Saturday, November 1, 2014

It's Adoption Awareness Month!


November is National Adoption Awareness Month.

Obviously, we’re constantly aware of adoption around here. My kids both know they’re adopted, although one {I’m sure you can imagine which one …} talks about it more than the other. Not only is one child a girl and the other a boy, but their personalities are different. Cate is so aware of adoption that she likes to talk about it to whoever will listen.

I’ve shared about this before here and elaborate on it in my book. So, in honor, of National Adoption Awareness Month, I wanted to share the excerpt from "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family" that illustrates perfectly Cate’s awareness of her own adoption:

The first-year teacher was discussing the life cycle of a mammal with a dozen first- and second-graders when she drew upon comparison to shield the bulk of the bird and the bees talk: “You know, like you were born from your mom.”

My daughter Cate decided to inform her class: “I wasn’t in my mom’s belly. I’m adopted.”
I’m sure she caught her 22-year-old teacher off guard. But that was that.

But the story said more to me. It made me thankful Cate recognizes her birth story is different than most of her friends yet she isn’t ashamed to share it. Being adopted is normal for her because we’ve talked about it since the day she was born. These are the conversations we have regularly, each time revealing more details about her birth mom, our time with this young woman who helped us have a family, and her birth we witnessed.

In 2013, Cate wanted to know more about the seven nights we spent in the hotel waiting for the interstate adoption paperwork to be approved by folks in Indianapolis and Frankfort, Ky. I showed her pictures of her birth mom for the first time on her 6th birthday. It was the sweetest, most revealing adoption conversation we had shared.

This topic is an ongoing dialogue around our house. The word “adoption” has long been in Cate’s vocabulary, but we gradually elaborated on the details of her story with her. From the time they were just days old, strangers have told us how much Cate looks like me or Ben resembles my husband’s family. Sometimes we grin and nod. Other times we let them in on this story of ours.

My husband and I are raising a girl who remembers details and isn’t afraid to tell the truth along with a boy who embraces life to its fullest. We’re bringing up two of the best things God has ever done for us. Adoption is the story of how we became a family. It’s one I will tell over and over as long as someone listens. And now I’m glad to know my girl will tell it, too.
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May you embrace the adoption stories near you, and not just this month but always. May you find ways to serve orphans. And may you know like these earthly adoption stories our heavenly Father adopts us and chooses us to be part of his forever family.

In honor of this month all there is to celebrate, I’m giving away a copy of Jennifer Jackson Linck’s “Bringing Home the Missing Linck: A Journey of Faith to Family.” Yes, it her family’s adoption story, but it’s also packed with lessons of trusting God and believing him even among life’s detours.

And because I adore Jennifer’s heart and love how she tells real-life stories, I’m also giving away a copy of her ebook, “Trucks, Tantrums & Trusting Him: Confessions of a Boy Mom.” But, don’t worry girl moms, you’ll take plenty away from this one too. In reading Jennifer’s words you’ll remember how God’s glory really can shine among the ordinary moments of our lives.

So there will be two winners chosen randomly on Wednesday, Nov. 5 – one will win a hard copy of “Bringing Home the Missing Linck” and the other will win a PDF copy of “Trucks, Tantrums & Trusting Him.” Just use the Rafflecopter below for multiple entries.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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I talk about adoption often around here, especially with the recent release of my ebook. A year ago, I spent the month publishing an adoption series with pieces of our story as well as guest posts from others. You can see all those posts here.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

10 Things I Learned at Disney


October has been a crazy month. And I mean that in a good way. But, goodness, it’s flown by ...

We went to Disney World and then I came home and released a book. I rarely do one thing at a time. So, needless to say, it’s been an exciting month. And these two topics are pretty much what I’ve shared about this month. But I have a little bit more I want to share about Disney, so that’s what I’m doing today.

In no particular order, here are 10 things I learned while at Disney ...


1. Animal Kingdom is great.

It was on the schedule for our second day of parks, but I didn’t realize just how much we’d love it. Multiple of our favorite Disney things were there.


