My Family

Once I was in my 20s, people started saying how much I looked like my mom. We had never seen it before. I was shy and quiet, and my mom was always loud. How could we look the same? But the older I get, the more people say we are the same and the more I act like her. And just so we’re clear, there is no one I would rather be like than my mom

My mom is the best. Even when we disagree and she makes me crazy (and she does make me crazy) she is the best. My mom is my best friend. When I lose my direction, she is the arrow pointing me north. I don’t know what I would do without her. And when life overwhelms my mom, I like to believe that I am her north star. Without each other, we would be lost.

Before I can remember, my parents took in strays. I’ve heard the stories so I know there were little boys who we loved as our own. And then a parent showed up and took those boys away from us. I don’t remember their names or how they came to be with us, but if you asked I would say there where three boys and I think I remember them sleeping on the floor by mom’s side of the bed or at least in their room.

I remember as a teenager, just out of school, we had another girl living with us. Mom was out of town and I had to go to the local high school and explain why Jewelia was late for school. The only proof we had of our relationship was love, and let me tell you, the government doesn’t use love as proof of anything. One of the few times I remember my dad crying was the day Jewelia (at 16) was made to leave us.

I’ve looked back at those who we loved. Yes we had Jewelia who was made to leave us, but we also had Joey, who had amazing parents but always ended up at our door, Meagan, who I consider my sister to this day, Seth who came to spend spring break at our house and then left two years later when he graduated high school. Daniel who I’m pretty sure went on as many family vacations that I went on with my family.  I have so many more siblings than the two brothers my mom gave birth to.

For as long as I can remember we have called these extra kids strays. And the ones I can give names to are just the beginning. There were always extra kids at my house. And we loved each and every one of them.

As I grew up and got married and moved on, my husband was reminded repeatedly that girls normally turn into their mothers and my husband said he would be honored if I turned into mine. Fourteen years later I have to remind him of what he said.

My mom adopted stray kids. And while every sad kid story makes me want to take those kids into my home, I’ve adopted a different kind of stray. I’ve taken in adult strays. Those grown ups that think no one loves them. Those that don’t speak to their parents. Those whose parents have died. Those who just need someone to tell them the truth. Those who need someone to love them.

Some days it makes my husband crazy, but as long as I don’t move them in, he will love my strays as much as I do. They need parents to tell them no. They need someone to say they’re making a mistake. They need someone to say, I believe in you and want the best for you. They can sleep on my couch. They can cry on my shoulder. I will cry with them and sometimes I cry for them once they leave.

My husband tells me regularly that I can’t make their decisions for them, I’m not their boss no matter how much I feel like their mom. What I can do is love them and pray for them. And whether they like it or not, my God is their Father and I know He hears our prayers. I know that even when our prayers end with us in tears and not understanding, He knows and His time is so much better than ours.

When my sister is pulled from my home and my dad is in tears, my Father cries with us. When all I can do is cry out, my Father is crying out with me. When I feel like no one hears me, my Father asks why no one is listening to Me.

If you don’t think God is listening, take a moment and listen closer. God is crying with you. You’re pain is His pain. He loves you and so do I. You are my family. My family is so much bigger than blood could make it. I love you all so much.


I wasn’t ready for this

It’s starting to feel like I only write when I’m asking for people to give or when something bad has happened. And let’s be honest, today fits right into that mold.

I used to talk to my mom on the phone every day. She would call me on her way home from work, and we would chat for that 15 minute drive. Then my brother started working with her and since they live 1/2 mile apart, they started carpooling most days. That meant that my mom only called me on days when my brother wasn’t with her. It was hard (annoying) at first, but I’ve gotten used to it.

Normally on Tuesdays my brother rides with my mom so I was obviously surprised when my phone rang around 5 and it was my mom. She thought she was so funny telling me how sorry she was that she wouldn’t be able to see us the next day. She was sorry that I decided we wouldn’t be able to see her. (Wednesdays weather permitting the boys and I go to my mom’s house to spend time with Grandma Jo and then see my parents. The weather is a lot less permitting in the winter that the other 3 seasons.) Finally asked why “I” decided we couldn’t go over. My dad and Grandma Jo were both sick with the flu. We talked the rest of her drive home and said good-bye when she pulled in the garage. It should be a few days until I talked to her again.

