Monday, April 11, 2016

What Would You Do With A Million Dollars?

A year and a half ago I was attending a retreat. As it started, everyone grabbed a random question out of a bowl. We then thought about our answers and took turns sharing them as a group to get to know each other better.

The question that I drew was: What would you do with a million dollars?

I had never thought about what I would do with a million dollars before.

But in that moment I knew right away what I would do.

I didn't even have to think twice about it.

However, I was a little caught off guard as the thoughts came together in my mind. I slowly began to verbalize for the first time ever what I would do with a million dollars. 

First, I said, I would start by giving 10% to our church. (How cool would it be to write a check for $100,000.00 and make a difference in your city and the world!?!)

Then with a little hesitation I shared how I had entered HGTV's dream house giveaway a few times over the recent years. Perhaps admitting that felt silly to me. Obviously the chances of winning were c.r.a.z.y. But through the process of first entering that contest I had begun to dream about what I would do with the house if I won.

When we first transitioned to a family of seven it was the most exhausting thing that I had ever experienced.  

Every day held a new challenge.

We had three little people who had just joined our family and we were all adjusting to our new reality. At that point we didn't have the time investment of family memories and time spent together with our three kids who came into our family through adoption like we did with our two biological children.

A friend had told us early on about how important rest would be for Sam and I...and we believed them. We also saw how important spending time together and making memories as a family would be.

So we planned our first family getaway. Somehow we survived that experience, so we planned our second family getaway. We fell in love with taking our crew out of the norm and just simply being together as a family and making special memories together.

In the process we also realized just how challenging it can be to travel and stay places when you have a large family. We don't fit comfortably into one hotel room and eating a meal out for our crew adds up quickly. We knew that going away together was valuable but we also knew that we would need to do it with some strategic planning.

And I guess that is when I started dreaming of winning the HGTV dream home.

Because to me it meant a place that our family could gather every year with enough beds for everyone, and a kitchen to make our own meals and to make memories.

Then I started dreaming of other adoptive families using the space the other 51 weeks of the year. A place that they could gather and rest with their families. Perhaps they could bond over Mario Kart or roasting marshmallows around a fire outside. They could stay up late watching movies with fresh popcorn and soft blankets or sit around a table playing cards while food was cooking in the crock pot. There would be enough rooms for everyone to spread out and find a quiet space but also to gather together and just be.

So I guess if I had a million dollars I would buy a home where other large adoptive families could gather, make memories together and rest. 

Then it was about 6 months ago that Sam and I were talking about our upcoming trip to Mexico this summer.

What will we do with our house while we are gone?

And from that point on, with tears in my eyes, I have reflected on the verse in Psalm 37:4..."Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart."

"Who needs a million dollars?" I thought to myself. It had never even occurred to me that my dream of having a home that other large families could come and stay in was...already in my possession. 

We have been scheming for months and want to bless two adoptive families with a place to take a vacation this summer...but we need your help. 

Will you help us?!?

If you know a family of six or more who has adopted or is currently doing foster care, would you please share this post with them? We want them to have the opportunity to enter to win a free week stay at, An Inviting Home!

All of the details on how to enter are below. Thank you!


I have ALWAYS wanted to say..."Be Our Guest!" :-)

Between now and 10pm CST on April 17th, 2016 enter to win a 6 night, 7 day stay at An Inviting Home! To qualify to win, you must be a family of six or more who has adopted. You can also qualify to enter if you are doing foster care or have an adoption placement and are able to travel out of state with your crew!

Important Detail: The winning family must be able to travel to Minneapolis to redeem the free week stay during the summer of 2016. If they are unable to do that, another winner will be selected. 

Ya'll, summers in Minnesota are my absolute FAVORITE!

To Enter!

1. Share this post (buttons to share are on the bottom of the post) on your preferred social media along with this phrase:  I would love to win a week's stay at An Inviting Home for my family of _____ because ___________ (Tell us why. What would it mean to you?)

2. Email me a copy of that text and also include your full name and phone number (

All entries must be received by 10pm (CST) on Sunday, April 17th, 2016.

