Dear Washington D.C.:

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Groupon Getaways for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

It might be too soon in our relationship to tell you this, but I just can’t keep it in:

Our family loves you.

When Groupon  gave us the opportunity to choose a getaway destination, there were so many choices. We thought about snow-capped mountains and isolated cabins and exotic destinations.

But you did not disappoint!

(And kudos to Groupon Getaways for a straight-shot flight and adjoining rooms with a king and two double beds at a gorgeous hotel in the shadow of the nation’s Capital!)

Our hotel was in the center of the city with access to all the major tourist spots.


We loved sleeping under the lights of the capital. And making silly faces, apparently.

v9iUHOLe7wPaofxxZt9HG-bGqc8OHRSXXvf3PVixCJgWe love your food. Within walking distance of our hotel, there were dozens of restaurants and honestly, it was hard to choose.

Who knew the family would take Asian Fusion food so seriously (it was delicious) Who knew my kids will literally try anything?


Or that Chinatown restaurants known for their duck entrees, really have them hanging in the window. And that sort of changes your mind about what you’re going to order. Get the dumpiness, always the dumplings.


And don’t get me started on this epic restaurant:


(Friends of Mercy House own The Portofino, a family-owned authentic Italian restaurant, in Arlington, Virginia and sent us a gift card for our family to dine with them. I highly recommend it! How fun is that?)

We loved walking everywhere.

We loved catching taxis when we couldn’t take another step and meeting drivers from Ethiopia, Iran, Turkey and well, all over the world).

We loved your free museums. I can’t wait to tell you our favorites.

We loved your presidential bobble heads.


We loved your cherry blossoms. Seriously, everywhere.


Most of all, we loved your history. With 17 museums a part of the Smithsonian, that all have free entrance, how could I not?


We loved the way the city shuts down for the presidential motorcade (okay, not really. But still, cool).


Washington DC, you had us at hello.

We can’t wait to return. (And share more fun details about our trip with you!)

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Getaway: Austin, TX – Part Two

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Groupon Getaways for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

I love old things- buildings, architecture, furniture. You name it.

I was excited to explore some of the history of Austin on our Groupon Getaways several weeks ago. The Capital did not disappoint.


It was grand and it was so fun seeing it through my kids eyes. They had so many questions. My husband and I were born and raised in Texas and even though we spent the first ten years of our marriage in other states, we got back here as fast as we could.


This was the view standing in the center of the room and looking up. Spectacular.

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The grand building took six years to build and completed in 1888. It cost $3 million dollars way back then. And that star in the picture above? It’s 8 feet in diameter.

We spent a lot of time exploring the old building, the basement, antique staircases and unlocked doors. We probably broke some trespassing laws. Oops. My girls took my phone and did a spontaneous photo shoot.






They are so shy and timid. It’s funny because when I tried to get a great shot of my children on these epic courthouse stairs, this is what I got.


After we finished our mostly legal exploring, we rolled down the great green hill in the front of the state building. And by “we” I mean my husband and two of my kids. My teenager and I are way too cool for that. We ended the day at Magnolia Cafe and ate our weight in gingerbread pancakes.

We headed back to the Omni Barton Resort and spent the last few hours of our getaway at the beautiful pool. It was a great, relaxing weekend away. Thank you, Groupon!

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Getaway To Austin, Texas: Part One

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Groupon Getaways for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

We picked up our kids straight from school at 3pm and hit the road for our local Groupon getaway.

It’s a little less than a 3 hour drive to Austin and our son was shooting the Texas Indoor Archery Championship at University of Texas at 6pm.

That’s how we roll.


We  sat in the collegiate range for a couple of hours and he shot his personal best! A couple of people down from Olympian Vick Wunderlee. It was awesome.


While the boys shot day 2 of the tournament, the girls and I explored this beauty in Austin. The Omni Barton Resort we found on the Groupon Getaway site is a sight to behold:





We explored the vast and spacious property, ate delicious breakfast burritos and drank cappuccinos in the quaint on-property coffee shop. It was the perfect leisure morning.

When the guys returned by noon, we were ready to explore more of Austin. We found a food truck park and everyone split up and tried something new. I had spicy thai noodles, Terrell and Madi ate different versions of tacos, our youngest had a hamburger and the archer ate his fill of wieners. It was a breezy day and perfect outside eating weather.


