Mom Needs Grace

Musings on the life redeemed & purpose redefined

More Than Just Making It (with giveaway!) August 31, 2017

Filed under: reads — dayna @ 6:30 am

As far as I can recall, I’ve been on government assistance twice in my life. The first time I was eighteen and got set up with all the available resources while in a residential half-way house following a stint in rehab. Sobriety didn’t stick for long and I slipped back into substance abuse and out of the aid system.

The second time I was nineteen and placed on emergency medicaid during a psychiatric hospitalization after yet another drug overdose. Looking back, I know it was a hand-up to a lost soul until the Lord built a new support system and life around me. But those are stories for another time…

I’ve not experienced any of those services as a mom and wife simply trying to make ends meet, but Erin Odom of The Humbled Homemaker has, and she has a powerful story of faith and truth to tell.


In her new book More Than Just Making It, Erin recounts her personal journey through financial crisis to a place of greater stability and shares much of what she has learned along the way. More than anything, Erin’s family’s story is one of heart and perspective change. She tenderly describes her reality of past pridefulness and privilege being wrecked then rebuilt into humility and gratitude.

This book is a worthwhile read for individuals in any financial situation. More Than Just Making It is partially a heart-felt memoir full of personal reflection. It’s also packed with practical money management and frugal living information. Above all though, true to its’ subtitle, the book offers HOPE to the financially frustrated. Both the reader struggling with their own financial difficulties, and the reader wanting to understand and help with the hardship around them, will find wisdom within its’ pages.

Erin is a strong writer with vivid stories, elegant sentences, and precise word choices. Throughout the book, her tone is that of an experienced, well-informed friend. Somehow she seems to be listening through the pages and always offering compassion and gentle suggestions.

More Than Just Making It also has insightful financial and cultural analysis of the last few years. The research included is highly relevant as the author discusses how the times and financial climate influence outlook and mindset of multiple generations.

Erin includes chapters on frugal living topics such as curbing spending, budgeting, grocery expenses, shopping and creating more income. My favorite chapter though, is titled “Changing Our Mindsets.” In it, the author imparts a vision of a more aware and practically helpful church culture. She challenges the reader to see individual situations as unique and to extend dignity to all.

I personally also appreciate that Erin presents being a full-time mother as a legitimate vocational choice even in difficult times and sometimes  (especially with the costs of childcare) as a more financially-wise decision for a family. While our family is not currently struggling to put food on the table and we’re thankful for college degrees that could allow for increased income generation if necessary, we still have some financial situations laden with anxiety.

After reading More Than Just Making It, I feel less overwhelmed and better equipped to tackle our financial goals. I’ve been encouraged to develop a working budget and practical plan to live more frugally so that we might:

  • gain traction on lingering student loan debt
  • save more aggressively and intentionally
  • give more generously and with less conflict

And now for some fun stuff I want to share:

mtjmi freebies

More Than Just Making releases on September 5th. It’s available for pre-order now and there are some awesome pre-order bonuses being offered with it! They’re super-easy to submit for here after you’ve ordered your book.

There’s also an amazingly huge “mega-giveaway” going on for pre-orders right too! See the details here.

And last but not least: I have a copy of the book to giveaway!! Leave me a comment telling me why you’d like to read More Than Just Making It and on September 4th I will randomly select a comment- maker to receive a copy! That still gives you time to pre-order and collect the bonuses if you don’t win;-)

A prayer for all of us:

gratitude mtjmi

*I’m honored to have been a part of the More Than Just Making It Launch Team and enjoyed reading my advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.


What We Wonder August 30, 2017

Filed under: Motherhood,Uncategorized — dayna @ 11:50 pm

He was doing his usual investigations. Under a huge patio umbrella outside a fast food place, eyes big and thinking out loud. “So… you turn this handle around and around and that makes the rods push up and out and the umbrella goes up…” Pleased with himself, he pauses for moment.