Two winners will be randomly selected and announced at on Monday, April 18th, 2016!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Catching A Global Vision As A Family!

Perhaps we didn't know what adding three children to our family all at once would exactly look like at the time. We simply knew, this is the next step, this is what we are suppose to do. 

The rest will unfold tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day after that.

When we became a family of seven I wondered how we would be able to give our kids a global vision for life. I knew that my perspective on life had been affected by experiences outside of my comfort zone and beyond the four walls of my home. Even if those experiences have yet to take me over the Pacific or Atlantic...I was still able to see parts of the world that impacted me for the better, every single time. 

I wanted my kids to have a global vision and broader perspective of what God could do with their lives and of what He is doing in the world!

What you see changes you. I longed for my kids' hearts to be affected by the things that they would see and experience, outside the four walls of our home. And yet let's be real...saving up to take a 10-year anniversary trip for two people took us 8 yearsHow would we ever fly anywhere now that there were seven of us?!?

I quickly realized that those questions could paralyze me to think that it could never be done. But what if it was possible?

Then shortly after our family grew, Sam and I began dreaming and talking about the future. Dreaming of ways that we could open our kids' eyes to see the world, one glimpse at a time. It wasn't hard to think of the first place that we would want to take them.


My husband will tell you that his heart language is Spanish. He learned how to walk, how to talk, how to read, how to conquer 10th grade math and graduate High School all from the country that he called home for the first 18 years of his life. 

We've been wanting each of our kids to see & experience the place where "daddy grew up."

To feel the salty water on their faces from the Pacific coast...

To walk down the street each day to buy freshly made corn tortillas...

To serve others...

To get to know the people...the friends who had become family and could tell endless stories of their daddy's crazy antics. :-)

It was about the time that we started dreaming of taking the kids on a trip like this (about three years ago) that we remembered that Sam would have a sabbatical coming up a few years down the road. (Sam is the lead pastor at our church and after seven years he gets a three month time frame to recharge and gain new vision for continued ministry.)

With that in mind, we started dreaming of taking the kids to Mexico for a summer and letting them experience ALL OF THE THINGS! And I guess in our minds, the best summer to take everyone down there, was the summer before our youngest would be entering kindergarten.

Our youngest starts kindergarten this fall! Three years have passed since we first started dreaming, which means that our crew is headed on an ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME to Mexico this summer!

We feel that taking this time to rest, serve, and BE together as a family this summer will mark the coming years together as a family and will make a lasting impression on our children and be part of them catching a global vision for what God is doing in the world.

So many details to still figure out, yes!

But the first step to make this all possible was getting passports for everyone, and by golly we've done it!

Our road trip begins early June. And ok, ok...maybe driving our family of seven down to Mexico wasn't in my original dream. ;-) However in the process, we have been dreaming up stops along the way (Hello, Waco, TX!) and I CAN'T WAIT to share this experience with all of you!

I hope that you are inspired to believe that your dreams are possible too!

One of the most exciting things about this trip is something that I am going to 
share on Monday that involves a giveaway and an opportunity for another family
 to have a family road trip too! :-) But just a heads up...I need your help to pull it off. 

Will you help me? Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Our Inviting Space For Guests!

Our guest room space is finished and I am thrilled to share it with you today! This space has definitely evolved throughout the years. First it was an inviting space for kids and then we made it an inviting space for my parents to live in, when they stayed with us for 10 months. Since then we decided that the best use of this space for our family was to have a designated guest room for family, friends and those needing a temporary place to stay.

A big change that occurred was re-configuring our unfinished basement laundry room and adding a bathroom. We hired out the bathroom project and love the way that the area now functions. Not only do our guests no longer have to walk up multiple flights of stairs to find a shower...but we now also have 2 showers in the house. Definitely a benefit when you usually have at least 7 people in the house at all times. :-)

I really value the benefit of adapting any space in your home for guests to feel welcome and to have a place to rest. 

Life is so rich when spent with others!

