Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Books of 2015, so far ...

I've always been a reader. I often have more than one book started, read cereal boxes and whatever other paper is sitting near, and notice typos in the world around me. I like lists too.

So in the spirit of books and lists, here's a list of the books I've read so far in 2015 ...

  1. "Shoot the Moon" by Billie Letts
  2. "Orphan Train" by Christina Baker Kline
  3. "Sabotaged" (Alaskan Courage Book #5) by Dani Pettrey
  4. "Desire Lines" by Christina Baker Kline
  5. "Bird in Hand" by Christina Baker Kline
  6. "Buried Secrets" (Men of Valor #1) by Irene Hannon {Review}
  7. "Footsteps" by Diann Mills
  8. "Target" (FBI Denver series prequel) by Lisa Phillips
  9. "Bait" (FBI Denver #1) by Lisa Phillips
  10. "The Summer Girls" (Lowcountry Summer #1) by Mary Alice Monroe
  11. "The Summer Wind" (Lowcountry Summer #2) by Mary Alice Monroe
  12. "The Summer's End" (Lowcountry Summer #3) by Mary Alice Monroe

Non-fiction // Christianity

Non-fiction // Relationships
  1. "Team Us" by Ashleigh Slater {Review}
  2. "Mothering from Scratch: Finding the Best Parenting Style for You and Your Family" by Melinda Means & Kathy Helgemo {Review}
  3. "Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy" by Donald Miller
  4. "Nobody's Cuter Than You: A Memoir About the Beauty of Friendship" by Melanie Shankle
  5. "Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends" by Melanie Dale {Related Post}

Non-fiction // Self-care
  1. "The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You" by Jessica Turner {Review}
  2. "Dashing Dish: 100 Simple & Delicious Recipes for Clean Eating" by Katie Farrell {Related Post}

If you want to keep up before I post an updated list in December, you can do that at Goodreads. I also am always accepting suggestions about what I should read next. So, tell me what I need to add to my list!

Other lists of what I've read :: 2014. 2013.

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, June 29, 2015

Six Things I Learned in June

As each month ends, I find myself saying I can't believe it's finished. BUT, REALLY, I CAN'T BELIEVE JUNE IS BASICALLY OVER. I recapped some of our summer earlier this month because I don't want to forget the goodness that's happening. Yes, life has been busy, but it's been sweet and joy-filled too. And I want to remember.

So before I forget, here are some things I learned in June ...

1. Naming a baby is apparently easier than naming a lake house. I wrote about names and thought about names often the past several weeks. But the short story is we're adopting a baby girl we're naming Rachel Elizabeth. {She's due Sept. 28!} And our lake house is called Shelter Point Retreat.

2. Zac Brown Band has new music! So what if I'm late to the party? It's been on repeat now that I caught up. {You should get it too.}

3. You can trap a mouse OR TWO with a Nutter Butter bar, colander, and a piece of wood. Our friend Bryan caught TWO MICE at our new lake house when we stayed out there earlier this month. He's my hero for catching them from his self-made mouse trap. Greg permanently disposed of them, if you know what I mean, and then soon after scheduled the exterminator. Two more were caught in a glue trap. So that's four, if you're counting. FOUR TOO MANY. There's evidence that indicates that may not be all. Yes, THAT kind of mouse evidence.

{You may remember from my camping trip in the spring: I don't like mice.}

4. I really enjoy reading fiction set in the South. Okay, so I didn't actually just learn this. But I remembered it as a zipped through Mary Alice Monroe's Lowcountry Summer Series. {The Summer Girls. The Summer WindThe Summer's End.}

For what it's worth, I like musicians from the South too. Evidence: Zac Brown Band. Third Day. Needtobreathe. Darius Rucker.

But I don't drink sweet tea, just in case you're wondering.

5. Our adoption home study visit happened and went well. I don't care how many times a social worker has been in our house, interviewing us and evaluating our home, it's always a relief when it's finished and went well. Birth mom Stacy also met with the social worker this month, so our adoption process is moving along.

6. I earned my first money for speaking. Now I didn't say it was much money, but I wasn't expecting any money. I actually spoke twice this month. First, I spoke at a conference in southern Illinois. And then a few days later I spoke to a local Methodist women's group. Neither went as expected {and that's not a bad thing ...}, but both opportunities included evidence of God's presence and plan. Both groups gave me sweet gifts for coming and the local group tossed in a small check that was such a pleasant surprise.

How was your June? I'd love to hear what you learned.

I'm linking up with Emily Freeman. Here are previous Things I Learned posts :: {From 2013} June. July. August. September. October. November. {From 2014} January. February. March. April. May. June. July. August. September. October. November. December. {From 2015} January. February. March. April. May

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

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday, stop acting like Monday.

