Friday, April 29, 2016

Six Things I Learned in April

Ah, April, what an adventure you've been. You're the introduction to my favorite month, so I like you. You've come and gone so quickly, but we've had fun. Before May arrives, let's remember this month.

(AND if you haven't signed up for my newsletter, you should do that before May 2, when my next one goes out. There's a fun, free printable included with a quote I've been loving. Really, I welcome new email friends anytime, though! I've started updating my ebook and email subscribers will get peeks into that process.)

So, anyway, here are six things I've learned in April ...

1. The Nashville Flea Market is great. Maybe all flea markets are great, I don't know. My first flea market experience is in the books. And I hope I get to go back.

(The flea market was only one part of our recent Nashville road trip. We also saw Rend Collective in concert!)

2. Kayaks are good lake entertainment, even if getting them home from Walmart is an adventure.

Let me tell you about that adventure: I'd been thinking kayaks would be a good addition to our lake house. (It's available for vacation rentals. Did you know that?) And then there they were, on display and on sale at Walmart. So we bought two. And then we realized they wouldn't both fit in our mini van with two adults, two kids, and a baby ... and a stroller, and all the other randomness in my van. So I took on kayak and the girls home, cleaned out the van, and the girls and I went back to Walmart to pick up the husband, son, and second kayak.

(Here are some pictures, if you're interested.)

Both kayaks now happily reside at Shelter Point Retreat. And my daughter, niece, and nephew were happy to break them in.

3. I can be intrigued enough by a story to keep reading even when I don't really like the book that much. 

"Everything You Ever Wanted" by Jillian Lauren was that for me. It's an adoption story, and there were parts that were fascinating and interesting. But other parts I ended up skimming. Regardless, it's brave to tell your story, especially when it has many hard parts, so I'm glad I read it, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it. Does that make sense?

4. A new strawberry patch opened just down the road. 

I love picking berries and now it's even more convenient. If you live in Murray, be sure to check it out the next few weeks while the strawberries are in season. Maybe you'll have an impromptu adventure like I did.

5. Adventure would be my word for 2016, if I had chosen a word. It's all around me, as you can tell with my multiple references to it in this post alone!

6. I'm a communication nag. 

If I email you about an event or project, send you an invitation for a party, or ask for feedback ... and I don't hear back, then just wait, I will solicit a response in follow up emails, Facebook messages and texts. I'd say I'm sorry, but, really, there's usually a reason I asked or invited or emailed in the first place, and the reason usually involves a response.

Perhaps you can blame the journalism degree with an organizational communications minor.

So, how was your April? Did you have any adventures?

I'm linking up with Emily Freeman, who inspired this way of documenting life. It's become one of my favorite practices. {Read previous Things I Learned posts here.}

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this too shall PASS {a Five Minute Friday post}

It's Five Minute Friday time. I wasn't sure what I was going to write when I saw Kate Motaung's prompt {PASS} this week. But then when I sat down this morning, the words came. That's what I love about Five Minute Friday. I love how a simple word can prompt all kinds of thoughts, even in just five minutes. Well, I love that and the people. So, come join us over at Kate's place. 

Timer set for five minutes ... 

I remember my Nanny saying “this too shall pass” when my family was going through a difficult time. She said with conviction and wisdom.

I wish I knew more about the situations through which she’d walked in her younger days. I wish I had realized as a kid how special my time was with her. But I’m glad I lived near her after college and was able to use her washer and dryer rather than going to a laundromat. She usually had a TV show like JAG on and wanted to let me take care of my own chore but kept a close eye on how big of loads I tried to wash and dry.

She passed away in October 2001, about three months before Greg proposed and 10 months before my bridesmaids walked into “On Eagles’ Wings” – a song that reminded me of her and my Catholic upbringing.

I wish I had different perspective before Nanny passed away, but I also know she said those words – “this too shall pass” – with assurance that only came as someone who had lived through her share of life. I get a little sad thinking she hasn’t seen me as a wife and mom, but I’m glad she was able to influence who I am. And I’m glad I’m in a place that I can see a little bit of where she was coming from.

