Part of Me Blog

sending our love

Adoptionlissa-anglinComment

One of the things I have been most looking forward to has been sending our little one a care package. Now that we've accepted her referral, we finally get to send her something!

My experiences with care packages have typically been as the recipient...namely, in college- when I would get a large box from my mom filled with all the goodies I was too cheap (or too broke) to buy. I've sent things to friends and family- but never to a daughter I had yet to meet. 

Thankfully, many have gone before me and so I heeded their wise advice on what to send. In China, there are several companies that specialize in care packages & delivery to orphanages and you can order items through them or send a package yourself and have them deliver it to your child. We opted for the second option, because I knew I wanted to hand pick everything. One thing I am not sure of, however, is whether or not she will actually come home with the items I sent. There are mixed responses on this- some families say that their children come to them with all of the items they sent- and some (like clothing) are shared between all of the children in the home or orphanage. So, I couldn't be too attached to the items I sent- were they to be passed on to another child, that is just fine!

I had already collected several things for her, but because we didn't know what might actually make it home, I decided to get a few things that I wouldn't miss and save the most special things for when she is back home. So, here is what we sent:

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1) Swaddle blanket- Both Knox and Liv have loved these lightweight blankets and still request them for long car rides. This one is one of Liv's old ones. We included a hand-me-down for a couple of reasons- one, we have plenty more at home, and two- it smells like our home already. We are hoping that the smell will become familiar and help us be a tad less scary when we finally meet in China.

2) Baby doll- It was noted on one of the files we received that she loves playing with dolls (which is SO perfect because her sister does too!). So I knew I needed to send her one. Liv had already tried to steal this one a couple of times before I got it in the box to mail! Haha!

3) Pajamas- I half expect her to be wearing these the day we receive her in China, having been mistaken for regular clothes! I'm already regretting not putting in any actual outfits, haha- oh well, we shall see!

4) Family photo album from Pinhole Press- this is the MOST important item I sent. (Thank you Lauren Clark Photography for the awesome photos!) Because she is just two I really wanted to find a book with thick, easy to turn pages. I am praying that seeing our faces will make us more familiar and less scary for her, and that God uses this book and these photos to show her love, safety and hope. I know she's only two, but there is no limit to what God can do!  Many adoptive families have said that their children recognized them immediately upon meeting because their caregivers had gone through their family photo album with them daily. So neat and a testament to the work that they do.

One of the coolest parts about using a service like this is that they include a free letter translation. So, one day last week I sat down to write my first letter to my almost two year old daughter, whom I have yet to meet in person. Talk about a big task!

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Rather than get poetic (which doesn't translate very well), I was short and sweet. I also wrote a longer note to her foster family (she has lived in a foster family most of her life- something we are so thankful for). Writing that second note was more emotional than the first! How do you thank someone for giving your child a shot at a home and family? My gratitude for them is so huge...but that's another blog post. 

Lastly, we also sent a USB flash drive with a request to photograph everything! I would be so overjoyed to have photos of the home she lived in, the places she slept, ate and played...the faces who took care of her. We do not know if we will get to meet her foster family or see where she lived, and we won't know until we are there- but for her sake I'm making it my job to gather as much information as I can about her life in China. 

I cried when I took this package to the post office and the clerk told me it would arrive February 23rd. That's just 2 days before her 2nd birthday- so there is a chance it will arrive to her on her actual birthday! Also- fun fact- because her birthday is 1 day after Liv's, this year they will technically be celebrating at the exact same time! China is 12 hours difference from Texas- so one's birthday breakfast will likely also be the other's birthday dinner. I treasure things like this in my heart. 

Hope you enjoyed this post! I've got so much more to write about our journey, so stay tuned!


I'm also selling these cute personalized zipper pouches and keychains to pay for the last few fees we have- I'd love to make one for you!

FRESH OUTLOOK • playlist

LIFESTYLElissa-anglinComment
We are about DONE with this cold winter weather. Entertaining kiddos inside all day is making us a little cray cray.

We are about DONE with this cold winter weather. Entertaining kiddos inside all day is making us a little cray cray.

When it comes to listening to music, Shawn and I tend to annoy each other.

Shawn loves the beat, the individual instruments..."did you hear that sweet loop"?

