A Christmas Moment I Still Think About

With the sorority sisters gone for the holiday, we emerged into the beautiful house.

It was 1991 and we had three children ages 4, 2, and seven months. Believe it or not, we were house parents in a sorority at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Graduate school had motivated us to drive across the country with a toddler just a few years before. I took a pregnancy test somewhere around Illinois and life as a soon-to-be family of four began.

Money was painfully scarce. It’s humbling to admit, but I used to pray that someone would invite us over for dinner after church so we could eat something really good. Then something amazing opened up to us.

Help Your Kids Manage Their Schedules With This Simple Tool

Kids need simple tools for managing their schedules. They often become very anxious when they don’t know what’s coming next. This is magnified in kids with early trauma.

I’ve been using this low-tech, back-to-basics tool for many years. It’s so simple, I’m almost embarrassed to share it, but it just might be useful to you!


Although I made this short video last January, the beginning of the school year is the perfect time to try this.

Also, don’t miss the opportunity to join me in The Hope Circle where we recognize the hard and celebrate the beauty of adoption. It’s the perfect place to renew your hopeful, courageous heart and become the mom you’re meant to be.

Doors to this membership site close September 14, 2019, and space is limited.

Have a fabulous day, friend.

With courage and hope,



The greatest gifts in life are the people we love.

Last weekend I went to Seattle for Sisters Weekend. For a number of years my sisters and I have spent a weekend with our parents; I’m deeply thankful for the time together.

This year was our first Sisters Weekend without my dad. I had some tearful moments, but most of all I felt grateful to my dad for taking such good care of all of us, especially my mom.

We shared stories from our childhoods, like the time my mom had a substitute teaching job and she got all the way to the school before realizing I was still in the car. I’d stretched out on the back seat and fallen asleep. No seat belts were required, so I was quite comfortable. Imagine my mom’s surprise when she got all the way to the school and realized she’d forgotten to drop her four-year-old off with Mrs. Lindsey, who let me watch JP Patches and Romper Room.

We had a grand time staying in a beautiful historic hotel, going to a show at the 5th Avenue Theater, and eating at incredible restaurants. It was like stepping out of my life and into another for two days.

My sister and I even went to Nordstrom just to smell a perfume I’d read about. It was strange to be so frivolous.

By Saturday night I felt relaxed and wished we could have had one more day.

While you may not be able to get away for a fancy weekend, we mammas need to let our brains rest from the intensity of life. We spend so much time thinking about our children’s needs, we nearly forget our own. It’s therapeutic and good for us to take a break. Laughing really hard in a hotel lobby is good too.

Traditions anchor me, reminding me of what’s important. They also eliminate decisions – I know what I’m doing the weekend after Presidents Day each year. I’m somewhat averse to decision-making, so that’s a huge bonus.

Sisters Weekend is dear because the sole purpose is for the four of us to be together. We’re not celebrating a holiday, graduation, or wedding; we’re together just because we want to be, and it’s good.

Do you have a tradition of gathering with your parents or siblings on a regular, or even annual, basis? Leave a comment and share it with us.

Each Wednesday I send a short and sweet email to my inner circle of readers. I’d love to send it to you too! As my thanks, I’ll email you my guide for foster and adoptive moms. Click HERE to sign up and you’ll find it in your inbox this week.

With love on this last Monday of February,


Learning to be Content With a Well-loved Home

A friend once told me, “You know, Lisa, I don’t think God is going to let you get rid of that blue carpet until you’re thankful for it.”

Nineteen years ago we came to town for a weekend to buy a house. We looked at thirteen, narrowed it to three, and then chose our house. Russ and I are slow decisions makers, so buying a house in a weekend still stands as one of our most decisive moments.

As we walked through the house admiring it, I said, “I love the house, but this blue carpet has to go.”

Never, let me repeat, never say words like that. God was giving me a great house on eight acres in a nice town – a big change from our current home. That’s what I should have focused on.

We had six children when we moved in, and with no wiggle room in our budget, the carpet stayed. I figured in a few years I would get my dream of pulling out the carpet and replacing it with hardwood to match the rest of the main floor.

