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One of my prayers, while we waited for our girl, was that we would be able to celebrate her first birthday with her. We weren’t there when she was born, so it was just one of those things we wanted.
We wanted all of her birthdays.

Lucky for us, we got home just in time to see her dig into a big ladybug cake with a tiny singular candle.
She was one.

That evening, after family left and what was left of the cake was put away, I gathered her up in my arms and began rocking her to sleep. Tears slipped down both cheeks as I thought about her story.

I cried tears of joy that she was ours, but I cried uncontrollable tears of deep sadness for her biological mother. I begged God to give her peace that Lydia was okay…loved, nurtured and protected.

It’s bizarre to feel a connection to a woman I’ve never met, but I do.
I love her. I pray for her. I feel so indepted to her. I cry on every birthday for her.

She loved her for eight weeks before she swaddled her in warm clothes and a blanket and took her to the orphanage. Lydia’s birthday meant everything to her. She wanted the world to know the exact day she was born.
She pinned a note on her that read:: This child was born on January 9, 2007.

So tonight, as we eat Chinese food at her favorite restaurant in town and we sing “happy birthday” to her and enjoy each of our favorite cupcakes from Gigi’s, I’ll be thinking about her…this woman on the other side of the world.


Melissa shepard - Oh! How touching. I am sure that God wraps His arms extra tight around her bc of your prayers. How selfless to think of her and pray for her on Lydia’s bday! Happy birthday, lydia!! We love gi gis also. …wedding cake is my fave!

Jackie - Beautiful girl with the beautiful story, Happy Birthday!! We love you and are so grateful to know you.
Tara, I’ll pray for the woman on the other side of the world tonight, too. I’m sure she’s aware of the day. I love that you’re so sensitive to that. xoxo

Starr - Beautiful!!!!

Becky - Oh geesh this made me cry. What a beautiful sacrifice that woman gave. Precious that you pray and think of her. This touched me.

Lisa - You made me cry. So so sweet. So so beautiful. You inspire me to take this road. What a brave woman her mother was. May she ever know the bravery and goodness of both her earthly mothers.

Shannon - Oh and now I’m crying, this is so beautiful and I bet you are exactly the family her mother prayed for her! Happy Birthday Lydia!!

Kathy - Happy Birthday, Lydia! My, how blessed you all are to recognize and be aware of these things. Your thoughts and words touched me deeply. They brought me to tears. There is such wisdom here.

Lori H - What a lucky girl :) That photo is the sweetest.

Gabrielle Woolwine - You are a wise and worthy woman to recognize the blessing that is yours because of the heartache of another. You honor that woman every time your dry a tear and read a book and make a meal for that lucky, lucky little princess you both love. I know that one day, you will have the honor to embrace one another and look each other in the eye knowing that you both showed your love to that baby in the very best way you could while on this earth. Thank you for sharing your story and the gratitude that you feel to a stranger. I wish you many beautiful birthdays with the daughter you love!

tiffini - i can’t believe it has been another year!
she is blossoming before our very eyes:) and i love this sweet picture
oh slow down time–it goes so fast
love you friend…xoxo

Tecia - Loving reading your story. Happy Birthday Lydia.

paige - gosh what an amazing woman, i just try to imagine the torture her heart must have felt & yet HOPE at the same time
sweet lydia girl is indeed blessed!
happy birthday sweet girl

Barbara - I have tears, I in a very small way know your feeling my sister has adopted two boys both from foster care the first son she had to pick up from our city children s shelter and after many chances given to the biological mother to regain custody they had to meet got to know her story and it is just heartbreaking because you want so bad for this mother to get better and but if she did that would mean the beautiful baby boy would leave us. God worked his magic the mother is doing great now and my sister has her son she was meant to love.

Happy Birthday Lydia.

Heart & Seoul - This post is so beautiful and true. I have already started writing letters to Jack’s birth mom to go in his file and pray that she will check it one day and know how much he is already loved and cherished. That woman is my hero. She kept him for seventeen days before taking him to the agency. Breaks my heart in two.

