Friday, January 30, 2015

8 Things I Learned in January

January and I have a history of big moments, although this time our relationship was fairly normal. We didn't even get any snow. After a sickly December, my kids have mostly been well. They did have a simultaneous bout of strep throat earlier this month.

Without further ado, here are eight things I learned in this month ... 

1. I like essential oilsThere. I said it. Admittedly, I'm just beginning so I have a lot to learn. But I'm surprised myself when I ordered a kit this month and have another ordered scheduled to arrive soon. (More on this coming soon in its own post!)

2. My marriage is stronger than my engagement ring, which broke. The thin, worn band has been resized more than once. I've worn it for 13 years and am thankful in that time Greg and I have grown, individually and together. My ring may be worse for wear but my marriage is going strong. (And the ring is getting an upgrade so I don't hurt pinch my finger in it, again.)

3. Fiction is good for my soul. I tend to read more non-fiction than fiction. That's all good for my brain. But I take everything so personally that all the applying philosophies and advice to life can be exhausting. I've read two fiction books this month and am looking forward to diving into others already on my Kindle.

(I read "Shoot the Moon" by Billie Letts and "Orphan Train" by Christina Baker Kline. I accept any recommendations.)

4. I like to plan but spontaneous adventures are refreshing too. (Read the latest one here.)

5. People like a deal. I guess I already knew this, but I sold several copies of my ebook this month with a sales promotion because, despite its drearyness, January is worth celebrating.

(It's still 99 cents through tomorrow, if you're interested.)

6. God doesn't care about my resume. Public speaking isn't my strength and I don't have a list of such experiences. Even so, I've been invited to speak at two events this year. Both involve telling our adoption story. So, if I'm going to speak in front of an audience, of any size, I'm glad it's about my favorite story.

And I even ordered postcards designed by the talented Lisa Larson so I could promote my ebook at these events.

7. I'm going to Guatemala for a week in July with my husband and my daughter, who will be 8 then. We're joining a local group led by some neighbors up the street, literally, who work with Bethel Ministries to build a house and distribute wheelchairs, clothing, and food. I'm sure you will hear plenty more about this.

8. I prefer TV shows to end their series when they're still on top. Like "Parenthood." I love it. There are so many real-life parallels. I feel like the characters are my friends. But ending on a high note, ratings wise, is better than dragging on. Like "Grey's Anatomy" did.

So. How was your January? What did you learn?

I'm linking up with Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky. Read previous posts: {From 2013} June. July. August. September. October. November. {From 2014} January. February. March. April. May. June. July. August. September. October. November. December.

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

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

{Three Word Wednesday} Needing the Adventure

I was restless. I get that way sometimes. I talk about moving or taking a trip or rearranging furniture.

That feeling of wanting to do something different than what’s happening right now clashes with my usual Type A personality. I can’t really explain it, but sometimes I just need to do something or go somewhere.

I told my husband this Friday night. I mentioned maybe we should go to the Murray State basketball game on Saturday night – three hours away from our house. But it’s near where his brother and his family live. We talked about different scenarios and decided we’d decide in the morning.

Saturday morning we made a plan that involved driving three hours to Edwardsville, Illinois, after lunch, meeting our relatives for dinner, cheering for our Racers, and then driving home. We left about 1 p.m. and returned home a little after midnight.

It sounds crazy, I know.

But it was just what I needed.

I needed the adventure.

I needed the socialization with people who aren’t in our everyday life.

I needed the conversations with my husband that came while the kids were watching “Frozen” on the way up and sleeping on the way home.

December and early January were filled with sickness around here. I’ve stopped filling every minute of my calendar. Everybody is finally well and being at home has been really good for my soul.

But then I felt the itch for adventure. I needed to step away for a while – and that’s what a road trip does for me.

Perhaps the emotional situation I’ve been walking through with my best friend prompted me to want to take a break.

Perhaps winter had become weary on my soul. {I know, our winter is nothing here in Kentucky. But, people, I’m a summer girl.}

Perhaps this itch for adventure just part of who I am, despite my usual Type A ways of wanting a plan – and I’ve finally realized my personality can’t be boxed up.

Regardless, I’m glad I’m grown up enough to recognize when I just need to take care of my soul.

Other notes :: My ebook, "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family," is on sale for just 99 cents for a few more days. And today's the last day to enter to win a copy of "Mothering from Scratch: Finding the Best Parenting Style for You and Your Family" by Melinda Means & Kathy Helgemo. 

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

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What's in a Name? The Story of Ben

Five years ago today, Ben’s adoption was finalized. The hearing was a informal formality, but, of course, we had a party afterward because I wanted to mark the moment on our journey. I wanted to remember God’s faithfulness. 

In celebration of remembering this day, I thought it would be fun to share something from Ben’s preschool last week that I absolutely loved. While studying the letter N and talking about the importance of Jesus’ name, the teacher asked us parents to write a letter to our child, explaining why we chose the name we did and what it means for the child. 

Y’all, this is my kind of assignment ... 

That's Ben at a week old with my grandpa. They share a middle name. November 2009.

Dear Ben –

When we found out we were adopting a baby boy, Daddy and I figured we’d choose a family name for you like we did your sister. But then we couldn’t agree on which version of William (Daddy’s granddad, Gran-Gran’s dad) we’d want to use. Daddy wanted Bill and I wanted Will. So we went to the Bible instead and found the perfect name for our baby – Benjamin.

Not long after you were born, I happened upon Deuteronomy 33:12, which says: “About Benjamin, he (Moses) said: ‘Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.’”

