Monthly Archives

July 2016

Mommy stuff

Breastfeeding is ALWAYS a battle, especially when the ta-tas are on tour

This is my baby girl. My third one. When it comes to nursing, she’s done well. But I’m not writing about her so much as I’m writing about me. I’m selfish that way.

Breastfeeding is something I’m passionate about, but it has not come easy for me. In fact, I have a love-hate relationship with it. There. I said it. The pro-nursing mommies can gasp in disgust. It’s this unspoken rule that breastfeeding is best, so it must be loved by all moms all the time. Nothing could be more untrue.

On a side note, typically I like to write victory posts with happily-ever-after type resolutions. This is not one of them. This is not like my regular writing. Because I’m not sure where I’m going from here. I may continue nursing. I may not. It may be the battle of my life if I attempt to close Tatum’s milk shop right now. My health may well depend on it, so I can cleanse and address my energy level, discomfort and toxins that are wreaking me. But I’m not sure what I’m going to do, so maybe writing this will help me sort through my options in my own head.

Here’s the thing. I hate boobies. Mine have always been lumpy. (It’s a genetic thing.) So as much as I’d like to do self breast exams for my own health, I have a really, really hard time doing it. I don’t like the feel of breast tissue. I don’t like mine touched in any kind of harsh way, which basically means bumping into me. Heck, a heavy hug can be a bit uncomfortable for my ta-tas, in all honesty.

I had NO IDEA how hard breastfeeding was going to be. Luckily for me, my boobs and babies had no idea how stubborn I could be. My stubborn nature won out, but not without a hard fight or two with each experience.

My firstborn was the most challenging. Hours after her birth, she was whisked off to the NICU where the nurses shoved a bottle in her mouth upon her arrival. She had a curled lip and trouble latching, and I had production issues. I ordered supplements from out of the country, pumped a dozen times a day (even on my commute to work), ate oatmeal every morning and did everything I could to produce milk for my baby girl….all for about 4 ounces of milk — TOTAL. Yep. I was a crazed momma. Obviously, baby one was fed a mixture of my milk and formula and weaned herself at 1.

My son was a champion nurser. Though I recall sitting in my living room staring at my bleeding nipple, crying to the lactation nurse on the phone and telling her I was over it. I. just. couldn’t. do. it. another. day. He was only six days old. Much like the phrase “I just can’t do it” in the midst of pushing baby No. 1, eventually she had to come out and I’d stick by my stubborn promise to nurse baby No. 2. By 10 days old, we were over the hump. We made it to a year with absolutely no supplemental formula needed. We did have a small bout of mastitis, which was easily treated.

This time around it had been 11 years. My memory was foggy. I thought it would be easy. Breastfeeding is, by the way, never easy. At least not in the beginning. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. It’s just amazing that anyone at all every makes it through the first two weeks. Any mom who does deserves A LOT of praise. It’s hard. Really, really hard. When you see a nursing mom, congratulate her. Honor her. That took so much. When you see a formula-feeding mom, congratulate her. Honor her. You have no idea what she might have sacrificed or what her reasons were that she chose (or was forced to choose) bottles over breast.

Anyhoo, back to me.

To look at this gorgeous photo, you’d think it was smooth sailing. It wasn’t. I latched her on wrong the first time she nursed and paid for it the next two days. Thankfully there were no major meltdowns right away. But a few weeks in, there was an awful diaper rash and a white tongue. It was yeast. All my pumped milk had to be dumped, and we both had to be treated.


Aw. This sweet, sweet girl. She liked her middle-of-the-night feedings until about 9 months old. But she never nursed in excess. She just ate and was off to more important feats.

Meanwhile, a lot of my health issues were creeping back in the form of subtle symptoms and emotional baggage. Endometriosis pain returned when she was about six months old, and eventually it was accompanied by insomnia, fatigue and depression. It used to be the story of my life.

I’ve prayed about this and had conversations with friends about this. My husband and I have talked at length about this. I know my health and my ability to mother all of my children well will be so much better if I could just cleanse again, but I can’t cleanse if I’m nursing. So, am I the good mom who keeps giving her daughter breast milk as long as possible, even if it means dealing with excruciating pain and related mental health issues? Or do I stop so I can address the other issues that are probably making me less patient, zapping my energy and setting me up to be reactive and snarky because of the pain and lack of sleep?

As the date of our vacation approached, it occurred to me that the very thought of packing, making and cleaning bottles was MORE stressful for me than nursing. So that became my benchmark. Just. Make. It. To. August 7. Or maybe she’d lose interest even sooner. Just like Tatum’s siblings did.


