How to Make Giving a Lifestyle, not a Holiday Tradition


It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

There are twinkling lights everywhere, the fire is warm and cozy, and the gift giving and random acts of kindness are in full swing!

It’s not secret for anyone who knows me that my love language is gifts. I LOVE getting gifts, and I also love giving gifts. I am the biggest fan of gift giving.

Around this time of year, I start seeing a lot of parents in online forums asking how to create a spirit of giving in their child. In response, most people shout out a charity or an idea of a way to give gifts. Examples I’ve seen are Toys for Tots, Operation Christmas Child, and giving to a charity. I’ve seen people suggest working at a soup kitchen on Christmas Eve or making bags of supplies for the homeless. I love all of these ideas…

…But so often this time of year, I see a lot of gift and charity giving done wrong.

I don’t think that the giver knows they are doing it wrong, but I wanted to take a moment to ask that you think consciously about how and why you give gifts this holiday season. 

Before you read on, please know that I do not think I am an expert in this field. I have a two year old and a two month old and we obviously haven’t mastered it. However, I do have some experience in the world of giving. I have been in Africa and seen Operation Christmas Child boxes handed out (you might be surprised to find that I’m actually anti OCC *gasp*). I have frequently seen the other side of organizations and where the money really goes. I have also been on the receiving end of gift giving, both growing up as a missionary kid whose family fully relied on others for financial support, and now as a foster Mom.

So, first, let me address a few of those questions that I have seen in online forums:

Q: How do I create a spirit of giving in a child?

My opinions are strong on this one, and they often aren’t popular. The short answer? Don’t make it about them. Gift giving is NOT about giving in order to check off a “good deed”. Gift giving is not teaching your children that they are better than someone who doesn’t have as much. Gift giving is about the receiver. It’s about meeting them on their level, and that often means getting to know them and getting down and dirty. It’s not packing a box and then patting your child on the back and telling them how fabulous they are.

Instead, it’s teaching your child to see those who are in need, and teaching your child how to get down on their level and meet them where they are at- on a consistent basis, not once a year. We are so eager to check off packing a box or picking a child off the Angel Tree that we forget to encourage our child to notice the classmate right next to them who is going without gloves this winter season. Instead of making it a checklist, make it a mindset in your child to always look for those who are in need and get on their level to consistently help them. 

The next thing you can do for your child is to make it personal. If you do decide to pick a child from the Angel Tree or pack an OCC box, then make a personal connection to your child. Challenge your child to go without something for a day so that they can see how that child might live. Pick a country and do some research on it, show them pictures, ask them how their lives are similar and how they are different from the child that they are giving to. Don’t degrade the poorer children- they are often just as happy and intelligent as your own child, they were just born into a different place and a different culture with less resources. Find a person in your church or community who has personal experience with these children, maybe even start a penpal program so that they can connect on a personal level with the children they are giving to. Find out the names of those you are giving to, and pray for them on a daily or weekly basis. If you are donating to a charity, find a local chapter in your area and spend a day at their offices or getting regularly involved in an event that they sponsor. It shouldn’t just be about writing a check and checking it off your list.

And that leads me to my third point: Make giving a lifestyle, not a holiday tradition. If your children are only thinking about giving to local foster kids during the month of December, then you are doing it wrong. Yes, that sounds harsh, but you have not created a spirit of giving in your child if it only happens once a year. Your child should be aware that foster children also have needs in January and March and July and October, too. If you are actively participating in the life of a foster child throughout the rest of the months of the year, your child will be more more delighted to pick a gift for that sweet child off the Angel Tree.


Q: What charities should I give to during the holiday season?

A: DO YOUR RESEARCH.  It drives me almost insane to see people blindly giving to charities without doing their research. I am not against any charities or non-profit organizations, but it is true that many of them are corrupt. Friends, please do your research. Google how much the CEO makes, what percentage of donations actually goes all the way through to those in need. You might be horrified at what you find. Or, you might be delighted. Either way, please do your research.

Make it personal. This is true for your child, but it is true for you, too. Don’t just give to a charity or non-profit because you heard the add on the radio. Instead, find something that you are passionate about. Did you Mom struggle with cancer? Find a charity that helps local women who have cancer. Did you have a baby in the NICU? Spread your holiday charity there. It means so much more when you know exactly how your money is affecting personal lives.

Make giving to charity a lifestyle, not a holiday tradition. If you only give during the month of December, your gift won’t go as far. Instead, make giving gifts to charity a part of your life throughout the other months of the year, too. If you are donating to your local NICU, try to also volunteer your time there. If you are helping out at a homeless shelter on Christmas Eve, take it one step further and sign up to help once a month there.

In conclusion, ask yourself this question:

Is this gift about me/my child or the receiver? I shouldn’t have to say this, but gift giving is not about you. While it has many benefits to you, it shouldn’t be all about you.

How will my gift help in the long run? Am I just writing a check to check off the advent calendar, or is this really going to go somewhere in the long run? What will my gift do for this person in March? July? Next November?

What will this teach my child? Do I want to teach my child that giving can be a temporary high or do I want to teach her that giving can extend all year round? Do I want to teach my child that she is better off than others, or do I want to make it personal so that she can understand better why we give?



P.S. I also mentioned above that I’m not a huge fan of Operation Christmas Child boxes. Here is an article that explains why… 7 Reasons Not to Do OCC This Year


Birth Story: Kelly from Honea Bee Mama

This is the third installment of Kelly’s birth stories! You can read about the first one and the second one! I’m so thankful that Kelly shared her birth stories with us!

Don’t forget to give Kelly a follow on Instagram and her blog!


Josie Faith Honea


By Kelly Honea

I have had 2 natural labor/deliveries in the past, and this was ‘planned’ to be no different, meaning I fully expected to go into spontaneous labor on my own, and have the baby at the hospital this time (because baby #2 was born in the car), with as few interventions/medications as possible.  The weeks leading up to the due date were full of a myriad of differences from my last pregnancies, and a considerable amount of pain. You can read about them in the previous post – Pregnancy #3.

Monday, January 25, 2016, I woke up before 3 am with some contractions that were mostly in the front of my belly. After so much back pain recently, I welcomed gladly pain in the front! They continued, got longer, most lasting around 2 minutes, but stayed around 9-12 minutes apart. However, all my movement in and around our bedroom woke up my husband, John, so he started being comforting as we both hoped this was the real deal. At 6am, they were bad enough that I called my mom and asked her to come over to our house instead of going to work, because she had planned to take 2 days off in order to help with our other two kids.  Right after I called her, I laid down to rest a second, and the contractions stopped. I had one more small one twenty minutes later, then I just felt exhausted again, so I called her back around 6:40 and told her to just go ahead to work, false alarm again. John was also exhausted, but needed to go to work in order to have his 5 days off when the baby came, so he had to get up, get ready and go.

Frustrated, a little sad to have had false labor again, 5 days overdue, and extremely exhausted, I saw him out the door, made breakfast for the kids, and then had a morning of movies while I dozed in our big cuddled recliner between the kids.  I woke up to make the kids lunch, and put them down for a nap. I took a shower, did make up, and made coffee to help myself wake up a little more.  One of our good friends from church came over to stay with the kids while I went for my doctor’s appointment.  I had to have an ultrasound and non-stress test because I was overdue.  I was honestly not looking forward to this.

I went in ready for them to tell me the baby was measuring large and to try to convince me to induce.  I was prepared to argue for waiting on the basis that I was not afraid to deliver a large baby, and lots of recent research proves that ultrasound can be off by up to a pound either way, and I would wait to go into labor spontaneously until I hit 42 weeks.  I was surprised and taken completely off guard then when the ultrasound tech did not even mention the size of the baby, other than to say

“Baby looks good, great heartbeat, all the organs look great.” However, she did throw some brand new information at me, “Your fluid is very low. The doctor will probably talk to you about inducing.” Confusion washed over me like a cold shower, and I started asking questions,

“What does that mean? How much fluid should I have? How much do I have? Can that hurt the baby?” She answered calmly and politely,

“Baby looks good, healthy and fine, so it’s not affecting her, yet. We like to see numbers above 10, but we will take as low as 8 when you go overdue like this. You’re at a 6, so the doctor will talk to you about inducing.”