2. Magic Kingdom is best done over two days. 

And I liked that our two days weren’t back to back. We were able to do everything we wanted, except the new Seven Dwarf Mine Train. We saw both the afternoon Festival of Fantasy and the nighttime Electric Parade and preferred the earlier parade. Although all the lights at night were pretty.


3. Building in a day “off” was good for us. 

Two parks and then we went to Downtown Disney for lunch at T-Rex and some shopping, especially at LEGO Imagination Center. Then we spent some time swimming at the hotel.


4. Magic Bands, the dining plan, and Fast Passes are amazing. Magical, really. 

We didn’t regret the dining plan investment and loved the freedom and ease it created. To have that as well as our hotel entry, park admission, credit card and Fast Passes all on our Magic Bands was convenient. Even though I don’t normally wear watch, I kept looking at it to see what time it was! It’s not that magical!


5. Doing just Disney is more than enough. 

We would have loved Sea World, Legoland, or the beach, but I’m glad we focused on Disney. We didn’t even do EPCOT at Disney because I wasn’t sure my young kids would love it like the other parks, plus four days of parks just the right amount for us.


6. My kids – who are 4 and 7 – are at the perfect ages.

I’m glad we didn’t go to Disney any sooner and I’m glad we didn’t have to haul a stroller. Ben does still sometimes nap so he went the whole trip (minus 30 or so minutes while traveling from the park to the hotel) without a nap, which stretched him. But he managed and he slept well at night. We only kept them up late one night. Everything was really exciting to them. Of course, there’s still plenty to do if we go back when they’re older!


7. The My Disney Experience app is helpful.

Download it and maintain enough of your mobile device battery to use it throughout the day to keep track of wait times, Fast Passes, shows, and dining details. The only downfall is once you use the three Fast Passes you reserved ahead of time, you can’t add the subsequent Fast Passes. The Disney lady at one of the kiosks, where you can add Fast Passes, told me this feature is in the works.


8. Disney customer service and hospitality are top-notch. 

One of my favorite examples is not dealing with our luggage after checking our bags at the Nashville airport. Disney people retrieved them in Orland and then brought them to our room while we were out eating dinner that first night. Likewise, we checked them at the hotel before we boarded the bus for the airport and didn’t have to handle them again until we picked them up at the baggage claim in Nashville. Despite the hyperbole of Disney being the happiest, most magical place on earth, there really are happy, helpful people working there. And the parks are so clean, even with the crowds.

P.S. The customer service of the Disney planner we used also was fabulous. I highly recommend Wish Upon a Star with Jennifer Hart. And, hey, this service is free!



9. My kids can be rendered speechless. 

Everyone in our life except them knew we were going. We managed to surprise and shock them! More on that in an earlier post.


10. Buying souvenir items before we went was good advice from seasoned Disney traveling friends. 

It really nixed the “gimmes” that could easily come with all those Disney gift shops. I bought the kids some T-shirts, accessories, and pajamas that we gave them throughout the week. I gave them some coloring books and other Disney-related activities for both plane rides and had glow-in-the-dark bracelets and necklaces for the night we stayed late for the nighttime parade. Thanks to zulily sales, I found great deals on fun souvenirs in the months leading up to our trip and was able to incorporate gifts for the kids throughout the week. Ben’s gifts were wrapped in Planes paper and Cate’s in Frozen. They all were labeled for which morning or evening I wanted them to open them. They did each have some souvenir money from the grandmas, so they spent that at Downtown Disney, mostly on Legoes.

If you’ve been to Disney, what would  you add? 
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Want to read more about Disney so, do so here: Our Favorite {Disney} Things7 Reasons to Use a Disney Vacation Planner. And you can see even more pictures here.

I love these monthly posts that document life. Read more previous posts: {From 2013} June. July. August. September. October. November. {From 2014} January. February. March. April. May. June. July. August. September.

Want more stories? 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, October 29, 2014

Unforced rhythms of grace


Earlier today, I published a post about being reminded about the importance of rest – a lesson God put on my heart when my kids were sick for almost a week. And then I rejoiced because everyone was better.

