Here’s Looking at You, 2023

Any time we approach a brand new year, there’s the expectation that we need a fresh, new list of goals. Recently I’ve seen tons of people posting a word, or three, that they hope will define their year. A theme, I guess. 

Words and goals are nice. There’s not a thing wrong with goals, so long as those we set are realistic. There’s something incredibly discouraging about setting goals so far-fetched the chance of meeting them is slim to zilch. 

What’s the point? To discourage yourself? Unfortunately, that’s how things usually end for me. 

This year, I’ve decided to be very specific and conservative in my approach. A few weeks ago I decided I’d like to begin writing daily again, so instead of waiting, I started. Right away. I’m almost two weeks in and missed one day — Christmas Day — but picked right up where I left off the day after, and am continuing. There are two additional things I’d like to implement in 2023: 

First, just 15 minutes of movement every day. There’s not a single good reason why I can’t do so. I’m following the lead of @NurseKateJohnson on Instagram. She walks a ton. Every day. With her kids and husband. I can increase that goal once 15 minutes becomes a habit. As sedentary as I’ve been in recent months, that time span is a fantastic starting place. 

Second, I’m going to start a journal and list all the things I’m grateful for, adding at least one thing to it each day. I’ve talked a lot recently about living with expectancy — when we are actively looking for things for which we are thankful, we’re sure to find them. The same goes for negativity. I promise, when we look for things to complain about, we’re most definitely going to find them.

Try it! When you actively choose gratitude over discontent, you’ll be amazed by how quickly your thinking shifts. 

Do you set goals for each new year? What are they? Comment below! 

*Need a fantastic tool that’ll help you plan with purpose — a tool I’ll be using this week? Check out this offer from my friends, coaches, and fellow Life Skills Coach! 

*Crossposted on Substack*

The Reason We Celebrate

It’s easy to get so consumed with the traditions of the Christmas season we forget the Reason we celebrate in the first place. 

Oh, the traditions are fun. So much fun. There’s little that excites me more than digging out all the Christmas decor and once again hanging the lights and Christmas ornaments we’ve collected through the years. We love riding through different parts of town to see the Christmas lights. Such sweet memories! That ‘thrill of hope’ the Christmas song describes is palpable throughout the season. 

I wonder, though…do we ever slow down enough to recognize the Reason for it? 

I know we think we do…but do we really?

Sometimes it’s even easier to skip the celebration altogether, because…well…life. It’s so overwhelming we don’t much feel like celebrating anything at all. 

Regardless the reason, when we’re so focused on everything else, it’s much too easy to forget, or completely miss, the blessing — the hope — of the Christmas message. 

You see, this holiday season is no regular celebration. It’s no ordinary birthday. It’s not about sending cute Christmas cards with our latest family pics, or the getting of gifts, or the umpteen Christmas parties and plays and concerts. Those are all incredibly fun, and appropriate, but we know something that’s far too valuable to overlook: 

Christmas is the very heart of the Gospel message. 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

For the believer, Christmas is a time to remember (and share) that God created man in His image 

“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7

Yet man rejected Him. (Genesis 2 and 3)

Then, because He is good, God sent His Son — born of a virgin in a barn in Bethlehem (Luke 2) — to rebuild that relationship. 

Jesus was born to die so that you and I could live. 

And He didn’t make this sacrifice and then force it onto all mankind — He gave us a choice. A free gift. No strings attached. 

What JOY! 

So, as we celebrate Christmas this weekend with friends and family, let’s remember — were it not for the cross, there would be no Christmas. 

*Crossposted on Substack*

Find Your People

As I reflect on 2022, I’m thankful for a great many things. My husband took an early retirement in March, we sold our home in April, bought an RV in May, I assumed the role as coach for something called The Life Skills Project in June, we took a cruise to Alaska in July, and so it went. It was a good year — until today, when we learned our dog has terminal cancer. 

I’m thankful for it all — the good and the bad, but serving as a Life Skills coach was, by far, the most fulfilling. I had no idea how much I’d missed being with people during the pandemic. We completed two course rounds this year. My first had 11 people in it — the perfect size. We met via Zoom each week for eight weeks, working through a book called The Little Things: Why You Really Should Sweat the Small Stuff by my boss, Andy Andrews. 

The way it works is, we each come to the Zoom table each week having read the assignment — usually 1-2 chapters. We begin by discussing anything we may have encountered in the week since our previous meeting that may relate to something we’ve learned in the chapters we’ve covered so far, then we tackle that week’s chapters. The course is highly interactive. I begin by summarizing the chapter and saying a few things to lead us into the discussion, and then it flows naturally from there, allowing each class member to share their insight, wisdom, examples, thoughts, etc. 