Hey, Friday, you’re acting too much like a Monday. Come on, you’re better than that.

Let’s back up, Thursday night was so much fun. We gathered with hundreds of other Murray State fans to watch the NBA Draft on the big screen at the basketball arena BECAUSE OUR BOY CAM PAYNE WAS THE 14TH PICK. Y’all we love our mid-major team (is that still a thing?) and, admittedly, were a little sad when Cam declared he was leaving after his sophomore year.

But it was so fun to celebrate his success and see our alma mater’s name. I read articles and posts on social media all evening while Greg and I finished season five of “One Tree Hill.” (Let’s not talk about how I almost asked Google who Lucas called. I’m going to find out tonight. I want it to be Peyton. But I think it’ll be Brooke. And I’m not sure how Lindsey fits in.)

So I woke up this morning excited it was Friday. As a stay-at-home mom, especially in the summer, I’m not sure why Fridays are different than other days, but they still feel different, like the door to the weekend is cracking open.

Plus I still had this once-a-reporter-always-a-reporter adrenaline in me as I read more articles and tweets this morning about Cam being a lottery pick for the Oklahoma City Thunder. THIS MORNING AFTER EVERYONE SLEPT UNTIL 7:30! It’s like a miracle with Ben, who actually slept until 8. Happy Friday to me.

And then reality reminded me that I should call the pediatrician first thing. Ben had been peeing excessively. I laid in bed last night and made a plan to call and get a professional’s opinion. Part of me chalked it up to an easily distracted 5-year-old boy with a short attention span. Like he doesn’t want to stop playing to go to the bathroom. BUT there have been daytime and nighttime accidents. And frequent trips to the bathroom. And then accidents not long after he just went.

He and I were both frustrated, so I swallowed my momma pride and called the pediatrician. And the nurse didn’t think I was crazy mom and wanted me to bring him in. Appointment made.

And then Cate woke up, running a fever, coughing and talking about her congestion. She was like this on Wednesday – but I figured she was worn down from church camp earlier in the week. Thursday she seemed like herself. But now here on Friday she was puffy-eyed and lethargic again.

So I called the pediatrician again. I talked to a different nurse, but she also trusted my momma instincts and added Cate to the appointment I already had.

Not much later, Ben showed me his toes. Earlier in the week, there were a couple red spots that he said itched. So I gave him some anti-itch cream. Seems reasonable, right? Well, today those innocent red spots were blistery. His toes were swollen and the blisters increased and multiplied throughout the day.

I didn’t bother calling the pediatrician a third time. I just added it to our list of things to discuss during the appointment.

I haven’t even told you about how I rushed my lethargic, ailing kids out the door to meet the locksmith at the lake house at 10 a.m. The lake house is about 25 minutes from our house, so at 9:30 I herded my two cats … er, kids … out the door, promising they could watch a movie when we got there.

At 9:50, the locksmith called and said he needed to reschedule. Except I didn’t have a cell phone signal at that point so I got the voice mail when I got the lake house. I called the locksmith back from the landline inside (yep, those still exist). I wasn’t available to meet him when he wanted to meet me, so I volunteered to bring him the keypad lock, some other knobs that needed to be installed and keyed, a key to our house, and instructions on what we needed done. Because, sorry, ailing kids trumps locksmith ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU DIDN’T SHOW UP WHEN YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO.

All this and we returned home by 10:30 a.m., where the kids settled in for some episodes of Super Mario Bros. before lunch.

Turns out, despite Cate’s complaints of a sore throat and congested head, Ben is actually the one with strep. Yep, excessive peeing is a symptom, and I knew that, but I was in denial. I had high hopes that his tonsillectomy would drastically cut down on the strep diagnosis for him. Oh, and that’s poison ivy between his toes. And Cate just has a virus.

They kids pestered each other so much and interrupted me with their tattle-telling while I was trying to talk the pharmacist that I sent them to their rooms when we got home. They both promptly fell asleep – y’all it was almost spooky because these two just don’t nap these days – and I contemplated the bacon-wrapped, cheese infused hot dogs we’re going to eat for dinner. Then it’s family movie night with “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken,” kettle corn, and Reese’s Pieces.

Because Happy Friday to me.

And, really, Friday, stop acting like Monday. You have some hours left to redeem yourself.

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

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Finding hope in the unexpected {a review & giveaway}

My journey to motherhood didn’t look like Kayla Aimee’s journey. But both of us became mommas in unexpected ways. We both met God in what were dark seasons of becoming a mom and saw his faithfulness pour into our lives.

In “Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected,” Kayla refers to who she was before and after giving birth to her daughter at 25 weeks. Scarlette may have weighed less than six sticks of butter but she was a fighter.

