Countdown to Christmas Giveaway: Books, Books and More Books!

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Made to Mother!

Welcome to M2M’s Season of Giving: Count Down to Christmas Giveaway! Just one more week until the big, blog redesign giveaway package on December 15th to celebrate Made to Mother’s 1st “blog-iversary!” Last week’s highlighted products were the ebooks, OhAmanda’s Truth in the Tinsel and Sarah Mae’s More Than Candy.

This week I’m featuring a stack of books provided by Ambassador International and Icon Media Group:

  • My Grandma’s Crazy by Beky Hunt
    This Grandma isn’t like other grandmas, she’s CRAZY! She zip lines through the jungles of Borneo, leads conga lines at weddings, and drives a sports car. And that’s not the half of it!
  • Chocolate Socks by Holly Durst
    Encouraging children to follow their dreams and not to be afraid to create new things, the author took her two favorite things, chocolate and socks and turned it into a fun adventure for a child.

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  • Colliding with Destiny by Sarah Jakes
    The Old Testament story of Ruth is full of collision—loss, heartache, poverty, even shame—but she never let her past define her. Instead, the most painful time of her life became her most pivotal, propelling her to a destiny she never imagined. See my review of this book below.
  • The Passion Translation by Brian Simmons
    Beginning with the books of Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Luke & Acts, John, Letters from Heaven (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 & 2 Timothy), and Hebrews & James, this translation is designed to shape the spirituality of a generation. Every book of the Bible is translated into an understandable form that will express the depths of the original languages in a powerful new way, revealing the original emotion behind the text.
  • Dashing Dish by Katie Farell
    Provides lists of valuable pantry, fridge and freezer items helpful for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Also includes important conversion charts and offers clean substitutes for some popular unhealthy foods, making the jump to clean eating as simple as possible.

Ambassador works with authors to create quality Christian literature of several genres—fiction, devotionals and children’s books just to name a few. Founded in 1980, Ambassador International’s vision has always been to create products that strengthen believers in their Christian walk and direct the lost to the way of salvation. Ambassador International releases more and more new titles each year including both print and ebook formats. Ambassador operates offices in the US and Northern Ireland, holds distribution partnerships on four continents and our books are in the hands of readers around the world. You can find out more information about them at Ambassador-International.com or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Icon Media Group is a boutique firm run by a team of talented individuals who excel at media relations, strategy, public relations, branding and niche marketing. Partnering with publishers, record labels, distribution companies, retailers, film companies, authors, artists and newsmakers in many different capacities, Icon publicists have collectively produced national and local media tours and coordinated hundreds of events.  Over the years they have booked clients on network television programs like Good Morning America, TODAY, CBS This Morning, NIGHTLINE, and programs on cable networks including CNN, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC, Comedy Central, HLN, and other regional and local television shows. Print hits have included USA TODAY, Washington Times, Washington Post, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dallas Morning News, People and Wall Street Journal.

Colliding with Destiny: Finding Hope in the Legacy of Ruth by Sarah Jakes and published by Bethany House was an amazing read. For me it was like a cross between a powerful devotional study on the book of Ruth and having a long, heartfelt conversation with my best friend. Seriously. In short chapters digesting a few verses of Ruth at a time and including a lot of personal narrative and examples, Sarah Jakes’s words spoke to my soul, encouraging me to accept the seasons of my life in stride, be free from mistakes of the past and let go of relationships as we grow our separate ways. She wrote about the wisdom of saying no at God’s urging and giving my time to Him instead of becoming a “Jill-0f-all-trades and master of none.” I felt renewed through reading this to run the race that God has set out for ME and not to fret my mistakes and my sinful past because, “that’s the beauty of restoration- He uses what we give Him to create something divine.” And I was encouraged to be patient as I wait for the future plans he has for me, knowing that He is preparing me for what is to come and while I may feel a bit impatient waiting, it will be worth it. Finally, Sarah Jakes reminded me that I do not have to explain myself to others, that my worth is not measured in what they think of me, my accomplishments or my past. Being confident and valuable to myself is enough and that will shine. And even if my biggest dreams are not realized, it is enough that God and I know that I am being the best me I can be! Which, as Sarah Jakes so eloquently put it, “is the perfect canvas of grace.” If you cannot tell already by the Post-It flags in the pic below, I loved this book!

