Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Three Word Wednesday :: Consider It Joy

As cliché as it sounds, I can’t believe we are well into May. This year has been the Year of Joy. And I don't mean everything has gone according to plan and fit in a box, tied up with a pretty bow.

But God has been teaching me about his joy and how it flows from letting go and laying down and waiting and watching and serving and giving and loving and forgiving. I’m noticing joy in a way I haven’t before. I know deep in my soul that joy doesn't equate to happiness, but it does leave us peace that passes all understanding.

Joy is a choice. {Tweet that.}
Philippians 4:4 :: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” 
Joy doesn’t dictate our circumstances, but instead determines our attitude.
James 1:2-3 :: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
Joy comes when we know and seek God.
Romans 15:13 :: “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

I don’t get it right all the time, that’s for sure. But I’m so grateful I have these truths to come back to again and again.

My #choosingJOY list on my phone is growing as I count the joys I notice in my everyday life. Some days I’m more in tune to my list – and the joys themselves. Regardless, joy abounds when I slow my mind and notice, even if there is chaos around me. Joy comes even on the hard days because God is there too. I hear about joy in songs and see it in my kids.

259. Multiple walks outside this week. ... 261. Stolen moments of quiet. 262. Winning a book I’ve been wanting to read. 263. Crystal Light Grape Drink! 264. A spring day in a stretch of days that felt like summer. ... 272. Walking and playing in the rain.

Joy is a tiny word but a mighty concept – and one I want more of in my life. {Tweet that.}

I'm linking up with Mary Carver's Works For Me Wednesday because choosing joy works 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."

Monday, May 18, 2015

Hope from the weekend

Most Sunday nights I stay up later than I should because I don’t want the weekend to end. Cate has only seven days of school left – although one of those will be spent in Nashville at the zoo and the Aquarium Restaurant – so I’m even more eager than usual to break out of the weekday routine.

This past weekend was full of some particularly sweet, hope-filled moments.

In October 1990, a new family moved next door to my family in Mockingbird Valley subdivision in Oldham County, Kentucky. I don’t remember how long it took Katie and I to become friends, but I’m glad my life since has included her. Since moving out of that neighborhood, we’ve lived hundreds of miles apart, and we’ve lived in the same town. We’ve texted and emailed and talked on the phone. We’ve mailed letters and presents. We’ve been in each other’s weddings and loved on each other’s kids. Even though we aren’t neighbors anymore, we can pick up where we left off when we do get to hang out.

This time we got to hang out for not quite 24 hours. Katie treated me to the gift of time. She sneaked away from her family to come hang out with mine four hours away. We shared meals, caught up with stories, and sat around in our soft pants. She snuggled with my kids and laughed at their jokes.

We parted ways after eating Thai food, but we’ve talked on the phone and texted more than once since Saturday afternoon. Katie has known me and loved me since I was 11 years old. I cherish our history. A little time with her always makes me wish for more but leaves me grateful the conversation we share is ongoing.

The second half of my weekend involved conversations with newer friends with whom I share passions. Hope That Binds had a picnic for its volunteers Saturday evening on a beautiful property in Carlisle County. I’ve loved connecting with this adoption ministry and helping with the quarterly newsletter and some events that connection families who love adoption. The evening was full of adoption stories, many kids who loved the chance to swim even though it wasn’t even 80 degrees, good food, reminders that God created us for community, and hope of what’s to come next.

On Sunday, our Guatemala mission team had a Trades of Hope fundraiser. It was a win-win, for sure. Our friend Becky Lile donated her commission from sales from our party to our team’s fund for the needed supplies for wheelchair distribution, home construction, and food and clothing distribution. Trades of Hope has fabulous fair trade accessories – jewelry, bags, stationary, scarves, home décor – that empower female artisans who are working their way out of poverty. It’s more than charity because these women are taught how to run a sustainable business.

(Actually, the party link will open for at least a few more days, if you’re interested in coming along side us for this fundraiser.)

Hope was the theme – and not just because I spent time with Hope That Binds and Trades of Hope. Seeing hope is choosing joy for my soul. {Tweet that.}

The history of my friendship with Katie – and other friends who have walked through so many different seasons of change with me – gives me hope because those moments then helped make me into who I am now. Meanwhile, new friends offer fresh hope that what we’re doing together now matters.

How are you experiencing hope these days?

I'm linking up with the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood Gathering, where hope abounds. 

