5 Simple Steps to Establish a Toxin Free Family

There are so many things out there to worry about. We are constantly bombarded with this and that will harm, cause cancer, or cause ABC problem for our family or kids. This is not a fear based post. I just want to communicate my heart for switching to safer cleaners, laundry detergent, and beauty products. I started sweeping my home of toxins almost 2 years ago. I decided to do this because of the health problems I was facing (which you can read about here and here). I always recommend starting slowly with one or two items at a time. I always get questions from friends and family who are looking to switch to safer products and get rid of toxic products in their homes. I hope this post helps you, but please know these are my opinions. I would love to know what works for you! I will even include one of my favorite DIY recipes for you to make your own foaming hand soap at home!
1. Laundry detergent was one of the first things I switched in my home. I made my own for a while, but I slowly realized it was not getting my laundry as clean as I would like and it seemed really rough on our clothes. I read more and most of the ingredients in homemade detergent are laundry boosters, and there wasn’t enough soap to actually get my clothes clean. For laundry, I use Kirkland’s Environmentally Responsible Laundry detergent from Costco. I think it is one of the cheaper and most effective detergents out there that is plant based and not full of toxins. It also smells really good. I ditched the dryer sheets and I use wool dryer balls and drop 2-3 drops of essential oil on them for fabric softener. I only add new drops of oil every 3-4 loads.
2. For dish soap, I use Seventh Generation and I think a little goes a really long way. It is more expensive than other dish soaps, but I feel like you don’t have to use as much at all. I have used the same bottle for about 6 months–and I wash bottles and pots and pans with it every day.
3. I used to buy really expensive hand soaps that were wonderfully scented, but full of yucky stuff I couldn’t pronounce. Now, for hand soap, I make my own in a foaming soap dispenser (you can buy empty ones on Amazon, or just use the ones you have leftover, which is what I usually do!). Recipe is at the bottom of this post! Try it and let me know how it works for you!
4. For make-up, Target has a whole section of natural/plant based products. I have just ordered the new Young Living Sweet Savvy Mineral Makeup! I can’t wait to do a demo for you all and show you how it works! I usually get my mascara from Vitacost–they have mineral based mascara and it tends to be super cheap and works great! But, Young Living also just released their mascara and as soon as it is back in stock, I will be sure to demo that for you, too! Beauty products seem like no big deal, but our skin really is our biggest organ. I switched to all Young Living lotions, soaps and I even use their shampoo and conditioner. I make my own lip balm and put them in containers (I give the extras away or add them to gifts!). I am on Essential Rewards with Young Living, so I get my monthly wellness box every month full of things like toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, soap and shampoo. I get points back every month for free products, too!
5. I used to make my own deodorant, but I just don’t think I could get the right proportion of ingredients for maximum effectiveness. So I began trying every natural deodorant under the sun! After many rounds of trial and odor (HA! but for real!), I finally found what works for me and the Engineer. We use a brand called Schmidt’s. It works, it doesn’t have aluminum or ingredients you can’t pronounce, and they have a variety of scents and unscented (which is my favorite) and sensitive skin, too. I usually put a drop of lavender essential oil on my arm pits, and then apply deodorant. Lavender helps the sensitive under arm skin feel smooth and happy!
There are many other ideas on switching to safer products that I will include in my toxin-free family series. I love sharing the products I use and how they work for me! Let me know what works for you in the comments below!
I also order monthly from Grove Collaborative! I am a VIP, so I always get free shipping and tons of free goodies! It is a great way to get your essentials shipped to your home without having to go to the store! And with 2 littles, I need all the help I can get! Here’s my referral link: https://www.grove.co/referrer/566274/ We both get $10 if you click my link!

DIY foaming hand soap recipe:

¼ c unscented castile soap (or scented is good, too! I have been using the Almond Bronner’s Soap that I get from Grove and it smells divine!!)

2 t olive oil or Vitamin E oil (I use Vitamin E during the winter when my hands need a little help!)

5 drops YL lavender eo

5 drops YL frankincense eo

(I use different oils in different seasons. In my kitchen right now I have Rosemary and Lemon in my soap dispenser. Use what you love!)

