Friday, February 27, 2015

Five Things I Learned in February

1. A couple random TV/movies facts ::

Amber in "Parenthood" was Bernice in "Hope Floats" years earlier. Her real name is Mae Whitman. Before he was Cary Agos in "The Good Wife," Matt Czuchry played a college boy in "Gilmore Girls."

2. Christina Baker Kline is an author I love.

I read the popular "Orphan Train" in January and then "Desire Lines" and "Sweet Water" in February. I enjoyed them all. This month I also read "Bird in Hand," which I didn't enjoy but finished reading anyway. Kline is a great story teller who spans her suspenseful plots over two time periods, which isn't easy to do well.

3. Making homemade BBQ can be easy.

I tried one of those Crock Pot sauces that is made to just be poured on the meat. We didn't love the flavor. So I went to a recipe my longtime dear friend Katie shared. She shared it because of my love of Dr Pepper.

And now I'm sharing it with you. Because it was delicious.

DIRECTIONS :: Put rub on meat. Put meat in Crock Pot and the. Pour can of Dr Pepper over it. Cook on low for 10 hours. Shred and drain meat and then put back in Crock Pot with some BBQ sauce. I probably added about a 1/4 of the bottle and then turned Crock Pot to warm and then added more sauce closer to serving time. Most people added some more sauce on their sandwich.

Easy, peasy. And delicious.

4. Counting joys really is freeing. 

I have a list on my phone of moments, conversations, happenings that brought me joy. It's just a running numbered list I add to when I think about them, so I've probably neglected a few things. Here at the end of February, I'm at #108. Talk about perspective.

5. Sometimes a book begs for discussion.

I started reading "You're Loved No Matter What" by Holley Gerth. By the end of chapter two, I wanted to talk to friends about what I was reading. So I started a Facebook group so we can have an online book discussion. We're going to start discussing chapter one on March 16. You're welcome to join us! {More details here.}

How's your month been?

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. {From 2015} January.

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."

This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

{Three Word Wednesday} Participate in Grace

I went to bed grumpy for no real reason the past couple of nights. My head was full of seemingly unconnected thoughts about how parenting is hard, how life’s seasons change quicker than I ever anticipate, how my life looks nothing like I expected but is more than I could have ever wanted, how I miss people, how I want to go camping when the weather warms, how I see so much of myself in my daughter …

The thoughts weren’t all bad, but for whatever reason they were overwhelming all at once. So I dived into a fiction book I had recently started.

And I didn’t like it. But I kept reading.

Sure, it was well written. But I didn’t like the plot or some of the characters. I didn’t like their choices or their perspectives. Their lives were full of heartache – and some of it hit too close to home. There was a childhood friendship – you know, the kind you think really will last forever – that fell apart. And a marriage did the same and fragmented a community of friends. Intimacy was displaced and dreams were shattered.

Of course, some of that is real life. But I’ve also seen how God changes people.

I know how God has changed me and will continue doing so. I’ve fought against the change in some seasons, but right now I see some of the evidence that I’m not who I once was. God’s grace broke through my stubborn, selfish heart that tried to control even those closest to me.

I’ve struggled to accept grace – from the One who make is possible and others who do their best to give it. I’ve created some unnecessary heartache because I couldn’t grasp grace. I’ve been too concerned with justice.

“We don’t think of our flaws as the glue that binds us to the people we love, but they are. Grace only sticks to our imperfections. Those who can’t accept their imperfections can’t accept grace either.”

I spent a long time striving for perfection. It stressed me out. God’s been teaching me – for years – about letting go. Finally, I’m understanding why it’s necessary. I now know why my tight grip on my husband, my friends, my kids, my family, my house, my dreams, and my moments was going to ruin me – and maybe them.

Grace comes when I let go. Again and again. {Tweet that.}

Grace comes when I say no to something that doesn’t belong in my life.

Grace comes when I say yes to something meant for this season.

Grace comes when I choose to the see the best in someone.

Grace comes when my husband loves me even in my grumpiness.

Graces comes when I take care of myself.

And I finally feel like I can begin to grasp it – on the days that make sense, on the days that don’t go as expected, and in the moments in between. Choosing grace and joy is freeing. {Tweet that.}

Turns out, I didn’t really want to be in charge anyway. I just wanted to be part of what God is doing. And that’s exactly where I’m finding myself lately.

“Real love stories don’t have dictators, they have participants. Love is an ever-changing, complicated, choose-your-own adventure narrative that offers the world but guarantees nothing. When you climb a mountain or sail an ocean, you’re rewarded for staying in control. Perhaps that’s another reason true intimacy is so frightening. It’s the one thing we all want, and must give up control to get.”
{Donald Miller in “Scary Close”}

I want to be a participant. I want to say yes to grace and no to perfection. {Tweet that.} I want to know the Maker more so I can know grace more. I want to receive it and give it as this adventure called life continues.