In our house, growing up, that meant that my sister would open up her room for guests and come to my room for the night or vice-versa. With the amount of people that come through our home we really wanted to create an oasis, a place for guests to rest and have a little quiet cove away from the rest of the house. Because let's be honest, a house full of five kiddos is always bursting to the brim with excitement...unless you are visiting between the hours of 8:30pm and 7:30am and it is usually quiet as a mouse. :-)

I would say that our mission to create an oasis for weary travelers was completed! 

Let's take a tour, shall we...

One change that we made was enclosing the space from our family room. A wall was added to the right side of the picture above and then our friend, Ben, built this fabulous barn door. We went this route so that the doorway could be larger. That way when the door is open it still lets lots of light flood into our basement family room. (Speaking of light, sorry for the shadows and poor lighting in many of the photos coming up...taking pictures in a basement can definitely be a challenge!)

As you walk into the room on the left you'll find the same IKEA shelving unit that used to house all of our games and kids crafts. We've relocated those items onto a bigger unit in the family room. Then I added some bins to the bottom of this one so that it could be used as a dresser. Next, I added various items to the top shelves to make the space feel more like home. From a vintage fan that my dad used to have in his office when I grew up, to a vase given to us by a good friend. It was the perfect place to put items that have meaning to us.

I added some pops of yellow along with other various colors...

And a little greenery does the trick, along with a book that truly inspired this room.

You see, I've learned over time, and through reading this book, that having your home filled only with things that bring you joy and/or serve a specific purpose, is such a gift. And it feels so much better than being weighted down with stuff that serves no purpose or reason.

So as we created this space, and added each little touch, my hope was that this room would be a place of rest. That the items in it would have purpose, be practical and be a place filled with only items that I actually didn't mind having to dust. :-) 

The color inspiration that I used for these rooms came from a pillow I found at Target. It caught my eye one day and I really liked seeing the use of the three colors, mint and a pale pink.

With that inspiration, the walls of the guest room became navy, and I love how rich and cozy it made the room. Combining light, neutral bedding, and white furniture in the space gave the room a nice bright contrast to tie everything together. 

The little side table in the corner, I found on clearance at Target one day. The reading light came from IKEA. We also added a KVIKNE wardrobe from IKEA to create some closet space for guests. This unit works great because the doors slide from side to side...great for working with limited space.

Each side of the closet has adjustable shelves along with a space for hangers. I added a laundry basket to the bottom of the right side of the wardrobe for guests to use.

And then the left side has an extra hanging organizer (also found at IKEA) that works nicely to add some extra shelf space for putting folded clothes. 

I had been eyeing some different circular ceiling lights at Home Depot and Menards but then I found this one at IKEA for half of the price. It is made out of paper and was whiter than the other ones I had originally seen, which is what I wanted. Have you noticed a theme of where I shop when remodeling a room? I can't help it, this mom of 5 needs quick and easy...

and simple, budget friendly & functional which currently means most of the things in our home have come from IKEA or Target. ;-)

The desk in the corner of the room gives a nice place for a workstation. I've been tempted to come down here multiple times and work on days when the room is unoccupied. Something about a pretty, clean, clutter free space that makes my creative brain soar.

I didn't want our guests to feel left out from the other bedrooms in the house. So I placed one of our favorite diffusers and the essential oils that we like to diffuse together at bedtime, on the desk as well. And because knowing how to use something is rather helpful for actually being able to do just that...I typed up some simple instructions, step by step, to make our guests feel right at home.

I guess our final step of the tour is the new bathroom. This door used to lead to the laundry room. However, now there is a new entryway to the laundry room located in the family room. 

The floor in the bathroom is one of my favorites. It is similar to the one that we put in our main level bathroom. I love the look of the wood but the fact that it is tile and easy to clean. 

The shower is directly in front of you as you enter the room and then to the right of the shower is the vanity. The plan is to add some white subway tile as a back splash behind the counter and going up to the mirror. The shelf below works nicely to store some fresh linens for guests to easily see and use.

