Friday, July 3, 2015

God said GO {on going to Guatemala for the week}

It’s Independence Day weekend … and in the morning we’re leaving our comfortable surroundings for a week-long mission trip in Chichicastenango, Guatemala. This time, “we” means Greg, Cate and me. Ben is splitting his week between two grandmas.

Honestly, not traveling as a family of four was my biggest hesitation in committing to this trip in January. But I kept hearing God say, “Go.”

So that’s what we’re doing. When we step out in faith, we don’t always see the whole picture. Five months ago, I wasn’t sure why God was telling us to go now. But then in his goodness, I got to see a glimpse of the master plan. We’re preparing to bring a baby home this fall. I won’t be available to go to Guatemala for the next several years.

God knew this.

I know there could be a thousand other reasons we’re supposed to go now. We may even get to see some of those reasons this week. Or we may have to wait. Regardless, we believe God has called us to do this.

I’m most looking forward to experiencing this mission trip with my husband and my 8-year-old daughter. None of us have done anything like this before, so to do it together is especially exciting. I’m eager to see Cate interact with the other kids in our group and the ones who call Guatemala home.

We’re taking 50-pound suitcases packed with clothes, school supplies, soccer balls, and toiletries to donate. We’re carrying-on our own stuff in smaller suitcases and filling our backpacks with things we think we’ll need throughout the week. But no expectations are packed.

I don’t know what to expect, but I want to be open to whatever and whoever God has for us there.

In recent months, I’ve emailed with Katie, who works for Compassion International as a donor relations manager. This trip to Guatemala isn’t a Compassion trip, which is a thing. Katie and I initially connected in December when Greg and I made a donation and she called to thank me. I emailed her again a few months ago when I was trying to make meeting our Compassion-sponsored girl Roselyn, who lives in Guatemala, happen while we’re there. Sadly, that wouldn’t work out with our mission trip schedule and Compassion’s travel guidelines.

But Katie has been praying for my family as we prepare to go to a country she loves. And she emailed earlier this week to check in. The encouragement and sincerity in her words was so good for me. To know someone I’ve never met in person has invested themselves in our trip has reminded me how God’s Kingdom works.

And then she said this:

“When we are able to approach life and the opportunities the Lord gives us with open hands rather than tight-fisted, he fills those anxious places with so much joy and peace in His presence. It is certainly not an accident that you all will be on this trip, and I know He will work in and through you.”

Y’all, that is my prayer and hope. If you think about us this week, please join us in prayers for our family, for Ben and his time with grandmas, for the people we’ll meet and serve, for the missionaries who live there full time and have given their lives to this, and for traveling mercies.

People have asked what we’ll be doing. We’re going to build three houses, distribute clothes and food, and help with the ministry’s wheelchair distribution program. If you want to join us in specific prayers, below is information about the families for whom we’ll build houses.

I’m looking forward to bringing home stories to share with you. Thanks for being on this journey with us.

Want more insights? "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, July 1, 2015

Three Word Wednesday :: Generosity in Adoption

Photo from Nov. 23, 2009.

She told me my husband and I are generous. Yet she is the one carrying the life of our daughter.

We’d been to two ultrasound appointments and the attorney’s office together. I’d taken her to another unrelated appointment and the pharmacy. And this day we were returning from her meeting with the social worker.

With my 5-year-old boy and her 1-year-old boy strapped in their seats behind us, Stacy and I sat in my mini van outside her apartment and talked about this adoption. She was 26 weeks pregnant and relieved to have a plan. We talked about postpartum counseling and resources to help her mother well the two children she already has.

Since May 5, I’ve been getting to know this woman who will make a me momma for third time. She’s carrying the baby girl we’re going to name Rachel Elizabeth, the third-born child who will make my son a sandwich between two sisters. (Ironically, his initials are BLT.)

“You all are so generous to me,” she said. I keep thinking about her words.