Here she is again. She’s so cute. She used to nurse normally like this. I can’t share a photo with you today, because she sticks her butt in the air and is constantly moving her whole body all over the place. It’s impossible to discreetly nurse her in public. lol!

This is where the story takes a turn. My girl who never lingered at the breast is suddenly very compelled to search out the boobies at any time she feels like it. Right when I had her down to three feedings a day, she learned to lift my shirt and help herself to the buffet of momma’s milk.

And if I try to push my shirt down from her tiny, white-fisted grasp, she belts out a holler of protest in her best high-pitched voice. Yep. Her first fit. Over my boobs.

That’s where we’re at…a showdown to see who will get the boobies first.

I have my hopes….still. That after our vacation, I can give her a few bottles and wean her. Maybe. Or, maybe not. Perhaps she’ll be the one to outlast me. Here’s the crazy part, I know I’ll never nurse another baby again. As much as I want to focus on my health so I can be a better mommy to all three of my children, I hate that this chapter is coming to an end. It will end.

And even though part of me wants it to end now, I’ll cry. I’ll pout. And I’ll throw my big momma fit. For now, though, me and the boobies are on tour. Tatum — I am sure — is flaunting them on our trip out east every chance she gets.



I’ve been ‘lecturing’ love when I really just want to live love

I am a writer. I work through my emotions with words, sloppily sometimes. When I want to communicate truth with my kids, I open my mouth. When I want to share something with the world, I get on a blog or social media.

Sometimes it resonates with people. But how well and for how long, I don’t know.

Maybe because I’m a writer or maybe because I enjoy reading, the written word speaks to me. Words echo inside my soul. My introverted nature can just meditate and reflect, turning words and phrases over and over in my mind.

But ask me to make two lists — one of the words of others that have impacted my life and one of the actions of others that have resonated with me — and there is no comparison.

Immediately I think of the casserole dish placed on our porch the first night my husband came home from his week-long hospitalization. She didn’t ask or sign up for a meal train. She didn’t even know that I had no idea what I was going to do for dinner that night. It was an enormous blessing. I’ll never forget.

When someone has given of their time — to write a card, to visit, to cook a meal, to take my children for my respite, to house my children while I’m on the mission field (We had friends who took my children and dog for a week…imagine that kind of chaos!) — I feel reverberations of that love for years and years. I will never forget.

What does the word of God have to say about word and actions? I mean, the Bible is one of the biggest books, compiled of 807,361 words (New American Standard Bible ). Surely God loves words, right?



The Message version of James 3:13-16 says that Christians are to “Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, NOT the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourself sound wise isn’t wisdom…”

Setting an example for others to follow isn’t about lecturing; it’s about “walking the walk,” or another phrase we often hear is “practice what you preach.” So, do you? If I’m honest, this is an area I struggle with often.

Our feet are our witness…how we walk through life, how we react to situations, how we treat people. So as Christians, we have to ask ourselves, what are we focused more on: words or actions? And are our actions drawing people closer to Christ or away from Him?

The older I get, the more I realize that adults like to find the things that divide us, instead of the things that unify us. It’s the talking that most often creates that division. We feel this need to let the world know what we think, and we leave no space for grace when it comes to differing opinions.

This morning, I read in my “40 Days to a Joy-filled Life” devotion by Tommy Newberry that “For Christians, the main reason that living with joy should be the only way to go is that our example speaks far louder than our words. Our example is either attractive or unattractive. Our example either draws people to the Kingdom or it does not.”

All the loud chatter gets in the way. It causes rifts. We do more damage with words, especially opinionated, ill-thought-out words. One scroll through Facebook, and I assure you I could react in anger. I could lecture. I could spout off. I could update my status every hour with my opinion, my words, my point-of-view — much of it in contradiction with my Christian brothers and sisters. Sometimes I feel the emotions rise up, and friends, emotions can be good and powerful. Emotions can spur us to actions. But they can also cause us to lash out with words. God’s desires unity, and He knows we have differences of opinion. That’s OK, too. It’s what makes the world interesting. It’s what makes us unique. It’s what enables us to be the body of Christ. It’s how so many diverse ministries and messages are able to draw others to Him. We have to stop being so fearful of our differences, and let our love not be confined to those who we agree with but fan out our compassion to the diverse people who are also created in the image of God, even if they have opposing opinions.

Here’s another thing about words. Words can also keep me so busy that I don’t listen. I don’t see. I don’t hear the prompting of the Holy Spirit to act. Act on needs people have. Support causes that need prayer, financial backing or volunteers. Love on moms who feel isolated or alone. Being wrapped up in reading every last comment on a controversial newsfeed item is a poor use of my time that could be used serving someone in need. Sometimes I really need to remember this!