You can’t imagine my surprise, my shock, my panic when about an hour later my phone rang and the caller ID showed my mom’s name. I had been messing around on Facebook and answered on the first ring. She doesn’t call me at night. My phone should not have rang.

My mom was a mess and the strongest she’s even been when I answered the phone. She said, “I think Grandma had a stroke. The ambulance came and got her. I’m on my way to the hospital.”

I can’t even tell you my reaction. I got this same call 2 years ago, but this time is worse because I know how that story ended. The last time I got this call Grandpa had brain cancer and died. And that was hard and I didn’t want to lose Grandpa. I wasn’t ready for that, but I’m really not ready to lose Grandma.

And as broken as I felt, I held it together. I got the information Mom needed to give me. I was strong for her. I hung up the phone, told my husband what happened and took 1 minute to fall apart. Then I made the calls that she needed to me to make.

They made it to the hospital and confirmed that she did have the flu. They didn’t think it was a stroke, but the flu was bad enough they were transferring her to a bigger hospital. Okay. I can do that. The flu is extra bad this year. They transferred her and did an MRI and EKG the next morning. She has the flu, and it was a stroke.

If you know anything about my grandma, you know she is so ready to be in Heaven with my grandpa. She’s been telling us all since Grandpa died that she just wants to be with him. So my first thoughts with all of this is that she was just going to give up. I’m not ready to lose her. That may be super selfish, but I need her for just a little bit longer.

But the one thing she wants more than to be with Grandpa is to not be a burden on her family so she keeps fighting. The location in the brain where her stroke was just affected mobility on the right side. It didn’t affect her memories or attitude or personality. She is as ornery ever. Her speech is slow and affected, but she makes jokes with the doctors that they don’t get.

Grandma and Grandpa always thought that she would die first. They planned for that. We know she has an aneurysm in her brain. Any day it could move and kill her. But it hasn’t. This week we learned things about her heart. It is bad when your aorta is enlarged. At 3cm they do surgery. Grandma’s aorta is 6cm. That makes your heart pump too fast and, instead of sending the blood out faster, your heart is pumping too fast and the blood can’t get out of the heart and instead pools around in your heart and starts clotting and that clot is what caused Grandma’s stroke.

We’ve been told that with the kind of stroke she had that with medication there is less than a 15% of her having another stroke. I guess if you must have a stroke, it’s the best kind you could have. Although that information came before we knew how swollen her aorta is.

Mostly we are being told that with rehab, Grandma will get back 60% mobility on her right side. She will be able to walk, but she will probably have to use a walker. They want to do heart surgery eventually. It’s hard for some people to understand but she is looking for quality of life over quantity. She’s been ready for Heaven for 2 years.

So today I’m feeling the same feelings I had 2 years ago. I feel selfish and guilty. I want Grandma to live, to be healthy and strong and for us to have years more of Wednesday visits. But I don’t get to make these decisions. I don’t get to pick. And my mom sits at the hospital all day and I think I should be doing something, but there is literally nothing I can do. Even if I drove to the hospital, they wouldn’t let me and the boys in.

So it’s all in God’s hands. And I pray for His will. For the right thing. If He chooses for us to have her longer I will rejoice in that and if He chooses for her to be with Grandpa, I will mourn for our lose, for the world’s lose, but rejoice in knowing that she is with Grandpa.

If you, dear readers, would pray for my family. The selfish part of me wants you to pray for healing and the unselfish part asks for you to pray that His will be done. Either way pray for Grandma to be at peace and for God to be with us all.



Thanks for the Hope

gifts 2


December has just been crazy around here. A lot of the time it hasn’t felt like December, and it’s hard to believe that Christmas is less than a week away. We’ve had Christmas parties and family come into town. We finally managed to get a tree last weekend and start our own Christmas shopping. There is still so much to do and so much going on in the next week. (And the week after that, if I’m being honest.)

I went back and forth a lot on whether I was going to do Hope for the Holidays this year. It’s always a lot of pressure on me to make sure I’m doing what’s right. I do my best to make sure there are no repeats or fraud. This year was especially frustrating as we did have fraud. There were two posts with different stories that came from the same person. And the most frustrating part of all of it was that one of those stories was part of the reason I did this again this year.