And stop.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

How adventure found me in a strawberry patch

Adventure keeps showing up around me. The word. Quotes. Opportunities to embrace the concept. {Yes, I talked about this yesterday too.}

On Tuesday, adventure looked like impulsively picking strawberries while wearing Rachel.

I love picking berries – strawberries in April or May, blueberries in June, and blackberries in July. It’s usually the kind of activity I plan with friends when my big kids are home from school. But it needed to happen on Tuesday because 80 degrees and sunshine are exactly my kind of weather.

The Patch is a new local strawberry patch basically right in town. Hello, convenience. I was driving by on my way to tend to a lake house I manage. So on my way home, I stopped at the Dollar General, bought a bottle of water, and paid the silly convenience fee to get cash back.

All because picking strawberries was my adventure.

And I’m glad I did.

Rachel smiled. She tried to grab berries and enjoyed the one she got her hands around.

Of course, when Ben got in the mini van at the bus stop, he immediately saw and smelled the strawberries and said, “You picked strawberries without me?” He ate a whole bowl full when we got home and I promised we’d go again when he wasn’t in school. That boy embodies adventure, and I’m glad he’s mine.

I’ve been #choosingJOY the past couple of years and God is still teaching me about that. Most recently the lessons have come when I see an opportunity for adventure and embark upon it.

So, here in April, I’m choosing adventure for 2016. I wasn’t going to choose a one-word focus for the year, but it’s clearly choosing me with two-thirds of the year to go. Like seasons, the kinds of adventure change. But here we are, on the brink of summer. And I’m ready.

What adventures are choosing you? {Tweet that.}

This reminded me of another lesson I learned in a strawberry patch three years ago :: "Mothering is a weary job sometimes, but I want to say yes. I want to speak with a softer, kinder voice. I want to remember we don't always have to be in a hurry to get to the next thing. I want to let them jump and make messes. Yes, I want to teach them truth and problem-solving strategies. Yes, I want them to learn responsibility. But I want them to live joyfully." {Read the whole post here.}

And clearly I like to write about strawberries :: 2011. 2012. 2014.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Let's be adventurers!

For months, Greg and I knew we were going to Nashville on April 24. He bought me Rend Collective concert tickets for Christmas and I secured my mother-in-law to watch the kids. We planned to have a date day leading up to the concert.

And then Sunday morning came and we still had no idea how we were going to spend our day. I thought about how I was so glad the date was marked off on our calendars because we wouldn’t have gone otherwise. We had a busy weekend and there is a lot happening in our daily life.

But marking off the date reserved it for us.

About an hour into our trip – just as we were getting ready to eat lunch – Greg said, “This has been a good day so far.”

Y’all know we don’t get away by ourselves much when he said that after the first hour in the car. Yes, our conversations were good and we finally had a loose plan for our day. Obviously, we needed that kind of day, and it had just begun.

After lunch, we headed to Nashville’s flea market, where we shopped a little, browsed a lot, and talked about all kinds of things. I kept seeing quotes about adventure on wooden signs and pillows and wall art …

“Oh darling, let’s be adventures together.”

“I knew when I met you an adventure was going to happen.”
― A.A. Milne in “Winnie the Pooh”

And here we were, two people who met in college and are now somehow in our late 30s, adventuring through the day – and life – together. I had just written in Greg’s birthday card two days earlier how I was looking forward to whatever adventures come next.

Our Rend Collective tickets got us into a pre-concert event with the band, whose members answered questions and shared some of their stories. They were funny and spoke truth my heart needed to hear – and the concert hadn’t even started.

Urban Rescue opened for Rend Collective. I especially loved its song “Wild Heart.”

“Into the great unknown
No matter where You go
We'll follow You, we'll follow You
After Your wild heart
We want to be where You are
We'll follow You, follow You …”

Then Rend Collective took the stage – and shot out confetti during its first song. That’s joy, y’all. And it kept coming. There were bubbles and dancing (okay, so, not really by me, at least not on the outside) and clapping and singing and praising.