I loved how I heard God speaking to me about you through those words from long ago. I was reminded God creates us and knows us long before we’re born. God has a plan for you, sweet boy. I have no doubt you belong in our family and we’re better off because you’re with us.

And Daddy often reminds you and me “Benjamin” means “son of my right hand.”

Your middle name – Lucas – is also Poppy’s middle name. As my grandpa and Grandmom’s dad, he is a man I’d love for you to take after. He’s wise and believes in prayer. I’ll never forget when I was frustrated one day and he reminded me that “This too shall pass,” but while we’re in the middle of whatever we’re going through we should pray.

Your name is part of who you are, Benjamin Lucas. And there’s no one else like you.

I love you –

You can read more about Ben's adoption story in my ebook "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family," which is on sale for just 99 cents at Amazon. Yes, January can be a cold, dreary month, but it has changed me. So I'm celebrating!

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

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

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Joy to the World (Vol. 2)

1. "Finally Free" by Rend Collective :: This song encompasses so much of what I'm experiencing in my faith journey right now. And, really, Rend Collective's "More than Conquerors" could make the list this week too.

"... Your heart is wild with color
Like a never-ending summer

You burn away the winter

Of my cold and weary heart

My soul cries out holy, holy
My heart is lost in Your beauty
All hope is found in Your mercy
You paid the price now I am
Finally free ..."

2. Sharing my family's story :: It's been such a blessing to see how telling our infertility and adoption story, which ultimately was a faith journey too, has encouraged others, even people I don't know. I shared an excerpt at Circles of Faith this week. You can find links to other excerpts and reviews here. And it's still on sale for just 99 cents at Amazon because God redeems even in the cold, dreary seasons.

3. Amazon. Everything about Amazon brings me joy.

This week I got my second Prime Pantry shipment. The box contained applesauce, dryer sheets, lots of grape Propel, toilet paper, and Zip-locs. The prices were the same or less than what I'd pay in the store. Amazon also keeps up with what percentage of my box I've filled as I shop. And then the items showed up on my front porch. Totally worth the $5.99 shipping (that was free last time, so watch for deals!).

I also stream TV shows and movies, listen to music, and get free two-day shipping (or credits if I choose the no-rush option!) for my annual membership.

And there's a deal on Prime membership today! Instead of $99, you can pay $72. This is for new subscriptions only. What are you waiting for?

4. And from my #choosingJOY list I keep on my phone ...

34. Ongoing text conversations with dear friends // 35. Stopping for ice cream at Culver's while it's snowing out // 36. Wild Kratts Live as school field trip. When we returned the permission slip a couple months ago, my kids know the show. After our sickly December, they have their favorite episodes. Silver lining of sickness.

How have you been #choosingJOY this week?

Read other JOY-related posts and Joy to the World (Vol. 1).

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

Friday, January 23, 2015

{Five Minute Friday} Share

It's been a long time since I joined the Five Minute Friday link up. {See? Only twice in 2014. And not since Kate Motaung started hosting it.} But this morning when I was scrolling through my phone in bed, when the house was still quiet, I saw the prompt {SHARE} and I knew I had to write. So I did. On my phone. In the dark. All of that sort of signified what I wanted to say. Yes, sometimes there's is darkness, but we don't have to be in it alone. 

If you don't know about Five-Minute Friday, it's a community of writers who each write for five minutes on the same word. Come join us. 


We spend so much time teaching our kids to share their toys and their space. We want then to share their emotions using words. Sharing becomes the goal in life.

Now that I'm a grown up, I believe in community. It's a way if life I certainly want to share with my kids. In community, we share. We share the space around our table. We share our stories.

But what happens when people you love dearly are walking down a hard road? We share that too. We share grief and tears. And we share hope that God redeems.

It's a sharing I wasn't prepared for, but one I realize I believe in. As I've shared a hard road with a friend recently, I've been thinking about a passage from Jen Hatmaker's "Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity" ::

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

Sharing isn't always easy, but it always has a purpose.

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

Thursday, January 22, 2015

{Review & Giveaway} Mothering from Scratch

Most of you know, I don’t bake. But I want to embrace the message from “Mothering from Scratch,” a parenting book that offers practical advice using a baking analogy. Although the subtitle “Finding the Best Parenting Style for You and Your Family” makes mothering sound more like a recipe than we all know it actually is!

“Mothering From Scratch” by Melinda Means and Kathy Helgemo is the kind of book I wish I had in my hands when I quit my job to stay home with my 4-month-old daughter. Even so, reading it now, as a mom to a 7-year-old girl and 5-year-old, was certainly still helpful. The authors share real-life stories from their own lives.

I was encouraged in being the mom God created me to be – which is different probably looks different than the mom he created you to be. I was spurred on to continue seeking God – on the days I have it figured out and certainly on the days I have no idea what I’m doing. I was reminded that just as every child is different, so is every mom, but together we can build communities that foster what is the gospel is all about.

ABOUT THE BOOK :: Trying to follow someone else’s rules for mothering can take the joy out of being a parent. But “Mothering From Scratch” shows you how to develop your own style that helps you be the best mom for your kids. Full of solid biblical truth, this book will help you explore your personality and examine your strengths and weaknesses in order to find what works for you, tap into the resources surrounding you and get mentoring and support from other moms, and push past the fear of change or doing it wrong and allow room for grace in your mothering. Paperback. 208 pages.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS :: Melinda Means is a writer, speaker, and mom blogger at Mothering From Scratch, as well as women’s ministry director at First Alliance Church in Port Charlotte, Florida. Her work has appeared in Focus on Your Child newsletters,, In Touch magazine, and Lifeway’s Journey magazine. She is mother to two teenage children, a daughter and a son. She and her family live in Punta Gorda, Florida.