And I'm like, "did you even listen to the lyrics?!"

So when we both like something, it's like...explosions in the sky.

(+1000 points if you get that reference)

I'm constantly updating my Spotify playlists, and today I'm sharing one that is just chock FULL of positive/upbeat/happy/vibey/go-get-em-ness. It's the music I play when I want to just get lost in the music, sing out the lyrics and shake my booty a little. So, this one is for you, girl who finally got out of town and has a road trip ahead of her. Or mom who needs to forget that your kid just peed on the floor and you still have a load of laundry to fold. You got this. Just put on this playlist and GO.

I'm calling it FRESH OUTLOOK because it's still the beginning of a new year(ish) and all of these songs have me feeling just so darn optimistic. I hope you love it. 

Click here to open it in the Spotify app! 

Let me know if you have a listen!

the day we got the call!

Adoptionlissa-anglinComment

January 8, 2018.

Shawn and I had just returned from Houston, where we photographed and beautiful wedding. I had written this blog post just 7 days prior. (If you haven't read it yet, go- it's a great precursor to this one!) The kids were back at school after Christmas break, giving me some quiet time in our house – something I treasure dearly. Somehow, I had finished up all of my work for that day, and had decided to sit down and draw. This is something that I have been wanting to focus more on as of late, and so I signed up for an online bootcamp. It’s been really fun so far!

January‘s assignment for the bootcamp was to draw the contents of my purse, so I had dumped everything out on the table and was giving it a go. And then the phone rang.

For four years, I had imagined that moment. When I would look down and see a Virginia number pop up on my screen (our agency is located in Virginia). There have even been a few times that I’ve received a call from Virginia and it turned out to be a telemarketer! They didn’t get the warmest response :-). But this time, it was real. It was happening.

I picked up the phone to hear our agency coordinator say, "Hi Lissa, it’s Leah – do you have a few minutes?" Um, yes- I have many minutes. However many minutes you want to have!

Leah then said the words I’ve been hoping to hear for so many years..."So we received several referrals, and I have a file for your family to review..."


In Chinese adoption, adoption agencies receive files on specific children from the Chinese government, and then they are able to match those files with the families on their waiting lists. There is no rhyme or reason, nor cadence to the frequency in which they receive files, and it often takes quite a while for the files to travel through all of the necessary offices within each government for them to finally arrive in the hands of the adoption agency. This is one reason that most of the children adopted from China are at least 18 months old- it simply takes time for the files to reach the agency's hands, and children keep growing. :)

They then refer those files out individual families, one at a time. Our specific file was exclusive to our agency for a period of 21 days, and in order to keep the process as efficient as possible, we needed to be able to review her information, and make a decision within 72 hours – so that if in the case that we chose not to accept this referral, they could then refer her to another family. So, we needed to make a decision relatively quickly.


Leah talked me through the files she had on our daughter.

She is almost two years old, born 1 day and 1 year after our daughter Liv.

There was a newborn photo included- which is unheard of and something we are so thankful to have- and a very small passport-style photo of her at one year old. The rest of the files were all medical records that had been translated into English. I talked with Leah for a half hour, and then called Shawn, still in total shock.

Our late-night reading has looked a little different lately- this book "Mine In China" is GOLDEN if you are adopting from China.

Our late-night reading has looked a little different lately- this book "Mine In China" is GOLDEN if you are adopting from China.

Shawn was up at our store, which we were in the process of closing down for good. He had been working his tail off for at least a month now, working from 9 AM to 7 PM, and doing everything he could to make sure the transition was smooth. I hardly even knew what to say other than. "we got the call! THE call!" I don’t think he had any idea it was coming.

The next 45 minutes seems like hours as we waited for Leah to email us her photo, and the rest of her files. I had dreamed of opening this email together with Shawn, sitting at home – but when it came down to it, we couldn't be in the same place and just didn’t care anymore! We had a new daughter!

When the email finally came, I just cried. There are so many details about her and her story that our evidence of God‘s great love for us. Even now, weeks later, I am realizing on a daily basis how detailed and specific an extravagant our God is in the way he loves us. Those are the things I want to be sure to share here in this space.