Laura - I have three kiddos God brought to us through adoption…. I too grieve, pray for, and feel a special bond with their birth mothers.
Thank you for sharing this with your blog reader. It will be an intricate part in who your daughter is, and help her in her growing years.
God bless you and your family as you travel this journey!


Sandy - You are truly an amazing woman… caring, loving, and giving. Lydia is very blessed to have you as her mommy! God bless you & all your family! :)

sheri - Probably one of the sweetest blog post I’ve ever read. Happy Birthday to your princess. God is good!

LLH Designs - Adoption stories always make me tear up, but that photo? Extra tears. You were meant to be together. And only God could work out that kind of match for your two hearts. xo!

Kelly Cach - GULP! “We wanted all her birthdays.” Made me cry. And then reading about your heart for “her”…..flat out bawling!

I love this beautiful story!

lora - My prayer during the waiting was that I would have her by her first birthday~I couldn’t stand the thought of her being alone on her first birthday…like you I had already missed so many firsts with her…God granted my wish and I held her in my arms the day before her first birthday! I had thought that she should be home by her birthday, but I realized how special it was to party with her in China that year. When we got home we had another small party with her family …. God gave me more than I hoped or imagined :)




My personality lives for New Year’s resolutions. Nothing better than making a list of things and tackling them one by one. I’ve made one every year for as long as I can remember.

Except this year.  I’m just not feeling a list of things to strive for or work on for a whole year.

The catalyst for my decision to not make a list comes from running too hard and too fast for too long over the past 4 months, since the kids all went to school.  I had no idea how hard the transition was for all of us until the flu bug bit us over Christmas.  You know you haven’t had enough margin when you’re thankful for the flu.  It knocked us off our feet, and we were almost giddy about it after we cried over not being able to see my family.

I had a lot of time during the break to think and ponder what I’m really wanting in this new year, and to be honest, it’s so much more than drinking more water, eating cleaner, exercising more, inviting people into our home more consistently, and sticking to my meal plan every week.

All those things are good, and I’m sure I’ll be ticking away on and off all year to be better at all of them, but this past year God revealed to me more than ever that I’m independent in all the worst ways. I rely on myself too often.

Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Friendship is hard. Family dynamics are hard. Loving my neighbor is hard.

Actually, it’s all impossible without God.

I know this in the core of my being, yet I continue hour after hour and day after day trying to do life in my own strength.

Yes. What I’m really wanting in 2014 is more reliance on God.  The “one word people” say you’re suppose to choose a word and invite it into your life…live with it, let it speak to you. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m asking Jesus to use this word and all that it means in my life this year.

I looked up some synonyms for rely, and this is what I found::

be sure of.
lean on.
Count on.

My counselor says my head is like Fort Knox. I’m inwardly always thinking, planning, projecting, arranging, managing, analyzing, strategizing. I’ve been doing it my whole life. She says I’m pretty much an expert at disaster/trauma planning.

I don’t think it was meant to be a compliment.

I’m tired. I don’t want to plan for chaos or disaster in my head anymore. Doing all of that thinking and planning and projecting and analyzing and strategizing keeps me from relying on God and his sovereignty. He is good. All his ways are good. He can be trusted, even in the midst of tragedy and trauma. He uses everything and wastes nothing. He loves me. He is always with me and always at work on my behalf.

The last few years have been packed full. God has been uncovering the layers of my story that tempted me to be self-reliant and independent in the first place. He’s so good like that. I’m excited about this new year and these new layers he’s peeling away.

