesday” officially releases today, appropriately. Published by Revell. 256 pages.

Here’s the description from the back cover: Is your soul being held hostage by hustle? If you've grown weary of do more and dream bigger, small-moment living is just what you need. Real life happens in the small moments we find on the most ordinary day of the week. Tuesday holds secrets we can't see in a hurry – secrets not just for our schedules but for our souls. In “Simply Tuesday,” Emily P. Freeman shows you how to embrace today's work, find contentment in the now, replace competition with connection, and learn to breathe in a breathless world. It's time to release our obsession with building a life, and believe in the life Christ is building within us – one simple Tuesday at a time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :: Emily Freeman is a writer, speaker and listener. She writes for DaySpring’s (in)courage website and has traveled as a writer with Compassion International to raise awareness for the needs of children in poverty around the world.

She attended Columbia International University to study the Bible and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where she earned a degree in educational interpreting for the deaf.

Emily lives with her husband, John, in North Carolina with their three children and their crazy dog, Finn. Emily extends a daily invitation on her blog for women to create space for their souls to breathe. Come join the community of grace dwellers at her website. You can also follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and search #itssimplytuesday on social media to see people capturing ordinary moments that matter.

GIVEAWAY :: Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter the giveaway, which is open to U.S. and Canadian residents. A winner will be randomly chosen on Tuesday, Aug. 25.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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I received a free copy of “Simply Tuesday” from Icon Media Group in exchange for a review. The opinions here are my own as evident by all the many highlights and asterisks on the book’s pages. Icon Media Group is also providing an additional copy to whoever wins the giveaway.

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, August 17, 2015

Dear Murray State freshmen


Dear Murray State freshmen –

I realize some of you grew up here. But I know many of you didn’t. So, welcome to Murray, Kentucky.

Throughout the years, this town has earned recognition as being a top retirement destination, a great place for kids, and one of the friendliest U.S. cities. Regardless, this town is different when the college students are here. The traffic is thicker, the restaurants have longer waits, and the stores are more crowded, but there also is a proud blue and gold spirit that runs deeply.

I came to Murray State 18 years ago. I say that and still wonder how half of my life – literally, another 18 years! – has been lived since I walked into my Clark College dorm room that I shared with a high school friend. Of course, that Clark College has been demolished. A newer one – which at this point is nearly a decade old – is down the street and another new dorm is planned for the vacant ground I once called home.

At that time, Murray seemed so very far from my Oldham County home. Four hours that separated my old life from my new life was exciting and terrifying. Now, the Louisville area is a weekend destination.

I lived in the dorms for four years – and loved it. I walked to classes, many of which were in Wilson Hall. Some of those days seem like yesterday, but, y’all so much has happened since. In recent days, as I’ve seen trucks loaded with your belongings turn toward campus, I’ve been reminiscing.

I came into college with a plan: Earn a print journalism degree and write for a big-city newspaper. I saw myself living in Louisville or maybe another Midwestern city. What I didn’t factor into the equation was falling in love – with my college boyfriend who is now my husband or more deeply with God.

I earned that degree, but, really, otherwise, my life looks nothing like I planned. I did move to Louisville for a year, and then to Lexington for a year after Greg and I married. But then we came back here a dozen year ago.

And you know what? I wouldn’t change my small-town life with my entrepreneur husband. I tell our family’s adoption story over and over because my kids – who they are and how God made us a family – is full of faith and surprise. In so many ways, I’m more adventurous now than I ever was on Murray State’s campus.

What I would change goes back to those college years. I would have slowed down and taken more pictures.

(I know, that’s easier now. I had a cell phone I only used to call my mom because the Louisville-based number made it cheaper than long distance on the landline. Yes, the landline. Come on, this was 1997, the same year I got my first email address, which I checked once a day from a computer lab on campus. And speaking of pictures, please notice I’m holding a Kodak disposable camera on my graduation day. That’s May 2001, y’all.)

I wish I could tell my 18-year-old self to relax and notice God more. I would have stressed less and realized education is important but so little of it actually comes from the classroom. Listen to and learn from those around you. Hold tightly to your people, but hold loosely to most everything else. Yes, work toward your degree. Make plans, but remember that God may have an even better life awaiting you.

Yes, these may be some of the best years of your life, but, honestly, it gets even better.