Once we received her information, we knew we needed to get a few consultations with doctors. Our pediatrician took time out of his busy day (hello flu season!), just look over our files and discuss them with us. We were also able to speak with a group of doctors who offer this service for free for adoptive parents. We are also very thankful for Dr. Chambers of Children's of Alabama who reviewed her files for us as well and went over every detail. Dr. Chambers is not only an international adoption specialist, but she has daughters adopted from China as well, so that was extra comforting to me. Once we had the doctors' professional opinions, we were all in.

At this point, we submitted our LOI (Letter of Intent to Adopt) to the People's Republic of China, and would wait for a LOA (Letter of Acceptance) before anything was official. It was a tough few weeks not being able to be public about our referrals we waited, but at least we had some photos to look at 1000x a day!

Once we received the official LOA, we celebrated! And began a new mountain of paperwork, haha...

Remember how I mentioned her birthday earlier? Our daughter was born on February 25, 2016. This is a big deal because we wanted at least a one year gap between Liv and our newest addition, which is another part of the reason we have waited so long (17 months). (Our agency won't refer us any children that didn't match the requests we had made when we first began our adoption process- i.e. gender, age range and special needs we were comfortable with). I couldn’t believe it when Leah told us her birthday – it is literally one day and one year after Liv's! I feel like this is such a special detail because over the past few years, I have had many desperate conversations with God where He has graciously heard me ask why we continued to wait over and over. I feel like in giving our new daughter a birthday literally one day and one year after Liv's, he saying to me, "See? I didn’t make you wait one more day then you needed to". 

I also think that it is no mistake that we received our referral at the same time we were closing our store. Shawn has been more available to help than he has in the past 6 years and right now I am SO thankful for that. We have about 1000 plates spinning right now and I have needed his help so much. I also know that the Lord has used our new daughter to plant hope in our hearts when we could be focused on the end of this chapter. 

You may have noticed I haven't shared much about her medical needs or any photos of her yet. We have decided to wait until we are with her in China to share photos of her, and wait until we are back home and can see our doctors here to share about her medical diagnosis. I can tell you- she is adorable, as big as Liv already, and that her medical needs (as far as we know) are surprisingly low-maintenance and do not seem to inhibit her whatsoever. Thanks for being understanding about this- her privacy and her story are worth protecting and are really hers to tell, so we want to be sure to honor that. I do plan to share more about her medical needs specifically- simply because I think that is one of the things that concerns people most when considering international adoption- but we want to make sure we have the best understanding of everything first, and that will take a few doctor visits here in the US first. :)

So, she will be two by the time we receive her China. This makes me very excited and also very nervous to have a two, Three, and seven-year-old – but I can’t have been the first, right?!?


To answer a few other questions I have received, I am just going to list out a few things below:

She does not know any English yet, and we do not know any Mandarin, really – but we are going to do our very best, and trust in time will be speaking the same language :-) One friend recommended learning simple words in Mandarin and teaching her sign language to bridge the gap. I love this idea and plan on doing that. We also have some helpful apps.

We do not know our specific travel dates yet, as we are waiting for some paperwork to process, but we hope to travel in April. Our trip will be about 2 1/2 weeks, and we will bring her home permanently. It is just one trip. During our time in China, we will go through several appointments, a medical review, and wait for her visa to process. When she lands on US soil, she will be an American citizen!

We plan to take both Knox and Liv with us, as we believe they would be present were we having a new biological child, we want them to be part of our new daughter's story as well.


Thanks for reading! I'm planning another post specifically about our trip to China next. Feel free to leave questions in the comments section- I think adoption is awesome and want to educate as much as I can about it. 

Related blog posts:

Why we chose International Adoption

Why we said "Yes" to special needs

12 lessons from 12 years together

HOME + LIFESTYLElissa-anglin2 Comments

The last week of 2017 Shawn and I celebrated 12 years of marriage. We have now been together longer than we haven't.

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One morning at breakfast- side note, I loooooove vacation breakfast. It's my favorite thing to do while we are away- Lots of coffee, no rush...and croissants! YES. Anyway, we started talking about some of the things we've learned over the years. Most were lessons we'd learned the hard way- and continue to learn. Some things could be their own book. 