However, we all go into this with our eyes and our hearts open. It is all a matter of faith. And while one person lied and got help before I could get it shut down, we helped a lot of really great people. Nine families received a little extra help this year, a little bit of their burden lifted. They got a little hope from strangers across the internet.

This year we helped a single mother whose daughter needed a winter coat and a little something under the tree. We helped grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. We had people write in requests for their neighbors because they knew they needed help. We helped several families who struggle to put food on their tables. We helped families from the east coast all the way to Alaska.

Thank you to everyone who gave this year. Thank you for caring for people you don’t know and will never meet. Thank you for supporting me in my small part of giving back. If you want to give, it’s not too late. I’m sure any of the families we’ve given to could use a little more help, and there were several new comments today from people who just heard about us and could use some help.

From my family to yours,
Merry Christmas


Ho(pe), Ho(pe), Ho(pe): Hope for the Holidays

christmas gift blog

Everyone goes through times of good and times of bad. We all have our up times and our down times. Times where everything seems to be going just great, this life couldn’t get any better and times where if one more thing goes wrong you don’t know how you’re going to make it through. Sometimes life seems to cycle through the good times and the bad. Sometimes life seems to stall out in the middle of the bad cycle. Sometimes it appears as if other people only have the good times. Sometimes it feels as if you only have the bad times.

My family had gone through our share of good times and bad. We’ve had times where everything feels like it’s going just right and it’s all worked out and there’s a plan and we’ve got this. And we’ve had times where it’s all come crashing down. There’s been days that felt so dark I didn’t know if we’d ever see daylight again. We’ve had days that felt hopeless.

This past year has been interesting to say the least. It’s certainly had its up and downs. People we love have died. Jobs have been gotten and lost. Times have been hard. But we have also laughed and loved and had joy. Times have been good, too.

The day after I got a seasonal part-time job, my husband lost his job. And while he wasn’t surprised by it, I was certainly shocked. And then I took a deep breath and remembered all the calls he got from people wanting him to quit his job to go work for them. We decided he’d take a week off to relax and then he’d be back to work in no time. He was too loyal to his company to just up and quit so this was a blessing.

That week or two off turned into 6 months. All those job offers vanished overnight. And as the weeks stretched on, it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My job ended before he had a new one. And while I wasn’t making that much, it certainly helped. It was hard to stay hopeful. It was hard to stay calm.

We are very blessed that we have each other to lean on. We have family to turn to for help. We have friends who repeatedly asked what they could do to help. And we consistently reminded each other that God has a plan for our lives. We are following His path, and we know His plan is good.

As November rolled around, I thought about the last two Christmas seasons where I have used my words and together with some amazing people, both strangers and family, we have given hope to people who didn’t have anywhere else to go. Together we have been the shoulder to cry on, the sympathetic ear, the hope for the hopeless. And while I thought about it, I didn’t think I had it in me to be that hope for someone else this year.

I made a decision that I just couldn’t do it this year. Last year I was so emotionally involved with every person that asked for help, and I just didn’t think I had it in me this year. How was I going to help others when I wasn’t even sure how we were going to do it this year?

Sometimes I need to take my own advise and remember that God has a plan. My husband started his new job just before Thanksgiving. And, honestly, it feels like our own Christmas miracle. But even with that, I still decided I wasn’t going to host Hope for the Holidays this year. I just didn’t have it in me.

I told my husband I wasn’t going to do it and gave my reasons, and he thought I was making the right decision. He remembered last year me sitting at the computer crying every time a new need was written when there was no one to fill it. He remembered, when people trusted me to decide how to send out what they wanted to give, how I agonized over every dollar entrusted to me. He knew I laid awake at night wondering if I had made the right decisions, done the right thing.

And then I got an email from one of our moms from last year. I let the email sit for days. I didn’t know what to do with it. How could I tell her no? How could I just walk away from it? I told my husband about it and sometimes he just amazes me. He told me that it sounded like God wasn’t ready for me to walk away. He said that he thought God uses me to give hope to people feeling hopeless this time of year. And then I got emails from two more people asking about this year.

We got our Christmas miracle so we’re going to try to pass that along to others. This year has been really hard for a lot of people. The world at times has seemed so hopeless. There is so much sadness and darkness out there that it’s hard to remember there is also hope. There is light at the end of even the darkest tunnels.