1 Tbsp witch hazel (helps to emulsify the oils with the water)

2 c water

Put in a foaming pump dispenser and it should last 4-6 weeks! 

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How to cloth diaper: Wash Routines and Issues

Baby E is 6 months old, and we have been using cloth diapers for about 5 months. The Engineer and I both love cloth diapering, but we have had our share of issues with them. I want to share with you my tips of how we worked through the issues and still love the cloth! If you are thinking about cloth diapering, I will share the resources I find the most helpful in this series of blog posts.

There are many issues that can come up with cloth diapering, and they may seem overwhelming. The key is identifying the problem and finding the solution. There is always a solution! We had a washing machine problem that came up first. We had been cloth diapering for about 3 months before we had any issues at all. All of a sudden, my washer would stop spinning and say it was imbalanced. (We have a front loader LG machine). We would restart and the same issue would come up. So I began asking around my favorite mom groups, my book club ladies (most of them cloth their babies) and Fluff Love on Facebook. I received a lot of support and help from both groups. The solution: add small towels to my second wash load. So, I began adding my kitchen towels to my second wash and my issue was resolved!

Another issue we have had is E’s wet diapers smell like ammonia. There’s a lot of science-y stuff that explains why, which you can find here. I just wanted to know how to get rid of it! We realized that we weren’t using quite enough detergent, and that we have somewhat hard water. So we have added some detergent to the routine and I have purchased some Calgon water softener to help with our hard water issues. Hard water can leave a residue on diapers (clothes, too) and can make diapers stinky. Some detergents cannot work as well in hard water because they are working to soften the water instead of cleaning the diapers. I use Seventh Generation 4x Geranium and Vanilla and sometimes I use BioKleen or the Kirkland Environmentally Responsible (which I use on my regular laundry). There are lots of different approved detergents for cloth diapers, these are just the ones I use. You can find a detergent list on Fluff Love. The solution: add a water softener, add a little more detergent, and do an extra rinse/spin to make sure all the detergent has been washed out. I am finally getting the results by adding these steps to my routine.

When we had the stinky problems, I looked into stripping my diapers. There are a lot of opinions about this out there, but I just had to get my diapers clean. I found a product from Biokleen called Bac-Out. It has plant based enzymes that break down the stink and gets rid of it. I washed my diapers twice on quick cycle in hot water with a few squirts of Bac-Out, then washed them in a regular cycle with detergent, like normal. Y’all. My diapers don’t smell like anything. They smell like they are new again! They are white, clean, stain free and not stinky! I am so thankful! The solution: Get rid of the stink with Bac-Out!!

Useful products for cloth diapers:

I always use these wool dryer balls in my dryer with all of my clothes, but especially with cloth diapers.

I use a diaper sprayer on my toilet to wash away the waste and flush it.

I have 2 wet bags that stay in my diaper bag for easy diapering on the go. I wash these with my diaper laundry.

I have one large hanging wet bag where I store the dirty diapers. I wash my diapers every 3 days.

Dry your diapers in the sun! It will get rid of stains and disinfect your diapers, making them smell fresh and look white again.

And my biggest piece of advice: Give yourself time to figure it all out. I read so much while I was pregnant and still didn’t know how it was going to work until E was born and we were actually using the diapers. It has taken a good 5 months of use for me to get my routine down and experiment with trial and error. Once you have your routine, you are good to go! I am always here to help and answer any questions you may have.

There’s a lot more to say about cloth diapering, so if you have any specific questions about it, leave a comment and let me know! I will try to research and find a solution!

Do you use Vitacost? I love buying my natural products from them, including laundry detergent. They often have sales on the products I already use and they usually have free shipping. Use my referral link and we both get $10!

**Affiliate and referral links posted. Opinions are my own.

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How to cloth diaper and not get overwhelmed

Baby E is 6 months old, and we have been using cloth diapers for about 5 months. The Engineer and I both love cloth diapering, but we have had our share of issues with them. I want to share with you my tips of how we worked through the issues and still love the cloth! If you are thinking about cloth diapering, I will share the resources I find the most helpful in this series of blog posts.

