Wednesday, September 30, 2015

About Those Essential Oils

So we finally did it. Our family jumped on the essential oil train. 

I had heard so much about essential oils and if you want my honest initial response: I thought it was hooey. You know by know that we're far from a health conscious, natural, organic family. We use prescription medication, buy dryer sheets, and (gasp!) eat at McDonald's sometimes often. So when I first heard about essential oils I knew immediately it wasn't for our family and put it in the same category as fairy dust and unicorns.

But then I started hearing more about them, the benefits of using oils, and smart friends (who didn't believe in fairy dust) using them. To be honest, when I started I relied heavily on my intelligent friends and all of the research they did (you know how we all have those friends who read all the papers, do all the digging, and then we go to them for the Cliff notes?), it started to make sense.

I decided to learn more for myself and it was amazing what I found (less like hocus pocus and more actual scientific studies) about how essential oils have been used for thousands of years for health and wellness and even cleaning. Essential oils are simply distilled and highly concentrated plant components.  And with our skin being the largest organ of our body, applying a concentrated oil can reach body systems quickly and effectively.

So, I took the plunge and got the premium starter kit last year (because really, the kit had all of the oils I wanted, a diffuser, and was by far the best value). I decided to purchase them from Young Living because their oils some of the purest and most concentrated on the market (not like a brand you can grab from the grocery store that's watered down or has fillers).

I immediately started using them and I was surprised how quickly they became a part of our family's routine. And here's the crazy thing: we actually rely on many oils for our health and wellness around our house now. You can hear me holler at the kids to go get their oil on often and as soon as there's a hint of a stuffy nose or a ache or pain, I run straight to our cabinet where the oils are kept. 

Here's a few ways I use some of our favorites:

We love lavender for our whole crew to help with sleep. We all sleep better when we diffuse this in the bedroom or put in on the back of our neck. 
I just discovered wool laundry balls for the dryer (this paired with my homemade laundry soap now makes me a true hippie). I thought I would miss the scent of dryer sheets but I add a drop of Purification and the laundry smells glorious (and is deodorized!) and the wool balls literally cut the drying time in half. 
Peppermint and Digize do wonders for the digestive system and Digize has literally changed my life. I was suffering with issues for over a decade and have found incredible wellness through this oil. If this was the only oil I has discovered through Young Living this whole thing would be worth it. (We also love using Peppermint for an extra burst of energy and have found it helps with tension related aches.) 
I love using Frankincense and Tea Tree Oil with my facial serum for clear and smooth skin. Truly, my face has never felt so soft! (OK - maybe it felt like this when I was 10 but the appreciation was definitely not there...) 
The moment someone sniffles or complains of a sore throat, I go straight to the Thieves oil and put in on their chest and feet. I could feel the yuck coming on this past weekend and began using it immediately. Within just a few hours I felt good as new. Thieves for the win. 
And remember my broken foot last year? The one that took FOREVER and a day to heal? When I started rubbing Panaway with coconut oil on my heal daily it helped a ton with my healing and recovery.

Those are just a few of the oils we use. It's been fun to learn and discover what works for our family and empowering to think I can turn to natural products for our health and wellness. We're still learning around here, and the great thing about Young Living is there's a whole slew of people in the same boat sharing and learning together.

So, there you go. I became a hippie last year and you didn't even know it. 

And just in case you want to become a hippie too and join in the journey, you can follow these step-by-step instructions and get yourself your own starter kit:
  • Go to this Sign-Up Page
  • Please make sure you've checked Young Living wholesale member (not retail customer---you won't get wholesale prices as a customer--it's a 24% discount and I promise you're not signing up for a cult or signing up to sell anything.)
  • Double check that the Sponsor ID and Enroller ID are both showing 2341020
  • Fill out your info and make sure you include your email! I can invite you to a private FB group filled with a ton of help to get started.
  • Select your kit ($160 premium starter kit is the best value--over a $500 retail value!)
  • You can choose to sign up for Essential Rewards if you want (it means you commit to ordering $50/month and you get reduced shipping. We use this because it keeps me current on my oils, I can accrue points for free product, and it helps me try new products for our family. But you can opt out of this now or at any time.)
  • You're all set!  