But for the sake of self-actualization, and in hopes that they might benefit you, dear reader, I wanted to list out Top 12 (one for every year- get it?!). Let’s dive in:

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  1. When you’re at life’s crossroads (major life changes), be together. This is more fully (and more eloquently) explained in Ann Swindell's book "Still Waiting". I love the concept of still being "together"- with God and each other- as you face new challenges (which WILL happen).
  2. All feelings are valid and are often indicators of deeper heart issues. Listen to your spouse- their feelings deserve respect even if they don’t make sense to you.
  3. Dream together. Finances, careers, family, giving. Share your BHAGs often (big, hairy, audacious goals). Most of the time, our best tools to execute those BHAGs are our bank accounts and calendars. The way we manage them determines how our life is run.
  4. Margin is important- time for kids, health, finances, alone time. Again, this has to be part of the calendar to happen.
  5. Kids have been the most wonderful, joyful "interruption" we’ve encountered in marriage. Before we had kids, we would consider all the things that we’d no longer be able to do once they were here- but the truth is, once we had them, we just wanted to do those things WITH our kids.
  6. Praying together really matters. I posted about how we use focus words to pray for our kids- well, we do this for each other too and it has massively helped us encourage and establish identity in Christ for each other.
  7. Sex gets better. Just in case you were worried. :)
  8. You’re on the same team. Support each other publicly and privately. Show up for their stuff. Respect them with your words and actions (especially in public). I struggle with this as sarcasm is one of the many languages I am fluent in. 
  9. Your spouse is going to change just like you will. Always referring to the “good old days” can be damaging and dishonoring to the person your spouse has become. They’ve likely worked hard to improve certain areas of life. Evaluate and change expectations as needed- of your spouse and of yourself
  10. Counseling is a good idea. Even if you don’t have “issues”. Do it regularly and without shame.
  11. Infidelity can take different forms- financial, physical, emotional. Don’t let those seeds grow, much less get planted. Establish mental, emotional, and physical boundaries that are agreed upon by both spouses (this means you have to talk about it together). Some of our boundaries are: no time alone with a person of the other sex, all-access to each other's phones & computers (this includes knowing passwords and checking social media messages and activity) and using outside internet monitoring services and filters. Set up trustworthy accountability partners of the same sex and use them. This means be intentional with another man/woman in biblical, honest, soul-bearing vulnerability. It’s awkward sometimes, but it’s worth it.
  12. Marriage takes priority over care for our children. The BEST thing we can do for our children is to keep our marriage intact. I believe that our generation's biggest challenge as parents will be to raise children that aren't entitled. Teaching them that they are loved and important but that your marriage comes first is essential to their understanding of where they fit. When we were first married, someone advised us to date monthly, retreat quarterly, and vacation yearly. So far, we've done pretty well. It hasn't always been easy and many times I leave with a heavy amount of mom guilt, but that soon fades after a full night of sleep with no tiny feet jumping on me at 7 am. :)

I must say- these lessons are not hard and fast. We are not professional counselors or ministers- but thank goodness for those who are- we rely on them heavily! We’ve seen them help godly people overcome addiction, infidelity, major disrespect and broken trust. We also lean hard on Jesus.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
— Ecclesiastes 4:12

Here's to braiding well, Shawn. You, me, and Jesus.

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These images are all from a fast trip to NYC we took for our 10 year anniversary. 

dustin + cassidy wedding

PHOTOGRAPHYlissa-anglinComment

I knew leading up to Dustin and Cassidy's wedding that it would be nothing short of EPIC. And friends, it was. Dustin and Cassidy are a special blend of charisma, fun, and sentimentality- and together they have touched a lot of people by just being them.

Their early December wedding was at First United Methodist Church in Lubbock, and the Christmas poinsettias that decorated the sanctuary perfectly complimented the rich wine-colored dresses and snowy white muffs the bridesmaids carried. Cassidy was essentially the most perfect snow queen I have ever seen- in a white lace dress with a keyhole back and shoes dripping in rhinestones. 

We were granted some beautiful sunlight for portraits before the ceremony, but after the sun went down, the real fun began. Seeing as Cassidy is the owner of Dance Warehouse (recently voted Best of the West AGAIN), there were several choreographed dances at their fabulous reception- including one that Cassidy had no idea was coming. It was the sweetest moment to see little dancers (along with their teachers- many of whom were bridesmaids) flood the dance floor to perform for the new Mr. and Mrs.!

