Tuesday, May 31, 2016

8 Things I Learned in May

May is my favorite. Honestly, even for as much as I love summer, I’m a little sad my favorite month has gone by so quickly. There were birthday parties and soccer games and days at the lake. The temperatures changed from cool to humid. And hooray for my big kids finishing up kindergarten and third grade!

Here comes days at the pool – when we aren’t packing up our belongings! But, first, I’m going to share 8 Things I Learned in May ...

1. Bacon tastes really good when it’s cooked on the griddle.

We got a big griddle to cook pancakes for Cate’s Pancakes & Pippi Party. After making four batches of pancakes, Greg threw bacon on the griddle. And it was delicious.

Admittedly, clean up isn’t as easy as baking the bacon on a foil-lined cookie sheet.

2. I may have been looking forward to Summer Break as much as the kids.

Summer is still busy but in a different way. There’s lake house management. And we are still trying to sell our house. Plus I’ve been purging and packing and organizing.

Admittedly, I tried to stay on top of things as much as possible the first week we were out of school because the pool wasn’t open yet.

And, yes, “we” are out of school. It’s a family affair!

3. Trying to sell a house is no joke.

We posted some pictures and info on Facebook at the beginning of April. Then a few days later we put a sign in our yard. We showed it many times and got several phone calls about it.

And then we didn’t for a week or two so we ran an ad in the local newspaper. We got a few more calls and showed it some more.

I will say this: My kids are champs at getting their rooms cleaned and beds made in preparation for a showing.

We listed it with a realtor last week. And the house was shown some more. Hopefully we will get an offer and the perfect buyer soon.

4. I love the color of my new kitchen. It’s called refresh.

Refresh may be the theme of our new house, actually. Pictures coming soon-ish.

5. Mango salsa is back at Qdoba for the summer. Y’all. It’s the best.

(I love it so much I wrote a post about it a couple years ago!)

6. Netflix and I are email friends. 

Just the other day I got an email to inform me the second season of “Bloodlines” is now on Netflix. I also recently got one that say the third season of “Graceland” was on Netflix. Sorry, but I already watched it on Amazon Prime. I couldn’t wait.

Speaking of TV, we are finishing season 10 (!) of “Bones” on Netflix and catching up with “The Blacklist” on our DVD. We recently also caught up on “Madam Secretary” and “Blue Bloods.”

(And, speaking of email friends, I like email friends. Want to be mine?)

7. People like the freedom to say no. I’ve had such good response to The Summer Not-To-Do List printable. Hope you enjoy it!

(Download it here, if you haven’t already!)

8. In the summer, I’m better at letting go – especially of what time dinner should be on the table, bedtimes, and the frequency of my kids’ showers. My most recent Mom Confessions {The Memorial Day Weekend Edition} reminded me of that.

How’s your May been?

I'm linking up with Emily Freeman like I do at the end of each month

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Summer Not-To-Do List

I originally wrote this post last summer for Circles of Faith, but its message is near and dear to my heart, probably because it's what I'm always learning. I wanted to share it again today, in honor of our first full week of Summer Break. Plus I made a free printable for you! Happy Summer, friends!

Dear Summer,

I’m so glad you’re here. You’re like the best friend who has been gone too long. My 9-year-old daughter who is so very literal would remind me that you don’t officially arrive until June 21, but the kids have been out of school almost a week now so I’m embracing your arrival.

I almost always have a to-do list near me. If a notebook isn’t physically near me, I’m emailing myself something I want to remember or making a mental list. One of my greatest fears is that I will forget. So I make lists.

But I don’t want to forget to live with you, Summer.

I look at our calendar and your days are filling up, especially the weekends in July. We’re going to visit my sister and her family in Buffalo, NY. We have a what’s-becoming-tradition long weekend in St. Louis with our best friends. And we’re wrapping up your days, Summer, at Hilton Head Island with my parents and siblings and their families.

I’m intentionally not filling some days, but even planning not to plan is a plan. Plus I’ve been purging and organizing and packing because we’re moving about 10 minutes away to 33 acres that fit our family well.

Cate’s going to a couple church camps. Ben wants to ride his bike and play in creeks. And Rachel just wants to go wherever everyone else is going.

And, of course, the kids and I want to spend many, many afternoons at the pool with our friends. We want to pack our lunches, go the park, and explore. We want to eat ice cream and read books.

