The Straight Paths

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight. ~ Proverbs 3:5,6

I was reaching into the cupboard to grab a glass. With my hand around the mason jar (that’s what us country bumpkins use to drink from), my arm stayed stiff-straight, reaching up to the shelf.

“Stop using faith as a foxhole.”

It was a phrase I heard with my whole body. My entire mind. “Stop using faith as a foxhole.” Continue reading “The Straight Paths”

Money Mumbles: The Reality of Financial Fear

money finances

When Hubs and I came back from our honeymoon, we dove head-first into the struggles of married life. He had to get up to be at his job by 6:00 am, and I was just starting a job as a part-time teller at a bank, to supplement my part-time waitressing job.

When I got the mail that first day in our new normal life, the first piece I opened was a collections notice. Hubs had, at one point, become a member of a CD-of-the-month club, had missed a payment or two, and here I was, his brand new wife, staring at a piece of paper that threatened to ruin our lives. (They use such frightening language in those letters, don’t they?)

I was a gal who paid cash for everything, and only purchased items if I absolutely had to. I only had a checking account so I could pay rent. One of Hubs’ first order of business as my beloved betrothed was to get me a debit card, and I was terrified of that little plastic rectangle.

You can probably imagine, then, the painful pit in my stomach when I, as a bride for all of 72 hours, opened a letter from a collections agency.

Oh the fight that ensued… I don’t remember the words we exchanged, but I remember wondering if I had made a terrible mistake. All because of a piece of paper. My security and sense of worth was under intense scrutiny in that moment. Money meant security. Collections letter meant chaotic instability. My world was rattled.

We got it paid in short order but our financial woes weren’t over.

Hubs had a good job, driving a lengthy route for FedEx Ground, and I was working two jobs, yet somehow we weren’t gaining ground financially. I remember several occasions sitting down to balance our checkbook and shedding tear after tear for all the minus signs in front of the numbers. More than once, we were too broke to buy even a loaf of bread. God provided for us in really creative ways during that time, but the strain on our marriage was serious.

I was constantly putting pressure on my husband to make me feel more secure (make and manage more money). He was constantly being made to feel like a failure. I was constantly crying into the checkbook register. And the fights… mercy, the fights…

Things didn’t change for us financially until we moved away and really changed our views and our handling of money. I don’t remember the last time Hubs and I have had a fight about money. We simply don’t worry about it anymore. We’re responsible with what and how we spend, and we treat money as a resource rather than a saving grace. More than that, though, we have faith God will always provide for our needs. He has never not provided for us.

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on those early days and how miserable I was. I was completely driven by fear with regard to finances. Fear prevented me from having a debit card until I was married. Fear prevented me from seeing how to best manage and grow our resources, and kept me only experiencing the security of what I knew. Fear made me miserable on a daily basis. Fear strained our marriage.

Fear kept us broke.

It was only a couple of days ago I apologized to my husband for all those years I was miserable about money. Spoiler alert: he readily forgave me.

You see, my misery didn’t make us any wealthier. My misery didn’t make us any more responsible. My misery only questioned the promise of God providing for us, and made us miserable.

We have a choice. We can function in fear, or in faith. We can be miserable, or multiplied. Today, I choose faith.

We still have opportunities for growth, but I’m so beyond thankful we’re not constantly spinning our wheels fighting over finances.

If you’re in an emotional tailspin as a result of financial fear, here’s what we started doing differently to really propel us:

  1. Tithing/giving regularly. It really is better to give than receive. By the measure you give, it will be measured to you. You never know what’s waiting for you on the other side of sacrifice.
  2. Investing in ourselves. Just one example: Were it not for me going to a painting party 2 1/2 years ago, I wouldn’t have the entrepreneurial opportunities I have today. That painting ticket cost me $26 dollars, but earned me a lifetime of purpose.
  3. Prioritizing paying off debt. There is no freer feeling than not having debt. If you need a proven framework, check out Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. Applying what you learn will change your life – and your family tree, as Dave puts it.

If I can, allow me to stress once more: choose faith over fear every time. You won’t be sorry.

Turning Pages: Why Moving Forward Is Our Only Choice

Turning Pages-

It was another typical weekday with Little Man. After a diaper change, we walked out of his room and down the hallway. He pointed to the picture in the middle of the wall.

We have three frames in our hallway. One is a collage of family pictures from 2013, after Harlynn had died and when I was barely pregnant with Little Man. The opposite end is a large matte print of our favorite family portrait from 2015. The middle frame houses four wrapped canvas of Harlynn. It was a gift from my sister-in-law on Christmas in 2013, and one of the most meaningful we’ve ever received.

Little Man pointed as we walked by and said, “Hah-winn”.

I stopped.

Wide-eyed, I turned my gaze from his sweet little face, to his pointing finger, to the center frame.

“Yes,” I affirmed, “That’s Harlynn. Your sister in heaven.”

“Yeah.” he quipped knowingly.

As you might expect, my eyes filled with tears and as we continued our walk to the living room, I pressed his forehead against my lips in a grateful kiss. It was the first time he had ever spoken her name. It was the first time he had acknowledged he knew who she was.

He knows. He knows who she is.

We went on about our day, playing with cars and trucks on the living room floor. But oh, how my heart was filled.

It’s been my dream to make sure as many people as possible know who Harlynn is. What she means to us. Why, even after her death, she’s still a very active part of our family. But to have her baby brother speak her name filled my heart with immeasurable joy.

We’re a family of 5 minus 1, but we refuse to let the “minus” carry a negative value. We hold fast to the hope we’ll all be reunited again, and every new day brings us one day closer to that reality.

In an otherwise routine weekday moment, Little Man gave me an incredible gift. I got to hear his sister’s name uttered from his sweet little mouth.