And then my daughter cried this morning before school for personal reasons that I’ll attribute to a possible urinary tract infection.

I was almost embarrassed to call the pediatrician’s office. Again. Seriously?! Our appointment this afternoon makes FIVE VISITS IN EIGHT DAYS. Sure enough, she has an infection. I did go ahead and get Ben an allergy shot too. You know, while we were there. Again.

Back to that post I published this morning about God’s reminder to be still and know he is God. Well, I wrote it yesterday afternoon. And guess what our “Breaking Free” lesson last night was about? Yep.

Rest.

And to further prove God knows what I need to hear, Monday night I was crying to Greg about being exhausted about a couple hard things I’ve been processing. I verbally vomited on him through my tears and then said multiple times, “I’m really just exhausted.” I was weary of thinking about how to forgive and move forward. I was tired of having an emotional Band-Aid ripped off over and over again. I didn’t want to see my friend hurt anymore. I wanted her husband to step out of the deceptive illusions he’s been putting his faith in.

That kind of exhaustion was clouding my perception. And it had nothing to do with my kids being sick, except maybe I had more time to think about it.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” {Matt. 11:28-30}

And I really love those verses from The Message:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Unforced rhythms of grace.

Too often I try to force life. But that’s not what living in the light is about.

Nearly every word Beth Moore spoke in that video lesson spoke to me. I took so many notes in the margins. I don’t want to live in “captivity of activity.” So often rest is a mental, emotional state of mind, but sometimes it’s physically needed too.

I can rest because I don’t have to perform for God. He knows who I am. I’m not in charge of all my loved ones and their behaviors. God will fight for me and doesn’t always call me to defend my opinions or perspectives. I don’t have to keep repenting for the same sin. There’s grace and forgiveness.

I could go on and on about a need doesn’t necessitate a calling. I don’t have to set out to please everyone or anyone because, really, if that’s my motivation, I’m making myself a bondservant to whoever it is I want to approve me. Seeking Christ needs to be my only motivation.

The “Breaking Free” study has been hard because it’s pressed me to look at some childhood hurt. But it’s been packed with truth and wisdom that applies to specific situations in my life – and it’s setting me on the path toward freedom.

Perhaps I’m actually finding rest in a couple areas where my heart has been so heavy and exhausted. And hopefully my kids will be well again soon. Regardless, being yoked to Jesus is full of freedom and rest, even when life requires an antibiotic.
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Read my earlier post from today and the beginning of this story here :: Be still & know.

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."

Be still & know


I spent most of Tuesday – Friday last week and then Monday at home with a sick kid or two. Other than my kids’ fevers, the first few days were glorious. I started binge-watching “Gilmore Girls” while I scrapbooked pictures from 2012. My kids were on their respective ends of the couch, under their own blankets, watching various shows and movies.

In those six days, I did take someone – or someones – to the pediatrician FOUR TIMES. I’m going to advocate for a frequent patient card where after ten visits we get a free allergy shot or something.

First, Ben had strep throat, but, of course, wasn’t complaining about his throat. I only took him in because he had a fever and NO energy for days. That same night, Cate started running a fever, so I called first thing the next morning to get her tested for strep. Because, really, why else would she be running a fever, right?

Wrong.

She didn’t have strep. So back home I went with two feverish kids.

Ben perked up Thursday, but Cate was still sick. That night her fever reached 103.4 even with ibuprofen in her system. So Friday morning I called the nurse. She suggested we redo the strep test that afternoon.

Still negative.

It’s not that the nurses and I hoped she had strep. We just assumed she did. Blood work revealed unnamed viral junk was causing the fever. Of course she woke up the next morning fine.

Hooray, everyone was fine on Saturday! Fine enough that Cate finished her make-up work from missing three days of school. THREE DAYS of school absences! There was a time in my life that would have been unacceptable.

But not now. I just spent more time with the Gilmore girls while my girl rested.

So we had a normal weekend at the soccer field, at the MSU football game, with friends at our church’s annual fall party …

And then Ben started coughing and speaking with a gruff, scratchy voice. He went to sleep fine Sunday night but woke up multiple times in the first couple hours crying, saying his throat hurt, and complaining that he couldn’t breathe.

