Friday, May 6, 2016

A Letter to My Daughter Who is Like Me

Catherine Anna –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love you dearly,

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

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Motherhood is hard. Let's celebrate anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Books

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

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

What would you add to the list?

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Choosing 37 Joys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

23. “Fixer Upper.” Enough said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Six Things I Learned in April

Ah, April, what an adventure you've been. You're the introduction to my favorite month, so I like you. You've come and gone so quickly, but we've had fun. Before May arrives, let's remember this month.

(AND if you haven't signed up for my newsletter, you should do that before May 2, when my next one goes out. There's a fun, free printable included with a quote I've been loving. Really, I welcome new email friends anytime, though! I've started updating my ebook and email subscribers will get peeks into that process.)

So, anyway, here are six things I've learned in April ...

1. The Nashville Flea Market is great. Maybe all flea markets are great, I don't know. My first flea market experience is in the books. And I hope I get to go back.

(The flea market was only one part of our recent Nashville road trip. We also saw Rend Collective in concert!)

2. Kayaks are good lake entertainment, even if getting them home from Walmart is an adventure.

Let me tell you about that adventure: I'd been thinking kayaks would be a good addition to our lake house. (It's available for vacation rentals. Did you know that?) And then there they were, on display and on sale at Walmart. So we bought two. And then we realized they wouldn't both fit in our mini van with two adults, two kids, and a baby ... and a stroller, and all the other randomness in my van. So I took on kayak and the girls home, cleaned out the van, and the girls and I went back to Walmart to pick up the husband, son, and second kayak.

(Here are some pictures, if you're interested.)

Both kayaks now happily reside at Shelter Point Retreat. And my daughter, niece, and nephew were happy to break them in.

3. I can be intrigued enough by a story to keep reading even when I don't really like the book that much. 

"Everything You Ever Wanted" by Jillian Lauren was that for me. It's an adoption story, and there were parts that were fascinating and interesting. But other parts I ended up skimming. Regardless, it's brave to tell your story, especially when it has many hard parts, so I'm glad I read it, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it. Does that make sense?

4. A new strawberry patch opened just down the road. 

I love picking berries and now it's even more convenient. If you live in Murray, be sure to check it out the next few weeks while the strawberries are in season. Maybe you'll have an impromptu adventure like I did.

5. Adventure would be my word for 2016, if I had chosen a word. It's all around me, as you can tell with my multiple references to it in this post alone!

6. I'm a communication nag. 

If I email you about an event or project, send you an invitation for a party, or ask for feedback ... and I don't hear back, then just wait, I will solicit a response in follow up emails, Facebook messages and texts. I'd say I'm sorry, but, really, there's usually a reason I asked or invited or emailed in the first place, and the reason usually involves a response.

Perhaps you can blame the journalism degree with an organizational communications minor.

So, how was your April? Did you have any adventures?

I'm linking up with Emily Freeman, who inspired this way of documenting life. It's become one of my favorite practices. {Read previous Things I Learned posts here.}

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this too shall PASS {a Five Minute Friday post}

It's Five Minute Friday time. I wasn't sure what I was going to write when I saw Kate Motaung's prompt {PASS} this week. But then when I sat down this morning, the words came. That's what I love about Five Minute Friday. I love how a simple word can prompt all kinds of thoughts, even in just five minutes. Well, I love that and the people. So, come join us over at Kate's place. 

Timer set for five minutes ... 

I remember my Nanny saying “this too shall pass” when my family was going through a difficult time. She said with conviction and wisdom.

I wish I knew more about the situations through which she’d walked in her younger days. I wish I had realized as a kid how special my time was with her. But I’m glad I lived near her after college and was able to use her washer and dryer rather than going to a laundromat. She usually had a TV show like JAG on and wanted to let me take care of my own chore but kept a close eye on how big of loads I tried to wash and dry.

She passed away in October 2001, about three months before Greg proposed and 10 months before my bridesmaids walked into “On Eagles’ Wings” – a song that reminded me of her and my Catholic upbringing.

I wish I had different perspective before Nanny passed away, but I also know she said those words – “this too shall pass” – with assurance that only came as someone who had lived through her share of life. I get a little sad thinking she hasn’t seen me as a wife and mom, but I’m glad she was able to influence who I am. And I’m glad I’m in a place that I can see a little bit of where she was coming from.