Then in 2006, we began the journey of adopting four children over a span of 17 months. We were spread thin in every possible way: time, money, energy. As we were plunged into the realities of parenting children with early trauma, all that wasn’t absolutely essential was stripped away.

Our days were focused on safety and security for everyone in our family. It took all I had to care for the physical and emotional needs of the kids. Putting dinner on the table was a test in perseverance most days. Going to the grocery store was nearly impossible.

The financial strain of meeting the special needs of so many kids felt like it might pull us under. And darn it, did I mention we value being debt-free? We couldn’t put new floors on a credit card.

Life comes into sharp focus in the face of trials. Things I once thought were important, like the appearance of my home, became far less significant as we faced the needs of our family.

Concerns about the color of our carpet, the age of our cars, the style of our clothes slipped all the way down to the bottom of our list of priorities.

That blue carpet saw it all: babies, potty training, house training a puppy, sickness, and even the gallon of milk that exploded when I dropped it while carrying groceries into the house.

It was even worse than it looked, which is saying something, and I knew it.

As 2019 begins, we only have three children still living at home; it’s strangely quiet. We’re not buried in as many needs as we once were.

Our well-loved home has grown a little shabby over the decades.  The finish has worn off the high traffic areas of the wood floors in the kitchen. The original 1920’s red fir in the entryway has so many splinters I’ve kept a rug over it to protect our feet.

It’s finally time to take care of the floors.

Last Sunday we moved everything (including the refrigerator) from our main floor into one room. Monday the crew arrived and the project began. We’ve already run into a significant complication with the discovery of wet subfloor due to water leaking through an exterior wall. Nothing is simple!

What have I learned from this?

1. Contentment and gratitude are essential.

2. Debt weighs us down; very few things are worth it.

3. Sometimes we just have to wait – even if it’s 19 years with a not-so-loved carpet.

4. In the waiting, Pinterest is not your friend.

Discontentment takes up precious energy which no parent has in excess.

Thinking over and over again about something we can’t have, steals joy and gives nothing in return.

Did I ever become truly thankful for the old, blue carpet? I’d like to think so; although as with many other things, it’s been a back and forth tug-of-war in my heart.

I can say with certainty, I’m hugely thankful to own a home, however imperfect, where I can love my family and welcome our friends.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  1 Timothy 6:6-8

Contentment is essential, my friends. Work on it. Catch yourself when you want to grumble and complain. Choose gratitude every time – write it down to remind yourself.

Godliness with contentment is great gain.


My Gentle Journey with Essential Oils

Let me begin this post by saying I do not sell essential oils and I’m not writing with the purpose of persuading you to buy anything. This is simply my story of how essential oils help my family.

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

In 2010 Russ and I went on a cruise with his parents and siblings. In addition to the time we enjoyed together, we often had dinner with other folks on the ship. One dinner remains in my mind.

I began talking with the woman next to me about our lives, children, and shared faith. As I talked about my kids, I mentioned one was struggling with deep depression. We were considering medication and lifestyle changes to help but we were scared and overwhelmed.

Her teen daughter suffered from depression and in addition to other supports, she was using something I’d never heard of, an oil with properties to lift a person’s mood. It was called Wild Orange. It sounded a bit odd, but something about it made sense.

After dinner, we strolled to their cabin where she showed me a wooden box filled with small bottles of oils. She generously gave me a small bottle of Wild Orange and I nearly cried. I was curious about how my child would receive it and if it would help. I knew it smelled good and I liked opening the bottle just to breathe it in.

Following her instructions, I rubbed this oil on my teen’s feet at night and encouraged my child to wear small amounts so the uplifting scent could be inhaled. Together with other changes, it helped.


Years passed, and as many of you know, in 2014 we were in a tragic car accident that injured Russ and me and took the life of our precious daughter, Kalkidan.

We were in great emotional and physical pain. Russ’ sister brought us a nearly magical lotion called Deep Blue that we rubbed on each other’s aching shoulders, necks, and hips as we cried nearly every night. She also brought an oil called Elevation for us to rub on our hands and inhale the scent. I bought a simple diffuser and at night we diffused Serenity blend into our room. The scent became a comfort to us and we began looking forward to it.