Oh, Lord,  help me today and every day to be more sensitive to the example I set. Remind me that I’m always sharing your story, even when I don’t open my mouth. Let my actions be spurred by the power of the Holy Spirit. Close my mouth more. Help me be aware of my example, and let my life be a story told for your glory. Help all my actions be filled with peace, love and joy. Amen.



Running after a new life of freedom

Julia Michael met her husband Fred when she joined a running club.

They didn’t just run together; they both were marathon runners and loved their lifestyle in consistent training.

“My work took that ability away from me. I was working too long of hours. I’d try, but I couldn’t keep it up,” Julia said.

As the running slipped away and the years ticked by, pounds accumulated onto Julia’s athletic frame.

“I had tried so many different things,” she confessed. “I had been watching my food intake. Fred was constantly complaining I wasn’t eating enough.”

Julia watched my transformation on social media and then attended an information event, where she signed up that night.

“I was ready to enroll before I got to your house. I wanted it to work so bad,” she said. “I was real determined. Fred calls me tenacious. When I make up my mind about something, I go after it.”

That she did. Julia had an amazing transformation — one that began just before the Christmas and New Year holidays. In fact, she started it days before going to a Christmas party out of town. She skipped the group breakfast and ate mostly veggies, carefully avoiding the sweets and high-calorie options.

“Nobody gave me a hard time, so that helped me get through the weekend,” Julia said.

Her first cleanse proved difficult. She had a massive headache, which isn’t uncommon as toxins are released from the body. The second cleanse was a breeze, and she was glad she stuck with it to find out that this lifestyle is worth it.

“I think you do have to have that mindset that you know it will work, and you’ll follow the plan as it’s set up…and it WILL work,” she said.

The system works so well that the Michaels were able to take their usual winter trip to Florida for several weeks — eating out more than normal and even going on a cruise — without it impacting Julia’s progress.

It was on the cruise that Julia noticed her weight had plateaued, but Fred said not to pay attention to the scale. He could tell a difference. He was right. She’d lost additional inches on the cruise.

Not long after that, Fred decided he wanted to be part of his wife’s new healthy lifestyle. He had seen a photo of himself, and didn’t like the pouch he’d grown. He also didn’t like the feel of the bigger pants he had to buy.

Today, Fred is near his running weight of 140 pounds.

“I liked her regiment,” he said.

In fact, both of them living this lifestyle has made it easier.


“Within the first six weeks, I had gotten myself into such a routine,” Julia said. “I like what it was doing. All of the sudden it dawned on me how good I was feeling. I realized I had been sleeping so soundly. I had so much energy. I just felt so happy. I hadn’t felt that way in a long time. I felt like my body was cleansed from all the junk and I got a fresh new start.”

It didn’t hurt that the weight loss started right away, and her excitement about the change helped keep her motivated.

But it also helped that the system of products makes it easy to incorporate into their busy lives. She even packs “emergency” bars that came in handy when they had to go to the hospital recently.

“When we were in Florida we took it to the beach with us and hiking,” Julia said. “It’s so easy to take with you where ever you are.”

Isagenix is different than a diet because it feeds the body all the micronutrients it needs and has antioxidants and herbal support that protects the brain and help prevent cancer. That’s why the Michaels say they won’t stop using the products.

“Having weight leave me and after a year it hasn’t come back, that hasn’t happened ever,” she said. “When I hear my friends talking about losing weight or having so much stress, I tell them, ‘I have an answer for you.’”

Fred is proud of Julia for taking back her health and helping others. He admits that it’s not for everyone.

“I see a lot who say they’re going to do it, but don’t do it. It’s my opinion they don’t have resolve,” he said. “You have to want to do it. You didn’t put that weight on overnight. It’s not going to come off overnight. It’s not instantaneous.”

Not too long into her journey, Julia suddenly had the desire to run again. She ran a few races with a new goal to run a half marathon.


“Running for me is a release,” she said. “I enjoy nature, and I want to run.”

However, she ended up with two stress fractures and a tear, and after realizing her dream again, she had to set it down to let her body heal.

“That was a killer for me,” she said. “I was up to 10 miles, and I had to completely stop. Because I stayed on Isagenix, I could keep my strength up. I never felt like I had to start at the beginning.”

Julia recently moved to a new home and is enjoying new scenery as she trains for her half-marathon. Fred has no doubt she’ll reach that goal and beyond.

“Runners have a certain characteristic because when you want to quit, you keep running through. That’s the kind of person who does well on Isagenix.”

