Reflections on 2015 & My Favorite Books of 2015

This past year has been wild. Adopting James has been one of the most crazy, beautiful, broken, and stretching things we’ve ever done.  In “Grinch” terms, this year, I believe that my heart has grown at least three sizes! Thinking back to the day when James came to live with us, I am reminded of where he was at that point.  Today, I look at where he is, and I’m absolutely amazed.  I look at where we were in January as a family, and I look at my family today, and I’m amazed.  A year can make a huge difference.

I’m a big goal-maker/planner/contemplative type person, so last week, I looked at my goals for 2014. For a minute, I was sorely disappointed.  There was SO much that I didn’t get to cross off that list.  But then, I saw “Add a member to our family through adoption,” and I paused.  That was something that I got to cross off the list.  And even if that was the only thing that I crossed off…that was a big one.  Suddenly, instead of disappointment, I felt thankfulness.  Thankfulness that God saw fit to take us through this journey, with all its ups and downs.  We are all better for it.

So this year, I’m trying something different with my goals. Instead of a long list of goals, I’m giving myself permission to simply rest after a hard, trying year. My goal this year is to set aside time on a regular basis to fill up before I pour out again.  It’s something that I’ve always struggled with and truly, just recently found value in.

One of my favorite things to do to rest and refill is reading. I LOVE to read.  So, in lieu of my traditional goals list, I decided to share with you my top five favorite books of 2015.  Here they are.  I hope you enjoy!

The Chronicles of Kings Series by Lynn Austin:  This is kind of a cheat on my list.  It’s not actually one book, it’s a series of FIVE books.  And every book is as good, if not better, than the one before.  I used to be a fiction snob, but all that has changed thanks to Lynn Austin.  I honestly LOVED reading this series, and it’s prompted me to study my way through the book of Isaiah.  I highly recommend this series.  I’m also starting her series, The Restoration Chronicles.  I’ve read the first one, and it’s fantastic!  Warning:  Once you start, you won’t be able to put it down.  I know…I lost a lot of sleep reading through this series!

My Favorite books of 2015

Chronicles of Kings Series by Lynn Austin-highly recommend!


The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis:  This is a MUST-READ if you are an adoptive parent.  I could see James so clearly in this book.  Books that truly capture the heart of adoption are rare, so I treasure my copy!

My Favorite Books of 2015

The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis…a must read for adoptive parents!

Teaching from Rest by Sarah McKenzie:  This is my “homeschool read” pick of the year.  Every year, I read loads and loads of educational information, but this one stood out amongst them all.  I really enjoyed this book, and gained so much wisdom from its pages.  This is a must read for homeschooling mamas!

My Favorite Books of 2015

Teaching from Rest by Sarah McKenzie is a must read for homeschooling mamas!

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin:  This book literally changed how I think about everything!  I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Gretchen caused me to look at life and routine completely differently.  I’ve applied her principles in many areas of my life.

My Favorite Books of 2015

Better Than Before: A fresh look on life and routine.

Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood by Melissa Kruger:  This book came at exactly the right time.  I needed the words tucked inside these pages.  I would highly recommend this to all mamas.  (And I’m pretty picky about my parenting books!)

My Favorite Books of 2015

Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood: A must for mamas of all stages.

And because I can’t leave out children’s literature, I also wanted to share my favorite kid’s books of the year.

Brother Andrew by Janet & Geoff Benge:  We really enjoyed this biographical story of Brother Andrew.  Frequently called “God’s Smuggler”, Brother Andrew smuggled thousands of bibles across the Iron Curtain.  This was one that challenged our faith and lead to lots of great discussion.

My Favorite Books of 2015

Brother Andrew: A fantastic biography of “God’s Smuggler”. It will challenge your faith and spark great discussion!

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass:  This was truly just a really fun book.  We didn’t expect it to be as good as it was.  It was a really long read, but the mystery elements kept us guessing.  The underlying themes in the book make for great discussion.

My Favorite Books of 2015

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass is a delightful read that will keep your kids guessing on what’s going to happen next.