Also, if you happen to be local to Kansas City, I'll be hosting a make and take Monday, November 2nd at my place. You can come learn more about the oils and even make a few things to take home. Message me if you want more info!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Adoption Story: Bryan and Jenn

A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul. 
Proverbs 13:19

Bryan and Jenn had been longing for a child. A little one to love, to care for, and to fill their home with busyness and laughter. They contacted me last year to help them on their journey and after several phone calls, they carefully considered the next steps God had for them in their journey to become parents.  They started with Christian Adoption Consultants and within a few months they had completed their home study.

The next months were full of praying over situations; expectant mothers in need of adoptive families for their little ones. And this summer, they were matched with a brave mother who chose adoption as the best for her baby.

Bryan and Jenn welcomed their son into the world on July 23rd.

We are smitten with you and so in love. It has been a journey and we have waited a long time for you. God has clearly had His hand on your life from the beginning. We adore you, our precious son.

A special thanks to The Penny Grey Photography Company for the beautiful photo.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


It's hard to ignore all the media surrounding Planned Parenthood this summer. No matter where you land in this movement, I'd venture to say the videos that have emerged are upsetting and disturbing to say the least.

This week, a new hashtag has emerged, #shoutyourabortion, encouraging women to share their positive experiences with abortion. It's heartbreaking reading each celebratory hashtag and knowing each one represents such heartache and loss.

In response, a new hashtag was born. #shoutyouradoption is being broadcasted all over social media honoring women (and men) who have bravely and courageously chose life. In a world that celebrates death and selfishness along with comfort and ease, a movement has been born celebrating selflessness and love.

Last night, my Facebook page exploded with my adoptive families proclaiming to the world that adoption is redemption. That choosing life is an amazing sacrificial gift. That littles ones are meant to be celebrated and welcomed. I walk with amazing families every day who are amazing testaments to God's grace and the fact that love makes a family.

Here's just a few of the amazing posts. Search #shoutyouradoption for yourself and celebrate life and love and see how families have stepped into the brokenness of our world and honored brave women who choose life for their little ones.

If it weren't for our incredibly brave birth mother choosing life for her baby, we wouldn't have our family. Today, I just am reflecting on how grateful we are that she blessed us with such a gift, and that she knew adoption is an option! #shoutyouradoption  - Amy

This beautiful boy is 9 months old today! There aren't words to describe the miracle he is to us! We are so in love with him and will forever be grateful for his birth mom for choosing life for him. And we will love her always for choosing us to be his parents! She made a brave, selfless, sacrificial choice! SHE. CHOSE. LIFE.#adoptionisbeautiful #shoutyouradoption  - Christa

I will forever be grateful to the woman that chose life for our daughter. Plenty of friends and family told her to "just get an abortion," and that it would be over. But she chose bravery in choosing life. She chose a future for her daughter that offered redemption. She chose to set aside her desires and choose what was best for the little girl she was carrying. She made a choice that will bless my heart for eternity. 

Tonight I'm joining in a revolution! My dear friends,#adoptionisredemption. God's plan for these babies goes further than we can even imagine! Tonight I'm joining hands with those that have been blessed by adoption and celebrating those brave women who have and will choose life! #shoutyouradoption#adoptionisbeautiful  - Amanda

While we don't have our baby in our arms yet, we pray each day for our babies birth mom. She is choosing life. She is choosing love. She is brave. She is an intricate part of our lives even in this moment. #shoutyouradoption   - Joy

Because another woman selflessly chose #life. As I look at my precious son, I am forever grateful for her sacrifice and bravery in choosing to give him a future. I love her for loving him, and I celebrate all the other women who have made the same choice. 