Among the songs, the band members shared about how the Great Commission was given to us all – not just the outgoing people who like to speak in front of a crowd. We are all called to go and share the stories of what God has done in our lives, but we’re made for family too. The name of Rend Collective’s latest album is “As A Family We Go” – and it echoes what God is teaching me in my own life.

As a family we go to soccer practice for one kid and horse riding lessons for another.

As a family we go to church and friends’ houses.

As a family we go to the kitchen table, our new land, and to the Bible.

As a family we go to whatever else God has for us.

As we go through life together, I’m realizing I have things to learn from my kids while I’m trying to teach them. I need to be more like my boy, who embraces life and is free to run. My big girl is always observing and has more hobbies than anyone I know. My baby girl embodies joy.

During the concert, while I thought about my people, Rend Collective led worship in a way that united adventurers. And that stirred my heart to embrace what God is doing right here – in my family and through our adventures.

So, darlings, let’s be adventurers together. Who’s in? {Tweet that.}

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Monday, April 25, 2016

The Mother Letters {a review}

I came home one Saturday afternoon from spending much of the day with other adoptive moms and “The Mother Letters” was waiting on my door step. Soon after, I sat down to feed Rachel and started reading these letters from other moms that author Seth Haines collected for his wife, Amber. Long after my baby finished her bottle, I was still reading. I read all the stories without stopping to do anything else beyond pulling Rachel, who has recently started crawling, from pulling down the curtains.

That’s how motherhood is, you know. Yes, there are tiny interruptions to all of our days, but mothering matters and we aren’t in this life alone.

That’s the message of this collection of stories. Moms get each other, and these words from strangers echo many things I’ve experienced in my own life.

There’s laughter and hurt and joy and play dates and seasons and tears and siblings and waiting and peace and purpose and crazy days. And there are tales of raising little people while developing your own community along the way.

This book offered perspective and hope. It’s bound up wisdom from all kinds of mothers.

My two favorite quotes, at least while reading The Mother Letters the first time through, are about purpose – yes, purpose as a mom, but also the purpose that extends beyond that.

“Motherhood is not a series of situations that have a wrong and right answer. It is a relationship. ... So father her and love her. Laugh and cuddle and read and make choices. And trust that in spite of your imperfections, God is making all things new: even you, even your child.”
– Micha Boyett

“You need to stay faithful to your whole calling. ... We’re all different, and it’s just a matter of finding what makes you feel like a person – and here’s the key – honoring that enough to do it, both individually and by incorporating it into your family life.”
– Sarah Bessey

These mother letters spurred me on in truth. They welcomed me in with their everyday stories and kept me nodding in agreement. They reminded me of what matters and helped me recognize what I do well and what I want to do better.

And what momma doesn’t want that in her life?

ABOUT THE BOOK :: After his wife Amber had given birth to three boys in three years, Seth Haines saw she needed encouragement in the day-to-day drama and details of motherhood. Secretly collecting nearly 600 wise, honest, and sometimes hilarious letters from other mothers across the world, Seth compiled these “mother letters” as a gift for her. Amber and Seth have chosen the best of those letters to include in a beautiful book perfect for the mother in your life.

Each mother-to-mother letter offers encouragement, advice, and vulnerable honesty about the struggles and joys of motherhood. These letters show that no matter how many times mothers feel like they’ve failed, they are still doing their greatest work. So for the mom who thinks she’s the only one out there who just can't find time for a shower, “The Mother Letters” shows her that she’s part of a grand and diverse group of strong women who are saying to her, “Me too. But we can do this.”

The Mother Letters” is a 192-page hardcover cover book published by Revell (April 19, 2016). Learn more about the book at Amber’s website.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS :: Amber C. Haines, author of “Wild in the Hollow,” is a soulful writer and blogger at and a regular contributor to DaySpring’s (in)courage. She loves the church and finds community among the broken.

Seth Haines, author of “Coming Clean,” writes at and is a regular contributor to various publications.

Together, Seth and Amber make their home in the Arkansas Ozarks with their four boys.

