Monday, September 1, 2014

7 Things I Learned in August


Yes, it's September already. Hello, the month that begins fall. But I want to reflect on August before I forget the whole month, which is entirely possible because I've been forgetful lately. 

1. NEEDTOBREATHE has some great new live music.
You can thank me later when you stop listening long enough to do something else. Listen here.

2. All my Kindle highlights are in one place online.
{Get to yours right here. Notice the "Your Highlights" link at the top of the page.} My blogging friend Ashley told me about this awhile ago, but I hadn't really used it until recently. Silly me; it's fabulous.

3. Lisa Harris writes good fiction books.
I had her two Southern Crimes series books on my Kindle and read them both in less than a week. I can't remember the last time I read an entire book in one day, but "Fatal Exchange" was the book for me this past Saturday. I do recommend reading "Dangerous Passage" first. They're both packed with action and good messages. She has a new one coming out at the end of the year and, yes, "Hidden Agenda" is already on my Amazon Wish List.

4. Launching an ebook is going to be fun. 
I poured my heart and much time into writing my ebook. Writing those 24,000 words was a therapeutic, inspiring process, but I am really excited about the launch I have planned. {In case you missed it, I'm forming a launch team. Read more here, if you're interested in joining us.}

5. Seasons are good. 
I'm never ready for school to begin again, but once it does, the routine is good. Seasons are meant to change. And, with that, I'm admitting I'm ready for the humid days to be over for awhile. I'm a summer girl, but I'm ready for some fall days. I want to wear sweatshirts, eat candy corn, watch some Murray State football, watch my kids play soccer, go camping, use our new deck, and eat soup.

6. There is a Bible verse that sums up one of the reasons I write.
"Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does." Psalm 96:3 (NLT) Isn't that lovely and true? {The other reason I write is for my personal therapy!}

7. I miss being in a women's Bible study. 
So I'm starting one. Our first meeting is this week, in fact. We're going to do Beth Moore's "Breaking Free," which I picked out from my own personal need knowing I probably wasn't alone.

How was your August?
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I'm linking up this monthly post with Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky.  Here are previous month's recaps from 2013: June. July. August. September. October. November. And from 2014: January. February. March. April. May. June. July.


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{Circles of Faith} Perfection is an illusion


“We don’t have mango salsa anymore. It was seasonal.” Sure, it’s just a topping for my three-cheese nachos at Qdoba, but my perfected combination of flavors was disrupted.

“OK, give me the mild pico de gallo.” I settled for my next favorite.

But sometimes we build something after some trial and error that seems so perfect.

That’s how the nachos with queso, black beans, grilled veggies, shredded cheese and mild mango salsa were for me this summer. One afternoon not long before the kids returned to school, we met my husband for lunch. When I sat down with the not-quite-favorite nachos, mourning the disappearance of the mango salsa, I realized perfection is fleeting.

There are moments when perfection seems attainable, but that’s a trap. Every time.

Over the nachos that really did taste good, my husband reminded me about how pitchers can throw a perfect game but the next time on the mound a runner gets to base. Nobody throws back-to-back perfect games because perfection is just an illusion.

Unless you’re Jesus.

He’s perfect and he’s perfecting us.

{Read the rest of this post at Circles of Faith ...}
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Friday, August 29, 2014

On Real Life :: A Peek Into My Week


Standing in our lake house kitchen last weekend, I was talking to my friends Katie and Aaron when I noticed one set of cabinets was coming apart from the others, creating a gap where there wasn’t a gap earlier in the week. We kept talking, catching up because we don’t see each other more than once or maybe twice a year.

And then I wondered if the cabinets were going to fall. Such a thought interrupted a good conversation.

Greg and Aaron came back to our house that evening and retrieved some tools. They ended up securing the cabinets enough that we didn’t have to worry if they were going to fall on one of the five children 4 ½ years and younger who ran through the kitchen countless times as us adults continued catching up. Then Greg called his professional handyman Monday morning.

Slanted cabinets aren’t a big deal, but they require attention that we hadn’t planned on giving them.
And such as been my week.

