Why “What Impact Am I Having?” is the wrong question.

Yesterday I returned home from MOMcon 2016 in Milwaukee.  Oh, what a sweet, sweet time of communion with Jesus, learning new stuff, and serving moms and MOPS leaders from all over the world.  It is good for the soul!

During our MOPS Volunteer Staff training before MOMcon began, we were challenged to spread kindness by writing notes and leaving them all over where people would find them and be encouraged.  Here’s an example:


This was so much fun!  Writing them and wondering how the person who found it would react, or finding one yourself and feeling your heart smile.  I think I may just continue doing this randomly around my community!

Anyways, this morning as I was driving my kiddos to school I was wondering to myself what impact all of that had not only on the women who attended MOMcon, but also to the people of Milwaukee.  My thoughts turned more inward-focused, to the question, “what impact am I having in the ministries I’m involved in?”.

And then I quickly realized that’s the wrong question to be asking.

Since I have no power to change lives – only Jesus can do that – why am I asking about it?  As I thought more and more about this, I decided that THESE are the questions I should be asking myself:

Did I seek God?

Did I do what He told me to do?

Did I give it my best?

Because the bottom line is that the results are ALWAYS up to Him.  My job is simply to listen and obey.

I’ve blogged about this before here, but I think of Moses as he approached Pharoah, asking Pharoah to let the Israelites go.  What if Moses over-analyzed after the first, or second, or even eighth time of asking Pharoah, and thought: “well, this whole thing is not having the impact I thought it would so I’m going to give up”?

So often I tend to analyze what I’ve done or been involved in, trying to figure out if what I’ve done has had “results” or has been “successful” (and too often in my mind that is directly linked to, “did it go well or smoothly?”.  But the fact is, God’s ways are above my ways.  He is still working even when things down here don’t look like they are going well.  And truth be told, we don’t even have the capacity to know the full ramifications of the actions we take!

THAT is why we walk by faith and trust in God, not by sight.  As Mandy Arioto (president and CEO of MOPS International) said this weekend at MOMcon, “we live by faith so the world knows that God can be trusted.”

So here’s to walking fully in faith, keeping my eyes on Jesus, and asking myself only if I’ve listened to Him, followed and obeyed Him, and given it my all.


Trim Healthy Mama Favorite Recipes

It really seems like Trim Healthy Mama (THM) has caught on – I have several friends now locally who are on the plan and by the number of blog visitors that view my how to get started post, it seems that lots of people want to find out more!

When I first got started with THM about 2 1/2 years ago, I tried many recipes that frankly, were flops.  I realized that I needed a simple way to keep the recipes that were winners (and also a simple way to add notes about what tweaks I’d made).  I also needed to not be printing out recipes because I have paper issues (have you seen the picture of my kitchen table here?)

So I gravitated to and have primarily used Pinterest for finding new recipes beyond those in the THM books.  Pinterest is so easy to search and it’s also so easy to save links to recipes you want to try or those you’ve tried that are keepers!  You can also comment on the links you pin, and that’s where I make my recipe notes.

(There’s one small caveat and downside to Pinterest, however, that I’ll tell you upfront – if the blog / website that you’ve pinned a link to goes away, then your recipe goes away.  That’s happened to me twice now – two recipes from the same blog that were so good and I’m so sad I didn’t print them out.  My suggestion is that if you find a recipe that you know you love and will make a lot, you may want to print the recipe.)

When my local friends get started and ask me what recipes I like and what my family likes, I always point them to my Pinterest boards.  Here are some links for you as well:

THM Keepers – entrees

THM Keepers – breakfasts and breads

THM Keepers – desserts

THM Keepers – sides

THM Keepers – snacks & drinks

These are recipes that I’ve tried and at least half my family will eat.  Ha! That’s my criteria for whether I keep it or not!

Hope this helps those of you who are looking for inspiration!

Traveling with kids to DC

Mid-August we took a family trip to Washington, D.C..  It is one of the most beautiful cities!  Our kids were, I think, perfect ages for seeing many historic sites, monuments, and museums.  (Oh, and we can’t forget Georgetown Cupcake as my little one is a fan of the show “DC Cupcakes”!)

