Stand with Ukraine

Yesterday, 25 Ukrainians died and over 200 were left bloodied and injured in the most violent day of protests since a stand off began in early December between the Ukrainian government and the people who oppose this government.

The rest of the world must take note of what is happening in Ukraine right now. This is, perhaps, one of the most important battles for freedom happening today, and the Ukrainian people need to know they aren’t alone.

To understand what’s going on in Ukraine, you have to understand a bit about their history. They are a people who have been fighting for their freedom for a long, long time. Throughout most of history, Ukraine has been a central battleground for freedom, and now they are a nation divided between East and West. The more Russian leaning West sides more readily with current President Viktor Yanukovich, while the more Ukrainian leaning East wants autonomy and freedom from the chains placed on them by Russia.

The protests began when Yanukovich moved away from the European Union in favor of accepting a massive financial bailout from Russia. This would, in effect, put Ukraine back into the Russian government’s hands, something that a majority of the country does not support.

These are good, peaceful, loving people who want nothing more than to live and operate under the banner of freedom. They want freedom from corrupt politicians like Yanukovich, who squanders money away while his people live with very little. They don’t want to be ruled, once again. They want freedom, and we need to let them know that we support them.

Please watch this video and share it with others. Let’s stand together with Ukraine to show our support for their quest for freedom.

Thank you!

The One Where I Brag on My Kids

Last night Lee and I took a little time to debrief. We haven’t really had time to talk this last month, to process all that was happening. It was sort of survival of the fittest around here, and since he went down hard with the flu, we’ve just passed each other in the house this past week with little more than a few mental high fives, and withered looks of fatigue.

2013 was a big year for us. Now that we’re on the other side of it and can look back and take stock, I’m amazed to see at all that happened in those 12 months. They were undoubtably the hardest months of our lives, and at the same time, with hind sight providing some clarity, I can see just how blessed last year really was.


And my kids? You guys, they were just amazing.



My kids saw and experienced more in the last year than they ever have before. They witnessed abject poverty when we went to Dominican Republic in June. They served many Saturdays at our church’s food pantry, and they helped serve Thanksgiving dinner to those in desperate need of assistance. They helped make shoes for children in Africa, and they delivered a car full of toys to children in the hospital.

And then, to top it off, we asked them to make the biggest sacrifice of all – we asked them to open their hearts to love a 17 year old girl from half way around the world, and they did it without hesitation.

roomSloan gave up his bedroom for a month, letting me turn it into a pink and grey girl room. He never complained, never asked why. He didn’t whine, and he didn’t once make us feel bad about the decision to put her in there. I could not be more grateful for his attitude. 

Tia sacrificed being the only princess girl in the house. She gave up a bit of her autonomy as the coveted female, and she willingly shared her daddy with K for four weeks. We had less time to spend watching her do gymnastics, and when it was time to play with makeup or paint nails, it was always three of us participating in the activities. She didn’t complain or react in jealousy, but freely gave up her coveted one on one time with us. I’m so, so proud of her.

Landon did what Landon always does. Pulled out a ball and asked K to play. The language barrier didn’t matter to him, and he willingly and daily asked her to play with him. Most days she said yes to his inquiries, but sometimes she said no, and when she did he moved on without complaint. He was so gracious and loving toward her. What a precious boy he is.

I’m bragging on my kids today because they deserve it. They aren’t perfect kids, and they have their moments, as any child does. But they gave up a lot this past year. We asked them to make sacrifices of comfort and time and material things to the benefit of others, and every time we placed a challenge in front of them, they met it.

When we began the adoption process a year and a half ago, we were warned more than once to be careful that our children weren’t sacrificed in the quest to bring someone new into our home. While such warnings are wise, and should be considered, the fact is this: our children (mine and yours) are a heckuva lot stronger than we often give them credit. Kids love to know they’re being helpfulthat they’re being used to make someone else’s life better.


I saw this not only in my own children, but also in their friends while K was here. So many of their friends wanted to be a part of blessing K, and they really, really did! They gave her rainbow loom bracelets and 1 Direction cards. They laughed with her, and shared smiles and waves that communicated so much love. K went home blessed by more than just my kids, without doubt.

