Help For a New You in Your New Year

It’s a New Year and you want a new you–or at least a few new habits.  I thought I’d share some posts from the past that always pick up speed at the first of they year.  They’ve all helped me with a new start, whether it be diet, exercise, finances or organization at one time or another. I don’t do all of these, all the time, but for the majority, they’ve stood the test of time.



 The Daniel Plan

The Daniel Fast

The Daniel Plan is not meant for long-term, but is a great way to jump-start a new healthy eating plan.  You eat fruits, veggies and nuts exclusively. I did it for 10 days as part of spiritual fast and truly felt better than ever.




You’re probably starting to see some AdvoCare 24 day challenge groups starting up for the year. After losing 6″ in just 24 days, I’m a believer. I felt better than I ever have on the challenge and continue to this day to take their supplements. In fact, just the other day I ran out of Spark and tried to replace it with coffee and it was a terrible failure.  I didn’t get the normal pick-me-up and was extremely sluggish in the afternoon. Spark and all its Vitamin B gives me long-lasting energy!





I haven’t done a full review post on the T25 workout system, but it’s AMAZING. I completed the system last Spring and built more muscle in a month than I have in my entire life. It’s great that’s it’s only 25 minutes and it’s 4 different workouts so you’re never bored. I fell off the wagon when we got a new morning schedule in August, but when I do get a chance to exercise, this is what I do.

30 Day Shred

It’s a classic: Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred is solid and great for beginners.



How to Stick to the Envelope System Without Cash


I’ve written a few times about the Envelope System that Dave Ramsey suggests.  Last year I wrote how you can alter the plan without using actual cash.





Still, one of my favorite organizational tips is to buy seperate laundry baskets so you can pre-sort your clothes.  I’ll never go back!


If you want to get organized with meal planning, without actually, you know, meal planning, here’s a post about how I shop just once a week without writing down a single thing!

Here’s how we moved our coats OUT of the hall closet and got more organized.

A tip on how to store your feminine products. Check #7 on this list. Yeah, I still can’t believe how this changed my life (or at least my bathroom).


Back Camera

Here’s how we organized the girls’ Barbies.





How about some easy cheesy potato soup for lunch one day instead of eating out?


Or, add this Italian walnut salad and call it dinner!

 Or, save cooking time and make one of these super easy crock-pot recipes.


Whether you made yearly goals or not, I hope one of these helped you in some way and you’re having a great start to your new year!


One Word for 2015: Focus

Last year, and years before, I made a nice long list of things I wanted to accomplish for the year.  Looking back, I can see where I marked some goals off, but many were downright wishful thinking. I love that Crystal over at, who I modeled my goals after, found much of the same results. It was just too much!

While she decided to simplify her goals in a similar format, I felt led to go the One Word route again this year.


This year feels like a year to buckle down and FOCUS.

In years past, I always felt a bit like the adoption was hanging over our  heads. We had DSS always watching us.  Jac0b’s room was sitting empty and I was never sure what to do with it.  The future felt like a big question mark. Of course, so much of that settled last year.  Nearly five months into the adoption, I feel like I’ve worked through so much of the confusion and grief of the first few months.  I definitely feel like I can leave so much behind and focus on what’s ahead.

But, I am so easily distracted by many things that are perhaps good, but not best.

As part of the 90 day Bible reading plan that began on the 1st, we read about Eve. She ate the fruit not because she was trying to do something bad, but because she thought it would help her. She thought it would be pleasing. She thought it would provide sustenance. She thought it would make her wiser. And the simple truth is God had said no.

There are so many good things I could say yes to, but this year I want to focus on the things He has put in front of me. In short, my relationship with Christ, my marriage, my kids, my job, our small group, my friends, my writing here. God has been laying the word “podcast” on my mind over and over for a few weeks. So, even though I feel entirely inept, I feel like it’s going to be part of my year. I want my kids to thrive in school. I want them to thrive in their relationship with Christ. I want to make solid memories with them. I want my marriage to flourish.

The phrase “know Him and make Him known” has also been floating around in my heart. If I can filter these important things to me…kids, marriage, job, writing…through that phrase–to know Him and to make Him known, I think it will help focus my attention directly where it needs to be.

Mostly, what I keep feeling is that if I just focus on Him, He will direct my next step in all things.Does that feel like a cop out to goals? Yeah, maybe it does. And I think that’s exactly what I need this year.

2014 Wrap-up

In case you need caught up, 2014 was epic. I couldn’t leave 2014 without a bird’s eye view of the entire year.


In January, we literally started the year off with a bang.  I totaled our van. It should have been the first sign that the year was going to find a path of its own.