Mother’s Day is coming up in less than two weeks and this book that released last week would make a lovely gift. It’s available at Amazon and other booksellers. While I received a free copy of this book from Revell to review, these opinions, thoughts and the gift recommendation are my own.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Hello, Summer. Goodbye, Mosquitoes.

I’m ready for summer. I know, I know, we’ve hardly had spring. But, let’s just be honest, I’m a summer girl. I like the days at the pool and the lake. I crave soft serve ice cream and snow cones. Dinner time and bed time get pushed back because the days are long and we love to be outside.

And this summer we’re moving! To the country! (And by “country” I mean 10 minutes from the heart of our small town on 33 acres. It’s like the best of both worlds, really.)

We’re excited to explore and make memories at our new home. We have plans for bonfires and camp outs. I’ve been thinking about what the inside will look like and how many people can gather on the deck.

But I may have to deal with pests, like mosquitoes. There is a creek that runs near our house and depending on the amount of rain, there could be some spots on the land that hold water.

As much as I love summer, I don’t love mosquitoes. 

(Or mice or snakes or bees … but we’re talking about mosquitoes today!)

But, let’s be honest, I don’t really know much about mosquitoes. That’s where Orkin’s Buzzer Beater blog app comes in. There’s a quiz to find out if you’re prepared for mosquito season.

(Um, I pretty much failed. But I did learn bug spray wears off quickly so I’ll need to reapply it often when we're outside for a long time and scented lotions and soaps attract mosquitoes.)

The app also includes videos such as “How to Deal With Mosquitoes” and “Do Mosquitoes Prefer Adults over Children” as well as the rest of Orkin’s How-To video series with up-to-date knowledge on dealing with pesky home invaders. You can also download Orkin’s yearly “Mosquito Cities” list and find out if your city made it! (Although that’s not exactly a list on which you want to see your city!)

Now, here’s the fun part, I’m giving away an Orkin Summer Scientist Bug Catching Kit! The kit includes two Bug Catcher Craft Kits, two bug nets, two bug jars, two Magic Color Scratch Little Garden Critters, and glow-in-the-dark creepy crawlers.

Use the Rafflecopter below for the multiple ways to enter. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents through Thursday, April 28. (The prize will be sent via FedEx or USPS, so no P.O. Boxes please.) A winner will be randomly selected Friday, April 29.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


In exchange for a blog post about Orkin’s Buzzer Beater app, I’m receiving a bug kit I know my boy will love and offering the second in a giveaway for one of you from Orkin, thanks to the Tether Group! The thoughts here are my own.

Each household is only eligible to win Summer Scientist Bug Catching Kit via blog reviews and giveaways. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Where I Am

I spent this past Saturday with a dozen other adoptive mommas at the second annual Hope That Binds retreat. We ate well, shared our stories, asked the hard questions, pointed each other to resources, laughed, and cried. We looked at the past, talked about the present, and pondered the future.

Where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going matters. {Tweet that.}

Yes, we should not dwell on the past, but it’s important to remember how God has been faithful. Sometimes the present is full of contradicting emotions, but that’s okay because sadness and joy can co-exist. The future is always an adventure and God is the Ultimate Planner, but he’s also a God of order and dreams.

One of the exercises I loved was when we all wrote on small slips of colorful paper words and phrases that told about our present. I am … peacefully sad, waiting for a season of rest, grateful, refreshed, working through birthmom relationship, wanting to count it all joy, thankful, drained, content, excited for change, out of shape, connected, learning, embracing change, emotional, patiently waiting, overwhelmed, longing, healing, curious, enjoying this time of the year, not where I expected, starting new adventures, saying “no,” and in need of beach therapy.

Many of those emotions and circumstances could apply to any of our lives. The exercise made me slow down in the midst of a busy life and appreciate where I am. So today I thought I’d make a list that claims my present while being aware of what God has done and is going to do.