Kathy Helgemo started out as an English teacher after graduating from Florida State University, moved through various other jobs, and landed in her current one as a freelance writer from home. She blogs with Melinda at Her blog posts have been featured on, the Women of Faith website, and Parent Society’s Mommy Blog Hot List. She and her husband, Ben, have four children and live in Port Charlotte, Florida.

GIVEAWAY! :: I have a paperback copy of “Mothering From Scratch” to give one of you. Just use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter to win. A winner will be selected randomly on Thursday, Jan. 29.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


I was part of the launch team for this book, so I got an advanced copy to read and review. The authors and Bethany House Publishers also provided the copy I’m giving away. The opinions of the book are my own. 

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

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

{Three Word Wednesday} Moment by Moment

Nineteen years and one day ago I decided to follow Jesus. Somebody had just talked about the Prodigal Son and how he came home. The worship band played “Growing Young” by Rich Mullins. And I nailed some sins written on a slip of paper to a wooden cross laying in the floor.

You’d say I was saved that night.

But I’ve since learned salvation is about so much more than that one moment. Of course, that one moment mattered because it changed every other one that would follow.

That night I believed I was saved from myself and eternal separation from God. I’ve since realized I was saved for something too. My salvation frames my story. My choices – where I went to college, who I dated, who I married, trying to conceive, deciding the adopt, how I spend my time, how I spend my money, what we teach our kids – are continually filtered through my identity as a daughter of God who decided 19 years ago to come home.

Although, really, it’s not about just coming home.

I’ve never been the rebellious one. I’m your stereotypical first-born child who follows rules, wants to please people, and has controlling tendencies. When I first heard the story of the Prodigal Son, I figured God wanted us all to learn that we need to come home – to him. And when we do, he’s waiting for us.

While that’s absolutely true, I don’t think that’s all the story is about. {If you don’t know the story, read it here.}

Truthfully, I identify more with the older brother – the one who kept the rules and was bitter when his brother got a party and grace when he deserved judgment and punishment. My natural ways tend more toward justice than mercy.

But I follow a God who is the exact opposite.

“You can choose, like many, to chain yourself to your hurt. Or you can choose, like some, to put away your hurts before they become hates. You can choose to go the party. You have a place there. Your name is beside a plate. If you are a child of God, no one can take away your sonship.

Which is precisely what the father says to the older son. ‘Son, you are always with me, and all I have is yours’ (Luke 15:31). And that is precisely what the Father says to you. How does God deal with your bitter heart? He reminds you that what you have is more important than what you don’t have. …
The brother was bitter because he focused on what he didn’t have and forgot what he did have. His father reminded him – and us – that he had everything he’d always had. He had his job. His place. His name. His inheritance. The only thing he didn’t have was the spotlight. And because he wasn’t content to share it – he missed the party.”

{Max Lucado in “He Still Moves Stones”}

Because of who God is, I’m not the same person I was 19 years ago. It began with a moment of salvation and has continued as God has saved me, adopted me, promised me, grown me, transformed me, taught me, strengthened me, forgiven me, trusted me, and celebrated me so many moments since.

Some hurts still haunt me, but I know God is dealing with those now. I’m sure there will be more hurts, but God promises in the end everything will work together for the good for those who follow him (Romans 8:28).

I was saved then. And I’m being saved now. Moment by moment. Grace by grace.


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

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

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Q&A with "Hidden Agenda" author Lisa Harris

I connected with author Lisa Harris on social media as I was making my way through the first two of her Southern Crimes novels – “Dangerous Passage” and “Fatal Exchange.” I was anticipating the release of the third in the series – “Hidden Agenda” – so I was excited when my monthly email from Revell included it in the books I could review.

Like any good fiction book, I read “Hidden Agenda” quicker than I really wanted to. I was wrapped up in the story, yet I didn’t really want the book to end. Lisa Harris has created characters I adore and circumstances that keep the story moving while including truth about people and God.

I liked how “Hidden Agenda” picked up where “Fatal Exchange” left off and continued building on a story that already existed.

ABOUT THE BOOK :: His cover is blown. Now his enemies are on his heels and closing in. Presumed dead by friends and family, Michael Hunt is alive – and on the run. Presumed dead by friends and family, the undercover assignment he's been working for the past eight months has just been blown. With a hit out on his life and corruption inside the Atlanta police department, Michael finds himself hunted by both the cartel and the law. His only hope is Olivia Hamilton – the daughter of the man who wants him dead.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :: Lisa Harris is the award-winning author of more than 20 books and is winner of the Best Inspirational Suspense Novel for 2011 from Romantic Times. She has spent more than ten years living with her family as missionaries in Mozambique, where she leads a women’s group and runs a nonprofit organization that works alongside their church-planting ministry. Visit for more information. You can also keep up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

In connecting with Lisa on Twitter, I asked if she’d be interested in sharing on my blog. We decided to do a Q&A session to coincide with her new release. Y’all are going to love her – if you don’t already. And stay tuned because she’s not stopping with this series of books.

Kristin Hill Taylor :: I love the Hunt family! They are the kind of people who seem so welcoming and real. Tell me about how you came to create these characters and what they mean to you.

Lisa Harris :: I was meeting with some other writer friends a couple years ago, and I told them I wanted to so a series about a family of law enforcement officers. They really helped me brainstorm the Hunt family and storylines (and we had a blast in the process!).

As I wrote each sibling’s story, though, I really came to love the family story line. I know there are a lot of dysfunctional families out there, and while the Hunt family isn’t perfect, I wanted them to love each other and be there for each other no matter what.