These big plans mixed with ordinary days are why I love you, Summer. {Tweet that.}

You welcome a break from routine and foster adventure. In an effort to embrace this freedom and truly live with my kids, I want to have a not-to-do list that fosters joy and peace and grace and freedom.

Christ alone brings those things, but, you, Summer, help give me perspective on how to live. So I'm making a different kind of list right now. Instead of obsessing over what I need to do, I want to embrace a not-to-do list, a reverse bucket list of sorts that frees my soul.

This kind of list will prompt different kinds of check marks and I hope the victories spill over into your friends – Fall, Winter, and Spring. I want to grasp hold of truth so I can live more abundantly regardless of the season.

A Momma in Kentucky

What are you looking forward to about summer? What does your Summer Not-To-Do List look like? {Tweet that.}


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Friday, May 20, 2016

On real hope & expectations

Hello, Friday. I'm so very glad you're here, ESPECIALLY this Friday because HELLO, SUMMER BREAK. I'm joining Kate Motaung and friends for Five Minute Friday, when we get a prompt and write for five minutes. Like a brain dump. Like a flash mob. Just write. 

This week the prompt is EXPECT

Ready, set, go ... 

I had hoped my kids – 9 years, 6 years, 8 months – would sleep in for the first day of Summer Break, but I didn’t really expect them to.

Hope. Expect.

These words are so similar, but I was thinking about how different they can be, depending on what I’m putting my hope in.

Putting hope in my 6-year-old boy who loves to rise with the sun and the moment he hears anyone else stirring and my 8-month-old girl who has decent but unpredictable nighttime sleeping length isn’t wise. I knew that, so I didn’t expect to sleep past 7 a.m.

My husband got up with Rachel at 6 a.m. and Ben soon followed down the stairs. They woke me at 6:45 a.m., when Greg needed to get in the shower for work. So my husband who knew I wanted a little extra sleep helped some of my expectations be met, but, even so, it was just the best he could do given the circumstances.

On the contrary, we can put our hope in God because he promises to finish what he’s started (Phil. 1:6) and work all things for the good for those who love him (Romans 8:28). We can wait expectantly because he’s not influenced by when the sun rises or what other people are doing. We can believe in what we cannot see because that’s the essence of faith that gives us hope – real hope, the kind of hope we can expect to make a difference.

So, welcome, Summer Break, may our togetherness be full of happy messes, limited sibling pestering, and fun adventures. And, yes, I’m still hoping my kids embrace the summer sleep schedule soon, even if my expectations are low.

And stop.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Rachel @ 8 months

Rachel is into ... everything, literally and figuratively. I’m busy making sure she doesn’t eat anything she’s discovered on the floor and cleaning up things like trash and water from the diffuser she’s pulled over.

That’s right, she’s on the move in the fullest sense – crawling and pulling up all over the place. It’s more exhausting {for me, at least!} than the previous phase, but I really love the discovery that happens. Like the door stop at the base of the wall behind some bedroom doors. That’s been a new favorite. And at least it’s safe in the sense she won’t choke on it.

She’s wearing some 6-to-9-month clothes, but rapidly moving toward 12-month ones. With this week’s cold front, I had to dip into the stash of fall clothes I’d bought her along the way. Obviously, the long-sleeved 12-to-18-month shirts she’s worn this week aren’t going to fit her in the fall, so that’s good to know. I clearly underestimated her growth!

She’s sleeping about 11 hours most nights, but sometimes she wakes up and needs to be consoled back to sleep. Apparently baby nightmares are a thing. And sometimes she thinks she needs to eat, but, thankfully, that’s rare. Her bottom two teeth popped through and she's obviously working on more.

She loves eating, laughing at her brother and sister, standing up in her crib when she’s ready to get out, and chewing on her baby toothbrush. I’m still working on a way to bottle up her scrunchy-nose smile and the one with her tongue poking out because this girl is a sweet joy that I have no doubt will embrace adventure.

Look back on Rachel’s growth :: One monthTwo monthsThree monthsFour monthsFive monthsSix months. Seven months

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Supporting Foster Families {and looking after orphans}

Most people know I became a mom through adoption – three times. I’ve shared that a couple hard years of infertility is how God led Greg and I to adoption. We had no idea what we were getting into, but once we were there, we knew that’s where we were supposed to be.