Cate’s adenoidectomy – that’s a fancy word for a surgery to remove her adenoids – has been on the calendar for Wednesday morning for a month. So, of course, I wasn’t surprised when Ben woke up with a splotchy, red, swollen face Tuesday morning.

Thankfully, we only live three blocks from the local Medical Arts Building that’s attached to the hospital because I was there first thing Tuesday morning to sign some papers for Cate’s procedure 24 hours later and then went back about an hour later so Ben could get an oral steroid prescription to dry up his poison ivy that was nearing his right eye. And, yes, he had it on one other body part I probably shouldn’t discuss on a public blog.

His favorite nurses tried to teach him about poison ivy. “Leaves of three, let them be,” they said. They demonstrated with their fingers what poison ivy looks like. I showed him pictures on my phone. He listened and later repeated his own version: “Leave of three, don’t touch ‘em!”

Well, yes.

Of course, this is his second bout of poison ivy in the latter part of summer. And, no, I’m not surprised. He’s a boy who loves the outdoors – and is officially allergic to trees, weeds, and grass already. He takes allergy shots for those and apparently the occasional oral steroid for those leaves of three.

At least this time the steroid didn’t make him nuts, although I do think it’s interrupted his sleep. The nights run together, but I’ve lost count of how many nights he’s come into our bedroom while it’s still dark out because his nose was bleeding, he was restless, he wanted to check to see if Daddy had left for work yet, he wet the bed, or he thought it was an acceptable hour to start the day.

I don’t wish surgery of any kind on anyone ever, but the ENT removed “a big mess of adenoids” and in doing so she should be able to breathe better and be congested less. So that’s good news.

She was anxious going in, but she was brave. She came out of the anesthesia well. Even with a still-scratchy voice when the nurse wheeled her bed back to the room where we waited, Cate wanted to tell the nurse how she was going to eat chocolate pudding her friends Noah and Emma brought her.

We were home from the hospital by 9:30 a.m., so my girl and I spent the rest of the entire day at home. That part was especially glorious – right up there with the goodness that was the cinnamon roll Greg brought me for breakfast once Cate was back for surgery.

Silver lining, people.

She would tell you the silver lining of surgery involves treats and presents from friends. We’re dearly loved, that’s for sure. Plus Cate is well stocked in coloring supplies, new reading material, and treats. The texts, visits, and Facebook were more than social noise; they were reminders of community.

Her recovery is going well. Her throat is a little sore, but she returned to school the next day with only limitations at recess and gym class so none of her classmates would accidentally hit her sore throat and slow her recovery.

I’m grateful for health insurance because we’ve milked our plan for more procedures and appointments that would have seemed possible or necessary when this year started. I’m grateful to end the week with an Cracker Barrel breakfast with college friends this morning while the kids were in school. I’m grateful the no two days are ever the same.

Of course, not long after I published this post, I took Ben to get his twice-weekly allergy shots and when the nurse hoisted him up the table, she and I both noticed new patches of poison ivy on his ears, neck, arms, and legs. So much allergy shots. How about a steroid shot instead? Yep. 

And, yes, I’m grateful for normal life. Of course, by normal life I mean the one with sometimes slanted cabinets, conversations shared over all the other noises in life, and poison ivy that approaches a boy’s eye.
________

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

LIGHT :: Living & Learning

Holley Gerth offers free words like these for your use.

My word for the year has been LIGHT. God kept bringing those five letters to mind, long before I knew what this year would be like.

Songs about light and finding our way out of the dark have really struck a chord with me. Josh Wilson’s “Pushing Back the Dark” is among the songs that will remind me of this year, when my heart broke for my dearest friend, when I faced scars I thought had healed, and when conflict invaded a peaceful sanctuary. I heard him talk about this song the other day on the radio: “We are all called to fight against the fall. … We can't do everything but we have to do something.”

Isn't that the truth? All this darkness isn’t always our fault. Yes, sometimes are actions have consequences we would have rather avoided, but human nature contributes to plenty of the darkness. Even so, we need to do something when we know the One who provides lasting light.

We need to mourn with friends and walk into their darkness.

We have to say yes even when we are scared and no when we are tempted otherwise.