And that little life changed her momma.

I’ve never stepped foot in a NICU, but I lived through a hard season of infertility that rocked my emotions, my faith, and my marriage – and eventually led us to let God build our family through adoption. While they aren’t the same journeys to motherhood, they are ones that marked our faith journeys.

“Motherhood for me came with a stripping away of control and it has continued in that vein ever since.”
{Kayla Aimee in “Anchored,” page 167}

I too learned to find hope and peace in the unexpected. I had to learn to let go and trust what I couldn’t always see or understand.

Kayla shares her story beautifully and with truth and humor that will have you laughing one minute and crying before you finish the sentence. And while this story of a micro-preemie wasn’t one she expected or necessarily even wanted, it’s one she shares because in her darkness she found light that can only come from God.

I started reading “Anchored” on Mother’s Day while my kids rested and I sat on our back deck in the sunshine. Of course, I finished the book a few days later because even though I knew Scarlette lived – a fact I’m glad isn’t hidden because I’m not sure I could have made it through the pages wondering – I wanted to hear the rest of the story.

Kayla’s words are honest and refreshing as she shares how she sorted out her faith while her dreams seemed to crumble around her. She relates everyday moments of her life to the great big faith we’re all trying to grasp. She shares her prayers and her fears and her hopes – for her family, for her daughter, for her community, and for mommas elsewhere.

When she tells about praying like Hannah, how she prayed for this child and God answered her prayers, and then sees Scarlette in the incubator and so many moments are weaved together in a way that would change a momma’s faith.

“Every bit of want that had gone into those prayers was wrapped up here and now, swaddled in an incubator. It did not look anything like what I had asked for and yet it was everything I had hoped for. All of it was completely unexpected but as I gazed at her I knew that I would do it over for the privilege or loving her. All of the sudden I was Hannah again and all of motherhood was love and all of love was a prayer.”
{Kayla Aimee in “Anchored,” page 106}

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :: Kayla Aimee is a writer, mother and slightly spirited southern girl who spends her days uncovering hope and humor in unexpected places. She makes her home and garden in northern Georgia with her husband Jeff and daughter Scarlette. Kayla shares stories of faith, family and her favorite things at www.kaylaaimee.com. Learn more about her at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

And here's excerpts of a Q&A with Kayla that the folks at Icon Media Group provided:

How did you keep it together when you felt like your world was falling apart?
I didn’t. Absolutely I fell apart with it. I think it surprises people to hear that because on the outside I looked like I had it together, I was stoic and did the hard things in order to keep myself together when I was at the hospital. Away from that space was different, full of fear and sorrow. But it was in allowing myself to fall apart that I discovered the truth in the Scripture that says that His strength is made perfect in our weakness. I learned that God’s grace really is sufficient and the only thing that was comforting was knowing that I could just lean into that and let it do what I could not.
2. How would you say humor and the ability to laugh at yourself have helped you through parenting? In your marriage?
I remember the first time that I laughed after Scarlette’s birth. I was weary from weeping with heartbreak when the nurse brought me nursing pads and they were wrapped in a bag that said DANGER! HAZARDOUS MATERIALS! I laughed so hard that it hurt my stitches and I remember that was the moment when I knew that I wasn’t lost to my grief. Finding the humor in the moments that are hard helps to shift my perspective. It keeps me from being too quick to anger and makes me appreciate the little things more.
Ecclesiastes says that there is a time to laugh and a time to cry and I think that the intersection of the two is a beautiful portrait of our humanity. Plus, it just brings me so much joy to live a life that is full of laughter and so I chase that, I try to seek out the hope and the humor because that just makes everything a little bit brighter.
3. What is the #1 thing God taught you through Scarlette’s birth experience?
I tend to want to control things or at the very least to know what is coming. Our experience with Scarlette’s birth and NICU stay really revealed to me that I had a tendency to layer my own plans over my prayers. When there was nothing I could do I learned what it meant to genuinely trust God. I think it was this specific time that sharpened my faith, when I was the angriest at the situation and when I least wanted to be faithful was when I found God faithful to me. Not because of a happy ending but because I felt the hope of Him staying steady in the chaos.

ABOUT THE BOOK :: Officially releasing July 1, “Anchored” is 208 pages and published by B&H Books. It’s available at Amazon or wherever else books are sold. Read more about it Kayla’s website.

GIVEAWAY :: And I’m giving away a copy of this book! Yay! Use the Rafflecopter below to enter to win. A winner will be randomly selected on Wednesday, July 1.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Icon Media Group provided my advanced reader's copy in exchange for a review and is providing the additional copy for the giveaway. 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."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Three Word Wednesday :: Joy & Sadness {thoughts on "Inside Out"}

Photo from Disney.com.