So here we are today taking a giant leap of faith. This is our third year for Hope for the Holidays and I’m not really sure how it’s all going to work out. The first year people connected with each other directly. Those who were able to help contacted those who needed help. Last year those who were able to help contacted me and I connected with those in need. This year we’re just going to see what happens and where God leads us.

Here are the guidelines:


  •  Please comment on this post. Tell us your story. Give us ages and genders for your kids. Let us know what kind of help you need. If you need groceries, what stores are close to you? If your kids need winter coats, what size do they wear? What is the best way for us to help you?
  • Be sure to leave your email address so we have someway to contact you directly. Leave your email address as yourname AT domain DOT com so spammers are less likely to find you.
  • You do not have to use your real name. If you want to remain anonymous in your request you can be.
  • Be patient. The needs come in faster than the help does. Last year it was a week between the first need and the first help.


  • If there is a specific need you feel moved to fill, please reply to that comment and then contact that person directly. You can contact me if you need to or have additional questions for me, but connecting directly with the person you are wanting to help will be the easiest way to help.
  • If you don’t have a specific need you are wanting to fill but still want to help, you can contact me directly at and I will get back to you. This is the way most of the giving was done last year, and I’m okay with doing it that way again.


So here we go. Maybe together we can spread some hope this holiday season. Let’s be a light in the darkness. Let’s share in the magic of Christmas.


A lesson in patience


Recently I’ve been especially emotional. I’ve been stressed out. I’m tired. I’m still not completely better after being sick at the beginning of the week. And all of that makes me grouchy.

Do you know what else makes me grouchy? Having to go to the store with 3 kids (my 2 crazy little boys and their friend who I’m watching this summer) in tow when I’m not feeling 100% and it’s hot and humid outside. But we had to stop at Wal-Mart because they were some things I needed, girlie stuff, shoes to replace the ones I’ve worn out since I’ve been working, a couple of tank tops to replace the ones I have worn holes in, and some white t-shirts for my 3 to tie-dye this weekend.

We are walking through the store as fast as I can get these 3 monsters to move and they are bickering and dragging their feet. “We’re hungry!” “I’m tired!” “When can we go swimming?” If they’d just keep moving and shut their traps, we’d be done and then eat lunch.

Finally we are headed to the registers. I walk past the self scans that I love because I’m not doing that we these 3, not today. I walk past several check outs with very little waiting because I recognize the cashiers and I’m not doing that today either. We walk clear to the other end of the store because we are parked on that side. There is only one register open on that side. Of course it has a very long line, but I’m not walking back to the other side of the store. We will wait.

While we are waiting, I learned that the cart full of stuff in front of me did not belong to the lady in front of me. The lady in front of me moved the cart out of the line and we all stepped forward. Just as she was about to set her items up on the belt, the missing cart lady showed back up. She let the lady in front of me go ahead and she got back in line in front of me.

Let me tell you how annoyed I was with all this, but I am not one to say something. I just smiled and then rolled my eyes. Mystery cart lady started putting all her stuff on the belt and then disappeared again. I was about to lose my mind. Who does this? If you’re not ready to check out then don’t get in line.

She came back with several boxes of those water balloons that fill up all at once and tie themselves. The boys told me, as they do every time they see these water balloons, that they wanted them. Not today, guys.

Mystery cart lady then started talking. She told the 70-year-old cashier how lovely she looked with her hair done and her make up. She asked the kids if they’d been good. She commented on how much she loved my girl’s freckles and how when she was young she had prayed for freckles.

She told me about her husband, how she is 16 years older than him, how she tried to talk him out of waiting to marry her. She told how they met in church a long time ago. She talked to the kids and told them that sometimes, when you are good there are surprises. She whispered with the cashier.

She talked about being good and that she had made mistakes when she was young. She told that she had to spend some time in the “big house.” She told that she had learned from her mistakes. She told that she always wanted to have kids but was never able. She talked to the kids and then laughed and told them they shouldn’t talk to strangers. She told them if I guy ever asked them to help him look for a puppy they should scream and run.

It didn’t take long for me to go from annoyed to enjoying the situation. It was interesting to watch the whole scene unfold, and I wondered how the people in line behind me were viewing the situation. She finally got all of her items paid for and stepped just a couple of steps away. She stood there going over her receipt and continuing to talk to all of us.