Some of my favorite images from this wedding were the dancing photos that I was able to do some light painting with. I love these because they really capture the feeling of the reception- what a celebration!

Thank you, Dustin and Cassidy, for trusting us to capture such a special day- you are truly #perfectlypeters!

Hair: Ciara Brashers and Shyla Wilson, Encore Salon

Makeup: Libby Griffith

Cakes: Marla Felton

Band: Soul Grammar

Floral: Grayce Floral

Reception: Overton Hotel

Linens: Red Letter Linens

Stationery: Little White Invite

Ice Sculptures: Lubbock Ice Chef

Transportation: White Knights Limousine

Video: Adam Paul Stone Productions

Event Coordination: Jill Leven of Eat, Drink and be Marry

liv jumping on the bed

MOMLIFElissa-anglinComment

I had an impromptu shoot with Liv a few weeks ago and am finally getting some time to edit them. These are some of my favorite images I've shot of her because they are just completely her! Messy hair, baby dolls, and lots of jumping. 

I shot these with my D750 with a 24-70 2.8 lens. I stayed right around 2.8 1/500 with my ISO at 1250 the entire time. 

I also shared my editing process in my Moms Who Snap group earlier today and that video is available to watch for the next couple of days if you'd like to check it out!

Ready to harness the power of your fancy camera and learn to shoot in manual? Or want to learn how I use Adobe Lightroom to edit? Check out my Skillshare classes! They are perfect for beginners- http://www.partofmeblog.com/photoworkshops/

Click on either image below to get 2 free months of Skillshare- more than enough time to complete both classes!

my big 2017 book review

HOME + LIFESTYLElissa-anglin1 Comment
You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.
— Charlie "Tremendous" Jones

Last year on January 16, I posted this image:

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Books I'd completed were on the left, and books to finish were on the right. I was pretty disappointed that in an entire year I'd only managed to finish 4 books (albeit great ones). 

Here are my stacks from this year:

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The BAD news is, several of the books I *meant* to read just sat on the shelf. (Sorry Brené, I know you are so amazing and I watch all your Ted Talks!) Annnnnnd, I've already read both Ordering Your Private World and The Connected Child- so I was just hoping for refreshers on those. 

The GOOD news is, I mixed up the sides in my newer image and my completed books are actually on the RIGHT this time! 

I thought I would do a quick review/recommendation on all of the books I was able to finish in 2017. So, if you are so enticed, READ on!

FINISHED READS FROM 2017:

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Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother, Xinran

This book is complied of interviews of real Chinese birth mothers- meaning, they either chose to give up their babies shortly after birth or were forced to give them up because of China's one-child policy that was in place from 1979 to 2015. The author is a Chinese radio journalist who asks the mothers to not only tell their stories but also asks them what message they wish to tell their daughters. 

Of course, I cried during the majority of the time I read this book. All of the stories are different circumstantially, but the vast majority of the mothers Xinran speaks with are wrecked with heartbreak and guilt. I felt that the book helped me understand some Chinese cultural perspectives better, especially those regarding birthing/pregnancy and attitudes toward family and legacy. It's an emotional read for sure. 

Quotable: "She's so small, poor little thing, and sending her to an orphanage would upset even the spirits of her dead parents!"

 

Uninvited, Lysa TerKeurst

I read Uninvited as part of a women's bible study and loved it. It was perfect for discussion amongst a group of women because though we can seem very "together", we still ALL deal with feelings of not belonging and not being enough. This book centers a lot on the mind-wars we have waging as women and our tendencies to fall into comparison traps, idolatry and critical spirits. I LOVE Lysa's honest and vulnerable position she takes as the author- using scenarios from her life that make the reader realize that "yes, other women actually DO deal with that type of thinking". She offers a lot of truth and hope, and there were many "ouch" moments for me, like the quotable I'm selecting:

Quotable: "If we become enamored with something in this world we think offers better fullness than God, we will make room for it."