“He always wonders about how things work” the oldest muses. “He has to figure it all out and understand why and how things do what they do… Is there something wrong with me that I don’t wonder about that? I mean, I’m not that curious about how things work. I’m just glad that they do,” she finishes simply.

I smile and reassure her. “Not at all, honey. He does wonder about that all the time though, hunh? You’re probably curious about other things.”

“Yeah.” She agrees with her honest confidence. The four of us meander across the parking lot and load up in our van.

“I guess we all wonder about different sorts of things. What do you wonder about?” I continue. Turning onto an unfamiliar street, I’m faced with a large hill off the side of the road. “For example, I wonder where does that street go? What’s up that hill? Can we get to it? How would we get up it?”

“Let’s climb up it!” he suggests excitedly. With nowhere we really need to be, I point the van in the direction of the large empty hill oddly on the outskirts of town.

My oldest continues our easy dialogue as we go. “Well,  I guess I wonder about people. Like when I see someone walking or in their car going somewhere, I wonder where they are going and what their story is. I wonder about their life and the people they know. Or if I see a wall or a gate, I wonder what’s behind it. What’s happening there?”

I’m smiling a bit to myself as the van winds and ascends. Treasuring in my heart the simple self-awareness of this writer-girl.

My little-middle girl pipes up. “I wonder if things are true. I wonder what’s real or not. Like in stories, and legends or things we hear about. I want to know what is true.”

Dazzled, my breath catches a bit. I’m in awe of them and us and the things we talk about.

“That’s true isn’t it, Jo? You do seem to seek what is real and true.” I see her matter-of-fact expression in the rearview mirror as my heart swells gratefully.

We go to that hill, pull to the side of the road and start to head up it on foot.

We discover, as is so often the case, that while from far away it looked green and soft, underfoot it’s rocky and covered in high, sharp weeds. There’s no visible trail and we don’t have the right shoes this night.

After a few minutes of exploring, we add the climb to the list for another day and load back up.

The gentle conversation about “wonderings” resumes and my heart is bursting full- of who they are and what they think.  The profound gleams in the midst of all the ordinary.



Read the World Book club: A Tucson, AZ Family August 31, 2016

Filed under: desert,reads — dayna @ 3:15 pm


We’ve had a fantastic time this summer reading books from Jamie Martin’s Give Your Child the World  with this book club and are excited to participate in a global link up! We’ve loved learning about growing up in other parts of the world and are excited to share about life in the United States’ desert southwest.


– Tell us about your family.

We are the Hadden family. Dad- Kelly, mom- Dayna, and kids: Alladene- age 8, Joanna- age 6, & Jeremiah- age 3. Kelly is an administrator at a local high school and Dayna is a former pediatric intensive care RN, currently a full-time homeschooling mom.

– Tell us about where you live and how long you’ve lived there.

We live in Tucson, Arizona, USA. Kelly is originally from Ponca City, OK and has lived in Tucson for about 25 years. Dayna hails from Frederick, MD and has lived in Tucson for about 20 years. The kids are born and raised “desert rats”(a proud distinction around here!)

– What do you think is unique and special about living where you do?

Tucson is in the middle of the Sonoran desert, which is a very specific and relatively “lush” type of desert. The Sonoran desert is home to many unique creatures (such as roadrunners, Gila Monsters, bighorn sheep) and many different types of cactus, including the iconic Saguaro cactus.


Tucson is a geographically large city with each “side” of town having its’ own flavor. The city is bordered on all sides by beautiful mountain ranges- the Catalinas, Rincons, Tortlitas, & Santa Ritas to name a few.

Otherwise known as “the Old Pueblo,” Tucson is home to the University of Arizona (Go wildcats!), and Davis Monthan Air Force base.

– What languages are spoken there? If it’s different from English, can you help us learn a few common phrases?
Most people here speak English or Spanish and many people are bilingual. You also hear people speaking a variety of Native American languages such as Tohono O’odham (Papago & Pima).