Um. That seems serious. And he was still taking Amoxicillin for strep throat.

He ended up sleeping in our bed that night, which, if you know me, explains how bad he felt and how much sympathy and worry I had for him. I don’t like extra people in my bed. Even my favorite little people.

He coughed and grasped for breath all night.

So, yes, I started my Monday morning calling the pediatrician’s office. Again. 

Turn out he had croup. A dose of oral steroid, more children’s shows on Netflix, and a couple breathing treatments were what the doctor ordered this time.

When I wasn’t watching “Gilmore Girls,” I was reminded that resting is important. Our lives are so cluttered – and often with really great people and places. But we are never going to be able to do it all. Really, I’m learning that I shouldn’t really even try. Sometimes saying no to a good thing gives room for the best thing. And sometimes even extroverts need to stay home.

Dare I say he woke up Tuesday morning almost totally himself. And I rejoiced for his well-being as well as my own extroverted self who missed being out with her people. I walked and talked with one friend. And then later I texted another: I really want Qdoba for lunch. Any interest in meeting me there?

I felt my heart being filled back up again. And I knew those six days before had changed me in small ways, which when added to the other experiences and moments build on the story that’s being written.

{Turns out there's a Part 2 to this post. Read it here :: Unforced rhythms of grace.}
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I'm also sharing an introduction of myself at Beth Stiff’s blog, where she will have a fun announcement next week when Three Word Wednesday returns.

I'm linking up this post with Jennifer Dukes Lee’s #TellHisStory and Holley Gerth’s Coffee For Your Heart

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, October 27, 2014

{Giveaway} A Lifelong Love

In the middle of “A Lifelong Love” by Gary Thomas, I read paragraphs aloud to Greg. They reminded about where we’d been or our friends’ current marriage struggle. The words were true and offered hope that people can change.

“Pursuing a more intimate union means wrestling with how radical this notion is that two people become one. This pursuit, through glorious, will go against every selfish fiber in our being. Many people want intimacy in the abstract more than they want it in reality – we want the benefits of being known and loved, but we hate the process of dying to ourselves that it takes to get there. … Once you get married, everything changes. Everything. Even something like sin becomes a shared burden. Nothing is faced alone. There is no dividing up, because you can’t divide one person without killing him, and you can’t divide spouses without killing the marriage.”

{Gary Thomas in “A Lifelong Love” – page 190}

I’m so grateful I’m not the same person Greg married 12-plus years ago. I’m sure he’s glad too. There were some hard years in there – mostly because I didn’t know how to love like Christ loves. Of course, I still haven’t mastered it but I’ve come a long way.

And that’s what Gary Thomas’ book is about. “A Lifelong Love” encourages people to make intentional choices in their marriages and equips readers with truths that can help them thrive in their marriages and lives. The subtitle alone prompts a question worth asking: What if marriage is about more than just staying together?

Oh, the possibilities.

“A Lifelong Love” builds on Thomas’ “Sacred Marriage,” which shows how God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy. Now, be encouraged to change the world around you, starting with your home and overflowing into the other places you go.

ABOUT THE BOOK :: Discover how to live out a sacred marriage. You believe your marriage has eternal purposes. you long for it to reach beyond your home and encourage others. But what does it look like to have a spiritually intentional relationship in the midst of dirty dishes, work deadlines, and car pools? This book includes discussion questions for couples. Hardcover. 316 pages. Official website.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :: Gary Thomas is writer-in-residence at Second Baptist Church in Houston, a frequent guest on Focus on the Family and FamilyLife Today radio, and a popular speaker. His award-winning books, including The Sacred Search, have been translated into over a dozen languages and together have sold more than a million copies worldwide. Thomas and his wife have been married 30 years and have three children. Author website. Twitter. Facebook

AND A GIVEAWAY :: One of you will win your own copy of “A Livelong Love” by Gary Thomas. Use the Rafflecopter below to enter. A winner will be selected randomly Friday, Oct. 31.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Many thanks to FlyBy Promotions/Propeller Consulting LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winner and opinions are 100 percent my own and are not influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a copy of the book to review.

