Friday, December 19, 2014

For All That You Have Done

“... From mountain top to valley low
through laughter and through tears
Surely the goodness of my God
Will follow all the years

For all that You have done for us
for every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless Your heart
For all that you have done

You know our failures and regrets
You always led us home
Redemption’s arm has raised us up
Our triumph in the storm ...”

{From “For All That You Have Done” by Rend Collective}


I cried yesterday – several times. I cried out of frustration. I cried when friends texted, Voxed, and Facebooked prayers and kind words. I cried when life seem complicated. This week has sort of been building toward that kind of day.

Tasks were taking extra steps – getting prescriptions filled for the diabetes supplies that I use EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE required extra phone calls, the grocery store was out of peanut butter chips for the Cookies in a Jar gifts I made for people so I had to go to Walmart, the food pantry was closed when I tried to drop off donations from neighbors and friends and then when I went back again a volunteer was blocking the parking lot and told me I’d have to come back again. My kids’ principal – who is also my friend – won’t get her Christmas gift until after the break because it wasn’t ready this morning.

And Cate woke up with a fever yesterday morning. Yes, again. She’s missed six full days and two half days of the 15 days of school between Thanksgiving and Christmas. There was walking pneumonia, and then virus, and now nothing really. Her blood work and exam were good. She doesn’t have strep throat, the flu, a virus, or mono. And she seems fine today.

But I couldn’t shake the momma instinct that something else was going on. I mentioned some medical history things to the nurse practitioner, who agreed Cate seemed tired and off. I think she heard me. I’m not usually a hypochondriac. I don’t worry about worst-case scenarios. But I Googled too much yesterday.

I told Beth how I was feeling and essentially apologized for whining and crying. She told me I could call it whatever I wanted but God catches all the tears. She reminded me about friendship and faith – two of the most precious things that aren’t really things that God gives us.

Sarah and I had an ongoing text conversation throughout the day. Despite her own troubles, she heard my frustrations. Kayse insisted on gifting me some essential oils to boost Cate’s immune system. Honestly, I’m not sold on oils yet, but I’m sold on friends who care and am willing to try what they have seen work in their homes. Courtney put on her nursing cap and heard my heart. The prayers and texts and Facebook comments sustained my weary heart yesterday and reminded me about what matters.

Some of this year has been hard in a different way than this week. But I’ve never doubted God. I believe He will deliver goodness even in the midst of the pain. I know He redeems and makes new so many things – even when we can’t see how it all will work together. When I step out of my earthly, emotional fog, I see all around me what God has done and is doing for me. As I start the mental list of the blessings, I get teary in a different way. I see how God has blessed my husband’s business, our home life, our extended families, our friends who are like family, the kids’ school, our church, and so on and so on. The good definitely outweighs the bad and offers promise of what’s still to come.

That hope is alive because of Jesus – who is the reason for this season and for every day of our lives. And that’s worth believing regardless of the kind of day you’re having.
__________

Rend Collective’s Campfire Christmas has been on repeat around here. I. Can’t. Get. Enough. If you haven’t heard it, I recommend it – all of it.

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

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

{Three Word Wednesday} Talk about adventure


The wild tree in my living room reminds me that life is full of adventure as we seek God and the dreams He’s given us.

A few years ago, we decided to cut down a tree from my mother-in-law’s farm to use as our Christmas tree. We brought along some friends who did the same. Mimicking the children’s classic “We’re going on a bear hunt …,” our kids chanted, “We’re going on a tree hunt …”

If four years in a row can make a tradition, we made one – one that we never anticipated but continues to go down as a favorite holiday adventure.

This is the fourth year our living room is decked out with a tree from our hunt. I love the smell and the unconformed look of its branches wildly reaching out. God created this tree uniquely – just like he does each one of us and our dreams.

I prefer white lights and ornaments from places we’ve been and those that document my kids’ growth. I even like their handmade ones. Our tree is perfectly imperfect and radiates beauty. Maybe your Christmas tree is artificial with shining colored lights. It doesn’t matter – it’s yours.

And it’s okay if you don’t decorate for Christmas the same way every year. We’ve had artificial trees in the past, and in some ways that’s easier. But we like the adventure that comes with my husband Greg using a chain saw, hauling the wild tree home, and making it fit in a portion of our living room. The kids like to help decorate, stretching their little arms as high as they’ll reach.

I really love when the house is quiet and dark, but there in the corner of the living room is the glowing beauty from our tree. Sometimes I need the quiet and dark to see the glory.

