Just Go: What I’ve Learned About Motherhood Through Travel


Guest Blogger: Gina Carlisle | Mom Explores Orlando

Most women have an idea of what motherhood will be like long before their baby is born. Many long for the pitter-patter of tiny feet down the hallway. Others dream of the soft skin of their sweet angel as they cuddle. And some, like me, dream of the toddler and adolescent years for the adventure and personality that will surely accompany them. It’s this dream that has instilled a desire within me to pass on the spirit of adventure to another generation. So… we go. And along the way, I’ve learned more about motherhood than I ever thought possible.


The importance of living in the moment

From the very beginning, we took our son, Graham, everywhere. Sometimes we would even load him in the car without any destination in mind and just drive. It wasn’t easy, especially in the beginning. There were so many things to consider with a newborn: Would he be tired? Cold? Would he need a change of clothes? How would I feed him? Would we need the stroller? How long would we be away from home? But at some point we just decided to wing it. And, though it made for some adventures that were more difficult than others, it made me a better mother.

Graham Canaveral Ntnl Seashore

I remember distinctly a beach trip with Graham. We hadn’t planned to do much that evening, just a nice night at home catching up on Mad Men. But we felt like we needed to get out of the house. So we decided to pack up our diaper bag and a couple of sandwiches and head for the coast. The fact that the sun was already low in the sky didn’t matter. Neither did the fact that by the time we got to the beach it was almost dark. As we sat there on the sand, the waves crashing behind us, we were relaxed and amazed at the fact that our newborn was able to go along on this crazy adventure. It’s still one of my favorite memories because it was so simple and spontaneous and just a little bit risky to do with a newborn, and I credit our spontaneity for the fact that our son is such a good traveler one year later.

The value of flexibility

It’s so easy to focus on one task until it’s complete. As a new mother, that was often the only thing getting me by on a day-to-day basis. If I could check an item off my to-do list, I felt like I had accomplished something. As the days have flown by, I’ve realized that sometimes we have to be willing to change our plans for the sake of our kids. Do I have to stop what I’m doing because my son reaches up with his chubby little hands for me to hold him? Of course not, but those are some of the best moments because they give me a moment to breathe.

Graham Swing Cincy

On a recent trip to Cincinnati, we were walking around the freezing city taking photos so I could use them on my blog. We came to a beautiful park with a playground in a historic part of town and Graham wanted to play. I was freezing and was not at a good stopping point in my search for the perfect photo, but we stopped at the playground to let him get some energy out. He didn’t care that the chains on the swing were freezing, he just smiled the whole time we pushed him. Being flexible and allowing for beautiful distractions has become so important to me since becoming a mother.

The joy of seeing life through a fresh set of eyes

Graham Weeki Wachee

A few months ago, on a trip to Weeki Wachee Springs in southwest Florida, my son fell in love… with a mermaid. Weeki Wachee is an old Florida gem that’s been around since before ol’ Walt ever dreamed of building his famous parks. It’s got a huge amount of charm, largely because of the mermaid show that runs several times a day. The mermaids put on an underwater ballet of sorts and are absolutely captivating. But I had seen it before. One of the best parts of the park is that you get to meet a real, live mermaid after the show. As we set Graham in this young girl’s lap for a photo, he was absolutely smitten. He had never before seen such a creature as this half-human-half-fish, and it didn’t hurt that her tail sparkled in the sun. Experiencing this moment through my son’s wide eyes was such a good reminder of what’s really important in life: to pay attention to the little things that often get glazed over because you might never get the chance to see them again.


So on days when you’re feeling like you want nothing more than to stay home and shut out the world because the kids are losing their minds, I encourage you to just go. Get out and do something, anything. It might be exactly the breath of fresh air that you need, and you just might learn something along the way.

Meet the Author:

Blog Portrait without watermark

Gina is a work-at-home mom who taught high school history until her son came along. A native Floridian, she enjoys sharing about her life, motherhood, and adventures in her hometown on her blog Mom Explores Orlando. When she’s not wrangling a toddler or working on her blog, Gina often dreams up new recipes to try out on her husband and plans vacations she won’t take for years.