If you’re looking at stepping outside your comfort zone this year and trying something different – something that might be hard – I encourage you to let your kids take the journey with you. And as you do, watch and observe how they respond.

I can almost guarantee they will surprise you.

They say it takes two years


Two years ago, we played Tetris with all of our earthly possessions, stuffing and shoving and twisting them juuuust so into two giant PODS and the back of our (smokin’ hot) minivan. We waved goodbye to the POD men and began a three month odyssey of moving from one place to the next until we finally found and bought a house.

It’s been a hard, hard two years.

The first year was spent just trying to figure out our place in this new town. We spent a lot of time mourning the loss of seeing and being with people who were more than just friends – they were family. That first year was spent visiting the beach, sticking our toes in the sand and trying to convince ourselves that we made the right choice – that everything would be okay.


The Beach – God’s Glory Land…

“It takes two years in a new town to feel settled,” we heard from more than one person and I’ve clung to that adage these last 24 months. On the nights when we’ve paced the house in the wee hours of the morning fighting hyperventilation and panic attacks, I’ve told myself to wait for that magic two year mark. Other days, as I felt lost in loneliness, I searched out the Facebook pages of my dear friends so far away for some connection to the life I missed, and I told myself it wouldn’t be long before this all got better.

After the first year, I felt like the worst of the mourning had passed and we finally began the arduous task of rooting ourselves to this new place. We found a church, made some friends and looked for ways to plug ourselves into this place that we desperately needed to call home.

This second year has been equally difficult, but for so many different reasons. So many times I have desperately longed for the friends who knew me best to come close, hold my hand and let me cry. Early on this year, I started to get a little lost inside my twisty head and I knew I needed to get out and meet people or things were going to go down hill quickly. So I found new friends who met me for coffee and even though we hardly knew one another, they listened as I let my broken heart roll down my cheeks. Just thinking about those glimmering moments of grace in such a dark time brings tears to my eyes once again.

Moving is hard. It’s so very, very hard to start over, to not be known, to feel like you have to smile when you just want to cry. But one thing our new friends have taught me these last two years is that there’s no faster way to get to know and love someone than to be raw and real with them. I could have stuffed all my sorrow inside and kept it hidden, but I would have been a miserable person as a result.

IMG_1310They let me be real. They passed me notes in church when they noticed my eyes were full of tears. They called just to check on me, to make sure I wasn’t staying in seclusion. When I apologized for crying so much they shook their heads and told me not to worry about it as tears glistened in their own eyes.

These people who were practically strangers felt my pain and in so doing, they took some of it on themselves, relieving me of carrying the burden on my own. 

They say it takes two years in a new town to feel settled and I’m embracing this two year mark. I still miss St. Louis so deeply that sometimes I feel a physical ache in my chest. I miss my friends so very much. Just today I called three of them because I just needed a little more than a Facebook status.

In two weeks, we head back to the ‘Lou to touch home base again. I think it will be perfect timing. Five days won’t be enough time, but it will quell the ache of the heart enough to allow us to continue to grow here – to continue to plant roots and gain a familiarity with this new place we call home.

Yesterday, I woke up, got dressed and it dawned on me that I was really excited to go to church. I was excited to see the people that are settling into that special place in my heart that’s reserved for the closest of family and friends. It’s been two years since we waved goodbye and I think “they” were right.

It’s starting to feel like home.


I am continuing to revel in inspiration this week, as well as being blessed by friends who love me so much, they even work hard behind the scenes to surprise me. Jenni came to town for our trip – my dear friend who I’ve missed so much sacrificed time with her family, rented a car and drove here to meet us and did it as a surprise.

I am more than inspired – I am honored.




This quiche from the quaint little downtown area was lick the plate good.



Me. Honored and inspired and wearing my sassy hat.



It’s a horse with a fascinator!


Four women teeming with creativity, bravery and wicked humor.



Hope brimming



Radical Friendship

Friends are important for so many reasons.


We were not created to be a solitary group of creatures. Companionship is necessary. We are made to live together. Friends fill in the cavernous spaces of the heart. They offer laughter when tears threaten. They fill the silences and keep life from ever growing dull. For all people, friends are incredibly important.