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Don’t forget to stop by next week and see the launch of M2M’s new design in honor of its first “blog-iversary” and enter the giveaway package, featuring even more cool things! Want a hint? Some swag and spending cash from two of my favorite online retailers, Mary&Martha and the Root Collective and more!

All opinions are my own and aside from being given one copy of Colliding with Destiny, I received no compensation in exchange for writing this.

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Honesty – Reposted with Permission from Dalas at Crunchy Lutheran Mommy

So many people have told me that what they love most about my blog, Crunchy Lutheran Mommy, is my honesty.  That’s why I haven’t been posting much lately… I haven’t wanted to be honest, not on the blog, not anywhere.  And now I feel like I’m in a Dr. Suess rhyme all of a sudden… sigh.  I still have lots of drafts backlogged in my files.  For nearly a month I neglected my weekly pregnancy posts.  I haven’t wanted to take a belly picture because that would mean I’d need to smile for it, and I don’t feel like I can give you an honest smile today.  Or any of the days I might have had time to put up a quick post.

Every time I see someone outside of my own home (which isn’t very often as you might imagine) I get the same reaction “You look so exhausted!”  Here I am trying so hard to put on a joyful, Christ-filled, my-cup-overfloweth countenance and every single person can see right through it.  So much for being a model pastor’s wife, right?  But that’s the truth.  Exhaustion is my truth right now.  Every tiny little activity is exhausting.  Serving my children is exhausting.  Enjoying my children is exhausting.

Every once in a while my Dad asks me “Do you feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew yet?”  That’s been his concern this whole adoption, and sometimes it still comes up.  For months I have been saying no, but the question is starting to haunt me like a bad jingle I can’t get out of my head.  And I don’t even have any cutesy music to go with it.  I’m struggling right now.  That’s the only honest thing I have to say, and I hate to say it.  I hate to say it because the last thing I want is a slew of comments or messages or phone calls from people asking me if I’m ok or asking how they can help.  Just my pride talking?  Probably.

Prayer is good, but I know we’re covered in that already, without even having to ask.  So why even post?  Why not just say, we’re going through a tough transition time and I need to take a blogging break?  Why not run away?  I certainly feel like running, but running isn’t going to help me or anyone.  What might help though, is being honest, putting my weaknesses out there for the world and letting ya’ll know I am far from perfect.

It might help other adoptive families have realistic expectations for when they get home.  Did you know that the norm is actually to experience some level of post-adoption depression?  It’s very much like post-partum blues and depression, but even more common for both adoptive moms and dads, and even more complicated because of the deep sadness that naturally accompanies the reality of adopting a hurting child.  Adoption is all about loss.  We don’t like to talk about it much, just like we don’t want to talk about how redemption is all about the cross.  But the one is a living icon of the other, and the picture is poignant.

When we baptize our babies we dress them up in these beautiful white gowns and take family pictures and have a big reception and celebrate it.  Some families remember their baptisms every year (I know we do!) and we linger on the promises and the miracles that have been given to us in our gift of baptism.  But what we don’t see with our eyes as the pastor pours clear, sparkling water over that sweet child’s head is…  the blood, the death.  Because as much as baptism is about new life it is first about death, the death of the person being baptized, the gruesome death of Jesus on the cross.  There is a saying that as Christians we do not need to fear death because we have already died.  We died the death of Christ during our baptism, which means death has no hold over us – just as it had no hold over the God of the Universe.  And there, in the loss and only through that loss comes the beauty and the promise of true, abundant life.