Keisha - Hello my friend, Isn’t it funny that some of us have to work to quiet our minds.. I have been working at this for a while. I pray for peace daily and most days my mind quiets enough to hear Gods voice and I am so thankful that he is doing a work in me. Some days I’m not so good at it.. :) I definitely have learned that if I fill my days with the busyness of this world then I can not hear my Maker whispering to me. So I have learned not to schedule to many things, we don’t do well as a family when we are to busy to just enjoy each other everyday. Much love and blessings to you and your family in the New Year. Love you Keisha Cadenhead

paige - maybe my favorite post of yours. ever.
you are a wise woman tara
love you

Jackie - What a great word, Tara.
I can so relate to everything you just wrote. I’ve been very self-reliant my whole life, too, until 5 months ago. Cancer brought me to my knees, both literally and figuratively. Through it I’ve learned more about trust and letting go than I ever thought would be possible. It is so freeing to let go.
Love you, friend. Looking forward to breakfast. :)

Lori H - Wow, Tara, could I ever relate to this post. My thoughts are essentially one long stream of worst-case scenarios and plans to handle them if they happen. I think I don’t want to be surprised by bad things, so if I think of them first, I won’t be surprised – how weird is that?? As a result I am not a good sleeper, either! So my efforts over the last year have been to ward off fear, doubt, and too much self-reliance. I am going to print this post out and read it along with my Jesus Calling in the morning for a few days to get it into my head. I AM NOT IN CONTROL.

This post also brought to mind something a visiting pastor said at church a couple years ago that stuck with me – “if the devil can’t make you bad, he can make you busy”…so true as our list-making personalities feel good when we are busy!

Lemonade Makin' Mama - Oh good word. I didn’t choose one this year. Didn’t make any resolutions or any of that stuff. I have one opportunity that I want to give a try to and it’s going to require battling fear… and I’ve got one personal goal that was already in the works before the new year hit so I’m just plugging away at that. Kinda seemed like that was the season I was in. Just doing today. I am pretty excited to see what 2014 will bring. I could really use a year with that excitement. Gonna be good!! :)

Melissa K. - Good word, Tara. We’ve kind of experienced the same slowing down over the last couple of months (morning sickness = all day sickness for me). It’s been really hard to not be able to get done all of the things I feel like I need to do in any given day. At the same time, it’s been nice to simplify and just trust God that he will give me what I need when I need it. I feel too yucky and exhausted to even think about making any resolutions. I know I won’t keep them. :)

MaKaela - I call it ‘catastrophizing”. And I am all to prone to doing it far to often! Thank you for the reminder to rely.

Aimee Weaver - Tara – I love this! I tend to be fiercely independent and, while it can be a good thing, I’ve been learning that His ways are always so much better than our plans and goals. No resolutions for me this year either – my goal is to cling to Jesus and see where He takes me! xo

lissa - When Neal and I went into counseling 5 years ago I remember the counselor telling me that my problem was that I didn’t trust God and it made me so mad~ (I always get mad when I’m told I’m wrong at first, then I usually cool off and realize they might have something I need to hear) Anyway, I am just like you; thinker, planner, analyzer… and so it was like exercise to learn to trust. Like I had to take about ten thousand thoughts captive every. single. day. Not trusting has ruined many things in my life. Anyways, long comment longer, God told me to trust in the lord with all my heart and not to lean on my own (analytical, skeptical) understanding but to (instead) trust him with ALL my heart that he would work out all the details in my life the way he wanted them specifically for me. Now I find that verse like a total breath of fresh air. Like it totally makes me exhale. I am sure that is what the word rely will accomplish in you.

Kathy - I love your word, rely. Even more, I am grateful for your honesty and openness. I can wholeheartedly relate to this post. I get it. Boy, do I get it. I am learning to let go and trust. This is such a good post. You are amazing.

Nikki - There are scenarios in which a disaster/trauma planning expert is really helpful. A zombie apocalypse comes to mind.

Ok, I love what you shared. Rely. Oooooh. That’s a good one. Tara thanks for being vulnerable, real…wise. Girl, you got the goods. I look forward to another year of glimpses into your world.

Susan - Can I just say, “Amen!” You have nailed it, sweet girl. Looking forward to what God will do in all of our lives if we rely on Him. Stay warm!!

giosmama2626 - Amen! The mind that NEVER sleeps, I totally get it. -sigh-
Love this post. It’a great reminder to just sit down and STOP thinking so much, stop planning, be happy, LIVE in the moment, LET GO and LET GOD. It’s always a struggle to find peace even when the most happy. We all know it’s there, but the battle of the mind always seems to win. NOT ANYMORE! We all got this one in 2014. I feel it.
What a great word to live on for this year. Great comments, too. This made me for a very happy read this morning.

carissa - i am so similar to you! so much of what you said is rolling around my brain and my heart. thank you for sharing the layers.