– What are some traditional foods there?
Living this close to the border we have super-authentic and delicious Mexican food. Tucson has both an innovative contemporary restaurant scene and local traditional foods like Indian fry bread and raspados. You can grab a “Sonoran Dog” (bacon-wrapped hotdog smothered in toppings and served on a traditional roll) at many food trucks or local taco stands.

Tell us about the climate where you live.
The climate here is that of the desert with at least some sunshine nearly every day of the year. The temperature can drop 20+ degrees from day to night. We have mild winters and really hot reaching 110+ degrees) summers. July and August bring refreshing relief from the heat with a dramatic monsoon (rainy) season.
We love that we have the ability to experience different climates just a short drive away. It’s an hour or so to the mountains, a few hours to the beach, and a few hours to the Grand Canyon.


– What does school look like for the majority of kids where you live?

The public school district in which we live follows a modified “year-round” schedule. Summer break is about 6 weeks long with quarterly 2 week long breaks in other parts of the year. It’s a great way to be inside during the extreme heat and take advantage of the gorgeous fall, winter, and spring for family vacations.

– What does school look like for your family?
Our family currently enjoys a homeschooling lifestyle. We love to read and learn together. We’re blessed by a flourishing homeschool community here in Tucson. We participate in extracurricular activities and go on field trips all around our great city and state. We roughly follow the school calendar of the district in which we live.

– Are there any special festivals or traditions you’d like to tell us about related to where you live?
Dia de Los Muertos is a big fall tradition around here with many families gathering to honor their heritage and the lives of their deceased loved ones. Some families picnic in the cemetery or participate in a big parade downtown.
Fiesta de Los Vaqueros in February is our big rodeo and all local kids are off school for a couple extra days.
We also boast the incredible 2 day Tucson Festival of Books each spring at the University. It’s HUGE with authors and bibliophiles from all over the world.

– If you ever had to move away from where you live, what do you think you’d miss most?
We would miss the smell of the desert when it rains, the awe-inspiring sunsets, and the laid-back outdoorsy lifestyle.
We enjoy the mixture of wild outdoors (and lots of park land) and nearby thriving metropolis with museums, sports, and arts.

spring sunset

– Do you have a favorite book that takes place in your region/country?

Sadly, we don’t have a book we really love that takes place in our region. While there isn’t a “story” type book that has captured our imagination, there are lots of great informational books about the Sonoran desert. A few of these are: Way Out in the Desert by T.J. Marsh & Jennifer Ward, Cactus Hotel by Brenda Guiberson, Don’t Call Me Pig! A Javelina Story by Conrad J. Storad, The 100 Year Old Cactus by Anita Holmes.


If you can’t get enough of Tucson, check out my friend Stephanie’s post 45 Reasons to Move to Tucson.

It’s been a great education and a lot of fun this summer to explore the world as a part of this book club. What a wonderful way to learn about and pray for, other cultures and families!








A fly-hero and a fixer April 29, 2014

Filed under: Marriage — dayna @ 12:00 am

The scene: our kitchen (now) a couple of years ago.

The set up: I’m rounding out the first trimester of my pregnancy with baby #3 and dealing with nasty, somewhat debilitating, every-afternoon headaches. The only thing that seemed to make them slightly better was being horizontal… and the occasional greasy salty food.

The bacon I had purchased in a rare non-nauseous moment had been languishing in the fridge for days.

Until now that is.

That particular evening I shuffled out of the bedroom after my “horizontal time” to discover that my husband was feeding us all dinner!

Flanked by a silly little girl on either side, I remember sitting at the kitchen table and polishing off the very last bites of the best BLT I have ever eaten.

It was perfection.

There was buttery whole wheat toast (no mayo here thank-you-very-much), crisp salty bacon, beautiful ripe tomato, and a mountain of field greens and baby spinach. I remember it being SO good. And exactly what I was needing wanting. (There’s no food passion like pregnancy food passion, am I right?)

The girls were finished eating and getting more wiggly and giggly by the second. Suddenly, a fat lazy fly had the nerve to start buzzing around the table. There was a brief wave of nausea for me and then slightly hysterical shrieking from the little ladies until…

Zing! Thwap!