Another friend brought a Lavender spray we spritzed on our pillows at bedtime. We grew to love that scent so much, we still use it most nights four years later.

That was a season of many tears; the oils brought us comfort and alleviated some of our physical pain.


In the midst of this trying time, one of my kids wanted to try oils too. I bought a simple diffuser and an experiment with oils began. Different ones were tried, with the final conclusion that Lavender was perfect for sleep and calming.

Even before the accident, sleep was challenging for me, so I created an intentional sleep hygiene routine. I go to bed early, wear a sleep mask, and diffuse the oils that help me most. This routine has made a huge difference in my life and health.

We ran out of Serenity for a while and in the swirl of my life, it took me a while to get more. The night I finally had more to diffuse, Russ came into our room, immediately walked to the diffuser on his nightstand, cupped his hands around the water vapor coming out of it and inhaled deeply. He looked up, relaxed his shoulders and said, “I’m so happy you got more of this.”


Our kids need a lot of support, but trust me when I say, moms and dads need it just as much.

Under the stress of parenting kids with early trauma, we stop sleeping, we become anxious and depressed, we can’t focus, we grieve. This is just what our kids are often experiencing too.

Medication is a gift when we need it, and many of us do at times. Additionally, we can care for ourselves every day using simple supports: drinking water, taking a walk, diffusing oils that lift our moods or help us sleep. These are powerful tools for my family and yours.

Lastly, Isaiah got me a new diffuser for Christmas (the one pictured above) and I love it. This morning my family room smells like fresh lemons and it makes me feel happy – I can always use more of that.

Do you use essential oils for your family? Leave a comment!

With courage, hope, and love,


Disclaimer: This post doesn’t contain scientific or medical advice. I’m not a medical provider; this is simply my story. 

Celebrating 2018

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from my family to yours!

I sent this out a few days ago to my 3 Thankful Thoughts friends, and I want to share it with you too.

[I invite you to join my inner circle of friends who get a few encouraging words each week! My weekly email is short and sweet, I promise. Join me by clicking HERE.]

The top left photo shows Russ, Mimi, Samuel, Annarose, and Claire on the final day of their trek to Machu Picchu in Peru. Russ had always wanted to do this trip and Annarose’s studies in Colombia (and travel to many other countries) were the impetus he needed to make it happen. Mimi, Samuel, and Claire joined them for this incredible adventure.

The next photo is of Hannah and David a short time before they were engaged – hence the lack of ring on her finger. The wedding is July 13th at our home, which thrills and terrifies me. We have a lot of work to do!

The bottom left photo shows Noah and Katie at Noah’s graduation from medical school. He’s now in residency with plans to become a maternal fetal medicine specialist, a subspecialty of ObGyn.

Next is a photo of Russ and me with Beza at her high school graduation. It was a big accomplishment! She is now in Job Corps in San Diego studying hospitality.

The final photo is most of us, plus two friends-who-are-family, at the Ballard Locks in Seattle.

God was gentle with us in 2018, and it’s been a better year for our family than we’ve had in a long time. Russ and I are so thankful for the good things God is doing in the lives of our kids.

We’re looking toward 2019 with hope and expectation. Change happens quickly as our kids pursue education, careers, and make big life decisions. Russ and I are in awe of the amazing people they’re becoming.

With only four left at home (and soon three), we’re helping Zoe transition out of foster care, Claire plan for college, and cheering for Ebenezer and Wogayu as they play lots of sports.

My house is brimming with family this week; I’m writing as they all sleep. I’m taking the first week of January off to spend with Russ focusing on our marriage, plans, and dreams for 2019. I may pop in, but if not, I’ll see you the second week of January.

I’ll have a new episode of The Adoption Connection podcast for you Tuesday, January 8th!

From my family to yours, may courage and love carry you through the end of 2018. I wish you a heart filled with hope as we move into the newness of 2019.

You’re a good mom – you really are. Take good care of yourself through the holiday season.

All my love,