Adoption is also about loss.  Life for these children only comes by means of very deep loss.  Everything that was their life has to die, everything that was meant to have been theirs, that should have been theirs was taken from them.  Only through that reality, can they begin a new life.  But the child isn’t the only one who loses something, the family also experiences loss.  In the end, it will be a blessing to us all.  But right now?  Wow is it hard.  We had a lovely little family.  Two perfectly healthy, bright, beautiful children – a boy and a girl.  Sweet, sheltered, secure little ones… not a real care in the world.  And then we took a hammer to all of that.  We shattered our perfect little family and we changed it forever.

Now we’re a family of broken pieces and broken hearts.  A family where half of our children still don’t understand what it means to have a Mommy and a Daddy.  I overheard my four year old daughter telling a lady the other day that the nannies dropped Hope in her crib when she was in the orphanage.  We try to not talk about things like that in front of her, but she hears and remembers everything.  There is so much her little mind is trying to process: abuse, abandonment, neglect, pain… crushing pain.  Things I never intentionally would have introduced to my four and two year olds, but now they are living those realities second hand by watching us as we try to help their brother and sister heal.

They were away from their home for two months; that was hard for them.  Neither of them have been as secure since that trip.  We spend hours a week in therapy, hospitals, referrals and appointments.  Time I could have been reading stories or making fun crafts or teaching them how to bake.  And us?  We’re exhausted emotionally, physically and spiritually from all of it.  Suddenly we are a family with trauma, a family in need of an incredible amount of healing.  Overnight we went from having it all together to picking up the pieces.  Did we choose this?  Sort of, but not really.  Were we expecting it to be hard, even this hard?  Of course.  But just because trauma doesn’t always come without announcing itself doesn’t mean it isn’t just as traumatic when it finally walks through your front door and decides to live with you for a while.

Adoption is hard.  It is inherently loss, not just for the adoptive children, but for everyone in the child’s life.  Beautiful, lovely, miraculous things come from adoption.  But we do a disservice to adoptive families and their children when we overlook where that beauty came from. It came from ashes, ashes that are blown into a home, leaving the family to clean up the great mess that follows.  It’s not pity that I, or any adoptive parent, needs.  It’s prayer.  Understanding.  Support.  We need to know that if we don’t make that phone call or we don’t send that thank you note or if we never reach out for help it’s not because we don’t care about you.  It’s because our families have just been broken, and it’s taking all of our energy and strength to pick up all the pieces.

Sometimes we need you to reach out to us because we can’t reach out ourselves, but other times we just need space.  Sometimes we need respite, other times we just need a meal we didn’t have to cook ourselves.  Sometimes we need to sit and talk with someone who understands, and other times we just need people to stop asking how it’s going.  But most of all we need huge heaping doses of grace and mercy and love.  We need to know that the people in our lives are going to see our crazy, depressed, angry emotional roller coasters and they’re going to love us anyway.

(Just as a side note, if you are a family member or friend of an adoptive parent and you’re wondering why we aren’t asking for help, it’s probably because, especially when our children came from hard places, the kind of help we need is so specific that it would be difficult or impossible to just ask for a simple hand on something.  And if we tried to ask we would either come off as ungrateful or unreasonable or both.  Unfortunately, there are just situations where there is no real help that can be given without a logistical brainstorm involved.  Our children’s needs and our new family dynamics make simple things, like bringing in outside help, much more complicated.)

So here’s to honesty.  Here’s to dispelling the myth that adoptive families are superheroes that don’t need anyone’s help.  Here’s to coming out and saying that just because we signed up for this doesn’t mean we will always have our act together, and just because we “chose” these children doesn’t mean we can’t have a bad day, or week or month… or even year. We are just like you, and just like any family, when trauma kicks off its old, muddy shoes and decides to stay a while… we’re going to struggle.  And we are.