I took some deep breaths and went to get hooked up to the non-stress test, where they monitor baby’s heartbeat for twenty minutes. I prayed about all this, and sent a few text messages out asking for prayer, and then just gave it to the Lord and waited to see what the doctor would say. I had asked God to keep the baby healthy despite my pain, and He had. Baby was ok, and that was very reassuring.

I had some terrific back pain in the days prior to this, and now it made sense. My fluid was so low that the baby’s skull was literally resting very close to my spine and just bumping nerves all the time.  It made sense that some of the back pain was sharp and electrical feeling while some was just constantly aching. I had asked God to know why this was painful, and now I knew. I looked smaller and gained less weight because there was so much less liquid.  I remembered with Karis they did an ultrasound at 37 weeks because I was measuring “large,” and my fluid was at 17 or 18, and they had said that was a lot. I remembered the huge gush as my water broke in the car with her.  I thought about reading birth stories where a woman’s water was broken hours before labor and how sometimes it led to a more painful “dry birth,” and I didn’t like the thought of that.

Her heart rate bounced around between 120 and 160 and they were happy with all that, so they promptly removed the monitors at the 20 minute mark and the doctor came in shortly afterward. He examined me and said there was definitely not a leak in fluid, I was still dilated to slightly less than 2, and since there was no leak, it meant the placenta had “stopped doing its job.” He said that when the body goes overdue and fluid gets low it means the placenta has basically quit, and although it doesn’t harm the baby much, the fluid will not replenish, it will only continue going down, until a “dry birth” is likely.  He said we needed to induce the next day.  I was still a little in shock, and kept frowning and saying, “I just didn’t want to induce,” to which he would answer, “I’m really sorry.”

However, when he said I needed to come in the following day, it was to Huntsville Hospital. That made me even more uncomfortable, because I had only great experiences with Crestwood, and did not want to make this new territory in birth even more new. I expressed my concerns, and he explained the only reason he chose Huntsville was because he had an 8am surgery there, and he didn’t want me 15 minutes down the road if he was still in the middle of surgery when I needed to deliver. I understood, but my response was still, “If I MUST be induced, then I ONLY want to do it at Crestwood.” I have read enough and been through labor enough to know that my personal comfort level/anxiety level is a huge factor in labor, and I did not feel comfortable switching locations now. He frowned now. “I really don’t want you to wait 2 more days.” So I offered,

“I can come in this afternoon to Crestwood. Would that work?” He thought a moment and said yes. It was almost 2pm. He asked if I could be there by 4pm. I thought I could. It was set. I texted John all the info, and thought about how he had been up since 3am with me, and had not had a nap. Poor guy.

On the drive home I prayed about this some more, and felt total peace.  This was not me going in and requesting an induction because I couldn’t stand the back pain. This was the doctor saying it was medically necessary to induce. Being induced had always scared me because of the stories of how bad pitocin contractions are, and how most people cannot continue to go without an epidural. However,  my doctor said he had plenty of patients who were induced and continued to go without an epidural.  I only have one friend who has done this, so hearing him say he had ‘plenty’ was more reassuring. I don’t know you – women of the ‘plenty’- but I am thankful for your story, and it gave me hope.

I went home and carb loaded for my marathon ahead, eating gluten free spaghetti leftovers, a banana muffin, and had another cup of coffee. My bags had been packed for weeks, so I just threw in last minute items and put them by the door. My mom came to spend the night with the kids and keep them for the next 2 days. John came home from work and we immediately left.  Agreeing to be induced, and showing up 2 hours later for it is a fast turn-around time.  My doctor said that since it was my third, he felt that once I hit 4 cm, the process would “fly.” That was hopeful.

We were checked in to the exact same room we had been in for false labor almost a month earlier. It was calming to be somewhere familiar, and I was very happy that I had stood up for myself and insisted upon Crestwood. We saw a few of the same nurses, and a few new ones.  When we had come in for the false labor, our nurse had given me a hospital gown, but said, “Unless you have your own you’d like to wear?” That day I had forgotten that I had my own, but walking around in the bottom-showing, scratchy hospital gown for several hours, reminded me to go home and pack mine. I put on the little Old Navy maternity dress, that is either truly a night gown or a swim cover-up, but not a ‘real’ dress, however, the color is one that makes me happy, and it was very soft, and covered my behind most of the time.  No one said a word about it, and I was thankful again to the Lord for giving me the false labor to be reminded of this one thing, because in labor – comfort is power!


I put a few drops of essential oils on the shoulders of my ‘birthing dress’ to help me take deep, calming breaths. I put 2 drops of peppermint on one shoulder and 2 drops of lavender on the other shoulder. This is far easier than using a diffuser when away from home. If I needed the scent to be stronger, I just turned to that side.  I reapplied the drops once, several hours in. At one point during labor I did feel the need to pee, but couldn’t, and putting a drop or two of peppermint oil in the toilet fixed that problem immediately.

Without even having to request it, the nurse said, “Oh, you’ll want the wireless monitors. Let me go get them for you.” That was also a huge blessing, because in labor, you need to move around a lot, and being confined to the bed is far from ideal. The wireless monitors seemed to work great all over the room, but I’m not sure if they would have worked in the hallway, I didn’t try.

I hate needles. Getting the IV with the catheter in my arm was by far part of the worst of it all. I had to have it for the pitocin and the antibiotics, because I was Beta Strep positive again. There was also a bag of just ‘fluid’ up there on the pole. Having that in my arm was very uncomfortable the entire time. My first nurse for the evening explained how the pitocin induction process worked – with them starting me out at 2 (I don’t know what measurement – 2 “somethings per minute), and every fifteen minutes they would turn it up more if I was “comfortable” with it.  She said she felt like 6 was a good number to stay at for a while, although some doctor and nurses seem to think it’s OK to turn it all the way up to 30.  I don’t remember feeling anything with it on 2, so I was happy to get to 4, which started some itty bitty short contractions, and then at 6 they did increase to lasting almost 20 seconds, but still at least 4 minutes apart. I was happy for them to keep turning it up until we hit 10. I worked with level 10 for about an hour before I said, “Ok, let’s try 12.” Romans 12 is my favorite chapter in the bible, and talks about being a living sacrifice, and for some reason, I felt like 12 was where it needed to stay for a long time. I thought about how to worship through birth. I tried to sing along to some of my music, but decided that it was worshipful to just focus on the task at hand, pray for strength, and stay kind to everyone around me.

Here’s also where I feel like God was all over the timing of this process – my false labor that very morning gave me a true sense of how my own body ran contractions. For three hours I monitored their length, I knew how much my body would put me through on its own, and how much I could stand, and now this knowledge gave me confidence in how much I was going to allow in the pitocin. Isn’t God cool like that? Because pain is something you don’t always remember details of – so having false labor that morning gave me a specific starting point.  At the end of it all, when the doctor asked me,

“Was that as bad as you thought it would be?” and I said,

“No,” he then told me,

“Yes, contractions are contractions – whether they’re natural or pit, or whatever, people shouldn’t be so scared of it.”

  • Says the MAN who has never had one contraction. –

Also, I don’t know what would have happened if I had let them turn it above 12, so I don’t even want to think about 30! This is one of the few things I do disagree with him on, because here are the differences in my natural contractions and the pitocin synthesized ones (in case you were interested in being induced after going natural a time or two):

Natural contractions for me begin and end more gradually – like they creep up the front of my belly before taking over as a big huge total core squeeze that sometimes wraps around the back, sometimes not, and then they fade away as well.  This is where some people compare them to waves that wash over you and recede. It’s like they begin on a pain scale of 5, then cap out at like an 8 or 9, and then fade away again, sometimes down to 1 or 2 in the beginning, but as labor progresses, the pain does not completely go away between contractions, but stays somewhere between a 3 and 5.

The pitocin contractions began and ended rather abruptly – it was sort of like ‘all or nothing’ with them. Pain scale ranging from 2 in between contractions, to suddenly being a full on 7-9, lasting it’s length and then suddenly stopping again. I do not believe this would have changed had I let them turn the pitocin up any higher.