“Hah-winn”

She may be in heaven, but she’s very much a present part of our family.

It’s further proof to me a relationship with Jesus is just as tangible. If Harlynn can be an active member of our family without being on earth, how much more so can Jesus be our active, living Savior, even if we can’t see Him?

He is closer than I realize at times. I lean in further than I thought I could when the weight of the world seems too much to bear. But instead of crumbling beneath it’s burdensome weight, I feel myself standing a little straighter, getting a little stronger, as He takes my suffering as His own.

The other night, I shared with a bereaved family on how it took me so long to be able to trust God heard my prayers. I kept Him at a safe distance, always hoping He heard what I was saying, but not truly believing He did. After all, He was the one person who could have changed our situation, and kept Harlynn alive.

Looking back now, I see it was Him who kept us cared for in every detail and every moment leading up to, and following her death. We were shaken, but we were not forsaken. He not only heard our cries and our pleas, but He responded to them mightily.

I don’t understand why Harlynn had to die. I don’t understand why any parent has to bury their baby. But I understand God loves us intensely through those dark and tumultuous moments. I understand – all these months and months later – He truly was the only one who could change our circumstance….and He did. Harlynn doesn’t get to be here on earth with us, but our lives have been all the more enriched by being her parents.

It will take many more years, I’m sure, before Little Man fully understands who Harlynn is and why her picture takes a prominent place in our hallway. But I’m banking on those several more years to share her story – with him, and others – many more times.

In the children’s book The Monster At The End Of This Book, the entire premise of the story is to prevent the pages from turning, in expectancy of the impending doom at the end. Come to find out – spoiler alert – Grover was the monster the whole time, and was getting in his own way of his story.

That’s how I felt for so long after April 9th, 2013. I didn’t want to turn the pages. I did everything I could to prevent the story from moving forward. There was no point, in my mind, of reading any further into our future.

Harlynn’s story reflects our story, and our story reflects His story. We’re still walking out the next chapters, but I’m finally at a place I feel secure in turning the pages.

Making Moments Count: A Manifesto

MakingMomentsCount-A Manifesto

Prior to 2013, I thought I had life figured out. My marriage had overcome some serious obstacles, our oldest daughter had overcome her dramatic entrance into the world two months prematurely, I was (slowly) climbing the corporate ladder, building skills and leadership capabilities, and knew our life was headed toward a picture-perfect happy ending.

Then in April of 2013, our second daughter was stillborn.

No warning. No idea. No explanation. No realization it was possible.

Everything I thought I knew became obsolete and our priorities, dreams, and desires took a dramatic shift.

I quickly realized I didn’t have much of anything figured out and in reality, was barely getting by. I thought I was successful, but I had only fit into the corporate mold others had created for me. I believed my marriage had overcome obstacles, but in hindsight, we had simply dismissed resolving them. I thought I had been working toward the life of my dreams, but instead, I had been working toward the fruition of someone else’s dreams for me.

It took the death of our daughter to make me realize my marriage, my relationship with Little Miss, and any relationship or successful venture I was working on building and maintaining, was a façade. I was ill-equipped to leave any lasting legacy because I believed I had reached my ceiling in my life’s potential.

And still, after my entire world had been turned upsidedown, I was expected to fit into the mold that had been created for me. Life was not certain or guaranteed, and what was supposed to be a celebratory season in our lives was wrought with tragedy and despair. When my world came crashing down, it exposed the weakest points of the foundation I had built my life upon. It also revealed, however, the ways I could strengthen and rebuild.

Life and its precious moments were too important. I realized – after intense mourning, continual grieving, and whole-hearted seeking – I hadn’t been living. None of us had been living. Our family was surviving. One grueling day at a time.

Some things got worse before they got better. I had to learn to fight for a better marriage, rather than accept fighting as the way to be married. I understood my husband and our relationship was the foundation of our family, and of our future. If our relationship was broken, so were the lives of our kids, the legacy of our stillborn daughter, and the promises we vowed to one another when we said, “I do.”

I realized if I claimed to believe God is the giver of life, I needed to start living as such. If I wanted to get anything out of the life He could make possible for me, I had to start investing in it. I might not have the chance to do what made me happy later on – as “later on” may never come.

It became my mission and passion, then, to guide others in seeking and finding the life they were designed to live, embracing the freedom that comes from fulfilling our calling, and making each moment count. I want to equip others to make moments count in the ways I never realized they could. I want to help pave the way for strong marriages, strong families, and stronger faith.

This is what I write. This is how I teach. This is why I’m making moments count.

Want to make your moments count, too? Join the Insider’s Club (all it costs is your email address) and receive tips, challenges, and insight into making your life’s moments count.

Our 30-Day Faith Detox Journey: Days 13 – 18

We’re coming up on the half-way point with this week, and I’m in a bit of disbelief I’m still sticking with it. Even though it’s been a struggle, there are so many benefits – I’ve got to keep going!!

Our 30-Day Faith Detox Journey- Days 13 - 18

Day 13:

This morning’s smoothie was rough. It was nothing, though, compared to the juice. I drank the juice before going to meet a friend and saw my life flash before my eyes. Oh purple foods… please get better than this.

I made Little Man a PB&J for lunch and it took so much strength to not shove the entire sandwich in my mouth. I don’t understand how I can be on day 13, and still be completely overcome by a desire like that. I feel like I’m cycling back through the first five days of this detox. I’m super tired, and unmotivated. It could be PMS. It could always be PMS.

Date night tonight! Went to see a movie. And smell everyone else’s buttered popcorn. We snacked on some cashews and it was nothing almost the same. After the movie, we browsed around our natural foods grocery store and I was quite pleased to see all they carried.