When I was pregnant with E, I knew pretty early on that I wanted to try cloth diapering. My friends threw a cloth diaper shower for me and I received the bulk of my stash! I am really blessed by some great friends! I also started reading everything I could find about cloth diapering. I use modern cloth diapers, which include pockets and All-in-ones. It may seem like a huge expense upfront, but I promise, cloth diapering will save you money in the long run! It really helped us to have a cloth diaper shower that our friends and family gave for us. We were able to save so much money this way. Also, if you are using cloth for more than one child, you are definitely saving a ton of money that would be wasted with buying disposables. And baby’s bottom has never looked cuter than it does in cloth!

This post includes the types of cloth diapers. Other topics in this series include: solving issues with wash routines and using cloth while out and about. If you have cloth question, be sure to leave a comment below!

Emmett in his swim cloth diaper at the pool!

Pocket diapers and All-In-Ones are what I use most of the time. I do have some fitteds with covers as well. There is a lot of cloth diaper jargon, so maybe this will help. Pocket diapers have pockets that you stuff with an absorbent insert like microfiber, hemp, or cotton. They are lined with a fleece or suede cloth that stays dry, while the baby’s waste is absorbed into the insert. You have to remove the insert each time you wash. All-in-Ones are similar to pockets, but the inserts are sewn into the diaper. These are often a little more expensive, but many people like these for daycare/babysitters/grandparents because they are just as EASY as disposables. Our pockets and all-in-ones are all from bumGenius. The outside of a pocket diaper and an all in one is usually made from a waterproof fabric called PUL. bumGenius has 2 different all in ones: Elemental all in ones are made from organic cotton. Freetime all in ones are microfiber and cotton. I use the Freetimes!

Fitteds are made of cotton or hemp and they are NOT waterproof. They require a waterproof cover (Thirsties has a great one) to go over them. We use Kissaluvs and OsoCozy and these are great for overnights because the hemp absorbs a LOT of liquid. Other diapering options: You could also use a prefold (old school diapers! but just as reliable) or flour sack towel (folded and incredibly economical) with a waterproof cover, and that is a great option! I know there are other types of cloth diapers, but these are the ones we have used and loved.

The swim cloth diaper I use is from Applecheeks. They are made of a mesh material that lets water move freely, but keeps any messes fully contained! I love not having to buy swim diapers! I just wash this with the other diapers.

Erin over at The Humbled Homemaker has written a lot about cloth diapering. I heard her speak last August and knew I needed to know more! She did a whole series that you can find here. She also wrote a book about it, and those nights when I was not able to sleep during the 6th and 7th months of pregnancy I was up reading about cloth diapering! But, I think you all know by now that I research and read everything before I dive into something new! Nerd alert!

Do you use cloth diapers? Are you interested in starting to use them? Let me know if you have any questions! Stay tuned for the next posts in this series!


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Momentous May

I decided to download Timehop this year. I know, I am totally behind the times. But, it seemed like a fun idea and everyone was posting cute things from years past and I thought, why not see what I have posted in the past 11 years of social media takeover? I noticed a major theme this month, more than any other month of the year. May is a huge month. Things happen in May. For me, more than any other month in my life, every year something huge and/or life changing happens in May! Let’s take a look, shall we? I’ll highlight the major ones.

May 2001: Graduated from High School 
May 2003: I went to Paraguay for 2 weeks on my first major mission trip with Wesley
May 2005: Graduated from UGA!! 
May 2006: Led my first mission trip of 12 people to Sao Paulo, Brazil
May 2007: Led a mission trip of 21 people to Tanzania, Africa
May 2008: Ended my time interning at Wesley, worked full time for St James UMC with Youth
May 2009: Led a mission trip of 9 people to Montenegro
May 2010: I accepted a job in Walkersville, Maryland as the Children’s Pastor and Day School Director, I moved in June of 2010. 
May 2011: Went to Stuttgart, Germany to meet my future in-laws! Got engaged in June.
May 2012: Put an offer on our house, went under contract. Moved in August of 2012.
May 2013: Our Missional Community (Windborne Church) started with 6 folks!
May 2014: End my year teaching Pre-K, the very next day we became foster parents to 2 boys.
May 2015: Vacationed at Kiawah Island, came home and took a pregnancy test and it was positive! One year ago today (May 24, 2015) I found out I was finally going to be a mama!
May 2016: Vacation at Kiawah–we have been going there on vacation for 20 years now!
There were a lot of things that happened in between, but y’all, May is intense! I think finding out I was going to be a mama took the cake, but the month of May has been such an amazing, thrilling, busy, full of traveling month in my life! I think I am ready to travel again, it has been 5 years since I have traveled overseas…where oh where is my passport?!?
Is there a month in your life that year after year seems to be momentous? I’d love to hear that I am not the only one!
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The wait is over!