We spent the rest of the day exploring local thrift stores. There are dozens in the city and they definitely add to the funky feel of the city. We were hunting for some small fixtures for our new Mercy House warehouse and found a couple of good deals. But the antique chicken coop wouldn’t fit in our car. But we tried.


We also visited the cool Tom’s store on the main drag and got a lot of great display ideas, including this huge chalkboard wall map. We spent a lot of time on South Congress, one of the main roads in Austin. One of our favorite stores was Ten Thousand Villages, which offers fair trade product from all over the world…right up my alley. We also enjoyed Uncommon Objects. Talk about weird.


We ended the night eating at a local hotspot and ate fancy. It was a restaurant featured on the Food Network. We always check the app in whatever city we’re in and try to discover delicious unique food.


We might have even cropped our kids out of the picture and pretended we were on a date. Don’t all moms and dads do that on Groupon Getaways?

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And The Destinations Are . . .

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Groupon Getaways for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.


After dinner one night, our family did something spontaneous. We made a list of all the places we wanted to travel to before our kids leave home.

That was four years ago.

We debated and narrowed down and the final list was amazing and crazy. It was audacious. We didn’t talk about how our family would travel to Paris, Hawaii, Colorado, New York City, Washington DC, the Grand Canyon and other amazing places.

But that didn’t stop us from dreaming. Since we started Mercy House in 2010, we’ve had the opportunity to travel to Africa periodically and we fell in love with traveling and exploring together.

One by one, we are marking destinations off the list. We won’t see them all, but we will see a few. (One way we save? We label empty water bottles with destinations and tuck every extra (and unexpected) dollar we can spare into the bottles. It’s taken years for some trips, but it’s slowly working).

When Groupon asked if we wanted to take a local and an out-of-state getaway, we jumped at the chance.

For our local getaway, we scoured the Groupon Getaways choices and tried to narrow down them down. Texas is not only huge, there’s so much to see and do. We’ve spent time in Galveston and we love the hills of San Antonio and the plains of West Texas.  Sometimes the most beautiful places are right under our noses. We just have to get in the car and go find them.


We ended up picking Austin, Texas. There’s so much to see and do there and we’ve never taken the time to fully explore it, even though it’s only three hours from us. We also wanted to do our part to help keep it weird.


Our son had a chance to compete in the Texas Archery Championship at University of Texas, so we thought it would be a great family getaway. On our list for the weekend: hunting down great thrift shopping and eating at out-of-the-way local restaurants.


Plus, food trucks.


Groupon makes it super easy to book a getaway with just a few clicks. You can just add your location and dates of travel and search dozens of destinations. The easy-to-understand layout of the pages allows users to easily clock on calendar dates for the vacation that you want. Plus, Groupon’s discounts can’t be beat.

For our out-of-state trip, the choice (and debate) was extensive. Our kids saw snow last year for the first time (yes, poor Texas children) and a restful snowy mountain getaway sounded appealing. But we also wanted the chance to see, explore and learn about a new city.

Our second grader has been studying US history and she said, “I need to see this.”


Washington DC won!

Besides getting as close to the White House as possible, we can’t wait to explore the Smithsonian, all the government buildings and Eastern Market. We’ve also heard there are some amazing places to eat and trying new places is always an adventure.


I can’t wait tell you more about our trips for #MyGrouponGetaway!

credit: image 1, image 2, image 3, image 4

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Sometimes You’ve Just Got to Get Away

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Groupon Getaways. All opinions are 100% mine.

I’d like to say this year (all six weeks of it) has been unseasonably busy. But let’s be honest, it’s been this way for the past 5 years. With job challenges and growing kids and pending book deadlines, end of the year non-profit demands, drainage issues in a very muddy backyard, oil leaks in the car, it’s been hectic.

I also wouldn’t change a minute of it.

Okay, that’s not completely true. I would change that moment yesterday when my dog punctured my large styrofoam cup of sweet tea and it emptied into my shoes during carline drop off.

In general, I love my life and I’m thankful for (almost all of) it. But I do long for a slow, calm day.

Bench and tree silhouette viewing to serene lake

When Terrell asked me what I wanted to do for the long Valentine’s/President’s Day weekend, I said, “I want to get away with my family.” Which should not be confused with”I want to run away from my family.”

Because how can both sound good at the same exact time?

So, it seemed sort of providential that the very next day, the good people at Groupon asked if we wanted to choose a local (and a not-so-local) Getaway of our choice.

Yeah, we will have to really think hard about that one. Give me a second.

Okay, um, yes, please.