Day 14:

Two weeks of eating vegetables! I can’t believe it. Brent has lost 12 pounds, I’m down 7, and that feels so crazy.

Lunch’s salad was good, again. Avocado is a big help in eating purple cabbage and purple onions. Not quite sure what to do for dinner – we’re having a hard time finding many purple foods, let alone being creative with how to prepare them.

We all took a really long nap today, and it was marvelous. Not an exciting Valentine’s day, but a long nap really can’t be beat.

Tonight for dinner, I made brown rice with purple onion. Little Miss liked the rice, so that was encouraging. Brent says he prefers the brown rice over quinoa. Maybe ten days in a row of quinoa was a bit much. We’re also now having kale chips. Brent is going to be a pro kale chip maker. I can only eat SUPER crispy kale chips. That basically turn to air when you put them in your mouth. A hint of chewy and my throat starts to close in rejection of it. For the record –  purple kale is gross.

Day 15:

We’re at the halfway point! Brent and I are both down another pound today. 13 for him, 8 for me. I had a dream last night Eli and Payton Manning were fighting over my affection. Hoping today’s foods clear that all up.

Little Miss thought she saw some coffee and asked me – quite sternly – if I made myself some. I assured her I had not. She is our little detox police.

Stir fry has quickly become my favorite meal. Today was no exception. Purple was redeemed in stir fry, but we mixed a lot of greens in as well.

Today was kind of a crap day as far as appliance failures and children meltdowns, but I pretty much owned every cleaning duty known, and persevered. Fried rice again for dinner, with chicken. I really wanted to have my go-to coping food after the fridge failed, but I knew we couldn’t order pizza, so I made the daggum rice. If I had ordered pizza, our little detox police would have sent me to mommy jail.

Day 16:

The smoothie was much better this morning, and I’m not sure what the improvement was over yesterday. Maybe the plum was a little more ripe. I’m feeling GREAT today, though. Yesterday, despite the crash-and-burn events, all the cleaning I did totally motivated me. I don’t have a working fridge, but our apartment looks great. The good news is we’re eating fresh foods anyway, and going through them quickly, so aside from milk and eggs, refrigeration isn’t a huge stressor.

Stir fry was good – again! I really like stir-fry, and will probably be making it on a continual basis, well after the detox is done. A great way to serve up veggies in a quick and simple fashion.

We have two weeks left of this detox, and I find that hard to believe. I so appreciate it, though. Systems like shakes and drops don’t teach you anything about how to eat or maintain a lifestyle. They offer a quick fix to a long-term problem. And you have to start over time and time again. This detox has taught me not only the importance of the foods we’re eating, but how eating the wrong foods does more than grow my waistline. It has physical, psychological, emotional, mental – all kinds of effects on every area of my life. I’m so thankful for this approach in the book – linking the body, mind, and spirit as areas in need of cleansing. It’s also taught me tasty ways to prepare and enjoy foods I swore I didn’t like.

Day 17:

Brent told me this morning he was down 15 pounds. I can totally tell. His ties are longer and his pants are baggier. I’m holding steady at 8. I can only tell a notable difference in my calves. Which, obviously, is the first place you’d WANT to lose weight because when I’m struggling to button my pants over my muffin top, I always think, “These daggum calves of mine…!” Whatever. I’m down 8 pounds – I guess at this point it doesn’t matter where they’re gone from. Also, I smell cabbage everywhere I go, so I’m convinced it’s really me.

We had cider this morning instead of a smoothie. It was tart (Brent said “brisk”) but it was still good. Cinnamon made a big difference.

The soup looks and smells good today – hoping it’s as tasty. Purple potatoes – kind of weird cutting into those! I read and hear they taste just like regular potatoes, though. Here’s hoping the internet isn’t lying. Again.

Turns out, purple potatoes actually taste like potatoes. The soup was alright and the broth was purple.

Dinner was a hurried version of basmati rice with purple onion and celery. Had a painting party tonight, so had to eat and run. They of course were serving a decadent chocolate cake they couldn’t stop raving about, but I have skinny calves, so… they were obviously jealous.

On the drive home, every restaurant I passed, I thought of my favorite dish from there. I prayed to ask God to just free me from this total attachment I have to food, and to heal me so I’ll eat to fuel my body rather than my weak moments.

Day 18:

This is the last day of purple foods, and I won’t miss them. The cider was a bit more tart this morning, but still good. Something about a hot drink first thing in the morning. Someone should invent something people can drink hot when they wake up…

We have our supper club gathering tonight, and Brent and I will be bringing our own dinner. Everyone else will have BBQ beef sandwiches, and we’ll each be having half a chicken breast with roasted purple potatoes and broccoli. I hope they’re still our friends after tonight.

I’m past cravings, but the temptation to indulge is still very powerful. There’s a big difference in a craving and a temptation. The temptation is far stronger and incredibly relentless. A craving can more or less be subdued, but the temptation to fall only gains momentum if you let it. Prayer has been a big part of this detox, and for good reason. Even in something so seemingly innocent as food choices, I’m constantly tempted and enticed to make the wrong ones. My body is a temple, and 13 days ago, Jesus would have been turning tables over inside of me. It’s up to me to keep the traders (aka traitors) and falsehoods out of this temple.

Our 30-Day Faith Detox Journey: Days 7 – 12

And the saga continues! This week, we moved on to white/tan foods and detoxing the Endocrine system. I think it’s wise to detox the digestive/urinary/excretory tracts first, followed by the system that manages emotions. Considering how completely crazed and depressed I was last Friday, this week should be looking up. Here’s the daily snippet, typed in the moment.