The kids and I went to see “Inside Out” on rainy Friday night. I decided to take them after a busy week because we like seeing movies in the theater, but I’m picky about which ones I let them see.

I didn’t expect to spend the movie reflecting on my one word for the year. {Read more JOY posts.}

Joy is actually the name of one of the characters. There’s also Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear. They help make 11-year-old Riley’s memories, feelings, thoughts, and personality.

The movie has adventure as Joy and Sadness try to get back to Headquarters. (Get it? HEADquarters ...) There’s also story lines about friendship, family and change. The ultimate message was probably a little lost on 5-year-old Ben, but 8-year-old Cate understood it.

She summed it up when she whispered to me toward the end: “Joy is still there with Sadness.”

Joy spends most of the movie trying to make all Riley’s memories happy. But happiness is fleeting; joy is lasting. That’s what Sadness teaches Joy – and that’s what I’ve been learning the last few years.

Sadness – and the other emotions – has a place in life, but it doesn’t define our lives. No 11-year-old girl who loves hockey is going to be 100% thrilled to move her life from Minnesota to San Francisco (like the movie plot). Substitute whatever sadness you’ve experienced. I thought about people I miss, words I wished I said and the ones I should have kept inside, friendships that have changed, and the birth moms who have built our family while experiencing sadness of their own.

In the vault of my memories, some would be blue, signifying sadness, but there is still joy. This world has death, grief, sickness, conflict, and fractured relationships. But through it all joy can remain.

From the inside out, we can be changed when we choose joy. {Tweet that.}

And speaking of #choosingJOY, here are some joys from my ongoing list :: 304. Reading first thing in the morning. 305. Yard sales on Friday! 306. ... And 20-cent chapter books for Cate. 307. Grilling out three nights in a row. … 310. My kids are using the plastic lids from their popcorn chicken containers from Walmart’s deli as boats in the bathtub. Whatever works. … 312. Good mail on a day I've been feeling melancholy. … 314. The four of us hanging out at the lake. 315. Missing my two best local friends while they’re both out of town – so grateful for these friends and the way we do life together. 316. Home study visit done and it went well! 317. People in the community being excited for our adoption with us. … 319. Hot afternoons at the pool. 320. Playing Settlers of Catan until after midnight at the lake. 321. Having a party at the lake house even though we still aren’t "done" getting it together. 322. Shelter Point Retreat! A name for the lake house! 323. Watching Cate at horse riding lessons. 324. Cate's excitement about church camp329. Soda tasting.

I’d love for my #ThreeWordWednesday friends – and any friends! – to join me in sharing joys on social media by using #choosingJOY. Instagram is my favorite place to share, but I’m on Facebook and Twitter too.

Learn more about “Inside Out” at its websiteFocus on the Family’s Plugged In, and IMDb.com.

I'm also linking up with Mary Carver for Works for Me Wednesday because (surprise!) kids' movies can work for me. 

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

Friday, June 19, 2015

{God-sized Dreams} The journey of a dream

I prayed for God to use my family’s adoption story.

It was a wide-open prayer I offered up over time – sometimes hesitantly, other times confidently. Meanwhile, I wrote an ebook called “Peace in the Process” tells about the hard season of infertility and then how God led my husband and me to adoption. The crux of the story is God built my family of four in a way I never expected – and simultaneously built my faith.

I sold some copies of “Peace in the Process” and started getting feedback from people I didn’t know. And then I started praying for people I didn’t know as they shared their infertility and adoption stories.

I continued to pray God would use these words for his good – even though I had no idea what that would look like. Meanwhile, I started getting involved with a local adoption ministry. The co-founder and I connected easily and planned some events. Through the events, I met other women who were waiting and hoping and struggling and wondering like I did – and sometimes still do.

{To read more about how God built my dreams, join me at the God-sized Dreams website today.}

With this post, I'm joining Jen Ferguson for the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood Gathering. 

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

Thursday, June 18, 2015

On reading & praying God's word with your kids {a guest post & giveaway}

I was excited when Kimberly Amici approached me with her Read It! Pray It! Scripture Cards. Not only is she sharing them with my family, but she's got a set for one of you. But, first, for the rest of her story about how and why these cards came to be and how you can incorporate them into your family's life. 

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 
{John 8:31-32 (ESV)}

When my kids were really young I discovered they had the ability to memorize Bible verses.

I was a young mother with three kids under the age of five and desperately needed some breathing room and what better place to send them then to Vacation Bible School. At the end of the week, they came home with a set of dog tags. Each tag featured a different Scripture. Apparently my little ones had been taught these verses, complete with body movements. “Wow, this is awesome!” I thought. Over the next few weeks I taught my kids a few more Scriptures and that’s when our journey began.