The Hundred Dresses:  This is a MUST-READ for all children.  This is one of those wonderful books that puts the reader in the shoes of someone else.  I read this to my girls this year, and plan to read it again to all my kids at some point next year.  It’s a great book for boys and girls of all ages.

My Favorite Books of 2015

The Hundred Dresses: All children should hear this book at least once in their lifetime. A great tale that shows the heartache of bullying and teasing others.

The Green Ember:  Don’t even get me started!  Quite possibly my favorite book of the year, overall.  This one is a real page turner.  My kids beg me for “just one more chapter” every day.  I get hoarse reading this book every day, but we absolutely love it.  Not only is the story phenomenal, but the themes and the appreciation of the arts and God’s creation is an underlying theme that just jumps out of the page at you!  All children need this book in their life.

My Favorite Books of 2015

The Green Ember by S.D. Smith…possibly taking the overall winner of the year award in the Wood household. We adore this book and can’t wait to read the prequel!

Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare:  I can remember being presented with this book as a child, and thinking…”I DO NOT want to read a BOY book!”  But all that changed the minute I read the first chapter.  The entire book, from cover to cover, is just wonderful.  It was such a pleasure to read it to my boys and see the same look of interest on their faces.  It’s one of our favorites of the year.

My Favorite Books of 2015

Sign of the Beaver: A classic for a great reason. This is a must read for boys AND girls!


That’s my list. If you need some good reads, these are my favorites from 2015.  Here’s to many, many more pages read in 2016!  Happy New Year!

21 Things You Should Know About Adopting an Older Child

21 Things You Should Know About Adopting an Older Child


  1. Your life will change drastically. You think it will be hard. Plan on it being 10 times harder than what you think.
  2. You may adopt an older child, but they will be considerably younger mentally, socially, and emotionally.
  3. You may need to take everything you know about parenting and throw it out the window and start from scratch. There’s a completely different method of parenting for adoption.
  4. There will be developmental stages that they will need to go back and pick up before they can move on. This may mean feeding a teenager from a bottle or rocking a 60 lb boy.
  5. There will be a huge learning curve on the part of your biological kids. Adding a sibling close in age is no joke.
  6. You will spend large portions of your day supervising play, being a mediator, and a counselor. Your day just got fewer hours in it.
  7. When your child begins to feel comfortable with you, he will begin to tell you things that will absolutely break your heart. You will cry with him, you will feel anger with him, and you will bond with him. You will go to bed many nights absolutely emotionally spent, and you will wake up the next day to do it all over again.
  8. You will never take the place of the biological parents. No matter what happened, they will want to go “back home”. You cannot take that personally.
  9. Instead of raising your family by yourselves, you will now have a team of people helping. You will have therapists, doctors, and counselors who you now consider family. Embrace the help.
  10. You will now have lots of awkward moments, trying to explain why you suddenly have an extra kid. You will endure embarrassing moments where people point this out loudly and say rude things. Educate instead of fighting it and getting mad. Most people have good intentions.
  11. You will have to fight for simple things. You will have to fight for doctor’s offices to call your child by their adopted name. You will fight for a court date to stick. You will fight. You will need to be assertive.
  12. You will need to be comfortable (or at least willing) to have long discussions, to talk about difficult subjects, to hear tough things.
  13. You will need to be willing to share your child. They’ve had lots of people in their life. Some will need to remain in their life. You will need to be willing to allow that.
  14. Hurtful things will be spoken. You will need to learn to decipher those hurtful things to find the deeper meaning. Speaking the language of brokenness is a plus.
  15. Your weeks and months and years will be marked by a clear two-steps-forward, one-step-back pattern. You will have a great week where you will see progress, followed by a terrible week where you will see some of that progress lost.
  16. You will need a rock-solid support system. A system where people get you and understand. Find it.
  17. Your child will act differently in different settings. I call this the chameleon effect. He or she will have the ability to be whatever they need to be depending on the circumstances and the company. You will spend much of your time trying to figure out who they really are. Clue: They probably don’t know either.
  18. You will likely feel like you’re drowning the first six months. You will come out of this, but when you do, those six months will be a blur.
  19. You will need to remind yourself why you decided to adopt often. This fact will be your anchor during the one-step-back times.
  20. You will need to talk about the future together openly. This is great medicine for hurting children. Helping them find a direction for their life is a big part of healing.
  21. Your hard times will be hard. But the good times will be great!