 

The 5 Second Rule, Mel Robbins

I think I stumbled upon this book via a viral Ted Talk of Mel's. In it, she was describing her very simple method of getting anything done- the 5 Second Rule. This book came at the perfect time for me because I had just started working out on the regular and was really committed to finally losing the baby weight I'd been having on to for a couple of years. I realized I was already using a version of her 5 second rule in my workouts to get through the really un-fun parts, and after reading the book, it was amazing to be educated on exactly why it works. 

I enjoyed reading this book (there are a TON of great quotables) as a business owner and mom who always has a full plate, but I kept wishing there were a little more Jesus in it. Meaning, there is a big opportunity here make "I can do all things" the mantra and forget the "through Christ" part. However, it is definitely worth a read and completely applicable to many areas of everyday life. 

I also decided to download this one on Audible so I could listen during a plane ride and it was almost better than the book because Mel reads it so you are able to hear the emotion in her voice, as well as some off-script commentary. 

Quotable: "Forget motivation; it's a myth. I don't know when we all bought into the idea that in order to change you must 'feel' eager or 'feel' motivated to act. It's complete garbage. The moment it's time to assert yourself, you will not feel motivated. In fact, you won't feel like doing anything at all."

 

China's Hidden Children, Kay Ann Johnson

So this book is not for the leisure reader. It is literally a 200 page research paper on China's one-child policy. About the time l realized that it wasn't going to be an easy read, I was too far in- and just HAD to finish it, just so I could say I did. So this is sort of my "extra credit" book that I'm just glad I was able to finish, haha.

I DID gain some very insightful knowledge into the effects that the one-child policy had on real people, as the author did very thorough real-life investigation into what actually happened vs. what the government may have been saying about their policies. It WILL be very helpful for us in the future, I think, though...because we are adopting a girl and the one-child policy is bound to be brought up, even though she would be born years after the policy was removed.

Quotable: "Thus in a little more than a decade the ground had shifted from an abundance of 'unwanted' healthy baby girls flowing into government institutions in central south China, an area that had pioneered international adoption in the 1990s, to a dearth of healthy babies available for any kid of adoption both inside and outside the orphanages."

 

Still Waiting, Ann Swindell

This book, during this year of my life, was salve on my heart. It was not what I expected- in the best way possible. Ann vulnerably shares the story of her personal wait in correlation with the story of the bleeding woman in the Bible recorded in the book of Mark. I (wrongly) assumed that this book would deal heavily with infertility and the struggles related to wanting children, and though that is mentioned, it is not the sold focus of the book- which I love for the fact that it conveys the significance of any type of "waiting"- for healing, for provision, for anything, really. It did appeal to my adoptive momma heart as this year has been tougher than others for me emotionally. I have already recommended this book to about a dozen friends.

The very best thing about this book is the various ways Ann injects importance into the waiting process. She communicates all the ways God loves us in and through a wait. She gives hope as to why we may be waiting, and all the while she is forgiving, human, and understanding of the unique struggles a "waiter" experiences. 

Quotable: "That was how I started to understand how people become bitter, how the seeds of anger turn into deep roots of dismissal when it comes to trusting God."

 

At Home in the World, Tsh Oxenreider

You guys, if you read ONE book on this list, read this one. Immediately after finishing I felt the need to recommend it to several specific people I thought would enjoy it and proceeded to over-emotionally explain to them all the reasons I thought that they, specifically, would love it too. Not creepy or weird at all.

This book chronicles the real-life around-the-world trip author Tsh and her family (husband and 3 small children) take on a year long journey. Shawn and I have always discussed how important it is for us to give our children a great worldview- that is, we want them to understand who they are in regard to the rest of the world, and at the same time be able to appreciate the different. I love the bravery and the honesty in this book, along with the way Tsh appeals to your every sense as they experience a new culture. It's a lesson in minimalism, living with intention, making room for the spontaneous, and in the end- a true appreciation of home.

I also listened to this on Audible as it is read by Tsh, and it was wonderful there too!

Quotable: "Travel has taught me the blessing of ordinariness, of rootedness and stability. It can be found anywhere on the globe. It's courageous to walk out the front door and embrace earth's great adventures, but the real act of courage is to return to that door, turn the knob, walk through, unpack the bags, and start the kettle for a cup of tea."