There are so many reasons why scripture memory is fundamental to our children’s spiritual formation. Here are a few I have discovered:

It grows their personal relationship with God. As your children read and memorize the Word of God, they will begin to discover the character of God. Through the promises and stories in the Bible and they’ll discover that he is might and strong, yet loving and compassionate. Just like with a friend, the more you spend time learning what He likes and dislikes, what he thinks of you and how much He loves you, you’ll get to know him better.

It helps them to make good choices. All the choices I make, the way I treat others, and how I spend my time is motivated by what’s in my heart. What is in my heart is a by-product of what I read, listen to, and think about. Scripture memory will causes out little ones to meditate on what God says and equip them to make choices that please Him like sharing with others and getting along with siblings.

It fills their minds with good. As children grow they will be tempted to believe the lies of our culture that say that their worth comes from what they do or that they need to look or act a certain way to be loved. The more they hear, read, and meditate on truth, those lies will loose their power and eventually will be crowed out by God’s Word.

Strengthens their prayer life. When you know the Word of God you can incorporate it into every aspect of your life including your prayer life. Whatever your children are faced with, they can choose a scripture that speaks to that issue, insert their name or the specific details of their situation into that verse and pray it. It fine tunes their prayer and takes the guesswork out of what to say to God.

Creates a foundation of faith. Time and time again God has shown up on behalf of his people. When we read his promises and talk about how he has proven faithful over time it builds our faith and the faith of our children.

To help my children memorize and pray the Word of God I created a set of 3×5 cards. On the front of the card it says “Read It.” That’s where the memory verse is printed. On the back of the card it say “Pray It.” There you’ll find the verse turned into a prayer. The topics cover such things like God’s protection (to prevent fear), courage (to make new friends at school), and thankfulness (to help them appreciate what they have).

The cards I mentioned above are free to download, however, if you prefer the convenience of receiving these cards professionally printed, trimmed, and delivered to your mailbox, you can purchase them in my Etsy shop. Choose from a variety of topics or purchase the Starter Set that includes all 48 cards shared on my site.

In my shop you will also find new scripture cards available in 3-month, 6-month, and 1-year subscriptions available in the form of a digital download or printed product. First set ships in August.

It’s been so amazing to see the spiritual growth of my children over the years and it is all because the Word of God has been planted in their heart.

Kimberly Amici is a writer, designer, and community builder whose desire is for hearts to be healed, minds to be renewed, and women to be connected in fellowship just as God intended. She is known for her creativity, strong faith, and commitment to living life with purpose and passion. She is the co-founder and managing editor at Circles of Faith and a writer at Faith Gateway. She also blogs at Living in the Sweet Spot. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Kimberly lives with her husband Carl and their three children in the NYC suburbs.

Kimberly sent my family a set of these scripture cards. I know we're going to love reading them and praying them. AND she has a set to giveaway to one of you! Whoo-hoo! Just use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter to win. One winner will be randomly selected Thursday, June 25 to receive a set of these 48 scripture cards in the mail and a one-year subscription to the digital downloads.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Three Word Wednesday :: Children of God

In high school, a friend called me Grace because I was clumsy. I also didn’t make room in my life for grace – for myself or others – although I’m not sure he was referring to my judgmental ways. Either way, thankfully, this ironic name didn’t stick.

Really, I’ve never been much for nicknames, probably because sometimes names that describe our faults do stick and weigh us down.

For several weeks, I’ve been thinking about names because we’re adopting a baby girl due Sept. 28. We also are trying to come up with a name for our lake house. Turns out naming a baby is easier than a house.

(We’re naming her Rachel Elizabeth. Rachel has been at the top of my baby name list for a while now and Elizabeth is the middle name of both Greg’s great-grandmother Della and my sister Cassie.)

Names are about identity. They are how people know us and what we’re called. They’re part of our stories.

Of course, there are labels to which we’ve clung too tightly and the ones we’ve let define us.

Regret. Shame. Liar. Addict. Infertile. Failure. Klutz. Perfectionist. Class clown. Introvert. Extrovert. Abandoned.

Those nicknames aren’t the name by which God knows us and calls us. Those aren’t the labels that should tell the world who we are.

We are children of the one true king. {Tweet that.} We are chosen and adopted and called and blessed and redeemed.

And we can change our perspective of ourselves – not because of what we’ve done but because of who God is. So let’s strip off the name tags that hinder us and display the ones that matter.

While this has been in my mind, I’ve been hearing – on the radio and in my head – songs that proclaim this message of our true identity ::

Hello, My Name Is ...” by Matthew West

That Was Then, This Is Now” by Josh Wilson

Wanted” by Dara Maclean

Children of God” by Third Day

Oh, and the lake house still doesn’t have a name, so feel free to offer suggestions. And I love hearing stories about names, so share in the comments about your name or how you chose your kids’ names.