Have you ever felt so many emotions all in one day that when someone asks you “How are you?” you feel confused, unable to answer in a short answer, and need about an hour to actually tell them how you really are doing. I am not a fan of small talk. I enjoy long conversations, including real life stuff, asking questions back and forth over coffee that grows cold half way in to the conversation. I crave this kind of life-sharing! Lately I haven’t had enough of this and I need it. Tell me I am not alone in this!

The Engineer and I are at a great place in our marriage, and we are contemplating what is next. If you have been around here for a while, you’ll know we have struggled immensely in our short 3.5 year marriage with infertility, failed adoption, and my diagnosis with MS. And y’all, that stuff is rough. But knowing I have this sweet man by my side and knowing that Jesus has our hearts and know the plans He has for us, well then I can make it through anything.

And then, all in one day things can change dramatically. Things you have waited for, wanted, prayed for, cried over, pleaded with God about….they just sort of happen. We have never given up on having our own children. We have always tried, every month that I was allowed to try (MS testing forbid us from trying for about 6 months last year) we would try to have a baby. I even started using essential oils on a daily basis, especially the ones that help support a healthy reproductive system and for energy support. Three and a half years of trying resulted in a positive pregnancy test late in May of this year!! We are over the moon and so thrilled at how things have happened and how God orchestrated it all for us! I am currently about 12 weeks pregnant and definitely beginning to show the baby bump!! We got to see and hear the baby a week ago and he/she was just flipping and dancing around with a strong heartbeat! It feels surreal and I still have to remind myself every day that I am pregnant and this is really happening (but then I see my reflection in the mirror and there is no doubt in my mind that there is a baby growing in there! HA!). Baby is due to be here, Lord willing, at the end of January 2016!

Having MS and being pregnant is actually wonderful. Typically people with MS do not experience many, if any, symptoms while pregnant. My neurologist is pretty sure I will stay in remission through out pregnancy. I have been feeling really good and have not had any issues at all with MS symptoms in the past 8 months! I am so thankful! If we can just bottle this up so I feel this great forever, that’d be awesome!! We will just start praying now for after I give birth that MS will stay in remission!

We are really rejoicing in the Lord about this pregnancy and know this baby is HIS! We are so thankful for the many who have prayed for us and with us through the years for a child! We both were made to be parents, and I cannot wait to be parents with my Engineer! We know what infertility feels like and the wait and wait and wait that we had to endure. In my first ultrasound they found a large cyst on my left ovary and a smaller cyst on my right ovary and could fully diagnose me with PCOS from those images. I knew from the symptoms that this was the cause of our infertility, but this confirmed it. We are so blessed that an egg made its way out of one of my ovaries!! Only God can make things like that happen when there are things blocking the path! He always makes a way! He is so good! We are so thankful!

I understand Hannah’s heart from the Bible. How she wept and prayed for children for years, and then one day everything changed and she was pregnant and had a healthy little boy named Samuel. And she praised God for the blessing of the child. I also identify with Abraham and Sarah who never felt like they would have children, and how she laughed when God told her she would have a child! I have laughed more about this pregnancy and baby than I have cried! I love how God has given us His word in order to identify with people and know He understands our hearts, our pain, as well as our joy.

27 I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.
1 Samuel 1:27

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My new favorite thing!

I have researched and read about this for almost a year now. I did not want to jump into this without knowing a little bit of everything. I think my husband is amazing for listening to me ramble on about this and that. It is true. I have consumed the Kool-Aid of Essential Oil mania! I fell in love with Young Living Essential Oils. And I want to tell you about it…because they have helped me so much! Now, I am not a doctor, but I do know from my own personal experience that Young Living Essential Oils have helped me!!