For women, friendship is a necessity. Without the blessing of friendship, we ladies would grow old too quickly. We would be shrewd and angry and sad and…lonely. Good friends call you just to say hi, they drop real life letters in the mail (the kind made of paper with honest to goodness writing on it) and they bring you a Green Tea straight up because they paid attention that last time you met at Starbucks.

Good friends know that when a friend is in need, even if she lives several states away, you get on a plane, grab a hotel room and cry cross legged on the floor together.

You know what else good friends do?

They read your novel and tell you what they loved, what they didn’t and prescribe a heavy dose of poetry to cure the rough patches of the books. Good friends take your desperate email with a plea for help in writing a bio for the book proposal because if they leave you to try and conquer this task on your own, the bio will read:

“Kelli is a little bit sweet and a whole lot sassy. She enjoys long, luxurious walks on the beach, a hot bath and reading her Bible every day. She is a Calypso Queen who spends her days frolicking in the clouds of her imagination. She loves hummingbirds, ice cream and daisies and believes that books make the world a better place.”

I’m kidding with that example, but just barely. I hate writing bios. I find few things more awkward and uncomfortable than trying to describe myself in the third person. So I dashed out a very basic outline of a bio (and no joke, I looked through a minimum of fifteen books, reading through every author’s bio so I could make myself sound super author-y and radical…).

Then I sent it off to my friends who quickly shaped it up, cleaned out the fluff, laughed at with me, and gave it back sounding much more author-y and radical. I also sent them a group of head shots and asked for help picking the right one because ACK! The pressure.

Not to worry, though. One of these friends? She’s an actress as well as a writer so she has some expertise in the area of head shots. She got me straightened out.

Yep, friends are important for a lot of reasons. Even if they live hundreds (or thousands) of miles away, they can still have a huge influence and impact. What’s even better about this story is I will be reunited with my two dear (and helpful) friends in just one short month when we make our annual trek out to California for our writer’s retreat.

I am blessed. So, so blessed.

So go hug a friend today, everyone! Send a letter, pick up the phone, share the love! I’m going to stop before this blog post ends up as ridiculous and cheesy as one of my bios…


I Dare You to Follow Along

Let’s talk about something happy today, shall we? Let’s explore a dream that is actually coming true for one of my favorite families on the planet.

When we moved to Tampa a year and a half ago, we got an email from my aunt and uncle who live in Orlando encouraging us to reach out to friends of theirs in our area. “We think you’ll enjoy them,” they said. So we called them and on Labor Day of 2011, we went to their house for the first time (which was a five minute drive from the house we ended up buying) and the rest, as they say, is history.

Kevin and Jenni Keiter became a lifeline for us in our difficult first year here. We met with them weekly for a Bible study and they walked us through the dark days that followed our life being turned upside down. Together we all began to process and move toward living a life less encumbered with the confines of tradition. We began to break free and explore what living a radical life might look like.

We decided to take faith seriously and we got to cheer each other along the path toward living in freedom.

Jenni is an amazing photographer, a home schooling mama extraordinaire and has one of the sharpest wits I’ve ever met. Seriously, her humor is the best! She and her family have embarked on a dream trip and I couldn’t be more proud of them and in awe of their faith and their willingness to obey, even when obedience seems kind of crazy. Today, Jenni is here to tell you a little about what they’re up to.



I dare you to follow along.


From Jenni: Hi all! Several months ago, my husband Kevin and I took a step toward a life long dream and last week, we pushed off, along with our three children for a year long excursion around the United States. We sold our house, my smokin’ hot minivan, and at least a third of our possessions. We farmed the kitty out to a wonderful neighbor for the next eleven months and moved into the “Bob T” (Big Ol’ Bahonkin’ Trailer) on January 5, leaving the state of Florida for the adventure of a lifetime.

Everyone wants to know why we are doing this. Why give up all the trappings of a great life and work so hard for a 12-month odyssey? We’ve tried hard to come up with our “elevator answer.” You know, the one you can use to explain your mission in 20 seconds or less. But most of the time when people ask me I feel like I can’t come up with anything better than, “Um, because we really like s’mores?”