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

Friday, June 12, 2015

Seven Things About This Season Called Summer

God’s been teaching me about seasons. I’ve been thinking about the natural ones, the ones associated with weather, and I’m learning to embrace them all. Summer’s still my favorite. But without winter, I may not love summer as much. I also love the anticipation of the new season coming – admitting that is coming along way from avoiding change like I’ve been known to do.

And there are life’s seasons – the ones when the kids grow up before my eyes, the ones with friends, the ones in marriage, the ones with my hobbies and dreams, the ones for which we prepare, and the ones that surprise us.

I wanted to document a little bit about this season in our lives – the one happening as we settle into summer and the one that involves having an 8-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy.

1. This is my ninth summer as a mom – and the first one during which nobody naps and nobody needs a Puddle Jumper at the pool. I’m still getting used to both.

2. This is my sixth summer with two kids. For the first time, they’re on completely different schedules. Ben still goes to bed in the 7 o’clock hour most nights and is up around 6 a.m. (And, yes, even if he stays up later, he’s still usually up at 6 a.m. I don’t understand.) Meanwhile, Cate has been staying up later and sleeping later – like 10 p.m. to 8:30 a.m.

3. My kids aren’t doing all the fun and good camps offered around here – Robotics Camp, Basketball Camp, Young Authors Camp. It started out as a scheduling thing, and then our schedule changed. But I was still glad we weren’t committed to much like that. Cate is taking horse riding lessons – like one every three weeks – and will go to a two-night, three-day church camp later this month.

4. We haven’t gone yet, but I know our upcoming mission trip to Guatemala will mark this summer. I don’t know what God is going to do there, but I know I will want to remember it.

5. We have much going on in our personal lives. I’m building a relationship with our baby’s birth mom. We closed (yesterday!) on a new-to-use lake house. Kentucky Lake quiets my soul and we love spending time there with our friends. Greg’s been busy at work, which has been a blessing for our family but also kept his calendar filled.

6. I’ve shared our adoption story and that part of my faith journey with two groups already this month. Neither speaking opportunity looked like I expected, but I know God showed up at both the women’s conference and the Methodist women’s group. (Some of those sweet ladies even gifted me my first-ever money as a speaker.)

7. The pool is our happy place. My kids are like fish. I like seeing them play games with each other, make new friends, connect with friends we may not see other places, embrace adventure, and not ask to watch or play any kind of screen – all of which happens at the pool.

I may say I’m taking them to the pool, but it’s for me too. I grew up swimming nearly every summer day as a kid and was a lifeguard the summer I was 16. I like talking with my friends, reading fiction books, and getting in the water with my kids – all of which happens around the pool too.

What’s your season of summer look like?

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, June 10, 2015

Three Word Wednesday :: Witnessing A Miracle

I originally asked my friend Jennifer Jackson Linck to host Three Word Wednesday today because I was going to be out of town. And then my plans changed, but I was excited for her to host anyway. It's summer, life is busy, AND Jennifer has a wonderful message to share. 

Jennifer blogs regularly at Bringing Home the Missing Linck and is the author of a book by the same time that tells her family's adoption story. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Jennifer has been a newspaper reporter and ghost writer. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband and son. In addition to her blog, you can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter

Being the parent of a child with special needs is exhausting and exhilarating (all at the same time).

My son, Jackson, has Childhood Apraxia of Speech, a motor-planning speech disorder. He knows what he wants to say, but he simply can't. His brain and mouth are still learning how to work together. Jackson also has Sensory Processing Disorder. His inability to talk and excessive sensory seeking can sometimes make typical 3-year-old activities difficult.

Recently, we both left a gymnastics class in tears. I had enrolled him in hopes that gymnastics would satisfy some of his sensory seeking needs. But the class was too overwhelming. I left angry. I questioned God. Why can't things be easier for him?

I'm still learning how to go-with-the-flow, as a special needs parent. It hasn't been easy for my Type-A personality.

We left the chaos of the gym and explored our favorite university campus. We splashed in fountains. We chased squirrels. We took selfies. We remembered that even on the hard days, there's always something to be thankful for.

The other day our preacher posed a question that I want to pose to you: What if on the other side of your breaking point awaits the biggest miracle you've ever seen? {Tweet that.}

Walking out of the gym that day, I was sad and angry. I wondered if my son would ever get to do the things other kids his age do. I questioned whether I have what it takes to be his mama.

And then God reminded me that I do.

"... chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move us."

"But we're not quitters ... Oh no! We'll stay with it and survive, trusting all the way."

No matter how hard things get, we keep fighting. We keep praying. We keep believing.