Most of you know, I was diagnosed with MS last September. I was experiencing many symptoms before my diagnosis, but we weren’t sure what was going on. I started looking into the oils and other ways to improve my life (supplements, yoga, diet, etc). I drastically changed my diet last year and began the Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle. Many of the mamas talked about the oils and supplements. So, I started researching as much as I could! I wanted to know the details, what they helped with, how to use them, etc. I started seeing a few friends post about the oils, specifically Young Living and so I began asking questions and I bought my first oil: Peppermint!

I always dilute my oils, mostly so they last longer and because oils like peppermint are considered “hot” oils and need some diluting for sensitive skin. I dilute using coconut oil or olive oil.
The next oils I bought: Thieves, Lavender and Cedarwood. Lavender and Cedarwood are very calming and help me relax (always dilute cedarwood, but lavender you can put on “neat” or straight on your skin without dilition). I use Thieves on my feet every single day! I work in a public library and you just never know what kind of germies are around! I love knowing that I am protecting myself without using harsh chemicals!
And I knew I couldn’t stop there, that I wanted a diffuser and I wanted more oils! So, I saved for a month and bought the Premium Starter Kit! Y’all. It is THE. BEST. DEAL. EVER. $150 for 11 oils, a home diffuser (a $90 value), a starter kit for sharing, 2 samples Ningxia Red, and 10 samples to pass out to friends/family. It is the best ever! So many oils are included and you get a 24% discount on oils for life! You never have to share, or you can share away and build a business! It is one of the best companies out there, and THE BEST for essential oils.

So, as I learn more I will share with you all here. I am amazed by the oils. They help me so much! I also think it is important to share with you all that just because I am using the oils doesn’t mean I am not listening to my doctors. I will continue to use my MS meds and give myself an injection 3x a week to hopefully slow in the progression of this disease. I will continue any and all tests that my doctors need me to do. I just know the oils have enhanced my quality of life and bring me better health and wellness. They are not a cure or a substitution for my other medicine, and they do have to be reapplied frequently for maximum results. I have been feeling better for the past 2 months, and I thank the Lord for that, my MS meds, and the oils for helping me! It feels so good to be healthy! 
I believe and trust in Young Living oils because of the promise they see as their calling: “Seed to Seal”. From the seed of every plant to the seal of every bottle, there are incredible standards in place that they do not compromise. EVER. No other company says that. No other company makes that kind of promise and sticks to it. So, I trust them for me and my family!

So, that’s what I am learning. I am constantly researching and building my knowledge on the oils. I would love to have some of you local people over for a class. If you would like to know more, let me know! I would also love to share my discount with you! I get a 24% discount. I am placing an order this Friday, February 20th. So, let me know if you would like to try something! I pray blessings and wellness over all of you!
Much love!!
The information on this website has not been evaluated or approved by the US FDA. Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Because the practice of medicine is regulated and protected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Medical Association (AMA), no medical claims pertaining to the effect, success or impact of Essential Oil’s can be made by anyone…not even by a licensed physician. The difference between practicing medicine and practicing health is a matter of language. To practice medicine requires a license…To promote good health does not. Therefore, we do not diagnose, prescribe or offer treatment for disease. We do offer health information to support and teach the visitors to our site how to rely on themselves to build better health.
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Walking through the fire…

Before I even begin to write what is on my heart today, I just have to say that I have the best people on the planet. If you read this, you are considered one of my people. And I am thankful for each and every one of you. Your kind words and encouragement blessed me beyond words yesterday. I was all teary-eyed and blessed! Thank you.

And at the same time, I know the Lord wanted me to post that process yesterday. He knew I would need the extra encouragement. He just knows these things, y’all. He knew I would get a phone call from my doctor yesterday morning. Just 2 hours after my post went live. Some people don’t share this much. But, for me, I have to.

I had my last MRI yesterday (which is a praise in itself…being in that tube/tunnel 5 times in the past month is pretty awful and definitely not my favorite thing in the world) and my doctor called me a little while later to let me know the lesions in my brain, the spinal fluid from my lumbar puncture 2.5 weeks ago, blood work, etc all concluded that I do, in fact, have MS. I still have a few more tests…but from what they know right now, this is MS. And y’all, that just stinks. Plain and simple, it has been a rough 24 hours sifting through my emotions. I think I knew this was coming…in the back of my mind I had a feeling this was it…I just didn’t want it to be so badly.