Finding Your People: Not All Are Created Equal


By Sarah West/Life and Bloggingfinding your people


[A big thank you to the sweet bloggers that took a moment and shared their thoughts. Your input meant so much in writing this post! Mamalode, Naptime Nation, Beyond Your Blog, Heartskeeper Community Writers]


The need for community is strong for most people, even us self-proclaimed introverts. And though I cherish the few hours of solitude I can get (hey, I am a mom) I still find myself longing for meaningful conversation and comradery in this thing called life and blogging. I especially find the need for community since I am a full-time SAHM and blogger. In other words, I don’t get out much.

The need for community in both my elements reminded me of the first few months of being home with my children full-time. I jumped head-first into every SAHM play group that I could find in the area I lived. If anyone even smiled my way, I vowed to be their BFF (not the best plan I learned.)

Instead of finding some great, meaningful friendships being built, I discovered how truly taxing it was to be around folks I did not really even like- all for the sake of being in community.

Where I often times loved diversity, I found myself loathing all the opinions and personalities. It was mama drama 24/7.

I felt like I was drowning in what appeared to be community but truly wasn’t, and no one even realized how miserable I was because no one truly knew me- Sarah, the mom, the coffee addict, travel enthusiast, daydreamer…..

I slowly started stepping away and began reevaluating my needs and wants from the SAHM community. It took some time to weed out those incompatible relationships, but I am now in a city where I have other SAHM mamas but no drama. It has been a great year, actually.

A few weeks back I asked a few of the blogging groups I am active in to help me navigate the true needs and wants of fellow bloggers when it came to community. I discovered, to no surprise, that bloggers are seeking very similar things in their working communities as they are in their personal relationships.

Four different blogger groups shared what they sought in community:

  • support
  • encouragement
  • inspiration
  • responsiveness
  • interaction
  • communication

And though there were slight differences in each group’s style, personalities and purpose, the overall desire to feel belonging and support were key in each one. It does not seem much different from our personal relationships.

Would you agree?

In life and blogging, we don’t always have to be with people who always share our beliefs, our gifts or ideas in the  exact same way we operate, but there can be a common ground. We all want to be supported, to share our passions, to have a place to communicate and find encouragement.

Where one group will fit the needs of some bloggers, it won’t be a good fit for others. The great thing is there are groups everywhere and with some time and effort, you can find ones that fit you. And when you do, you can begin to grow and reciprocate that same support and encouragement.

When you feel like you belong, you will begin to blossom and become a support for someone else.

If you are at a spot where it seems like an impasse, rather in mom-hood or in the blogger-sphere,  let me encourage you to push on. I find that when you have not experienced support, communication and encouragement in your own personal community, it tends to make you better at them because you know first-hand what it feels like when they lack.

Keep searching for your posse. They are there and they need you to be a part of their crew.

And in case you are still searching, you are always welcome in mine!


A Coffee Chat with Blogger Shelly McGraw

Coffee Chats with Authors


   Periodically, I will share with you about some of the great bloggers I have the honor of being with in community. Great bloggers are usually discovered because of people sharing such talent .I would be doing a disservice if I did not tell you about Shelly McGraw. Thank you, Shelly, for sharing some fun and awesome facts about yourself! Read below!



When did you start blogging and why?  I first started in late September 2015. God was leading me to start sharing my testimonies and lessons I’ve learned (and continue to learn) throughout my life.


If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Why? This is such a hard one for me! I’m such a foodie and enjoy so many things. However, if I had to pick one, I would choose freshly picked strawberries…that or chocolate…or together.


Best childhood memory. When I was three, my mom bought me a mini piano. I sat down and start playing and I’ve never stopped. I now use this ability for worship in local churches.


If we were sitting in a coffee shop right now, what drink would you have in your hand? I would probably have tea or a coffee that’s mostly creamer or chocolate.


Extrovert or introvert?  I am an extroverted introvert! I need lots of quiet places to think, write, worship Jesus, and emotionally rest. I enjoy hidden beautiful places to be alone. Yet, I also need social time with close friends on a regular basis and love to get on stage every week to do worship. I’m constantly trying to find the balance between these two sides to my personality.


