For those of you who don’t follow me on instagram and seen all our photos, our family has been vacationing in Breckenridge and loving the slower pace and family time.

I woke this morning while the house was still quiet and snuck out to Starbucks, where I now sit looking at the incredible beauty out it’s windows: the mountain of green, still spotted with patches of thick white snow. It’s been a fantastic week.


Today though, I’d like to introduce you to my sweet friend Danielle Burkleo.

danielle burkleo

I met Danielle last spring at Hope Spoken {which she and two friends, Emily & Casey felt the Lord press upon their hearts to put together}.


A New Yorker and fellow adoptive mom, Danielle is so many things. She is sweet and real and loves Jesus with the kind of passion we all want. She is also a creative and incredible graphic designer, creating logos, blog design {and so much more}.

And she has a really fun Instagram feed.

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Today I have the honor of guest posting on her blog.

 //// Check out her blog and my post by clicking here. ////

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Wednesday was rough. Rough, rough, ROUGH. I don’t know how else to say it.

By the time Ben and I finally got the kids in bed (and to stay in bed), we were completely exhausted to our core.

This weariness and exhaustion was so consuming, that we thought for some reason the next day was Laith’s birthday.

Ummmm…it’s not.

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Trying to figure out where the week went, I scurried around cleaning up the kitchen and setting the table for Laith’s Breakfast Party. Grabbing 4th of July banners from the basement, picnic inspired red and white plaid napkins from a bin, and sneaking into the little boy’s room for an armload of baseballs.

As I set the pinwheels in the middle of the table, I turned to Ben. “What day is tomorrow?” I asked. “Laith’s birthday,” he responded. “Yes…but the date?” “Well, today is the 16th…so tomorrow would be the 17th. Annnnnd not Laithy’s birthday.”

We just started at each other awkwardly for a minute before starting to laugh.

And such was our day. Sigh.

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When the kids go to bed the night before their birthday, we say goodnight to their five year old selves (or however old they may be). I kiss the birthday-kid on the forehead and whisper “I’ll see your older self in the morning! Goodbye five year old. In the morning, I’ll say ‘hellllllo six year old!'”

But this morning he’s still five. And will be for a few more days.


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In the meantime, we’re filling those popcorn boxes with thick slices of watermelon and still having a Breakfast Party.

And we’re giggling about how even mommy and daddy mess up sometimes.

These pinwheels were made for Laith’s second birthday. The theme was ‘Vintage Toys’ and it was spectacular. I became addicted to making pinwheels because they’re so fun and easy. I think I may have made 5o, or so.

Several houses later and an entirely different state, and some are still around. They usually sit on the marble table in our entry but as I moved them, I was reminded of all the fun we’ve had in the years between his second birthday and now his sixth.

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I had posted a tutorial on these pinwheels ages ago…I mean, seriously ages ago…when I had just begun blogging for more than just my mom and mother-in-law to read. The photos are small and not well taken. I’m still working on my photography.

Like Laith and all we’ve learned in his six years, it’s fun to look back and see how much I’ve learned about this blogging thing and continue to learn.

Laith, my sweet boy…may your day today (your pretend birthday) and your day on Saturday (your real day), be filled with joy and love and fun. I pray you know how much we treasure you and my cup runneth over seeing how much you love us and love the Lord. You’re amazing, buddy. Can’t believe I get to be your mom.