Some of my first thoughts have been:
Could I have prevented this somehow? I don’t think so…but it’s just a thought I have had.
I don’t really want to have a debilitating disease for the rest of my life.
I don’t really want to be on medication for the rest of my life.
How bad will it be? How often will I have flare ups?
Can we still have children? I mean, I think so, but will this make things even harder than they have been?
I just want to be able to do what I love to do. I don’t want to be held back by anything.

And, I am just flat out disappointed. I feel like we have gone through so much in our almost 3 years of marriage. This is just another thing to add to the list of many things we have struggled through. I need some hope. Some light at the end of the tunnel. Some good news. I just need something to look forward to.

What I do know:
This stinks! Like really bad.
I am surrounded by the best people. Seriously, y’all ROCK.
I know God knew this was going to happen. He is aware of my heart, my needs, my emotions, my healing. I know He still loves me.
I need to keep surrounding myself with people. I know enough about myself to know isolation is NOT good for me. But I also don’t want to do too much and be too tired. Such a balance and a struggle!
I have another test tomorrow to make sure my optical nerve is not damaged.
I have an appt with my doctor in a week to discuss plans for medication, further steps, etc.

So, for now, I need encouragement and your prayers for me and the engineer. I need people to listen and not throw medical jargon at me. I need to just be able to be me. I don’t want MS to define me. I don’t want every conversation to be about this. I want to share, but don’t want it to be all that I talk about.

My sweet friend sent this card to me today with this beautiful verse in it…clinging to this today:
Isaiah 43:2-3

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

So, I guess we will get close to the fire…but it will not consume me. And, again, I am not alone. Thank you for hearing me. Thank you for walking this road with me.


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A Learning Circle

We are about to enter my favorite season of the year. FALL.

Really, I love all the seasons. I love the change, the newness, the hope that is easier to feel, the weather, etc. You could say I am adaptable, and I am, but there is a predictability to the change because I expect it and want it. I think I just need change sometimes. It gets me out of a rut and moves me into the more that I desire.

But there is something about fall. The crisp mornings and warm afternoons. The bright blue sky. The crunch of leaves under my feet. Apples. Pumpkins. Mums, oh how I love mums. Decorating for the season. Baking lovely smelling loaves and muffins that fill me with joy. It is a generous season, one that people are thinking about others a little more. Or at least that is the way I want to live in this season.

But, this time last year was one of the hardest seasons. You can read about it here. It was hard. And a year later, it is hard to avoid the thoughts of “what could have been”. It was a hard Fall season. But there were good things in it, too. My sweet class of 16 four year olds that greeted me every day made it a lot easier. Our church family, boy do I love them, and they have loved us fiercely through it all.

And now, this fall season does not seem any easier than last fall. Actually, it is hard to see the hope some days. And not just with infertility, though that is always there, every day. My health has been something of concern this summer. What I thought was just a pinched nerve or inflamed muscles in my back that was causing my hands and arms to be numb…well, that has turned out to look more like MS (Multiple Sclerosis). My doctor has not diagnosed me yet, but he is testing for it in every way possible. I feel like a lab rat most days. I have 3 more weeks of testing and labs before the final diagnosis will take place. And y’all, the waiting is so hard. The unknown is terrible. And reading about it on the internet….well, you can just forget feeling normal after all of that mess! I feel ok most days, I feel like I can do this and can live a somewhat normal life through this. Right now the only symptom I have is numbness in my hands, which is not debilitating right now and I can do just about everything I could do before July (when the symptoms started). Some days are harder than others. Some days I am really tired. I am longing for some good news, y’all. Something that will make this season a little lighter, a little less hard, a little more joyful.

Our pastor has us thinking about a few things this week. He challenged all of us in our small group (or we call it a Huddle) to think about how we process things. So I decided to share how I am processing all of this here. He gave us this diagram called a Learning Circle (from 3DM ministry):

A kairos is a moment in time appointed by God. A moment where you know God is speaking and moving us to action. So, the learning circle is a way to process a kairos moment. We have been asked to process something in our life through the learning circle. So, my kairos moment is deciphering what God is saying through all of this. But also knowing I have to TALK to people about it. I have to share what is going on in my life. I cannot just act like everything is ok, but I have to share how I am really doing.