Favorite song or band that best describes you as a writer or your life in general? I love worship music. My favorite singer/songwriter is Brooke Fraser (now called Brooke Ligertwood). She writes such poetic lyrics and her voice cuts right through my heart. She uses a lot of analogies in her songs, which is something I also use in a lot of my writings. As a worship leader, I have used so many of her songs. I absolutely love her!


What do you find most difficult about blogging? On my blog, I cover a lot of difficult topics and share with my readers many personal and deep experiences I’ve had throughout my life. It’s scary to be so open about a tough childhood or emotional struggles that many other people face. I also have to fight with the “people-pleasing thorn” I have in my side, to write what God is asking me to write about and not worry what others may think of me. I’m currently praying about writing a book about my life. It’s nerve-wracking to think someone in my family would be upset about retelling something they’d rather “remember” a different way or deny happened altogether.


What did you want to be when you grew up? Did it come true? The two things I do better than anything else on this planet is singing and writing. Since I was a very small child, I’ve always wanted to do something in music. After deciding to follow Jesus as a teenager, I have wanted to use my talents to serve in ministry. I’ve been serving in worship, missions, and youth for over 15 years now and I love every minute of it.


Best advice you ever received in life? (It can be about writing, marriage, raising kids, cooking, whatever) “…But what is GOD asking you to do?” So many times, I’ve allowed myself to be swayed by someone’s else’s idea of what I should do or be instead of asking God. The best thing to do is always find out what He wants for your life and do that.


What would you tell someone that wanted to get into writing for pleasure or money? I would say go for it! You never know where it may lead. I would also say be authentic. Be you. Don’t write about something you have no personal knowledge of because the readers will know from the first sentence.


What else would you want your readers to know about you? My desire is to help disciple the Body of Christ. I pray I’m able to help my readers grow closer to Jesus.


Media Links:

Blog: shellymcgraw.com

Facebook Page: Lessons of Grace and Wisdom

Twitter: @shellymcgraw

Instagram: shellymcgraw

Email: shellymcgraw.ministries@gmail.com


Avoiding the Comparison Trap in Life and Blogging

By Sarah Westa sea of comparisons

I think I could stay connect 24/7 and never fully reached the mecca of the blogging world. It seems that every time I figure out what is the latest and greatest, it changes. I am left scratching my head, scouring the internet for what is trending and deemed successful for the next millisecond.

By no means am I saying that there is not some tried and true methods to all the blogging madness. I am very fortunate to have some individuals/groups in my corner that have helped me successfully navigate some of the forks in the blogging road. However, what I find to be alarming is that many of us are trying to fit a mold that we were never intended to fit. I see a lot of people beating their heads against the social media wall, walking away defeated and confused. If I am not careful, I can easily fall back down that rabbit hole.

Comparison is a slippery slope and one that we all must be careful to avoid.

And falling into the comparison trap is not just part of the blogging world. Comparisons are part of everyday life as well and we can thank social media for feeding that beast.

At any point of the day, you can log on to your virtual world and see image after image telling you how wonderful everyone else’s life is. It can leave you questioning your choices and yourself.

Why can’t my family look like the [Jones] family?

I wish we could go on a beautiful, exotic vacation like our friends.

I will never look like her in a bathing suit.

My husband never brings me flowers.

What’s wrong with my life?

Why does this Facebook page have more likes than mine?

Why isn’t anyone reading my book or following my blog etc.?

You can fill in your tale of woe as you wish, but the point is comparisons are killing us. Comparisons are putting a pressure on us and our families that are impossible to live up to. In fact, the voids we are demanding filled from our jobs, our families and ourselves were never meant to be fulfilled by us, but God.

Is success wrong? Is the desire for more in our life/career a bad thing?

No! The motives, however, behind our why will greatly determine our fulfillment and drive in both our personal and professional lives.

facebook post

I posted a snapshot my husband took of me over the weekend. I wrote above the picture that the same God that created all of THIS is the same God that created US. I wanted to remind people that the God who created such beautiful masterpieces in this world also created the beautiful masterpiece in each of us.

Comparison will rob of us that truth.

Don’t allow your worth to be taken away because of what you see on the computer screen or the lives of others.