I’m not new to adoption, but Stacy’s simple comment shed new light on my relationship with her as a birth mom. I’ve been blessed to have relationships with two other birth moms, but all of their stories have been different. They were each in different places in life and our connections were unique.

That’s the beauty of adoption. It’s relational in the truest sense. {Tweet that.}

So, sure, we’re helping her. We’re adopting this child for whom she doesn’t believe she can care given her circumstances. We’ve got medical and legal expenses covered and we’ve put some minutes on her cell phone. I’ve picked her up for appointments.

But in terms of money, that’s not really very much. I know Stacy wasn’t measuring our generosity in dollars and cents.

Still, I’ve been realizing lately in a new way that adoption works because of how it blesses everyone involved. Yes, this is emotional for Stacy. Grief comes with making an adoption plan. But she’s also relieved and adoption brings purpose to her situation.

For us, we’ve believed for years we were supposed to be a family of five. And even before that, I thought Ben had a middle-child personality. We’re ready to expand our family.

Relationships with birth moms are different than any other relationships I’ve experienced. In 2007, 2009, and now 2015, I’ve bonded quickly with these women I wouldn’t otherwise know. That’s what happens when everyone is invested in the same growing life and gathers in exam rooms. We’ve gotten to know each other on a level that makes us proud to tell our children about their beginnings and given these women peace about their plans for adoption.

Then after the birth, the relationship changes – at least that’s been our experiences. Our adoptions are open in the sense that the birth moms know our names and have our contact information. We send updates about the kids. Cate has even gotten a chance to meet her birth mom a couple of times. But after the baby is born and final papers signed, we all settle back into our lives. The conversations between us are fewer and we aren’t making plans to show up at appointments together.

I’m the kind of girl who wants every relationship I’ve ever had to remain. I want to be friends forever with everyone. As I’m growing up, I realize that isn’t how every relationship should be. Adoption magnifies that with its unique relationships, but it also opens the door to a ministry of being able to help someone in a way not otherwise possible.

Obviously, all adoptions are different. Another family’s story may not look like ours. But in our experiences, I’m especially grateful for these women and the relationships in which we experience generosity together.

#ThreeWordWednesday note :: I'm going to be in Guatemala next week on a mission trip to serve with Bethel Ministries, so I'm going to have a guest hosting the linkup here. I won't be here to visit all the posts, so be sure to encourage each other. And, yes, I'm sure I'll be bringing home stories to share with y'all in the coming weeks. 

Want more insights? "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."

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Books of 2015, so far ...

I've always been a reader. I often have more than one book started, read cereal boxes and whatever other paper is sitting near, and notice typos in the world around me. I like lists too.

So in the spirit of books and lists, here's a list of the books I've read so far in 2015 ...

  1. "Shoot the Moon" by Billie Letts
  2. "Orphan Train" by Christina Baker Kline
  3. "Sabotaged" (Alaskan Courage Book #5) by Dani Pettrey
  4. "Desire Lines" by Christina Baker Kline
  5. "Bird in Hand" by Christina Baker Kline
  6. "Buried Secrets" (Men of Valor #1) by Irene Hannon {Review}
  7. "Footsteps" by Diann Mills
  8. "Target" (FBI Denver series prequel) by Lisa Phillips
  9. "Bait" (FBI Denver #1) by Lisa Phillips
  10. "The Summer Girls" (Lowcountry Summer #1) by Mary Alice Monroe
  11. "The Summer Wind" (Lowcountry Summer #2) by Mary Alice Monroe
  12. "The Summer's End" (Lowcountry Summer #3) by Mary Alice Monroe

Non-fiction // Christianity

Non-fiction // Relationships
  1. "Team Us" by Ashleigh Slater {Review}
  2. "Mothering from Scratch: Finding the Best Parenting Style for You and Your Family" by Melinda Means & Kathy Helgemo {Review}
  3. "Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy" by Donald Miller
  4. "Nobody's Cuter Than You: A Memoir About the Beauty of Friendship" by Melanie Shankle
  5. "Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends" by Melanie Dale {Related Post}

Non-fiction // Self-care
  1. "The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You" by Jessica Turner {Review}
  2. "Dashing Dish: 100 Simple & Delicious Recipes for Clean Eating" by Katie Farrell {Related Post}

If you want to keep up before I post an updated list in December, you can do that at Goodreads. I also am always accepting suggestions about what I should read next. So, tell me what I need to add to my list!