We should give more than we get and believe in hope even when a situation seems impossible.

We need to move and lead and trust. Just standing around complaining and wishing isn’t going to change the world. But how we treat people in our daily lives, how we spend our time and money, and where we invest ourselves will.

Changing the world seems daunting, but God has been showing me it’s about making a difference where I am – in my kitchen, around my table, at my kids’ school, in the check-out lane at the grocery, in my car when other drivers can’t even hear me, and wherever else I step in this small town I call home. We don’t have to travel across the ocean or speak multiple languages – although that’s fine too.

We just have to shine our light, which is really God’s light. Just, I know. Easier said than done, but I’m thankful we get plenty of opportunities to try. And as we do the darkness will be less and the light from God alone will spill into the lives around us. Like the sun rising. Like a crack in the blinds. Like a flashlight from heaven.

Let’s not settled for barely being able to see in front of us. Let’s trust that God is leading us and preparing us for a place where darkness is no more. Let’s push back the dark and embrace the light.
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So many great songs have reminded me of this message this year. I have an ongoing playlist that will remind of this time, this journey. I’ve shared some in previous posts {here and here and here}, but here are some more songs that are part of my playlist ::

Chasing the Light” by Mat Kearney :: “ ... Every bridge that keep on burning, every leaf that you keep on turning, every road that you find uncertain, pray for you now ... that you’ll figure it out. Every hope and dream that’s dying, every time that I see you crying, every step that you keep on climbing, pray for you now ... as you keep chasing the light. ...”

Learning to Be the Light” by Newworldson :: “I'm learning to be the light ... that makes the shadows hide. The light that breaks the curse of pride. The light that takes the weary in its arms. When it all came crashing down, there was only darkness all around. But in the distance I could see a flame ...”

Christ is Risen” by Matt Maher :: “... Christ is risen from the dead. We are one with him again. Come awake, come awake! Come and rise up from the grave. Oh death! Where is your sting? Oh hell! Where is your victory? Oh Church! Come stand in the light! The glory of God has defeated the night!”

Wanted” by Dara Maclean :: “From the day you were born and took your first breath, you opened your eyes and in came the light. He was watching you. But all of your life you couldn't shake the lies in your head, saying you're a mistake. Oh but you were made by a God who knows your name. He doesn't make mistakes ...”

Rise Again” by Needtobreathe :: “... We crawl through the abyss then we came through the other side. Heaviness is only temporary the daylight will soon break in. The sunlight can change a heart in the wake of a bitter end. Oh I know I’m gonna rise again. Set my sights on where I’m going and my goodbyes to where I've been ...”
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What are you hearing these days from God and in song?
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I'm linking this post with Holley Gerths Coffee for Your Heart, Beth Stiffs Three Word Wednesday, Jennifer Dukes Lees #TellHisStory, and Lyli Dunbar's Thought-Provoking Thursday.

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Peace in the Process :: The Launch


I wrote about 24,000 words, came up with four more as a title after much talking with friends, and slaved over eight others to be the subtitle. I have a manuscript that has been edited multiple times by friends and a professional. I have an absolutely beautiful cover that a talented graphic designer friend designed with very little input from me.

“Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family” is the story of God's faithfulness through a season of infertility, two adoption processes, and the days since. Through it all, I learned God hears the desires of our hearts, even when the words of our prayers don't truly capture them.

How God made our family has long been my favorite story to tell, so I’m thrilled to share it from beginning to end as a testimony to God’s faithfulness. Yes, it’s about how infertility was hard and adoption was a gift from God, but it’s also about the bravery of two birth moms and how God teaches so many lessons while we wait.

In mid-October, I’m going to release a self-published ebook on Amazon. Writing has long been my therapy, but making this book happen has taken more than my words.

This week while I’ve been working on putting the finishing touches on the manuscript, chatting with the cover designer, and making a launch plan, I read these words:

“Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.” Psalm 96:3

What encouragement from the One who wrote the story I’m getting ready to share with the world! I’m grateful for people who have and will come along side me to share about what God has done.