In truth, we know exactly what we are after. It’s just not a short answer and I’ve found more than a few people don’t truly want to hear it. I can think of at least two dozen reasons not to do this, but at the end of my life I doubt a single one will seem good enough to trump the regret I would feel if we didn’t. We are doing this to be together as a family in God’s AMAZING creation. We want to experience the gift of our national park system while it still looks like something worth saving. And probably the biggest reason is to show our children what it means to live counter-culturally: to turn away from the relentless pursuit of “more and bigger” and instead seek our heavenly Father and His will. He has never failed to speak to me in big ways when I get out in the wilderness.

Of course God, being the ultimate pursuer of hearts has not remained silent, waiting for us to hit the woods. The preparations for this adventure have been very difficult. If you think moving is stressful I can assure you that moving into an RV (by way of six different locations in twenty days) will teach you a new definition of chaos.

In the moments when I am cranky and tired I remember that field of wildflowers in Olympic National Park.

When I feel suffocated by the lack of order as we live out of bins and suitcases I draw a breath to discover I can clearly remember the one I inhaled at the summit of a Colorado “14er.”

When I think we will never finish the work (still working on this rig, even seven days into the trip) I can see the palette of reds and ochres that paint the desert southwest.

These moments of refreshment can only be from God, His voice reminding me that He is here in all the madness regardless of the GPS coordinates or where my feet are currently planted.

So I invite you all to come along with us, live vicariously through our blog (if I had a dime for everyone who has said that I would have about $2.70!). Learn with us, laugh with us, seek the Creator with us. You can find us at We hope to hear from you!


So there you have it! You will want to follow along because what they’re doing is awesome, Jenni is wickedly funny and as you can see, her photos are awe inspiring!

How KidzBop kept me cool

Last weekend, I snuck away for a few days to join four of my sweetest friends in Waco, Texas to celebrate Baylor’s Homecoming. Sixteen years ago, the five of us met. We were all so different, but we had the common factor of being far away from home and totally lost in a brand new world.

We were eighteen, silly and over the course of four years we developed the kind of bonds that most people only pray for. By God’s grace, I can still say that those four women are some of my favorite people to be around. We’ve lived in different cities for twelve years now. We (currently) have sixteen children between the five of us. We’ve weathered heartache and loss and joys and sadness together. We’ve moved and grown and changed and we always come together without a moment’s hiccup.

We are knit.


This was then. I don't really have an explanation...

We made a pact our senior year of college to try and get together once a year. Moves and babies has made it difficult, but we’ve worked hard to keep that promise. In twelve years, we have had nine reunions. Not too shabby.

This was our first time to come back, all five of us together, to the place we met. And we proved that even though we are, ahem, a little older – we still got it.

Friday night after the Homecoming bonfire, a cover band lit up the stage with music from the ’80’s until now. Unable to resist the urge to dance, we pushed our way to the front of the stage and boogied like it was 1999 (again) and until it was way past our bedtimes. Us and the college kids. I kept wanting to tap the kids shimmeying next to me on the shoulder and ask them to guess my age.

I resisted – decided to blend in.

This is me...blending in.


We shook our groove thangs, lifted body surfers over our heads and sang along at the top of our lungs…just like the days of yore. I even knew the words to all the songs!


This girl right here has six kids. Would that we all looked that good after six kids...


I hereby apologize for every time I’ve bashed KidzBop and it’s fingernails on chalkboard singing. KidzBop kept me cool for just one night. (We’ll ignore the fact that I sang the cleaned up, watered down words to all the songs because that’s the only way I know them…thank you KidzBop.)

I came home refreshed, encouraged and remembering that every season of life brings miracles and grace. I also realized that I am immensely blessed to have dear, dear friends. I’m thankful that I still reap the blessings of my college days through those sweet friendships. What an honor.

Standing in our freshman dorm, sixteen years and sixteen kids after we first met...