On a side note, it’s crazy how real they can become — at least to me. :-) I was flying through Atlanta just before book one came out and I was convinced I was going to see Avery or one of the Hunt family in the airport!

KHT :: Where do you get your ideas for the circumstances in the Southern Crimes series? What have you learned about the world and faith developing these stories?

LH :: I wrote a book (“Blood Ransom”) before this series on human trafficking in Africa. At the time, I had no idea this was an issue in the U.S. and was actually shocked while doing my research that human trafficking is a huge issue in the US. After that, I decided I wanted to write a book on human trafficking in the U.S. (“Dangerous Passage”). The other two stories in the series flowed out of this first book. One of the things I love about this genre is being able to show the realities of the world, but also the fact that there are good people out there and an even greater God!

KHT :: You’re a writer, wife, homeschooling mom, and missionary who also runs a non-profit organization. How do you balance writing with the rest of life? What does a normal day in your life look like?

LH :: Life is busy and I’m not sure there is a normal day. :-) For the first time in almost seven years, I’m not homeschooling as all of my kids are attending a missionary boarding school. This has been a big adjustment for me, of course, but one we feel is right for our family at this time.

Now, I have certain days I go out to the village and certain days for writing. I also ensure medicines, baby formula, food baskets — and whatever our current needs are for the non-profit — are delivered to those we are helping, as well as try to keep up on social media what God is doing. One of the main reasons I’m writing is so I can visit my kids during their mid-term breaks three times a year (They also come home three times a year.), so I’m so thankful for a job that allows me to do this! And a job I can do anywhere in the world.

KHT :: Tell me about The ECHO Project. What are the ways this passion and your love for writing stories are intertwined?

LH :: After we’d been here a couple years, we realized we needed help to meet all the physical needs we saw every day. My husband asked me to start a non-profit where we could raise money that would go 100% to meet people’s needs. Thanks to people’s donations, we’ve been able to build houses for the homeless, pay for medical bills (mainly transport and lodging), help start businesses, give monthly food baskets to families carrying for orphans, formula for babies whose mother can feed them, eye glasses, and much more.

I’ve loved the chance to write several books that deal with humanitarian issues, and am actually working with Love Inspired Suspense (from Harlequin) on ideas for a humanitarian/romantic suspense series. The bottom line is, I want to encourage people to make a difference wherever they are, one individual at a time!

KHT :: Have your kids read any of your books? What do you they think about them?

LH :: Yes, both of my boys have read a couple of my books for school, and as far as I know they enjoyed them! Pretty cool!

KHT :: What do you want your readers to take away from the Southern Crimes series, specifically “Hidden Agenda”?

LH :: I want my readers to realize that God wants us to rely completely on Him. And to be completely in Him. Psalm 55:22 tells us that we need to give our burdens to Him. To cast all of our anxieties on him because he really does care for us. Is this always easy? No way. But it’s like Michael said at the end of the book. “I’m struck with the profound truth that God is good. He never promised us that life would be easy, but He has promised to walk with us.” My prayer for my readers is that they seek His face and let Him walk this journey of faith alongside them!

KHT :: What writing project are you working on now? To what else can we be looking forward?

LH :: I just turned in a book to my editor that will kick off my next series with Revell, and I’ve just finished outlining book two. While I can’t say much yet, it’s another fast-paced romantic suspense series that deals with a missing person task force and a heroine (and romance) that I can’t wait to reveal! The first book will release in October!

I received a free electronic copy of this book from Revell Books in exchange for a review, but it was already on my Amazon wish list. 

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

Friday, January 16, 2015

Joy the World (Vol. 1)

My kids are sick. Again. I thought we quit sickness, but apparently it didn't quit us, despite the essential oils I've been slathering on my kids right after they take vitamins. Just another reminder that I'm not actually in control. Of course ... 

Greg and I stayed up late last night watching an episode of "Blue Bloods" after we'd been out at a Murray State basketball game while my kids were sleeping in their beds and our college friend Amber watched Netflix and read a textbook on our course. I told her it would be the easiest babysitting job, ever.

I should have known when I stayed up later than usual that I'd also be up more than usual throughout the night. My kids are sleepers. Really, they always have been. Perhaps I'm spoiled, but we all like our sleep around here.

About 12 minutes after I'd fallen asleep, Ben was suddenly standing beside my bed. "My head hurts. It hurts to swallow my germs." Even in my grogginess, I could interpret his 5-year-old boy speak: His fever was back up and his throat hurt.

So I gave him another dose of ibuprofen and wrote down the time, temperature, and medicine. I have to do that when I have one sick because I can't always remember what time I did what. But this time I have two pieces of paper on the kitchen counter. Alternating Tylenol and ibuprofen with two sick kids is a momma's version of math.

Anyway, all of this to say, I was laying in bed last night after I got up the first time (Yes, there were other times ...) and I had an idea. I know, sometimes middle-of-the-night ideas aren't good ones. But it still seemed like a good idea this morning, so I'm going with it. We shall see how it goes.

As I'm choosing joy in everyday life, I thought it would be fun to share (perhaps weekly? monthly? randomly?) things I've read or heard or watched that bring me joy. Now, I realize joy comes from the Maker of all things in this earth when we decide to let go and realize moments matter. But I also know choosing joy can be helped along by a blog post, song, movie, or conversation with a friend.

So I want to share. And I hope you will too.

1. The Packers of Catan :: You may know we're obsessed with the Settlers of Catan board game. We have an ongoing scoreboard with our best friends that's we've been tallying wins on since May 2007. We have other friends who play too, so we're glad there's an expansion version. Apparently the Green Bay Packers agree with us. This article just made my husband and I smile.