And you know what happens? We witness miracles.

The same week we walked out of that gymnastics class, I watched my son ride his tricycle by himself for the first time. It's not an easy task for a child with Apraxia and we've worked on it over and over again. But that particular night, he climbed on that red bike and peddled his heart out.

I witnessed a miracle.

And at occupational therapy, where he's working on fine motor skills, I watched him pick up a pair of scissors and cut paper on the first try.

I witnessed a miracle.

That week I heard him say new words; each one a miracle all their own.

Are you at your breaking point?

Hold on! Don't let go!

"But Me, I'm not giving up! I'm sticking around to see what God will do. I'm waiting for God to make things right. I'm counting on God to listen to me."

Your miracle is coming!

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, June 9, 2015

Just another {melancholy} Monday

It was a Monday of appointments and errands. I dragged the kids around – not literally – most of the day. They were troopers, but they were restless and turned up their volume. We got a lot done, but I was kind of done with the day before the day could be done.

While driving around and taking care of business, my head was full of thoughts and introspections and ideas and conversations. I answered kids’ questions and explained things – things I didn’t really think needed explaining – more than once. I wondered why my 5-year-old son still doesn’t understand lunch comes in the middle of the day and dinner comes when Daddy comes home from work. Of course, some days Daddy comes home for lunch or we meet him somewhere.

Not on Monday, though.

My kids ate popcorn chicken from Walmart’s deli. Yes, it was Lunchables last week. AND, Y’ALL, I HAD TO GO BACK TO WALMART FOR THE SECOND WEEK IN A ROW BECAUSE BIG LOTS LET ME DOWN. And then the kids saved the plastic lid to their popcorn chicken containers and used them as boats in the bathtub when we got home. Nobody was bathing. But they were happy and united. So whatever.

{Yes, my kids are creative. Last week they played with cardboard boxes, remember?}

I meal planned last week for the first time in many, many weeks. I knew Monday was going to be busy, so wisely put chicken fajitas in the crock pot this morning. I win – at least this time.

It may have been a melancholy Monday, but it was also a fabulous mail day.

I like to post on Instagram.

First of all, my friend Mandy surprised me with some #choosingJOY goodies – stickers and stamps. Her note encouraged me when I needed a little extra love. And then another package was “Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends” by Melanie Dale, a book I’d forgotten I’d won in Christen’s blog giveaway.

Not long afterward, I started reading “Women Are Scary” and was laughing and crying IN THE FIRST CHAPTER. For real. Melanie Dale opens the book with a quote from “Billy Madison” – which alone may just have made me chuckle, but knowing my husband can quote SO MUCH of the movie made me appreciate the opening words even more. And then she starts talking about infertility and adoption.

“I saw motherhood as giving something up. It never occurred to me what I’d gain. My rough road to motherhood grew my character and readied me to join this incredible group of women, powerhouse women changing lives around the world together.”
{Melanie Dale in “Women Are Scary,” page 12}

{Cue the tears. Because I didn’t know if I wanted to be a mom. Until I did. And then God made me a mom in a way I never expected and built my faith in a whole new way.}

I quickly got sucked into the book. And then my family wanted to eat dinner. Good thing I had something in the crock pot, otherwise these people may have had to fend for themselves. And then later in the evening, I plopped myself on one end of the couch while my girl played Minecraft on the other, and read and read and read. And laughed and got teary and laughed again – sometimes in the same sentence, certainly often on the same page.

{Greg went back to work for a couple hours. Ben was finally, thankfully, sleeping. Although he told me the next morning he actually cleaned his room after I put him to bed. I have such mixed reactions – hooray for cleaning your room! But, um, hello, your day was done, son.}

I ended up binge-reading the whole book.

Here’s the thing, I thought I was escaping some of the thoughts in my head – the ones about friendships that have entered seasons I don’t love, the ones about a dear childhood friend I thought would be a forever friend, the ones about all the chaos and darkness in the world, the ones about what God is doing in our family, and the ones about serving others. But I didn’t actually escape what was in my head and heart because what Melanie wrote is real. She may have quoted some movies I don’t care about, but the bottom line is what women do as mothers is brave.

And, yes, some days are emotionally exhausting – sometimes for no one reason. But all of the days matter – even the hard ones that drive us to Jesus – and probably Text Support with The Mother Network. {Right, Melanie?}

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

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

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Real Story of Running Errands at Lunch Time

From March 2014, but, well, it's perfect for today's post.

I had six errands to run yesterday. But I had things I wanted to do at home first. So the kids and I didn’t leave the house until almost lunch time. I realize “lunch time” is not a specific hour, but, really, it is around here – you may call it 11 a.m. So we dropped off clothes at the local thrift store, made a deposit at a bank, and then went to Walmart.