Flower Patch Farmgirl - He’s SO good like that!!
Really thankful for the truth you tell here. XO

Gina - Great word! For some reason when I first pulled up your post, I read rely as rell-ee. I was stumped. I thought maybe you were using the Greek version of a word. Then I started reading and realized that I was a bit brainless. :) Rely sounds so freeing. God bless as He works this out in you!

LLH Designs - I think you know where my heart stands on all this (I ditched list making and goal setting years ago), but I just want to say this: I am REALLY loving you right now. Love your word. Love your heart’s desire. Love the Jesus that you’re relying on for your new year. Xo.

Glenda Childers - Much joy and peace to you, along with wonderful surprises from the Lord as you learn more and more to rely. A beautiful word for the year.

My word is … consider.


ps. I finally made it to your new site.

Barbara - Yes, its hard not to have control over everything we mean it to be a good thing but sometimes it takes over us the perfection bug. You’ll do it you will you are an awesome person fro your words and he so get’s you.

bethanie - I love this Tara…It’s so true. I’m a little like Ft. Knox as well– I love this list of synonyms. I think I’m going to put them on my chalkboard as a reminder. I pray you all are feeling better and have a blessed year. We still need to do a coffee date! xoxo

Lisa Ferrin - Beautiful words of truth. You have a gift with words. Our world moves at such an alarmingly quick rate. I believe that is one of the adversaries biggest tools of distraction. I think I have ADD sometimes…. Although never diagnosed. I have such a hard time being context and being still and quieting my mind. I also decided this year to not make a list. I want to focus on seeing the good in myself, in others and in every situation and just being grateful. I LOVE that word. It is all about Him. Thank you for sharing His words. xoxo

When the Evening Comes… » Between You & Me - […] think I mentioned to you in another post that my counselor refers to this as “expert disaster planning.” I think it’s safe to say I’d make a fabulous trauma planner. Except I don’t want […]

Donna - Love this post and needed to read these things today. Thank you.


2013…one last glimpse.

We haven’t been this relaxed in years. Do I dare say we’re grateful that the flu took us down?
This is me going on record saying it..I’m grateful.
Sometimes you don’t know how stressed and run down you are until you’re forced to lay down.

We have read books and watched movies, I’ve spent hours organizing closets and drawers and many other hours were spent on making photo books for our family. Now, instead of being 6 years behind, I’m only 3. Yay!

And now it’s the last day of 2013.  As usual, I’ve spent the last few days contemplating the year and getting any last minute wisdom from it that I can carry into the new year. Do you do that? A year can tell you a lot about yourself.

Last year at this time we were finishing up our amazing family trip to DC. We were supposed to end the trip at my dear friend Michele’s house in Pennsylvania, but I got a baaaaaaad case of food poisoning.

Lydia turned six. She just keeps getting older no matter how many times I tell her to stop.

In late February-early March, out of no where, I lost total hearing in one ear except for an excruciating ringing that I swear nearly sent me to the deep end.  Remember when they thought I had a brain tumor?  Ummm. that was a hard 6 weeks.

In April, our oldest became a teenager, and we suddenly felt old.

We took a beach trip with good friends to South Carolina.

In June, I turned 40!!

We did a laundry room won’t make a magazine, but it sure is more fun doing laundry in there!

2013 was also the year that all of my kids went to school. Lots of change for us this year!!  I’m still adjusting.

We added a new front door to our house!

Andy and I celebrated 17 years of marriage!

Seth turned eleven. He’s still our one that’s full of life and joy.

In October, Andy and I were vendors at the Country Living Fair in Atlanta…what a wonderful experience that was for us!