My items all got rang up and then something extremely exciting happened. The cashier picked up a bag with 3 sets of the water balloons in it and handed it to my 3. She said it was from an anonymous person, but we all knew who it was from. And then the cashier handed another set of water balloons to the little girl who was in line behind us.

We all thanked the mystery cart lady. She said that she didn’t do anything, and then told the kids that they needed to be good and not throw the balloons at people’s faces and to be sure and pick up all the trash when they were done playing with them.

She walked with us over to the door to wait because she wanted to make sure none of us got stopped for the water balloons we didn’t have receipts for. She told me that there are good people left in the world and that was need to stick together. She told us to have a great day. She said, “God bless you.”

We all had a lesson in patience. It was a lesson in kindness. It was a random act of kindness unlike any my kids have experienced before. It was a reminder that there are good people in the world. To take the time to slow down and be kind. To let the person who left their cart and walked away back in line where they were. It cost us 15 minutes to wait in line longer and we all gained so much more.

I hope this experience stick with all 3 of mine for the rest of their lives. I know it will stick with me.



Facebook is slowly breaking me

I joined Facebook late. I can’t remember when I joined but it was a while after I joined before I became active. I’m pretty sure it was sometime during the 20 months between the birth of my boys that I joined. I know every year Facebook will let me know on the day I joined that it is our anniversary.

And these days I mostly appreciate the updates. It’s how I stay in contact with people I don’t see on a regular basis (or peek into the lives of people I never see and wouldn’t even think of if Facebook didn’t remind me). And I would apologize for my use of Facebook, if I didn’t think all of you use it the same way. It’s a way to pretend we are closer to more people than we are. And I have less than 200 friends on Facebook (and WAY less than that in real life.).

One of the things that I have come to love about Facebook is their memories. “We think you might be interested in seeing what you posted on this day over the last 10 years…” And many of those times, Facebook is right. I’ve posted about the funny things my boys do or say or a super cute “how were they ever this small” picture. I very rarely share the memories, but Facebook was right. I love seeing them.

Welcome to this week. With everything happening with us plus I’ve been sick as a dog, I’m super emotional this week. And then Facebook wants to share with me. The first thing FB shared with me was an article that I shared. It was written by a mom whose baby died. I originally read the article and shared it because I know that it hurts and we don’t talk about miscarriage, stillborn, SIDS, infant and child death because it’s hard. Let me tell you, FB reminding me (Oh, and I reread the article) didn’t make it easier. Thanks for the memories.

That memory was one year ago today. Do you know what happened two years ago today? No? I didn’t know either until FB told me. I thought I had some more time. Two years ago today, my brother who is in the army (so he doesn’t live close) and his wife came home to see my grandpa. Two years ago today my family (minus my husband who wasn’t able to be there) gathered for pictures which I clearly remember telling my sister-in-law I wasn’t happy to be taking, and then remember telling her I was so thankful we took because these were our last family pictures.

I remember this week two years ago so clearly. It was my grandpa’s last good week. It was that “maybe the doctors were wrong” and “God works miracles” week. And, for the record, that week was a miracle because Grandpa was so good that week and had such a good visit with everyone. God gave us all that one super awesome good week.

But seriously, FB, I could have had a couple more days before the reminder. I have missed him so much these last few weeks with everything going on, I could have done without the reminder. I have heard his voice, that amazing, annoying, loving and terrible voice, “God’s only preparing you for something worse.” I’ve heard it, Facebook. I didn’t need the reminder this week.

I’m not sure if Facebook is trying to break us or help us. What I do know is when you are feeling fat and ugly and throw on the first shirt you can find and your sister-in-law wants to take pictures and tells you that you’ll appreciate it some day, trust her. Take the picture. Hug the ones you love. As hard as that summer was, what I would give to do it again.


being a mom


There are times that as a mom I believe I’ve got this. More often than not, I feel like I am the worst mom ever. Especially as a homeschooling mom, more often than not I feel like a failure. You’re 3-year-old is reading chapter books, and my 9-year-old is still struggling with his letters. Obviously, I’m the worst mom ever. The internet says so. Let’s not take into consideration that my 9-year-old is hard of hearing and dyslexic and we work hard every day. Obviously, I’m ruining his life.