 

Of Mess And Moxie, Jen Hatmaker

Of course, Jen is a fave. This was the new book she came out with this year and it did not disappoint. Jen makes lots of great arguments about what it really looks like to be a decent mom and wife (the chapter on exercise is hilarious)- but mostly she makes you feel better about all of your life efforts, be they Pinterest-fail-y, or not.

My mom and I listened to this book on our way to Round Top (via Audible) and it was fun to not only laugh together but also get some great conversation out of the deeper messages in the book (like dealing when you feel rejection from the church). The chapter on Bonus Moms has given me a new adjective to add to the names of my closest girlfriends.

Quotable: "How To Find A Missing Child: 1) Prepare to take a shower or go to the bathroom. 2) Shut door.  Programming Note: The missing child should barge in immediately, but should this method fail, silently open a candy bar or start a very important phone call. Look down: there is your kid."

 

WHAT I LISTENED TO ON AUDIBLE:

Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life, Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush

This was a great memoir by the Bush twins if you followed their "growing up" years, have Texas roots, or want to hear some fun behind-the-scenes accounts of what life is like when your Dad is the President. Read by the authors.

Capital Gaines: The Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff, Chip Gaines

This one was a little meh- possibly because I'm more Joanna that Chip, but I did recommend it to Shawn. Easy listen.

The Whole Brain Child: Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind, Daniel J. Siegel

Listening to this on Audible was difficult because it is very clinical. This is literally a book on how your child's brain works, and how you can use that information to help nurture your child. There are some great techniques and information here, but I kept wishing I had the physical copy so I could refer back to it in the future.

The Magnolia Story, Chip and Joanna Gaines

Not a new book anymore, but I did enjoy hearing their story from the very beginning. The entrepreneurial spirit runs deep and so that part of me was revved up once I'd finished.

Talking as Fast As I Can, Lauren Graham

Probably only for Gilmore/Parenthood/Lauren Graham fans. Her insights and memoirs are fun and wonderful. Easy, enjoyable listen- especially because Lauren reads. 

ON MY LIST FOR 2018:

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There is No Good Card For This: What to Say and Do When Life is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love, Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell

I love Emily's illustration and that was the primary reason I was drawn to this book- but empathy and showing up when others are hurting is something I'd like to be better at.

A Million Little Ways, Emily P. Freeman

I was given this book by Alexandra, and I'm about 3/4 through. Emily Freeman is another favorite author of mine and there are so many gems of truth in this book. Amazing read if you are a creative who is also a believer in Jesus.

Wild and Free, Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgon

Why haven't I finished this yet? Maybe I just want to be boring and shut in? I don't know. Completion will happen.

Gracelaced, Ruth Simons

This is the most gorgeous devotional, you guys! It features the artwork of Ruth Simons as well as some perfectly-timed words of wisdom and scripture references to dwell on. I am excited to pick this up from time to time throughout the year.

 

And that's it! My hope is that some of you might pick up one of these and read them yourself. If you do, please let me know- I always love impromptu book club discussions. 

I also didn't expect to be talking about Audible so much, but if you are teetering on getting a membership, you can get 2 free audiobooks and 30 days free with this link!

a mini-tour of the mcentyre bunker house

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I FINALLY got to visit my sister and brother-in-law's new home in Waco last weekend. They have already poured a lot of love into this unique home and I could not wait to see it, because....it's underground!

That's right. You literally can not see the house from the street. In order to enter, you must drive down the winding driveway, where the façade is finally revealed. This actually allows the home a gorgeous view of the bamboo trees and flower beds as opposed to asphalt. 

I'm waiting until it's a touch greener to photograph the exterior of the home (if you watch my Insta-stories I did a little preview there), but for now I have a mini-tour of their living areas and guest bedroom!

I was extremely curious to see how the space would work, seeing as 3/4 of the house has no access to natural light. Thankfully, my sister has all the talent anyone could ever need to furnish and decorate the space :). 

Our guest room was so cozy and much brighter than I expected seeing as it has no windows! I love the way Lauren decorated it- I would describe her style as speakeasy chic. ;)

Even the hallway had some sass and substance. I love how she used this large lamp to fill and brighten the space. The antique telephone is from her husband's family.

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The main living area is home to most of the window space and underwent major renovation when they moved in. I am totally impressed by their vision for the space and commitment to keep the original characteristics of the house, like the Saltillo tile and arched bookshelves.