Other lists of what I've read :: 2014. 2013.

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, June 29, 2015

Six Things I Learned in June

As each month ends, I find myself saying I can't believe it's finished. BUT, REALLY, I CAN'T BELIEVE JUNE IS BASICALLY OVER. I recapped some of our summer earlier this month because I don't want to forget the goodness that's happening. Yes, life has been busy, but it's been sweet and joy-filled too. And I want to remember.

So before I forget, here are some things I learned in June ...

1. Naming a baby is apparently easier than naming a lake house. I wrote about names and thought about names often the past several weeks. But the short story is we're adopting a baby girl we're naming Rachel Elizabeth. {She's due Sept. 28!} And our lake house is called Shelter Point Retreat.

2. Zac Brown Band has new music! So what if I'm late to the party? It's been on repeat now that I caught up. {You should get it too.}

3. You can trap a mouse OR TWO with a Nutter Butter bar, colander, and a piece of wood. Our friend Bryan caught TWO MICE at our new lake house when we stayed out there earlier this month. He's my hero for catching them from his self-made mouse trap. Greg permanently disposed of them, if you know what I mean, and then soon after scheduled the exterminator. Two more were caught in a glue trap. So that's four, if you're counting. FOUR TOO MANY. There's evidence that indicates that may not be all. Yes, THAT kind of mouse evidence.

{You may remember from my camping trip in the spring: I don't like mice.}

4. I really enjoy reading fiction set in the South. Okay, so I didn't actually just learn this. But I remembered it as a zipped through Mary Alice Monroe's Lowcountry Summer Series. {The Summer Girls. The Summer WindThe Summer's End.}

For what it's worth, I like musicians from the South too. Evidence: Zac Brown Band. Third Day. Needtobreathe. Darius Rucker.

But I don't drink sweet tea, just in case you're wondering.

5. Our adoption home study visit happened and went well. I don't care how many times a social worker has been in our house, interviewing us and evaluating our home, it's always a relief when it's finished and went well. Birth mom Stacy also met with the social worker this month, so our adoption process is moving along.

6. I earned my first money for speaking. Now I didn't say it was much money, but I wasn't expecting any money. I actually spoke twice this month. First, I spoke at a conference in southern Illinois. And then a few days later I spoke to a local Methodist women's group. Neither went as expected {and that's not a bad thing ...}, but both opportunities included evidence of God's presence and plan. Both groups gave me sweet gifts for coming and the local group tossed in a small check that was such a pleasant surprise.

How was your June? I'd love to hear what you learned.

I'm linking up with Emily Freeman. Here are previous Things I Learned posts :: {From 2013} June. July. August. September. October. November. {From 2014} January. February. March. April. May. June. July. August. September. October. November. December. {From 2015} January. February. March. April. May

Want more insights? "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."

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday, stop acting like Monday.

Hey, Friday, you’re acting too much like a Monday. Come on, you’re better than that.

Let’s back up, Thursday night was so much fun. We gathered with hundreds of other Murray State fans to watch the NBA Draft on the big screen at the basketball arena BECAUSE OUR BOY CAM PAYNE WAS THE 14TH PICK. Y’all we love our mid-major team (is that still a thing?) and, admittedly, were a little sad when Cam declared he was leaving after his sophomore year.

But it was so fun to celebrate his success and see our alma mater’s name. I read articles and posts on social media all evening while Greg and I finished season five of “One Tree Hill.” (Let’s not talk about how I almost asked Google who Lucas called. I’m going to find out tonight. I want it to be Peyton. But I think it’ll be Brooke. And I’m not sure how Lindsey fits in.)