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, October 23, 2014

On living in the light


“You know, momma, I just don’t like the dark.”

Those words came from my 7-year-old girl when I was questioning about why she was having trouble going to sleep the other night. It’s a regular thing: She reads in bed reading for some time. She knows it’s time to turn out the light, but she’s hesitant. And she’s so much like me: Her mind gets going right when she should turn it off. But it’s not that easy, I know.

And, really, who likes the darkness?

So I give her a hug and kiss. I tell her I love her. I say a quick prayer for God to calm her and give her rest. And I don’t see her again until I check on her before I head to bed and then nearly nine hours later awake her for school.

LIGHT has been my word for the year. It’s a popular blogger thing to choose a word for the new year. Like a trendy resolution. I like words, so I’ve been going along with it the for past several years.

But this year has been different.

God has shown me LIGHT in so many areas. I’ve worked through some childhood hurt that has spilled over into my adult life. I’ve witness God’s glory in some hard days. I hear the word in songs and realize its meaning in my everyday life. Book after book I’ve read have pointed me the LIGHT – such a stark contrast the darkness so many of us fear.

And I’m in the middle of “Breaking Free” by Beth Moore. If you’ve gone through the study, you get it. If you haven’t, you should. So many times I’ve felt caught in the doorway between darkness and light. I want to shut the door to the dark room and live in the room with all the natural light coming in through the windows. I spend so much time there, but sometimes meander back to the darkness.

I’m learning how to let go of that tendency. I’m learning to grab onto God because with him there is no darkness. And it’s easier to close my eyes at night because I know I’m not alone. That’s what I want my girl to learn too.

She’s a talker and a thinker. For as many words as she says, I’m pretty sure she has even more thoughts. These conversations about the literal darkness have spurred on so many good words between us.

A few days passed after her confession that she just doesn’t like the darkness. Then she brought me three $10 bills and eleven pennies. She wanted to give it to me. I’m not sure why. She just said it was a gift. As sweet and sincere as the gesture was, I told her I’d like to her to think of something else to do with that $30.11.

After a few minutes, she said she’d like to send Roselyn, our Compassion International-sponsored girl in Guatemala, a gift. We are only allowed to mail flat things like coloring pages, sticker sheets, and letters, so I encouraged her to come up with some like that.

Then her big, brown eyes lit up: “Can I help some other kids like Roselyn?”

I’m not sure she comprehends how “kids like Roselyn” live. Truthfully, I’m not sure I do either. But the fact she wants her $30.11 to help someone else is good. She went to bed with a gift catalog – you know, the one where you can choose meals to feed the hungry and medicine to help the sick – and I didn’t hear about the darkness from her that night.

The next morning, she showed me what she had circled. “Mom, you may need to help me. These things add up to $67.”

You can’t put a price on LIGHT, but I’m certain $67 will buy more than some gospel tracks, hot meals, and medicine. That money will shine the light on some dark situations – in Guatemala, maybe in Ecuador, and certainly right here in my own American home.
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It's nearing the Christmas season. I know. I want to shush myself up too. Choosing gifts for others is such a joy. We've loved helping others through Compassion International and Samaritan's Purse and have had good experiences doing so. I'd encourage you to check out those gift catalogs for a meaningful, life-changing kind of gift-giving. We've also loved sponsoring children through Compassion International. There's plenty of children who could benefit from your prayers, money, and relationship. 

Other posts about LIGHT :: One Word. Songs of Spring. Living & Learning

I'm linking this post with Lyli Dunbar's Thought-Provoking Thursday

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, October 22, 2014

God works in the wait


In celebration of “Peace in the Process,” the ebook I officially released last week, I wanted to share an excerpt. And keep reading because there’s another giveaway.

God had my season of infertility in his hands. He was working even when I doubted and wondered and tried to do it all myself. I wish I had known then that working harder isn’t always the answer. I would have rested in the promises of God and worshipped more instead of working harder.