I think about when God told us to adopt. We had no idea what we were getting into – talk about adventure.

I remember when I realized I was supposed to tell our infertility and adoption story because it’s my faith journey that taught me I belong to God. Yes, the earthly adoptions made us a family, but we’re also co-heirs with Christ. The parallels are exciting and the most tangible example of faith I’ve experienced.

I spend time with my community of people. It’s loud and chaotic, but God is there and I can’t imagine my life without them. That’s real life adventure right there.

{Join me at the God-sized Dreams website, where you can read the rest of this post.}

 

    An InLinkz Link-up
   

___________

I'm also linking up this post at Holley Gerth's Coffee For Your Heart, Jennifer Dukes Lee's #TellHisStory, and the Soli Deo Gloria Gathering that Jen Ferguson hosts. 

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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

How to make homemade treats without baking


I don’t bake.

I like baked goods, trust me. But I don’t like baking. When I do bake, I choose Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Brownies from a box or Rice Krispy Treats, which don’t actually involve any baking. I do know how to make a tasty chocolate chip banana bread, so much so I think my family asks me to buy bananas at the store and then lets them go back so I will make them bread.

Even so, I have a couple holiday treats that I spent some time making recently. Please notice I said “making” and not “baking.” Because I don’t think melting chocolate is actually baking, and I’m okay with that.

Each year, I make up tins of goodies for my attorney husband to take to different offices he works with regularly. This year I’m including our pediatrician’s office because they’ve loved on my boy so well this year as he’s endured allergy shots – one shot in each arm twice a week.

Here are the two homemade treats – neither of which have an actual name – that don’t involve baking that I included ::

Peanut butter chocolate cookies that taste like Tagalongs

What you need :: Peanut butter, Ritz Crackers, chocolate candy coating, and wax paper

What you do :: Put peanut butter between two crackers (you know, make peanut butter and Ritz sandwiches!) and then dip cracker sandwiches into the melted candy coating. Just lay them on wax paper and the chocolate will harden in a few minutes.

Pretzels with Hershey’s Hugs and M&Ms

What you need :: Small pretzels, Hershey’s Hugs, mini M&Ms, baking sheet

What you do :: Spread out pretzels on baking sheet and put unwrapped Hershey’s Hugs on each pretzel. Bake 3-4 minutes on 250 degrees until Hershey’s Hugs are melty. (Yes, this involves the oven, but it’s not baking – just melting chocolate!) When they’re out of the oven, put three mini M&Ms on each kiss, which will flatten the kiss to the pretzel and add extra deliciousness.

Variations :: Other Hersheys’ Kisses work, but none seem to melt as well at the Hugs. My friend Sarah recently used Rollos instead of Hershey’s Hugs and those were yummy. You can use regular plain M&Ms if you prefer, but we like the crunch of the multiple mini M&Ms. One holiday I even sorted all the red and green M&Ms out so I could use only those, but this year I used the whole rainbow!

So I added those two treats with some candy in cute tins from Big Lots. And … voila … Greg has lovely tins to hand out to his people. And I didn’t have to bake.
___________

If you're still looking for gift ideas for the women and kids in your life, come check out my list. I'm linking up this post with Kayse Pratt, who is sharing some easy party dishes. 

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

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

{Three Word Wednesday} Less is More


Our tree is smaller than those the last few years. I have less decorations out than usual – not that I decorate that much anyway. Instead of doing a photo card and newsletter, I just made a year-in-review newsletter for our friends and family. I don’t bake much under normal circumstances. I scaled back our gift-giving list this year, even though I love buying gifts. And I didn’t plan our annual Jesus Birthday Party that had become a staple activity on other family’s calendars.

Less is more.

I keep hearing those three in my soul and feel free when I embrace them.

I love the Christmas season. I love traditions and plans with friends. And I am certain doing less won’t mean I enjoy what matters – this Christmas or any other day.

That’s how God works. His Kingdom is nothing like the world. With God, the last shall be first and the poor made rich. He tells us all to come to Him like children. He becomes greater when I become less (John 3:30).

Less is more. I keep repeating the phrase in hopes it will sink into my heart.

In doing so, I feel free to chase what is holy – that which is not of this world. When I let go of burdens and expectations of this world, I’m yoking myself to Jesus, who promises a lighter burden and an easy yoke (Matt. 11:28-30).

Too often I yoke myself to feelings and tasks that don’t matter. I idolize productivity and things that aren’t going to bring peace. And yet I hear the Prince of Peace telling me less is more. I hear it when my kids play, when my family sits down around the table with friends, and when the UPS guy arrives with yet another box because I’ve been doing my Christmas shopping in the quieter moments at home.