I'm joining many of my friends in the adoption community to #shoutyouradoption tonight. Our lives have been forever blessed by adoption and the amazing women who chose not to #shoutyourabortion#adoptionisbeautiful  - Lily

A birth mother and an adoptive mother are both mothers. So incredibly thankful for Isaac's brave and selfless birth mother who loves him fiercely and chose life for him. We love her so much and are thankful she will always be a part of our lives.  #shoutyouradoption #adoptionisbeautiful #openadoption #babyisaac  - Kennerly

I will forever be grateful for the woman who chose LIFE for this tiny miracle! God has blessed us immensely and Emery is proof that God makes beauty from ashes! There are better option than abortion and my Sirus Emerson is LIVING proof! ‪#‎shoutyouradoption‬ - Ashley

Monday, September 21, 2015

Adoption Story: Matt and Emily

Matt and Emily have an amazing story. Almost exactly ten years ago, Emily walked in to find Matt unresponsive on their living room floor and their lives were forever changed. Matt had suffered from a major brain hemorrhage. After already dealing with infertility, they were sure their dream to have a family was dead. But Emily shares how God had different plans and how their family is living proof nothing is impossible for God...

We met in high school and have been together ever since. Our senses of humor drew us to each other and we easily grew into each other’s best friend. We dated throughout college and were married in July of 1998. Our marriage started out easy and happy, as we made our way in the grown up world. A few years later we struggled to start a family and hit our first bump in our road. We tried various fertility treatments and contemplated our options but were heartbroken at each failure.  All our baby plans were put on hold, though, when we hit a major bump in our road.  Matt suffered a life-altering brain hemorrhage in September of 2005. Completely unexpected and unpredicted, our lives were turned upside down. We spent the next few years focused on recovery and healing, assuming our dream to have a family was over. 

Slowly, over time, we began to realize our dream wasn’t necessarily over. Our close friends had a baby, our Goddaughter, and she quickly became a very special child in our lives. We have always adored our niece and nephew and treasured the relationships we had with them, but they came along at a very different time in our life. This baby came when we started to open ourselves up to the idea of being parents again – despite all of the changes in our lives. She loved Matt unconditionally. His chair was a built in stroller in which she was perfectly content to sit. Her eyes lit up when he came into the room and she smiled at the sound of his voice. But the joy that filled his heart as she one day toddled across the room; arms open wide, to hug him made him realize something important. He could love and raise that child as his own – regardless of whether or not she was biologically ours, and despite his physical disabilities. We truly believe it was God working in our lives, showing us then a glimpse of how things could be for us. We decided to pursue fertility treatments once again – but after failed attempts and suffering a miscarriage we found ourselves questioning whether we wanted to be pregnant, or wanted to be parents. Our Goddaughter laid the foundation for us, and it wasn’t a difficult question to answer – of course we just wanted to be parents. And so, we set out on this new journey, in hopes that God would work together our lives and that of a birth family - in His perfect timing. 

We hoped to be connected to an expectant mother who could see through to the core of who we are; faithful and committed. That she would see how deeply we desire to know the joys of parenthood despite the challenges we will face. And after months of waiting, we were finally matched! In August our son was born – four weeks early and things have been crazy and wonderful ever since! Being parents is more than we could have hoped for! We realize we are not typical adoptive parents - but we hope that others will see us and be encouraged - parents come in all shapes, sizes, abilities, and backgrounds!

In the months when we heard no after no – it was easy to become discouraged. To question whether or not this dream would ever come true. To wonder if we were pushing for something that just wasn’t meant to be. But now? Looking at this sweet baby, I have absolutely no doubt that he was meant to be. That our little family of three was meant to be. And that feels amazing. I am humbled. I am ashamed at myself for feeling doubtful. I am so incredibly grateful. I am overwhelmed with how much I love this baby already. I am just so glad we kept going – that we said yes – that we waited – and that God provided this amazing child. 

To hear more about Matt and Emily and follow along on their journey of adoption and parenthood you can find more on their blog, Karwoski Life.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Adoption Story: JT and Jill

JT and Jill will be some of the first to tell you that their life didn't turn out as planned. After being married for six years, with ten sweet babies in Heaven, and two years on an adoption journey, still having an empty nursery was not what they had dreamed for their family.

JT and Jill worked with me through Christian Adoption Consultants and I can't tell you what an honor it was to watch as they trusted Jesus with their journey. I'll let Jill tell you their story...