Natural contractions lasted much longer for me – averaging 2 minutes, but going up to 3 minutes several times as well. I remember that with my other two labors, and had that experience that morning, which was one reason I was so shocked it stopped – I mean having a three minute contraction should turn into real labor! Then they would also wait several minutes apart and gradually build up to coming closer together.

Pitocin contractions never lasted much more than a minute, even after several hours.  They also came a lot faster. 30-50 second long contractions, that were about 1 – 2 minutes apart for several hours is what I experienced on level 10 and 12. Had I let them turn it up higher, they may have lasted longer, but their intensity and speed were enough to keep me happy with their duration.

After 3 hours, and getting up to pitocin level 10, when she checked me and I was at 3, we were rather disappointed and that was when I let them turn it up to 12. After an hour of that, she checked me and I was at 5. I do want to say that my nice little nurse was always very respectful and gentle when checking me, and waited for contractions to end.  She was a gem, and spent a lot of time in the room with us, bringing me ice water (they encouraged real drinking! – not just ice chips), and anything we asked for.  She suggested a cool washcloth on the back of my neck when I started getting hot, and that was nice for a little while. She told us that my doctor wanted to know when I was at 6, and he would come up to the hospital and hang out until the baby was born.  After an hour of some longer contractions, that now seemed to come about a minute apart, we asked to be checked again, and she informed us, almost apologetically,

“Almost the same, not yet to six. But I can tell it’s getting harder for you, so I am going to call your doctor and let him know.” He came in shortly after that, watched for a few minutes and commented nicely,

“You have excellent pain control. You’re doing a great job.”

It was probably around 11pm, and John and I were both getting really exhausted. I did not want to be checked again and told 5, so I decided mentally to just power through it, and wait for my water to break so I could push.  Now, with Jonah (my first), I got very nauseated right at the end, and throwing up made my water break. After the water broke, they checked me and said I was at 10, to wait for the doctor, but I never felt the urge to push. I think my body wanted to rest. With Karis (my second), I felt like I was trying to hold back in the car as we went to the hospital. This sounds strange, but it was the feeling like needing to pass gas, but hoping it will be silent, and then giving a teeny tiny push, and my water broke – all over the car, and we had to pull over and have her in the Jet Pep parking lot.

Because of those two experiences, I really wanted to make my water break, and I got to the point with these rapid-fire fast intense contractions to where I realized I was pushing a little during the contractions. I wondered if that was OK, but decided not to tell anyone. I did that for an hour or more, moving around like crazy, trying different positions on the ball, on the bed, standing, lunging, rocking, squatting, always having John there to hold his hand or lean against him. I had my music on, I had read my encouragement cards and scripture so much the day before, I only read through them all maybe twice in the hospital. I told John, “Tell me it’s almost over.” So, he would try to say that every now and then and be as encouraging as he could, being so very tired, and not really having an encouraging spirit. I think around midnight we were both shocked that we still hadn’t had a baby yet, and so very tired. I asked the nurse to turn the pitocin back down to 10 because I felt like everything was getting a little too hard to take. I think we were getting close to ‘transition.’  I felt like the room was darkening around me, and the pain was getting very intense, like I wanted to bite something and scream. At this point, had a large birthing tub been available, I would have probably spent the remainder of the time there, and I believe it would have been a shorter time. Alabama really needs to get on board with those!

At the end, I was kneeling on the end of the hospital bed, and John was sitting on the ball in front of the bed (because he admitted he was absolutely too tired to stand up), and I had my head and elbows in his lap, with my behind up in the air, and he was hugging my upper body and holding my belly through each contraction. I had done this sort of position near the end of labor at home with my second, just pushing back into a downward dog yoga position, so I felt like this meant we were close. I was still pushing just a little during the contractions, and starting to moan very loudly. In labor with Karis, my awesome doula Hannah had taught me to open my mouth wide and make low sounds – because, little high pitch shrills with a tight mouth do not help the body/uterus to relax and open. I remembered and followed that advice the whole time – wide mouth, low noises, volume doesn’t matter, as long as it’s not high pitch. Suddenly, I realized the pain was not going away between contractions at all – it was staying a hard, high 8 or 9 on the pain scale (I hesitate to say 10 because I always feel like it’s bad, but could probably get a little worse) – and I felt a little dizzy with my head down. I realized I was trying to push harder hoping to break my water, and I felt hot all over, and pictures of babies born with their water/”caul” intact popped in my head and it occurred to me that I might be ready to push even though my water had not broken!

I decided to go with that, and began saying loudly, “I’m ready to push. I’m ready to push. I’m ready to push,” and I just started moving back up in the bed, raising the head so I could sit up all the way. The nurse said, “I need to check you then,” but I was not really cooperating well, because the contractions did not feel like they were stopping, and so I think I was laying on my side, gripping the bed rails, growling, and she checked me and said, “Yep!” and ran out of the room, and came back with the doctor, saying, “She’s at a high 8, maybe 9, very soft though, but she wants to push.” This woke up John fully, and he was standing by me, saying very honestly now, “It really is almost over, babe. Almost over. You can do it.” The doctor just nodded, pulled up a seat, and I started pushing and yelling like crazy!

I pushed really hard, and my water broke, and then her head started immediately coming down, and I was yelling a lot. John said he thought it looked like the doctor was pushing against me, holding his hand down just under where her head was coming out, and I think that counter-pressure low did help me to tear much less. However, it also slowed me down just a little, because her head was out and I stopped a second to breathe. She was already screaming, and I felt like I was coming out of a big black cloud of pain. The doctor told me to push one more big time and she’d be out. I did, but I don’t know if I was too tired or what, I didn’t get that huge rumbly, bones and baby leaving my body feeling like I did when Karis was born all at once.

Then it was all better.

I felt like the lights got turned back on in the room, but they had never been turned off.

Josie Faith was born at 1:09am, Tuesday, January 26th.


The miracle of birth is so crazy that the very milli-second that kid is out, your mind clears from the pain fog, and all these amazing happy hormones flood your brain! No matter how tired you were, you are suddenly wide awake like a red bull was just shot up in that IV! They held up her little wiggly, wet self and gave her to me. The doctor let the cord stop pulsing, and I don’t know how long that took because I felt like I was holding this little baby outside of time. I remember feeling like that after the other two. It’s this wide-awake dream-like I can NOT believe that just happened feeling. I don’t know when I delivered the placenta, but it had a lot of white stripes/streaks that I do not remember seeing on the other two, so I wonder if that had to do with it ‘quitting.’ I did not get to hold her for very long after they cut the cord, before the nurses wanted to suction her mouth/nose because she was sort of gagging a little. The doctor said I only needed 2 stitches, and he did that quickly and almost painlessly with a local. Then the shaking began really bad. I remember the violent leg shaking, total body tremors after the other two births, but I also thought it had to do with feeling cold both times. I made sure to keep my hospital room very warm this time, and it still was, and I even told the doctor, “I’m not cold at all! Why am I shaking so bad?” He just laughed a little and said, “Oh that’s the adrenaline.” Then he put some very warm blankets on top of me anyway, and softly pushed down on my legs, smoothing the blankets out, and that helped most of the shaking to stop.

She was 8 lbs, 5oz, and 20 inches long. One ounce smaller than her siblings.


When they gave her back, John took a few pictures and then we started breastfeeding. Every prayer was answered. I was induced, but no epidural, no other interventions, healthy baby, healthy mama, so very thankful. I am continually amazed at how different all three of my birth experiences were, and yet how graciously God responded to our prayers for each one.



Thank you, Kelly, for sharing all three of your children’s births! I truly have appreciated each story and love how you give so many details and lessons learned! Your birth stories are a wealth of information for anyone who has not gone through a birth yet (and for those of us who have!)

If you would like to submit a birth story to be published on the blog, please email me at [email protected]

You can read other birth story submissions here.

Celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas

I wanted to take a blog post and dedicate it to the holidays that we just celebrated! I know that most of my followers won’t be that interested, but I wanted to throw it all together so I at least have it to look back on!