God never ceases to amaze me. AFTER I wrote this post, I started reading "You're Loved No Matter What" by Holly Gerth. She spoke right into my right now. Like she knew I wrote this post. So I decided I wanted to lead an online book discussion of "You're Loved No Matter What." I'd love for you #ThreeWordWednesday friends to join me. Here's the post with more details. 

Earlier this week on Facebook, I shared an excerpt of my ebook, "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family," which is available on Amazon. I'd love for you to come join me there too. 

Want more insights? 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, February 24, 2015

You're Loved No Matter What :: Let's discuss ...

“Through Jesus, we are given perfection that we could never have on our own. That’s positional perfection, and it allows us to stand in right relationship with God. Positional perfection can only be received. It can never ben earned. When we try to do for ourselves what only Jesus can, we take the power out of what has been done on our behalf. God wants to set us free so our lives will no longer need to be about pursuing perfection. He wants us instead to be a people of grace, love, and joy.”

{Holley Gerth in “You’re Loved No Matter What”}

I’ve been journeying away from perfection and toward grace and joy. The process has been like leaving the darkness and walking into the light. What’s been so hard about it all is letting God reshape my natural tendencies and change my expectations. What’s been really encouraging about the whole process is how God intertwines so many books, friendships, conversations, blog posts, songs, and moments to teach me.

I am loved no matter what. There’s nothing I can do to change what Jesus already did for me.

That’s the message Holley Gerth is sharing about in her newest book, “You’re Loved No Matter What: Freeing Your Heart from the Need to be Perfect.” The title alone speaks to me. 

I read the first few chapters in one sitting today and felt like she was writing for me. But I know I’m not alone in needing this message. It’s the kind of practical wisdom that would thrive in discussion with other women. We can share our struggles and the ways God has broken through them.

So beginning March 16, I’m going to host an online book study of “You’re Loved No Matter What.” {Tweet about it.} The book officially releases next week, but it’s already available on Amazon.

We’ll take the book a chapter at a time as I post discussion questions each Monday. It’ll be a private Facebook group so what you say there is safe within the group. You can join the conversations as your week allows.

While I hope those who commit are invested in sharing and encouraging, I can promise you there will be grace. I believe this book will prompt conversations we as women need to have – with God, with ourselves, and with each other.

Whos in? Please comment here with your email address and Facebook name (if we aren’t already friends there and you doubt I have your email address) so I can keep you informed and get you added to our group. You can also email me at kristinhilltaylor (at) gmail (dot) com. Meanwhile, please make arrangements to get the book and read the introduction and first chapter by March 16.

I'm linking this post with Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood Gathering and Jennifer Dukes Lee's #TellHisStory. And later I linked with Jessica Turner's Fringe Friday, where she and others share what they're doing with their "fringe hours" -- pockets of time in our days we can use for self-care. Reading and discussing this book is going to occupy some of my fringe hours. 

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, February 18, 2015

{Three Word Wednesday} Living while waiting

There’s a magnetic notepad and pen hanging on my refrigerator. One morning as we were somewhat frantically making breakfasts and packing lunches, my 7-year-old daughter said she thought the notepad would be a good place to list what she wants me to get from the grocery.

Hello, independence. Have I told you I love this age? And, um, she wins for being the first member of my family to want to invest in the grocery list. {Sorry, husband of a dozen years …}

So she wrote down “bagles” and “cream chees” – I told you, she’s 7. We had finished what we had of those two items that morning and she figured they needed to be replaced.

We went about our morning. I honestly didn’t think about the list as I went about my day because I wasn’t meal planning or grocery shopping that day. I figured I’d consult the list another day. When Cate got home from school that afternoon, she wanted to talk about the list.

“So did you get the bagels and cream cheese? You know I want the white cream cheese and not the pink one?”

“Yes, I know you like the white better. But I haven’t been to the grocery store yet.”

She seemed disappointed in me. “But we’re out of those things,” she said.

I started to explain instant gratification – and why we don’t need to live like that. Bagels and cream cheese don’t require a special trip to the grocery. They’re on the list. I’ll get them when I’m there next.

I think I was fairly convincing. She seemed to understand. It wasn’t long before she added other things to the list. {Another point for helping! Not that we actually keep score around here …}

And then I caught myself doing the same thing – with, because, hello, epitome of {nearly} instant gratification with Prime shipping. I was out of light bulbs – added them to the cart. I needed a certain size battery – check. Talk about convenience.

I suppose instant gratification doesn’t matter much when it comes to batteries and light bulbs or even bagels and cream cheese. But I’ve learned some of my most profound lessons of trusting God when I had to wait. {Tweet that.}

I waited to get pregnant, never actually did, and learned God hears the desires of my heart.

I’ve waited for the phone to ring or mail to arrive.

I’ve waited for clarity on pursuing adoption again. I’ve started to dive in – more than once – and then remember God works while we wait.

I’ve waited for a friend to understand or my husband and I to get on the same page.