Observe: What is happening? How am I responding? What am I feeling?
I am being tested for MS. This is hard. I don’t know what to think or feel some days. I feel like running away from my life sometimes…but that seems too dramatic. I am responding by going through the motions, by doing what I am supposed to do. I am listening to the doctors, to people who have been through the same testing process, to people who have MS. I am waiting. I am feeling scared. I have some hope in there, too, though. My sweet husband is holding out on hope, and that makes me hope a little more. He prayed the other night about God being able to stop all of this with just ONE word. God is that powerful. He spoke the world into being. He made Adam from dust. He can make all of this go away. I am holding on to this truth right now. And that feels a little lighter than holding onto this disease-burden. I also know that by sharing this news with others, I am not carrying the burden on my own. I am allowing others to carry it with me. And that helps a lot.
Reflect: What is God saying to me about this? What has Jesus done about this? Who am I in light of what God has done, and in light of what God says?
I have not heard one way or another from the Lord about the MS, but I know He has asked me to share about it. I know Him to be good and faithful and true through all things. He has specifically asked me to tell certain people, and that has been hard. Mostly because I am a caretaker. I take care of other people and to have those roles reversed seems foreign. I know these truths from God’s Word:

1.     Psalm 68:19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.
2.    Galatians 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Discuss: How does God bring a new perspective? What is God calling me to respond to Him?
I think the new perspective has come by sharing the things in my mind out loud–they become more real, but a little less scary. Saying I may have MS has a weight to it, but somehow when the words are out of my head and out of my mouth, there is a weight that is lifted off me. In sharing about it, I am less alone. I am more in communion with others. I am where I am supposed to be. I am NOT alone. He is calling me to draw close to Him, share my life with others, be vulnerable and real. And it all goes back to being INTENTIONAL. Funny how things circle back around.

Plan: How will I respond?
I have been called to share my life with others. Through discipleship, through relationships. I do not have to be afraid of sharing my weaknesses. When I am weak, He makes me strong. I will share with  people (even people here on my blog), because sharing life is important. It is what makes us real, human, accountable. I need other people, too. I really need people to surround me, give me encouragement, and listen to me. I can receive from others. I will receive from others. 

So, this week, if my Bible study girls have not already read this and know, I will share with them. I will let them know what the past few months have been like. I knew I was supposed to say something last week and I chickened out. I don’t even know why. 
When people ask, I am going to tell them how I really feel. I will not dance around it. I will share. I will be open. I will be vulnerable. I am not alone in this. 
Accountability: Who is going to ask me if I follow through with my plan?
I know the Engineer will ask me. And I know my huddle folks will ask me next week.
Act: Just do it!
It takes courage for me to share these things. It takes courage to be vulnerable. I can sometimes do it behind a screen a lot easier than in front of people. I will do the things God has called me to do. And I know He will deepen relationships, establish new friendships and make a way for me. This is more than healing for my body, it is a healing for my heart, too. I will share my progress on the blog more often. I will let people know how I am really feeling.
 So, there it is. How I am really dealing. I don’t want to be dealing with this, but it is part of life right now. I am so thankful for the family and friends how have supported me in this season. The cards in the mail and the sweet text messages brighten my day. I know the more I share, the more healing will happen. Healing for my heart and prayerfully for my body, as well. I am praying for restored hope in this season. 

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(GIVEAWAY) Meaningful Entertaining…Made Simple

Many of us love decorating, cooking, making crafty things…if not all of these, then we at least enjoy one of these things! I know I love all of these things. I love having people over to my home, as well. It has become part of my life and a definite part of my heart to open my home to anyone and everyone that needs a place to be. Just BE.

I love hospitality. I believe I was made for it. But more than that, I desire to really love people the way the Jesus loves us. I want people to feel loved and at peace in my home. I pray that I can help women be able to open their homes, without worrying about perfection. Just being hospitable to their families, friends, neighbors, coworkers. I pray that through the use of these products, women can feel confident in their ability to entertain, to serve, and enjoy having people enter their homes. To love your neighbor as yourself.

