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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