What moved me so deeply is how quickly I grew to value the input of each class member. What incredible wisdom was shared — I learned FAR more from them than anything I had to offer! We had a variety of age groups in there, but I am confident all the young whippersnappers would agree, the wisdom the older folks shared was by far the most valuable. Friendships were quickly forged, and eventually, taken offline. 

In September, I had the honor of meeting my oldest class member from that first class. She lived near where John and I were camping, so we decided to go spend a day with her. I cannot begin to explain what that did for us — or for her. What an incredible blessing it was!

Another lady from that class invited me to do a Bible Study with her — and another lady from another Life Skills course joined in. The Lord blessed me with two more friendships — people I’d have never have met outside that class! I wouldn’t trade these new friendships for anything in this world. 

My second course went much the same. And though I do want to invite you to consider joining my January class, that’s not why I’m telling you all this. 

I just want to encourage you to find your people. 

That looks different for each of us. Maybe for you, that means starting a Bible Study, attending the ladies luncheon at church every Tuesday, Men’s Prayer breakfast at church on Saturday morning, or playing volleyball or basketball at the rec center with a bunch of friends. Maybe that means going hunting with a buddy. Maybe it means taking a class, or joining a book club. Whatever the activity — stop making excuses and just do it. 

One of the biggest excuses I hear from people about taking a class — be it mine or someone elses, is “I’m too old” or “I’m too busy.” I know what busy looks like, and I get that — we make time for what’s important to us. But old? You’re never too old! I’ve had more than one 80-year-old class member who managed to figure out how to use Zoom and show up each week — and I promise you, they loved every minute of it. I had two older class members tell me that taking that 8-week course completely changed their outlook on life, helping them realize they DO still have purpose. What an encouragement! 

We were not created to live in isolation — you’ve no doubt heard the adage “no man is an island unto himself.” We need others so we can thrive, and so we can encourage others to thrive! 

So, let this be a challenge to you — whether you’re 20 or 90 — make 2023 the year you find your people. 

(and if you can’t figure out where they are, join me in studying The Little Things! Bring a friend! I’d love to have you, and I can pretty much guarantee you’ll find them there!) 

*Crossposted to Substack*

Time to Listen to My Own Advice

Yesterday, I wrote about looking for where God is working in the midst of challenges. 

I didn’t know less than 24 hours later I’d be forced to choose whether to follow or ignore my own advice. 

We have two German Shepherds named Aspen and Rocky. Aspen is the baby (5), but we’ve had her since she was a pup. We adopted Rocky when he was four (he’s now 7) after his humans abandoned him. 

A week or so ago, Aspen started acting a bit off. Nothing major. She was still eating well, still pottying like usual, but she was a bit less playful than her usual ALWAYS playful self, and was panting when she’d lay on her side. Since there were no other clues, we kept an eye on her and began the process of looking for a vet. (we’ve just relocated)

The last two days, we noticed her acting like she doesn’t feel well, but again, no major symptoms — we finally heard back from a vet and took her today. 

Sadly, our Aspen is a very sick girl. X-rays show that her lungs are full of something. The vet cannot confirm what, but he and the radiologist determined it’s either a severe fungal infection or cancer. Neither are really a best case scenario. Both look very, very bad. 

Since there’s nothing they can do until they determine what it is, we determined, based on the advice of our new vet, to bring her home tonight rather than admit her and have her be alone and stressed in a Veterinary Hospital where they still wouldn’t be treating her, because they’re unsure what they’re dealing with. 

So here we are. 

And here I am. Trying to choose to see where God is working. 

I’m thankful He allowed us to notice — in the midst of all the busyness of the Christmas season — that something is off. 

I’m thankful Rocky’s behavior has been unusual — it caused us to wonder what in the world was going on. He’s always such a good boy, but for two weeks, he’s just about driven us crazy whining. Constantly.

Aspen just turned five. I’m happy she’s had a wonderful, relatively healthy, happy life to this point. 

Aspen has never once gone potty (#1 or #2) in the house since she was a tiny puppy with a UTI. That is unheard of for a dog. 

Rocky is the light of her life. He came into our lives three years ago very unexpectedly, and she loved him from the moment they met. Now, they’re inseparable. 

Apsen chewed the corner of our bed about two years ago during a storm. That is the only thing she’s ever chewed or ruined. She adores her toys. The only damage she’s ever done to a toy was her big fat hedgehog, which she played with so much it became threadbare. Twice. I just bought her third replacement. 

I’m thankful God led us to a Christian veterinary clinic. They are so compassionate — they clearly care about the animals and their humans. 

Finally, today, the vet shared how impressed he is with how well behaved Aspen and Rocky are. We have a long way to go with training, they’re certainly far from perfect, but I’m thankful God gave us two of the best dogs on the planet. I hope we’ve been good stewards of that which God has blessed us with. 