May the Lord, in His mercy, turn our sorrow to joy and our tears to laughter.  May He bring the dawn quickly and banish the darkness from our midst.  May He orchestrate the beauty from the ashes, and give us inclination to focus on neither, but rather to seek His face in this and in every season. Amen.

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Dalas is a mother to four with another on the way. She is seriously passionate about motherhood, adoption, being “crunchy” (a fancy way of describing how she keeps her family healthy) and her Lutheran faith. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and on her blog, Crunchy Lutheran Mommy. You can read her original Honesty post here.

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Countdown to Christmas Giveaway: Creating Wonder and Magic for a Child Through Traditions

Welcome to M2M’s Season of Giving: Count Down to Christmas Giveaway! Come back each week to catch a sneak peak of new, featured products that will be included in the big, blog redesign giveaway package on December 15th to celebrate Made to Mother’s 1st “blog-iversary!” This week’s highlighted products are BOTH ebooks, OhAmanda’s Truth in the Tinsel and 5 copies of Sarah Mae’s More Than Candy. Both are affiliate links, meaning I receive a portion of any sales clicked-through these links. Thanks for supporting Made to Mother!

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When I think back upon my holiday memories as a child, I remember that I loved traditions the most…Christmas Eve service as a family, with the unshakable anticipation of opening gifts after we got home in the back of my mind the entire time. Warm drinks, cozy treats and pjs while we unwrapped gifts as a family of five in our living room; the heat of our wood stove and the radiant tree lights in the backdrop for years of memories. Us kids could barely sleep that night as we waited with baited expectation for the festivities to come the next day…early morning stockings from Santa, delicious, sugary breakfast treats we rarely got any other day like cinnamon rolls, pancakes or waffles! Then, it was off to my aunt’s house for our annual Christmas party with my mom’s family, playing a gift exchange game and eating lunch. My brothers and I dragged all our new gifts and stocking snacks with us to keep us busy and as evening approached, we headed to our next destination, the best yet; grandma’s house on my father’s side. It would be dark by the time we got there and we would be the last to arrive. My uncle, aunt and our only other cousins, all adults, would be waiting for us with eggnog, a deliciously huge holiday dinner, Christmas records blasting music, and festively-wrapped packages trailing out from under the tree and down the hall. It would be late into the night when we finally piled into our family car, stuffed with food and the trunk packed with gifts and leftovers. We always fell asleep on the drive home, sugar plums and toys dancing in our heads and our hearts full of love, family and fun.

Now, many years later, with children and a home of my own, it is these special family traditions and memories that I want to surround my family with, so that one day my kids will also look back in fondness to the sounds, tastes and smells that come with this beautiful season. But there is also something else I want to instill in my children, which it never seems like my parents were able to break through to me; the importance of this season of giving, of charity and of kindness to others, mirrored in the love that came from the birth of a tiny baby so long ago. Of course, I remember my parents trying, but I was too selfish to want to think of anything else other than gifts and food and fun. How can I expect to do any better with my own kids when the television, wish book catalogs from the newspaper and all their friends in school keep shouting at us, “buy buy buy!” “Gimme Gimme Gimme!” “Me me me!!!”

I’m not completely sure if I will ever be able to compete with all of these other voices, but for right now, we are starting with where I have always found the most beauty of this season…in tradition. In addition to the shopping, food and gift customs the holidays bring, we have decided as a family to begin and continue a few other important traditions to help us remember the true “reason for the season.”

One of our favorite ways to do this is by choosing a daily devotion advent activity to do as a family through the month of December. There are some fantastic apps, books and hands-on kits out there to choose from that are more educational and spiritual than the silly little chocolate punch-holes that you find at the dollar store. Last year, we used Truth in the Tinsel (affiliate link), a crafty way to talk about Christ’s birth and the Bible throughout the whole month of December. And with it, we also got to add a whole new bunch of ornaments to our collection! We liked it so much, in fact, that I modified it to use each week of advent in our small church’s Sunday school. And now they offer a church curriculum version, too. This year, we are doing More Than Candy (affiliate link), which I love because it gives us 25 days of activities to do for others, serving in our community and showing the love of Christmas in real, tangible ways, outside of our home during the holiday season.