I’ve waited for my kids to get well this winter.

Like I share in my ebook, we are sanctified and perfected in the waiting. {Tweet that.}

Even knowing that, I don’t always wait patiently. Sometimes I want to rush the silence and uncertainty. Other times I assume I’ve got it all figured out and don’t need to wait on anyone or The One who actually is in control.

I eventually bought a bag of blueberry bagels and whipped cream cheese, not the strawberry flavor. The batteries and light bulbs arrived on my door step 48 hours later. God led us to adoption twice after he made it clear we were supposed to stop trying to conceive. My phone rang. Necessary conversations happened in the right time. I still don’t know about that third adoption. And I’m not sure how long my kids will stay well.

But I believe God is working.

Sometimes he makes it clear what we should do, where we should go, and when the changes should happen. Other times we have to wait. But we can worship and live and serve and rest and learn while we wait because God’s got a plan – because our names are scribbled on the notepad in heaven.

An InLinkz Link-up

I'm also linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee for #TellHisStory and Meredith Bernard's Woman to Woman Wednesday

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, February 17, 2015

How snow days free us

I remember the faintly sounding phone ringing. It interrupted my sleep enough I knew what it meant – I could go back to sleep. Long before the days of texts and automated calls, the phone tree went to work spreading the good news our school district was closing for a snow day.

My dad was a principal of one elementary school and my mom was a teacher at another. There was one year my brother, my sister, and I were all at the same elementary school where my dad was principal. I was in fifth grade, Kevin in second grade, and Cassie in kindergarten.

We rejoiced on snow days.

In a family whose life revolved around the school calendar, these unexpected days off were treasures. I figured when I grew up, I’d care less about snow days, being a girl who loves summer and all.

Not true. I still really like them.

Sure, having snow day often means moving the last day of school back another day. But there’s something freeing about a day you didn’t expect to have totally at home. {Tweet that.}

I couldn’t do it forever, but I can hunker down with books and my scrapbook table. The kids make tents and build with LEGOs. Cate makes crafts and reads so many pages from so many books. Ben pesters his sister to play with him and asks about time like he understands what minutes and hours really are.

And when the school principal send the text mid-afternoon to inform everyone that tomorrow is another snow day? That’s the best. I don’t even have to set an alarm for the next morning. Yesterday was a scheduled day off for Presidents’ Day – ironically, it was a built-in snow-day make-up day, but we didn’t have any days to make up. Until yesterday.

The kids went sledding with our nearby friends. We ate two batches of snow cream and leftover soup. There is a pile of clothing by the front door and my husband’s hanging coveralls keep spooking me because I think there’s a person standing in our foyer.

The kids watched episodes of “My Little Pony” and “Wild Kratts” while Greg and I watched “Blacklist” and “Scandal” on the DVR. There were rounds of Phase 10 with Cate after Ben went to bed. And then there episodes of “Blue Bloods.”

Evidence of our day at home is all over – crumbs under the table, layers of clothing scattered in multiple places, dirty dishes that didn’t fit in the dishwasher, books and toys in every room. Real life isn’t always tidy, but it’s full of joy. {Tweet that.}

Today is Snow Day #2. There’s probably at least six inches covering our yard, maybe more. And there is another inch forecasted for tonight with lingering cold temperatures. This is Kentucky, so who knows when we’ll go back to school and our normal routine.

But maybe when we do go back, we’ll be a little more relaxed, less stressed, and ready to soak up the joy around us. Snow days are opportunities to breathe deeply and regroup. God gives us a chance to remember that he makes all things new and washes us clean because spring is coming. {Tweet that}

What’s the weather like where you are?

I'm linking this with Mary Carver's Works for Me Wednesday. Despite loving summer, snow days do work for me. They're good for my soul. The interruption in routine is freeing for my Type A self and teaches me to let go and be present. 

EDITED on Friday, Feb. 20  :: We're on Snow Day #5 now. And there are more flakes falling. I recently shared about #FringeHours ... and what a week to epitomize that. This week has been full of time at home with my favorites, opportunities to sit at my scrapbook table, and chances to cuddle up on the couch and read fiction. Next week may be a rude awakening when "real life" sets back in, but, for now, I'm enjoying the extra time to care for myself and my family in simple ways. 

I'm linking up with Jessica Turner, author of "The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You," who hosts a weekly link up focusing on how women like to spend pockets of time dedicated to self-care. 

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." Amazon affiliate links included.

Friday, February 13, 2015

{The Fringe Hours} Work doesn't always have to come before play

I can’t remember the last time I was bored. Life’s responsibilities keep me busy enough, but there are also people I want to spend time with and plenty of hobbies to occupy my time.

I almost didn’t sign up for “The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You” launch team because I knew I didn’t struggle to find things I like to do. Turns out Jessica Turner’s new book isn’t just about how women should have hobbies.