Some photos from our trip:


Pool Time!

Pool Time!



The White House

The White House

Botanical Gardens

Botanical Gardens

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

There is so much to see in DC that realistically, you cannot do it all in one vacation.  I wanted to see as much as possible but also pace ourselves so we’d still have some down time.  Weeks before the trip I gave the kids the DC tourist guidebook (get a free one here:  https://washington.org/visitor-request-form) and let them each pick five things that they really wanted to see.  I put priority on seeing those things and planned out our days to be most efficient getting around the city – and we were able to see everything on the lists!  Now don’t get me wrong, we were still exhausted from lots and lots of walking – but we were back to the hotel before dinner most nights so we could just hang out and relax!

Although we were turned down for a White House tour (BOO!), we still saw lots of great stuff.  Our favorites were going up into the Washington Monument (yes, it’s worth it!), the Lincoln Memorial, The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and my personal favorite, Ford’s Theatre.  So much in DC has free admission – which is good, because lodging and eating out are not cheap!

For us, one of the perks in going to a large city for vacation is the amazing variety of gluten-free restaurant choices.  Traveling with celiac disease can be challenging because you really have to research restaurants ahead of time.  We found some fabulous restaurants with gluten-free menus and so all was good.  I primarily used the following websites to research:  www.findmeglutenfree.com, http://www.tripadvisor.com, and good old google. The best ones we found that had gluten free menus and great food – b DC Penn Quarter and Pi Pizzeria.

I highly recommend finding an affordable hotel downtown as it will cut down on travel time and allow you to do the most sightseeing possible.  (Just a warning that most downtown hotels charge ALOT daily for parking.)  We stayed at Hyatt Place – National Mall and loved it.  I also recommend getting SmarTrip cards from the metro (either when you first get there, or save yourself hassle and order them online ahead of time and have them shipped to you).  These cards give you lower metro fares and can also be used for the DC Circulator bus routes at a rate of $1 per person for 2 hours of hop-on / hop-off rides.  The savings is worth it!

All in all, we loved DC!

Summer 2016

Just giving you a few photos to distract you from the fact I didn’t blog at all in July!  Ha – I love the faces on my kids and the weird photos we take – they pretty much perfectly sum up our life.

Just keepin’ it real – we’ve done lots of nothing this summer.  Sitting in front of the TV, playing video games, work (for me), swimming in the pool, reading, playing games, campfires, and of course the incessant sibling arguing.  And feeding these people during the summer is no joke:


But there have been some other fun things, too – an amusement park trip, work picnic at the zoo, summer soccer, tennis programs, a cooking class, and professional soccer games.

And the best thing is we still have a month of summer left before school starts.  Yay!

How are things at your house this summer?


Sweet, sweet summer

Well, summer is in full swing here! I love the laid-back schedule and feeling that we can do anything we want, whenever we want! (Full disclosure-very soon the lack of routine will leave me crying. But for now it’s all good!)

Memorial Day weekend we decided to give away our kids’ fort to our neighbor. I didn’t realize how sad they would be – or how sad I would be about it! Just another reminder that they are growing up too fast! But it was a good way to start out the summer because I now find myself more likely to be enjoying the present- to be in the moment- with the kids. More likely to say, “sure!”, with actual anticipation when they suggest an activity.

Here’s a picture I took of them years ago in the fort. It’s one of my all-time favorite pictures of them!


And here’s a picture I took of them the day we gave it away.  Oh, my goodness!!


There are all too many reminders these days that our time is limited with all three kids at home. I want to thrive this summer- not just survive!

Here are a few things I’m trying this summer to keep myself sane and able to fully enjoy the kids:

Get them to help more with cleaning.

Don’t neglect my first-thing in the morning time of prayer.

Get in the pool with the kids, often.

Say yes to time with friends without feeling guilty.

Do something creative every few days (write, practice hand-lettering, scrapbook, work on redecorating our living room).

Do one extra organizing or cleaning task every day. I’m pretty good at doing maintenance chores around the house like cooking, dishes, laundry- but then I tend to let everything else go. I’m challenging myself to do one extra thing each day so I feel like I’m making progress! So far so good, but we’ll see how long it lasts!!