Love,
A 2001 Murray State grad who never thought she’d call this town home but does so happily
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I'm linking this post with the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood Gathering

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, August 12, 2015

Three Word Wednesday :: Life is Movement


Is it possible this summer was the fastest in history? I’m going to say yes, even though I realize time is a steady measurement of our days. But, still, this summer was full of movement for our family.

And by movement, I don’t mean we ran all over the place – although on some days we did.

This summer marked some transitions, most of which y’all have heard about here on the blog.

In April, we sold a lake house we loved. But in June we got to buy a new one that we may love more. In May, we met the birth mom of our daughter who is expected to arrive in late September. A room is in the process of being prepared for Rachel Elizabeth, who officially as a crib, bedding, and a changing table awaiting her arrival. The high chair, swing, stroller, car seat are in boxes in her room, but they’ll be ready sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, my best friend Jaclyn went back to full-time work, which obviously is a blessing for her, but an adjustment for our friendship. We befriended each other as single college girls, so our friendship is no stranger to transition. We were married the same summer, walked through seasons of infertility together, and then ending up having five kids who love each like siblings in five years.

Another dear friend has transitions of her own happening that will overflow into my life and God has orchestrated a newer friendship in my life I’m really excited about.

Oh, and Ben starts kindergarten today.

That means I’ll have about six weeks (probably) with Cate and Ben in school before Rachel arrives. I have big plans for those weeks – going to doctors’ appointments, getting my hair cut and colored, scrapbooking, finishing Rachel’s room, and lunching with some friends.

(Sure, I’ll let you know what those six weeks actually end up looking like!)

God knew I would need some wisdom in this season of transition because it’s no secret I’ve resisted change like the plague in the past. I want to embrace what God is doing here. The movement is evidence of the abundant life God promises. {Tweet that.} 

I can see how God is providing and answering prayers and offering opportunities to make himself known. Of course, all of this comes on the heels of our Guatemala mission trip, which is filtering everything in my life different than before.

Kristen Strong wrote a book that been exactly what I needed. Being able to be part of her launch team and read an early copy of “Girl Meets Change” was perfect timing. Stay tuned because there will be more to come on that when it releases next month, but for now, I wanted to share a quote:

“While we are called to rest when appropriate, the nature of life itself is movement. We can stand rigid against the movement and break, or we can lean into flexibility by bending and moving with it.”
{Kristen Strong in “Girl Meets Change,” page 76}

There has been some resting this summer. Hello, afternoons at the pool and waking up without an actual alarm clock. But there has been much movement too.

I’m learning the movement is evidence of life – literally, with new baby we’re expecting and in the ways God is making himself known. I want to bend and move with it. I want to remember moving boxes is hard work but it is part of letting God rearrange our lives. I want to rest in how God has prepared me for what he’s doing.

What kinds of changes are you experiencing in your life?
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Some housekeeping for #ThreeWordWednesday friends: Please link up just ONE post. When you link up more than one, it seems to distract from the goal to have other people visiting each other with encouragement. Thanks for understanding!


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, August 10, 2015

{Guatemala} With Faith Like a Child


“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” {Matthew 18:1-5}

We were gathered around Manuel, getting ready to pray for the seizures and attacks he’s had since he was a 6-year-old boy. He’s managed to survive, be married for more than 30 years, and father two boys. Really, that’s a miracle – especially in Guatemala.

Working in the fields isn’t always possible because of his physical ailments. His wife washes clothes for extra money, but being able to pay for food for his family and education for his boys is a struggle.

Part of our mission team was at this house with a local pastor and a couple of the missionaries from Bethel Ministries International to help address their needs. It was one of 16 homes we visited throughout the week.

{Read here about the details of our trip.}

Chris, who along with his wife leads BMI, was getting ready to pray for Manuel. First, he thanked Manuel and his wife for loving each other through the hard days. Then he asked Kellen – one of the four kids on our mission team – to sit next to Manuel and talked about child-like faith.

Sure, most of us who have spent any amount of time in church have heard a sermon or two on child-like faith.

But Chris looked Kellen in the eyes and said his hands were needed on Manuel while we prayed because he had just the kind of faith God wants all of us to have. Kids don’t have the distractions and anxiety that adults can easily have as they try to make grown-up decisions and take care of the people who are depending on them.

Yes, the Jars of Clay song was playing in my head :: “They say that love can heal the broken / They say that hope can make you see / They say that faith can find a Savior / If you would follow and believe / with faith like a child.”

Then Chris told Cate to come near too. And we all prayed.