/////  Lisa Leonard has a great pinwheel tutorial on her blog, if you’d like to make your own! /////

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So…we’re all friends here, right?
Whether we’re real, face-to-face buddies who grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine together…or simply virtual friends online, it doesn’t matter. We’re friends. And I still want to be real and vulnerable and share with you.
prayer request
A few weeks ago, I sent my proposal to the VP of Acquisition over at Thomas Nelson and was thrilled to have heard back from him quickly. Sadly though, his email was letting me know that although he loves both my proposal and blog (!!!), it was his last day at Thomas Nelson and was forwarding it on to a colleague.
(Sigh. Shoot. Ok God, You know what you’re doing. I’m still trusting.)
Fast forward a few weeks later…to this morning. I woke early, as I do every morning. I sat in my favorite reading chair, cupping my hot latte in my hands as I poured my heart out to God. Having a serious heart-to-heart with Him, I pleaded that He show me I’m going in the right direction. I asked Him to give me clarity that He’s working behind the scenes.
Because truly, I’m doing this because He asked me to. This is His project, so I want to make sure I’m moving toward whatever it is He wants me to do with it.
The kids woke, I made breakfast, and we scurried out to the orthodontist. And on to swimming lessons.
The Editor in Chief (of Nonfiction) asked if she had my permission to bring my proposal before the Editorial Board next week.
Um….let me think about that. YES. Yes you can. (commence a bunch of jumping up and down)
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As I have learned through this crazy process of publishing, most publishing houses only work with someone who is represented by a literary agent. But I found a little “in” over at Thomas Nelson and with shaky hands, I emailed them my 54 page proposal (plus three sample chapters). From what I understand, most of the time the author never hears back. They receive so many proposals and manuscripts every day, I don’t think publishing houses tend to even send a “thanks but no thanks” email back to the writer.
But if…IF…they think there’s potential, the next phase is meeting before the Editorial Board (or the Ed Board, they call it), which is where we are now!
The Ed Board meets together after having all read the proposal to discuss the size of the author’s platform, the extent at which the author can promote the book, how fresh the idea is, things of that sort.
The Marketing Board then assembles a mock-up marketing plan to bring to the Pub Board (Publication Board}. That meeting is next, should my Ed Board meeting be successful.
In the Pub Board, the editorial staff advocate for the proposal and pitch it to the sales people (who work with Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Costco, Lifeway, etc). As they all look over the proposal, forecasting is discussed, along with numbers which will empower the business decision
(and whether or not they’re willing to take a chance on me).
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So. Likely way more info than you needed about the process, but I’m really REALLY excited to have gotten this far.
Please pray if you would, that my Ed Board meeting goes well and everything continues forward. God is in control of it all and I know I need not stress…but my heart still beats fast and my palms still sweat.
thank you
 Want to see some sneak peeks of this book I’m talking about?
///// click here & here /////
I’ll keep you updated! .

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Contentment. Aren’t we always asked to have it?

Expected to have it, right?

But I’m going to be honest with you. When I’m content, I feel out of God’s will. Sounds strange, doesn’t it.

Before you think I’ve completely lost it, let me explain what I mean…

I’ve mentioned in this post how after college, I released MY plans…my perfectly wonderful intended future, to the Lord. I examined my heart and realized I never actually asked Him what HIS desire and plan was for me in the first place.

Contentment was different after that.

africa print and globe - kid art

psalm 131_2A few years later while Ben and I were dating, we attended an auction, a gala really, where a black and white photograph caught our eye. It was of a little boy in Malawi, praying. Standing in front of this impactful photo that night {which now has a special place in our home}, spurred all sorts of conversation. We knew we would eventually be married and were talking about our future.

Ben and I talked and imagined adopting little African babies once we were man and wife and envisioned all the ways we could make a difference in the world. He, like me, wanted to live an abundant life. To be used by God and make an impact in the world.

We wanted to do more than just talk about God, we wanted to live Him.

It was one of those nights where we were dressed in black tie, drinking chilled champagne from long thinly stemmed glassware, dreaming of the future. We could have planned to take over the lives of the Trump family, and it would have felt just as believable that evening.

vintage inspired little girl's room

And here we are, a little more than eight years later. We have lived in three states, six houses, birthed two beautiful baby boys, and adopted four remarkable Ethiopian children. We’ve had job changes, deaths of loved ones, financial struggles, financial joys, and a whole load of other things that would quite possibly bore you.