“The Fringe Hours” is about making the most of the time you do have for the well-being of your soul. {Tweet that.Jessica Turner calls the pockets of time – while we wait for an appointment, after the kids are in bed, the moments in the school pick up line – “fringe hours.” They look different for each person, but we all have them.

Give me a book to read, photos to scrapbook, or an idea to blog and I’m happy camper. I have monthly massages scheduled. I have lunch with friends, although there are a couple I’d prefer see more. I walk regularly – either on the treadmill with the “Gilmore Girls” or laps at the arena or park with my best friend. I like board games and am teaching my kids to do the same.

But as I read “The Fringe Hours,” I realized I defend my schedule to myself and sometimes others. I apologize to my husband for how I spent my time. (He has never made me feel guilty for reading a book instead of washing dishes.) I cling tightly to my work-before-play mentality.

Y’all, there is always a chore to complete, a closet to organize, or some errands to run. (Although I run less errands these days, thanks to ePantry and Amazon Prime Pantry. The decision to order household products and some groceries online has created more fringe hours for myself at home.)

But it’s okay to not do all the work today. It’s okay to play without having to defend – even to myself – why it’s good for me.

Realizing this comes as God is teaching me about joy. I’m choosing joy in the small moments that make up life.

“The Fringe Hours” reminded me how caring for my soul matters. This life isn’t perfect and never will be. But I can find joy in everyday moments when I slow down and notice what God is doing around me – even when I play. {Tweet that.}

How do you like to spend your fringe hours?

This book officially releases Feb. 17, but you can preorder it from Amazon or DaySpring. At DaySpring, you can get free shipping if you order two copies ($10.99 each right now) using BLOOMBOOK at the check out.And the first 500 people get autographed copies. There are other cute #FringeHours inspired products too.  Jessica Turner and her friend and fellow author Angie Smith are going to study “The Fringe Hours” for their last book study at (in)courage.

You can also learn more about the book at its official website, where you can read the first chapter.

I received a free, advance copy of “The Fringe Hours” for being part of the book’s launch team, but these opinions are my own and I’ve already ordered two additional copies to gift to friends. This post includes affiliate links.

I'm linking up this post with Jessica Turner's first Fringe Friday, where women are sharing how they spend their fringe hours, and the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood Gathering, where I've been learning about the power of resting and slowing down. 

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, February 11, 2015

{Three Word Wednesday} Stay Mission Focused

“Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News! If I were doing this on my own initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust. What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News. … When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.”

Those verses were read in church on Sunday as part of a sermon about how we’re all called to share the gospel. We have a team of people who take turns speaking and teaching each Sunday and we’ve been studying the verses outlined at I like the way each week is different, which, really, kind of makes me laugh. I’m a little Type A, which you know if you’ve been around here for any amount of time.

Anyway, so Speaker Jim outlined three ways to stay mission focused ::

1. Pray and prepare.
2. Actively seek non-believers.
3. Boldly share your testimony.

My first thought? I need to do a better job with this.

My second thought? Well, it was more than one thought, but I found myself thinking about motherhood.

We are all indeed called to share the gospel. As a mom, my mission field is right in front of me. {Tweet that.} It’s sitting at my kitchen table right now was a type – one is doing second-grade homework, the other is snacking and wanting his sister to hurry up and finish her homework.

I often say I want to raise independent kids who know Jesus. But that’s not enough. I can’t assume my kids will know Jesus. I need to led them to him. {Tweet that.}

Yes, we should all share the gospel with neighbors and co-workers and relatives and new friends and old friends and anyone else we meet. Sharing doesn’t mean forcing. But we all have a story. And I believe Jesus’ redemption is the foundation of mine – so why should I keep that good news to myself?

That story – and there are oh-so many chapters – can be shared right here. Right at this table where we gather in the mornings and afternoons and evenings. It’s also not the kind of story I tell one time and then file away as complete.

We spend time with Christian friends, go to church, and read the Bible at home. Our kids attend a private, Christian school that teaches God is the foundation of everything – even math problems.

But I still have to share the gospel with my kids – over and over again. Most people don’t decided to follow Jesus after hearing about him once. Believing is often a process and building faith comes with time.

I’ve been praying about a mission trip to Guatemala Greg, Cate and I are going on in July. I want my heart and mind to be prepared. I want to be able to love on these strangers with a love that comes only from God. This trip is us seeking out how to actively share God’s love – the foundation of our story – with others.

That’s a good thing. I’m praying the trip will allow God’s love seep down so deep in Cate’s heart that she’ll remain changed and be spurred on to share the good news with others. But I can’t become so focused beyond the walls of my house that I neglect to share the gospel to the people closest to me. 

I want to show them who Jesus is. I want to show them why Momma needs Jesus too. I want them to know how to seek truth while living in the chaos of this world. I want to stay mission focused so we can all love Jesus more.