2. "Sugar" by Maroon 5 :: This video has been circulating on social media. And I've watched it more than once. I like it that much. If you haven't seen it, go watch now. And you can thank me later.

3. Kristin Strong's words about blogging trends :: I realize some of you don't care about blogging trends. Actually, I don't either. In the new year, there have been many articles and posts and tweets about the best practices of blogging. Honestly? They annoy me. Sure, I want people to read my blog, but I also like what's happening here at my little corner of the big 'ole internet. So Kristen's words were refreshing for me. She has a way of doing that.

4. I'm keeping a list of #choosingJOY moments on my phone, like people count gifts, so I thought I could share a few of those too ...

#22 French toast for dinner // #23 Ben building with LEGOs // #24 Reading fiction because it's like a vacation right in the middle of everyday life (It was "Shoot the Moon" by Billie Letts this week.) // #25 Greg coming home for lunch and cooking me a fried egg for a sandwich because I wanted something warm

Your turn. Anything to share from your own #choosingJOY this week?

I'm linking this post with Jen Ferguson for the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood Gathering

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

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

About Jaymin's Journey

When a local friend asked me if I could help her friend tell the story of her son who needs an out-of-state surgery insurance won’t cover, I quickly realized sharing their story was the least I could do. Yes, it’s part adoption story, which we all know I love, but it’s also one that tugged at my momma heart regardless of how they became a family. In addition to sending the story to local media outlets, I wanted to share the story here too. I know many of your are quick to pray and encourage. This is certainly a situation that needs both those. If you’re inclined to help financially, that’s an option too. 

MURRAY, Ky. – Like any mom, Micheala Toews just wants what is best for her kids. For one of her children, that means traveling regularly for medical therapies and scheduling an out-of-state surgery not covered by insurance.

Three-year-old Jaymin Toews isn’t mobile and doesn’t talk. At 27 weeks pregnant, his birth mom ended up having an emergency Caesarean section after multiple poor choices.

With no heartbeat, Jaymin was 2 pounds at birth in April 2011. Officially, he had severe hemorrhaging on both sides of his brain in the days after birth, leading to a Cerebral Palsy diagnosis.

Though he has exceeded expectations in multiple areas, the damage done to his brain significantly impaired his vision and motor abilities. At 3 years old, he is still unable to sit up, crawl, stand or walk.

Jaymin’s birth mom visited him once in the NICU and then he spent the next month and a half in the hospital with no visitors – until Micheala received a call about him being placed into foster care. That call alone was a miracle because typically children aren’t placed in the foster system until they’re ready to be discharged from the hospital. After 111 days in the NICU, Jaymin was finally able to come home – to Toews’ Calloway County home. In December 2012, Jaymin's adoption was finalized.

“I fell in love from the very first moment I held that tiny bundle with paper-thin skin and a tiny hat that was far too big for his head!” the proud mom said. “Within a week, he had chubby cheeks. He knew someone was there for him.”

That someone is still here for him.

The current focus is the surgery he needs to address the constant stiffness in his legs, which prevents him from being mobile. Jaymin lies on the floor to play or sits in his chair. He can turn side to side, but he isn’t able to roll all the way over. His mom said he’s getting stronger in his trunk, helping him be able to gradually sit up after lying down. But he needs more balance to correct himself if he tips sideways.

Another goal for this surgery is to avoid his hips becoming dislocated, which would cause much pain and require a major surgery with extended recovery.

The surgery – called Selective Percutaneous Myofascial Lengthening – is scheduled for Feb. 6 near Galveston, Texas. This will lessen the spasticity in Jaymin’s hips. The same procedure may be done in his ankles or knees too, depending on the doctor’s examination. Only done by two doctors in the United States, the surgery is a minimally invasive, out-patient procedure with a short recovery period.

Medicaid won’t pay for surgery because it will be done out of state. Even with the half-off, private-pay discount, the surgery for Jaymin’s hips alone is estimated at 10,900. Should they do more to his knees or ankles, surgery costs could be as much as $14,000 plus travel costs.

Yet it could change Jaymin’s life.

There is an older method of the SPML surgery that is more invasive, takes longer to recover from, and leaves much scar tissue. “I have been researching this for a long time, and firmly believe this is a much better option for Jaymin than traditional surgeries, which often involve cutting muscles, tendons, and/or bones, and have poor functional results,” Micheala Toews said. “There won’t be any scar tissue to deal with later.”

In addition to the lengthening procedure, Jaymin will receive an injection near the nerve that’s making his legs so stiff. Basically, Micheala hopes this will decrease the constant signal from his brain, giving Jaymin about three years to learn new habits that will help him move better.
This surgery is just addressing one area of difficulty in Jaymin’s life. When he was six months old, he had to have a shunt put in after getting really sick and having his head circumference grow 2 inches bigger. He also had a tongue tie clipped.

While his eyes are normal, he has cortical visual impairment because the vision center of his brain was severely damaged. Initially, doctors weren’t sure Jaymin would eat without feeding tubes. He likes his food mushy, but he eats real food. He doesn’t speak, but he does have some sounds that communicate specific meaning – like Mom and music.

“He definitely knows what’s going on,” Micheala said of her son. “I wouldn’t put him at his actual age, but maybe closer to 2. We’ve come a long way from when he was a 1-year-old boy who didn’t react to anything visually. Now he’s pulling things off Walmart shelves. I’m good with that.”

Micheala Toews has been a foster parent for 12 years and had 29 kids in her home throughout the years. In addition to Jaymin, she has 6-year-old twins – one boy and one girl – she also adopted.
“When I was 18, I went to volunteer at a children’s home on an Indian reservation and it got stuck in my blood,” she said about opening her home to children who need a family.