Adoption wasn’t our Plan B, but infertility was the heartache God used to get our attention. Obviously, not everyone is called to adoption. But God does call his followers to care for the fatherless and orphans.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
James 1:27

Sometimes caring for orphans does mean growing your family through adoption or foster care, but many times it looks like helping families who are walking through these processes, participating in programs that help feed and clothe orphans, or supporting businesses that give to orphan care.

Through the ministry to adoptive mommas God built up around me, I’ve gotten to learn much about fostering recently. I have friends who have foster babies in their homes right now. I know others who are getting certified so they can serve this way.

I’ve been thinking about how when we – as believers – claim to be pro-life, we have to do more than protest abortion. We don’t have to adopt or foster, but we do have to serve children who need love and moms who are choosing life. And some of those children and mommas are wrapped up in the foster system.

May is National Foster Care Month. So I wanted to share some ways you – wherever you are, whether you’re married or single, regardless of how big your family is – can serve families who are choosing to foster. {Tweet that.}

Show up with a meal. Any time a regular routine is interrupted – even with something happy like new life – it’s hard to get to the grocery, plan meals, and prepare meals. And whatever you bring doesn’t have to be gourmet. Go to the local BBQ restaurant and get enough meat and sides to provide a few meals to the family adjusting to its new normal. Have a pizza delivered to them. Double whatever you’re making for your own family.

Offer specific help. Think about this family’s life and offer to do something specific – go to the grocery, do laundry, sit with the baby so momma can shower, or mow the lawn. Texts that say “Let me know what I can do” are well-intentioned, but saying “I’m at the grocery store, what I can I get you?” are more practical.

Provide care for other children. With the foster system come many appointments (pediatrician checkups, visitation with bio family, etc.) the family doesn’t have much control over. If you know a family who is fostering a little one, offer to help with any older kids in the home.

Be on call to get supplies. Foster situations often happen with little time to spare. If you know someone who suddenly has a new child in the home, offer to run to Walmart to get diapers, formula, clothes, activities, or whatever else that child may need. Children often come into foster homes with almost nothing.

Let parents give gifts. Foster children have a lot of people in and out of their lives. So, if you have something special to give a child, let the parents do that for bonding purposes. Depending on your relationship with the family, you may get a chance to bond with the child too, but give that time.

Understand you may not understand. Even if you weren’t called to foster, your friend was. Be a listening ear and be there for whatever practical support is necessary, but don’t judge the way she’s bonding with a child that may not be in her home forever. This child needs love – and with that comes attachment. Yes, it’s hard. But God doesn’t promise he’ll call us only to easy things. He calls us to sanctify us – and that usually means doing something hard. In fostering, there’s the emotional challenges as well as the complications that come with a flawed system and its logistically issues.

If you do some of these things I shared – or other things that make sense for the people in your life – then you’re serving orphans because your friends need you while they’re in the trenches. And my guess is you’ll get a whole new perspective that draws you nearer to God.

Thanks for your grace last week when I had a schedule snafu that threw off the post I thought I had prepared for #ThreeWordWednesday. Life happens sometimes. I'm glad to be back this week! And I've got several giveaways opens, if you're want to join me there too: "The League and The Lantern" book for tweens. Jeremy Camp CDs. The new "ESV Family Devotional Bible."


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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Reading & applying Bible together {a review & giveaway}

I had a complete meltdown this past weekend. I argued with my husband in front of my kids and then cried when we had a family pow wow to regroup. My husband prayed over us all and I cried some more. As much as I wish the ugliness didn’t happen, I hope my kids takeaway one truth: We all need Jesus.

Even Mom. Perhaps especially Mom.

And that’s why I love resources that help families focus on this truth. We live in a society that is saturating our kids’ minds (and our adult minds!) with so many things that don’t matter in the big picture. It takes intentional effort to come together and focus on what matters.

The new “ESV Family Devotional Bible” from Crossway helps do that. With devotionals sprinkled throughout the family-friendly Bible, there are topics and questions that are relevant to the truths that matter. It’s all set up in way that you could read the Bible together in a year. But even if you’re less organized about it, this Bible will spark conversations that are worth having.

That’s certainly a better way to remind your kids we all need Jesus – and it may even ward off any forthcoming meltdowns and arguments!