Hey, #ThreeWordWednesday friends, I have a couple giveaways happening right now I thought you may be interested in. First of all, my 7-year-old girl wrote her first-ever book review and shared it Monday. Be sure to enter to win a copy of “Rasmus and the Vagabond” by Astrid Lindegren, the creator of Pippi Longstocking. Also, it’s Valentine’s Week, so I wanted to love on my friends with a giveaway of some things I love. Come join in that fun.

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, February 10, 2015

The Beauty of Grace

 I sat at a table with my two closest friends one evening in December. We ate chips and queso, caught up with each other after Christmas, laughed, offered advice and opinions on each other's situations. We spend much time together in everyday life, but our conversations are interrupted by parenting.

So we multi-task while doing life – which works fine because it’s where we are in this season of parenting little ones. But it’s still nice to be able to sit there with friendship as our focus.

We say there for three hours that night between Christmas and New Years and between different family’s kids being sick. And we could have stayed longer.

{I should probably insert here my husband and I had a miscommunication about what “going out to dinner” looked like for this group of three. I told him I would “be gone a long time,” but apparently we have different definitions of what that meant. We worked it out and now next time he knows.}

I like to linger at the table with my people. And that's what reading “The Beauty of Grace” by Dawn Camp was like.

Camp put together this treasury of real-life testimonies. She writes a few essays herself, but she's more like a host. She does include some of her own lovely photographs.

And it’s a beautiful table at which to linger.

The essays are divided into themed sections – purpose, the big picture, surrender, trust, lessons learned, hope and encouragement, and worship. The list of authors includes some of my favorites – Mary Carver, Jessica Turner, Kristen Strong, Holley Gerth, Emily Freeman, Melanie Shankle, and Jennifer Dukes Lee.

I underlined and starred passages. I tweeted one author whose essay on peace resonated so much with me, especially on the heels of my own published testimony in my ebook, “Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family.”

Kelley J. Leigh writes in her essay “Peace in the Pieces” ::

“We can plan sacred weddings, not the breaks that come with marriage. We can attempt to arrange for the end of life, never the date of a last breath. We can strive to be the self-sufficient savior, but in the end of that strategy will never work. Certain mysteries dangle out of our reach by design. There is only one true Peace.”

These authors tell real-life stories of brokenness, imperfection, and finding Jesus that offer hope and encouragement. Camp weaves their stories together beautifully with her own, binding up individual stories that are actually intertwined because they all come back to One Author. That’s the beauty of grace that comes with lingering around the table with friends.

ABOUT THE BOOK :: Published by Revell in January 2015. 208 pages. Hardcover. Official website.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :: Dawn Camp is a camera-toting, homeschooling mother of eight children. She writes for DaySpring's (in)courage website, where her beautiful photography previously graced their monthly calendar and currently decorates the desktops of women around the world. Dawn blogs at and is a featured photographer on Adobe's website for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software. She lives with her family in metro Atlanta.

I received a free copy of “The Beauty of Grace” from Revell in exchange for a review. These opinions are my own. 

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, February 9, 2015

Love one another {a giveaway}

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

It's the week of love. I know people have all sorts of feelings about Valentine's Day. But I've decided this year to just embrace it. I mean, what's so bad about encouraging others to love on their people? I may have even ordered my kids a little gift. Shhh. Don't tell them.

I personally love Valentine's Day because it's the anniversary of my first date with my husband ... before he was my husband ... 17 years ago. My, how time flies. We've since dubbed Feb. 14 "First-Date Day" and would celebrate even if the rest of the world wasn't.

You people are my friends. We may not get to lunch together or show up with dinner when it's been a hard day. But we can love on each other anyway. That's the beauty of technology.

So I raided my gift closet and pulled out some of my favorite things to give you!

  • John 14:27 Print from & a PDF copy of "Peace in the Process" :: It's one of my favorite scriptures and there are butterflies on the 8x10 print. Butterflies remind me of when I decided to follow Jesus at a weekend that was built on the metaphor of transforming from caterpillars into butterflies. 
  • "Let Heaven and Nature Sing" & Loved plaque :: "Joy to the World" is one of my favorite songs and the one that spoke so deeply into my life about #choosingJOY this year. The plaque quotes Holley Gerth, a favorite author of mine who encourages and loves so well. Both come from, which is a great place to shop. 
  • "Sing the Bible" by Slugs & Bugs :: This may be "kids' music," but I love it. 
  • Package of 12 Sharpies & PDF copy of "Peace in the Process" :: Um, who doesn't love Sharpies?
  • Romans 8:28 plaque :: This is one of my two all-time favorite verses. 

Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter to win. The giveaway will be open through the weekend and then I'll announce the winners, which will be chosen randomly, on Monday. Speaking of giveaways, did you see my daughter's first-ever book review? And we're giving away the book she loved. 


I'm linking this post with the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood Gathering, one of my favorite places on the internet. 

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."