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, May 13, 2015

Three Word Wednesday :: Inside-Out Transformation

On Monday afternoon, I already knew my week wasn’t going to look anything like I expected. My daughter had strep throat, my mother-in-law was on call to pick up Ben from school if we didn’t get out of the pediatrician’s office in time (which we didn’t), one appointment was postponed 10 days, another appointment was rescheduled from the previous week, neither of my first two childcare options were available to help me during a meeting later in the week, my own head and throat were feeling the effects a normal Kentucky spring, my husband had an unusually busy week …

I’m sure you understand.

We have all have Mondays like that. And sometimes Wednesdays too. Really, it doesn’t matter what day it is.

There are chores and kids and families and jobs and projects and deadlines and field trips and birthday parties and appointments and fevers and sports and thunderstorms and whatever else fills our days.

Sometimes I find myself wanting information on the whens and wheres and hows and whys of life. So many times I start out the week thinking my calendar is offering an accurate picture of life. It never does. Real life doesn’t fit into tidy boxes and our pre-scheduled time. {Tweet that.}

On Monday, my phone was dinging with texts between phone calls and I was scribbling new things on my calendar. And then I remember what really matters: God wants to transform me. It’s an ongoing, everyday process. And it doesn’t always means the Creator of time lets me in on the information and plans I want.

Transformation is greater than information. {Tweet that.}

I love thinking about how God is the perfecter of our faith. We can’t be perfected – as in the maturing process – without submitting ourselves to God. Although that’s indeed such a relief for those of us who want to keep trying to be better and do more, it’s still hard. It still requires approaching the throne of grace over and over and over and over again.

Especially on Mondays that offer surprises for the week. Especially on Wednesdays that have us weary. Especially on the weekends when we embrace rest.

“Who we are in our identity has been made perfect by Jesus once and for all. But our behavior is in the process of being perfected in him day by day.”
{Holley Gerth in “You’re Loved No Matter What”}

And that’s the transformation that matters, the one that changes us from the inside out.

Romans 12:1-2 is about not being conformed to this world. I especially love it from The Message:

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life — your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life — and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

In other words, focus on God and he’ll perfect you — perfect as the verb, not the adjective.

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." 

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

On raising a party planner

Cate asked if she could have a Frozen-themed party for the second birthday in a row. I told her to let it go and then tossed out some other party themes based on her current obsessions. Praise God the Boxcar Children – and the 150 books about these kids – won out.

I’m not exaggerating about there being 150 books in the series.

And my girl can tell you exactly which ones she’s read.

She pretty much planned her party and I went along with her details. I suggested a few things she embraced, but it was all rooted in her idea. Party favors were Boxcar Children books, 10 color pens, mini notebooks, and fuzzy bookmarks that were meant to be colored. My cake-decorating friend Courtney re-created an edible boxcar. The girls made their own boxcars – because, hello, why wouldn’t there be decorative paper and glue at a party with 15 girls?

Oh and there milk boxes as the party drink. Here’s how that happened …

Me: Hey, Cate, what kind of drinks do you want me to get for your party? I could get root beer or Fanta.
Cate: This is going to sound weird, but the Boxcar Children drank a lot of milk. You could get those boxes of milk, the different flavors.

Um, whatever. I barely like milk at appropriate times – like the mornings or with a very chocolatey piece of cake. I can’t even think about drinking it when I’m sweating. But 24 boxes of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry milk were drank up before the day was done.

We broke out a parachute and jump rope my mom brought – Grandmom for the party win, really. {Side note: These girls had some jump rope talents I didn’t know existed!} Those items weren’t boxcar-related, but, well, this was the first time in almost all Cate’s birthday party days that Mother Nature didn’t pour water from the cloud. Seriously, we were so glad to see the sunshine – even if it meant 89 degrees in the single digits of May.

I’m apparently raising a party planner. She’s into the details, the order of event, the invitations, the list of who has RSVPed they’re coming, and, of course, the socializing. I hope she’s into writing thank you notes when she’s recovered from strep throat.

And, really, I couldn’t be happier about raising a party planner. I like to have something else in common with my girl – the one I know God planned for me, the one who quickly taught me sharing DNA isn’t the most important quality in making a family, the one who has a kind heart.

I'm joining Jennifer Dukes Lee for #TellHisStory because celebrations are some of my very favorite stories to tell. And I'm linking with Mary Carver's Works for Me Wednesday because raising a party planner AND having a book-themed party 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."

Monday, May 11, 2015

On dragons and dirt and changing the world {a review}

When I finished reading “Dragons and Dirt” by Dalene Reyburn, I immediately began flipping back through, re-reading the parts I had marked. And when I saw marked, I mean entire paragraphs with notes jotted in the margins.

That’s how good it is.