I am …
  • a momma to three.
  • almost 37 years old.
  • married to a fellow first-born who invited me out for ice cream in college.
  • a daughter, sister, aunt, and friend.
  • excited to live in the country.
  • requiring helmets for anyone who rides our four-wheeler.
  • loving the sunshine and ready for summer.
  • in disbelief my oldest is almost 9.
  • missing a couple dear friends.
  • eager to see what God does next.
  • grateful I get to stay at home and work on the side of being a mom.
  • thankful for lessons in #choosingJOY.
  • a reader with a big list of books I want to read.
  • a writer with a few projects on my mind.
  • understanding my son in a new way.
  • purging my house.
  • anticipating some summer plans.
  • looking forward to May.
  • making sure Rachel doesn’t pull down the living room curtains or put any cords in her mouth.
  • excited to see Rend Collective in concert this coming weekend.

Tell me about where you are – the ordinary and the extraordinary, the lovely and the hard, the joy-filled and the messes. This is the stuff that makes up life. These are the things that will become memories of God’s faithfulness. Even if we feel stuck, life won’t be like this – just like this – for long.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

What a delight! {Rachel @ 7 months}

I was sitting in the kitchen last week when I saw a sweet face peek around the corner from the living room. Rachel had made her way from one room to another for the first time.

And she was delighted.

She is a delight.

I get birth order even more than I did before, and I’m a stereotypical first-born child. But this third-born baby, who is likely our last, soaks up all the attention from everyone and takes short naps when she finally realizes there may not be much to miss. She likes when all her people are gathered together.

I often ask my first-born girl for help. My middle boy requires regular correction and guidance. And then there’s Rachel, the third-born baby after a wait.

We delight in her.

She delights in us.

And I realize she gets a better version of me than my first two got when they were tiny, and maybe even than they do now – not on purpose, but circumstances make it so. I’m quicker to throw the rules and expectations out the window. I’m quicker to embrace the moment because I know this won’t be like this for long. I’m slower to fill our days.

Here we are, Seven Months. And I’m learning things as if I were a mom for the first time. But, you know, I think that’s how it’s supposed to be. Life is always learning and discovering. {Tweet that.}

Just ask Rachel.

She’s crawling now. She especially likes to go to the living curtains hanging but spring rods and the various TV and lamp cords. She also goes from being on her belly to sitting up like a champ. She’s trying to pull up – and did Sunday at church although I couldn’t tempt her with snacks to do it a second time.

She loves to eat – especially when we eat. She loves all those Gerber baby snacks along with bananas, avocados, mandarin oranges, peaches, and yogurt. Really, she’ll eat whatever I give her. She takes about four 8-ounce bottles a day.

Sleeping has been a little unpredictable this month. Usually, she takes a decent morning nap and then naps a couple other times – sometimes in the grocery cart, sometimes in her car set, and sometimes in her bed. I think it’s the being able to crawl and sit up, but she seems to wake herself up easier. Of course, she’s still working on teeth. And probably growing. But she sleeps well and if she does wake up at an hour that’s meant for sleep, she goes back down fairly quickly.

Like I said, she’s a delight.

Look back on Rachel’s growth :: One monthTwo monthsThree monthsFour months. Five months. Six months.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Some days it's easy to forget what day it is

It’s Friday! I can say that with assurance, despite my forthcoming post about how it’s been easy to forget what day it is this week. And speaking of EASY, that’s this week’s prompt for Five Minute Friday. Do you know about #FMF? Kate Motaung offers a prompt and then writers write. Five minutes. Just write. And then we all link up together. 

On Wednesday I was walking and talking with my best friend and said, “It seems later in the week than Thursday.” Um, wrong day. In my head I meant to say Wednesday but Thursday came out, probably because it never did feel like Wednesday.

This week, it was easy to forget what day it was. In some ways, my weekdays look similar but in other ways each day is its own.

I have a lot of ideas and thoughts and plans on my mind. And they’re making the days run together.

I started making summer plans because somehow that helps me embrace the moment. Making plans is my love language. (I watched “Leap Year” this week and loved when Declan said to Anna: “I don't wanna not make plans with you. I wanna make plans with you.”)

I have ideas of things to write. By things I mean blog posts, ebooks, and notes to friends. It’s easy to push those aside because other things seem more pressing, but, really, for the way my soul processes life, that’s not true.