So I woke up this morning excited it was Friday. As a stay-at-home mom, especially in the summer, I’m not sure why Fridays are different than other days, but they still feel different, like the door to the weekend is cracking open.

Plus I still had this once-a-reporter-always-a-reporter adrenaline in me as I read more articles and tweets this morning about Cam being a lottery pick for the Oklahoma City Thunder. THIS MORNING AFTER EVERYONE SLEPT UNTIL 7:30! It’s like a miracle with Ben, who actually slept until 8. Happy Friday to me.

And then reality reminded me that I should call the pediatrician first thing. Ben had been peeing excessively. I laid in bed last night and made a plan to call and get a professional’s opinion. Part of me chalked it up to an easily distracted 5-year-old boy with a short attention span. Like he doesn’t want to stop playing to go to the bathroom. BUT there have been daytime and nighttime accidents. And frequent trips to the bathroom. And then accidents not long after he just went.

He and I were both frustrated, so I swallowed my momma pride and called the pediatrician. And the nurse didn’t think I was crazy mom and wanted me to bring him in. Appointment made.

And then Cate woke up, running a fever, coughing and talking about her congestion. She was like this on Wednesday – but I figured she was worn down from church camp earlier in the week. Thursday she seemed like herself. But now here on Friday she was puffy-eyed and lethargic again.

So I called the pediatrician again. I talked to a different nurse, but she also trusted my momma instincts and added Cate to the appointment I already had.

Not much later, Ben showed me his toes. Earlier in the week, there were a couple red spots that he said itched. So I gave him some anti-itch cream. Seems reasonable, right? Well, today those innocent red spots were blistery. His toes were swollen and the blisters increased and multiplied throughout the day.

I didn’t bother calling the pediatrician a third time. I just added it to our list of things to discuss during the appointment.

I haven’t even told you about how I rushed my lethargic, ailing kids out the door to meet the locksmith at the lake house at 10 a.m. The lake house is about 25 minutes from our house, so at 9:30 I herded my two cats … er, kids … out the door, promising they could watch a movie when we got there.

At 9:50, the locksmith called and said he needed to reschedule. Except I didn’t have a cell phone signal at that point so I got the voice mail when I got the lake house. I called the locksmith back from the landline inside (yep, those still exist). I wasn’t available to meet him when he wanted to meet me, so I volunteered to bring him the keypad lock, some other knobs that needed to be installed and keyed, a key to our house, and instructions on what we needed done. Because, sorry, ailing kids trumps locksmith ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU DIDN’T SHOW UP WHEN YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO.

All this and we returned home by 10:30 a.m., where the kids settled in for some episodes of Super Mario Bros. before lunch.

Turns out, despite Cate’s complaints of a sore throat and congested head, Ben is actually the one with strep. Yep, excessive peeing is a symptom, and I knew that, but I was in denial. I had high hopes that his tonsillectomy would drastically cut down on the strep diagnosis for him. Oh, and that’s poison ivy between his toes. And Cate just has a virus.

They kids pestered each other so much and interrupted me with their tattle-telling while I was trying to talk the pharmacist that I sent them to their rooms when we got home. They both promptly fell asleep – y’all it was almost spooky because these two just don’t nap these days – and I contemplated the bacon-wrapped, cheese infused hot dogs we’re going to eat for dinner. Then it’s family movie night with “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken,” kettle corn, and Reese’s Pieces.

Because Happy Friday to me.

And, really, Friday, stop acting like Monday. You have some hours left to redeem yourself.

Want more insights? "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, June 25, 2015

Finding hope in the unexpected {a review & giveaway}

My journey to motherhood didn’t look like Kayla Aimee’s journey. But both of us became mommas in unexpected ways. We both met God in what were dark seasons of becoming a mom and saw his faithfulness pour into our lives.