I fiiiinnnnallly made the anthropologie knock off wreath.

We sold our 1,000 sign in the shop!

I learned a few valuable lessons in parenting.

Christmas was simple this year, and we loved the peace and calm that our home gave us..even in the midst of cancelled plans because of the flu bug!

This whole year has been a lot of  letting go.
A potential brain tumor and a brand new teenager in the house are master teachers!!

I’m a little different..changed for the better. I feel ready for a new year.

What about you? What did 2013 teach you?


paige - oh gosh i do remember the ear thing. whoa.
paleo…are ya’ll going paleo or eating paleo or what is actually the correct way to say that? ( just saw over in your sidebar)

happy new year my friend
thankful for your friendship and the blessing that is your friendship with my girl

Lori H - Happy New Year, Tara! I will need some time to think of 2013 lessons, but I did have many reminders this year of the power of prayer, and the value of people not things, and the swift passage of time.
If you do go Paleo, I would be interested in hearing about it…my husband and I are incorporating some of the tenets, mostly lower carb, fewer grains and hopefully many new recipes that I am searching out in Paleo cookbooks. In your 50’s the old metabolism comes to a screeching halt so I need to make some adjustments :)

laura@top this top that - I hope everyone left the crud behind in 2013. Happy new year to you, andy and your sweet family.

laura@top this top that - Forgot to mention that I just love your family shots.perfect!!

tiffini - ok…LOVE your photo session. i have been wanting to tell you that. LOVE the christmas card one SO much. i didn’t send cards this year..just didn’t have time. thank you for ours. i was looking at last years and luke? or seth…the oldest looks SO much older. you have got handsome boys you know:) and lydia is such a doll
tough. lots of lessons. always processing. grateful for sure
thankful it is over truthfully. expectant for this year. i guess i just want to handle each circumstance with grace…sending you a hug today xo

Erin - Are you going to be offering a discount on signs any time soon? I’m wanting to make a purchase, but I want to hold out for a discount if I can!

Becky @Farmgirl Paints - It taught me to expect the unexpected. God’s plans are so much bigger and better our own. Happy new year friend :-)

Lemonade Makin' Mama - Well girl I was thrilled to see 2013 go… but I am crazy excited to see what God has for my family this year. EXCITED!! Can’t remember feeling that way in ages…. Praise Him. And I love that I remember each and every one of your moments that you shared. Love doing life with you sweetie.

Jackie - I’m with Sasha–glad to see 2013 go. It did teach me much, however. Most importantly, how every day is a gift. I intend to savor each one in 2014. Glad to be able to share these days with you. :)

Gina - Our friend Kourtney told me I had to start following your blog because she says we’re a lot alike. Judging by your 2013, I’d say so. Our oldest became a teenager in February . . . I turned 40 in July . . . it was the first year our kids went to school . . . our second turned 11. We only hit 16 years of marriage though. I’m looking forward to reading more. :)


Merry Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013-between you and me

It’s Christmas Eve, and all through the house…not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse.
We’ve been bit by the Flu bug!! The kids got out of school half day on Friday, and by 4 pm, Seth had a fever. I raced him to the doctor’s office before they closed, and his flu swab came back positive. YUCK.

I’ve been saying all month that we were too busy and something had to give, but I didn’t want to slow down this way. Oh well, the forced rest was much needed. Without it, I feel sure we would have kept on busying ourselves right up until the very last second of 2013.

So far, it’s only been poor Seth and Andy who have been sick, so I’ve taken full advantage of the extra time at home by cleaning out/organizing/purging every closet and drawer in the house. I’ve also read a couple of books and watched Shrek 1,2,3 and 4 with the kids.  Guess what? I’m OVER Shrek.  But I’m not at all over snuggling with my kids, so I’ll watch it a few more times over the next several days, I’m sure!

Christmas looks different this year for us.  We won’t be getting a little dressed up and attending our church’s Christmas Eve service.  We won’t be gathering with my sweet parents and my brother and his crew tonight, which also means we won’t be eating all of our favorite appetizers and desserts around our dining room table.  We won’t be playing games with my brother’s crew, after we eat way too much food together. Nope.  All of that will have to wait until we’re in the clear from this Flu bug.