The subtitle is “The truth about changing the world – and the courage it requires.” I wouldn’t have always thought I could be a world-changer. When I was a kid, I would have told you I wanted to be a teacher. Then I outgrew that and realized I loved to write. So I wanted to be a newspaper reporter. And that’s what I was before I became a momma. Before I decided I wanted to be Mom, I didn’t dream of becoming a mom.

But now I am – and it’s the most life-changing thing I’ve ever done. I’m still a writer. I write press releases for organizations I care about. I help causes I believe in by stringing some words together. I wrote an ebook that tells my favorite story – ironically, the one about becoming a momma and how that built my faith – and have other ideas for other books. I share my story here and in conversations around tables in my community.

But I’ve never set out to change the world.

Dalene’s words make me realize that’s what we’re called to do. Maybe we do by being a wife, mom, sister, daughter, aunt, friend, neighbor, housekeeper, writer, lawyer, realtor, fashion designer, farmer, banker, chef … or any other endless combination of roles. Maybe we do it in one role for one season before God calls us to something else.

Regardless, we can change the world, starting in our own souls, spilling over into our homes and offices and neighborhoods and churches and social media channels.

Of course we all have dragons – things like change, especially the unpredictable, unanticipated kind; desires for pleasures, prestige and possessions, and the distorted believe we need those things; and all sorts of misconceptions. We chase all sorts of things and people and places that aren’t grounded in truth.

“Jesus knew this would be hard. That’s why he said, ‘Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need’ (Matthew 6:33). Which means it’s not wrong to get excited about doing a PhD or walking the Inca Trail or dishing up seconds. Relish the good things God gives – the daily bread and the dessert – for his glory. But be aware that like all good things, they’ll enslave you if you let them. Check your intentions before tucking into whatever is on your plate. God has set you free. He wants to keep you that way. I pray that you won’t let this dragon seize you.”
{Dalene Reyburn in “Dragons and Dirt,” page 44}

To be free, Dalene reminds us we have to declutter our hearts, really forgive, stop comparing, give thanks, be brave one decision at a time, and rid our lives of pride. Like she writes in the book, “Comparison forgets that, as someone has said, the Kingdom is a co-op, not a competition” (page 75).

Celebrating with our people matters. Giving things for all things – our things and their things – matters. Community and relationships matter.

“I flung my joy, not my spite. I reminded myself that God didn’t love them more than he loved me. I reminded myself that he has promised his best for me, too, and that I wouldn’t want anything other than that. … God has different Kingdom plans for different people. He has shaped each of us for his purposes. That’s cause for celebration – and relief. I let the truth wash clean over me: you don’t have to be anyone but you. That’s why God made you you.”
{Dalene Reyburn in “Dragons and Dirt,” page 77}

This book made me think and encouraged me where I am. It’s packed with stories and truth that are written beautifully. And it reminded me whose I am and that where he has me matters – and behaving as if I really believe that could change the world.

I was provided a free copy of "Dragons and Dirt" from Kate Motaung on behalf of the author in exchange for a review. I'm linking this post with the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood. This post also contains Amazon affiliate links. 

Read some other reviews of this book :: Katie ReidAshley HalesJen Daugherty. Kate Motaung.

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, May 8, 2015

Mission to Guatemala

Sometimes I get too caught up in my own life. My own frustrations, shortcomings, dreams, friendships, and daily routine consume my thinking. Even the good things in my life sometimes blind to me to the bigger picture.

God’s giving me a chance to really step out of my life and serve others. Of course, I can and do serve here in my ordinary life.

But sometimes going elsewhere gives perspective. {Tweet that.}

(I say that, but I’ve never done anything like this. But I do know God calls us beyond ourselves.)

Greg, Cate and I are going to Guatemala for a week in July with a local mission team organized by some neighbors who are becoming friends. They’ve been going to work with Bethel Ministries for seven years, distributing wheelchairs; donating food, school supplies, and clothes to families; and building houses.

Honestly, I hesitated to commit to go this year because in my mind I saw my family of four going together – like missions are supposed to be put in a tidy box with a pretty bow on top. But I realized the three of us are supposed to do this now, regardless of how hard it is for me to leave Ben. That decision has been affirmed more than once since our January commitment.

(And let’s be honest, he’s going to have a grand time splitting the week between two grandmas.)

My girl has been asking questions and collecting school supplies. We’ve had bins for people to donate pencils and crayons – things many of us don’t count our pennies to buy – so some Guatemala families don’t have to choose between putting food on the table or sending their kids to school.

I realize we can’t solve poverty with one week of service, but we can give a few families a few less hard decisions to make in the short term and hopefully love like Jesus to make a lasting impact.