ABOUT THE BOOK :: The “ESV Family Devotional Bible” is designed to help families read and apply God’s Word together. This full-color edition features the complete ESV text interspersed with engaging illustrations and gospel-centered devotions related to key Bible stories — guiding families through the entirety of God’s Word over the course of a year. Each devotion also includes discussion questions and suggestions for additional reading.

This hardcover Bible with 1408 pages was published by Crossway (April 29, 2016). Learn more at Crossway’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

GIVEAWAY :: And there’s a copy for one of you! Use the Rafflecopter widget below for different ways to enter. The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents through Monday, May 23. A winner will be randomly selected the following day.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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Monday, May 16, 2016

Celebrating other women {who made me a mom}

Mother’s Day was especially hard one year, right there in the midst of my own hard, emotional infertility season. And then God led us to adoption and I became a mom one week before Mother’s Day 2007.

That’s how dreams are sometimes – they seem so far out of reach and then they happen in an instant and we realize the timing is perfect. Of course, when I was waiting to be called “Momma,” I didn’t think the timing was very perfect!

But hindsight offers perspective.

Truth is, I wouldn’t be a mom if it weren’t for other women who chose life for their babies and then chose me to be their mom. Dreams have a way of humbling us and pointing us back to the Creator of it all. {Tweet that.}

Three times, I became a mom because of adoption. Sure, infertility led us there, but since the day we stopped trying to conceive a baby, I’ve had no doubts this was God’s plan for our family.

Adoption is relational to its core. Always rooted in grief, adoption is a redemption process that builds families and connects people beyond the walls of one home. The earthly process of bringing a child home this way mirrors the spiritual adoption of God choosing us for an inheritance we share with Christ. It’s kingdom work that sanctifies.

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

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Friday, May 13, 2016

More than radio hits {a Jeremy Camp CD review}

Jeremy Camp is the kind of artist I hear on the radio and sing along with, so I was glad to have a chance to hear his entire new album. “I Will Follow” has plenty of sing-a-long songs that are anthems to God’s promises.

“He Knows,” “Christ in Me” and “Same Power” are songs I recognized from the radio. “Finally Home” struck me with its upbeat sound and the way it encouraged me to look toward adventure that lasts forever. “We Are Dreamers” proclaims the redeeming power of Christ that indeed makes all things possible.

I’m glad now I don’t have to rely on the radio to hear Jeremy Camp. These songs are ones that will be played in my house and minivan in hopes my family and I will hold onto their messages.

ABOUT THE ARTIST :: Jeremy Camp has 12 years of accolades and accomplishments as a songwriter and recording artist, including four million albums sold, four RIAA Gold albums, a multi-platinum DVD, three American Music Award nominations and a GRAMMY nomination. He’s been a part of more than 25 tours (headlining 18 of those) in the U.S. and has performed in more than 32 countries. Jeremy describes himself as “a minister who happens to play music as a way to minister.”

ABOUT THE ALBUM :: “I Will Follow” is Camp’s eighth studio album and was released last year from Capitol CMG. The deluxe album includes 16 songs – 11 of which come on the regular album and five bonus songs, including two acoustic ones.

Learn more at Jeremy Camp’s website. If you buy the CD from Amazon, you get free mp3 version of the songs too. Last I looked, “I Will Follow” was also available for free streaming through Amazon Prime.

GIVEAWAY :: So, technically, I’m supposed to say: AND I HAVE A COPY TO GIVE ONE OF YOU! But I’m going to say: AND I HAVE TWO COPIES TO GIVEAWAY! So two of you will win! Hooray! In all honestly, one of the copies has been unwrapped because I put the CD in the laptop to transfer the songs to my iTunes library and then returned to the CD to the case and haven’t opened it again. So it’s like new, just unwrapped. But we’re friends, so that’s okay, and that means I get to give away TWO COPIES.

Use the Rafflecopter below for multiple entries. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents through Thursday, May 19. I’ll randomly choose the winners next Friday, May 20.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Thanks to Capitol CMG for providing me with the two copies of this CD. This review is my own thoughts.

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

The League and the Lantern {a review from a 9-year-old girl}

My oldest girl and I love books. It’s like our love language, really. Multiple people gifted her books for her birthday last week and we both almost always have a book with us. She’s been into discovering new books lately, so we were all about the opportunity to review “The League and the Lantern” by Brian Wells.

Well, she’s going to review it, and I’m going to share some other points with you.