But we will, just the five of us, be together tonight at our house.
We’ll find something to eat that sounds half way decent to the sick ones, and we’ll snuggle up in the family room for another Christmas movie. {Here’s to hoping it’s something other than Shrek!} 
And tonight, we’ll go to bed thankful that we have each other and most thankful that Christ came to be with us. Every second of every day he is Emmanuel, GOD WITH US.

I hope you know He is with you. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, however you feel, whatever your circumstances…he is WITH YOU.

{thankful for}
838. forced rest
839. Dr. Matt Baker
840. insurance
841. tamiflu
842. family & friends who call and text to check on us
843. Emergen-C
844. Christmas cards in the mail.
845. Christmas movies {even Shrek!}
846. the energy to organize and purge closets and drawers
847. Chinese neighbors who show up with homemade Chinese food
848. good books
849. warm beds
850. sanity…we haven’t lost our ever-loving minds yet being cooped up together!

Sally - Tara, So sorry to hear the flu has hit, but good for you for keeping a positive attitude. Merry Christmas to you and yours, and may the flu pass quickly with the fewest possible patients! ~Sally @DrinkingFromMySaucer

Lori H - Merry Christmas, Tara! You are such a bright spot in my day :) I am sorry that the flu bug hit – hope that it won’t get the rest of you. It seems so like you to look at the bright side. You have inspired me to do some de-cluttering. I have been a little restless in this time before we head to church for the candlelight service, so organizing will occupy me just fine. That, and making a big pot of minestrone. We had warm temps all week but now I am so happy that we have cold weather back, soup is just the thing for Christmas lunch (a bridge between a big breakfast and a big dinner!)
God bless you and yours.

Becky @Farmgirl Paints - So sorry friend. A forced rest is not always a bad thing. Think of all those catering you’ll save;) Merry Christmas girlie. Praying you and the others stay well.

paige - merry christmas friend
you are loved
(praying everyone is rapidly on their way to recovery!)

Jackie - Soooo glad the rest of you are still feeling good! Praying that this morning Andy and Seth have more energy and are coming out of the tunnel. Forced rest can be such a good thing, even when it seems to come at an inopportune time. May the quiet family time be ever so sweet for all of you.

We love you all so much and wish you a beautiful, restful Christmas day!
He has come. Love has won.

Christy - I hate to hear your crew is sick. :( I hope everyone is better soon. Glad you’re getting in some snuggle time. Blessings to you and yours this Christmas. With love, Christy

Tracy - Merry Christmas Tara…many, many, blessing in the new year! Emmanuel..God with us
Amen! Praying you all are feeling well very soon!

Londen - The sickness got our little one today. Still a nice christmas but being sick isn’t fun. Sorry to hear about your sick ones….and shrek :) love your Christmas picture!
Merry christmas

Jill @ Cora Anne Designs - Tara – I just logged into Pinterest and saw you were having fun pinning farmhouses and it made me think I should pop over to your blog! Sorry Christmas wasn’t as you planned, but hopefully the downtime turned into a huge blessing for your family, especially after such a busy month. It’ll be memorable at least, right?!? Hopefully you’re all on the up and up by now, have a great day!

And by the way….someone with the flu DID come to our Christmas and now I was up with a throwing up child last night, so I’m sure your extended family thanks you for staying home!

megan - So sorry you guys have a sick family. That is just the worst feeling when you realize all of the plans you have made will be cancelled. But there is beauty in that too, and I am glad you have found it. I hope you stay well! Your family picture is beautiful – what a lovely family you are! Merry Christmas friend!

Kelly Cach - Hoping you’re all healed and healthy for the new year!!! And what a gorgeous family photo!!! We barely managed to get one taken….now turned New Year cards ;). It actually takes the pressure off, though!

Blessings to a fun family!

Amanda Adkins - This family picture is fantastic! Happy New Year!