First up: Thanksgiving!

This Spring, my cousin Seth was drafted to play for the Cleveland Browns! Because of his rigorous training schedule, he had to be in Cleveland over the holidays, and the rest of the family came to him! We haven’t celebrated a holiday with our extended family in a long time, but since we were only three hours from Cleveland we decided to drive up for the day.

We left pretty early and hit the road, since we knew we had to stop at least once to feed Kiah. We arrived right around noon and the entire extended family was there! The house was large, but it was still a tight fit for all of us!

At one point, we had all four brothers, their wives, all 13 of us cousins, plus 7 spouses and 8 of our kids in the house!

My Aunt Laurie did an awesome job hosting Thanksgiving while staying in an Air Bnb! We had tons of food, and tons of pies!


We snagged some family pictures while we were all together, too.

My cousin Jacob and I are one month apart…and now we have sons who are two months apart! It’s crazy to realize that we are the grown ups around here now, not the kids anymore!

Kiah at 6 weeks old, sleeping through Thanksgiving

This was the best we could do for a group family photo! We are missing a few people, but it’s not too bad, considering how big the family has gotten!

My brother and I:

Some cousins!

All the wives! We have had all had babies within the last year!

Katie and I with our sons. When I first arrived back to the States after leaving everything I knew in Africa, Katie was incredible about befriending me and including me! She’s pretty great 🙂

After that jam-packed day, we loaded back up and drove home. Tera hadn’t taken a nap at all and so she fell asleep in the car at 6 pm as soon as it got dark out. We tried to get some dinner on the way home, but everything was closed for Thanksgiving. Good for them, but we arrived home STARVING and it felt like it was midnight although it was only 7:30 pm. Haha! We crashed early and on Friday, we celebrated Christmas!

This year we decided to do a “secret” Santa and each only pick one person. It’s amazing how expensive it gets when you try to buy simple presents for each person in the family!

This is the first year that Tera has actually understood presents, and she was so excited about all the presents under the tree!


My Mom and I worked hard all day to put together our traditional Christmas meal: finger foods and appetizers!


Breadsticks with pizza dip, cheese & cracker tray, shrimp with dip, nuts and M&Ms, quiche, stuffed mushrooms, chicken weings, fruits & veggies, pie and chocolate caramel squares! It was a feast!


It was so beautiful and cozy to just be with family. Kiah and Memaw thought so, too!


We ate our delicious food and then Theo led us in a short devotional from Hebrews.


Tera had way more fun handing out the presents and helping EVERYONE open theirs than in opening her own. Of course, she somehow had the biggest stack of presents even though the rules were ONE present per person.


Uncle Dan just had to buy Tera a poop pillow. She runs around yelling about her “purple poop pillow” all the time now. Ha.


Even Kiah got some presents!


My Dad was the last one to get a present, and to get his present he had to go on a scavenger hunt around the house. It turns out the hunt ended under the tree where the first clue had been. Haha!


They were having so much fun with the hunt…


Tera got a nice Melissa and Doug wooden truck set, and then some bath toys from the dollar spot. She LOVES both toys, but has carried these rubber bath toys EVERYWHERE for the last few days.



The next morning we said a sad goodbye to my parents. I’m so thankful we got to celebrate BOTH holidays together while they were here!

Life Lately: November


Buckle your seatbelts, folks! November was a wild ride! I cried so many tears and laughed so many laughs, and I have so many memories from this month to tuck into my treasure trove of extra special memories!

First, let me duck back into October….


….and share my kids Halloween outfits! Someone gave me a bunch of hand-me-downs for Kiah, and this warm little giraffe suit was one of them! I sent my parents out with instructions to get Tera a cheap Halloween costume, and my Mom found this duck suit at Goodwill! She then found some leggings and a yellow sweater, too! Isn’t it so fun??


Since my parents were here, and Kiah is bottle fed anyways, we took advantage of a date night and went out to Bravo! Is this a chain? I don’t know, but we were so pleased with our experience there!


My parents have heard me talk so much about the Learning Tree Farm, so we waited for a nice day and all went out! We were the only people there, and we had an absolute blast. Have I ever mentioned that I LOVE this place?


There was a litter of kittens and they followed us everywhere. They even let toddler terror Tera hold them!


My Mom loved the black cat with an injured paw.


Kiah slept through his entire first trip to the farm. This was right before the scary weekend in which we realized he was not gaining weight. He was looking really lethargic, but I just kept brushing off my worries…


I took some pictures of sweet Kiah, and again…I felt like something just didn’t seem right. He’s still pretty darn cute, though, isn’t he?


Friday my parents left for a two week trip of visiting some other people in the States. By Saturday morning, I knew something wasn’t right with Kiah, and his weight had dropped really low. All weekend we debated going to the ER, but we decided against it due to all the things he could be exposed to there. So bright and early Monday morning, we threw our kids in the car and headed to the pediatrician. Of course, Theo and Tera were also super sick with colds that weekend. The pediatrician checked Kiah out, diagnosed him failure to thrive, and ordered an immediate barium x-ray and ultrasound. She told me later that she *should* have admitted us to the hospital, but decided that it would just not be the most helpful thing, and she knew we were doing above and beyond our best to help him. We got Kiah into this hospital and I just could not stop crying. Just as we got him changed, my mother in law arrived from Michigan. I cried some more when I saw her! Thank goodness for Moms!


The barium x-ray showed nothing wrong and from then on out Kiah has been steadily gaining weight. I don’t know if he had something and it was miraculously healed, or if he just decided to give us a good scare before deciding to be a good boy and gain weight. Either way, we are so thankful. That was a rough weekend.

Mom Hines was able to be here for three days, and I’m SO thankful!!!! This is her 12th grandbaby, and she has gone to be with 11/12 of them when they were first born! That’s a Grandma’s love! (The one she wasn’t able to be with was born in Africa).


Aaaaand a little bit more realistic…

We were actually so glad to see some crying from Kiah after he had been so lethargic.


A lot of November looked just like this. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.


Tera has done so remarkably well with all the changes and stresses this past month. Her language and imagination have exploded and I LOVE watching her play. Her favorite thing to do, though, is “help Mommy” with whatever I am doing.


More shots of snuggles with our precious boy.. He pretty much always has some kind of stuffed animal that his big sister decided he needs…


November was unseasonably warm and I am SO THANKFUL! We have a little park about a mile from our house, so our walks frequently take us there..


Carrying my Kiah and pushing my Tera. That’s a great way to work up a sweat!


Playing at the park. I just love how colorful she is!


Since my parents were in the country, all the family in the area wanted to see them. We wanted to spend as much time as possible with our whole family, so Daniel and Kelly came from Michigan three times and we even took a trip up to Michigan to stay at their place, too!


My Dad’s brother and his family came down to visit, too! Here are all the men…


The girls. The teenage girls said “let’s Dab!” and all us non-cool folk were super confused…


The whole group together!


My Aunt Debbie and cousin Deanna admiring baby Kiah. He was only four weeks old!


Kiah turned one month old and I attempted to get some pictures!


Oh, hey there, little man. We sure do love you.


Theo has faithfully weighed Kiah 3x a day in the past month. We have charted his growth and are so pleased with his progress. Here he is the day he hit 7 pounds!


Theo had his 6 weeks of paternity leave during November, and he used that time to work on an external entrance into our basement. It was a ton of work. Tera loved helping him whenever she could!


We took some family pictures for a Christmas card…


Love this one! The funny thing is that I thought I was standing right up against Theo, but when I looked at the picture I realized that we could have fit a whole ‘nother person in between us! Lol!


My Mom got some great shots, but for every good one there was probably 8 that looked more like this…


My parents were here most of November and it is such a joy to see them spending time with my kids!


Isn’t it amazing the difference that month makes? Remember those beginning pictures where Kiah looked so tiny and lethargic? He’s still tiny, but we are loving seeing these smiles!


We found a Christmas tree on the side of the road. This thing is 7 ft tall and gorgeous. I feel so bad for whoever lost it!


3 generations baking Christmas cookies! Don’t you love our aprons?