So, here it is, from Cate, who is finishing third grade, turned 9 last week, and reads well above grade level ::

The League and the Lantern” is a very good adventure story.

I like that Jake has a lot of questions and he’s looking for the answers. He likes adventuring and has good friends. Lucy know how to fight really well. She’s my favorite character because she likes things to be causal when people question why these seventh-graders are alone with no supervision. T.J. always makes up weird stories when police officers or adults are nearby ask why they’re alone.

There is a bunch of bad guys, police officers, and suspicious people – some who are Jake’s best friends. Jake’s Uncle Gabe even goes missing and they try to track him down. While they try to track him down, they make other exciting discoveries.

I hope there are more stories because I like the characters and their adventures. (Spoiler alert from Mom: There are more adventures coming from this new author.)

FROM THE PARENT :: “The League and the Lantern” helps inspire reading because it’s the beginning of an adventure series your kids will want to read. Plus, there’s educational value with the 140 key vocabulary words hidden throughout the story and historic sites that are part of the setting.

Lessons in family, friendship, mercy and compassion are ones parents long for their kids to learn. And those lessons go beyond the pages with the buy-one-give-one campaign to get books into the hands of kids who cannot afford their own copies.

ABOUT THE BOOK :: “The League and the Lantern” is the first book in a new adventure series for middle-school readers. It all starts when a dangerous organization invades Jake Herndon’s seventh-grade sleepover. He escapes along with two new classmates, Lucy and TJ, only to face a 48-hour fight for survival on the streets of Chicago. The kids unravel a mystery dating back to the Civil War, and an incredible secret about Jake’s family. Along the way they learn unexpected lessons about courage, family and friendship.

“The League and the Lantern” became a reality through a Kickstarter campaign. It is a 282-page hardcover book aimed at readers 9 to 14 years old published by Republic Ink (May 16, 2016). Learn more at the book’s official website or its Facebook page.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :: Brian Wells is a concerned dad who couldn’t find quality entertainment for his kids. He has worked and produced 15 TV movies for the major networks, and this is his book debut.

GIVEAWAY :: And one of you can win a copy of this book! Use the Rafflecopter below for multiple ways to enter this giveaway, which is open through next Thursday, May 19 to U.S. and Canadian residents.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Thanks to FlyBy Promotions/Propeller Consulting for the copy of this book that Cate reviewed and the copy one of you will receive in exchange for this post. The opinions here are mine (and Cate’s!). If you have won a prize from FlyBy/Propeller in the last 30 days or have won the same book from another blog, you are not eligible to win.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

10 Ways God is Different from Us – and why that’s a good thing

I like to be in control – of plans and people’s reactions and my own emotions. Yet, when I get around to surrendering that desire to the One who is actually in control, I find freedom. Honestly, that paradox never made much sense to me, but while reading “None Like Him” by Jen Wilkin, I found myself nodding my head and realizing claiming God as my savior comes with many surrenders and contrasts.

Because God is different than us.

And that is indeed a good thing.

I should note here that the subtitle of the book is “10 Ways God is Different From Us (and why that’s a good thing).”

Specifically, “None Like Him” looks at how God is self-existent, self-sufficient, eternal, immutable, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, sovereign, infinite, and incomprehensible. We’re not – and that’s a good thing.

My favorite chapters were the ones on God being self-existent, eternal, and immutable. And when I say “favorite,” I mean those are the attributes that struck me deepest because those are the faith concepts that bring me to the cross over and over again.

Wilkin brought to life for me what it means to be an image bearer of God – and that’s quite different than aspiring to become like God. We are designed to reflect his glory, not rival it.

If I would continually surrender to that, I’d be a whole lot less controlling and have a perception that makes me quicker to trust God’s ways, which are unchanging. Yet because he’s unchanging, my habits and circumstances are able to change.