Life has not turned out as we planned...(but) God has taken our dreams and made them oh so much better! Six years, ten babies lost, two years on the adoption journey and after presenting to our 17th birth momma...on 7/17/15 Kade Isaac was born! All along the Lord continually reminds us that his promise is not that there will not be any pain but that in the pain He will give us hope and in the waiting he will give us patience and joy, just when we think we cannot endure another second. The Father that has loved us all along the difficult and scary journey says, "its time!"

May of this year, on a Sunday night, through tears and sobs I told the Lord "No more - I can't do this. My heart can't hurt any more, I can't cry any more tears, I can't hear the words 'she picked another family' again...please give us another assignment."  I was ready to stop the adoption journey.  We had just read a birth mom profile that night and although we were interested the cost was just too high...we felt so defeated!

Then a "suddenly" happened, just after Mother's Day! That Wednesday we discovered the cost had been lowered so we decided to ask to be presented...this was the 17th expectant mom we had presented to and we tried to not get our hopes up.  We asked to be presented that morning, we were presented that afternoon, and that night we got the call that were chosen that night we were having our first phone conversation with our birth momma! WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!

It was a beautiful whirlwind the next two months and when our birth momma let us know that she wanted us to be in the delivery room (c-section) we could hardly believe it.  A miraculous thing happened as we each held a hand as she had her epidural and held her hand though the birth. God intertwined heaven and earth, knitted hearts together and humbled us like we have never been humbled before.  

(Adoption) is such a wonderful picture of salvation; a gift so priceless it cannot be earned and one we do not deserve but receive with open arms!  

Special thanks to Amber Hogan Photography for these adorable pictures.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Adoption Story: Ryan and Regina

Sometimes it's knowing how to carry your heart that gets you through.

I've worked with many families on their journey to adoption with Christian Adoption Consultants. A lot of families believe the key to adopting is doing everything perfectly: having the right kind of profile, working with the right people, even being the "right" kind of family. Although there's absolute truth in being able to create a profile that tells your story and working with the right professionals (and really no truth in a certain kind of family), it's actually much simpler than that.

A key factor in families having a good adoption process is the way they carry their hearts through it all. A positive attitude, a constant trust in Jesus, and flexibility to allow for change make a world of difference. Although a couple never really knows what to expect, these characteristics make things go so much smoother. It can save a tremendous amount of heartache acknowledging that God is in control and all things always work for our good and his glory.

Ryan and Regina were amazing examples of this. They had a long road to parenthood.  But every single time Regina and I talked, she was always full of joy and had an incredibly gracious heart and attitude. There was a constant trust in Jesus' care for their family; knowing his timing and his plan would be best. And with that trust came a peace and contentment in their path to adoption. Ryan and Regina were able to be flexible and fluid; when things changed (or stayed stagnant for awhile), they rested in God's sovereign and perfect plan.

On a Saturday in August Ryan and Regina were matched with a courageous expectant mom. A mama who thought and prayed and dreamed of a family for her son. And that next Friday, just days later their son was born. The son that had been prayed and dreamed over by a couple across the county who would later have him in their arms for a lifetime.

I've seen God time and time again honor a couple's decision to trust him to be enough for them in a season of longing to become parents. This sweet little man will grow up in a home where I'm sure there will still be grace and patience and faith.

Friday, September 4, 2015

40 Feet Up

We had a pit stop at Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga today.

We were on the road and Jamy just turned to me and said, "we should go zip lining when we reach Tennessee." After a quick google search we found an ariel ropes course and a zip line that lasted most of our afternoon. It wasn't the plan but it was a great adventure (welcome to our life right now). 

I loved watching the kids on the course. Jackson was a rockstar. He's a little American Ninja Warrior in training so he blazed the trail ahead of us with no fear and our guide had to tell him to wait up. And Isabelle: she was brave. She was scared and unsure but she kept going. There are few times I'm been more proud of her. Both of them showed determination and perseverance on a course designed for adults (they made allowances for them to be some of the youngest there ever).