We decorated for Christmas! We ran out of lights so the top of our tree is a little bare haha!


While we were making dinner, Peepaw was singing to Kiah, and I came out of the kitchen to find this. Oh, so sweet.


Tera got a little hair trim from Memaw!


My immediate family celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas within a 24 hour period. I’ll post a separate post on that.


Thanksgiving was Thursday, my family celebrated Christmas on Friday, my parents left on Saturday morning and Theo went back to work on Sunday. Overwhelming.

But we all survived our first 24 hours solo!


We were so happy to have Daddy home the next day!


And to wrap up November, I have been working on thank you cards, Christmas cards and planning out 2017!


Phew! Are you as exhausted as I am?

Ready or not, here we come December!



November Reading List

Since I picked up that first book back in January, I have been on a roll in my book reading!

This month, however, I hit a little bit of a slump and I only read 2.5 books. It has been an insane month, and I’m still happy with the books that I was able to read.

I read three very different books this month.

First up: The Book Thief

Wow, this book was deep.

It is so well-written and really drew me in. I loved the style of writing and the mystery involved in the plot. This story takes place in 1939 Nazi Germany. The entire story is about a young girl who sees the injustices all around her, but isn’t sure what to do about them. She had examples of those who stand up for the Jews, and examples of those who mistreat the Jews.

The entire story is heart-wrenching and beautiful and really, really made me think. I highly recommend this book, although it does have some language and some graphic scenes. Also, the story is narrated by a “grim reaper”, who collects the dead. I’m not into gory, scary or anything that makes light of death (like demons and much of Halloween), but this was a more realistic “grim reaper”, and it did not make light of the deaths of so many during the reign of Hitler


Next, I needed to read something a little bit lighter, so I picked up The Happiness Project.

This was the perfect book to read in November, because it gave me so many good ideas for goals for the new year. I LOVE making goals, especially ones like ‘write more letters’ or ‘drink more water’, so this book had some fabulous ideas in it.

Gretchen embarks on a year-long project aimed at making herself happier. She first thinks through the different areas that she thinks will make her happier, and then makes specific goals for each area. She focuses on one area a month.

At the beginning, I was really into the book, but as it went on I started to not enjoy it as much. Rubin is very intellectual, and quotes study after study for scientific reasoning on becoming happier. A lot of it was fascinating to learn, but it did start to get a little bit boring and research-heavy. I also didn’t agree with the authors conclusion on happiness, mostly in the area of religion. While Rubin felt like she could obtain happiness from trying out whatever religions might suit her best (she particularly focused on mediation in Buddhism), I know that my happiness comes from somewhere else entirely.

Overall, I recommend the book, but I found it wasn’t as light as I was expecting.


After two heavier books, I settled on a novel that I’ve heard good things about, The Royal We.

This novel was exactly the light read that I needed to get back into my book-reading groove! In a typical fairy tale style, a plain American moves to England and falls in love with the actual Prince of Wales. It was completely mutual. But unlike the fairy tale we might all imagine, the authors take us on a wild trip through the years of dating (and breaking up) with the Prince. It had enough plot twists to keep me entertained, although it is a fairly long book! I also HATED all the casual sex and drinking that the book contains. The sex is never graphic, but the characters are build around who is sleeping with who and I just thought the whole book could have done without. I would recommend it, but only for mature audiences.


And that’s it! What are you reading right now?




Yesterday we said tearful goodbyes to my parents as they head back across the pond.


It’s not always easy, this life that they have chosen. It’s not always convenient and the goodbyes never, ever get easier.

I’m sure that 30+ years ago when the committed to the work of the gospel overseas that they didn’t even consider the fact that saying goodbye to their children and grandchildren would become a factor in their work.


But it is.

And my family has counted up the costs and decided that right now, in this season…it is worth it. You see, when God calls us to something, He is faithful to carry it on until completion. God has not closed the overseas chapter in my parents life, and so we all willingly send them off, knowing that they are making a difference for the kingdom.

But it’s not without tears.


We have been so blessed to have my parents here for the last six weeks. I am so spoiled to have had my Mom able to come be with me for over a month each time I have had a baby (except with Little Miss). During the time that they were here, we crammed in as much fun as we could! We went to the farm, we traveled to visit extended family (twice), we hit up the mall a few times, we went to several parks and we went on one hike in the beautiful John Bryan State Park.


It’s interesting being an adult MK (missionary kid). My entire life has been shaped by the time I spent overseas, and I always thought I would be the one saying goodbye and flying overseas. In fact, in my head…it was likely that I would return to the mission field and even live in very close proximity to my parents.

I never thought I would be the one saying goodbye and sending them off. But God has called us to a different ministry right here in Dayton, OH and that is where we are faithful to stay.


As adults, there are still many times that we need our Moms (and our Dads). From questions about family history for a health screen, or asking for a recipe, or wishing for some chicken noodle soup while feeling sick…we all need our Moms.


I have come across so many days where I need to ask my Mom a question…but I have to wait until the morning to ask it, because due to the time change, she is already sound asleep in the middle of the night.

And as we send my parents off once again, I am reminded that this world is not our home. This world is full of sadness and grief and sacrifice. It’s not about us or about convenience to our living situations, but instead about glorifying God and spreading his gospel wherever we are at.


You see…sacrifice is painful. It means saying goodbye to something that our worldly hearts greatly desire.

But it also means trusting and praying and finding yourself directly in the center of God’s Will. It means peace that passes understanding. It means a deepening relationship with the God of this universe. It brings an eternal perspective that far outweighs them all. It also brings a heightened sense of thankfulness. No, my Mom does not live in the same town, the same state, or even the same country. But I do have email. And skype. And I don’t take those things for granted. My parents might not get to see my children very often, but the time that we do spend together is quality time and we make the most of it.


Yes, it is hard. But I have learned so much from my parents and the life that they have chosen to live. I have learned about contentment, laughter, language, compassion, joy, peace, outreach and thankfulness.

And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.


But I wouldn’t say no to a private jet that could take us back and forth across the Atlantic for more frequent visits 😉




We love you, Dad and Mom. And we miss you already.

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news” (Isaiah 52:7)


Aren’t these pictures fun? We are so thankful for an unseasonably warm November! These pictures were all taken during a hike at John Bryan.

Fun little story: On the way to the park, Tera leaked out of her diaper and her pants were soaked. I didn’t have a change of clothes for her (Mom fail!), but Theo dug out a pair of Kiah’s newborn pants and that is what Tera is wearing in all of these pictures! HAHAHA.





Birth Story: Kelly from Honea Bee Mama

Hey, hey! Happy Friday! I hope your Thanksgiving was fabulous! What are you doing today? Are you a black Friday shopper, or are you home in your PJ pants? We are celebrating family Christmas today since my parents are heading back to Africa next week and won’t be here during Christmastime! I’m sure I’ll have a post all about it up soon!

It’s also birth story friday! Last week, Kelly shared the birth of her first son, Jonah! Today, she is sharing the birth of her second, Karis! Guys…have you ever wondered how someone could give birth in the car? Well….read on! You will soon know!

Please don’t hesitate to follow Kelly on Instagram and make sure you also head to her blog!


Second Birth – Karis Emily Honea

By Kelly Honea


I had false labor this time for three mornings in a row prior to the delivery day.  I was waking up having contractions, needing to urgently use the bathroom multiple times, walking around the bathroom, catching up on last minute things, reading my encouragement cards, breathing through some contractions for about 2-3 hours from 2am to about 5am.  Then I would finally feel totally exhausted, lay back down, and all signs of labor stopped.  This happened Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings, slightly varying in times.  It was very frustrating at the time, however I am now certain that those days were probably getting me dilated/effaced and ready for labor ahead of time, instead of putting me through it all in one long whack the way it happened with Jonah, my first baby.  I went to a chiropractor Tuesday and Wednesday, and it felt so good to have a lot of neck, back, and hip pain go away.  I really wish I had been able to go to him during my second trimester when I was having a lot of strange nerve pain.  I walked 2 miles on Monday and Tuesday, and 3 miles on Wednesday.  My due date was Wednesday, and I was pretty bummed to have not had the baby yet.