You were not meant to fit that mold. Stop trying.

(If you liked this article, you can read more here on the trap of comparison.


3 Essential (and 2 of them are free) Tools Every Blogger Needs

 Guest Writer: Mitchel Jaynes   3 essentials
If you plan to stick with blogging, it probably isn’t going to be easy. Let’s be honest, thinking  and writing good content can be hard sometimes. You’ve been writing on your blog for months or even years. What else could there possibly be to write about?!
To help you out, I’ve found three tools that can make your favorite hobby a little easier.
Okay, I’m sure you’ve probably heard a million times the you should be using Evernote to keep notes, remember ideas, or save articles, but I’m here to tell you that YOU REALLY SHOULD BE USING EVERNOTE. Honestly, for the longest time I thought Evernote was kind of pointless. My response was always, “I have a notes app on my computer and phone, what’s the difference?” – but my thinking has turned a complete 180.
If you’re anything like me, you never know when you’re going to have the best idea for a blog post. It could be in the grocery store, before bed, or at work, but if I don’t write it down immediately, I’ll forget it. Even if I do write it down, I never go back and look at the blog idea because I can’t remember where I wrote it. Evernote keeps all those blog post ideas in one place. Yo can even sync up your computer and phone so the notes will show up on both devices.
With your computer you can save article links, pictures, or even screen captures with just a few clicks. Using Evernote has drastically increased my organizational skills when it comes to my blogging (Unfortunately, my bill paying organization skills are still lacking).
*the best part is, it’s free!
Unlike Evernote, this one is a tool you might not have heard of before, but you need to be using. It’s been proven that social media posts that have images perform better than those without them. Okay, so you want to make eye-catching, beautiful share images to accompany your blog post, but where do you get there? Enter Canva! It allows you to upload any image or use one of their own and then overlay a filter and text on top of it. They have prearranged texts that look amazing with just about any picture. Canva makes it easy for almost anyway to make the perfect image to go with your blog, even if you aren’t a professional graphic designer.
Having problems finding your next brilliant blog idea? Buzzsumo can help! Buzzsumo can show you what is being shared most on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter based on keywords. You can enter keywords that relate you blog and see what is getting the most attentions.
Not only that, but you can also see what other bloggers are sharing, get alerts using keywords or domains, and track other bloggers using their content. Buzzsumo isn’t necessarily as fun or flashy as the other two tools, but it’s just as important for those days when you can think of a think to write about. *Alert you can try Buzzsumpo for free, but premium features DO require a fee.
Meet the Author:
Mitchel Jaynes is a content creator for an internet marking agency, which basically means he gets paid to be on Facebook. He has been married (almost a year). I love reading, sports, coffee, and working out. You can follow me on my blog here.

I’m A Basic Parent

Guest Writer: Kate Shelby



Let me introduce myself. I’m Kate Shelby and I’m a 30+  writer, hair stylist, basic parent and a basic human being. Basic parent? Why? Because I refuse to be anything else. I’ll always be basic no matter how much I earn, no matter how attractive or old and wrinkly I become. Just like you my basic needs are the same – we are equal.

I believe far too often the reason we succumb to depression and feeling lost is because we ignore our basic human instincts and needs. We over complicate  things to the point where the basic needs of a project, friendship, relationships or our own soul are not met.

We are currently living in an era where social media is depended upon for fulfilment of the same voids in our soul that social media created.

There was once a time where I came across major problems with my son who has a post cancer brain injury and a pervasive developmental disorder. I am not going to say things are perfect today but we’re reflecting on a time, if I’m going to be brutally honest, I was not even sure if I could cope with him. I was troubled at night by thoughts that I would have to give him up. At the time, everything felt so overwhelming and the possibility of me not being able to parent my son seemed like a real possibility. Looking back now, I know that I would have never have acted on my thoughts.

Now, as I look back, I feel like I went above and beyond. I put my son on a pedestal. I took him to amazing places and I constantly made sure he had toys to play with, new movies to watch and exhausted myself keeping up with feeding him some grandeur lifestyle on a tiny budget.