I was ready to have a baby. My husband was beyond ready. But God said wait.

Waiting is hard, yet it is something we all do. Every day, many times a day, really.

We wait for lights to turn green. We wait for people to return calls and extend invitations. We wait for the mail to be delivered. We wait for dinner to be ready and bedtime to come. We wait for the next season and the next adventure. We wait for babies to be born, job promotions to come, sickness to pass, people to understand what we meant, the necessary finances to come.

We wait.

Waiting was a theme in God making me a momma. The waiting broke my heart, but I have since learned I didn’t approach that season the way God intended. I waited for a positive pregnancy test like I was wasting my time. I didn’t draw near to God or seek His truth in the moment.

Years after that wait, I read about Ruth waiting for Boaz to resolve the matter of caring for her and her mother-in-law, Naomi, in the proper way. In Take Refuge, a study of Ruth, authors Lara Williams and Katie Orr write about how waiting is active. “Wait” means to “bind,” which is interesting to remember while reading Isaiah 40:30-31: “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

What if while waiting to become a momma, I was binding myself to the Lord?

In “31 Days to Coming Alive,” author Jenn Hand prompted me to think about waiting again. Her words reminded me how waiting is always present and an active part of our faith journey. “… as believers, we are ultimately in the waiting. We are waiting for the fulfillment of the promise of heaven. We are in the here-and-now, created with restless pangs of longing for the promise-yet-not-experienced.”

We are sanctified and perfected in the waiting.

The light will turn green. Your phone will ring. The invitation will come. Dinner will be marinated and baked. It will be time for rest. Spring always comes. New life abounds. Healing comes. God provides exactly what you need.

I have no doubt spending an eternity with our Creator will be worth the wait, too. Until then, let’s not waste time mourning our wait. Let’s live, embracing the here-and-now, knowing waiting is an active part of life.

God works in the wait.
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Let’s keep this party going with a copy of “31 Days to Coming Alive,” a devotional by my God-sized dreaming friend Jennifer Hand. I’ve told you about the book before and quoted it in my own story. And now I want to share it, thanks to Jenn’s generosity in donating a paperback copy for one of you!

Use the Rafflecopter below for multiple entries and a winner will be selected randomly Wednesday, Oct. 29. This giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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I'm linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee for #TellHisStory and Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart

Want more stories? Buy "Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family" 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, October 21, 2014

7 Reasons to Use a Disney Vacation Planner

When Greg and I started talking in January about taking our kids to Disney World, a couple different people recommended I talk with Jennifer Hart, who is a Disney vacation planner and happens to live in my town. So I sent her an email with some questions about what I was thinking for our trip that was being planned for nine months later. She emailed back quickly with advice and then quotes and then recommendations. She reminded me when it was time to book dining reservations and fast passes. And we even returned home to a sweet card from her.

Let’s welcome Jennifer here today as she answers the question “Should I use a travel agent to help me with my Disney vacation?” And, hey, you don’t have to live in Murray, Ky., to use her. We just happen to live in the same town, which was convenient for connecting a couple times before we headed to Orlando.

 "Should I use a travel agent to help me with my Disney vacation?" Well, because I am a travel agent, I bet my answer is obvious … ABSOLUTELY! You know that I am obviously biased, but let me tell you why …

1. The services I provide are FREE!

Really! I am paid a commission by the Disney for vacation packages that I book. There are no behind the scenes mark ups or hidden fees. Disney has very standard pricing and the company offers the same rates to all travel agents that it has on its website.

You may be wondering why Disney would pay a travel agent if they could book all of the travel themselves? The answer is actually pretty simple: Travel agents work to make your trip better. The more fun you have on your vacation, the more likely you are to go back.

2. I specialize in Disney, so I have knowledge, training, and experience. 

Not only do I have a LOVE of all things Disney and lots of experience, but I have also done training and taken tests to "earn my ears." I have to work hard to keep my knowledge current with extra reading, online training, and onsite training.