Some dear friends – both ones from my real, everyday life and ones from the bigger, online writing world – have said they will help spread my story. I’d love for some others to join me too.

Here’s the short version of what being part of my launch team means: I’ll give you a PDF version of my book at the beginning of September. You’ll read it and then help me promote the book starting Oct. 15 with status updates, tweets, pictures, and reviews. You don’t have to be a blogger. But if you are a blogger, I’d be happy to guest post at your place and/or would love to have you share a review of “Peace in the Process” sometime starting Oct. 15 and continuing throughout November, which is National Adoption Awareness Month.

If you’re interested in joining Peace in the Process :: The Launch, let me know either in the comments below or by emailing me at kristinhilltaylor (at) gmail (dot) com. I’ll give you more details and add you to the private Facebook group that will keep us connected the next few months. Otherwise, stay tuned for purchasing information and some fun giveaways coming in October.
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Friday, August 22, 2014

Worthwhile words for your weekend


The kids may be back in school, but we're still soaking in some summer. This weekend we'll be at Kentucky Lake with friends, where we'll eat well, laugh much, swap stories, spent time on the water, and surely get in the water with a heat index that's expected to be in triple digits.

We've been spoiled with a cooler-than-usual summer, so I feel bad even discussing this heat. But, you know, it's hard to ignore when sweat is dripping down my back.

So, let's move on. 

How about some worthwhile words for your weekend?

NEEDTOBREATHE has some great live music I found on the Internet this week. You're welcome. {And, yes, now I'm way too eager to see NEEDTOBREATHE live in less than a month in Nashville!} I particularly love this version of "Something Beautiful."

"... And the water is risin' quick / And for years I was scared of it / We can't be sure when it will subside / So I won't leave your side, no I can't leave your side
Hey now, this is my desire / Consume me like a fire, 'cause I just want something beautiful / To touch me, I know that I'm in reach' / Cause I am down on my knees, I'm waiting for something beautiful ..."

And now for more somethings beautiful ...

I really can't get enough of Shauna Niequist right now. I'm reading "Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes." And then there's this refreshing blog post that supposed to be about what July taught her but encourages me in what God's teaching me:


"Here’s the good news, new information for a girl like me: I can rest when I’m tired, read when I’m hungry for words, reach out when I’m lonely. I don’t have to be strong all the time, or on all the time, or working all the time. And under that, creating a deep foundation for that, more good news: God made us, he loves us, and he’s inviting us into a way of living that’s drenched in grace, in true rest, in connection and communion with him and with each other."

Speaking of books, the ever-encouraging Holley Gerth has a new one out. It's a devotion called "What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days." I have no doubt it's packed with truth and wisdom. My copy is in the hands of the U.S. Postal Service somewhere. You can get yours from DaySpring, where the code HGFRIENDS will give you 20% off, or Amazon.

Meanwhile, I can't stop listening to "Greater" by MercyMe. My kids know I will turn it up every single time it comes on the radio and may even have it on repeat when they get in the car after school.

"Bring your tired / Bring your shame / Bring your guilt / Bring your pain / Don’t you know that’s not you’re name / You will always be much more to me
Every day I wrestle with the voices / That keep telling me I’m not right / But that’s alright /‘Cause I hear a voice and He calls me redeemed / When others say I’ll never be enough / And greater is the One living inside of me / Than he who is living in the world ...
Bring your doubts / Bring your fears / Bring your hurt / Bring your tears / There’ll be no condemnation here / You are holy, righteous and redeemed ...
There’ll be days I lose the battle / Grace says that it doesn’t matter / ‘Cause the cross already won the war ..."

You can listen here.

What's on your weekend agenda? Have you read or heard anything worth sharing?
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mid-week relief for all your days


Sometimes I get to Wednesday relieved I survived Monday and Tuesday.

When I start my to-do list of things that need to happen the next week, I always write it on my Monday calendar. And then I spend Monday running errands, replying to emails, and taking care of all sorts of business – like it all has to be done before lunch the first work day of the week.

Whatever doesn’t happen Monday is rolled over to Tuesday. And surely I get it all done by Wednesday, right?

Of course not!