“None Like Him” brought so many paradoxes to life, showing me how often I try to be the god of my own life when there’s a God who is perfectly fitted for that role and created me to be who I am. I marked long passages that I need to revisit. But I wanted to share one of those sections with you:

“The sadness or frustration we feel about changes to something that we believed to be unchanging reveals our tendency to ascribe what is true only of God to people, possessions, or circumstances that are not him – to expect earthly places to be heavenly. I tell myself that my love of routine and my aversion to change are a longing for the God who does not change, but if I am honest, they are just plain idolatry. In truth, I am telling temporary, changing things, ‘I need you to be God. Please just stay the same.’ … The worst part is that, when confronted with my own entrenched sin, my immediate defense is to say, ‘That’s just who I am. I can’t change.’ … Whether uttered in hopelessness or defiance, this statement is a lie. Only one person does not change, and that is God. … Just as my assurance of salvation rests in the fact that God cannot change, my hope of sanctification rests in the fact that I can.”
{Jen Wilkin in “None Like Him,” page 87}

This book would be a good one to read, study and discuss with other women. Each chapter concludes with questions. Scriptures are also referenced throughout, making it a natural Bible study.

ABOUT THE BOOK :: Our limitations are by design. We were never meant to be God. But at the root of every sin is our rebellious desire to possess attributes that belong to God alone. Calling us to embrace our limits as a means of glorifying God’s limitless power, author Jen Wilkin invites us to celebrate the freedom that comes when we rest in letting God be God.

None Like Him” is a 163-page paperback book published by Crossway (April 30, 2016).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :: Jen Wilkin is a speaker, writer, and teacher of women’s Bible studies. During her 15 years of teaching, she has organized and led studies for women. Jen and her family are members of the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. She is the author of “Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds.”

GIVEAWAY :: And I have a copy of this book for one you! This giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents through Monday, May 16. A winner will be randomly chosen on Tuesday, May 17. Use the Rafflecopter below for multiple ways to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review, thanks to Propeller Consulting/FlyBy Promotions. FlyBy is also providing the winner of this giveaway with a copy of this book. If you have won a prize from Propeller/FlyBy in the last 30 days or have won this book from another blog, you are not eligible to win.

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Friday, May 6, 2016

A Letter to My Daughter Who is Like Me

Catherine Anna –

It’s cliché, but I can’t believe you’re 9. You’re the one who made me a momma. We share a first-born girl personality that means I understand you. But, you know, in reality, you’ve taught me so much about myself and faith that I’m not sure I’d have seen through any other lens.

You’re finishing up third grade. I drag you out of bed in the mornings, but you like school once you get there. You’re a leader among your class even though you’re one of the youngest. This year, you’ve started taking weekly piano lessons there.

I’m excited to see you try new things because, like me, you have a fear of failure. I see it because I’ve been there. But I’m thankful for your bravery to have more hobbies than anyone else I know. Kilee is teaching you to crochet. Gran-Gran is teaching you to sew. You’ve been taking monthly horse riding lessons for about a year. You read and write and draw and build with Legos. And we like to watch “Fixer Upper” together.

Your creativity and compassion are going to serve you well wherever you go.

Right now, you put those gifts to use by helping with your baby sister. She adores you and I’m grateful for your faithfulness to help and serve right here in our house.

Serving with you in Guatemala and then having that conversation about baptism right there on the black sand beach in a foreign country top my list for us this past year. Seeing your baptism a few weeks later was a momma’s dream come true. We’ve both become better versions of ourselves since we bravely went on our first mission trip. And I’m really glad we got to do it together.

God made me a momma one week before Mother’s Day 2007. I’m grateful you’re the first one to call me momma. Watching you grow up and knowing it’s grown me up too has been one of the best adventures of my life. I’m excited to see what else is to come for you, sweet girl. I’m glad I’ve got a front row seat to you life.

I love you dearly,

Other birthday posts, if you want to see how Cate has grown up :: 1345678.

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Motherhood is hard. Let's celebrate anyway.

Holding her month-old daughter, a dear friend recently said to me: Why doesn’t anybody talk about how hard motherhood is?

We both became moms through adoption. We didn’t birth babies, but we walked through our own (sometimes hard) stories to arrive at hospitals to meet the babies we would love instantly. We didn’t recover physically from births, but we still had to adjust to new seasons – seasons that involved less sleep.

I told her that her baby would eventually sleep through the night. They’d find a routine that works for them – and then it would probably change – but they’d settle in a rhythm.

That’s what moms do, find rhythms and go with it.

My friend asked for some books that would help the transition into motherhood. I immediately thought of several parenting books. And then I thought of some books that encouraged me to let go of guilt and the try-harder, do-more mentality that contradicts what Jesus did on the cross. Those truths apply well beyond motherhood, but it’s in motherhood I’m personally being sanctified.