In Spanish, Chris thanked God, asked for healing, and encouraged this family to seek Jesus the person – not the picture in the shrine they had built on a table in the house behind us. Meanwhile, I silently thanked God for these moments that drew my daughter in and reminded my heart what was important. Those moments next to a house situated among the dirt and cornfields were the best child-like faith sermon I ever witnessed.
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Read my other Guatemala-related posts here :: 


I'm linking up with the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood Gathering

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, August 6, 2015

{Review} This Is Not A Test by TobyMac

When I got an email about reviewing TobyMac’s new album, I said yes for my kids, especially my son. I like TobyMac well enough, although I admit I sometimes long for the days of dc Talk. But I love watching my kids dance while buckled in the car when TobyMac comes on the radio. I want my kids to like music that speaks truth into their lives. So, if that’s what TobyMac can do for my family, yes, send me some TobyMac.

We’ve been listening to “This Is Not a Test” while driving around town. Like with any new album, we had our instant favorites. My 8-year-old Cate loved “Lift You Up,” a song that features Ryan Stevenson. She said she likes the beat and lyrics: “We’ll lift you up ‘cause you ain’t never going to let us down.”

(We’ll be having a conversation about how ain’t isn’t a word soon, so no worries there.)

My 5-year-old Ben has a personality that TobyMac’s music fits, if you know what I mean. He’s high energy and always moving. He had trouble choosing a favorite but landed on “Backseat Driver,” which features artists Hollyn and Tru.

I really liked “Love Broke Thru” and “Fall.” They each affirmed truth God had already been teaching me. I like when songs do that. And, of course, we were happy to recognize “Beyond Me” from the radio.

“It was just another summer night. It had to be the last thing on my mind when love broke through. You found me in the darkness, wandering through the desert. I was a hopeless fool, now I’m hopefully devoted, my chains are broken – and it all began with you, when love broke through.”
{TobyMac in “Love Broke Thru”}

Okay, so, admittedly, I like that “Love Feels Like” features dc Talk. And you’d know this if you saw our car dancing as my kids and I listened to TobyMac’s new music.
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ABOUT THE ALBUM :: TobyMac’s sixth solo album, “This Is Not a Test” officially releases tomorrow (Aug. 7).

Here’s a listing of all the tracks on the deluxe version –

1. Like a Match
2. Backseat Driver feat. Hollyn, Tru
3. This Is Not a Test feat. Capital Kings
4. Lights Shine Bright feat. Hollyn
5. Til The Day I Die feat. NF
6. Feel It feat. Mr. TalkBox
7. Move (Keep Walkin’)
8. Love Broke Thru
9. Beyond Me
10. Love Feels Like feat. dc Talk
11. Undeniable
12. Lift You Up feat. Ryan Stevenson
13. Fall
14. Beyond Me (Phenomenon Remix By Soul Glow Activatur)
15. Like a Match (Garcia’s Remix)

ABOUT TOBYMAC :: Toby McKeehan – known professionally as TobyMac – is a husband, father, performer, songwriter, producer, and businessman. Growing up in the northern Virginia suburbs adjacent to Washington D.C. helped instill his love for rap music. While attending Liberty University during the mid 80s, Toby met Michael Tait and Kevin Max Smith and these three friends formed the Grammy-winning, platinum-selling group dc Talk. Toby began his solo career in 1999 and released his first solo album in 2001. Between then and now, he’s released four other solo studio albums and a live album.

Starting with dc Talk, and then going solo when the group disbanded, Toby still clings to such notions as hard work, persistence, patience, and the power of music, which he insists is still what keeps him going. “It’s the truth,” he says. “I still believe that a song can penetrate a heart. I believe God can use a song to open someone's mind and heart.”

Learn more online at his website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, iTunes, and YouTube.

GIVEAWAY :: Use the Rafflecopter widget below for multiple ways to enter this giveaway. A winner will be randomly chosen on Thursday, Aug. 13. This giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Thanks to Propeller Consulting/FlyBy Promotions and Capitol CMG Label Group/ForeFront Records for providing me with an early digital version of this album to review. The opinions here are mine – and, well, my kids. Propeller/FlyBy will also send the winner of this giveaway an actual CD. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller/FlyBy in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. 

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. 

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, August 5, 2015

Three Word Wednesday :: Our Salvation Comes


Cate was baptized this past Sunday – about three weeks after she decided to on the shores of a foreign country to follow Jesus with this gesture. Greg had the honor of baptizing her in front of our best friends and some family members in our church, where Cate has heard so much about this God we prayed for her to believe in.