“He did it! He got it!” The two-year old practically clasped her hands under chin and batted her eyelashes like an old-time movie maiden as she proclaimed “He’s our hero! He’s our hero! Daddy got the fly!!”

I grinned as we all cheered Daddy the BLT maker-fly killer extraordinaire.

After the roar of the crowd died down, our four-year old leaned over to me, eyes wide. She said (with an earnestness I will never forget), “You know Mommy, Daddy is NOT just our fly-hero.”

“No?” I mused.

“No!” He is ALSO a really good fixer.”

Her baby sister emphatically agrees and they begin listing off all the many things “the fixer” had fixed: books, doors, games, toys, remotes, holes in walls… They could (and do) go on and on.

Smiling to myself at his latest titles, I sneak a glance at my husband.

He’s standing over by the stove humbly trying not to bask in the glow of his fatherly prowess.

But we all know who he really is. And two years later, he still is.

Happy birthday to our (fly) hero and a “really good fixer!” We love you.





Easter (the day after) April 28, 2014

Filed under: Faith,History lessons — dayna @ 12:00 am

From 4/9/12:
It was the Monday after Easter. With the kitchen finally cleaned up and the lunch dishes stowed away, the girls and I snuggle into the recliner for pre-nap stories. Midway through a little Curious George, the doorbell rings.

I sigh myself up from the chair as the little girls beat me to the door. They peer through the window shutter before I can object.

Two men, one young and one older, stand at our front door.

Stinking solicitors, I think.

As a rule, we don’t give to or buy anything from the people all too frequently ringing our doorbell.

Confident in the safety of our new locked wrought iron security door, I swing the interior door wide.

We’re warmly greeted. Big surprise. The younger man starts talking, introducing himself and the older man. I wait for him to take a breath so I can politely turn them away.

And then I see the familiar logo on their clipboards and binders. I smile and open the security door to be able to make eye contact. The young man continues haltingly to tell me about the program he is in. I listen to him describe this focused program that I know is unlike any other in its intention and duration. This program that actually works.

Speaking more confidently now, he tells me in one glorious sentence how he is new and how he is becoming free.

Excusing myself, I call out to my  little monkeys to quit throwing rocks in the front yard, then turn back to him and grin and try to nod encouragingly.

He continues and tells me, noticeably humbled at the notion, how other people’s gifts have paid his way and that now he asks for this help for others.

I know it is worthy. A whisper. Give.

Moments later, as I write out a check, I ask them both about where they are in the program. They are mere months in, but miles away from where they were. I press for more details. They share humbly and openly about broken families back home and paths of wreckage becoming prayerfully restored. Somehow in the afternoon sun they seem glow just a little. They exude graceful rescue.

Tell them. Encourage them.

And as I hand over the check I look down a bit and gulp.

I tell them that I too am a life so very changed. That I’m constantly amazed and so unworthy of the way He keeps making something beautiful. They grin and breathe out praise. We’re all family now; talking about a treacherous path made solid and new. Of fresh hope and days brimming with wonder.

We talk a bit more about the goodness and their program and their up-coming transitions.

I marvel briefly at the sometimes surreal nature of the suburban dream that I’m now living: a house, a job, a marriage, two little ones, and one more on the way.  It’s bizarre in its normalcy and enormous in good after the muddy darkness from which I was rescued.

They have a future.

As I call in the little girls, we wish each other well. There are blessings and thanks and warm confidence in each others’ prayers.

I close the door and I know that this is Easter. Two walking miracles knocking on my very door.

I give because so many give to me.

Because He gave. Because He came. Because He died. Because He rose.

Because He lives even now.

It’s Easter every single day as He changes lives. As His resurrection makes them brand sparkling new.

dusk towards the light gathering pocket walk sunset







restoration December 26, 2013

Filed under: Faith — dayna @ 11:00 pm

This year, this Christmas season, it was all Isaiah 61. I kept needing to ponder those promises. The ones that sound like a sledgehammer breaking down thick walls …followed by skilled hands fashioning luminous skylights in all the openings.