Thursday I just felt tired of trying, tired of false labor, and my feet were sore from walking, so we just hung out around the house and cleaned.  I was trying to rest in the fact that the baby would eventually come, and not get stressed that my doctor may try to push me to be induced if I went too far past my due date.

Friday morning I woke up about every hour from 3am onward with one big contraction and needing to use the restroom.  I’d get up, clutching my belly, go to the bathroom, then feel better and go back to bed.  At 7 am the contractions began for real, and were about 10 – 12 minutes apart.  This felt different than the other days because the contractions began to be closer together and some pain wrapped around my back.  I kept track of them and did other things for about 2 hours before deciding that this was really going to be the day, so I called our doula, Hannah, and told her.  She came over, and I actually felt bad because I realized the contractions were just not that difficult yet.  She was very sweet and encouraging, but she did not think I was going into real labor yet.  This was around 11 am, and I made us turkey wraps with hummus for lunch.  I was having contractions every 7-10 minutes, but was able to squat down and breathe, or stay standing and just sway, or put my hands on the counter and lean forward.  I was very calm and happy and pain free between contractions.  Hannah prayed over our food and for me and the labor and birth, and we ate turkey wraps.  After that, I realized I hadn’t had any coffee yet.  Because we were both anticipating this going into the wee hours of the morning, and I didn’t want to get a bad headache, I made us coffee.

Hannah is our doula.   A doula is a birth coach.  She helps you to stay focused on having the type of labor and birth you want.  She is not trained or certified to deliver babies.  She made that very clear from the beginning, and neither one of us ever expected that she might have to step into that role.  We met several times during my pregnancy to talk about what I was really wanting to do during labor this time, how I wanted it to be different from the last time, and things that I found helpful and relaxing.  So she knew, for example, already that I did not want to be talked to while I was having contractions, and that I love the smell of peppermint, and that words are very encouraging to me.  She came over with a huge bag of helpful supplies, a birthing ball, and bean bag.  She was totally prepared for a long day/night.

Hannah admitted later that she still wasn’t sure if this was false labor or not.  John put Jonah down for a nap and she suggested we go walking to “try to get this going.”  We put on coats and scarves and walked up and down the road for about half an hour.  The crisp fresh air, sunshine, and clear blue skies were so calming.  Walking felt really good. I would stop and squat down during contractions and then we’d continue walking and talking.  I have no idea why I did not go outside and walk around while I was in labor with Jonah.  It was May, beautiful weather, and I am sure that would have helped so much!  Walking was definitely speeding things up, and now between contractions my back was sore, and I felt a real heaviness in my belly.  We went home because I had to pee.  After sitting very uncomfortably on the toilet, contractions got harder and a little closer and I said I was ready to stay inside so I could get on my hands on knees for some of the harder contractions.

Hannah suggested we put on a movie to help keep my mind off of the discomfort.  John asked if he still had time to go help with baseball, if I minded, and I felt really good and told him,

“Sure- go for it!”  He left around 1:45pm, and I was having contractions about 4 minutes apart.  I chose to watch a Tim Hawkins DVD (a Christian comedian), because Hannah had told me that smiling and laughing in labor was a very good thing.  However, I had a hard time enjoying the dvd because I kept having to pee and the contractions were getting harder.  I was on my knees with my elbows on our bed (our bed is now very low to the ground), swaying my hips, sometimes laying my head down and breathing through contractions.  Hannah squeezed my hips on some of the contractions and that felt better.  She was so encouraging and kept saying,

“You’re doing a great job. I am so proud of you.”

I liked that and found it helpful.  She had brought an oil diffuser and knew that I liked peppermint, so she got that going in our bathroom and it made the bathroom and bedroom smell so good!  That was very relaxing and helpful.  I felt like it made it easier for me to take nice deep breaths in through my nose. I felt so peaceful.  I really credit this to the fact that many people had been praying for me.  I also think that in my mind, I felt like I had at least 5 more hours to go, so I just wasn’t stressed yet.  I had gotten plenty of sleep, I had energy, I felt good!  John and Hannah both have said many times that I did not act like I was about to give birth.  It was painful, but I felt like it was still the beginning of the pain, and I was fully prepared for it to get so much worse.  Although I didn’t pull out my encouragement cards that day, because I was purposely saving them for the hospital – when I thought it would get really tough – I had been reading them almost every day prior to that.

I was timing my contractions using a baby app on my phone, but I wasn’t really looking at how far apart they were.  I think I just liked to push the start/stop button because it felt productive.  I had planned to go to the hospital when my contractions were about 3 minutes apart.  Here’s what’s funny – they never were.  I went straight from 4 minutes apart to 2 minutes and less.  Mentally, that did not register for me.  I think I was still just waiting to see 3.  Hannah looked over at the phone and must have noticed that they were getting closer and she said,

“I think you need to call your husband to come back, and call your mom about getting Jonah, and we need to head on to the hospital.”  I agreed and called them both.  When I got off the phone with my mom I noticed contractions were getting a little harder to deal with, and I began a little moaning and actually had a few in sort of a yoga downward dog position.  I think after that was the first time I said, “Maybe I need to use the bathroom again.”  Sitting on the toilet was so uncomfortable though, I gave up.  I hadn’t used the big bathtub yet, and I had heard so many wonderful things about laboring in the bathtub, so I said,

“I just want to take a bath.”  By this time John was back and poor Hannah was like,

“I really think we need to go to the hospital now.”  They both looked at me, as I ran myself a bath, while having intense contractions.  In retrospect, I should have listened to Hannah and gone to the hospital as soon as John got home.  Hannah was like,

“Ok, maybe you can spend ten minutes in there.”

Oh, but ladies, the bathtub was PHENOMENAL!  I think that was when I was in transition, and the warm water felt soooooo good!  I was in it less than ten minutes. Hannah made me get out and get dressed when I said,

“I think if I just poop, I’ll feel a lot better.”  This was actually the beginning of the urge to push – but since I had never felt that before, I just thought I needed to poop.  John got Jonah up from his nap and dressed.  We loaded up into the car.  Hannah was carrying the coat I had worn to walk in, and asked if I wanted to put it on, but I told her,

“No, but I’ll sit on it just in case my water breaks.”

We left the house and it was the middle of the stinking school zone about 5 minutes out on New Hope’s Main Drive.  John had on his flashers and there wasn’t hardly any traffic, but the policeman crossing guard stopped us anyway.  We’re very familiar with police stopping us while I’m in labor.  However, this guy was trying to be the doctor,

“How far apart are her contractions?…I’ll call you an ambulance…Pull over right here…”  It just made me SO mad because I still thought we could totally make it to the hospital!  Besides, there is no way an ambulance would have had an easy time getting all the way down Main Drive in little New Hope, and no way I wanted to have a baby in front of a school (Elementary, Middle, and High all right there) letting out.  John handled this a lot better than I would have if I was driving.  Honestly, I would have dragged the cop with his hand on my car window until he let go because that’s how crazy-in-labor I was feeling.  John pleaded,

“PLEASE! We’ve done this before, just let us go!”  The cop finally did let us go after at least a 3-5 minute hold up with his hand in the car window, like holding us there.  Then, we were behind a school bus the rest of the way down Main Drive.  John was really mad about that and I kept saying,

“Just pray!”
We turned onto the highway, and I had a really hard contraction and was yelling. John said, “Do I need to pull over and call 911?”  I said,

“No.” Then, my water broke after we passed Piggly Wiggly, and I said,

“Yes.  Call 911, I think I need to push but I’m trying not to.” John’s voice started shaking as he talked and I knew he was freaked out.  He kept saying,

“DON’T PUSH!” He answered the operator’s questions, and kept glancing at me, and hollering, “DON’T PUSH!” He arranged to meet the ambulance at the Jet Pep gas station in the middle of Owen’s Cross Roads.  We pulled in and I asked John if he saw Hannah’s car.  He did – she went right by us, and had not seen us stop.  John was about to cry as he said,

“She passed us!”  I called her and very urgently said,

“Turn Around! Come Back! My water broke! We’re not going to make it to the hospital! I need you to come back!  We’re at the Jet Pep at the red light!”