So…we haven’t sat around a whole lot, apparently. There hasn’t been a lot of time to ease into a feeling of contentment.

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When I searched my thesaurus for the word “content,” I saw what I expected…it means to be fulfilled, willing, and satisfied. I love that it says “willing,” don’t you? Yes, Lord…I AM WILLING…I will be content in what You will. I will be satisfied.

As I continued on to other synonyms however, my eyes stopped on the words comfortable, complacent, smug, and the phrase fat & happy.


Pretty sure that’s not at all what we’re supposed to be.

I think it’s so easy for us to be content with how our lives are playing out. Sure we want this…and that change would be nice, but all-in-all, life is fine. We don’t want to rock the boat. We’re content.


Sometimes I actually crave the fat and happy idea. Sometimes I’m tired and the idea of being complacent doesn’t sound too bad.

But I don’t think that’s the contentment God desires of us.

In my heart, I know it’s when He stretches us and we have no choice but to lean heavily on Him that we need to be content. Content with knowing HIS plan is the BEST plan. Unconditional Contentment.

Ben and I both want to live lives that don’t center around ourselves. We prayed {and still pray} God use us to make a difference in the lives of others. We just had no idea what that looked like.

God is looking for people to use, and if you can get usable, he will wear you out.
The most dangerous prayer you can pray is this: ‘Use me.’
{Rick Warren}

God has asked Ben and I to do so many things out of our comfort zones, outside our first-choice desires. So much so in fact, at this point when things seem smooth and we’re settling in and it’s a time of rose colored contentment…I feel I’m not hearing The Lord correctly and jump deeper into The Word and my time of prayer before Him.


I want to make sure I’m not drifting by in a life I build myself. Perhaps at some point, God will grant me the gift of rest and I won’t feel this so intensely. But every day He reminds me…

He didn’t put us in this world to be content.

He put us in this world to make a difference for His kingdom.

My heart yearns for more than contentment, doesn’t yours??

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Are you like me and scroll through your Instagram feed, oohing and ahhhing over so many beautiful photos?

Are you unsatisfied by Instagram’s filters, thinking…

“Mine will never look like that. How do THEY do that? The lighting, the vibrancy, the tone!”

Well friends, I’m here to tell you how.

{Wow. That totally just sounded like an infomercial.}

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After spending time with some blog-friends a few months ago and chatting with them about their secrets, I’ve realized they’re not all that talented after all {totally kidding, you ladies are insanely talented}. The photography apps they use though, are also incredible.

My childhood friend, Rebekah Gough over at {A Bit of Sunshine}, and two new friends Sara Schneider {Life is Beauty Full}, and Katie Harris {Creole Wisdom} {who incidentally is also a professional photographer. So I obviously ate up everything she said}, gave me these recommendations!

photography apps

Afterlight // VSCO Cam // PicTapGo


But I’ve really taken to one of their favorites, more than the others…



 I use this app on almost all my photos these days, whether for my Instagram feed, blog posts, or simply pictures I want framed here at home.

Want some examples?

Yesterday was Imani’s birthday so I’ll start with a few photos from her big day:

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For my photos, all I generally do {for now anyway} is choose Backlit when in the Scenes category. I then click on The Lab and scroll across to Brightness & Contrast, finishing in Highlights & Shadows.

Eventually, I may get more in-depth and use more features, but if you’re curious what I do…there you go!

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I’m far from where I’d like to me in the photography department, but baby steps people…baby steps.

I’m really loving how it’s lightened up my photos, gaining vibrancy, and more the look I’m desiring, rather than the filters Instagram offers.

So go download some of these apps, try ‘em out and see which works best for you and how you’re wanting YOUR photos to look!

Can’t wait to see!


Just in case you’re dying to know {wink, wink} what’s going on with us day-to-day, outside of the blog…instagram is a great place to find out. Do you follow me on Instagram? If not, click here {or search under hugsandpunches}!

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