I’ve showed our house, thought about our new house, and watched Fixer Upper with my oldest girl. (All that’s separate and related …)

Greg and I have both been up at 2 a.m. with our baby girl different days this week. Maybe those teeth are really coming though, but in the middle of the night, it’s easy to forget what day it is. During daylight, she’s happy and moving and discovering and soaking in life, whatever the day.

When my mind is swirling in different directions, it’s easy to forget what day it is, but, y’all, I’m glad for Friday and I don’t want to not make plans.

I'm linking up with Kate Motaung for Five Minute Friday. 

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids

Surely I’m not the only mom who wished my kids came with a manual. In the trenches of parenting, my husband and I sometimes realize we aren’t entirely sure how we should handle a situation. Sure, there are times we’re on the same page and have prepared how we will respond, but there are plenty of times we’re winging it.

Dr. Todd Cartmell’s new “8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids” is an instruction manual for parents.

Using examples from his home and 20 years of professional practice, child psychologist and father Todd Cartmell gives eight essential and practical tools to help you maintain a healthy relationship with your child, develop a nurturing home culture, and correct behavior in lasting ways. Designed for busy parents, “8 Simple Tools” breaks each tool – talking, listening, influencing, connecting, teaching, encouraging, correcting, and leading – into five short chapters that include summary tips and application questions.

The organization of the wise information is part of what makes this book the ideal instruction manual. More importantly, the advice is based on real-life scenarios and biblical truth.

My favorite – well, as in most needed – section was the one on talking. It’s the first tool, but it’s the one I struggle with the most. I tend to revert to bossy, nagging words and tone when I want to control my kids and their behavior. Obviously, that’s the not the best strategy, and Dr. Todd offers wisdom I needed to hear.

I don’t pause often enough either. I’m not a new mom and I’m certainly not a new communicator, but I needed these reminders: What do I really want to say? What is the best way to say it? If I want my kids to talk respectfully when they are mad, then I must do the same. I want my child to copy my communication style, not me copy theirs.


And then there was this: “You don’t control your kids’ responses, but you do control your words, volume, level, and tone.”

(Again, ouch.)

“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Proverbs 12:18

Words do matter. The teach and heal and love. Words open the door for teachable moments and opportunities to develop deeper relationships. I want to do that well and I’m glad for this instruction manual that was missing in our family.

“Bottom line: If you are a parents who talks and listens to your kids, influences them with the power of your words, connects with them, teaches and encourages them, corrects them, and leads them through your example, then I believe you will change the trajectory of their lives.”

(And that quote is in the introduction!)

ABOUT THE BOOK :: 209-page paperback published by Moody Publishers (Dec. 15, 2015). Find more information about the book, including sharable images and assessments online at the book’s website.

And I have a special deal for you! Get the book for 50% off with the code GREATKIDS16, which is good through May 15 when you order the book through Moody Publishers. “8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids” also is available at Amazon.

For a limited time when you purchase the book anywhere, receive access to download the Hearts at Home "Essential Workshop Collection for Parents" for free! Learn more about that promotion at the book’s website.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :: Todd Cartmell earned his doctorate in clinical psychology from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, and then completed his postdoctoral fellowship with Wright State University at the Children’s Hospital. Since then, he’s worked at Summit Clinical Services in Wheaton, Illinois, where he continues to see children, teens, and families on a full-time basis.

He’s written five faith-based parenting books and has presented many parenting workshops at mom’s conferences, churches, and schools. And he’s actually guest posted on my blog before.

I received a free copy of this book from FlyBy Promotions / Propeller Consulting in exchange for an honest review. 

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Cleaning My House {and my soul}

Monday morning – the Monday morning after ONE WHOLE WEEK off school! – both my kids came to the laundry room looking for articles of clothing to wear that day. Y’all, that’s how behind on laundry I’ve been. I could tell you all the excuses: Trying to keep my house clean to sell. Not doing all my normal chores when the kids were home for Spring Break. Staying at the lake the previous weekend.


I just wasn’t doing laundry.

The kids found what they needed – in the single basket of clean clothes, which, really, is a miracle because I typically do loads by person, so normally their stuff wouldn’t be in the same load. That was just a happy accident, friends.