21 Things You Should Know About Adopting an Older Child

The boys and I just finished reading Brother Andrew, the biography. I love this quote. And I love having a vision that scares me just a little bit!

Adoption is so unique, and when you read through this list and find beauty inside the heartache and brokenness, that’s when you know that your heart might be open to adoption.  If that’s the case, please pray about it.  There are lots of children waiting for a home, and maybe your home would be a perfect fit for one of them.

A Future and A Hope

“I just feel like any minute, this could all just fall apart,” he said.

His chin was quivering in a way that strangely reminded me of a newborn baby’s chin and tears welled up in his eyes.  It had been a good 20 minutes since we started talking, and I had been working hard during that time to peel away the layers to reach that confession.  Finally, I had figured out the key to his sadness that particular day.

 Surviving and Thriving in Pre-Adoption

We had been having a great week.  I was so pleased by all the progress that James (and all of us) had made.  But that day, he was sad, and I could tell.  It seemed as if he woke up with a dark rain cloud over his head.  I let it go for some time, hoping that the events of the day would help the rain cloud to lift, but when I realized that it wasn’t going to happen, I headed back to his room where I found him lying on his bed.

After several surface complaints which in usual fashion, went something like, “I wish we could move”  “I wish we lived in _________”  “I wish I had  __________”, I finally hit the chord.  The one that caused him to share his deepest fear with me.  I guess he realized that I wasn’t going to leave until he told me what he was thinking.  And the words he uttered broke my heart.

“I just feel like any minute, this could all just fall apart.”  When I asked him what he meant, he went on, “Any time, everything could change.  It could be different so quick.”

His reality hit me really hard.  I suddenly understood that everything in his life has changed in an instant.  Little, if any warning, no time to prepare…just seemingly in the blink of an eye, everything is different.

I felt his pain so deeply.  So I did all I knew to do.  I held him tightly, and we talked about the future.  Once again, I assured him that we aren’t going anywhere.  We are in it for the long haul.  We talked and chatted about his favorite thing….that one day, I’m going to be Nana to HIS children.  And I talked about everything that I plan to do to spoil his kids…large Sonic milkshakes and candy slushes and all the things that I never let my own kids have.   Oh yes, I’ll be that grandmother.  And I’ll love every minutes of it.  After all, I’m rather looking forward to getting gray hair.

“Mom, when you are a Nana, I want you to be exactly like OUR Nana.  Like, EXACTLY, ” he said with conviction.  “I can probably do that,” I told him.

I talked about how he’ll leave one day to start a career and have a family, but I told him that he’d better come home often, or I will have to come find him and bring him home myself.  “Don’t make me do that!”  I teased him.

 We talk about how when everyone is grown, they will all come home for Christmas and bring their children, and our house will be busting at the seams with love.  We’ll talk about what it might be like when everyone is grown.  This always seems to bring a big grin and an assurance that we’re going to be okay… that maybe, just maybe this will work out after all.  Talking about the future seems to give him just enough hope to take another step forward.

It’s amazing to think about what so many children go through in life.  It’s amazing to think that this sweet boy lives with the idea and the fear that any minute, his life could fall apart…again.  It’s not fair.  And yet, I have to believe, I have to hold on to hope that all this…all these things he’s experienced in his eight short years have been for a purpose, part of a greater plan, part of God giving him a “future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11) much like God’s plan for Joseph.  Oh how I pray that God will give him a “Joseph story”.

Of course, in the meantime, while we’re waiting to see how his story unfolds…you’ll find us dreaming about our future…together.

Do you know a child who would benefit from having a grown-up dream about their future with them?  Our kids need us to dream with them.  They need us to explore possibilities with them.  And even if you can’t promise to be IN their future….you can give them a gift by helping them dream of one.