{Review & Giveaway} Rasmus and the Vagabond

I have a treat for you fellow book lovers today! My daughter, Cate, who is 7, is sharing her first-ever book review with you! Stay tuned because there is an opportunity at the end of someone to win a copy of "Rasmus and the Vagabond" by Astrid Lindegren, aka the Creator of Pippi Longstocking. 

I love “Rasmus and the Vagabond” so much I think you should read it. Rasmus runs away from an orphanage when he does he meets Oscar a tramp. They go together. They have an adventure, solve a mystery, and catch culprits. People think that Oscar is the culprit. (He is not.) So he is put in jail!

So some people named Lif and Linder will help Rasmus get Oscar out of jail, but only for the money that they stole! (Oscar has it). After a while Rasmus found a family, but Rasmus does not want to leave Oscar.

So he stays with Oscar. It turns out Oscar and his wife, Martina become his mother and father when they adopt him. That was his home, forever.

Read the book if you want to know more. You should read it because it is happy. Really in the end.

Reading the book taught me not to be afraid because Rasmus was not afraid. It might teach you something too!


ABOUT THE BOOK :: “Rasmus and the Vagabond” is recommended for kids 8 - 12 years old. Soft cover. 180 pages. Originally published in 1956, this newer edition was published by Plough Publishing House this year. Official website.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :: Astrid Lindgren, the creator of Pippi Longstocking, Emil, and dozens of other world-famous characters, has thrilled three generations of children with her storytelling. She is the only children’s author with a literary prize, a theme park, a museum, a satellite, and a minor planet named in her honor. (After this last honor, she suggested changing her name to “Asteroid Lindgren.”) A jury appointed by Swedish Radio’s Culture Department to elect the “Author of the Millennium” voted Astrid Lindgren second after William Shakespeare. She was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal and heaps of other awards and honors.

GIVEAWAY :: One of you will win your own copy! Share in the comments your favorite children’s chapter book or who you know that would like to read this one. A winner will be randomly selected on Monday, Feb. 16. Congratulations to Teaque and her daughter for winning their own copy of "Rasmus and the Vagabond." Hope y'all enjoy it like Cate did. 

Many thanks to FlyBy Promotions/Propeller Consulting LLC for providing my girl a copy of "Rasmus and the Vagabond" as well as one to whomever wins this giveaway. We received the book in exchange for this review. Our opinions are our own. If you've won this prize on another blog you're not eligible to win again. This post also contains an Amazon affiliate link.

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."

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Joy to the World (Vol. 3)

Happy weekend, friends!

Today I've officially known Greg half of my life. We met 17 years ago through a mutual acquaintance and then went on a date the next week, on Valentine's Day. Ah, how romantic! I suppose, but, really it was about logistics of going on a date the next Saturday. It was my freshman year of college people, I wasn't looking for marriage. My how time flies ... and most of it's been fun! 

Life with Greg also been a bunch of real life that looks nothing like I expected. I mean that in a nice way. Really, that's the theme of my life ... 

We had a little blimp in our normal routine this weekend when both kids came home from school at lunchtime Wednesday with fevers. Cate also complained of her throat and stomach hurting, so I ended up taking them to the pediatricians' office to get swabbed for strep. Positive!

This was Ben's fifth strep diagnosis since late April 2014 and third since Christmas. It's Cate's second time in less than a month. Talking about health and medicine always prompts a good Facebook thread ... 

But they're better now. Hopefully for good. Or at least the rest of this winter.

Meanwhile, I've been posting things I'm loving over at Instagram, so I'd love to have you connect with me there. Here are some snapshots of #choosingJOY the past couple of weeks ::

1. "Experiencing Joy" by Jeannie Cunnion :: Joy seems to be a theme on the internet right now. At first I thought, well, isn't my focus this year cliche? And then I realized it just means there are that many more resources out there. Like this article.

"What produces JOY is first remembering the good news of God’s grace and then letting it flow through us to one another." {Jeannie Cunnion}

2. Extra! Extra! board game :: Even though I haven't played this game yet, it's making my list. Here's the back story: Greg and I have played Settlers of Catan regularly with our best friends since February 2007. In May 2007, we started an perpetual scoreboard that we still tally wins. We sit in the same order around the table.

I haven't been wanting a new game. I'm still happily addicted to Settlers of Catan, but then I read about this one. By the makers of Settlers! Before I was a mom, I was a reporter. So, yeah, this game seems perfect for me.

3. Road trips with friends that involve stops at good restaurants and our favorite college basketball team :: This has happened once with our friends the Gachokas. And it's happening again today and next Saturday. I love basketball season. And my friends.

4. Sharing my story at other websites :: Yesterday I has posts at both places I regularly contribute – God-sized Dreams website and Circles of Faith. The GSD post is about marriage and how I've known Greg half my life {officially, today is 17 years!} and at COF I'm sharing another excerpt from my book that talks about how God hears the desires of our heart. I'd love for you to join me at both places.