In “Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected,” Kayla refers to who she was before and after giving birth to her daughter at 25 weeks. Scarlette may have weighed less than six sticks of butter but she was a fighter.

And that little life changed her momma.

I’ve never stepped foot in a NICU, but I lived through a hard season of infertility that rocked my emotions, my faith, and my marriage – and eventually led us to let God build our family through adoption. While they aren’t the same journeys to motherhood, they are ones that marked our faith journeys.

“Motherhood for me came with a stripping away of control and it has continued in that vein ever since.”
{Kayla Aimee in “Anchored,” page 167}

I too learned to find hope and peace in the unexpected. I had to learn to let go and trust what I couldn’t always see or understand.

Kayla shares her story beautifully and with truth and humor that will have you laughing one minute and crying before you finish the sentence. And while this story of a micro-preemie wasn’t one she expected or necessarily even wanted, it’s one she shares because in her darkness she found light that can only come from God.

I started reading “Anchored” on Mother’s Day while my kids rested and I sat on our back deck in the sunshine. Of course, I finished the book a few days later because even though I knew Scarlette lived – a fact I’m glad isn’t hidden because I’m not sure I could have made it through the pages wondering – I wanted to hear the rest of the story.

Kayla’s words are honest and refreshing as she shares how she sorted out her faith while her dreams seemed to crumble around her. She relates everyday moments of her life to the great big faith we’re all trying to grasp. She shares her prayers and her fears and her hopes – for her family, for her daughter, for her community, and for mommas elsewhere.

When she tells about praying like Hannah, how she prayed for this child and God answered her prayers, and then sees Scarlette in the incubator and so many moments are weaved together in a way that would change a momma’s faith.

“Every bit of want that had gone into those prayers was wrapped up here and now, swaddled in an incubator. It did not look anything like what I had asked for and yet it was everything I had hoped for. All of it was completely unexpected but as I gazed at her I knew that I would do it over for the privilege or loving her. All of the sudden I was Hannah again and all of motherhood was love and all of love was a prayer.”
{Kayla Aimee in “Anchored,” page 106}

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :: Kayla Aimee is a writer, mother and slightly spirited southern girl who spends her days uncovering hope and humor in unexpected places. She makes her home and garden in northern Georgia with her husband Jeff and daughter Scarlette. Kayla shares stories of faith, family and her favorite things at Learn more about her at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

And here's excerpts of a Q&A with Kayla that the folks at Icon Media Group provided:

How did you keep it together when you felt like your world was falling apart?
I didn’t. Absolutely I fell apart with it. I think it surprises people to hear that because on the outside I looked like I had it together, I was stoic and did the hard things in order to keep myself together when I was at the hospital. Away from that space was different, full of fear and sorrow. But it was in allowing myself to fall apart that I discovered the truth in the Scripture that says that His strength is made perfect in our weakness. I learned that God’s grace really is sufficient and the only thing that was comforting was knowing that I could just lean into that and let it do what I could not.
2. How would you say humor and the ability to laugh at yourself have helped you through parenting? In your marriage?
I remember the first time that I laughed after Scarlette’s birth. I was weary from weeping with heartbreak when the nurse brought me nursing pads and they were wrapped in a bag that said DANGER! HAZARDOUS MATERIALS! I laughed so hard that it hurt my stitches and I remember that was the moment when I knew that I wasn’t lost to my grief. Finding the humor in the moments that are hard helps to shift my perspective. It keeps me from being too quick to anger and makes me appreciate the little things more.
Ecclesiastes says that there is a time to laugh and a time to cry and I think that the intersection of the two is a beautiful portrait of our humanity. Plus, it just brings me so much joy to live a life that is full of laughter and so I chase that, I try to seek out the hope and the humor because that just makes everything a little bit brighter.
3. What is the #1 thing God taught you through Scarlette’s birth experience?
I tend to want to control things or at the very least to know what is coming. Our experience with Scarlette’s birth and NICU stay really revealed to me that I had a tendency to layer my own plans over my prayers. When there was nothing I could do I learned what it meant to genuinely trust God. I think it was this specific time that sharpened my faith, when I was the angriest at the situation and when I least wanted to be faithful was when I found God faithful to me. Not because of a happy ending but because I felt the hope of Him staying steady in the chaos.