Faith, Mirror


A few days ago, I issued a challenge for anyone who’d like to hone their self-motivation and self-discipline to do a simple exercise for 40 days to practice what it’s like to work on developing a new habit. It’s super easy.

Every day (preferably morning), write something you’re grateful for on Facebook. Or take a photo of it or do a live video explaining what you’re thankful for. Use the hashtag #ownyourjoy. Be part of this movement and community to encourage each other and to hold yourself accountable.

It should take no more than one minute. I wanted it to be easy. But I also wanted it to be impactful. Can starting each day reflecting on your gratitude change your outlook…for that day? For all 40 days? There’s a lot of evidence that suggests it does.

If you want to dig a little deeper, I highly recommend Tommy Newberry’s book “40 days to a Joy-filled Life.” It’s where the idea occurred to me.

And today, another idea came to mind. I was reading Day 9 about taking a “mental vacation” when it occurred to me that I desperately need to work on my tone of voice. It often does NOT reflect my heart and it can wound the people closest to me.

What is this “mental vacation?” It’s changing some patterns in your thought life, such as criticism, condemnation, worrisome thoughts and speech. And this doozy — “refuse to discuss your aches, pains and old wounds with friends and family.”

I feel deeply about that last one, and yet I often violate it. Why?!?! This is not good for me. Recently at the gym, I found myself struggling with a workout because of my lack of sleep. I complained incessantly during that hour about how tired I was. Did it make me less tired? Did it change my workout? I bet it did. I bet it made me LESS effective. I created the visual and space for my own failure.

Sometimes we have to DIG DEEP. It’s not in our nature because we’ve long since established a pattern of the negative. It won’t happen overnight. It will take diligent practice and intentionality.

“Refrain from exasperated mannerisms or facial expressions that divulge frustration or annoyance — even if they’re seemingly justified,” Tommy writes on Day 9 in his book.

Ugh. That’s me. And my tone. It’s annoyed and angry, most often with my kids and husband, even if my heart isn’t truly annoyed or angry. It’s destructive, and it’s got to go! I will spend the next week really focused on this one habit and resist the urge to use a negative tone at all.

What about you? Is there anything on this list you can work on for a “mental vacation?” Are you participating in the #ownyourjoy challenge? If not, why not get started today? _DSC0175

Mirror, Wellness

I pick myself first

A baby with night terrors, binge eating and returning health issues — these are a few issues I faced during my second IsaBody Challenge.

I knew I was a stress eater, but I’d never understood what binge eating was until I was three days deep in an eating disorder. As the founder of a non-profit to promote positive body image in preteen and teen girls, I was stunned by my behavior and shocked that I didn’t recognize the symptoms right away. My binge eating came as my husband and two older children were in a play and gone virtually every night for three weeks. I was alone with our 6-month-old baby every day and then every night, too. Overwhelmed with my daily responsibilities and stressed with the bouts of night terrors our baby was experiencing, I turned to food (albeit healthy) to placate my emotions. It happened so fast but grieved my soul for all the girls I’ve counseled in the same predicament. There was no doubt that my behavior was out of control and while my food was healthy, the serving sizes were grotesquely over-the-top. I quickly corrected using a Carol Elizabeth 10-day reset (great timing!), propelling myself back into the habits I had established back when I began Isagenix in July 2014.

Meanwhile, the chronic discomfort I was experiencing when I began nutritional cleansing had been slowly returning during this challenge. I am breastfeeding, so I can not do a cleanse, which I believe will “reset” a lot of the issues. The pain is uncomfortable, but I am often reminded of how far I’ve come. It’s not unbearable. And if I have to (in extreme situations only), I take one ibuprofen. One. I used to swallow four at a time, eight or more times a day just to get through my suffering.

I’m looking forward to my first cleanse, but I’m committed to prioritizing my baby’s needs and development in this short season. Yes, I do realize that to be a good mom I may have to make decisions like early weaning. I’ve also stumbled enough to know that I HAVE to put myself first, and I am certainly taking care of myself in the best ways I can body, mind and spirit. My entire family has recently joined a local gym. For the first time in my life, I’m lifting weights. My first goal was 10 standard pushups and a tight wall stand, which I accomplished. My next goal is 10 unassisted pull-ups by the end of the year. I set these goals not to be vain or because I’m a competitor. When I was in fourth grade, I could not do even one pull up on the Presidential Fitness test. My teacher wrote down one just so I didn’t feel like a loser. But I already did. I was picked last on teams at recess and P.E. I hated fitness because of how it made me feel about myself. I avoided exercise so I could escape those negative feelings. As a result, I did more harm than good, and it took me 30+ years to realize that.

handstand  lifting blisters

I want my children to know that it’s not about competing with others but about your own goals and growth, as well as strength and long-term health. I want them to learn to cheer on others, as they push themselves to new heights. As a 42-year-old with a new (unexpected) baby, I picture her face when I work out. Truth be told, all of my children motivate me. I MUST be around for them, and not just existing but thriving. I want them all to know that you don’t have to be limited by your past, by labels and assumptions but that you can reach any goal you set. I might have been picked last by my peers in an era gone by; however, today I can pick myself first.