We’ve spent some time browsing the Groupon Getaways portal and I was amazed at all the choices! We narrowed down our choice to the hill country in Texas. But do you know what’s hard? Choosing where to stay when there are so many amazing choices. It was a burden. I know you pity us.

get away

If you could choose a local (by car) spot to getaway to, where would you go? 

Stay tuned…. #MyGrouponGetaway

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Some Suggestions For Your (Tired) Eyes

I’m entering this New Year tired.

Not just the sleepy kind. I’m a do-er. I feel most alive when I’m in action. I can hardly sit still even when my eyes can barely stay open. I keep a notepad by my bed to write down the thoughts that just won’t hush. I make phone calls when I drive. I fold laundry while I help with homework. I answer emails–well, constantly. I read in the carline and bathtub and at music lessons-because why waste that precious time?

Maybe that’s why the books piled on my nightstand are ironic-they all have a central theme of rest.

And they are beckoning me to listen.

Own Your Life

Maybe they will speak to you, too (affiliate links included):

I got to read an early copy of Sally Clarkson’s new book and it was so encouraging. Sally is a parenting guru and she has inspired and blessed countless mothers. Synopsis: “Do you ever long for days full of joy and energy—days that bring out the best version of you rather than leave you exhausted? Do you sometimes catch yourself wishing life was more impactful and fulfilling? In a world that’s moving so fast, it’s easy to lose your sense of purpose. So now is the time to make each moment of your ordinary, everyday, beautiful existence count. It’s time to own your life.” YES.

I am honored to have a couple of my stories in Dawn Camp’s first book. Dawn is a talented photographer and this book is filled with amazing stories from popular bloggers, complete with incredible pictures. Synopsis: “Combining heartfelt stories from some of today’s foremost writers with Dawn’s stunning photography of God’s incredible creation, The Beauty of Graceis your haven of calm contemplation amid the chaos. This inspiring collection includes stories of cultivating friendship, waiting on God, choosing joy, staying connected, learning to trust, and much more. If you’re in need of a little peace, a little quiet, a little beauty, find comfort in this: you’re invited to experience them all within the pages of this soul-stirring book.”

My friend Jessica Turner’s first book is sure to be an inspiring guide to making time for you. She’s a dear friend and no one manages time better. She’s taught me a lot about self-care and I can’t wait to dig into this book! Synopsis: “In this practical and liberating book, Jessica Turner empowers women to take back pockets of time they already have in their day in order to practice self-care and do the things they love. Turner uses her own experiences and those of women across the country to teach readers how to balance their many responsibilities while still taking time to invest in themselves.”

Just the title of Stacey and Brooke’s new book has me cheering! I know both these gals personally and their heart beats for mothers. And y’all-I know all about messes. Synopsis: Do you ever feel like you’re fresh out of amazing? Daily pouring yourself out for your family, you’re tired, overwhelmed, and have nothing left to give. Hope for the Weary Mom is an honest look at where you find yourself living. In their new book, bloggers Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothlin (creators of the online communities Mothers of Daughters and The MOB Society) lead you to the God who meets you in your mess and show you that you don’t walk through life alone.

Our family watched The Good Lie last weekend (we rented it on Amazon). I don’t normally recommend movies because we can all find a lot wrong with them. I think this one moved me so much because it reminded me a lot of my favorite all-time book and I had just worked with 60 women from The Refugee Project that day. Our family loved this movie and it led to some very good conversations. It has stirred up a lot in me and I can’t wait to see where it leads us. Please read the Plugged In Online review. And if you still haven’t read my favorite book –Running for My Life-what are you waiting for? This book did deep things in me. It’s what made me say yes to refugees on Friday which resulted in Fair Trade Friday which is why I’m so tired. See how God works?



Don’t forget Works For Me Wednesday has moved to its new home!

The Beauty of Unwrapping Christmas Every Day (Even the Ugly Ones)

I had grand plans for the first night of Advent.

Just imagine the setting with me: Holy Christmas music in the background, my family breaking bread together over a lovely home cooked meal, while we politely asked about each other’s day and write down a long list of our blessings. We would listen intently to the daily reading, reflect quietly as we pondered the truth and then gather around our Jesse tree to place the first ornament on it together.

But somehow on the first night of Advent, we ended up eating overpriced sandwiches at Schlotzsky’s across from our church because our kids were running late for youth group. We had a lovely family fight (complete with teen eye rolls, tween grumbling and whining from the whole lot) for good measure.  By the time I remembered the new Advent book I tucked into my purse at the last minute, I felt like a failure.