ABOUT THE BOOK :: Officially releasing July 1, “Anchored” is 208 pages and published by B&H Books. It’s available at Amazon or wherever else books are sold. Read more about it Kayla’s website.

GIVEAWAY :: And I’m giving away a copy of this book! Yay! Use the Rafflecopter below to enter to win. A winner will be randomly selected on Wednesday, July 1.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Icon Media Group provided my advanced reader's copy in exchange for a review and is providing the additional copy for the giveaway. These opinions are my own. 

Want more insights? "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, June 24, 2015

Three Word Wednesday :: Joy & Sadness {thoughts on "Inside Out"}

Photo from

The kids and I went to see “Inside Out” on rainy Friday night. I decided to take them after a busy week because we like seeing movies in the theater, but I’m picky about which ones I let them see.

I didn’t expect to spend the movie reflecting on my one word for the year. {Read more JOY posts.}

Joy is actually the name of one of the characters. There’s also Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear. They help make 11-year-old Riley’s memories, feelings, thoughts, and personality.

The movie has adventure as Joy and Sadness try to get back to Headquarters. (Get it? HEADquarters ...) There’s also story lines about friendship, family and change. The ultimate message was probably a little lost on 5-year-old Ben, but 8-year-old Cate understood it.

She summed it up when she whispered to me toward the end: “Joy is still there with Sadness.”

Joy spends most of the movie trying to make all Riley’s memories happy. But happiness is fleeting; joy is lasting. That’s what Sadness teaches Joy – and that’s what I’ve been learning the last few years.

Sadness – and the other emotions – has a place in life, but it doesn’t define our lives. No 11-year-old girl who loves hockey is going to be 100% thrilled to move her life from Minnesota to San Francisco (like the movie plot). Substitute whatever sadness you’ve experienced. I thought about people I miss, words I wished I said and the ones I should have kept inside, friendships that have changed, and the birth moms who have built our family while experiencing sadness of their own.

In the vault of my memories, some would be blue, signifying sadness, but there is still joy. This world has death, grief, sickness, conflict, and fractured relationships. But through it all joy can remain.

From the inside out, we can be changed when we choose joy. {Tweet that.}

And speaking of #choosingJOY, here are some joys from my ongoing list :: 304. Reading first thing in the morning. 305. Yard sales on Friday! 306. ... And 20-cent chapter books for Cate. 307. Grilling out three nights in a row. … 310. My kids are using the plastic lids from their popcorn chicken containers from Walmart’s deli as boats in the bathtub. Whatever works. … 312. Good mail on a day I've been feeling melancholy. … 314. The four of us hanging out at the lake. 315. Missing my two best local friends while they’re both out of town – so grateful for these friends and the way we do life together. 316. Home study visit done and it went well! 317. People in the community being excited for our adoption with us. … 319. Hot afternoons at the pool. 320. Playing Settlers of Catan until after midnight at the lake. 321. Having a party at the lake house even though we still aren’t "done" getting it together. 322. Shelter Point Retreat! A name for the lake house! 323. Watching Cate at horse riding lessons. 324. Cate's excitement about church camp329. Soda tasting.

I’d love for my #ThreeWordWednesday friends – and any friends! – to join me in sharing joys on social media by using #choosingJOY. Instagram is my favorite place to share, but I’m on Facebook and Twitter too.

Learn more about “Inside Out” at its websiteFocus on the Family’s Plugged In, and

I'm also linking up with Mary Carver for Works for Me Wednesday because (surprise!) kids' movies can work for me. 

Want more insights? "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."