5. Reading a new cookbook like a novel :: I've been lacking meal planning inspiration. So I resubscribed to eMeals and ordered a new cookbook, recommended by my friend Kayse Pratt. I spent an hour Thursday reading "Dashing Dish" by Katie Farrell.

6. From my #choosingJOY list on my iPhone :: 63. Walking in the morning. 64. My time with Ben during the day and him saying, "We have a busy day, you and me." ... 67. LeeAnn Willet bringing me JOY stickers at a Racers game. 68. A meal with so few carbs {tilapia, green beans, salad, blackberries} I barely have to take insulin.

How have you been #choosingJOY lately? {Tweet that.}

Read other JOY-related posts and Joy to the World (Vol. 1) and (Vol. 2).

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, February 6, 2015

On dreaming together

He asked me out for ice cream when I was 18, still a college freshman trying to find my footing in an independent life I was trying so hard to embrace. I soon realized I didn’t love ice cream like he did, but he could calm my perfectionist-driven heart.

That was 17 years ago this month. The boy who asked me out for ice cream became my boyfriend for most of my college years, took the brunt of my emotional growing pains, proposed marriage four years later, and has been my husband for more than a dozen years.

Greg has known me for half my life now. And when I say “know me,” he really does.
Marriage was really hard at the beginning. I don’t want to say it’s gotten easier – but God has changed us. We’re more in sync.

After all these years, we can dream together.

His dreams used to scare me because they were so unfamiliar to me. His entrepreneur spirit made me nervous. He’d suggest something that was different than what I had concocted in my head, so I’d reject his ways because mine seemed better. I wanted him to read my mind and was disappointed when he didn’t.

But God has shown me over and over how Greg has our family’s best interest in mind – even when he’s dreaming big. Maybe especially when he’s dreaming big.

{Join me at God-sized Dreams today for the rest of the story ... }

Want more stories? Read about how Greg and I met each other. And then our first date

"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, February 5, 2015

The Beauty of Technology

I used to laugh (at least on the inside) when people met online. I didn’t understand how real connections could be formed like that.

I take it back.

I’m sorry I laughed, even if nobody actually heard me. I’m sorry I doubted the authenticity of the relationship just because it deepened through emails and Facebook messages.

My perception changed because some of the best encouragement in my life comes through emails, texts, Voxes, Facebook messages, tweets, and comments on my blog post. These friends of mine have prayed for me. They’ve promoted my ebook and sent real cards and gifts to my front porch. We may have met online, but they’ve shown up in real life – even if there are still some of them I’ve yet to meet in person.

These friendships are the beauty of technology.

I like Facebook for how it connects. I like my iPhone for how it makes the world a smaller place. Emails are like ongoing conversations with people I wish could be my neighbor. Plus technology helps maintain connections with people who used to live near and even those who still do.

Thankfully, I’ve got some amazing real-life friends who can actually come around my table to share meals and lives. I’d be lost without them. That’s why I didn’t think I needed to make friends online too.

But this new community I’ve found goes beyond pixels and font size. They’re another layer of encouragement to not grow weary in life and inspiration to continue telling my story. They pray for the people, sicknesses, conflicts, hurts, and decisions that are part of my real life. They praise God when healing comes and love is shown in my everyday life.

Just the other day my husband and I – who met long before we even had cells phones – were talking about how sometimes real life is hard. During those times, the prayers of people who aren’t right in the middle of the everyday-ness are blessings.

My family went with me to meet one of my favorite online encouragers when we were in Texas a little more than a year ago. I think they all thought I was a little crazy for wanting to go spend time with someone I’d never met in person. But they – and me! – have realized the in-person meetings can certainly happen after the friendship is already developed.

In March 2014, I spent the whole weekend with writer friends from what started as an online book launch group. Then my family and I met another favorite online friend of mine when we were in Chicago last spring. That time together wasn’t awkward like you may think it could be. In fact, it took our friendship to a deeper level – as did my other in-person meetings with online friends.
I have plans to meet up with a group of my blogging friends this summer. Yes, we connected through blogging, but our friendships go beyond that now.

I may have met all these folks and others online, but they’re real friends. They make me grateful I didn’t remain stubborn, laughing at the idea people could meet while sitting at their own computers. These blessings came when I decided to open up my life to community online, thanks to technology at its finest.

I'm linking up this post with The High Calling, where others are sharing their technology stories, and Lyli Dunbar's Thought-Provoking Thursday

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

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

{Three Word Wednesday} Among Messy Projects

A couple weeks ago, my friend Nathan shared a C.S. Lewis quote in his sermon. I’ve heard so many things since then – whines, complaints, praises, prayers, songs, stories, commercials, and silence.

But I keep thinking about this quote:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
{C.S. Lewis} 

When we had some guys renovating the kitchen at our old house, we were on vacation. (That's a glimpse of our old house with its renovated kitchen above.) When the guys from Lowe’s install central heating and air along with new windows in that same old house, we were at work. We left town the weekend our bedroom in that old house was being dry-walled. We had walls painted and new flooring installed in the new-to-us house in which we currently live before we moved in.