Then you have the always important commode area. The bad lighting really makes the wall color look different in this picture. The walls actually had to be repaired in some areas so the bathroom will be getting repainted at some point. This minty color that I picked out, turned out to be a little bit bluer than I wanted so we will see what round two ends up looking like once I get around to picking out another minty color. Do you have a favorite minty color that you have used in your home? If so, I would love to hear what it was!

And then doing a full circle in the bathroom, you have the door back into the guest room on the left. And then the door on the right leads into the area where our furnace and hot water heater are.

The rug in the guest room is something that we went back and forth on in deciding what to use. Originally I had bought some smaller rugs to put at the bottom of the bed and one on the side. However, the tile gets quite cold in the winter time and so having something that surrounds the bed seemed like a better option. I found this rug in the Home & Garden section at Target. It is actually an outdoor/indoor rug. A friend told me once that you don't want to use those on a wooden floor because any liquid that is spilled on it will leak through and could damage the floor. However, since we were putting the rug on tile it was a really inexpensive and good option.

I guess that finishes up our tour. 

What was your favorite part?

I think mine was...


I loved every part. 

I guess after all, that was the goal. To make the rooms in your home filled with things that bring you joy and have purpose. And hopefully in this case, others will enjoy it too!

Friday, February 19, 2016

The One Word That Stops Running In Our House Instantly

Do you ever find yourself saying certain things over and over and ok...OVER & OVER again to your kids?!? 

You know, those things that you have told them way too many times to count? 

Ok, so if you have...

Does it ever just drive you completely crazy?!? 

And then you're all like...I need to keep my cool, this shouldn't be a big deal. 

And then it happens again two minutes later and your frustration and now reaction causes more concern than the initial offense?

Been there.

Done that

Sam and I both recently found ourselves getting frustrated telling the kids over and over again to stop running in the house. I would estimate that I was personally telling them not to run no less than five times per day. Granted, it could be a different child each time but most of the time there was overlap.

And the thing that drives you crazy is that the kids know our rule about not running in the house. So it isn't as if we spring it on them each day. But their reaction (or shall we say, lack of change) starts messing with my mind. The debate begins in my head like this...

Well, they are just kids. Maybe I should just let them run in the house.

They have a lot of energy. They have to get it out somewhere.

But then something about picturing all five of my kids running loose in every indoor space that we ever visit, quite honestly sends me into a bit of a panic. And I remember all of the times I have had to comfort screaming children who were running in socks and slipped on the wood floors, or down the steps or ran around the corner and knocked a sibling in the face causing a bloody nose. 

Yep, those have all happened...multiple times. 

Sam and I try to follow through with a consequence. "Go take down a smiley face."

But when you find yourself saying over and over again, 












The simple fact that their actions aren't changing and that you are constantly dealing with the same problem can make you feel like you are just plain wasting your breathe. 

So you start giving looks of death instead. Because you simply can't imagine having to say the same thing one more time. And then about every other time you follow through with the "go take down a smiley face thing" and lecture them for five minutes on why this has to stop.

Simply put, I was on the verge of throwing in the towel on this one. I told Sam one day, "maybe we should just give up on the whole no running in the house thing." 

To which Sam replied, "No, they CAN learn to not run inside."

And in one of his moments of sheer brilliance he said, let's just say, sit.

I grinned from ear to ear. 

And in that moment I felt victory for parents all over the world! :-)

Try it, "sit."

Now when the kids are running, I don't get frustrated, I'm not shocked or surprised by their actions, I simply say, "sit."

Then they sit down exactly where they are when they hear us say that one word.

After a few minutes pass I'll let them know that they can get up now. 

A simple reminder. A simple consequence. A simple word.

That is it...end of our conversation with each other.

It wasn't too long after we started doing this that I was upstairs walking down the hallway headed to the bathroom to take a shower. One of the boys came running up the stairs, rounded the corner and sprinted right in my direction until suddenly seeing my presence made him instantly remember that he shouldn't be running. (Funny how that happens, right?) 

I smiled, said "sit" and then walked into the bathroom. 