I thought about the promise of one anointed to preach good news to the poor.

Of one binding up the brokenhearted.

Proclaiming freedom for the captives! And releasing prisoners from deathly darkness.

Marking a year of the Lord’s favor and a day of vengeance for our God.

I thought of comfort offered to those who mourn. Provision for the grieving.

A crown of beauty traded for ashes, oil of gladness for mourning, and a (gossamer) garment of praise instead of a (scratchy) spirit of despair.

I want to put that on!

I thought of people receiving a double portion rather than shame. Faces lifting heavenward to rejoice in an inheritance, rather than heads hanging in disgrace.

A people welcoming in everlasting joy.

I delighted that the one who was wrapped in swaddling clothes is the very one who clothes me with the garments of salvation.

Every single day.

10-23-13 039


trading reluctance October 1, 2013

Filed under: Blogging,Faith — dayna @ 3:00 am

Here I am. Just here.

I know that You want me here and I’ve been putting it off for so long. Always balking and nudging my other “to-do’s” to the top of the list.
I know You’re telling me not to overcomplicate things.
That it’s unnecessary for me to try to figure out exactly what You’re going to do. Or attempt to plan it out myself.
Because I would only smudge up something really beautiful. Or make it all about me. And of course, You know it isn’t.

Don’t I know by now that when I do what You ask of me in Your timing, that You run to help me with the rest?
That you smooth out the time-consuming wrinkles in a mind-bending, time-bending way? That the weight gets thrown off and the real race can be run.

When my eyes are on You, the Author, somehow you always perfect the timing and the task.

So here, right now, I will obey.

Yes, I’m pretty sure we’ll need to reach backwards a bit. I think we have some catching up to do…
And I know without a doubt that we’ll be pressing forward. Because you’re the only Way I ever do.
But for now… tonight, I’m thankful that you always deal with me in the present.

Yes, Lord. Establish the work.


Near January 2, 2013

Filed under: Milestones,Motherhood — dayna @ 11:55 pm

These pictures were taken a little more than a month ago, and already you’ve changed so much.

Now, I can see your personality emerging with the crinkling of your nose, each gummy smile, and every breathy coo. My sweet son, you’re growing faster than even I could have imagined, and there are so many things about right now that I never want to forget…

The perfect way your bottom fits into the crook of my elbow as we go about our day. I can still balance you, head tucked under my chin, when I need to use both hands in the kitchen or to help a little girl.

The downy softness of your hair, (all that hair!), against my cheek and nose as I nuzzle it like a proud mama-dog.

Your breath still smelling of the purest, freshest air. Heaven’s own air, it seems.

Your tiny fist always clutching my hair, my shirt, or a strap when I draw you close.

That contented shudder-sigh as you settle into the sweet rhthym of a precious feeding session.

And then your milk-drunk collapse across my lap with your warm belly impossibly full.

Or the weight of you on my chest and shoulder as we sway in the recliner- together drifting in and out of sleep.

I can’t get enough of this memorizing of details, of holding you near and breathing you in. Because I know, son, that we will never be physically closer than we are right now. That for the rest of your life, I will be gradually letting you go…

You are two months, my boy, and I love you so, so much.

*Photo credit to (the talented and patient) Pepper Wooters of Zeebug Photography.


So here we are… December 19, 2012

Filed under: Faith,Motherhood — dayna @ 12:00 am

It’s not very often these days that I’m relatively alone. My little threesome and I are a wolfpack of sorts. Ok: a messy, chirpy, sparkly wolfpack. But pretty much always together.

A few weeks ago though, it was only the babe and me in the minivan. I’m driving to shake my postpartum self at a “Zumba-thon” to raise funds and support for a former co-worker fighting the battle of his life. And I’m wondering (almost aloud), if each of my family members knows just exactly how I feel about them…

On the rare occasion that I am semi-alone, I almost always find myself with the same urgency. Feeling a gnawing that my daughters may be unaware of what it is that I adore about them right now. That my husband might not know exactly why he is still the man I choose to be in love with until my dying day. That this little baby wouldn’t know that I already see glimpses of his personality and cherish him well beyond his weeks.