We celebrated afterward by singing “Days of Elijah,” a praise song she chose. Honestly, I thought it was unusual song to celebrate a baptism, but as we were singing it, I realized it was perfect:

“Out of Zion’s hills salvation comes ... There's no God like Jehovah.”

We came back to our house and shared a taco lunch with the people closest to us. They’re the ones who do life with us on a nearly daily basis. They’re the ones who have helped us teach our kids about Jesus.

Many times, people can pinpoint the moment they decided to follow Jesus and recall where they were when they decided to get baptized. But, really, salvation comes as a process.

I think about my own story. Like any high schooler, I was searching for identity and trying to make sense of life. The questions abounded, leading the conversations with friends. Then God led me to Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

It was not long afterward, when I was away from my friends and family at a Chrysalis weekend that I took that first step toward really following Jesus. That was more than 19 years ago. First steps are important. But the ones that follow become our stories. {Tweet that.}

Likewise, God had been working on Cate’s heart long before we got to Guatemala, but it was there God wove together all he had been doing and made her need for Jesus clear. Her decision to be baptized was the perfect ending to our mission trip. Her actual baptism was a moment that will be etched in her story forever. But all of that was just the beginning to what else God has for her.
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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, August 4, 2015

{Review} Hope Harbor


Hope Harbor” was a good poolside summer read. The characters’ stories began with some mystery and unfolded with the plot. It’s a story of wanting to be free from regret and believing in second chances. I could have used a little more mystery and wanted some more of the back stories, but “Hope Harbor” was overall an enjoyable read.

In my own life, God’s been teaching me about the beauty that comes with seasons. That theme echoed in “Hope Harbor” as characters realized moving forward was okay – and even healthy – for their broken hearts. They realized God can redeem hurt, and found such freedom.

That’s a message we all need, so to be encouraged while reading about fictional characters while relaxing by the pool was good for my heart.

ABOUT THE BOOK :: Tracy Campbell never wanted to leave Hope Harbor, Oregon, or the idyllic three-generation cranberry farm where she grew up. But life – and love – altered her plans. When tragedy strikes and changes her plans yet again, she finds herself back in her hometown with a floundering farm to run and a heartbreaking secret. Romance is not on her agenda. Nor is it on Michael Hunter’s. The visitor from Chicago has daunting secrets of his own. But when Tracy recruits him to help save a struggling charitable organization, the winds of change begin to sweep through Hope Harbor, bringing healing, hope, and love to countless lives – including their own.

It’s not just about Tracy and Michael, though. There’s also Anna Williams – a mother who mourns the lack of a relationship with her grown son as she continues her quiet life separate from the town and people she once prioritized. Irene Hannon’s new cast of characters is a good one – and I hope they return for more stories.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :: Irene Hannon is the bestselling author of more than 45 novels. Her Heroes of Quantico, Guardians of Justice, and Private Justice series are among my favorites. Her books have garnered dozens of honors, including two coveted RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America. She is also a two-time Christy Award finalist. She lives in Missouri. Learn more at www.irenehannon.com.
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I received a free copy of “Hope Harbor” from Revell Books in exchange for a review. You can see what else I’ve read so far this year here.

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, August 3, 2015

13 Songs for 13 Years


Like a baker’s dozen, Greg and I have been married 13 years. Something about THIRTEEN seems big and monumental. Of course, we’re the same couple that went on a big anniversary trip to Mexico for our 11th anniversary. Apparently we don’t mark milestones like everyone else.

But we’re in this life – the ordinary moments and the milestones – together.

And that’s what matters.

Marriage was hard in the beginning. I brought so much emotional baggage. I was na├»ve and controlling – except I couldn’t control Greg or our relationship, even though I tried. I resisted change and dug in my heels. I blamed him for things – so many things – that weren’t his fault. I fought internally with trying to forgive people and let go of things that happened long before I became Mrs. Taylor yet continued to seep into my marriage.

And then we tried to conceive a baby and couldn’t – and not because we didn’t try. In trying, my emotions splattered all over the place. Our marriage was tense again.

But then we let go of trying. In that moment, the peace that passes our understanding came. We ended up holding our daughter less than nine months later, thanks to adoption. And we ended up adopting again 30 months later. Now we’re in the midst of another adoption process.

Our family has grown in ways only God could orchestrate. And in that journey, my faith grew and my marriage found itself settling on a firmer foundation than before. I knew Jesus when I said “I do” on Aug. 3, 2002, but I still hadn’t let the savior of the world into some of the deepest places in my soul.