I don’t like living among messy projects.

But, really, I do every day.

Nothing in my physical house is being renovated or restored or painted or perfected, but the essence of life is we are on a journey of growing and learning and teaching and serving.

We aren’t perfected yet. God isn’t done completing the work he’s begun (Philippians 1:6).

I can be in the midst of parenting, and God is teaching me about patience and grace. Cleaning my house is a reminder to serve others. Being with friends gives opportunities to speak truth and serve one another. Marriage is a sermon straight from the Maker on humility, grace, and unity.

And sometimes these lessons are messy.

God doesn’t require we clean up the dry wall dust or vacuum the crumbs. Formal attire certainly isn’t required. He’s coming into the middle of what we’re doing. He’s making us new moment by moment. He’s renovating our souls for his glory.

And, unlike my tendencies with big house projects, God wants us present as he’s working so we don’t miss the creation – which is bound to look nothing like we expect. 

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, February 2, 2015

{Review & Giveaway} Team Us

It’s the month of love. Yes, according to Hallmark. But it’s true in my own story too.

Greg and I met on Feb. 7, 1998 and then went on our first date a week later. Do the math. Our first date was on Valentine’s Day. Ah, how romantic. Well, yeah, it was logistically what worked out when we met one Saturday through a mutual acquaintance and then made plans for a date the following Saturday after Greg called mid-week.

Y’all that’s 17 years ago. That’s half my life.

We really had no idea what we were doing then. Thankfully, now, we’ve settled into each other, come to understand love languages, survived some hard seasons, and become better equipped to deal with life together.


It’s true that sometimes we – all four of us – put our hands in the middle of a pretend team huddle and then raise them up while saying, “Team Taylor!” We’re sports fans, so this somehow makes sense to us. After knowing (and mostly dating) Greg for the past 17 years, being married to him for more than a dozen years, and now spending the past 7 ½ years parenting our two kids together, we get each other, still like each other, and truly do life together.

It’s taken many conversations, tears, fights, road trips, hard decisions, game nights, and laughs to get us here. But there’s nobody else I’d rather be here with.

That’s the sentiment Ashleigh Slater expresses in “Team Us: Marriage Together.” She tells her story and encourages other married couples to do life together as if we were gathered around a table together. She’s real and honest – and funny.

The last three of the 10 chapters – “The Parent Trap,” “The Friendship Inventory,” and “Finishing Well” – were my favorites. I could relate to them. As she talked about her husband’s tendencies and how here natural response is different than hers reminded me of Greg and me. I was reminded how relying on a team approach brings grace and peace, diffusing selfishness and frustration.

I appreciated her pop culture references, found myself nodding in agreement, and was encouraged to keep doing what we’re doing here at Team Taylor. I also liked the “Ted Says” tidbits throughout, offering perspective from her husband. And I thanked God for the past 17 years – the good days and the hard days, the seasons I understood and the times that couldn’t pass quick enough, and certainly all the ways he’s changed us as individuals and as teammates.

“We want to finish well too. Someday we want our kids and grandkids to look back and remember how we honored those sacred words ‘I do’ and ‘I promise’ and ‘I will’ that we vowed before friends, family, and, most importantly, God. We want our story to point others to Christ’s dramatic story of steadfast commitment to us.”

{Ashleigh Slater in “Team Us”}

Greg and I want that too. We haven’t arrived, but we are in this adventure together. We want our imperfections to spur us onto God, who can unify even the most stubborn hearts.


ABOUT THE BOOK :: “Team Us: Marriage Together” offers couples practical ways to cultivate and strengthen unity in their marriages. Author Ashleigh Slater shares from her own marriage as she presents couples with realistic ideas on how to foster cooperation, deepen commitment, and exercise grace on a daily basis. 176 pages. Paperback. Official website. Buy at Amazon.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :: Ashleigh Slater is wife to Ted and mom to four girls. She’s a regular contributor for several popular websites and blogs and has had articles published in magazines including Focus on the Family’s “Thriving Family.” Learn more at her website or follow her on Twitter.

GIVEAWAY :: And there’s a copy for one you! Use the Rafflecopter below for multiple ways to enter to win. If you’re married, I’d love to hear about how you’ve gone from an individual outlook on life to a team approach. If you’re not married, share something you’ve witnessed in another marriage. A winner will be selected randomly on Monday, Feb. 9.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Many thanks to FlyBy Promotions/Propeller Consulting LLC for providing me a copy of "Team Us" as well as one to whomever wins this giveaway. I received the book in exchange for this review. My opinions are my own. If you've won this prize on another blog you're not eligible to win again. This post also contains an Amazon affiliate link. 

I'm also linking up with Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood's Gathering and Anne Dahlhauser's Front Porch Conversations

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."