I often get calls from overwhelmed people trying to plan the perfect Disney vacation for their families. Let’s face it, there are a lot of moving parts to a Disney vacation: transportation, choosing a hotel, sorting out all of the ticket options, dining reservations, figuring out which park to visit on which day, what FastPass+ selections should you make, whether to buy the Memory Maker, and a million other decisions. It is a lot to figure out! I like to get to know my families a little bit, figure out the budget, and help them make the most out of their time and budget.

3. I know what the discounts are and where to find them.

I have worked with many clients who were very surprised when my quote was substantially less than the exact same vacation they priced out themselves. Sometimes, you have to know that there is a sale and where to find it on the website in order to get that price. Sometimes shifting your days or even adding a day to your vacation can make it cheaper. I help you figure out how to save the most money!

My favorite story is about a family who called and said that they wanted a vacation to Disney and knew exactly what they wanted. She just wanted me to book it for them. She was in a bit of a hurry, so I got the information I needed in order to book her vacation. As I began pricing out her vacation to book it, I realized that what she thought she wanted was not really the best idea. I called her back and asked if she could check in one day earlier. She thought that she was pretty set on her travel dates until I explained that if she checked in one day earlier, her entire vacation would cost $800-$900 less! A longer vacation for less money - SURE!

If someone books a vacation with me, I am constantly looking for sales and will apply the best sale. We cannot stack sales, so I always pick the best one to save the most money. If you book through Disney direct, you can do this too, but you have to watch for the sales and call Disney yourself to have the special applied. They do not automatically do it for you!!

4. I can help you save money in other ways.

Personally, I try to spend your money like I would spend my own. Sometimes spending a little extra gives you a lot, but sometimes spending more is just spending more. I also try to let my clients know where they should splurge and where they could save a few dollars. Sometimes you don’t need as much as you think.

On many occasions I have tried to talk clients out of a more expensive vacation. Yes, that does mean I make less in commission, but I am much more concerned that you feel like you got your money worth. I would rather make less and have you trust me than make more and have you feel like you overspent.

5. I am a great sounding board! 

When you are planning your vacation, you are going to have LOTS of questions. Even seasoned Disney travelers have a lot of questions. I have opinions that I will freely offer! More than that, I try to tell you why I like something or why I think you would like something or not.

We live in a world where information is at our fingertips. If you search the web, you are sure to find a lot of message boards, blogs, and websites who claim to be Disney experts. This can be good, but it can also be dangerous. I have on more than one occasion seen inaccurate information floating around cyberspace. The safest bet is to ask someone who is trained by Disney. I am kept up-to-date on changes and refurbishments.

6. I will make your Advance Dining Reservations!

Disney lets resort guests make their dining reservations 180 days before check in. I get up early on your ADR day to make your reservations for you trying to secure your preferred reservations. This is very important for those hard to get locations. You do not want to wait even a few hours later or those choices can change.

7. I will help you plan an itinerary!

Just because you use a vacation planner does not mean that you give up all the planning and control of your vacation. When you get ready to start planning your days in the parks, I have access to crowd predictors and am able to help you plan each day. Some people want to hit every attraction in every park, some want to see every character, and others want to leisurely stroll while hitting the highlights. We can work together to make a plan to accommodate your family and their needs.

Using me, a Disney vacation planner, is NOT giving up control of your vacation. It is making sure that everything is covered. My promise to you is that I will strive to make your vacation as MAGICAL as possible. My personalized planning services will help you save time and money, plus get all of your questions answered – resulting in a better vacation experience for everyone! Any family can benefit from my expertise in Disney Destinations. Best of all, when you book your vacation with me, ALL of these planning services are FREE! I can book vacations to any Disney Destination including Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Aulani, or Adventures by Disney.
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Jennifer Hart is a stay-at-home mom and wife who homeschools her three children, ages 12, 10 and 4, and works full time as a Disney vacation planner. The Harts love all things Disney and love to vacation during slower seasons. Learn more about her Disney vacation planning services on her website, by contacting her at jennifer@wishuponastarwithus.com or 270-293-1975, or on Facebook. She also blogs and can be found on Pinterest and Twitter.
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