Another tradition I like to make sure we keep is reading the Christmas story on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. However, with children ages 7, 5 and 2 in our home, it’s not always gripping for them when we read it straight from our NIV Bible. So we like to find other creative and fun ways to hear and tell the story over and over again each year. Sometimes we read it from a children’s bible, or listen to an animated re-telling of it on an audio CD, but my favorite way is letting the kids have full creative control in sharing it. The older ones that have heard the story time and time again can often do a great rendition and almost always get all the key facts in the right order. It is also really fun to let them recreate it by putting on a play! Nothing is cheerier than watching three children play out multiple characters and ad-lib the funniest made-up lines. Sometimes there are two Marys because sisters don’t want to take turns and we have even seen vigilante angels storm the castle of Herod in defense of baby Jesus! Of course, the adults often get in on it by the end to play an odd shepherd or a forgotten wise man, too.

Finally, as we buy the food for our holiday menu and wrap our many gifts, I like to remind our children that there are so many others out there that are not as fortunate as we are. We think of ways as a family that we can help those in need and perhaps make the season a little brighter for a few others. Some of the ideas we have come up with include visiting a soup kitchen or holiday pantry and donating food and our time to pass it out. Our kids have their own “Boxing Day,” where we choose at least as many toys or items that we got as gifts and donate them to a charitable second hand store or give to others. Lastly, and one of the most impactful has been participating in Giving Trees or Adopt-A-Family, of which this year, we have chosen The Evans Family.

What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions? How do you make sure your family keeps the right spirit this time of year?

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5 Things My #Allume Roomies Should Know About Me

This is getting real. I am going to #Allume this week…in 2 days, 6 hours and 23 minutes to be exact. I am leaving my three kids with my husband in the middle of the week to get on a plane and fly across the country to Greenville, SC for the Allume Conference for four whole days. I still can’t believe it. I am excited. I am nervous. I just might throw up.

Allume is this amazing community of Christian women who write, blog or aspire to. They hold a conference each fall to refresh, encourage and spur on women writers through inspirational speakers, fellowship gatherings and skills workshops. And this year, I GET TO GO! I first heard about Allume last winter when I began this crazy blogging journey. I knew it would be good for me to attend a blogging conference and there were three that I was mulling over. I finally settled on Allume mostly because of Sarah Mae, a blogging hero of mine.

I went shopping last week for new clothes, jewelry and a new purse so I can attempt to fit in with all the gorgeous, stylish and professional women that I know are coming. I’m packing my husband’s laptop (mine is being sent away for warranty repair), several notepads and pens, blog and book business cards and (gulp) a M2M book proposal that I have been working tirelessly on for an interview with a literary agent. Please cross your fingers, toes and whatever else you can that I don’t blow this!

So, now for the real question you are wondering about…why am I posting about this??? Well, in addition to gearing up for next week’s adoption month series and preparing for my trip, I have nothing else ready to post, nor do I have the time to promote it this week. Also, a couple weeks ago, one of my conference roommates that I haven’t yet met in person wrote a post on her blog about a few things we should know about her. She then challenged us to do the same and last week, Allume echoed that challenge, so here goes. To Aprille at Beautiful in His Time, Katie from Wonderfully Made and Jennifer from Jennifer’s Life Between:

1. Even though a test I took in high school said I am an extrovert, I can be really shy, awkward and self-depreciating at first. But get me talking and watch out, I might dominate the conversation. I am getting better at asking reciprocating and insightful questions, but if I’m a little hesitant, don’t give up on me. And if I talk too much, please feel free to tell me to shut up or take a breath and then talk about yourself.

2. Sometimes I talk, shout and laugh in my sleep. Sorry. BUT, I’m super nervous and we probably will be going to sleep very late every night anyway, which hopefully will help me sleep so deeply…or restlessly because I am so nervous. Either way, hopefully I won’t have time to sleep-talk.