Our 30-Day Faith Detox Journey- Days 7 - 12

Day 7:

I GOT TO PUT COFFEE BEANS IN MY SMOOTHIE THIS MORNING!  Also… I drank my smoothie with 2 raw eggs mixed in. (Mom, don’t have a stroke…) I wasn’t sure I could do it, but I didn’t even notice. I’ve never gotten salmonella from eggs – only from mushrooms I didn’t even eat. And mushrooms are a staple this week. Joy. But the coffee beans made my body, mind, and spirit rejoice. The smoothie was really good. And I was down another pound when I woke up – that brings me down 5 pounds in 7 days.

I’m hyper-aware of how we’re exposed to food at every turn. Billboards. Signs. Commercials. Flyers in the mail. Coupons. Even pre-youtube-video-ads. All food. No wonder I’m so conditioned for burgers and fries, or cheese on top of everything. It’s all I see!

Drank the juice at church. We also had communion at church so I had a teeny tiny cracker, and the sip of grape juice but WOW was that juice super sweet! I nearly puckered! I had communion in Jesus’ name, so I’m sure it’s covered under the detox…

Lunch is the big test. Mushrooms, my archenemy. And cauliflower, one of my (many) least favorite vegetables. And parsnips. All over spinach, with the olive oil and apple cider vinegar dressing. Sprinkled some garlic powder…and….drumroll…. wow. Pretty tasty, actually.

Dinner was a Superbowl super-sized serving of kale chips, and quinoa with broccoli and onions. I’m feeling like I can actually do this. So different from two days ago! I ate KALE CHIPS. Miracles do happen.

Day 8:

Again with the coffee beans and raw eggs in my smoothie. I don’t even know who I am, drinking raw eggs?! At least they’re in a smoothie and not Rocky-style. Yuck. I was up a pound this morning. Must’ve been the super-size serving of dinner.

We’re using twice as much toilet paper. Drinking half your weight in ounces of water every day has you speed-walking to the restroom pretty often.

I’ve come to a realization of how much I depended on food. It was more than a coping mechanism. It was my savior. When I had a bad day or a good day, I would turn to food to get through or celebrate. When I had a decision to make, I’d have to eat first because heaven forbid I try to think on an empty stomach. I turned to food rather than prayer. I turned to food rather than praise. I turned to food rather than God. That’s exactly how addiction works. And I see how very much I was (am) addicted to foods. Sugars. Carbs. The day before the detox started, I had a triple cheeseburger and onion rings for lunch. One last “hoorah” before this health thing. But really, I was trying to stockpile my drug – food – in my body. And what did that get me? A horrible five days, and size clothing I swore I’d never get big enough to wear.

They say you’re never a “recovered” addict, only ever “recovering”. Because if you slip, you’re right back in the pits you first found yourself. I’ve been thinking about that a lot. I don’t want to go right back where I was. I don’t want to invest 30 days simply to prove something – I want to invest them for changing my health for good.

I was a new woman today. I had one sick kid and one teething kid, so it was hard for me to sit at the computer and do any work. But I did nearly all the laundry – including putting it away (#detoxmiracle!), washed the dishes, cleaned up Little Man’s room, and buzzed around here like a true-blue housewife. It felt good. I felt good. I can tell my energy level is getting up to what I always wanted it to be, but didn’t want to have to exercise to get to.

Day 9:

I was down the pound I was up yesterday. Still down a total of 5 pounds. Yay! We got to put a few chunks of dark chocolate (77% cocoa) in our smoothie this morning. I wanted to lick the inside of the blender. It’s not the least bit sweet, but it still tastes like chocolate. I really look forward to the smoothies. The lunches and dinners are more or less the same, switched up by mild variables now and then, but the smoothies change every two days, and I like that. I’ll be sad to see this one go on day 11, though.

I have a painting party tonight with 15 painters, and I feel like I could lead 150 painters. I’m full of energy, and feeling pretty confident, despite the fact I painted the demo like I was a blind monkey. (#noartsmartsnecessary) This is a huge turn-around from where I was a week ago today.

Lunch is stir-fry today, and oh my goodness. My palate is pleasantly surprised. This is really good. Onion, cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms, parsnip. I can’t believe I’m eating – and enjoying this. It’s another #detoxmiracle.

On the way to my painting party I thought, “Oh yay, I can stop by Spicy Pie on the way home for a slice!” Then I remembered I couldn’t. But instead of being upset like last Friday, I just shrugged it off. What in the world. I’m a changed person. Goes to show, though, how deep-seated my habits are.

Day 10:

Today marks 1/3 of the way done! I’ve never done anything more than 3 days, so this is pretty incredible for me. Another delicious smoothie, more delicious juice, and I’m enjoying today. Tomorrow’s smoothie won’t be so sweet, and the juice will be green, so it will be a bit different for sure.

This stir-fry is for sure my favorite – definitely love it over the yucky yellows. I told my husband I’ll be making this once we’re done with the detox, and could hardly believe the words came out of ME.

I’ve noticed my face is FINALLY starting to clear up. I’ve been battling some yuck mid-life-crisis acne for months now, and it wasn’t getting better. Today I noticed it is certainly healing, and I’m so happy! I just want my face back.

Quinoa for dinner ten days in a row is a little….blah. Tomorrow we’ll switch it up for sure. I had a fantastic day, though, especially spending time with Little Man. I only lost my cool once, when he went “boneless” twice outside because he didn’t want to walk where we were walking. Crazy to think my food and diet before was filtering my parenting through such a quick-tempered lens.

Day 11:

The smoothie this morning isn’t as terrible as I was expecting. We’ll see what the (green) juice has in store for me later this morning, however. It’s hard to believe I’m on day 11 of this journey.