John was still on the phone with the 911 dispatcher, and I heard him say,

“I can’t see anything, she has pants on!”  John told us later that she had told him to look and see if he could see the baby’s head.  When he told her I was wearing pants she said,

“Sir, you’re going to have to take her pants off.”  John jokingly says he thought, “That’s how we got into this problem in the first place!”  He was shaking and pulling my pants off.

We had a Honda Element – the boxy looking car. I was in the front passenger seat, because Jonah was in the back behind the driver side, in his car seat, eating cheerios happily.  The new baby’s car-seat was buckled into the other passenger seat.  I don’t even know where my legs went when John opened that passenger door, but my behind was on the edge of my seat, hanging out into the open door area.  John said something bubbled out (more of my water breaking), and he almost threw up.  He was about to cry, when thank God, Hannah jumped out of her car.
The volunteer fire department pulled in about the same time as Hannah, and it was a man who had graduated from High School with John, and his dad.  I don’t remember them.  Hannah asked if we could go inside the gas station because it was rather cold and very windy and she said she didn’t want the baby to get cold.  There was no way I could walk at that point.  We were barely pulled into the parking lot, and the door was at least 50 yards away. John knew I couldn’t make it, and we both refused to even try.  She said, “OK then we need to turn up the heat and close the other doors and have blankets ready.” The volunteer fire guys had blue gloves on and Hannah asked them, “Have you ever done this before?” They both very wide-eyed shook their heads and answered,

“No.”  Someone told me that one of them said, “And I really don’t want to start today!” I never heard that though, because I was mostly focused on Hannah and John.   Someone asked if I needed or wanted to lay down and I shook my head no.  Sitting upright was a great pushing position! Hannah (seeing that all the men looked terrified) said with confidence,

“Well, I have been to a few births, so I guess I can do it.  Do you have any more gloves?”  She pulled on a pair and looked down and said, “OK, I can see her head, so this is going to happen.  You can do this.” That was all I needed to hear because I had been panting so hard trying not to push up until that moment.  John and the men stood behind her or around her or something.
I yelled and pushed really hard once, maybe twice, and her head popped out.  I hollered and pushed really hard again and her little body came out.  John and Hannah both do not recall me yelling, and they both said that she seemed to fly out so fast.  Her tiny body was a little blue, and the cord was loosely wrapped around her neck once.  I was pulling my shirt up over my head while Hannah moved the cord quickly and put the baby straight on my chest.  John was so scared and said, “Why is she blue? Why isn’t she crying?”  Hannah reassured him it was normal and rubbed her little back vigorously, like you rub a wet dog with a towel, and she started crying.  She was not nearly as nasty as you would think, I mean not covered in blood or anything!  A woman jumped in the car on the driver side with blankets and put them over the baby and I.  It was a very nice gesture, although they were covered in dog hair, as John was trying to find the baby blankets we had packed in our hospital bags in the trunk.  He brought me her little cute soft pink blanket and I put it closest to her body because I knew I had washed it, while trying to wipe off the unwanted dog hair.  We kept rubbing her little red back to make her wake up and cry and breathe.  John found one of her hats and we put it on her to keep her head warm.  The volunteer guys wanted to cut the cord and Hannah told them they could not do that, we needed to wait until the ambulance got there.  She then made sure we closed all the car doors and kept the baby warm.  The baby started opening her mouth and rooting around, so I got her to breastfeed a little while we waited for the ambulance.
Karis Emily was born at 3:15pm, in the Jet Pep parking lot of Owen’s Cross Roads, Alabama, on January 17, 2014.


Karis means Grace – and oh how we were given so much grace in her birth!

The ambulance showed up at 3:27pm, and they moved me to a stretcher, leaving the baby on my chest for warmth. I clutched her tightly, and kept rubbing her back.  In the ambulance the man was very nice and kept giving the baby oxygen because although her body was very pink, her face still seemed a little blue.  She wanted to eat though, so he let me take off the little mask and feed her more.  I guess we got to the hospital around 4:00ish.  They said the blue on her face was actually bruising from being born so fast, her face must have hit my pelvic bone hard enough to bruise.  She weighed 8 pounds, 6 ounces, the exact same as Jonah. Although, she had nursed some in the car, and some in the ambulance, and she seemed so very much smaller than Jonah, that I suspect it may have been slightly less.



She is 20 inches long, and has a perfectly round head.  Jonah was 21 and a half inches and had a cone head for a long time from being in the birth canal for so long with me pushing before I was ready. Feeling Karis exit my body was really a very incredible, not painful at all, type of physical sensation, of bones and muscles and water gushing out.  I did not feel that with Jonah, and I’m not sure if it’s because I had a local anesthetic or if it’s because he did come slower.  I know that it’s a sensation I will never forget.  Because she was born so fast, she had a lot of bruising on her cheeks and nose the first two days of her life.  The bruising on her face contributed to jaundice, so she had to be under the phototherapy lights in between feedings for one last day. We had a photographer who was supposed to come to do “Birth photography,” as part of practice for her she was including it with our newborn pictures, but since I gave birth before the hospital, she just met us there. All of the professional pictures here are from Ashlea Chance, of Southern Made Photography.


I wanted an all natural, medication-free birth, and oh my, I got it! Karis was beautifully protected because my water broke right before she was born, and Hannah was there with more experience than any of us.  She had never caught a baby, and was very clear when we signed our contract that she does NOT catch or deliver babies.  This was totally my fault, because I just didn’t think I was that close.  God protected us, and we are all safe and healthy.


Hannah was such a blessing to our family!  Even if we had made it to the hospital and delivered there, Hannah’s encouragement before and during labor was invaluable.  She has also provided excellent postpartum support.  She stayed with us in the hospital for a few hours, and then came back the next day.  She brought a wealth of wisdom on breastfeeding and helped to correct a latch problem Karis was having (which caused a lot of pain, until Hannah showed us how to teach the baby to fix it).  She also brought a goody bag for me which included this lovely nursing support tea, and this natural sitz bath spray (that honestly works even better than the Americaine I got at the hospital), and some healing herbs from this company to make an herbal sitz bath at home that gave instant relief.  Then she came to visit us after we got home as well, bringing us dinner, helping play with Jonah for a little while, washing our dishes, and being encouraging.  She has been a fantastic help to us! This is her personal doula webpage and her facebook page.  I cannot say enough good things about this lady and her doula services!

I made this error (having my baby in the car) because I was basing much of what happened on my first labor and delivery experience with Jonah.  In a nutshell, the biggest things that happened with Jonah that had a great effect on my outlook were this:

  1.  We went to the hospital too early and got sent home.  This time I was determined to not get sent home again.
  1.  When we went back to the hospital SEVEN hours later, and my contractions were about 2 minutes apart and lasting 2 minutes long, I was exhausted, I was still only dilated to 5cm.  We were admitted and I requested Nubain, a narcotic drug that gave me some rest and allowed me to sleep between contractions for about 2 hours, and then wore off and I was back to a natural labor.  This time I was really set on not having to ask for any drugs, so I was trying to stay at home as long as possible before I reached that exhausted phase.
  2.  As soon as my water broke in the hospital, the nurse said I had dilated immediately from 7cm to 10cm and I was ready to push. However, I do not think I was ready to push, because I did not feel the urge to push at all.  In fact, I believe my body was trying to rest a little before delivery.  Instead, I followed doctor’s and nurse’s orders and pushed when they told me to push for about 25 minutes.  That is not bad for a first time delivery, but because I pushed then, before I was ready, I had no idea what it felt like to actually needto push.

I have to mention the irony of my dad telling me that I should keep an “emergency birth kit” in my car.  I was around 36 weeks pregnant and my dad kept telling me how huge I was, and said that he had seen on Dr. Oz that all pregnant women should keep an emergency kit with blankets, scissors, and other things in their car “just in case you have the baby in the car.”  He told me this at least twice.  I specifically remember telling him,

“Dad, I’m not going to do that.  No one has a baby in a car.  That’s just ridiculous.”  Yes.

Yes it was a little ridiculous.  A beautiful, ridiculous, messy, awesome, blessed birth.