There’s always something to be done. It’s not always important or even necessary. Some days I get the priorities messed up. And other days I realize it’s OK to sit down with a fiction book that may not help me solve all the world’s problems.

My tendency is to bow down to productivity. I’m such a work-before-play girl. But I’m slowly realizing that’s no way to live – not on Mondays or any other day of the week.

Because it doesn’t all have to be finished today.

It’s impossible it’ll all be done today.

So don’t forget to rest. I’m encouraging you while reminding myself: Read your Bible. Write someone you miss a letter. Call your friend on the phone. Pick up that fiction book you’ve been waiting to read. Get a pedicure. Go on a walk with a friend. Play a game with your kids. Bake a pie, if that’s your thing. Watch a movie with your husband.

Or just sit there.

There’s no right way to rest.

But there’s power in remembering that to-do list doesn’t haven’t to be conquered by lunchtime on Monday. I’ve been telling myself: It’s OK to slow down and sit down. In fact, there are plenty of days it’s not until I sit down I remember to Whom I should bow down. I lose sight of God when I’m rushing around, striking the next task off my Monday calendar like it owns me.
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I’m linking this post with Jennifer Dukes Lee’s #TellHisStory and Holley Gerth’s Coffee for your Heart. I've written on this subject before, inspired by Jennifer Dukes Lee's "Love Idol."

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Out there where God calms my soul


I loved my view this weekend.

Greg kept calling it a lake, but I disputed that and referred to the body of were as a big pond. I have no idea if there’s a scientific difference, but we’re both stubborn like that.

I used to say I didn’t like the country. But now I sometimes dream about the quiet out there. Out there isn’t a specific place, but it’s away from the hustle and bustle that happens even a small town. It’s out of my extroverted comfort zone. It’s where life moves slower.

My out there involves water. I may live in a landlocked state without an ocean, but lakes are peaceful too. No, oceans and lakes aren’t the same, but both sing God’s glory.

And calm my soul.

My specific view Saturday involved my husband fishing off a pontoon, the kids going back and forth between fishing and talking about everything that came to their curious minds, my eyes reading the pages of my fiction book, Cate building a sand castle, sharing lunch around a picnic table, Ben playing in mud and then cleaning himself by swimming, Ben discovering the echo out there, and my mother-in-law gracefully joining us in the adventure.

But it wasn’t just around that lake/pond that offered a soul-filling view this past weekend. We had friends over three nights in a row. Another view I love: People around my table. We fed them with food and they fed me with conversation and community.

It’s a new week with another weekend on the horizon. I’m guessing God has all sorts of views ready for me and I don’t want to miss them.

Tell me about a view in your life you’ve loved lately.
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Monday, August 18, 2014

Only & Never :: On God Being the Only Absolute



As a preschooler, I wanted to wear only pink and purple dresses. As a young adult, I refused to eat at the local Chinese buffet, telling my husband adamantly I didn’t like Chinese food.

I never wanted to live in Murray after I graduated from college, work for a specific small-town newspaper we criticized in my journalism classes, or send my kids to a private, Christian school. Of course, I also assumed I would have kids biologically when I was ready.

You know that cliché about “Never say never …”? Well. I’m here to tell you, it’s true.

And while you’re eliminating “never” from your vocabulary, but go ahead and strike out “only.” Never and only create absolutes that are impossible to uphold.

Truth is, we don’t have any authority to create absolutes. Only God is absolute.

God is The Way, The Truth and The Life (John 14:6). Unlike my childhood clothing preferences, God never changes. He’s steadfast and constant too – something that can’t be said about my food choices either.

Here I am, regularly wearing jeans, T-shirts and flip flops while eating (and sometimes even cooking!) Chinese food. I’ve been back in Murray for 12 years since moving away briefly after graduating. That newsroom I swore I’d never enter turned out to be the job I loved. I only left that job because God called me to something better and harder – mothering. Of course, those kids weren’t born in my way or my time. But God wrote a story of adoption that built my faith like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.

{Read the rest of the post at GodSizedDreams.com, where I'm thrilled to be a regular contributor.}
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I'm linking up this post with the weekly Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood Gathering.

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