The soup was pretty bland for lunch. Not something I’m super excited about repeating tomorrow.

I was filling the van up with gas today, and not only were there food stickers plastered all over the pump, advertising deals inside, but the digital screen was flashing text about a deal on hamburgers. Seriously – we are tempted with food at every turn. And today has been kind of a rough day for me. I’ve felt tired and unmotivated most of the day, which hasn’t happened since after I started the detox.

Since we weren’t excited about our foods at all today, we went and gave ourselves something really special for dinner. I made mashed cauliflower, steamed some asparagus, and we split a chicken breast. WE HAD CHICKEN! And it was the best chicken we’ve ever had. It IS allowed on the detox, but we’ve been trying to go pure-vegetable route. We went 10 days without meat. That’s a pretty big deal. But thank you God in heaven for creating the chicken. If I’ve never thanked you for chicken before, I’m so sorry. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I kind of want chicken for dessert. But we’re only allowed 3 ounces, so our split serving will have to suffice.

Day 12:

Down one more pound today! I was holding steady at 5 for a while, so one more is encouraging. Brent is down 10 pounds. I can’t get over that. Today is the last day of white/tan foods, and I’m gonna miss it. The stir fry was amazing, the smoothies the first four days were so good – it’s been a good cycle.

Today was Mother’s Tea at school with Little Miss. So many yummy treats, and I watched her eat all of them. The hardest for me to be around were the Hershey Kisses. Those are were my favorite. It was an adorable program, though, and I wouldn’t have missed it! But we’re gonna have a lot of candy to give away. This detox isn’t just for me and Brent to tool around with health for 30 days – this is to get our whole family on the right track with food. I don’t want my kids to be 35 and never have been equipped to resist anything in a cellophane wrapper.

I wasn’t crazy about the soup yesterday, but was looking forward to it today since it’s -25 outside with windchill. Then I spilled half my bowl of scalding hot soup on my right hand. My fingers are hurting so badly. I’m typing with an ice pack draped over my hand. #dangerousdetox

Had 3 oz of chicken with dinner again tonight, with sauteed mushrooms and onions, and brown rice with broccoli. It tasted like something I’d have at Ruby Tuesday. Maybe I’ll give them the recipe and they can give me the royalties.

Lessons from this week:

  1. Food is everywhere, and its grip on us is almost scary.
  2. Despite the season and chocolate being everywhere, I really miss cheese the most.
  3. Mushrooms are no longer an archenemy.

Our 30-Day Faith Detox Journey: Days 1 – 6

I was listening to the radio one afternoon, as I always do on the way to pick Little Miss up from the bus stop. The topic was intriguing: a detox of body, mind, and spirit. Something in me began to sing its own angel chorus, and I decided I had to order the book, and I was – dare I say – excited, to begin this detox. You can find the book here.

My husband graciously agreed to join me on this journey, and I’m so incredibly thankful. There’s no way I could stay strong doing this on my own. (Thank you, Babe, you’re amazing. For reals.) I decided to jot down my days as I was experiencing them. So… here’s the first 6 days (also known as “color 1: yellow foods”). I’ll see if I can keep a log of this through the whole 30 days. If anyone even cares at all.

Day 1:

Salt water flush was disgusting. Like drinking sweat. Gagged mightily. Couldn’t get the whole 32 ounces down. I prefer putting salt in my body using the vehicle of chips or fries or something. Smoothie for breakfast was really tasty. I could do that often. Was almost a treat! I hope the rest of the detox is like this.

By 10 a.m., incredibly sleepy. Can’t nap, cause I have to be a mom. Crabby. I texted Brent I was sleepy and he texted back, “I feel great!” Ugh. Juice for mid morning snack tasted okay. I’m so hungry. Craving triple cheeseburgers, donuts, and cheese.

Just before lunch, my heart started beating HARD and erratically, then I saw spots and nearly blacked out and felt like that’s what happens right before a person dies. I didn’t die. Lunch was surprisingly tasty. Diced yellow peppers, yellow potatoes, yellow squash, on spinach, sprinkled with cumin, salt, paprika. Started HEAVILY gagging about 3/4 through my meal and couldn’t finish. Gagged so hard, I think I tore something in my stomach. Throat hurt as a result of the gagging.

Snacked on some fruit in the afternoon, but all I wanted was a chocolate granola bar and some meat. Starting to get a gigantic headache.

Dinner time. I am so done with the day. Snappy, but trying to explain (in love) to Little Miss what we are doing and why I was crabby. Cooked fried-rice style quinoa with onions and zucchini. Added a little liquid aminos. OH MY WORD, it brought me back to life. So sleepy. It’s 8:30. I’m going to bed.

Day 2:

Woke up just before 6:30. Felt well rested. Skipped the salt water flush. Couldn’t handle the thought of it. Weighed myself, down 1.5 pounds. Had my smoothie. Good, but not as good as yesterday.

Showered and got dressed for the day. Went to the chiropractor and was happy dancing. Felt GREAT!! Full of energy. I even wanted to buy a house and wait for spring, so I could plant my own vegetables and eat them all day every day. Maybe this isn’t energy – maybe this is some form of mania. Started to get a little tired around 11:30, but nothing a little praise music couldn’t overcome.

Feel great, but can’t focus. Like, at all. Complete brain fog. The water was easy to drink yesterday, today it feels a little much. So bloated, and haven’t even drank only half of what I need to. Brent is having a tougher day today. He wants meat and lots of it. I’d be okay if I could just have a nibble of the SKOR bar I found in the freezer.