So how’s everyone holding up after a long election day? My advice? Put on a little KidzBop and shake your groove thang. It feels good…

On Friendship


“But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine.” Thomas Jefferson 

Perhaps one of the greatest gifts God knitted in me was loyalty. When I make a friend, I consider that person a friend for life – not just a season, but forever. Naturally, there are seasons when some friendships are deeper due to the simple fact that you are allowed frequent time together to build the friendship.

And then there are times when God knits your heart so tightly with another’s that the seperation of time and distance only serve to strengthen and deepen your ties to one another. Usually, these friends possess the same quality of loyalty as you do, creating the perfect storm for depth and growth.

And Laughter.


This gift of loyalty comes with a price. There are some who don’t cherish friendships the same way I do. It’s not wrong, but in the past it has been different enough to leave me feeling hurt. Of course the passing of time wanes the effect of one on another, but for those of us who are inlaid with the gift of loyalty, it hurts to see people walk so easily and effortlessly in and out of our lives.

I am deeply blessed to have a great number of friends from different stages of life that still impact my life on a regular basis. Friends from high school, from college, from our days as young marrieds and our early years of parenting. Friends who have long been distant but who have remained knitted so tight that when we’re together it’s as if no time passed at all.

Friends who bring out the best in me.

Friends who will stay up late into the night listening to me read chapters of my book while also serving me tea for a sore throat, medicine for a hacking cough and sound advice for misguided facts in my chapters (apparently rabbits aren’t greasy…and don’t feed a lot of people – Alright already!! I cut that part out.)

Friends who bring their fancy cameras and spend precious time shooting headshots, willing to make me look and feel beautiful no matter how much time it takes (or photoshop magic, which I have permitted to be used liberally).

They're so cool...

I’m grateful for friends who let me be exactly who I am. There is no competition amongst such friends, but a realization of one another’s gifts and a true desire to encourage one another on to the good things set before them. I spent the past weekend in the presence of those very women and I feel so immensely full because of it. Those friends have made me better, challenged me to be greater in all aspects of my life.

I’m thankful for all the friends that have been brought into my life, both near and far. To me, friendship is a lifetime commitment, never to be taken for granted and not to be forsaken. Not when you share a relationship that is mutually edifying and works to make you a better person.

Have you hugged a friend today?

“As iron sharpens iron, so one sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

All photos taken by the incomparable Wendy.

College, Knowledge, Jupiter, Stupider

Girls go to college, to get more knowledge.

Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider.

On any given day you will hear this lovely little ditty sung through the house. Depending on who’s doing the singing, the words will be a little switched around. It’s not my favorite so I’ve started requiring that they change it to the far less offensive:

Boys go to college to get more knowledge.

Girls go to Mars to get more candy bars.

When the balance of girl power was shifted last week thanks to our visiting cousins, I got a full on sampling of the different ways boys and girls fight. There’s a statistic floating around somewhere that says women use roughly 2,464,782 words/day on average…

Okay – I totally made that number up. I have no idea what the statistic is, but it’s much higher than the amount of words boys need to use to feel satisfied on any given day. When the balance of male-female is two to one in our house, fights tend to go something like this.

Tia: “Sloan, I WANT you to play Pretty, Pretty Princess with me.” Hands on hip, head shaking with full-on sass.

Sloan: “No.”

Tia: “Sloan, you have to play with me, I don’t have anyone to play with.” This is said through false tears and sometimes it can be accompanied by a foot stomp.

Sloan: “I don’t want to.”

Tia: “You’re not a good brother.”

Sloan: WHACK! Hits her.

She fought with words, he fought with action, both end up in trouble. Landon bobbles somewhere in the middle of all this since he is closer in age to Tia but possesses the Y-Chromosome. He’s a nice balance of words and action. It’s super duper.

(It should also be noted that because Tia is bookended by boys, she has no problem with physical fighting either, which kind of makes her a double threat…)

Imagine how it was, then, when there were THREE girls in the house and an argument broke out. It was all tears and talking and I, for one, found it completely hysterical. The boys, however, watched it all go down completely baffled. Every once in awhile Sloan would try and interject to play peace maker, at which point I calmly and wisely advised him to stay out of it.

“Don’t jump into fights that aren’t yours,” was my mantra for the week.