I’m pretty sure everyone sighed loudly when they saw it, too. Because failure is good at convincing us it’s too late, even before we even start.

Terrell pushed through and read Ann’s words aloud in that sandwich shop: “There was this family-Jesse’s family. A family that was like yours…a family that loved each other and hurt each other and forgave each other and failed each other. A family that failed God….They failed and fell and were like a fallen tree.”

I smiled at him as he read on about the miraculous shoot springing up from that hopeless family stump…”out of the stump came one tender branch that would grow right into a crown of thorns, right into a rugged cross, right into a ladder back to God….”

I swallowed down my frustration and in the first few sentences of this book, I didn’t remember my failure.

I remembered what God can do with it.

When we got home, I asked my baby to place the first Jesse tree ornament on the tree. There was no music and it was far from holy. And she reminded me twice she wasn’t a baby.

But even without the perfect setting, it was still important.

We can’t quit, even on the ugly days.

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Because it’s not the gifts under the tree our children will remember–the must-have electronics, the hottest toys–it’s the traditions.

This week, she wanted the stockings hung in order, just so. She asked for loud Christmas music while we decorated the tree and she arranged and rearranged  Baby Jesus as the Star of Season- just like last year and the one before.


Traditions are more than hot chocolate while looking at Christmas lights or opening new matching pajamas on Christmas Eve while listening to Dad read The Night Before Christmas.

And that’s why we push through our failed plans and our own failures. Because traditions are the act of passing down what we believe to our children.

It’s not just a great idea; it’s a gift we give our kids. We practice and retell truth and it works it’s way into their hearts.



And there is no better opportunity to teach these important truths this time of year.

Because the Gift has come.

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Christmas is for The Unwrapping.

More than anything, I long to slow down the rush of the Season, to linger, to focus on the meaning behind the traditions. I want to remember why we remember and I want to pass the Truth to my children.

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Counting down the days to Christmas isn’t just a fun family activity. It’s not just another thing to add to our list. Celebrating Advent makes us reflect on the meaning behind the grand tree and gifts we give to each other. It makes us pause in the craziness of the season and remember the reason for it.

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Advent is the best tradition to unwrap Christmas with our family because it’s the best way to pass down Truth.


It’s the retelling of the Greatest Story. And it’s not just for the first 24 days of December.

It’s the intentional, meaningful, day-by-day unwrapping of the Greatest Gift ever given.

Even on the ugly days.

Especially then.


The book: Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas
The ornaments pictured above. Or download ornaments.

[This post is sponsored by Tyndale Publishers. All opinions and ideas are mine.]

What’s On My Reading List This Fall {Recommended Reads & Free Books}

Fall is here and I feel like I’m falling behind. I’m in the middle of a crazy-busy season of life, but I’m determined to slow down and read. It’s how I know I’m taking care of myself. It’s a great way to relax, reflect and respond. Here are the awesome books (click on the my affiliate links below to read more about each book) I’m planning on digging into this fall:

  • Decorating Cookies Party by Bridget Edwards (Recipe book)  | My dear friend (and former next door neighbor) Bridget, has done it again! This week she released another cookie cookbook and it’s an amazing, picture-filled DIY cookie party guide. She’s got me itching to break out my mixer. Remember when I made these? I’m not exactly a baker, but I am on page 33 (!). I was honored to attend Bridget’s cookie party and it was so fun and delicious. I ate them all. Leave a comment on this post and you could win a copy!

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  • Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas by Ann Voskamp (Children’s book) | I cannot wait to get my hands on Ann’s newest book for our family. It will be our guide this Advent Season. It’s full of daily Scripture passages and specially written devotion to help children of all ages understand the Advent theme for the day, and participate in suggested activities to apply the theme.


  • God Made Light by Matthew Paul Turner (Children’s book: ) | I’m planning on adding this book to my Christmas list to all the littles in my life. I love the beautiful art and the Gospel message.



  • Revolution in World Missions by K.P. Yohannan (Faith book)| I’ve actually read this book and it was absolutely life-changing. I can’t recommend Revolution in World Missions, written by the founder of Gospel for Asia, enough. And guess what? Everyone gets a FREE copy. Click and get yours today.



Leave a comment to win Bridget’s fun new cookie party book and make sure you click here to get a free copy of a book that will change the way you see the world!

[Updated with Winner: Congrats to random winner, Summer!]