After dinner – having huge cravings/desires for dessert. I am so bloated – I feel pregnant. So pregnant. Even walking like I’m pregnant. Brent has a headache still. My head hurts but not anywhere near what it did yesterday. Tonight is much rougher than this morning. Brent took an Epsom salt bath with lavender and peppermint oil. I feel like he’s doing this more sophisticated than I am. I bet he doesn’t feel seven months pregnant.

Day 3:

What. Have. I. Done. This morning’s smoothie almost killed me. Cayenne pepper?! What was I thinking?! My mouth still burns. It took me almost two hours to drink one mason jar of a smoothie. It wasn’t tasty, and it felt like I was drinking fire.

Brent was down 4 pounds this morning. Overachiever. Little Miss told him she could tell he looked skinnier. “In your arms.” What?? She told me, “Mama you look like you’re getting fatter.” At least I have that going for me. Just a fountain of encouragement around here.

Still bloated, and still only down the 1.5 pounds. Am I really going to do 27 more days of this?! The juice is good, but it smells like nature and after the smoothie, I can’t handle it. I have to hold my breath to drink good tasting juice. Pineapple and apple today. My son is eating a tortilla. It looks like the best tortilla in the world. I’m not being a great parent, getting healthy and feeding him a tortilla. Had some amazing play time with Little Man before his nap, though. We ran and tackled and tickled. His giggles made the cayenne pepper incident worthwhile.

Lunch was alright. Too much olive oil, but alright. I am really wondering if I can make it 30 days without meat. What sounds really good is a french dip, with shredded beef, chicken, turkey, maybe some lamb. Who knows. I just really want to dip some meat in some Aus jus.

Hit a wall at 3:00. So tired. Started to come out of it when I was cooking dinner. Quinoa. Again. 27 more days of quinoa. Is this humane?

Day 4:

Down another pound this morning, but I had a hard time falling asleep last night. This morning’s smoothie is less spicy than yesterday’s because I did it that way on purpose. Still can hardly choke it down. Lemon and spinach first thing in the morning isn’t exactly a motivator to get out of bed.

Lunch was better today, too. Less oil. I’m irritable and snippy today, but think I have a bit more energy than normal (saying a lot for 4 days coffee-free) and feel pretty good. So long as no one talks to me, anyway. Have a busy day and evening ahead – hope I can keep it together. My client told me today he liked me better when I was toxic. So maybe I’m a tish more irritable than I’m willing to admit.

At dinner (more quinoa, but with black beans tonight. Fiesta!!) Brent asked me if I’d smelled our bedroom. I giggled and nodded. Little Miss asked, “What does it smell like?” and Brent answered, “It smells like people who have been eating vegetables for four days.” It’s true. Our room smells like a foreign food buffet.

Day 5:

This morning’s smoothie reminded me of fruity pebbles. Oh, how I miss thee. It looked like fruity pebbles, but tasted like spicy fruit salad. Much better than days 3 & 4. The juice today, though…Lord help me. I’m not sure I can do it. Spinach, zucchini, apple. Thankfully it didn’t make much. Still feeling irritable. Mostly, I want to be left alone.

Lunch (soup) was okay. It would’ve been better with ground beef crumbles and melted cheese. Or at least some crackers. This is tough. I’m about ready to throw in the towel.

All day long my head has told me, “You’ve done good. You can quit now and still be proud. You don’t need to do this.” It’s been incessant. I snapped a lot today. I broke down, twice. Shoulder-shaking sobs. This is so hard for me! It would be so easy (and tasty) to quit. But a small part of me doesn’t want to. The stubbornness of that small part is winning above the whining, crying, irritable larger part of me. But wow – I’ve got it bad for sugar. And processed flour. And this is a true-blue drug detox. God bless my husband. That’s all I can say.

Day 6:

Brent brought me breakfast in bed this morning. Day 6’s smoothie. The kids jumped up into bed, and it was sweet. I don’t feel as emotional as yesterday. Yet. I am down a total of 4 pounds since this started, so that’s encouraging.

Soup for lunch was even better today. I think sitting in the fridge and reheating on the stove did wonders for it. Having Brent home all day has helped me tremendously. I’m glad it’s Saturday.

Today has been leaps and bounds better than yesterday. Mentally, I’m in a much better state. Emotionally, I’m actually in a state, rather than just being a complete mess. I would declare this my first “good day” out of this detox experience, and would say I’ve turned a corner. Tomorrow we start a different color, and while I’m glad to see the yellows go, it wouldn’t be so bad for me if I had to keep eating them.

6 days, down 4 pounds, 2 sob-fests, and 100-bajillion food cravings behind me. #victory

Follow my food pics and detox progress on Instagram: nodakval

Even If He Does Not

This past November, our senior pastor delivered one of those sermons you have a hard time swallowing. Not because of shady principles, or heresy, but because it’s hard to chew up a truth bomb that big.

He spoke on the passage in Daniel when King Nebuchadnezzar was going to toss Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego into the “blazing furnace”. They replied to the king, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Even if he does not.

Gulp.

Even if he

It was many, many months once those initial weeks had passed after we lost Harlynn before I was able to really pray again. I felt like I wasn’t heard. My prayers weren’t answered. God definitely “did not”. In my own hurt and heartache, I had to process a lot of things in a new way. It was painful to think I went around declaring miracles for other people and yet one was overlooked for me.

It still stings sometimes.

I remember several years ago, one of our hometown heroes was in a bad accident and life-flighted to another hospital. I remember getting angry with the people from back home for not believing God would heal him, or save him. Everyone’s report was hopeless. I prayed earnestly God would save him, because I knew He could. I knew He would. Then, the man died.

I was crushed.

Here I had been upset with other people for anticipating death when a miracle was in order, then death overcame. Were my prayers not enough? Did God not hear my pleas? I was rattled, to be sure. Then, when the doctor told us Harlynn’s heart had stopped beating, I gave up on praying prayers of faith. My faith was obviously being overlooked.