At this point, you should probably know I would boycott Walmart entirely, if I could. In fact, I did boycott it for a while – like six months – and only returned because I am the supply-shopper-volunteer at school and that’s the only store where I have a tax-exempt card – you know, save our small school money.

{If you’re looking for a Walmart alternative, I highly recommend ePantry and Amazon’s Prime Pantry. Who doesn’t want household products delivered to your doorstep? And Amazon provided the enormous box that my kids made into a spaceship THAT THEY'VE PLAYED WITH FOR HOURS EACH OF THE PAST THREE DAYS.}

Anyway. I had a short list at Walmart, with the only Walmart-specific item being a gift card. Of course, the gift card became problematic BECAUSE WALMART IS ALMOST SOLD OUT OF GIFT CARDS AND THE CASHIER HAD TO GO FIND ONE FOR ME AT CUSTOMER SERVICE. Um, what? Graduations! Father’s Day! That’s poor marketing. What kind of store doesn’t want to sell its gift cards?

But, anyway, that’s a rant, not a confession.

The confession is my kids and I ate the Lunchables I bought at Walmart while we finished the three other errands. As I drove to drop off some ideas with one of the lake house cleaners, I snacked on turkey, cheese and crackers. Or maybe I was on my Oreos by then. Whatever. I ate lunch while driving around my small town.

And we liked it.

And  I was finished well before we got to the pharmacy or the other bank.

For what's it's worth, I’m pretty sure they chose their Lunchables based on which dessert was included, but whatever. At least I convinced Ben that Nerds were not called turds or curds.

I shared about this on Facebook and more than one friend shared about eating-in-Walmart experiences {hello, popcorn chicken from the deli} and others admitted they love Lunchables too. So the moral of the story, y’all, is we’re all in this life together. Let’s enjoy it – and not shop at Walmart. But when we have to, let’s get a delicious, processed treat and call it lunch.

I'm linking up with Anna Rendell's Real Mom Confessions, which has become one of my favorite things on the internet. And, hey, this post contains affiliate and referral links, but they only direct you to shop at places I enjoy. 

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, June 3, 2015

Three Word Wednesday :: Simple pleasures reign

My kids played with cardboard boxes and a laundry basket FOR HOURS on Monday. Like three hours.

We’d spent the morning running errands and eating lunch with friends. And then we spent the rest of the day at home. I was writing and purging and organizing and catching up. And they were apparently making spaceships out of boxes and a moon walker out of a laundry basket. They used Sharpies, copier paper and tape.

Their conversations and interactions were such sweet sounds.

Honestly, there’s been sibling pestering and bickering lately. Ben wants to love by joking and pestering – and Cate doesn’t always think he’s funny. Greg and I talk about the importance of loving each other well. We encourage them to get along. I sometimes wonder if they hear us.

And when they do get along and enjoy each, all seems right with the world. Or at least our house.

Monday felt like the first day of summer break. The kids’ last day at school was on Wednesday. And then my mom, sister, and 18-month-old nephew were in town for a few days. And then it was the weekend.

And now it’s summer break, when simple pleasures reign.

As I listened to them design their spaceships, my kids – who are 5 and 8 years old – reminded me life doesn’t have to be complicated.

Too often, I wonder why she’s not returning my message. I replay conversations in my head, thinking about what I could have said differently or more clearly. I let emotions cloud my thinking. I let the pile of papers dictate how I spend my time.

Their spaceships got me thinking about the simple pleasures I’ve gotten to enjoy lately. 

So from the #choosingJOY list I keep on my phone :: 279. Pancakes for dinner. 280. Memorial Day at lake even on a cloudy day. 281. A couple quiet hours in the midst of crazy, busy life. 282. Impromptu plans with Jaclyn and her family – swimming, grilling, and three games of Settlers of Catan. 283. Jaclyn as the ice cream truck. … 287. Mango salsa is back at Qdoba. 288. Watching Cate at horse riding lessons. 291. Seeing my name on a Diet Coke bottle at the check-out aisle, right there in front facing me. … 293. New friends coming to church and the conversations that happened. … 295. Summer morning snuggles.

Really, I should be letting my mind run wild with creativity and imagination. I want to be quicker to appreciate the simple moments around me that bring me joy. And perhaps I should be saving more cardboard boxes for my kids’ entertainment.

What simple pleasures have brought you joy lately? {Tweet that.}

And, hey, #ThreeWordWednesday friends, today is the last day to enter to win a copy of Hillsong UNITED's new album, "Empires." Y'all should go join in the music fun

I'm linking up with Mary Carver's Works For Me Wednesday because simplicity and cardboard boxes work for me  and my kids, apparently. 

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."