The Christmas Story is the epitome of less is more.

“What kind of King would leave His throne in Heaven to make this earth His home? While men seek fame and great renown in lowliness our King comes down. … What kind of King would come so small, from glory to a humble stall? That dirty manger is my heart too. I'll make it a royal throne for You. Jesus, Jesus, precious one, how we thank You that You've come. Jesus, Jesus, precious one, a manger throne for God's own son.”
{From “Manger Throne” by Third Day, Julie Miller and Derri Daugherty}

God could have sent Jesus however he wanted to and he chose a young woman to give birth to the Savior of the world. The birth could have happened wherever God saw fit, yet newborn baby Jesus was laid in the manger – where animals come to eat.

The details matter because God orchestrated what seemed so ordinary to do something extraordinary. Yet wise men followed a star then and people continue seeking the One whose birth we still celebrate. Jesus feeds our soul with truths that don’t always make sense in this world.

Less is more. In a mighty kind of way.





___________

I'm also linking up this post with Holley Gerth's Coffee For Your Heart and Jennifer Dukes Lee's #TellHisStory. Just after I finished writing this post earlier this week, I read Jennifer's post on having a preapproved Christmas. Y'all want to go read that one too, if you haven't already. 

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

Monday, December 8, 2014

Gifting Christmas


I'm one of those gift givers who doesn't consult the registry or ask for Christmas wish lists. I like to find gifts for specific people. I know this annoying for some people, especially when people ask what my kids want and I won't hand over a list of specific things.

Honestly, talking about what we want stresses me out because we don't need anything. I don't want Christmas to be a time for wishing more. Rather, I want to celebrate Jesus and love on people.

And, yes, sometimes loving people means picking out a gift especially for them. I also like to give gifts that matter. So I want to share some ideas, most of which come from Amazon or DaySpring because those are my two favorite places to shop.

Gifts for Kids
"God Made Light" by Matthew Paul Turner :: Multiple kids in my life are getting this book for Christmas. It has a good reading rhythm and a message you'll want your kids to know. {It's available at both Amazon and DaySpring.}

"The Jesus Storybook Bible" by Sally Lloyd-Jones :: I know I've mentioned this Bible here before. But I love it. Yes, it's a children's Bible, but I read it sometimes when my kids aren't around.

Slugs & Bugs' Sing the Bible :: This is if I was going to recommend just one Slugs & Bugs CD. Really, your kids and your friends' kids and your neighbors should have them all. Browse the S&B Store for bundles and deals and other goodness.

"For Such a Time As This" by Angie Smith :: This is a beautiful book about the women in the Bible that I'm gifting to multiple girls this Christmas. {It's available at both Amazon and DaySpring.}

Gifts for Moms
"Sparkly Green Earrings" by Melanie Shankle :: This book made me laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. It's real. She also has one marriage called "The Antelope in the Living Room," which is also worth reading and gifting.

"Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family" by Kristin Hill Taylor (me!) :: Yeah, I know, self-promotion. But, seriously, did you know you can gift Kindle books and people can read them on any mobile device or computer? What I learned through our infertility season, two adoption processes, and the days since applies to more than trying to become a mom. And it's just $3.99.

"Small Talk" by Amy Julia Becker :: Another memoir of motherhood, but it's possibly my favorite. I wrote a review not too long ago, but it's basically like advice and entertainment all in one. It helped me pause amist the chaos and remember what matters.

Gifts for Women
DaySpring's Everlasting Light collection :: I love these products. I want so many more of them in my house. Nothing like pretty home decor that speaks truth.

"Loop" by Jennifer Camp :: This devotional is fresh and beautiful. The way Jennifer hears from God is inspiring and I'm grateful she bound up the truth-filled messages for us. {She was hearing sharing about light and truth with some "Loop" excerpts recently.}

"Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table" by Shauna Niequist :: This book is fabulous. It's about community and real life. And there are recipes. So, go read and it and then make Annette's Enchiladas. You won't regret either one. {This is available at Amazon and DaySpring.}

Trades of Hope products :: I especially love the bracelets and Christmas ornaments, but there are so many lovely choices. And your purchase helps empower and educate women in third-world countries. My local friend Becky is an ambassador for Trades of Hope and I'm so glad she introduced me to this company.

Homemade Gifts
Cookies in a Jar :: Jennifer Jackson Linck shared this idea and I'm going to make a few. Sounds like I can't go wrong.