I don’t know what tomorrow holds. We see a specialist at 1:00 PM for answers. We’d appreciate your prayers — I believe God cares deeply about our pets and hears our prayers. 

We’re boldly asking for a Christmas miracle. 

*Crossposted to Substack*

My Favorite Go-To Websites for Advice on Gluten Free Eating

Were you recently told you need to switch to a gluten free diet and you’re scrambling around trying to figure out what in the world that even means?

Or are you already gluten free and on the hunt for some advice on how you can change things up?

Maybe you’re someone who’s heard just enough about gluten free eating to know it could help you feel better – whatever the case, I’m here to help, this time with my favorite list of go-to websites.

But first, for any newbies, let’s briefly discuss what gluten is.

A common misconception is, if you have to eat gluten free, you just need to eliminate wheat from your diet. Not so fast…while it’s true you do need to eliminate wheat, that’s not the whole story.

Gluten is the protein naturally found in some grains including, but not limited to, wheat, barley, and rye. It’s a bit like a glue that holds foods together and gives things like bread and pizza dough their stretch. Without it, dough can be pretty crumbly.

There are a dozen or so unconventional grains that also contain gluten — I’ll let you google these rather than diving that far into the subject on this post. One very common naturally gluten free grain is oats, but they aren’t often labeled as such because of cross-contamination either in the growing or packaging process.

Those are the obvious gluten sources. Where we can all tend to get into trouble is with the less obvious (or totally hidden) sources like soy sauce, dressings, and foods containing modified food starch (often disguised as a filler).

Be vigilant. When I started eating gluten free about 16 years ago, my choices were quite limited, especially when eating out. (Stay tuned, I’m working on another blog post about restaurants) Since then, a trip to Whole Foods or Trader Joes (or honestly, even Costco!) is like a trip to the mall when I was a teenager. There are gluten free substitutes for nearly everything – you just have to go to the right grocery stores.

Back to the subject at hand, however, here are just a few of my favorite go-to websites for recipes, or health and fitness advice in general.

My Favorite Go-To Websites

Danielle Walker

By far, my favorite website and Instagram page for all things gluten free is Danielle Walker. She’s written four cookbooks, has another one in the works, and recently released an excellent book about her life, called Food Saved Me.

Danielle’s family is clearly the light of her life. I love that following her is like having an old friend that knows (from personal experience) a little bit about the health struggles I’ve faced in my own life – although hers are much more serious.

Her old website, Against All Grain, is full of great recipes, as well. Be sure to check it out! You won’t be sorry.

Max Lugavere 

Although not everything he offers is gluten free, another one of my favorites on both his website and Instagram, is Max Lugavere. His podcast, The Genius Life Podcast, is always a fun listen, as well. He just released a new cookbook called The Genius Kitchen, but I don’t own it yet.

Max gives down to earth, common sense advice about a variety of health related issues, including fitness and healthy eating.

Ben Greenfield 

Although this one isn’t entirely food-related, I couldn’t resist including it.

Whether you follow him on his website or on Instagram, you’ll quickly realize Ben Greenfield is more than just a little bit serious about all things fitness, healthy eating, and bio-hacking. He’s a bit extreme in some areas, but I thoroughly enjoy listening to his podcast (called Ben Greenfield Fitness) and learning everything I can. Every episode is an adventure, and I value that.

Mark Sisson 

One of the most brilliant minds in diet and fitness today is Mark Sisson, author of Primal Blueprint and numerous other books about the paleo lifestyle. Mark’s website Mark’s Daily Apple is chock full of recipes, health, and fitness advice.

My family and I eat primarily paleo, and Mark is second only to Danielle Walker for who I consult with any gluten free eating-related question. When it comes to fitness, Sisson is number one on my list.

Michelle Tam

I only recently found Michelle, on her fun website called Nom Nom Paleo. She’s got a wealth of great recipes both on her website, and in her three cookbooks, which read a lot like comic books. She also offers her own great line of spice mixes.

Michelle makes gluten free cooking fun – let’s be honest, we can all use a little more fun when it comes to cooking gluten free!

Andrea Hannemann

Last, but certainly not least, is Andrea Hannemann – otherwise known as Earthy Andy – who offers incredible gluten free, vegan recipes and is just a joy to follow on Instagram.

I first heard Andrea on a podcast interview years ago, when she shared her story on how and why she switched to eating vegan. It was so interesting and inspiring, I’ve been following her ever since, and now own her beautiful first cookbook, Plant Over Processed.

And there you have it – my favorite go-to websites for all things health, fitness, and gluten free eating!

I’d love to hear – what are your favorites? Please leave a comment below and let me know!