And my thoughts wander to my friend Heather who lost her mother at a very young age and to my friend Amanda whose mom passed away when she was a teen. Were these women (who are now incredible mothers themselves) certain with every bit of their soul just how glorious their mothers already knew they were?

I want my crew to know. To know that I see them. And that they are spectacular.

And I ask: if something happened right now, would my life, my words, resonate with them in a loving way? Would they know exactly what they mean to me? How special they are?

I wretch out a nauseous gut cry as I mentally answer. Of course, they couldn’t! Not with the way I act most of the time these days. With all the snapping and the shortness and the griping. With the tired sighs and continuous correcting.

Yes, I do need to behave better. But I also know I need to write it down. To write to them. Perhaps a letter to each, I think. I resolve on the drive.

And then that Friday happens.

Suddenly we’re all reeling. Mouths gaping at the evil. Breath taken at the heroism. Hearts breaking at the emptiness…

The next day I go to a small local production of the Nutcracker with my kids. I catch myself quietly sobbing at the precious multitude of gumdrops and baby mice. Because across the country, there is undoubtedly a production of the Nutcracker that is missing some gumdrops. Or baby mice. Or ginger children.

I know many of my mama friends are feeling it too. The weight of the privilege of this time with our ones. And we’re all hugging our kindergarteners and 1st graders especially tight.

Later that night, my husband and I are watching news coverage and speaking in hushed tones. We’re shaking our heads and looking at each other wide-eyed.

“Can you imagine?” he says. “Coming home without her…?” His voice trails off as I squeeze my eyes shut hard and hang my head.

And I gulp because I do. Imagine it. More often than any healthy person should. Occupational hazard, I guess. Sadly, I know many of my co-workers and I do occasionally imagine the scape of our homes without our little ones. Right now we’re all picturing life without these insightful, creative, goofy school age kids. I feel sick when I imagine the very sound of my home without her constant singing and narrating all-the-time…

Or I shudder at the possibility of even having to talk honestly to my sensitive girl about what she witnessed happen to her friends, or to her teacher.

Then I tell my husband about the preacher from Colorado that I saw being interviewed on television earlier. The one that was really telling it. Talking about a fallen world and evil and how God is still with us, in and through it all.

And suddenly we’re having church up in our living room. We’re talking of mourning and comfort. We’re looking up verses like 2 Corinthians 1:3-5. We’re wondering how to best be the very hands of God and offer some peace in the midst of crisis and disaster.

Then the baby really gets going. And so I’m up pacing with him.

But still there is that gnawing, that urging, that knowing that I’m supposed to be living a life obedient. Supposed to write some stuff down. Supposed to be prepared.

As the babe and I shuffle, I’m humming the tune “Better than a Hallejuh” and thinking of those precious lyrics: “God loves a lullaby in a mother’s tears in the dead of night better than a hallelujah sometimes… We pour out our miseries. God just hears a melody. Beautiful, the mess we are. The honest cries of breaking hearts are better than a hallelujah.”

I’m praying as I stride thinking “Please Lord, don’t let me forget. Help me to say what you would have me say.”

Because it’s really hard to write when you pace the tile floors, shoulder covered in spit up, and arms full of colicky baby.

But I’m thankful… because my arms are so full.


fabulous four March 4, 2012

Filed under: Milestones,Stuff — dayna @ 11:55 pm

The other morning my four-year-old took me by the hand and pulled me into her room. She wanted to show me what she would be wearing to play in our backyard that day. Here’s what I saw:

A little later, she actually rocked the outfit. The only thing I can take credit for is the clumsy ponytail.

Her attire held up quite nicely to all of the day’s activities. The Jolie-esque lips are courtesy of a concrete faceplant the day before. The girl is tougher than she looks.

I only hope she is tough enough to allow nothing in this world (including her mother) to diminish that creativity and confidence.