So, anyway, I did many loads of laundry on Monday. I even folded some. And then I did more on Tuesday. And, well, there’s always laundry to do.

Plus, even the laundry needs to be in neat piles – in the hampers for dirty clothes in laundry room, in the basket beneath the laundry shoot from Cate’s room, in baskets of clean clothes waiting to be folded, and in baskets folded waiting to be put away – because we’re trying to sell our house.

I posted our house online during Spring Break. Maybe I should have waited a week. But I was eager. And, hey, it was mostly clean. But we showed it twice last week and already twice this week. And we have another showing scheduled tomorrow. Oh, and we’ve heard from three realtors who would like to list our house.

(Cue my ignorance: I had no idea when we listed our house for sale by owner that realtors would want to list it. Apparently that’s a thing.)

And speaking of listing it, I took pictures one room at a time as I got them cleaned. Meanwhile, there would be random things moved from room to room so they wouldn’t show up in any pictures.

That whole process got me thinking about how we try to clean up ourselves so people only see the sparkling finish. Meanwhile, we have burdens and issues stuck in the corners of our hearts.

But, really, like selling a house, there are times to be quick to point out the strengths. My house built in 1964 has lots of closets and built-in shelves in several rooms. There’s good lighting. And the location is superb.

I’m good at organizing information, closets, and parties. I do what I say I’m going to do as promptly as possible. I’m loyal.

Of course, there are other times that being real is the answer. 

My house isn’t always this clean. Maybe the people looking at our house won’t see where I need to figure out how to get the pen and pencil drawings off my son’s light blue walls. Maybe the imperfections in the floors and walls won’t be noticeable.

Sometimes I yell too much or make snap judgments. I’m quick to think I’m right. And I can lose sight of people when I get sucked into projects.

But my house is lived in. We do life here – the good days with laughter, the bad days with too much yelling, and the hard days with too many quick decisions. We drop crumbs and chase dreams here. {Tweet that.}

And I do the same thing in my heart. My house and I, we’re works in progress. The important thing is that I’m becoming more open to growth and change.

So on Monday, that first day back to routine after a fun, filled Spring Break, I didn’t leave my house. My baby girl took two longer-than-usual naps. I did those loads of laundry and cleaned up my house – and my soul. We embraced the quiet while the big kids were settling back into school and my husband was busy working.

And then we all gathered around the table to eat the Taco John’s my husband picked up on his way home from work because I was going to make spaghetti only to realize at 5 p.m. that I didn’t actually have any spaghetti sauce – from a jar, because that’s how we roll around here. One kid pouted, another was starving after the plate was cleared. I was holding onto some bitterness I let go at 2 o’clock Tuesday morning when Rachel decided she needed to eat. Whatever, growth spurt.

Oh, and, I really wanted to dessert after dinner last night, so I made some fudge while the rest of my family ate ice cream. Honestly, tasting fudge in the springtime was such a sweet treat. I associate it with Christmas, but I was happy to have it in April.

This is real life. This is where we live. And, really, I mostly wouldn’t change a thing – especially if fudge is an option.

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Friday, April 8, 2016

Whole {a Five Minute Friday post}

It's Five Minute Friday time! Hooray for the weekend! Each week, Kate Motaung hosts a flash mob group of writers. She issues a prompt and people write for five minutes. The prompt this week: WHOLE. 

Ready, set, go ... 

Last week the essence of Spring Break clicked in his kindergarten mind: "We are going to be off school a WHOLE WEEK?"

"Yep. One whole week."

And then my third-grade girl who sees the world in black and white piped up: "Well, it's more than a week. It's nine days."

"Yes, when you could the weekends, but you never go to school on the weekend."

And then I'm pretty sure that's when Ben broke out in the days of the week song. Telling time, in minutes or days isn't his strong suit.

But he did recently learn how to ride his bike, the two-wheeler as his big sister says. So he's been doing a lot of that this week, this WHOLE WEEK off school.

Cate took a couple horse riding lessons. Rachel worked on her army crawl, enjoyed the swing at the park, and basically smiled every time she say her big brother and sister.