For this family, medical concerns have become part of its everyday life. In fact, the mother had to quit her job as a home health nurse to care for her kids. She sews cloth diapers and is a foster parent support team member.

Jaymin requires therapy to get his body to move better and his brain to function better. For more than two years now, the Anat Baniel Method has proven most effective for Jaymin. This method is a science-based approach that focuses on the child's brain and its ability to change and learn. It uses slow and gentle movements that get the brain’s attention, so it can learn to create new neural patterns that bypass damaged areas.

Micheala Toews is going through training so she can administer the ABM therapy to her son and eliminate travel to Louisville and Asheville, N.C. Right now they go about once a month to one of those locations and stay several days so Jaymin can have two lessons a day for three to five days at a time.

Anyone interested in donating money to help Jaymin’s surgery and future medical needs may do so at Jaymin’s YouCaring page. Updates on his progress are also posted there as well as on Facebook on the “Jaymin’s Journey” page.


And, hey, #ThreeWordWednesday friends, did you see that my ebook is just 99 cents right now and throughout January? Here's the post on why I'm celebrating during this cold, dreary month

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

Monday, January 12, 2015

How January has changed me

Ask me what my favorite month is and I will tell you May. I love that it’s my birth month and the month I became a momma. I love the weather and how it changes from the beginning to the end. I like that it’s the month when the doors to summer open wide.

But it’s been January that’s changed my life.

Nineteen years ago, I became a Christian on a weekend that epitomized God’s love in a way I’d never experienced and breathed the beginning of true transformation into my heart.

Thirteen years ago, Greg surprised me with a marriage proposal. I said yes, obviously, and we were married later in 2002.

Life-changing news isn’t always good, but I was diagnosed with diabetes 11 years ago.

And then there were two big adoption-related moments. In 2007, we met Cate’s birth mom for the first time in a doctor’s office waiting room. We saw our girl, thanks to the ultrasound. And then we all committed to this adoption plan. In 2010, Ben’s adoption was finalized.

Talk about January and I think back to these things. Perhaps I should stop giving May all the favorite-month credit and realize I wouldn’t be who I am without so many Januarys.

In honor of this, “Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family” will be on sale for 99 cents, starting today and continuing through the end of the month. This ebook is my story. It’s the story of so much brokenness redeemed in ways only God can do.

Yes, it’s about adoption, but it’s also my faith journey. People who have no desire to adopt have been encouraged. I hope you will be encouraged too. {Did you know you can also gift ebooks? Anyone can read a Kindle book with a free app for mobile devices and computers.}

Yes, January is cold and dreary. But God redeems and makes new. And that’s reason enough to celebrate.

I'm joining others for the weekly Soli Deo Gloria Gathering as well as Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart and Jennifer Dukes Lee's #TellHisStory.

I'm also linking this post with Hearts at Home's Blog Hop at Jill Savage's place. This month she's talking about starting fresh, which is what January reminds me to do. 

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

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

{Three Word Wednesday} Choosing joy – again

I claimed this one three-lettered word for the new year. I knew God was giving to me because it’s what he’s been speaking into my life – for years, really. I believe change is possible, even when it seems so far away. I want some things deep in my soul to be different – like a better version of what is happening right now.

But I had no idea how JOY would be laid in front of me. Like God was reminding it’s really right here. I walk pass it and ignore its sounds far too often. But I don’t want to keep doing that this year. 

I want to choose joy – over and over. It’s not like I can choose it once and be done. I chose it before the year started. I got side tracked with kids’ sickness and life. And I chose it again. More life and expectations. So I choose it again. Today. And I’ll choose it again tomorrow too.

My husband likes to sing songs as soon as he steps out of bed. He is more relaxed and naturally joy-filled than I am. Our son is much like him. They aggravate me sometimes, but they also point me to joy. It’s hard to miss joy when you’re around them.

Joy is showing up in the songs I’m listening to and the books I’m reading. I recently finished “The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You” by Jessica Turner and on page 50 her words seemed to bridge my struggles and my goals in one paragraph.

“Life is not perfect. You are not perfect. But you are a glorious creation, and your life is meant to be lived with joy. Some days you aren't going to get your makeup on, you will burn the bookies for the school bake sale, and you will spill wine on the rug. In our mess, God makes us strong. In your glorious imperfection, you can still shine beautifully bright. Embrace that truth. Stop trying to be everything for everyone and start investing in who and what really matters.”
{Jessica Turner in “The Fringe Hours”}

I believe the joy I’m choosing really matters. It’s a process so beyond myself that I know it’s going to stretch me and grow me in ways only God can orchestrate.

I also started reading “In this House We Will Giggle: Making Virtues, Love, and Laughter a Daily Part of Your Family Life,” thanks to Kayse Pratt’s encouragement. Greg and I are going to read this one together. And, of course, the first chapter is on joy. In it, author Courtney DeFeo quotes Kay Warren: “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.”

Um, what an amazing definition.

And I certainly don’t have joy figured out if that’s my standard, but it’s a good place to start.

So I’m keeping a list of moments that bring me joy. Some of them are little everyday conversations that come with being a mom. Others are surprises throughout the day that I want to recognize and remember. I’m keeping a note going on my iPhone and posting pictures on Instagram with #choosingJOY. {I’d love for you to follow along and even post your own moments of #choosingJOY.} Counting joys one by one because I know as I look back I will be remembered that God is indeed in control and that everything will be okay. 

And I want my kids to learn that too.