Karis’ facial bruising and puffiness went way down, and by the time we got home with her she was absolutely beautiful.  We had asked people close to us to pray that I would not have to be induced for going past my due date, because I wanted this labor to go completely drug-free. God answered those prayers in the most unexpectedly exciting way!



OH MY WORD! Thank you for sharing this story, Kelly! I am so proud to now say that I share ANY type of birth on my blog- c-section, unmedicated, epidural and even birth in the car/parking lot!

As always…to submit a birth story, just email me at [email protected]

You can read many more birth stories submitted to the blog by clicking here.



Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours!


I’ll be soaking up the day with my husband, little ones and the whole extended family!



Family Devotions

Theo and I have been married for just over four years, and we STILL have not nailed down a fool-proof way to do family devotions.

We have often drifted from one thing to another and while it’s frustrating, I have learned that it’s not about the plan or the book or even the schedule, but instead about our heart’s desire to actually implement a family devotional time.

Family devotions are not personal devotions, and they are much more than simply reading a bible story and praying before bed (although this is very important, and devotions can happen before bed!). It is an important gathering of your entire family to study God’s word and pray together.

We do family devotions because we think it’s important to worship together as a family. So many great conversations flow when the family is gathered together in one place, without any phones or technology. We think it’s important that we are the ones who are teaching our children how to read the Bible and how to pray, and the core of this is our family devotions.

In this post, I just want to touch on what we do for family devotions and throw out a few ideas I’ve seen other families do, but mostly I’d like to hear from you! What do you do for family devotions/worship? If you are not religious, is there a part of your day that you intentionally come together as a family without distractions?


Our Family Devotions:

  • The Dinner Table. For us, the dinner table is the most reliable time we will be together. Our mornings are never the same with Theo’s work schedule and no matter how hard we have tried, we just cannot do family devotions in the morning. So we do it in the evening. I’m so glad we have stopped trying to do what others do, and have found what works best for us instead. We do our family devotions after the dinner has been eaten, but before anything has been cleared off the tables.
  • Consistency. Theo’s schedule is HARD for consistency. This week, he worked Thursday and Sunday. Next week, he works Wednesday and Friday. It’s never the same. And the days he is at work, he is not home for dinner. So, we don’t do family devotions every day, but we do our best to do it whenever Theo is home and we have had dinner. We always have to eat, so tying family devotions with eating time is especially helpful!
  • Scripture. Devotionals are fabulous, and can be awesome tools, especially with kids. However, the more we have done family devotions, the more that we have found ourselves turning to reading the actual Bible. Theo will read a passage and then he and I will observe, discuss and sometimes even argue over the passage!
  • Open Discussion. It is very important to our family that our devotional time includes not only listening to God’s Word, but also discussing. Right now, Tera is too young to ask questions, but we want it to be a time that she feels safe and like she can ask questions. Sometimes after Theo reads a passage, I will even remark that it doesn’t make sense to me, and this will often lead to deeper research and more knowledge and understanding. We want our kids to be able to relate God’s word to their personal lives, and this can be done best through a comfortable atmosphere of discussion.
  • Prayer. The final part of our devotions is prayer, usually in the form of praying for other people. We have our jars with prayers sticks, and Tera always picks two sticks. Then Theo and I each pray for a family on the stick. If they have kids, we also have Tera repeat a short prayer for the kids (Dear God, thank you for ____. Please help them to obey.). When we are done praying for that person, we put them in the other jar. Growing up, my parents had a basket of missionary prayer cards/Christmas photos, and we would each pick a card every night and pray for that family.


We obviously aren’t perfect, and we have a long ways to go. We probably end up doing family devotions twice a week, so that just goes to show how consistent we actually are. However, I am so glad that we are at least in the habit of doing it, as this has not always been the case!

Also, I’m pretty sure that Satan sends one of his special little demons to Tera just as we begin to do family devotions. EVERY single time Theo pulls out the Bible, she will begin crying, or whining, or singing at a very loud pitch. It’s insane. And every time we try to get her to say her Scripture memory, she REFUSES. She will repeat songs and counting and Patty-Cake 8 million times a day, but ask her to say Genesis 1:1 and it’s as if she can’t speak. Anybody else? Please tell me we aren’t the only ones!

Here are some other fabulous family devotional ideas I have heard/seen other families do:

  • Sing a hymn or two together
  • Memorize a catechism or Scripture
  • Do a word/topic study
  • Go through a devotional book


Now it’s your turn! I’d really love to hear your feedback! What do you do for family devotions? What have you done in the past for family devotions? If you have older children, I’d especially love to hear what you do!



Shop Feature: Shop Small!!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!!

Thanksgiving is THIS WEEK! And then Christmas is right around the corner!

I’m sure that you are all working on your Christmas shopping, so I wanted to stop in and share some of my favorite small shops with you.


One thing I am very passionate about is supporting small businesses, especially ones run by Moms! Each item on this list is handmade by someone, and often a portion of the profits is given to someone else, and not just kept for themselves. I would encourage you to buy at least one thing this Christmas from a small business, etsy shop or private consultant. Big name brand stores are great, and I have nothing against them, but by purchasing something handmade, you will be supporting a family and not just a CEO.

I apologize that this post is not laid out more clearly. I have meant to get it up for that last few weeks, and that has just not happened. I hope that you can still get some good ideas, even if it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing post!

I also want to mention here that none of this content is paid. Although I have received some of these items for free in the past, no one asked me to write this post. I am honestly recommending these items for your Christmas list because I LOVE the items and the shops!


Bethany Joy Art

Vibrant and colorful graphics- for the holidays or for any day of the year! I have this one hanging on my wall, and it makes me smile/encourages me every time I see it!

Inspirational Christmas Art Print: "Most Wonderful Time of the Year" 8.5x11 inch Art Print


Isla Jo Studio

This shop has EVERY type of graphic you could imagine- and more! Chore charts, cute sayings, helpful homeschool or regular school printables…seriously EVERYTHING.

Stay Wild My Child (Pink Floral) DIGITAL DOWNLOAD 8" x 10" Quote Printable Boho Floral Woodland Nursery Sign (4 Color Options Available)


Ella and Ezzi

This is by far one of my favorite shops that I stumbled on this year! She creates tile matching game in every character imaginable! Tera has the farm animal set and LOVES it. I spotted this Daniel Tiger one today and know that Tera would just LOVE it. The shop also has reward charts using wooden tiles, and story tiles, which are awesome for waiting around with kids, homeschooling or long road trips. I cannot recommend these enough for anyone with kids from the ages of 2-10!

Daniel Tiger Wooden Disc memory matching game, toddler gift, wooden toys, Montessori, Wooden Toy, Educational Toy

Sela Designs

For those Mama’s out there, how much do you love these stones made into a necklace? I love pretty much every item in this shop!! Not only is the jewelry gorgeous, but 100% of the profits go towards a charity (the charity varies based on need). WOW!

Tagua nut jewelry. Maroon blue green necklace. Cranberry purple brown Necklace. Turquoise. Mixed colors Necklace. Sela Designs. Jewel tones

Toasty Barker Boutique

I met Jenni at a craft fair and found out that she also has a burden for kids in foster care. Jenni makes incredible rustic home decor items…usually all made from recycled items! She just recently opened up a storefront, too…so local friends, please check it out!

Burlap and Gold NOEL Mason Jar Set!

Bottles of Tears

One of my favorite shops in the world will always be this one. I usually buy and send a bottle to someone when they have gone through something very difficult, but I think that this would also make a great Christmas gift, especially if someone is far away this year!


Oh, Bowsies!

Little Miss’ new Mama recently opened her own Etsy shop, and I’m blown away by how quickly and fabulously she has gotten it up and running! The bows she makes are gorgeous and affordable, so if you are in the market for bows…she’s your woman!!! Seriously!

Christmas Baby Headband, Christmas Hair Bow, Shimmer Christmas Bow, Toddler Headband

Whats on your Christmas list this year? Do you have any gifts that you will be purchasing from small shops or businesses? Are there any shops I should add to this list? Please feel free to share this post with your friends!