When Pastor Glen started in on this passage, I remembered the Bible story I’d heard as a child. These three refused to worship King Nebuchadnezzar, and were thrown into the furnace of fire to die as a result. They were not only saved, but didn’t even smell like smoke when they emerged from the furnace. Our children’s version skipped over this declaration from the three men. “But even if he does not….

Even if he does not, God is still able.

Even if he does not, God is still sovereign.

Even if he does not, God is still a God of miracles.

Even if he does not…I will still believe. I will still be faithful. I will still devote myself to Him. I started praying in faith again.

This past Monday, an old high school buddy was in a life threatening automobile accident. Driving to work on Monday morning, he was t-boned, suffered a traumatic brain injury, multiple other injuries, and was life-flighted to another hospital….to die. The outcome was bleak. Another hometown hero, not going to make it.

When I heard the news, I went to my room and began to pray. The first few verses of Psalm 41 are my go-to when someone needs miraculous healing. I read the verses, I put Joel’s name in and claimed those truths over him. I cried. I prayed. I believed God would heal him. “But even if he does not,” I also believed everything for Joel’s family had already been taken care of.

My best friend, Tiff, called me to tell me the update. It wasn’t good. There on the phone, I began to pray – to beg God – for Joel’s restoration.

Joel, right now, is sitting in his hospital room, talking to loved ones. He recognizes them. He’s speaking. He’s breathing on his own. He came back from the brink of death.

Joel is living testament we still serve a God of miracles. I couldn’t be happier. For Joel, for his family, for his friends – my heart is just full of awe and wonder and amazement at where he is today compared to what we were hearing of him one week ago.

And tomorrow, my own Little Man faces a big appointment. He goes in for one final ABR before his hearing aids. However, at his last appointment, after several prayers for total healing for him, he was (unofficially) downgraded from a moderate-to-severe (implication on the severe) hearing loss to a mild-to-moderate loss. I’m believing that was only a phase in his process to total restoration of his hearing. I’m believing his hearing will be completely and miraculously restored. I’m praying we can forego hearing aids altogether.

But even if he does not….I will still believe God performed a miracle in my son. I will still believe God has many more miracles in store. I will still believe Little Man’s hearing will be completely restored one day.

Even if we do not get the miracle we ask for, in the way we ask for it, I will still believe God is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is still a God of miracles. I’ve seen enough of them to know it to be true. I will continue to pray for miracles.

And even if he does not….He already has.

What I Learned From Resting

I’m weird. Different. A little unconventional. And I’m okay with that.

Most of my life, I tried to simply blend in. With buck teeth, big hair, bigger glasses, and the last name of “Butts”, blending in didn’t exactly come naturally for me. It took a lot of personal pain and suffering for me to come to a place of understanding that I wasn’t created to blend in. I’m unique, and I’m okay with being who God has uniquely called me to be.

It’s in that calling, I’ve recently sensed he was urging me to a time of rest. Some of you might think what I’m about to explain is a little weird. Just remember weird is my normal. So here we go.

What I Learned

I have been rushing around constantly. When Brent gets home from work, I scarf dinner and try to get away to finish work. I hastily spend time with my kids, getting them what they need, so I can take care of other stuff. When the week winds down, I spend it trying to fit in as many recreational trips or visits I can. I’m always doing something, and coincidentally, not accomplishing anything.

I sensed it clearly: “You need to rest.” I didn’t know what it meant, though. Take a nap? Read a book? Order out?

“Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.”

Oh. That whole commandment on the stone tablet thing? But how? Where do I start?

I had no idea, but I jumped in to finding out anyway. By 10:00 a.m. this past Friday, I had decided I was going to enter in to an intentional day of rest, and somehow, observe my first Sabbath.

I’ll save the details of how and what I did for another post, but I want to share with you some lessons I learned from my day of rest.

So often I hear, and have said myself, “I just need to get away.” If only retreating to a cabin for a few days to work, write, or just be, would give me what I needed to get right back at it. Yet what happens when I take those retreats? I come home and long for that escape from reality all over again.

Mostly, our weekends are our “catch up” days. Let’s go here, do this, visit them, buy these, get this done, and start these new. Somewhere in there, we should try to have some fun! Then, when Monday rolls around, we’re completely exhausted. So much for resting. This weekend was going to be different. This weekend, I was going to be obedient.

The Sabbath is an Old Testament law, but I don’t believe that at all means it’s now irrelevant. Yes, I have freedom in Christ! I also have the responsibility to exercise that freedom in ways that glorify Him. Running around like a headless chicken, falling further behind, and getting sucked in to my electronic devices doesn’t accomplish that. The Sabbath just makes sense.

The day was a long one, but not because it was drawn out by boredom. While I was intentionally resting, I was experiencing every single minute, fully present in it. It was incredible to experience the day for what it was, and not for what I was trying to shape it into to fit a schedule.

There was incredible power in simply being still. I didn’t have to cook or clean for my family – it had all been done the night before – and we were able to just be together. No obligations, no plans, no distractions, no interruptions.

The Bible says to work for six days, then don’t work – at all – for one. It goes on to say, essentially (and this is in my very loose translation) whatever you’re in the middle of, no matter how busy you try to say you are – just stop what you’re doing to and take a breather. For an entire day. One day. Every week. No matter what.

Resting for the entire day was absolutely glorious. Ironically enough, on my day of rest, I woke up super early. It allowed me, though, to spend the first 90 minutes of my day reading the Word. I haven’t spent that large of an uninterrupted time reading the Bible in….ever. I poured into my family. We played games, we read, we hung out, we wrestled. We rested. And wow, did we eat well. When everything was prepared in advance, with the intention of not having to do anything else to prepare meals – I made sure we were taken care of. The food was great, and totally stress-free.