3. Next to all the scheduled events and my aforementioned interview with a literary agent, I have no plans and know no one there. As such, I’m extremely nervous about striking up conversations with complete strangers and terribly afraid of having no one to talk to and sit with, so please include me on anything that you can!

4. I’m not much of a dress-up, hair and make-up, fancy person like I used to be when I was younger. In fact, since I had children and became a SAHM, I am pretty sad to say that I have gotten frumpy and not super stylish. I am trying to fix this, though, perhaps a little too forcefully as I went shopping last week literally just for this conference. So, any styling tips and shameless compliments would be much appreciated!

5. If I could pick ONE post from M2M that is my all-time, must-read favorite it would have to be: When Good Enough Just Isn’t and Living a Simpler Life. Okay, yes, I know that’s two. I just couldn’t help myself. Enjoy!

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When ‘Good Enough’ Just…Isn’t

As a writer (and probably every other profession out there), we are always looking for the next, big thing. That next, super-popular post gone viral, our 15 minutes of fame, or a new, original and undiscovered idea. And when we have it, we revel and bask in the glory, for a moment, that we have produced something quality, worthwhile and meaningful. Until the light fades and our public moves on to something newer, better or flashier. And we are left, once again, to frantically search and grasp for that next thrill, that next great idea; something that will be good enough to get the attention of the masses…again.

Every time this happen on this crazy wheel of blogging, I ask myself, what if I’m not good enough? What if I cannot come up with something else? What if eventually those great ideas and posts just run dry? What if I can never achieve that NEXT thing? What if…?

As a blogger, I compete with hundreds of thousands of other writers and websites for my readers’ attention. I’m up against very talented women who blog about family, crafts, homeschooling, marriage, Christian living, recipes, and on and on and on. Even so, I like to consider myself in a smaller niche of writers where I won’t post the healthiest and tastiest crock pot recipe, the best tips and tricks on being an organized, homeschooling SAHM, or the most beautiful, pinterest-ready image featuring my amazingly inspiring words of wisdom about godly parenting and marriage. And unless I think it is absolutely something my readers cannot live without, you won’t find shamelessly promoted affiliate links or randomly advertised products within my content.

I consider Made to Mother a ministry….a nonmoney-making space where woman can feel refreshed or encouraged in their trials and triumphs of motherhood by reading about other’s similar stories or sharing their own. But, despite this resolve, I still have to compete with the many, many, MANY other bloggers out there who want the same readers’ attention. And I admit, I dream of the day when I have thousands of hits a day on my site, so many entries for stories that I have to turn some away and even more comments, likes and followers than I can keep up with. Granted, I am not there yet, but I think that for only having started M2M seven months ago, it is doing fairly well. Still, those “what ifs” are always in the back of my mind and I am consistently forced to lay this blog and its future at the feet of the One who has orchestrated and placed a writing burden on my heart.

So, when I feel that I am not good enough, that Made to Mother is not good enough, I remind myself that He IS and I trust that He will guide both as long as He sees fit.

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Land that I Love

Well, I’m about 749 miles away from home in sunny California, just enjoying some family time, celebrating my husband’s birthday, and soaking up A LOT of warm rays!

I had hoped to have a new story of motherhood to post this week, but in true blogging fashion, especially when the majority of my content consists of other people’s stories, things got switched around and M2M was left with a big, huge gaping hole. Hmm…what to fill it with? How about some beautiful pictures of our amazing country, in celebration of our nation’s birthday this week? Okay, twist my arm!

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So, happy 238th birthday, USA, you don’t look a day over 237! And may God continue to bless!

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Oh, beautiful, for spacious skies

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For amber waves of grain

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For purple mountain majesties

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Above the fruited plain

America! God shed His grace on thee!

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And crown thy good with brotherhood

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From sea to shining sea!