And stop.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

How adventure found me in a strawberry patch

Adventure keeps showing up around me. The word. Quotes. Opportunities to embrace the concept. {Yes, I talked about this yesterday too.}

On Tuesday, adventure looked like impulsively picking strawberries while wearing Rachel.

I love picking berries – strawberries in April or May, blueberries in June, and blackberries in July. It’s usually the kind of activity I plan with friends when my big kids are home from school. But it needed to happen on Tuesday because 80 degrees and sunshine are exactly my kind of weather.

The Patch is a new local strawberry patch basically right in town. Hello, convenience. I was driving by on my way to tend to a lake house I manage. So on my way home, I stopped at the Dollar General, bought a bottle of water, and paid the silly convenience fee to get cash back.

All because picking strawberries was my adventure.

And I’m glad I did.

Rachel smiled. She tried to grab berries and enjoyed the one she got her hands around.

Of course, when Ben got in the mini van at the bus stop, he immediately saw and smelled the strawberries and said, “You picked strawberries without me?” He ate a whole bowl full when we got home and I promised we’d go again when he wasn’t in school. That boy embodies adventure, and I’m glad he’s mine.

I’ve been #choosingJOY the past couple of years and God is still teaching me about that. Most recently the lessons have come when I see an opportunity for adventure and embark upon it.

So, here in April, I’m choosing adventure for 2016. I wasn’t going to choose a one-word focus for the year, but it’s clearly choosing me with two-thirds of the year to go. Like seasons, the kinds of adventure change. But here we are, on the brink of summer. And I’m ready.

What adventures are choosing you? {Tweet that.}

This reminded me of another lesson I learned in a strawberry patch three years ago :: "Mothering is a weary job sometimes, but I want to say yes. I want to speak with a softer, kinder voice. I want to remember we don't always have to be in a hurry to get to the next thing. I want to let them jump and make messes. Yes, I want to teach them truth and problem-solving strategies. Yes, I want them to learn responsibility. But I want them to live joyfully." {Read the whole post here.}

And clearly I like to write about strawberries :: 2011. 2012. 2014.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Let's be adventurers!

For months, Greg and I knew we were going to Nashville on April 24. He bought me Rend Collective concert tickets for Christmas and I secured my mother-in-law to watch the kids. We planned to have a date day leading up to the concert.

And then Sunday morning came and we still had no idea how we were going to spend our day. I thought about how I was so glad the date was marked off on our calendars because we wouldn’t have gone otherwise. We had a busy weekend and there is a lot happening in our daily life.

But marking off the date reserved it for us.

About an hour into our trip – just as we were getting ready to eat lunch – Greg said, “This has been a good day so far.”

Y’all know we don’t get away by ourselves much when he said that after the first hour in the car. Yes, our conversations were good and we finally had a loose plan for our day. Obviously, we needed that kind of day, and it had just begun.

After lunch, we headed to Nashville’s flea market, where we shopped a little, browsed a lot, and talked about all kinds of things. I kept seeing quotes about adventure on wooden signs and pillows and wall art …

“Oh darling, let’s be adventures together.”

“I knew when I met you an adventure was going to happen.”
― A.A. Milne in “Winnie the Pooh”

And here we were, two people who met in college and are now somehow in our late 30s, adventuring through the day – and life – together. I had just written in Greg’s birthday card two days earlier how I was looking forward to whatever adventures come next.

Our Rend Collective tickets got us into a pre-concert event with the band, whose members answered questions and shared some of their stories. They were funny and spoke truth my heart needed to hear – and the concert hadn’t even started.

Urban Rescue opened for Rend Collective. I especially loved its song “Wild Heart.”

“Into the great unknown
No matter where You go
We'll follow You, we'll follow You
After Your wild heart
We want to be where You are
We'll follow You, follow You …”

Then Rend Collective took the stage – and shot out confetti during its first song. That’s joy, y’all. And it kept coming. There were bubbles and dancing (okay, so, not really by me, at least not on the outside) and clapping and singing and praising.