My faith is a work in progress, but God promises to finish this thing he’s started in me. Really, I feel the same about my marriage. What began as two stubborn, first-born people trying to merge their lives has become a testimony of the God who unifies.

Greg and I like adventures together – and I like to be in charge of the radio and playlists as we go. We laugh often and fight less these days. We’ve bungy jumped while tethered together. We’ve sat together in roller coasters, airplanes, minivans, and an Amtrak car. We’ve traveled around the country and even across the ocean. We’ve seen the blue seas and ancient ruins in Greece, experienced New Zealand, and served together in Guatemala. We have plans and dreams and plenty of inside jokes.

This is our life – the one that looks nothing like I expected but has surprised me in the best ways. That’s adventure for you. And marriage is certainly an adventure. I’m grateful for where we are, how we got here, and where we’re going – together.
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To celebrate, here are 13 songs that take me back through our years together.

1. "The Sign" by Ace of Base :: This one is all Greg. Perhaps one of the most surprising things I learned about him early on was his love of this song.

2. "Crash and Burn" by Savage Garden :: "When you feel all alone and the world has turned its back on you, give me a moment please to tame your wild wild heart. Let me be the one you call. If you jump I'll break your fall, lift you up and fly away with you into the night. If you need to fall apart, I can mend a broken heart. If you need to crash then crash and burn, you're not alone."

3. "A Page is Turned" by Bebo Norman :: Our friends played this song in our wedding. I still love it. "Where the God of second chance will pick them up and he'll let them dance through a world that is not kind. And all this time, they're sharing with the one that holds them up when they come undone, beneath the storm, beneath the sun. And once again, here you stand.”

4. "When You Say Nothing At All" by Alison Krauss :: We danced to this at our wedding. And I use the word “dance” lightly. I don’t really do much of that. Okay, none at all, really.

5. "Breakaway" by Kelly Clarkson :: This was in our road trip playlist for a while because Greg really likes it. Okay, so I do too. But it’s funnier he does.

6. "I Don't Wanna Wait" by Paula Cole :: Um, "Dawson’s Creek." Enough said. Oh, and for the record, I liked that Joey chose Pacey but Greg is still wishing she ended up with Dawson.

7. "Dancing in the Minefields" by Andrew Peterson :: “We went dancing in the minefields. We went sailing in the storm. And it was harder than we dreamed, but I believe that's what the promise is for. ‘I do’ are the two most famous last words. The beginning of the end. But to lose your life for another I've heard is a good place to begin. 'Cause the only way to find your life is to lay your own life down. And I believe it's an easy price for the life that we have found.”

8. "Some Nights" by Fun. :: This song reminds us of the Cardinals winning the World Series in 2011. Watching sports is certainly something we like to do together.

9. "Stuck Like Glue" by Sugarland :: Greg doesn’t like when white women rap. Again, this is straight from the road trip playlist at some point.

10. "Multiplied" by NEEDTOBREATHE :: I liked NEEDTOBREATHE for a year before Greg decided to jump on board. But then we went to a concert together in Nashville in September 2014 and it was amazing. We particularly loved this song, although I could have picked from several. And then NEEDTOBREATHE released a new album THAT WAS A RECORDING OF THE CONCERT. Such a sweet gift to us. Then we saw the band again this summer in St. Louis.

11. "Sometimes By Step" by Rich Mullins :: This was the theme song of the weekend in 1996 when I accepted Christ in my life. And now Greg sometimes sings it to our kids at bedtime. Sweet memories.

12. "When I Get Where I'm Going" by Brad Paisley with Dolly Parton :: Greg’s dad passed away unexpectedly in April 2010 and this was on the songs at his funeral. That season was hard in many ways, but grieving also taught me about community. So many people came alongside us.

13. "Only Hope I've Got" by Ellie Holcomb :: Again, like with NEEDTOBREATHE, Greg became a fan well after I told him he’d like her. “I don’t want to tell some arrogant story or let myself believe I'm you. I don't want to be a thief who's stealing Your glory. Will You help remind me of what is true? The only hope I've got, it's You …”

You can listen to the playlist on Spotify ...


Do you mark your life with songs? I'd love to hear about some meaningful ones.
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Want to read other anniversary posts? Five yearsSix yearsSeven yearsNine years. Ten years. Eleven yearsTwelve years.

I'm linking up at the weekly Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood Gathering

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."