But things became worse and I didn’t understand. I was doing everything. He can’t be bored?! We lived a fast paced life and I provided 54 activities a day…I’m falling apart because this child was running rings around me. It felt like I averaged 50 specialist appointments a month on top of being super-mum of the century as well.

Wasn’t I providing my son’s basic needs? So why was I so exhausted?

Is it possible that in all the activities I was providing for my son, some basic needs were overlooked?

Basic parent

(Abraham Maslows Hierarchy Of Human Needs)

I think it’s safe to say if you’re reading this you’re taking care of your child’s physiological needs and safety. I question myself on the love and belonging though. I love my child and he belongs in my home, but in an effort to keep him happy and entertained, is it possible I may have been alienating him? In today’s world where we work and raise kids, how often have you looked over your phone or laptop at your child and thought “Gee…..I wish little johnny would just be happy with his DVD I bought him and let me finish [this].”

Let’s be honest with ourselves. We, as parents, try hard to overcompensate in our children’s lives. The trips everywhere and the constant feeling of keeping them entertained become your parental quest- goodness forbid our kids have to face boredom and treat it accordingly.

Trips to theme parks, the beach, the playground – I did this everyday out of desperation and the whole time I had been running from what was important.

(Snapshot Of The Fast Life)

 We are living in an age where we seem to promote feeding each other and ourselves confidence via selfies. We use filters and snap pictures of what we eat and places we go. We Instagram them to feel a shred of importance when really none of this is organic.

It’s a false sense of esteem that is short-lived. What of this are we passing onto our children? With no self-esteem, how can we achieve self-actualization? How can we recognize our full potential? I needed to start sitting down with my son and giving him my full and intimate attention.

I spent a good couple of years trying to avoid the BASIC fundamental lessons that a parent passes onto their child by OVER parenting and OVER providing a lifestyle that effectively caused confusion and chaos in a child that already was struggling with his own self.

Now there are some deeper reasons for how I was raising my son, but I won’t complicate my point.

I did what was necessary. I changed my life. I went back to basics, even down to simplistic living. We don’t have hundreds of toys any more. We don’t go on trips every weekend that fill long days with endless activities. Here is a glimpse of what our life looks like now:

  • We hand make most of our play items such as play dough and collage. This ensures that we sit down and spend real-time together.
  • For 6 months of each year I remove the television from our main living area and we engage in discussions about all sorts of wonderful and magical things.
  • We play board games, card games and perform little skits which we THEN upload to social media to inspire people to engage with their kids.
  • We dress up our dolls and role-play them, take pictures and THEN upload them with funny little quotes.
  • We build Lego and chat while we build and sometimes I send these videos to my friends because it is REAL organic time spent together.
  • We do magic tricks, juggling and have Star Wars battles.
  • We do gardening and watch movies together with social media turned OFF.

Basic, every day things.

Five years ago I would dump the Lego on the floor and sit in the lounge on Facebook thinking that I was doing a great job providing my child with 54 activities a day. No. I wasn’t. I wasn’t engaging in his potential nor leading him the way to his potential by simply watching him play.  It’s not like I NEVER spent time with him but in hindsight it wasn’t QUALITY time. Kids are not stupid – they know when your available and what your priorities are.

I know as a parent we are all entitled to occasionally tune out – its part of the job. But we need to make sure we are being a basic parent and providing those basic human needs.

If we skip every child’s basic needs, we just create a complexity that is so hard to reverse: A self entitled child always fulfilled with false praise and items of monetary value.

It has been a very long road for me realising that keeping parenting cut and dry isn’t actually as easy as it sounds. The answers to complicated obstacles may not always come easy to me but I am trying to change my way of thinking and reacting. I’m not saying it’s always going to be basic answers but,for me, most of it has been.

It takes a lot to own up to your faults as a parent and where you went wrong, but the end result is a far better understanding of yourself and your family. The end product is showing your child you’re prepared to change for them: For a better future and a better quality of life.

I called this post Basic Parent because there’s no shame in being the low-key stay at home mum with the basic lifestyle. It’s healthy and it’s grounded. This is not to say you can’t be a jetsetter or a go getter with your kids – because you can still provide those basic need and intimate moments in your travels. We must not get so wrapped up in the projected lifestyle that we, as parents, forget the basics.