In celebration of my friend and mommas everywhere, I started compiling a list of books. Oh, and, I ended up ordering her three of them and having them shipped directly to her doorstep because that’s what moms need.

Moms need you to show up with dinner. They need necessities – toilet paper, diapers, snacks, and books – to show up on their doorsteps. They need to be reminded it’s okay to be so incredibly grateful for the tiny person in their arms but so very tired from the lack of sleep at the same time.

Motherhood is hard. So let’s celebrate moms in ways that make life easier for them. {Tweet that.}

I know, Mother’s Day is in a few days. But I’m just getting around to putting together this post because motherhood takes time. Maybe there’s a mom in your life – your mom, your neighbor, your friend, the one you just met – who needs to be encouraged with a gift. The gifts obviously don’t have to come on Mother’s Day, because moms don’t really get to take days off.

Regardless, here’s some gift ideas (books included) that you could have delivered electronically or a few days late. These are the kind of gifts that say, “Look, I know this mothering business is hard, but you’re doing a good job. Here, have this, it’ll make your life a little easier.”

Boxed – I just placed a big order from Boxed that will be delivered to my doorstep. The enormous boxes will contain snacks, diapers, baby formula, dishwasher detergent, and laundry detergent. If you use the code 28SI6 when you sign up for Boxed, you'll save $10 on your first order. And then maybe you can make a mom you love really happy when essentials don't require a run to Walmart. Because, really, that's not what any mom want to do.

Amazon Gifts cards for Amazon are welcomed because, hello, Prime Pantry and, again, the household supplies and groceries delivered to the doorstep. (That’s assuming the momma you love is a Prime member. But, if not, maybe you should sign her up!)

The Books

(Did you know you can gift ebooks? See, you wouldn't even be late with the Mother's Day gift this way!)

Other ideas – gift certificates for cleaning or massages, subscription to those services that provide ingredients for meals and recipes, and time to rest.

What would you add to the list?

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Choosing 37 Joys

I turned 37 yesterday, and, really, aside from the fact that I like the number 36 better, I don’t care. My 30s have been my favorite decade yet. And, here I am, closer to 40 than 30, and I still really like to celebrate my birthday.

Even so, I do not like to have “Happy Birthday” sung to me in public.

I’m barely an extrovert – and that totally crosses a line.

So, in a slightly delayed celebration of my birthday, I’m sharing 37 ways I’m #choosingJOY recently. And I used the hashtag because it’s one of my favorites I use regularly on social media. Feel free to join me on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook – whichever is your favorite – and use that hashtag to share how you’re finding joy. And you can share on Pinterest, but, I’m sorry, I’m not there. I did reactivate my account, but, really, only long enough to choose some paint colors. I do not find joy there.

1. This third baby of mine. Y’all, I know I talk about her often here and on social media, but I wasn’t sure we were ever going to be a family of five. And we are. And I love it.

2. Rachel fits perfectly in our family – as if God had this planned all along. (Okay, I KNOW he did, but seeing that affirmation in everyday life is my favorite.)

3. Seeing her crawl quickly and pull up is my current favorite, even though I have a hard time wrapping my around the fact that’s where we are. I’m guessing she’s going to be our earliest walker.

4. Rachel is also back to sleeping through the night, so that’s good.

5. I’m excited about moving to our new house on 33 acres – hopefully later this month. This wasn’t my dream for a long time, but my husband wore off on me. And now it’s my dream too.

6. I really like my husband. I mean, duh, right? Right. But, really, I’ve seen marriages crumble, and I’m grateful mine has gotten better with time. We’re almost 14 years in.

7. Adventures with my family are fun. Whether it’s dinner time on a Tuesday night or a road trip to a safari park near Jackson, Tennessee, I like life with my people. God made us a family. We’re often loud and messy, but we are better together. (Click here for a glimpse into real life.)

8. I also am excited about some big adventures we have coming up this summer – a family reunion at the lake, a trip to visit my sister’s family for her twins’ baptisms, a beach vacation.

9. I’m also excited for days at the pool and catching up with friends.

10. Reading fiction is good for my soul. Sometimes I forget how much I like fiction. Here are some fiction books I’ve read this year.

11. Reading nonfiction, especially free books I get review and giveaway, is another way I like to spend my time. I know, this may seem silly, but I really like this part of being a blogger.