I also posted this Easy Cheesy Potato Soup recipe. I am still getting messages that it’s a winner in readers’ homes.

In February, I discussed the challenge to live the Gospel most to the people under your own roof.

How to Stick to the Envelope System Without Cash


I also talked about how we stick to the envelope budgeting system without cash.



In March, I broke down a Psalm describing 4 profiles of the redeemed of the Lord: the lost, the addicted, the rebellious and the worker.

Later that month, God used that post and the book Battlefield of the Mind to free me of my own addictions in Green Pastures.

In April, I shared 3 things I learned from a 5th grade talent show.

I took a bit of a blogging break in May, but posted one essay on how I came to terms with working out of the home.  It’s my yes in my mess.


In June, I wrote one of the most popular posts of the year Three Ways to Dig Yourself Out of a Funk

We adopted in the summer so most of the rest of year were posts related to our adoption.

Most popular for July was the day we met Jac0b.

In August,  you got to meet Jac0b.

photo 1feather


And then the famous Three Feathers story.

football game


In September, I documented how I saw Love on the Move.

I also did a series on Eagle Feathers.


In October, I shared a 10 and 12 week adoption update and shared how I saw the number 7 showing up everywhere. My sister also got married!


In November, I shared about Jac0b’s yearbooks.  Read Part 1 and Part 2.

In December, I talked about hearing Jac0b referring to me as “my Mom” for the first time.

And of course, I shared all the details on our finalization day.


There were many, many more posts for the year. If you aren’t caught up, I’ve made page for the Our Adoption Story and The Feather Story.

2014 certainly was a year of both trials and blessings. So thankful God was so close this year and I hope for more of the same in 2015.  Happy New Year, friends!

Top 10 Books of 2014



With the adoption taking up most of the writing here these past months, I haven’t had a chance to link to the books I’ve been reading. Many of the books I read this year weren’t published in 2014, but they came at just the right time to me.

In no particular order, these are the top 10

Daring Greatly



I wrote a bit about this book here to me, Daring Greatly is one of the books that should be required for life.

Battlefield of the Mind


I’m going to call this one the most life-changing book of the year for me. It showed me so many ways I was in bondage mentally and was a catalyst for God doing a mighty freedom work in my life. I look back now over 6 months later and feel like I’m living a different life internally than I was before. I believe God used this message to prepare me for our adoption and all the mental exhaustion we’ve endured.

Victim of Grace


Victim of Grace was another well-timed and applicable book. It’s a memoir about an author’s journey that bears a few similarities to mine. I was so encouraged by her story and was challenged to believe that God was working everything together.

Forever Mom. What to Expect When You’re Adopting

Forever Mom

I wish I would have read this book before we adopted instead of several months into it. In any case, it did help me approach my parenting to Jac0b in a new way.



Man, this was a good one. Revolutionary for my life. If you are a people-pleaser in any way, feel drained from relationships or are reading these words, you need to read this book!

You’re Going to be Okay


I love Holley Gerth-her writing and her as a person. She’s so down to earth and warm and encouraging. I’ve had this book in my kindle for some time, but I picked it up just a few weeks ago and it felt like it was written just for me. If you’re going through any sort of stressful time, this is the one for you.

Soul Keeping


Soul Keeping is one those read-it-once-a-year books. I learned a lot about the mind, soul and spirit and was encouraged to do soul-giving activities. In fact, I might just read this for the new year.

Kisses from Katie


Here’s another one I was late on reading, but it’s the story of how a girl in her early twenties adopted 14 girls in Uganda. Inspiring, challenging and encouraging.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


This historical fiction was a fun one to read. The book is written in letters that sounds like it could be annoying, but actually works.  It’s World War II era near Europe. It sounds like it could be depressing, but it’s not.

 Outlander (<–Click! Kindle version is only $1.99)



Technically, I’m not 100% complete with Outlander. 600 pages is a lot! But I can already tell you, this was by far my favorite fiction read of the year. Yes, I’m on the bandwagon, finally. It comes with lots of adult-only warning labels, but it’s good writing with good characters.


I had a goal to read 50 books this year and only made it to about 33 plus a few half-read books. But still, given all our changes this year, I’m proud to have finished that many and very satisified with the return on the ones I read. Life-change, entertainment, encouragement, inspiration–books are the best!

Oh, speaking of reading, I’m leading a group to read through the Bible in 90 days starting on January 1st.  I’ve done it several times and it is always such a blessing.  I remember the first time I did it, it totally changed my perspective of God’s story. Request to join our closed Facebook group over here. We always have great discusssion, encouragement and reminders!