Meet the Author:

I hope that even if you can’t relate to this that you derived something from my story. I write about my journey as a parent and the highs and lows of my life so far. My son was given a second chance after his cancer treatment ended in 2008 and I often talk about what its like to raise a child on the spectrum. I welcome you to my blog to continue my journey with me.

Much Love….




A Life of Remembering…..

Guest Post: Katherine Duncan
katherine duncan
I remember the day in the airport in Atlanta when we waited for my husband’s plane to take him back to Iraq for nine more months.  We had already lost friends in the war, and I did not want my husband going back.  Our three-year-old son and I waved good-bye, and I fought back tears as we walked the huge parking lot back to our truck.

I was nervous.

I remember the day in an office in Clarksville when my mom called and said that my dad was leaving.  I asked “Leaving to go where?”  She answered through tears, “No, he is LEAVING ME!”

I was shocked.

I remember the day in our car in Smiths Station when my husband told me that he felt like his dad was hiding something from us.  A week later, his dad shared with us that he had leukemia.  It was not fair to me that this loving pastor, wonderful man of God, “GDaddy” to our children, was going to have to suffer and fight through this disease.

I was confused.

I remember the day in a Hobby Lobby in Coral Springs when I got a call that my two-week-old son may have an incurable genetic disease.  The next day, in a hospital in a city that I had never even heard of, those fears were confirmed.

I was discouraged.

I remember the day in our kitchen in Canton when I got a call from one of my dearest friends saying that she had stage 4 cervical cancer.  I remember her words “This is the world’s diagnosis, and our God is bigger.”  Around a year later, I remember the call that she had been eternally healed, but she had left behind a loving husband and four precious children.

I was heartbroken.

I remember the day in our garage in Cumming when my husband felt that it was best to move, yet again, to another state for him to find a different job.  I had zero interest in going.  Our fourth child was a newborn, and I finally lived close to my sister again.  He said for me to trust him.

I was bitter.

I remember the day in our bedroom in Samford when I dumped the contents of my five-year-old’s piggy bank onto the bed to see if there was enough change to get a $5 Hot-n-Ready pizza for dinner!  My husband was a full-time college student, and we were struggling to find jobs.

I was humbled.

I remember the day on a porch in Salem when we again had to ask my husband’s parents if we could move in with them while we saved some money and figured out what the Lord’s plan was for us.  This was our 14th move in 14 years!

I was frustrated.

I remember the day in an exam room in Opelika when during a routine OB check up I found out that my well-developed baby no longer had a heartbeat.  The next day, after two back-to-back surgeries and a blood transfusion, I was empty.

I was crushed.

In all of these situations and through all of these emotions, I still had hope.  Somewhere through the pain, the confusion, the sadness, there was hope.  I know all of these stories could have ended differently-some much worse.  I cannot speak for those friends who have had to bury their parents, their spouses or their children, though my heart hurts for them. I can, however, speak to the wives, moms, sisters and daughters.

All of us have stories. We have experiences that have shaped us.  We need to own these stories.  These stories that God has given us are meant to be shared with others.

I once heard Charlotte Gambill speak at a women’s conference, and I remember her saying that if we stay in the middle of the river- in the middle of our misery, our sorrow, our struggle – and we never paddle through it, then no one on the other side will hear of our experience, of the healing, of the restoration, or the change.

No one will hear about our God who carries us through every situation if we stay silent.

For those who have stories that could have ended much worse and for those who have stories that ended in the worst possible way, there is a hope.  There is a future.  There is a covenant God who keeps his promises and nothing surprises Him.  We are in this together, and we need each other.

Lean on that God.
I know my God calls me His child and His friend.
Love and pray for your husband.  I am blessed to have a husband who fears the Lord and leads like no other.
Fight for your family.  I know mine have fought for me.
Find real friends.  I have those who sharpen me and I can share in fellowship, in good and bad times.
Have hope.  Have hope in an eternal future.  Remember that “God is preparing you for what He has prepared for you.” (Ed Young Jr.)
Meet the Author:
Katherine is an aspiring children’s book author, a wife and a homeschool mom of four. She is passionate about families living simple yet passionate lives.