At the end of her rope, Paula found the beginning of a new story

Paula Miller’s story begins at the end.

The end of her rope that is, which was where she and her husband — both full-time missionaries from Sierra Leone —found themselves right around the time of the 2014 ebola outbreak in their country.

“We were fried,” Paula explained. “We really needed time off the field…to regroup and see what was next.”

It had nothing to do with the highly contagious disease, but the timing protected their family — from the physical dangers and the emotional ravages that were already eating away at their family.

Just before they began nutritional cleansing, they’d received specialized missionary counseling and were preparing for their return to the field, which they considered their home. But before they could go back to love their neighbors, many of whom had hurt them deeply and betrayed them, they desperately needed to work on loving themselves.

It was a journey that was as much about their soul as it was about their bodies. Paula was 251 pounds; Rick was around 330.

“Rick was bigger than he had ever been. I was bigger than I had ever been,” she said. “I knew I needed to get a handle on it. It was getting out of control. I knew if we could lose even a little bit, we’d feel so much better. We were feeling crummy. I had severe brain fog going on.”

Stress and sugar addiction were taking a toll. Paula was using coffee to survive around-the-clock.

The first few days on the program were a little rough as detoxing symptoms hit, but even with a couple challenging days, Paula appreciated the simplicity of the products that are designed to bring the body back into an alkaline balance and flood it with super nutrition.

“On the third day, I got up, fed the kids breakfast and I went back to bed. I was there until the afternoon. I felt like a truck had run me over,” she recalled. “On the fourth day, I felt great, with more energy than I think I ever had.”

The day they started was Halloween 2014. By the time they returned to their home in Sierra Leone in April 2015, Paula had lost 40 pounds and Rick lost 60.


The system, when used correctly with the cleansing, really works, Paula said. A couple months after they started using the products, someone handed her a big slice of cake to celebrate her daughter’s 12th birthday. She was ready to indulge but found the taste was overly sugary, and she didn’t want more than a couple bites.

“Women and food, it’s so tied up. I think women abuse food more and get addicted to the sugar,” Paula said. “The thing that amazed me the most was I lost (weight) without exercise. There is freedom.”

It was about the time she pushed the cake away that she realized she will forever want the nourishment and support of her Isagenix products.

In addition to helping maintain their weight loss, the food products solve a major problem that exists in Sierra Leone for the Miller family — limited access to a wide variety of produce that means a deficit of minerals. IsaLean shakes in particular have all the minerals and other micronutrients that the body needs to function daily.

However, it wasn’t just a matter of putting the best nutrition in their bodies. Paula knew her love of baking would have to be shelved, and her coffee habits also needed scrutiny.

Today, she’s passionate about sharing her story. Because she knew her own struggles with food had come between her and her best version of herself.

Freedom from the excess weight has delivered her by removing a block that she believes was preventing her from receiving what God has prepared for her in ministry. She wants to help other women remove the baggage that’s getting in the way of their very identity in Christ, and for many of those women, she’s confident Isagenix can help.

The way she views the amazing company that she is blessed to be a part of is that it’s also one of her ministries — another tool to love people and help them experience a freedom from the bondage of bad habits.


Isagenix, Paula said, is a tool that God can use to address the physical and physiological aspects of disordered eating. For her, the emotional parts were a deeper struggle that she had to wrestle with God to overcome.

“One thing honestly that God has been doing in the last couple months is letting me know it’s OK to voice and get the emotions out, even if it’s just in my journal,” she said. “It’s a painful process, though. I’m used to stuffing my emotions with food.”

Even before Isagenix, Paula’s passion was helping women discover their identity and purpose, inviting them into a sacred space where they can dream again. She’s gifted, which I can say with authority, because she’s poured so much into me. She does it without me even knowing she’s doing it sometimes; she’s definitely anointed in this area.

I wouldn’t be experiencing the successes I have as a businesswoman, mom, wife and a follower of Jesus if it weren’t for Paula believing, speaking truth to me, praying and encouraging me. Because she’s meant so much to me and many of others, I’d like to invite you to pray for her — for her business in Isagenix, for her ministry, for the marketplace ministry that she’s begun.