Mary & Martha is my new company and they make products that give women the confidence to have people in their homes without the worry and fuss of “Is everything perfect??” “Do I have it all right?””Is everything in its place?”, etc. I love these products, the message and purpose behind them, and the beauty they create when added to your home.

I am currently reading The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to be Beautiful by Myquillin Smith “The Nester” and it is so great at covering the topic of having your home be a place of ministry, a retreat space for you and your family, but also for your neighbors, friends, coworkers, etc. I actually found Mary & Martha through The Nester’s blog and emailed a lady in the Atlanta area about being a consultant and 4 days later, I was signing up to sell the products myself! It has been 2 weeks and I am loving it!

The Engineer and I have been praying about what I should do during my “free” time right now. I am not going back to teaching the fall, but will stay home and “hopefully” have a foster child in our home soon. So, in all the praying, I knew I would want to stay close to home but also help to contribute financially to our household. And that same week was when I read about Mary & Martha! God knows what we need, exactly when we need it!

So, I am telling all of you about this because it matters to me. It matters to me that you would want to have people in your home. It matters to me that you wouldn’t shy away from inviting people in. It matters to me that your home become a place of rest, peace and love for your family. It matters to me because I believe Jesus wants us to have that–no matter the size of our home, the amount of “stuff” we have, etc. He wants us to invite people in, share life with them, share Him with them, and love people right where they are. Jesus, himself, got to experience this in the home of Mary and Martha many times, the Bible tells us. He taught them, and He received hospitality from them. I love that.

I would love to help you. I would love to help you feel comfortable with having people come into your home! Visit my website, check out our products, let me know what you think by leaving a comment below with your favorite product! You will be entered to win this fabulous item: Mary & Martha’s Medium Nested Market Basket! (This is one of my favorite pieces and a $46 value!!!)

If you would like to know more about the company, Mary & Martha, or would like to host your own gathering and earn FREE products, please contact me and me know! I would love to help you feel great about having people in your home! It is easier than ever to start your own business, as well! Business kits are being offered at 50% off right now through the end of this week!

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On the menu tonight: Italian Sausage and Broccoli Pasta

I have been saving a few recipes, creating new ones and trying to live a healthier lifestyle this year. Well, since February. I have been on the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) Plan and it is definitely working for me! I could see myself living and eating this way forever! Here is a link to a few of their Featured Recipes!

Most of the recipes from now on will be healthier, trimmer, and made with a lot less sugar or carbs! The wonderful part of this plan is I never feel deprived, hungry or like I am missing out on things. I love eating this way and I especially love the way I feel! And just reading the testimonies every day online are so encouraging and keep me going! I am not just in this to lose weight (I have lost 24 lbs as of today! Slow and steady, but it’s working!) but I am in this to be healthy! I am so thankful to have more energy and overall feel really great! My hormones are more in balance and my skin is clear!

I am also able to take recipes that I love, make a few tweaks and it works for THM! Here’s what I am making tonight! This is an S meal if you’re following THM. That means, it is a meal with low carbs (less than 6 grams digestible carbs) and high fat and protein.

Pasta is full of carbohydrates…and I love it soo much! But, there is a brand called Dreamfields out there that makes a low carb pasta that is amazing! I have never been able to tell a difference in the way it tastes! So, I used Dreamfields for this recipe. You can find it in the regular pasta aisle, in a black box.

Italian Sausage and Broccoli Pasta, S

1 lb package Dreamfields pasta, cooked (Rigatoni, Fusili, or Elbows)
4-5 sweet Italian sausage links, casings removed
1-2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pint container grape tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 cups broccoli (steamed or blanched)
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
Red Pepper flakes, optional

Fry sausage in Olive oil until brown over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Throw in half of the grape tomatoes and let them cook down (4-5 minutes). Throw in second half grape tomatoes and all of broccoli. Add 1 tbsp Olive Oil, or more if you’d like, and toss everything around for 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Toss sausage mixture with cooked pasta and add cheese! Enjoy this yummy dish without any guilt 🙂

*Variation: add more green veggies like zucchini or spinach to the dish!

Here is my Pinterest board of Trim Healthy Mama recipes! Hope this helps some of you!
Follow April’s board Trim Healthy Mama on Pinterest.

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