We saw friends and worked on keeping the house clean (hello, trying to sell a house with children home for a WHOLE WEEK PLUS TWO DAYS ...). We slept later than usual and watched some extra episodes of "Fixer Upper." We dreamed about the summer adventures coming sooner really rather than later and we officially issued word our house is for sale.

A whole week home is good for a momma soul too. The break in the routine allows for some work, yes, but plenty of rest and play too.

And stop.

I'm linking up with Kate Motaung for Five Minute Friday

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Looking for Lovely

Somebody told me recently that Greg and I make beautiful babies. Well, actually we don't. For various reasons, we haven’t actually made babies. But we do know our kids are beautiful and love their birth moms for that and so, so many other reasons.

But it doesn't stop there with their outward appearances. Because these women chose life, Greg and I get the opportunity to make these babies into people – beautiful people. God willing, these babies who were all born with dark hair and easy smiles will grow up to be lovely from the inside out.

Adoption always begins with a darkness only God can redeem. Adoption is rooted in grief and loss and poverty and brokenness. But God brings light and purpose and fullness and joy to situations only he can make new.

“The pain of broken families and broken hearts sometimes is deeper than words can describe. But there is beauty in choosing to feel that pain, in calling hurt what it is, and not pretending everything is okay. Whatever tragedy you have experienced or are currently living through, the most beautiful thing you can do is LIVE. Keep walking, keep weeping, keep eating. Don’t ignore the hurt. Don’t attempt to avoid it and just move on with your life. Feel it all, and invite people in to feel it with you.”
{Annie Downs in “Looking for Lovely”}

When I read this, I thought about the adoption group I host on Facebook, where we share resources and prayers and praises. I remembered where I’d been and what God has done with that brokenness. And I offered thanksgiving – yet again – for my kids’ birth moms who made brave decisions in the midst of messy circumstances.

I can’t think of anything more lovely.

That’s why holding my sleeping babies in church has always been holy for me. It’s so ordinary, yet it’s proof God hears the desires of our hearts and calls us for a specific purpose. A sleeping baby who is at home nestled in the crook of my arm is evidence that God brought light to the darkness.

I held Rachel this past Sunday and remembered when coming to church was hard a decade ago because people kept announcing pregnancies and I was ready to do the same. I remembered how Cate was born on a Sunday, Ben on a Monday, and then Rachel in a Saturday. Announcing their births was nothing short of miraculous. They’re all proof God redeems and makes new, that he makes beauty from ashes.

Church is different now than it was a decade ago. Cate has claimed Christ has her savior. Ben is wiggly but learning to read the words on the slides during worship. And Rachel sleeps. They all belong and I have no doubt Greg and I were chosen to be their parents.

I can't think of anything more holy than that.

Annie Downs’ new book – “Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter” – released yesterday. It has nothing to do with adoption but everything to do with finding God in the midst of pain and sadness and brokenness.

In the book, she tell stories of her everyday life – sitting around the tables with friends, running from pain, and discovering hope despite loss. She offers glimpses into where she finds lovely. I don’t love sushi or have my spots in Nashville like she does, but I have found ordinary loveliness in my own life.

The cover of this book is warped because I carried it with me for a few days and found lovely in it while I found lovely looking up from the pages to see my oldest daughter riding a horse, my son learning to ride a bicycle, and my baby girl figuring out how to crawl.

Looking for Lovely” is a reminder that when we have Jesus, we can find loveliness in everything else. {Tweet that.}

ABOUT THE BOOK :: 208 pages. Published by B&H Books (April 5, 2016).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :: Annie F. Downs is an author, speaker, and blogger based in Nashville. Flawed but funny, she uses her writing to highlight the everyday goodness of a real and present God. While she loves writing — books, blogs, articles, thank you notes — Annie also enjoys traveling around the world speaking to young women, college students, and adults. Annie is a huge fan of bands with banjos, glitter, her community of friends, boiled peanuts, and football games. Read more at and follow her on Twitter.

I received a free copy of “Looking for Lovely” from Icon Media Group in exchange for an honest review.

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