“I don’t want my children to obey only because they fear consequences or worry that Mom will lose it. I want to know their hearts understand and grasp the joy to be found in doing the right thing. This requires parenting through the daily grind with a long-term mentality.”
{Courtney DeFeo in “In This House We Will Giggle”}

So we played hide-n-seek this week before Daddy came home from work. Honestly, he’s better at starting such games. We turned up some music while we disinfected the house once Ben was recovered from the flu. We read and played when there were still chores to be done.

I still don’t want to sing songs when I first wake up or at the dinner table, but I do sense some freedom and joy that hasn’t always been present in our house. I believe this is the beginning of something more.

In my post last week, I mentioned the playlist I’m making. Like me, it’s a work in progress, but this is what I have now. Some songs are about joy, others bring me joy, and some capture the message my heart needs to experience joy.

“Laugh Out Loud” by Jason Gray :: “… I was alive but I wasn’t living, a prisoner of my fear and shame. But when you find you’ve been forgiven laughter will rise like a holy kind of praise. So I throw my head back and offer up my thanks! Ha ha, don’t it make you wanna laugh out loud? Oooh oooh, and shout, “Hallelujah!” Oh yeah, if you got joy go and let it on out …”

“Joy” by Rend Collective :: “We're choosing celebration, breaking into freedom. … You're the song of our hearts. … You're the joy joy joy lighting my soul, the joy joy joy making me whole though I'm broken, I am running into Your arms of love. The pain will not define us; joy will reignite us …”

“Joy to the World” by Shaun Groves :: This is beautiful combination of “Joy to the World” and “All Creatures.”

“Only Hope I’ve Got” by Ellie Holcomb :: “I don't wanna tell some arrogant story or let myself believe I'm You. I don't wanna 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 …”

“More Heart, Less Attack” by NEEDTOBREATHE :: “Be the light in the crack. Be the one that’s been there on a camel’s back. Slow to anger quick to laugh. Be more heart and less attack …”

“Joy to the World (You Are My Joy)” by Rend Collective :: Another fun version of the traditional song.

“Greater” by MercyMe :: “Cause I hear a voice and He calls me redeemed when others say I’ll never be enough. And greater is the One living inside of me than he who is living in the world … Bring your doubts. Bring your fears. Bring your hurt. Bring your tears. There’ll be no condemnation here. You are holy, righteous and redeemed.”

“Your Love Never Fails” by Newsboys :: “You stay the same through the ages. Your love never changes. There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning. And when the oceans rage, I don't have to be afraid because I know that You love me. Your love never fails …”

“Open Up the Heavens” by Meredith Andrews :: “Open up the heavens. We want to see you. Open up the floodgates, a mighty river, flowing from your heart, filling every part of our praise. … You're the reason we're here; you're the reason we're singing.”

“Outsiders” by NEEDTOBREATHE :: “Cause if you're not laughing who is laughing now? I've been wondering if we start sinking could we stand our ground? And through everything we've learned we've finally come to terms we are the outsiders. … On the outside, you're free to roam. On the outside, we've found a home. On the outside, there's more to see. On the outside, we choose to be.”

“I Am” by Crowder :: “There’s no space that His love can’t reach. There’s no place that we can’t find peace. There’s no end to amazing grace. Take me in with your arms spread wide. Take me in like an orphan child. Never let go, never leave my side. … Love like this, Oh my God to find! I am overwhelmed what a joy divine!”

“Promise of Summer” by Jackopierce :: “The winter fields begin to recover and finally it's the promise of summer. Lights are shining round and the guards are coming down …”

“Eyes Wide Open” by Jars of Clay & Third Day :: “Keep our eyes wide open. (Love is kind and love is daring everything we need to keep our eyes.) Draw us in, send us out. Draw us in, send us out. Draw us in, pull us out. Help us to believe.”

“Joy to the World” by Bebo Norman :: Another great version!

“Mighty to Save” by Mac Powell :: Just wait for the African children to join him!

“Hey Mama” by Mat Kearney :: “Singing hey mama, don't want no drama, just a kiss before I leave …”

“Multiplied” by NEEDTOBREATHE :: “God of mercy sweet love of mine, I have surrendered to Your design. May this offering stretch across the skies and these halleluiahs be multiplied …”


Where do you find joy? {Leave a comment sharing and two people will win a copy of my playlist! I'll randomly choose the winners next Wednesday.}


I'm also linking up with Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart and Jennifer Dukes Lee's #TellHisStory. Be sure to read Jennifer's post on fighting back with joy. It's beautiful and true. 

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

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Oh, the places we go ... {Louisville/Northern Kentucky edition}

We make regular trips to Louisville because that’s where my mom, brother and his family, and some friends live. We don’t always set out like tourists, but sometimes it is fun to explore even the familiar. While we were there a few days before Christmas, we visited a museum and ate a restaurant I wanted to share with you.

Obviously there is so much more to do in Louisville and Northern Kentucky, and I’m sure I’ll have more stories to tell another time. Churchill Downs was a family favorite from my childhood – and a few years ago! We’ve also enjoyed the Louisville Science Center and Louisville Zoo as hometown tourists.

Now for our recent outings …

Bouquet Restaurant and Wine Bar
519 Main Street, Covington

I like the Christmas tradition of getting together with a couple friends from high school and their families. We laugh and reminisce and catch up. And eat. In a group text with Katie and Bekah, I suggested we visit the restaurant our fellow Oldham County High School friend Stephen Williams owns. He’s the chef too.

In Covington, this would require a road trip. And we decided to leave our kids with sitters. TRIPLE DATE! 