And those are the thoughts I have on a daily basis minus the last sentence. I feel like I am failing my boys every day of the week. And it doesn’t even matter that my hard of hearing, dyslexic on his own last week knew a lower case b over a d, p, or q. (And if you know anything about dyslexia, you know what a mile stone this was!) I never feel good enough, that I’m doing enough, that they know enough. I always fall short in my head. It doesn’t matter that my 7-year-old can properly pronounce dinosaur names that my grandma didn’t even knew existed until he told her.  I feel like I am failing them on a regular basis, all day every day.

And maybe that feeling of failure is because I want so much for them (because I want SO MUCH FOR THEM!). Maybe it’s because every time someone asks me (or the boys) what grade they are in or who their teacher is or where they go to school, I cringe waiting for the negative comment. For the record, no one has ever said one bad thing to me about homeschooling. Most of them are super supportive and don’t even understand how it works. I know its me. I know that its me expecting them to think it’s the dumbest, worst thing they’ve ever heard and they are all so supportive. I’ve had people I thought were going to be negative tell me they wished they would have homeschooled.

And in case all that wasn’t enough, about a month ago I went from a stay at home mom to a working mom. I love my job. I am bartending at a beach bar where my kids are more than welcome. My boys know everyone there by name and their favorite thing is that they get to go swimming in the pond every day this summer. The hours that I work are super family friendly and where I work prides itself on being a family center so we don’t have to worry about drunk idiots stumbling around or fights breaking out. These are our people who buy my boys ice cream while I’m behind the bar. I would not have this job if it caused damage to my marriage or my children. I love my afternoon old men.

And then we come to tonight. I have been working this job for almost 5 weeks and we all love it (me, the boys, and my husband.). I noticed yesterday Connor, my youngest, had a stuffy nose. He didn’t have a fever. He played like he was a rock star. I gave him medicine for his nose.

And then we did it all over again tonight, only tonight I worked until 9 instead of 5. And then we got home and my baby was coughing and choking and I fell apart. A year and a half ago, Connor and I spent 4 hours at the ER because he was struggling to breathe. He went home with a nebulizer and medication. We are still using both today. We used them both tonight.

And as my baby is sitting snuggled up to me with a breathing mask on and medicines pumping into his lungs because every breath is a struggle, I again thing of what a bad mom I must be. A good mom would have stayed home with him and kept him home today. It doesn’t matter that he was fine earlier and had an amazing time playing in the water today.

And then I think about my mom. She had asthma so bad as practically a baby that she has to get shots for it. My mom has a dent in her arm from all the shots she had to get to keep her breathing. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been told that what my mom had skips a generation so my brothers and I need to watch for it. And tonight as my baby struggled and had tears rolling down his face as we cuddled while he had his breathing treatment, I again felt like a terrible mother.

Should I have been watching closer for this? Is this my fault (genetically)? Was it better when I stayed home with you (even though you go with me every day to work)?

I have so much doubt. And then I think and remember all God is doing with us. I’ve talked before about His plan and how I could never understand it. And today is a prime example, because I feel like a failure and I know this is His plan. I need to trust more. TRUST MORE!

There are so many more things going on in our lives right now than I have even wrote about tonight. And it’s so funny to me that me and my husband are on the same God page. This is a path. It hurts. It’s hard. It’s right. Happy Father’s Day this Sunday. My Father in Heaven has a plan and there is a reason we are right here, right now. I’m all in on faith, God. We are all, all in on faith, God.

Please pray for me and my family. If you have something, anything, you want my family to be praying for please leave a comment and know we will pray for you.


A season of second guessing

This is the back of our tree as the ornament side is leaning against the wall because it will not stay standing any longer. It's been that kind of week.

       It’s been this kind of week.


With Christmas just days away, we have definitely reached that time where I start rethinking everything I’ve done. Have I done enough? Did we do too little? Did we do too much? Should I have done this? Should I have done that? What about…? And the list goes on and on.

It has been especially rough this year with Hope 2.0. It’s worked differently that it has in the past. Instead of people helping others directly, all but one of the helps has sent me a donation and then I have decided how to use it to do the most good. This wasn’t the original idea, but it has worked out. I’ve really enjoyed it, and when I look towards next year, I’m going to think about this format and how to best make it work.