I was 40 feet up and trying to be brave as my kids watched me on a tightrope and I was struck at how much this mirrors our life right now. Crazy scary, lots ahead of us that's unknown, and reminding myself to take just the next step: the one right in front of me. If I look down I'll be completely paralyzed, if I stay in one place I'll start to get shaky, and if I look around I'll get distracted. 

If I bail I'll miss out on the adventure ahead. 

So helmets and gear on. It's time to suit up for an adventure...

Adoption Story: Dietrich and Christy

Some adoption stories happen quickly: decisions are made to dive in and things miraculously unfold. But others are written over time, when months can even drag into years of longing to begin a family.

Dietrich and Christy's story begin like that. They battled infertility and went through months of treatments that ultimately failed. When they began their road to adoption, that was also met with disappointments. They began with a local agency in 2013 but were discouraged after almost a year and a half and very few situations. Most local agencies work with far more families waiting to adopt than birth families. Their agency was very up front with them that sometimes their clients end up not adopting at all. Holidays like Mother's Day and Father's Day would come and go, and they would watch as friends and family announced their pregnancies and births with understandably heavy hearts.

But Dietrich and Christy were committed to building their family. When they came to Christian Adoption Consultants in May of 2014, they were already exhausted but hopeful. I walked with Dietrich and Christy as they presented time and time again to expectant mothers; offering their home as a place of unconditional love and honoring her choice for life and adoption. Each time the "no" resounded a little louder, stung a bit more as their journey seemed it would never end.

Another Mother's Day came and went. This last May there were honest and heartfelt conversations. "Maybe we really were not meant to become parents. Maybe we should give up. Maybe this will never happen for us."

But each time, I watched this amazing couple continue on. They knew in their hearts that pressing on was what they needed to do, regardless of the outcome. They decided to present one last time...

This year, just three weeks after a Mother's Day that was full of grief, they were matched with an expectant mother due quickly. And just like that, everything changed. 

They welcomed their daughter into the world on July 1st. Dietrich and Christy have literally had an army surround them with support and love who are just as excited about this sweet little girl as they are. Dietrich and Christy have also been blessed to share a beautiful relationship with the birth family (they all thought they would like a closed adoption but after meeting have grown a sweet and natural friendship).  

As Christy was looking over these past several years at their journey to bring their daughter home, she shared, "When people say God will provide, he does in a bigger way then you can imagine."

Every time I think of Dietrich, Christy, and their daughter, I will forever think of Ephesians 3:20.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us...

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Disney Disclaimer

We've been planning our trip to Disney for almost 2 years now. As you can imagine, we've been planning and dreaming and hopeful about this vacation to create sweet once-in-a-lifetime memories for our family. We leave tomorrow. And just last week our lives got hit with a bomb. One of the life-changing kind that makes you stop in your tracks and feels like a punch in the gut when you're not prepared.

And like any family in our position, we wondered, "Should we still go?" With much prayer and even godly counsel we're still packing up to go to Florida in less than 24 hours.

Honestly, we're headed to "the happiest place on earth" during a really dark time for our family. This is one of those times that I wonder at God's sovereignty. Not if He is or not. But what in the world must be in store for us. (Admittedly for all the weeks for our lives to hit the fan, the week before Disney would not have been my first pick.) This is one of those times I trust that He is good and wise and kind. One of the times I put all my hope and trust in the Gospel and still wonder what purpose He has.

In a world where Instagram feeds only tell half the story, I guess I wanted mine to tell all of it (or at least most of it). That you'll probably see us posed in front of a magical castle, laughing with Mickey, and having a grand time. Our smiles will be real. The memories created will be beautiful. But they (like so many things in life) will also be mixed with heartache and grief. In a crazy way this trip will memorialize beauty and ashes for the four of us.

I guess I wanted to let you know you're not the only one who smiles genuinely for the camera but also has spaces of grief where the picture doesn't tell the whole story.

I'm learning to be more comfortable with this reality. The in between of living life when things can be wonderful and horrible; bitter and sweet all at the same time. Both can be true in the same moment. It's the grace He gives to live in the already and not yet of His kingdom 

I'm thankful God is gifting our family with a vacation filled with sweet memories and I'll take it as His grace, even in the midst of brokenness.

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