Greg and I rode with Barrett and Bekah. Brad and Katie met us there. We settled in our table for six, which was ready for us, thanks to Bouquet’s willingness to take reservations (and online!). Our waiter was friendly. Stephen sent out a delicious cheese tray and some whipped feta-stuffed peppers I wanted more of.

And then we ordered our entrees. I went with the fried chicken. And, thankfully, it wasn’t any usual Kentucky Fried Chicken. We all enjoyed the food and the complimentary desserts that followed.

And the conversation, of course. We covered our boys’ bathroom habits, what it’s like to be married for more than a decade, and stories from the mid-1990s. These aren’t the people I do life with every day, but these are some of my people. These are the people who knew me before I could drive. We filled evenings with flashlight tag and dreams of what would come next.

For Stephen, this restaurant is what came later – when we all grew up. I’m proud of him. And I’m glad he got to cook for me!

{The photos Stephen posts online is what kept his restaurant in my mind because we live at opposite ends of the state. You can be tempted too – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Website.}

Louisville Slugger Museum
800 W. Main Street, Louisville

As a baseball fan and Louisville-area native, I’m kind of embarrassed to admit I’ve never been here. My brother-in-law, who isn’t from Kentucky, suggested we go. Good call, Zac! Louisville Slugger had a holiday special so the three kids in our group were free – although apparently the two of them who are 5 and younger would have been anyway. The adults paid $12 each. We got to learn about how the bat factory got its start, see how the bats used to be made and how they’re made now, and learn about the specifics Major Leaguers prefer for their own bats.

Oh, and we got a mini bat at the end of the tour.

Greg held Mickey Mantle’s bat. And, yes, he stood on both sides of the plate, pretending to be a switch hitter. Ben held Derek Jeter’s bat. I took a picture so one day when he may actually care we can tell him more about it. Greg and Zac hit baseballs in the batting cage and the kids climbed on the large baseball glove playground.

It’s not the kind of place you’d plan to spend the day, but it’s certainly worth going to for a couple hours at most – which, honestly, is my kind of museum.

{More information is available online.}

What would be on your must-do, must-see, must-eat Louisville list?

This is the fourth in an occasional destinations series I accidentally started recently. Murray Edition. Chicago Edition. Nashville Edition

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

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Hello, 2015!

Since Christmas, I’ve left the house five times – a trip to the pediatrician and pharmacy, an overdue grocery shopping errand, another visit to the pediatrician, a dinner date with a friend who knew I was on the verge of cabin fever, and a date to the movie theater with my girl to see “Annie.” {By the way, Cate and I loved the remake. I think I’ll go find the soundtrack now ...}

I cancelled plans with friends – the ones who were going to come over before the Murray State basketball game for dinner, the ones who were coming over for New Year’s Eve, the ones who were going to cook deer my husband shot for us, and the extended family who hosts a New Year’s Day lunch.

This wasn’t how I expected to end one year or start another. But I have found myself remembering all that God has done.

I’m not complaining, because, despite my son’s fever and cough, it’s been a good week at home. The time being more unscheduled than I expected makes me feel freer. Sure, I’ve had to run the dishwasher a few times and am slowly working on all that laundry.

But I’ve finished scrapbooking 2012 and our trip to Disney earlier this year. I’ve finished reading “The Fringe Hours: Secrets to Making Time for You” by Jessica Turner. {You’ll hear more about this book here on the blog, but you can preorder it here. Any woman can benefit from its practical, encouraging words.}

This is our week in Instagram pictures ...

Let’s back up ...

Ben started running a fever late Christmas night. I made an appointment to see the pediatrician the next morning because I figured he picked up something from the cousins. It often happens after family gatherings.

Turns out he had strep throat. For a while, it was his go-to illness. But it’s been awhile. And his throat didn’t actually hurt. Armed with an antibiotic, we returned home and figured we had a couple days in the house.

When he was still running a fever on Monday morning, I called the pediatrician’s office again. Usually with strep, his fever is gone after 48 hours after starting the antibiotic. I was fine waiting longer, but it seemed strange that the thermometer was still reading 102. So back in we went.

This time he tested positive for flu. Those germs were probably there Friday too, but it may have been too early to show up on the test. The nurse said she had seen much strep and flu together recently. Ah, winter …

Admittedly, I wanted to cry when our favorite nurse practitioner delivered the news. And not just for Ben. But for our December.

You may remember Cate ran a fever for various reasons – walking pneumonia and then a virus – for 13 of the first 20 days of December. She missed half the days of school between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We cancelled plans and rearranged life.

All of that is fine and part of real life, but that’s been our whole December. Plus, as a momma, it gets old seeing your kids puny. And, yes, I miss my friends. I’ve seen them so much less than usual this month.

Nobody was sick the week of Christmas – praise God! – and Cate finally seems herself again. I’ve done my best to keep Ben’s flu germs contained to limited areas of the house, but there’s only so much control possible there. Ben’s temperature has been hovering around 99 and he’s perked up so much that he was pestering his sister and disobeying his parents yesterday. Either way, he’s hardly worn a shirt this week, which has in fact cut down on the amount of laundry.

We didn’t exactly ring in the new year either. Ben was in bed by 7 p.m. Cate, Greg and I played Phase 10 – well, the first five phases – until her bedtime and then us party-animal adults watched the most recent episode of “Hart of Dixie” so we could be caught up when it starts airing again next week. And we were asleep well before 2015 officially began.

This is life. And it’s often not what we expect. But there’s been beauty and rest this week anyway.

Happy new year, friends. May 2015 be full of your favorite people gathered close and unexpected beauty – and very few fevers. At least that’s what I’m hoping for mine.

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