I spent the close of my day in the Word as well. All day long I was wondering why we don’t make a regular habit of this. I don’t believe, especially after my Saturday, that the Sabbath was a burdensome commandment. Instead of feeling like I was being obedient to a command, I felt exponentially blessed. All day long, my heart was lifting up prayers of thanks. It was incredible.

Rest is totally necessary. We need to recharge. We need to disconnect from ourselves (and unplug from our devices) and reconnect to God. So many times we take a brief reprieve (a cat nap, a shopping trip, catch a movie), and call it good. And we keep working. And wasting. And getting worn out. And for what?

I was getting frustrated. I was totally disconnecting from my family. From my creator. All in the name of getting stuff done.

After observing my first Sabbath, it’s a practice I want to repeat. I’ve somehow used a lot of words to describe an experience I don’t really have the right words to articulate. It truly was a holy experience. I learned so much from simply resting.

What about you? How have you taken time for intentional rest lately?

3 Ways Hurting Has Helped Me Heal

Call me stubborn, but I’ve never quite bought into the whole “pick yourself up and dust yourself off” mentality. If I’m going to feel something, I’m going to feel it until it’s all feeled-out. I’m going to be mad until I can’t be mad anymore. I’m going to laugh until my sides ache. I’m going to cry until I have no energy left to shed more tears.

I don’t pick myself up. I don’t dust myself off. I allow myself the freedom to roll or wallow, barge or bolt through, or whatever I need to do to make sure I understand what I’m feeling, and why. Usually, I end up learning from it.

After we lost Harlynn, my entire perspective shifted. I was forever changed. I realized I didn’t want to be stifled in my grief. I wanted, more than anything, to be allowed to grieve messy. And whether I was “allowed” to or not, it’s what I did.

With another Mother’s Day recently past, I once again waddled through grief in different stages. And I was okay with that.

3 Ways

So how has hurting helped me heal? Oh, let me count the ways! I’m by no means “healed” or restored to what – or who – I once was. But I know allowing myself to feel the hurt has been more of a healing journey than a hindered one. Here are three of the many ways I can share with you.

1. Doing What Matters

Before Harlynn died, we did what we had to. We went to our jobs, dropped Little Miss off every day of the week, went home, fulfilled social obligations, and hoped one day it would all pay off. When I returned to work from “maternity leave” – which totally sucked because I didn’t have a baby with me during those weeks – I found so many things about my life pointless.

Why was I advancing this person’s distribution so they can make a boat payment? Not important to me. Why was I letting someone else play with and tickle Little Miss instead of being the one to do that myself? Why was I driving through fast food every night because I was too tired to stand over a stove and cook a vegetable or two for my family?

No. When I was able to allow myself to feel the hurt of what I was missing out on, I began to have clarity and focus on everything that actually mattered to me. I took a job working from home. I stayed with Little Miss and watched her sing Frozen songs to her own reflection. I have been able to witness every single moment of every single day of Little Man’s life. I cook for my family. We go shopping during the daytime because we can. We spend time together doing things that pull us together as a family. We know what we can lose in an instant, so we make sure we spend our time doing what matters most. And it’s absolutely liberating.

2. Totally In Tune

I am more in tune with who I am as a person than I have ever been. I know my likes, I know my dislikes. I know my preferences and my purposes. I know things I can do to fill my family’s emotional tanks, and fill my own.

I am not afraid to put my foot down for my own desires. If I don’t want to go somewhere, I don’t go. If I want to invite someone over, I invite them over. I don’t have to have every crumb picked up from the floor or every dust speck wiped from the shelves – I am totally in tune with who I need to be with in certain seasons and times, and I can assure you they don’t care about crumbs or dust.

I know when I need to step back and have some alone time. I can sense things in my environment that build me up or detract from what I need it to be, and I address it right then. I have nothing to hide, and no reason to pretend. It took me more than 30 years to get to know the real me, but I’ve got to tell you, I like this gal. She’s sassy, she’s smart, and she adds a lot of value.

3. Firmer Faith

Allowing myself to hurt whenever the feelings of grief crop up has not distanced me from God. Rather, it has drawn me closer. I was so tender at first, and I remember not even being able to pray. I felt far too vulnerable. I was a gaping, gushing wound, and my spiritual journey seemed too intense to bring into the fold of what was happening in my life. Yet, the more I allowed myself to live in the raw moments, the more I was able to trust the One who would get me through each one.

I used to think David, the Psalmist, was a bit bipolar. But you know what? His baby died. He lost more than one child. He grieved. He also ruled a nation and had the stress of a kingdom on his shoulders. Do you know how he handled it, though? By being raw in the moment, and praising God anyway. I can attest as time has gone on, the more I give in to the rawness of the moment, the closer He draws me to Him.

God has never once left my side in all of this. It wasn’t a side I was comfortable standing next to for a time. So I withdrew. But being genuine and authentic in my pain and grief in the very presence of God, has shown me that He’s authentic and genuine in His love for me – no matter how I’m feeling. I can’t even get over it. My grief in losing my daughter has given me firmer faith. It doesn’t make sense. But I love it.


Whatever season you’re walking through right now, I pray you give yourself the freedom to walk through it in whatever way you need to. Take the long way. Take your shoes off. Sit down right in the middle of your journey’s road. Just allow yourself to hurt when you’re hurting.

Work through the pain, learn from the experience, and let it grow you personally. It won’t be the same for everybody. It probably won’t be easy. But I promise, giving yourself the freedom to process through things the way you need to, will be totally worth it.