How’s your summer going so far?  How do you thrive during the summer?

Stamina for Mothering

Next week my kids will be done with 9th grade, 7th grade, and 3rd grade.  It’s unbelievable how fast they are growing up!!  We’ve had lots of ups and downs this school year and I’m looking forward to summer vacation and a more relaxed schedule (read: being able to sleep past 5:45 am).


I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately – how does one not only survive, but thrive in these years of mothering?  Motherhood requires stamina.

Stamina = staying power or strength to endure.

Motherhood is beautiful, amazing, wonderful.  But it’s also hard.  I need stamina, and so do you – to serve our families well for years on end, to teach, train, and discipline our children, and to endure through struggles.

I thought I’d share with you the three things that have been helpful to me to maintain my stamina:

  1. Build in time for rest
  2. Build up my friendships
  3. Build up my faith

Sometimes I’m good at these and sometimes I’m not.  But I know when I am intentional about investing in these things, I have more bandwidth for all the demands of life.

Building in time for rest is key for me to be able to keep going day after day.  Physical, emotional, spiritual rest for the soul.  All of them.  Am I getting enough sleep?  Do I have enough “down” time? (for me, that’s time when I don’t feel rushed, I’m not running anyone around, I can think and breathe deeply)  Do we have enough “down” time as a family?  Am I putting down my phone and enjoying my family?

Building up friendships means investing in those deep, authentic relationships with other women.  Women who will accept me, pray for me, give me guidance or just a listening ear when I need it.  The older my kids get (and I get!), the more I depend on my friends.  Mothering is hard – we need people cheering us on!  Some questions to ask – do I have authentic, deep relationships that I can count on?  Am I investing in them?

Building up my faith has been clearly the most important on this list.  When I am weak, it is only God that can give me the strength to go on.   God is our rock, our firm foundation, our wisdom, our strength.  Am I spending time in prayer and time reading God’s word?  Am I building up my faith through interacting with other believers?  Is growing closer to God a priority in my life?

Every now and then when I get overwhelmed I try to go back to these three things and assess how I’m doing by asking myself those questions.  It’s so helpful to getting back on track.

So now it’s your turn -do you have any other things that you consider to be essential for building stamina in your life?  Please share!

What to do when you don’t know what to do.

It was mid-2001.  I had a newborn (my first).  I was beginning to learn that the norm of motherhood is not having all the answers (or, really, any of the answers).

I had also committed to reading through the bible for the first time that year.  I may have been a little optimistic in my goal setting, huh?

I got through Genesis and Exodus pretty easily – after all, they are pretty fascinating stories!  Then I hit Leviticus and to be honest, I started to wonder not only about my level of commitment to this goal, but also about whether or not the Old Testament would have many lessons for my daily life.  I stuck with it.  And was amazed by the store of wisdom from God in those pages.

I remember happening upon the story of Jehoshaphat, King of Israel, in 2 Chronicles Chapter 20.  He  was one of the kings who did seek God – in fact in Chapter 19, he was described as having his heart set on God.  So in Chapter 20 we find him with an opposing nation coming at him intent on war.  And this verse is the one that caught my attention because it resonated with me – verse 21 – “Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  In other words – he was crying out to God to manage this situation because he knew he couldn’t.  He didn’t know what to do, so he did what he was able- he set not only his heart but his eyes on God.

Sound familiar to any of you?  I have come back to this verse again and again through my years of mothering because there are so many times I don’t know what to do.  Can you relate?

The amazing thing in this story is what happens next.  God hears Jehoshaphat’s prayer and answers it by giving a message to Jehoshaphat through someone in his community.  Verses 15-17 share what this man said to Jehoshaphat, “This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.  Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel.  You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.”‘

God speaks such sweet words of encouragement to Jehoshaphat:  I’ve got this.  Don’t be afraid.  Don’t get discouraged because you don’t know what to do.  Even though the circumstances look bleak, you will get through this with my help.  I won’t leave you alone.

Listen up, friends.  God is speaking the same words of encouragement to you today.  If you are in a place where you don’t know what to do next, it’s ok!  All you have to do is set your eyes on Him.  Look to Him for guidance and direction.  Trust Him and He will provide.