We’ve been fundraising this spring to pay for the projects we’ll complete while we’re there. Our travel costs are taken care of individually and are not part of these fundraisers. We’ve sold coffee, incredibly comfortable sheets, ribs and BBQ sandwiches, and all kinds of randomness at a two-day yard sale.

Now we are having a Trades of Hopes fundraiser, thanks to our local friend Becky Lile. And you don’t have to be local to participate in this latest fundraiser, although, local friends are welcome to join us for a fundraising party on May 17. (Let me know if you want details on that!)

Trades of Hope helps empower women out of the sex trade, sweat shops and poverty around the world by working with artisan groups in various countries. In addition to selling their lovely products, Trades of Hope teaches them entrepreneur skills to help change their futures. I have bracelets, a bag, a picture frame, and a journal that I love. I’ve gifted ornaments and scarves.

If you want to order, you have until May 17 to do so through this link. Becky’s generously donating her commissions from these sales to our team.

We’re grateful for the support we’ve received so far and looking forward to see what else God is going to do – both here and in Guatemala.

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, May 7, 2015

Exhaling Hope {a review & giveaway of Plumb's new album}

Plumb’s new album is about being breathing in God in a new way that happens with restoration.

But the message doesn’t stop with how we’re changed on the inside. The music encourages those who have been restored – which, really, can be any of us – to exhale and share our stories of redemption. In doing so, God is made know, despite our weaknesses.

“Exhale” is perfectly titled because as long as we have lungs we should be breathing in and out the hope only God gives. And that’s worship.

I love reading acknowledgements and thank yous in book and albums. Honestly, I don’t have many CDs, so one of the first things I did when “Exhale” arrived in the mail was read the lyrics and notes.

And I’m glad did.

Listen to what Plumb writes: “I have spent most of my life, much less my career, living for me. I believe in natural consequences, so, naturally, I crashed and burned in just about every way. In that place, I learned that I don’t exist for me but for the one who created me, died for me, forgave me and made me new. Jesus, you not only forgave me for my selfishness, and healed me and restored my home … you gave me a second change to use the gift you’ve given me to honor and glorify you with it, that others may know your hope.”

That’s what restoration is about.

Plumb sings about that in every song. Just look at the titles: Exhale. Lord I’m Ready Now. Resurrection. Great is Our God. Broken Places. Faithful. Restored.

I really love “When You Walk Into the Room.” It’s a song that cries out to God, knowing he brings light to any darkness. “Faithful” is anthem to cast out fear of isolation. So many songs proclaim the character of God – worthy of praise, true love, strong, faithful, our champion, healer, and protector.

“… I believe in resurrection
Stones will roll away before my eyes
I believe in new creation
You make all things new
Nothing's impossible for you
I believe in resurrection”

{“Resurrection” by Plumb}

I do too. And that what kept coming to mind while I listened to these 12 songs.

ABOUT PLUMB :: Tiffany Arbuckle Lee, better-known by her stage name Plumb, is a songwriter, recording artist, performer and author. Plumb has sold more than 500,000 albums and over two million singles worldwide, co-penned songs for numerous other artists, including Michelle Branch, Mandisa, Mandy Moore, Jaci Velasquez, and Natalie Grant, and had music placed in many films and television shows. Originally signed as a Christian Contemporary Music recording artist in 1997, Plumb is now known as well as or better in alternative rock, electronic dance music, and for the use of her music in film and television than she is in the CCM market.

ABOUT THE ALBUM :: “Exhale,” the seventh studio album from Plumb, expresses a new focus and vision. After the runaway success of “Need You Now,” which coincided with her own moving story of brokenness and ultimately healing, Exhale brims with worshipful songs of gratitude and hope.

The defining concept of “Exhale” was born from a sermon at Plumb’s home church, where her pastor Pete Wilson expressed the notion that the church doesn’t exist for itself. Rather, believers come to church to breathe in grace and truth, be changed, and then go out and “exhale” that hope into their surrounding community.

“That idea of exhaling hope hit me right away and I couldn’t get to the Notes section on my phone fast enough. I started writing the chorus of ‘Exhale’ right then and there,” Plumb said. “I have been made new by the ultimate hope, and I want to share and exhale that hope in every way I can.”

Learn more on social media :: Website. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. iTunes.

GIVEAWAY :: And I have a copy of this CD to give one of you! The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents. Just use the Rafflecopter widget below. A winner will be randomly selected on May 14.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Many thanks to FlyBy Promotions/Propeller Consulting LLC for providing me with a copy of this CD in exchange for this post as well as the one for the giveaway. The opinions expressed here are my own. If you have won a prize from FlyBy/Propeller in the last 30 days or have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win.

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."