The girls fought with hands on hips (or crossed over their chests), heads wagging and lots of tears. Then they seperated from one another, pouted and BAM, it was over…until one of them remembered she was angry and asked the offender why she did what she did and thus it began again…

In general, all of the kids did superb given the circumstances and when there were squabbles they ended fairly quickly, but toward the end of the week as fatigue set in, emotions ran high and the weariness of a lack of routine began to kick everyone’s tail, the bickering gathered a little steam.

On the final day, all five kids were arguing – the boys with one another and the girls with one another and I stood in the middle, the amused referee trying to decide how to best break it all up. Sloan and Landon were hitting one another and I’m pretty sure there were a few good shoves thrown around.

The girls were talking endlessly and tears started to pour. So I sent them all to their individual corners. We had been together eight days and it was the first time a total seperation was needed. I’d say that’s pretty good, wouldn’t you?

The boys retreated where I could hear each of them playing in boy land, the swooshing of invisible light sabers and the melodic beat of a ball against a wall signs that they had already forgotten why they were fighting.

The girls were each in a seperate room and they all wimpered quietly. I leaned my head against Tia’s door to hear what she was saying as I she talked to herself. She was replaying the entire argument in the bitter sing songy voice that only a female knows.

Ten minutes later they all emerged. The boys went their seperate ways, having long forgotten their fight. The girls pow wowed on the couch, going over every detail of what went wrong earlier. Finally they hugged, giggled and skipped along their merry way, hands held tight.

Mars and Venus.

We’re all a bunch of martians, aren’t we?

This week

I have one girl sandwiched between two boys. This means that most days, she is more tomboy than princess, more frogs and snails than sugar and spice. I love that about her, but I must confess that every once in awhile, when she starts acting like…well, a girl, it kind of takes me by surprise and I find it to be breathtakingly adorable.

This week, two of my cousin’s daughters are staying with us while their parents take a much needed vacation. These are two girls that know exactly what it means to be girly and Tia? Well…she’s kind of eating it all up.

These two are pretty much joined at the hip. If I can’t find them they are either outside roller blading/roller skating, or they are in the bathroom fixing each other’s hair, which you would find hilarious, too, if you lived with Tia and had to suffer the angst of daily just getting her to brush her hair.

We spent some time Father’s Day morning at the beach where the sun shined beautifully, the breeze drifted lazily, the water glistened perfectly and the children all thought they were going to die of starvation. We left after an hour because it seemed we would have had to perform a burial at sea if we didn’t feed them rightthen!

How much do you love that face?!


We’ve made full use of the pool this week, both at my parent’s condo and at our house. So far they have swum multiple hours every day. This works in my favor because it means they’re worn out at the end of the day and go to sleep quickly.


During the morning hours we are doing VBS, which also works out in my favor because it allows me to gather my remaining bits of sanity and ball it all back together for a few hours. When we were preparing for the girls I thought, I’m already outnumbered with the three kids – what’s two more?

Turns out two more is five.

Thankfully, these are two of the sweetest girls on planet Earth, which makes this whole experience a lot more fun and hilarious…and noisy. Three excited girls sounds like fifteen girls when they are gathered in one room.

Last night I took the three girls to an early VIP screening of Brave in 3D. Friends, you haven’t lived until you’ve sat behind three little girls watching a hilarious movie and hearing them roar with laughter. It was seriously the best, particularly listening to Tia because she has a super deep laugh and when she gets going, she cannot stop.

Loved the movie. Love these girls. I also, after seeing Brave, love Scotland. I’m trying to figure out how we could possibly work it out to move there…

We popped the lenses out of our 3D glasses and kept them because, as one of the girls informed me, "These are all the rage right now. They're super trendy." Well, I sure don't want to miss the newest rage...

My advice to you this week is two-fold – First, go see the movie Brave. It’s awesome and so, so funny. (Save yourself some money, though, and skip the 3D).

Second, spend some time with some little girls and see if you don’t find life to be a little more hilarious and a lot more pink. I dare you to spend ten minutes in the same room as three elementary age school girls and not crack up.

What are you up to this first official week of summer?