Budget-friendly Gift Ideas :: Kayse Pratt shared all kinds of fabulous (and affordable!) gift ideas that I wanted to pass along to you.

The Easiest Christmas Ornaments :: I don't do elaborate crafts, so these are perfect for me. The kids made them for grandmas and aunts last year and their school has made them for a fund-raiser the past two years.

Crafting Christmas Coasters :: This was another simple craft Cate and I made a couple of years ago as gifts for grandmas. Plus, it involves Mod Podge, so you know it'll be fun!

What would you add? Feel free to share in the comments.
___________



If you wanted to load up on some gifts from DaySpring, you can save 30% with 30FRIDAY14 through Jan. 1. Most of these links are affiliate links meaning I will get a small portion of the sales through them, but the price remains the same for you. Thanks for supporting this blog. 

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

Sunday, December 7, 2014

On sickness, colored lights & miracles

My girl has had a fever for seven out of the last eight days. 

She started running a fever when we got home from Nashville. It wasn’t surprised because that’s what being around a bunch of cousins always does! I ended up taking her to the doctor the next day because THREE of the said cousins had strep throat.

Turns out, Cate did not have strep throat. She had walking pneumonia. I would have preferred strep, but, hey, I don’t get to choose these things. So the treatment plan was azithromycin, ibuprofen, and albuterol. Wednesday morning she seemed to go to school, and that’s what the nurse practitioner had indicated would probably be the case. She said to call back if she was still running a fever on Wednesday.

On Thursday while I was with Greg at a holiday lunch at our local crisis pregnancy center that we support, the lady from the school office called to tell us Cate wasn’t feeling well. I went to pick her about two hours early and learned she had a fever again.

For as long as she’s been talking, Cate’s always said her eyes hurt when she has a fever. Sure enough, her eyes were hurting again Thursday.

And they’ve basically hurt since. The fever has come down when there’s ibuprofen in her system, but when that wears off, it’s been getting up to 102 regularly and even 104 on Friday night. We did go back to the doctor on Thursday – you know, because we were supposed to call. Flu and strep tests were negative, thankfully, but blood work revealed something viral going on.

So while recovering from walking pneumonia, Cate also picked up a virus of some sort.

Part of me says, “Well, ‘tis the season for all these germs.” But the other part of me is remembering October, when she also had a virus that prompted a high fever and kept her home from school for days. Enough is enough.

This weekend was pretty much all about Christmas – and I hated that Cate had to miss out. She got a little sad Saturday morning when she realized she was going to miss out, but I couldn’t blame her because I was a little sad myself. And, y’all, she’s been the best patient possible while rotting her brain on continuous episodes of “My Little Pony.”

I took Ben to the local Christmas parade, where we met up with some cousins and friends. And then we all went with our friends the Goodriches for our fourth annual tree hunt. It’s become a family favorite tradition – and the Goodriches didn’t care Cate had a slight fever. Plus, it was as low as it had been for as long as it been … until it decided to spike back up yesterday evening. She did get some one-on-one time with Gran-Gran while Greg, Ben and I went to watch our Murray State Racers beat in-state rival Western Kentucky.


Back to the tree ... Last year our tree was so big we had to keep trimming it so it would fit in our living room. It was wild and crazy. I loved it. But, you know, I love our tree this year too. Cate picked it out, which is likely the highlight of her sickly week. It’s a smaller tree, more like Charlie Brown’s and less like the Griswold’s, and will forever be remembered as the EASIEST TREE I’VE EVER PUT UP IN ALL MY LIFE. Y’all, that’s quite a title, but it’s true. It’s little branches can’t even hold all of our ornaments, so we chose to leave the heavy ones off.

Although I did for an instant wish we had white lights – which we did at some point. But Christmas lights don’t last forever. In fact, I threw away a strand today. I can’t deal with those tiny bulbs that go out and kill the whole strands. Last year, that big tree I mentioned required Greg to make a run to Big Lots to get some extra lights.

Anyway, our tree is pretty. And it fits right in with this less-is-more idea God keeps putting on my heart this Christmas season. I’m going to elaborate on that another day.

{Read about our tree hunts from 2011, 2012, and 2013.}

Meanwhile, I just keep praying Ben stays well. It’s a miracle, really, he hasn’t picked up anything yet. He had strep in October, but otherwise has managed to stay healthy. I realize I probably shouldn’t speak that aloud, but, hey, I’m craving conversation.