14 Life-Changing Lessons from 2014


As a year-end practice, I was reflecting on all I’ve learned from the year.  I downright failed on my goals I set out for the year, but instead learned many emotional and spiritual lessons. Many platitudes I knew, but this year I learned.  It’s the difference between knowing the stove burner is hot and learning how hot by touching it.

Although lessons are best learned by experience, value is added by learning from example too. So, in honor of 2014, I’m sharing the top 14 lessons I learned.

Waiting is a chance to show the most faith

Clearly, this is the year that the wait of our adoption ended. Huge. I knew while waiting that faith was important–to cling to His promises before they  happened. But, seeing it all come to fruition this year was just amazing. I saw God really come through on what He said He would.  And it made me want to wait well in all things, small or big.  How much more faith does it take to say I believe God WILL come through for me than to see God DID come through for me? I want to live that kind of faith the rest of my life–knowing God will come through before he does and waiting well.

God is working all things together even when it doesn’t seem like it

Just to further the last lesson, I’ve learned just how much God is working even when it doesn’t seem like it.  If I trace back what it took for us to adopt Jac0b and all the dates and all the desires, this was years and years in the making. Maybe generations, who knows.  I’ve also seen it in my sister’s life with her marriage this year. God is working all things–ALL THINGS–together even when it doesn’t feel like it during the wait. I’ve learned to see even the bad things as opportunities for God to weave it into my story. What joy we can have in adversity when we learn this.

God is our comfort

I have learned this year more than any other what it feels like to need comfort and then to receive it. Truth be told, I haven’t gone through a lot of high-stress times in my life. 2014 was my year of stress and I figured out that God really did comfort me and in amazing ways. Going forward, I hope to attack stressful times with more courage knowing I have God to comfort me.

God still shows up in miraculous ways

Finding feathers this year was nothing short of miraculous to me.  If I ever doubted it before, I will not again that God can show up in unique, miraculous ways.

Boundaries are essential to a healthy emotional life

I learned about emotional boundaries this year. I learned how to say no, carry my own weight and stand up for myself when needed. Maybe I’m still learning how to do, but I did learn they’re essential and this will downright revolutionize all your relationships–even if it’s just the mental gymnastics you go through.

Negative feelings should not be feared

For as long as I can remember, I’ve stuffed negative emotions, not willing to feel pain or cause someone else pain. It led to terrible perfectionistic qualities and a lack of joy. This year I learned negative feelings are not something to fear.

Counseling is hard, but revolutionary

I only ended up at one counseling session this year, but even that one changed so many things for me. I have plans to go to more in 2015, but it only took one this year to truly see how revolutionary it can be.

Logic and reason can be bondage

I’ve always taken my logic and reasoning skills as a positive, but I also learned it can lead to worry and indecision, stealing your joy and trapping you in cyclical thought-bondage. God gave us logic and reasoning skills as a gift, but as with anything, relying too much on it is not good.

We have control over negative thinking

First and foremost, I learned that God can free us from a negative mindset.  But I also learned I can stop negative thinking by bossing my brain around. I do not have to meditate on negative thoughts.

Love is a choice, not a feeling

This year more than ever I learned that love is an action and a choice and not a feeling. We love our way into feelings, not the other way around.

Trust is earned, and not quickly

Our adoption has taught me so much about trust. I’ve been so lucky to have so many wonderful relationships in my life and have had very few relationships where trust was missing and then built again. I’ve learned this year trust is built in a bunch of small moments, perhaps a few big ones and it is not to be rushed. Going forward, I want to be trustworthy in the small and large things and know it will pay dividends, even if it’s in the long-run.

Stress can either do you in or lift you up

I saw first-hand the bad effects of stress this year. My hair fell out, my gums were inflamed, I had skin rashes, heartburn and weight gain. A lifetime of stress can kill you. I didn’t handle all the stress this year well all the time, but I did learn how to go to God with my issues daily. His comfort is downright necessary. In the stress, I found God and He carried me through.

Grief is a friend, and ignored, becomes an enemy

I had to grieve so many things this year–our old family, Jac0b’s old family, loss, Emma leaving elementary school, our kids changing schools, personal losses. But what I learned is grief is a gift if we let it be. It’s necessary to our emotional health and we have to let ourselves walk through the grief so we don’t get stuck.

Life moves fast and you can’t prepare

At the beginning of 2014 I made all sorts of goals with the knowledge that this year could be life-changing. It was in so many ways I expected, but then in others I did not at all.  A wreck, a phone call, a meeting–life changes quickly and there’s rarely any way to prepare.  And yet, here I am at the end so much for better for both the good and the bad. We may not be able to prepare but we can prosper.

I’m going into 2015 hopeful and encouraged that God is at work, He is with us through it all and no matter what surprises 2015 brings, He has used 2014 to equip me and will continue to do the same.