Among the songs, the band members shared about how the Great Commission was given to us all – not just the outgoing people who like to speak in front of a crowd. We are all called to go and share the stories of what God has done in our lives, but we’re made for family too. The name of Rend Collective’s latest album is “As A Family We Go” – and it echoes what God is teaching me in my own life.

As a family we go to soccer practice for one kid and horse riding lessons for another.

As a family we go to church and friends’ houses.

As a family we go to the kitchen table, our new land, and to the Bible.

As a family we go to whatever else God has for us.

As we go through life together, I’m realizing I have things to learn from my kids while I’m trying to teach them. I need to be more like my boy, who embraces life and is free to run. My big girl is always observing and has more hobbies than anyone I know. My baby girl embodies joy.

During the concert, while I thought about my people, Rend Collective led worship in a way that united adventurers. And that stirred my heart to embrace what God is doing right here – in my family and through our adventures.

So, darlings, let’s be adventurers together. Who’s in? {Tweet that.}

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Monday, April 25, 2016

The Mother Letters {a review}

I came home one Saturday afternoon from spending much of the day with other adoptive moms and “The Mother Letters” was waiting on my door step. Soon after, I sat down to feed Rachel and started reading these letters from other moms that author Seth Haines collected for his wife, Amber. Long after my baby finished her bottle, I was still reading. I read all the stories without stopping to do anything else beyond pulling Rachel, who has recently started crawling, from pulling down the curtains.

That’s how motherhood is, you know. Yes, there are tiny interruptions to all of our days, but mothering matters and we aren’t in this life alone.

That’s the message of this collection of stories. Moms get each other, and these words from strangers echo many things I’ve experienced in my own life.

There’s laughter and hurt and joy and play dates and seasons and tears and siblings and waiting and peace and purpose and crazy days. And there are tales of raising little people while developing your own community along the way.

This book offered perspective and hope. It’s bound up wisdom from all kinds of mothers.

My two favorite quotes, at least while reading The Mother Letters the first time through, are about purpose – yes, purpose as a mom, but also the purpose that extends beyond that.

“Motherhood is not a series of situations that have a wrong and right answer. It is a relationship. ... So father her and love her. Laugh and cuddle and read and make choices. And trust that in spite of your imperfections, God is making all things new: even you, even your child.”
– Micha Boyett

“You need to stay faithful to your whole calling. ... We’re all different, and it’s just a matter of finding what makes you feel like a person – and here’s the key – honoring that enough to do it, both individually and by incorporating it into your family life.”
– Sarah Bessey

These mother letters spurred me on in truth. They welcomed me in with their everyday stories and kept me nodding in agreement. They reminded me of what matters and helped me recognize what I do well and what I want to do better.

And what momma doesn’t want that in her life?

ABOUT THE BOOK :: After his wife Amber had given birth to three boys in three years, Seth Haines saw she needed encouragement in the day-to-day drama and details of motherhood. Secretly collecting nearly 600 wise, honest, and sometimes hilarious letters from other mothers across the world, Seth compiled these “mother letters” as a gift for her. Amber and Seth have chosen the best of those letters to include in a beautiful book perfect for the mother in your life.

Each mother-to-mother letter offers encouragement, advice, and vulnerable honesty about the struggles and joys of motherhood. These letters show that no matter how many times mothers feel like they’ve failed, they are still doing their greatest work. So for the mom who thinks she’s the only one out there who just can't find time for a shower, “The Mother Letters” shows her that she’s part of a grand and diverse group of strong women who are saying to her, “Me too. But we can do this.”

The Mother Letters” is a 192-page hardcover cover book published by Revell (April 19, 2016). Learn more about the book at Amber’s website.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS :: Amber C. Haines, author of “Wild in the Hollow,” is a soulful writer and blogger at and a regular contributor to DaySpring’s (in)courage. She loves the church and finds community among the broken.

Seth Haines, author of “Coming Clean,” writes at and is a regular contributor to various publications.

Together, Seth and Amber make their home in the Arkansas Ozarks with their four boys.

Mother’s Day is coming up in less than two weeks and this book that released last week would make a lovely gift. It’s available at Amazon and other booksellers. While I received a free copy of this book from Revell to review, these opinions, thoughts and the gift recommendation are my own.

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