I say that like I haven’t enjoyed all this time at home. But, really, I have. I’ve purged, organized, cleaned, stuffed and addressed Christmas letters, scrapbooked, and read.

Side note: In eight days starting with Thanksgiving, I read FOUR FICTION BOOKS. Along with Ben staying well, it’s a miracle. I devoured the series by Dani Pettrey and pretty much want to hang out with her main characters, the McKennas now. Of course, they live in Alaska, which I’m not sure I can handle right now. You know, all that literal darkness and coldness. And there are probably more germs I don’t need to be around.
________

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

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Blessed Chaos

On November 22, my writing friend Ashley Wells celebrated her one-year adoption anniversary by releasing her newest book "Blessed Chaos: A Journey through Instant Motherhood." This book is an inspiring memoir about Ashley's journey becoming an instant mother to four children through foster care. Below is an excerpt from the book describing when Ashley was utterly exhausted but knew she had already fell in love.


Nights were still hard and crying was a guarantee. That first week was so tiring. I didn't sleep more than ninety minutes at a time. I am amazed at how the Lord sustained us and gave us strength to press on each day and each moment. I remember feeling unbelievably exhausted, yet I was able to get through whatever obstacle I faced. As soon as Michael or I would find ourselves with feelings of not possibly being able to do anything else, strength would come and we would do what needed done.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.” {Isaiah 40:28-29}

God giving us the power to get through each day is the only explanation for how we made it. By His power, He gave us strength when we were faint and weary. Even when we felt like we couldn’t take one more step, we would move forward in faith and be sustained.

We discovered the children had been told, in the last moments with their biological parents, they would be returning home or living with their grandma very soon. It was on the fourth day with us Jazmine (5 years old) and Jonathan (8 years old) realized this probably wasn't true. It was as if we were soothing them on the first night all over again.

The nights were incredibly difficult. Many times there was just inconsolable crying until they would fall asleep. In those moments I would do the only thing I could think: hold them, rock them, pat their backs, sing lullabies, and pray over them. I wanted to do anything to make them feel safe.

On that fourth night I was tired, bone weary. It was a struggle to even walk from room to room. I put each kid to bed and soothed their worries one by one until they were asleep.

Christina (13 months old) was always first because she was the most difficult, and no one else could possibly go to sleep while she was still screaming. Once she finally closed her eyes I moved my attention to the top bunk where Jazmine had begun resting with a few books. Wiping tears away I gave her a hug, read her a story, said a prayer, sang a quiet song, and then finally I patted her on the back. She was a little bit easier.

Jonathan was next. He and Michael had been spending time together, with Kyle close by, as I got the girls asleep. Now it was his turn. He was ready and simply rested after a prayer. Kyle (3 weeks old, now) was the last one, the easiest of the four. As I held him and watched him enjoy his bottle, tears started to come. I couldn’t hold them back any more. I hadn’t cried yet. I was still holding it all in since meeting the kids. I let out all the built-up emotions from the week. I watched Kyle, so precious and comforted by my embrace. I was in awe of these kids and this life. I was in love. I was so happy. It was so hard. Yet I was doing it, thanks to God. In those moments I cried out of desperation and exhaustion, yet also amazement. Then fearful tears started to fall down my face fast and heavy.

I was already terrified. What if they left? What if I had to say goodbye? My heart would already be broken, and it hadn't even been a week. I couldn’t believe how I had already fallen in love with these children, despite any biological relation.

You wonder sometimes as you are preparing to adopt, will you truly love these children even though you share no DNA? Let me tell you: Yes. I was already absolutely undeniably in love with each of the children. What if they were with us for months and then go back to their biological parents? What then? How would I go on knowing what my life could be like? Now that I had experienced these precious moments with children, I didn't want to go on without these kids.

I cried and cried and cried, wiping my tears away with the burp cloth as I held Kyle and watched him take his bottle and softly fall asleep. I was so overwhelmed with emotion. Love. Fear. Awe. Excitement. Exhaustion. It was all too much.

Michael saw me crying and asked me what was wrong. All I could mutter out through the tears was, "I'm already in love." Michael joined me in our room where I put Kyle to bed with tears continuing to stroll down my face. Michael held me as we stared at Kyle drifting off to sleep and I cried a puddle of tears on my pillow. That night we enjoyed six hours of uninterrupted sleep and woke feeling new and ready to face the world again.


Ashley Wells is a wife, proud adoptive mom, writer, speaker, and sweet tea addict. She blogs regularly at blog.ashleykwells.com.
________

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