I’ve read the stories people told and I’ve looked at what we have to give and have tried to figure out the best way to help the most people. I feel such a responsibility to be a good steward especially with the money others have given. What would they want me to do with it? What would they see as the most good? And let me tell you, it has been hard.

I made a plan and sent out emails to families. I learned kids’ names and what kind of toys they like. I learned what stores were close to people and how we could do the most good. I learned about families needing food. I heard about people being desperate for help, not qualifying for government assistance or just being too late for most charities. For example, to be a part of the Salvation Army’s Christmas assistance, you have to register in the beginning of October.

And maybe that’s what so great about what we have done here. These are the people who fell between the cracks. Maybe in October, it looked like they wouldn’t need any assistance for Christmas but by the time December rolls around everything has changed. I know how fast life can change. I’ve heard about illness and hospital stays and deaths in families. I sent a package to a family living at a hotel because they have nowhere else to go.

I made decisions that were hard but felt right. I sent the emails and made promises that had to be kept. I spent the money I was sent and felt really good because we had helped everyone that asked for help. We sent gifts and stockings filled with surprises to 7 little kids with the sender’s name as Santa. And then I got a notification that there were new comments on the blog.

Three new families needing help. Okay, I might be able to do a little more. And then over the weekend two more requests came in. A single dad, a grandma, families who had taken in nieces and nephews who needed a safe place to live. People asking for winter coats and food.

Let’s be real honest. Saturday night I sat and cried. I felt guilty for the people I hadn’t been able to help. I felt guilty that maybe I had done too much for the first group we helped. I felt guilty that I wasn’t able to do enough for anyone. And then my husband reminded me that I had done enough, that I can’t save everyone. I can’t help everyone. And it sucks but it’s true. And considering this is all done on faith with hope, I was feeling pretty low and hopeless Saturday night.

God works in mysterious and wondrous ways. Sometimes I can picture him looking at us, at me, shaking his head with a little smile the way a parent would and saying, “Oh, ye of little faith.” Sunday night I got a message on Facebook from someone who couldn’t have known how I was second guessing all my decisions. They told me they wanted to help. And their help is enough to do something for everyone who hasn’t received help yet. It’s enough to fill the gap that I couldn’t fill.

And while I still wish I could do more, I also know that God provides. The week between the first needs and the first helps was so hard for me. Everyday I had to say to myself that it was still early. That people would help. People would give. It would be okay. And people have given and it is going to be okay.

With 4 days until Christmas, I’m going to try to stop second guessing every decision I’ve made. I am going to slow down and relax and enjoy the time I have with my family. I’m going to be grateful for everyone who helped me make this Christmas a little easier for some families. I’m going to be thankful for what we have and what we have done. I’m going to stop wondering if I did enough. I’m going to be joyful when I get messages from people we have helped and stop worrying if it was enough when they tell me it was so much and how excited they are when packages arrive. I’m going to take great joy in the message from the mom who tells me how much her daughter is going to love what we sent and how excited she will be Christmas morning.

Stop second guessing yourself.

Thank you to everyone who has supported Hope 2.0 and me this year.

Merry Christmas!


A Cheerful Giver

*Originally printed in The Hometown Treasure 2016 Countdown to Christmas*

As we move closer and closer to Christmas, people become more generous. Or maybe it’s just that there are more opportunities to give. There are food drives and donation boxes and red buckets everywhere you look.  There are opportunities like Shop with a Cop and Operation Christmas Child Shoebox.

My husband and I are raising two little boys. Living in a world filled with entitlement, we are trying to raise them to be givers, to earn what they have and give when they can. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” We are trying to raise cheerful givers.

One of the ways they love to give is by putting money in the red buckets. They love the ringing bells, and I know this time of year, I had better have money ready for them if we are heading to the store. The boys want to give on the way in the store and on the way out. They want to stop and talk to the bell ringers. They want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. If we head into a store and the red bucket isn’t on the stand, it makes them mad. How can they give if the bucket isn’t there?

Another way we are teaching them to give is going through their toys and donating some of them. They boys have an abundance of toys and at least once a year we go through them. Some of the toys get put up for a later time, some get thrown away, and some go into our donation pile. The first time I let the boys help sort through the toys to get rid of some, they were 5 and 3 years old. I will never forget that day. They asked who the toys were for that we were giving away. When I told them that there were kids out there who don’t have a lot of toys to play with or may not get presents for Christmas, they were shocked. My oldest picked up one of his favorite trucks and told me it was for the little boy who wouldn’t have any presents for Christmas.