Last up on this mini-tour is the dining area. While we were there, she had it decorated for Christmas with vintage ornaments. She and Corey installed the mural behind the table and it beautifully compliments the dark blues and oranges featured in the rest of the main room. 

Their bunker home is such a cool space- and this is only a small portion of it! I will have to get back to photograph more as they are able to work on it. Currently, they have plenty on their plates as Milo All Day is set to open this spring! (Pun completely intended ;)

little "I'm faithful" reminders

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When we first began the adoption process, I was an adoption blog sponge. Meaning, I would stay up till 2 am reading people's stories of their own adoptions- with tears streaming down my face- as I cried and laughed and wondered what it would all look like for us. 

Gorgeous view from our room!

Gorgeous view from our room!

I'm still wondering that, frankly- but what I can tell you right now is...it's happening

The Bible talks a lot about signs and wonders- little "tells" that the wise will know that the coming of Christ is close. Without over-spiritualizing this, I noticed something as I read all those adoption blogs: there are always signs. Signs that the call is coming. That meeting their child is just around the corner. That God wants to let them in on a secret- this adoption you've been waiting on is almost here

One family had a prophetic word spoken to them in a phone call from a friend they hadn't spoken to in years. One adoptive momma had a dream her son was born on the day he was actually born. One heard audibly their new child's name. These things are something I've treasured hearing about the past few years as we've waited. I've wondered if we'd experience similar. 

Friends, it's happening. And it fills me with HOPE.

There have been many little things recently- but I want to tell you the "signs" from the Lord we've experienced just in the last few days. Shawn and I are currently in Houston, having come to photograph a special New Year's Eve wedding. New Year's Eve is also our anniversary (12 years!), so we decided to spend an extra couple of days just for us. 

Bethel's song "Take Courage" has been my prayer for our adoption lately- if you haven't heard it, you must stop everything and go listen. So full of truth- especially for those who find themselves in the midst of transition:

So, you can imagine my emotions (read: rollercoaster of feelings) when the beautiful bride yesterday chose to walk down the aisle to this very song. Upon hearing it, God whispered to me, "I'm still here. I'm still taking care of this whole journey".

Later at the reception, I got to catch up with a sweet friend who I haven't seen in a few years. God's used her in my life's story more than once to encourage me, and of course, He did it again last night. It just so happens that this friend is also an adoptive mom. Seeing her there with her daughter was a wonderful reminder that the wait actually does end at some point. Her words were thoughtful and positive, and I know she's praying specifically for this. I couldn't be more thankful.

Our "Happy Anniversary" toast :)

Our "Happy Anniversary" toast :)

This morning, on New Year's Day, Shawn was reading Isaiah 43:5-7, which says, "Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and I will gather you from the west. I will say to the north, 'Give them up!' and to the south, 'Do not hold them back.' Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth-- everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made." (Emphasis mine)

Of course, for a couple like us who are adopting internationally, these words have extra special meaning. But the really amazing thing for us is the east and west reference. We've known our daughter's name for a few months but haven't announced it publicly yet. But what I CAN tell you is that in Mandarin, her name means "journey west". 

You guys, this is a big deal to me. God's timing is never off. My understanding of His timeline may be (and usually is, haha), BUT His promises are true, and I'm so thankful we have a God who lovingly sprinkles these little "I'm faithful" reminders during a trying time. 

It pumps me FULL of hope. The promise that the wait will end. The realization that every moment we wait (and she waits!) is a moment He wants us to spend waiting- because HE knows best. But the icing on the cake is that in the midst, He's lovingly giving us signs that we are nearing the end. 

Praise the Lord!

cassidy's bridal session

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I've had the privilege of working in some beautiful spaces lately with some wonderful people. I've known Cassidy for a few years, and was SO excited about her bridal session. Cassidy owns Dance Warehouse Studios and so we had to incorporate her red toe shoes! It was so much fun- I'm thankful that she let me play with all the yummy light inside the studio. We almost played too long and missed a gorgeous sunset- yes, we actually ran to our final spot to snag the perfect sunset photos. (High fine to Cassidy who can run in a wedding dress and still be beautiful!) 

Cassidy and her husband Dustin were married earlier this month- wedding photos to come!