12. And, stay tuned because I have at least three books and one CD to giveaway this month alone. Best way to stay informed is to subscribe to receive my posts in your inbox, then you’re among the first to know and subscribers get extra entries into the giveaways.

13. Memoirs may be my favorite non-fiction. Here’s some I’ve read so far this year.

14. An adoption ministry God has built up around me reminds me our stories matter and have purpose well beyond our lives. And, hey, if you know someone who would like to join a private Facebook group I have for adoptive mommas, let me know. We have almost 90 moms who are in the process of adopting, hoping to adopt, or have grown their family through adoption. It’s a safe place to share prayer requests and resources.

15. Documenting life has long been a hobby of mine, but I’m loving the ways I can do it on my phone. My favorites are Project Life app, which allows me to create scrapbook pages right there from the palm of my hand, and Instagram, where I document all kinds of real-life moments.

16. Since July, I’ve used my iPhone exclusively for photos and I don’t feel like I’m settling for quality.

17. I love seeing Cate (who turns 9 this week) have so many hobbies. Her personality is a lot like mine – a little fearful of new things. But she’s embracing new things like having a friend teach her to crochet and letting my mother-in-law teach her how to sew. She’s excelling in her horse riding lessons, which she’s been taking about monthly for the past year, and she had her first piano recital at school last week after taking private lessons since August.

18. I love seeing Ben be a big brother. He’s an entertainer and protector, that’s for sure!

19. We have a countdown to summer break. TWO MORE MONDAY MORNINGS and nine more other school mornings.

20. While I’m certainly ready for Summer Break, I’m grateful for my kids teachers’ this year. They’ve been exactly what they each needed.

21. Cate has specifically cited lessons from her teacher about how to eat a cupcake and why not to wear a bikini. Solid life lessons, friends.

22. Ben is reading and it’s fun to see him know words or be interested in what something says.

23. “Fixer Upper.” Enough said.

24. I especially love watching the show with Cate, who has opinions and thoughts as we watch. We had caught up with all the episodes in the first two seasons on Netflix, but I saw we could buy season 3 of “Fixer Upper” on our Amazon Fire TV for $15 – that’s less than a dollar an episode, so I treated us to an early birthday present.

25. I like sharing my birth week with my girl. It’s hard to believe I had just turned 28 when she was born.

26. Starting new Bible studies is always so refreshing. Right now I’m working through Katie Orr’s “Everyday Faith.” You can follow her and others as we work through on Instagram. I’ll probably post some about it too.

27. I like new journals too. I have a couple awaiting my pen.

28. Facebook birthday wishes make me happy. I know people have all kinds of things to say about social media, but I like it. And I like how friends you never hear from come out of the woodwork to offer you a “Happy birthday” message. I did see one on someone else’s wall the other day that said: HBTY. Really? Can we just take the time to type “Happy birthday to you!” Surely.

29. Greg’s status on my birthday morning made me laugh: Happy 37th birthday to my wife, Kristin Taylor. If you see her out today tell her she is looking prime. (Who doesn’t love a good math joke?)

30. Cate has taken to planning book-themed birthday parties. Last year was Boxcar Children, this year is Pippi Longstocking. Oh and she helped me plan Ben’s “Dragons Love Tacos” party too.

31. Ben loves to cuddle first thing in the morning. Even if it’s earlier than I like, he’s so sweet then.

32. Qdoba opened a restaurant in Murray a few (?) years ago. I was so excited and ate there regularly. I still eat there regularly. I’m pretty sure my family and friends thought my obsession would be a fleeting thing. It’s not. I do need the mango salsa to come back to perfect my nachos.

33. Birthday eve flowers from my husband and big kids that are still sitting on the kitchen table are sweet.

34. Purging is like therapy. I’ve been cleaning out closets and clothes. I’ve shipped boxes to people. I’ve given bags to the thrift store and to a fundraising yard sale. It’s like nesting before our move.

35. I’m always making playlists in my head.

36. I love when I hear a song that goes along with what God is teaching me. Faith and adventures are the current themes.

37. The fact I made this list of 37 things. That’s joy right there, friends.

How are you #choosingJOY? It really is all around you. {Tweet that.}

Subscribe to get new posts and/or a monthly newsletter with content not available on the blog in your inbox. When you subscribe, I'll send you a FREE #choosingJOY printable.