That same year, we were asked to ring the bells for the Salvation Army red buckets. We were on our way to Wal-Mart for our turn when I decided I should explain to the boys once again what we were doing and why. I told them how they needed to remember to say “thank you” and “Merry Christmas” to the people who put money in the bucket. I told the boys that the money was not for us to keep. We were just helping. They wanted to know what the money was for so I told them it was to help buy food and presents for people who needed help.

It was one thing for the boys to hear that some kids don’t get presents for Christmas, but it was completely different for them to hear that some kids don’t have food. They didn’t understand that there are people out there who are hungry and don’t have food. They asked if we could stop and buy pizza for the hungry people. It was such an obvious thing to them. If people are hungry, we should feed them.

I think about my boys and the way they love to give and then I think about the way we adults look at giving. How many times have we looked at those red buckets and groaned? We pull the couple of coins out of our pocket and toss it in. Or we look away and walk as fast as we can past the bell ringers. Or we go through our closers and pull out the clothes that are about to fall apart or are so outdated that no one would ever want them and put those into our donation bag, but hang on to the nicest stuff even if it is 2 sizes too small and we’re never going to wear it again. How many times do we give not with a cheerful heart but with a sign or a groan or a roll of our eyes?

I think about that first Christmas. God gave us His best. He gave us His Son. And it wasn’t with a shrug or a groan. God didn’t think He was too busy to give to us that year that maybe next year He’d have the time. God didn’t look at us and say, “I’m just going to hang on to this because I know what those people will do with My Gift.” God didn’t look at the earth and shake His head and walk away. God looked at the world and loved us so much that He gave us the best that He had, the most He could give.

As we head through this Christmas season, as you hear the ringing bells and see the donation boxes, remember the way God gave to us on the first Christmas. Even if the only thing you have to give is a smile, give with a cheerful heart.




Another great way to give is with our Hope 2.0. We have helped many people but new needs are still coming in. Please help me bring some hope and Christmas cheer to people who really need it.


Hope 2.0 Update

I thought I would give everyone an update on what’s going on with Hope for the Holidays 2.0. Things are moving very slowly, and I find myself needing a big dose of hope. The first time I did this, it got shared a lot. People saw the post and helped. This year feels different. People aren’t seeing the post even if they wanted to help.

I have shared and shared and shared the Hope post until I think my friends and family must be getting super annoyed with how many times it is showing up on their news feeds. And then I learn things like I had shared it 4 times before my best friend saw it. There are several people who I know I can count on to read and share no matter what I write, and they never saw it (or have just stopped sharing and liking my words.) I’ve shared in a couple of groups with very little response even when I’ve just been asking for prayer and nothing else.

It all makes me very nervous and scared and leavings me needing my own hope. I have to take a moment and remember that everything I do here is a giant leap of faith. I remember that I said we were going to move, help and be brave. I need to remember the brave part. I remember that God has a plan and I truly believe that the needs posted here will be filled.

And then I climb in bed at night, and it’s dark out, and I lay awake thinking about all this. I think about all the people who have posted about having a need. I think about how it seems Facebook is hiding my posts from people. I think about how I’m failing these people who need someone to care about them and to help them. I think about how I am not in a position where I can help everyone who comments with a need. I can help, and I will help, but I cannot do it all by myself.

So far we have 7 families in need. And no families that are giving. And in the daylight, I remember that God does not set us up to fail. I believe that there will be givers, and we all need to have patience while this works out.

I would ask that if you are reading these words you would share them on Facebook or Twitter or anywhere else you would like. This only works if people know about it. Also, if you haven’t liked my Facebook page, you can find it here. I am doing 25 days of Christmas songs there right now and will also post updates as they come.

To end this post on a slightly happier note, we took the boys to see Santa. Thanks to Misti Yoder Photography, LLC for the awesome photos.

They were both very excited to get to see Santa.


Cameron whispered into Santa’s ear what he wanted for Christmas so no one else could here. I’m hoping he asked for a little Christmas magic because we could use some over here right now.