He asked how long he had to sit for and I told him that I would let him know when he could get up after I got out of the shower. 

That may have been the longest most enjoyable shower of my life! :-)

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Marie Kondo & Minimalist Living Effect On My Closet

So I read this book last summer.

And this article.

And then I saw this picture a few days ago.

My closet was in this state.

And all just got to me.

So this happened.

Which resulted in this.

And after removing these from my bedroom.

I was then left with this.

And the best part was...I felt like I could breathe again.

Like really BREATHE!

Turns out life is simpler and cleaner with less choices...not more.

Monday, January 18, 2016

My Inner Struggle As An American Mom Who Loves Starbucks

The struggle is real.

For me anyway.

I'm ok with admitting it and talking about it and coming to the conclusion that everyone will have different points, thoughts and opinions based on personal experiences, country of origin, and individual values.

I've been to the Christian conferences where they connect giving up that cup of fancy coffee to support a hungry child in another part of the world. When I was in my early twenties it definitely affected my decision to begin supporting a child through Compassion International. Something about my enjoyment to consume expensive specialty drinks on top of eating 3 meals a day while children were dying all over the world from hunger seemed like a moral conflict to me. Goodness, I mean our friends are creating wells in Africa so that people can simply have clean water and sustainable food and I'm in Minnesota asking for a shot of vanilla with whip cream in my grande latte.

"Yep, that is Sarah, spelled with an H."

But let's talk about the fact that I grew up here, in the USA. This is where I live, this is home. It is all I have ever known. We are living in a day and age where new technology and modern advancements mean that flying cars could be just around the corner. I find myself saying frequently these days, "we have to become the Jetsons somehow." Meaning, it is no surprise that as time goes on people are finding more and more ways to make things more functional, streamlined and save on time and energy.

Hello, Amazon Prime Now...current real life example. 

Rodney delivered groceries right to our door not too long ago...right to the FRONT DOOR. I wanted to immediately give him a giant hug but figured he might not understand my level of excitement. As a mom of five mastering carrying several grocery bags in each hand while making numerous trips back and forth to the stocked mini-van while it is negative five degrees (or worse) outside is similar to competing in an Olympic sport. (I've shared about my dislike of grocery shopping...and then how my disgruntled heart stopped me in my tracks one day.)

Funny how writing all of that above already makes me feel like a horrible-spoiled-rotten-person. Also perhaps why I am reading Brene Brown's book, "Daring Greatly," and have been highlighting any and all of her notes on shame.

Because the struggle is real.

For me anyway.

So why am I even bringing this up.

Well, because a brand new Starbucks just opened up down the street from my house. And it has...a drive-thru.

Ya'll, a DRIVE-THRU!

I was giddy, I was thrilled, I immediately was scared to death.

Habits form when we do things over and over. I knew that I couldn't justify to my husband why our "eating out fund" suddenly disappeared mid-way through the month because Starbucks was now a regular line item in our checking account.

"How did that happen?!?" I plead the 5th.

It would also be hard to justify to my kids every time I go through the drive-thru why mommy is getting that fancy drink and all of the kids are getting a glass of water.

"You'll understand when you are older kids."

And that is when things started stirring in my heart. Am I a highly disciplined person who could completely control her desires for a warm latte every time I drive by that parking lot?

Based on past history, I am going to say no.

So for me that meant needing to process the whys behind my actions.

Is Starbucks bad?


Is going there a treat and something that brings me joy?


Will it still feel like a treat if I go there often?

Probably not.

How can I connect my values with something that I enjoy?

Well, I value people. I value connection and community. I value all of the things that I learn when I sit down and listen to someone share about their life and their story. I value quality time. I value quiet. I value self-care. I value doing what God created me to do. I value impacting the world. I value living life for eternity.

So I came up with some goals for the new year. All in an effort to keep my pocket book in the black, my marriage stable, and my heart true.

There will be two reasons that I will walk into that Starbucks.

1. To have coffee with a friend.

2. To have a quiet work space to create and work.

That struggle is gone.

For me anyway.

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