When Awkwardness is the Best Choice

Saying “no” is hard sometimes, isn’t it? We want to be able to do everything and please everyone. We don’t want to let people down. We want to be superwomen who can juggle it all.

I think this is especially relevant right now, as the holiday season is upon us. Soon you will be in-over-your-head with invitations to dinners, gift exchanges, work parties, family get-togethers, holiday festivities, church events, and more!

It’s hard to say no to so many wonderful things! But doesn’t just looking at that list already give you anxiety?!


Last week I got a great reminder: it’s better in the long run to say “no” than to do something begrudgingly.

This great reminder came from the live Q&A call with Cystal Paine that I received as a pre-order bonus with Money Making Mom. The purpose of the call was to answer readers’ questions pertaining to starting a business, being a money-making mom, blogging, and more.

One reader asked her how she “does it all.” Crystal’s answer was that she doesn’t, she says “no” to a lot of things.

What Crystal said next really struck me: it’s better to to have a temporary moment of awkwardness saying “no” rather than have feelings of resentment later.

What she means is, when events and opportunities are knocking at our door, we need to ask ourselves,

  • Is this something that I’m going to resent doing?
  • Am I going to be driving to this event, wishing I was somewhere else?
  • Will I not have a good time because all I’ll be thinking about is what else I’d rather be doing?
  • Will I be full of anxiety wondering how I’m going to pay for this?

If it’s something that we will end up resenting, it’s not worth saying “yes” to. It is better to say “no,” and have a temporary moment of feeling awkward than to go and end up resenting it the whole time.

Your time is precious. Your marriage and family is precious. That is why it is so important that we don’t let an obsession with “busy-ness” run us ragged and take priority over the truly important things in life.

xmas1So this holiday season, before you say “yes” to any event, even something great, ask yourself, “will I end up resenting this?” If so, give yourself full permission to say “no.”

And instead, fully enjoy and immerse yourself in those things that are worth your “yes.”


Just Say “NO”

Sometimes do you just feel like a wreck? I know I do…I am a people-pleaser with a fear of failure. Eek! Talk about issues!

walking on eggshellsAs you can probably imagine, that means that I always feel like I have to walk on eggshells, accomodating everyone. It’s very hard for me to say “no”, or anything I know will disappoint you.

Today I got completely fed-up with it. Why do I feel like I have to please everyone?

I’m tired of not speaking up for myself. I’m tired of getting annoyed by people “walking all over me,” simply because I LET THEM! And I’m mostly tired of seeking my worth in what others think.

As I was lamenting this today, I got great advice from some older, wiser women:

1. If you don’t think you or your time is valuable, no one else will.

It’s up to you to choose where you will find your worth, and to truly believe you and your time is valuable. If you don’t, who will? You have to be the one to set boundaries.

2. Assertiveness is a muscle that has to be strengthened.

Of course, there are some people who just naturally have dominant, assertive 37CB0NNMNCpersonalities. But for people like me, confidence is not natural, AT ALL!

But that’s okay…I can’t expect assertiveness to simply be there. Just like I can’t expect a 6-pack of abs to just be there on my stomach (unfortunately). It takes practice and work. Every small step I make, every tiny encounter in which I choose to be assertive, will build that muscle.

3. Just Say No!

So basically, I just have to do it. I have to just say no. This is now my homework for the week! I will say no to one person.

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All you fellow people-pleasers, try it with me this week! Let’s dare to disappoint.

Rock Bottom

There are times in life when all of a sudden your life is turned upside down. A heart-attack out-of-the-blue. The death of a loved one…maybe even someone taken way too soon. An unexpected, maybe even unwanted, pregnancy. The earth-shattering news that you or someone you love has a terminal illness. Finding out that your baby is going to have mental or physical disabilities that will affect their entire life. Being handed divorce papers after years of a struggling marriage.

Life can change in an instant. Have you ever wanted to just rewind to a time when the world still made sense? To rewind to a time when you didn’t have such difficult decisions to make? To rewind to a time before everything changed, so you could feel the bliss and happiness again?


I don’t claim to have all the answers, and I certainly don’t try to claim that there is an easy-fix to the earth-shattering times in life.

What I do know is that the Bible tells us what we should do in times like these:

1. Grieve. When something life-shattering happens, it is normal and healthy for you to grieve. Grieve what you have lost. Grieve what once was. Grieve the huge change that is impacting your life.

The Bible isn’t full of people who are always happy, plastered with fake smiles. No, the Bible is full of real humans, who faced terrible circumstances of their own:

  • Paul grieved: “For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears” (2 Corinthians 2:4)
  • David grieved: “My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning.” (Psalm 38:4-6)
  • Other Psalm writers grieved: “I say to God my Rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppresed by the enemy?'” (Psalm 42:9)
  • Jeremiah grieved: “Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable?” (Jeremiah 15:18)
  • Jesus grieved: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” (Matthew 26:38)

why have you forsaken

There is nothing shameful about grieving. In fact, grieving may be the most healthy thing for you to do. As one of my college professors, Dr. Gary Zustiak, taught, the emotions you are feeling are not going to go away by bottling them up, they will only resurface in other areas of your life and come out in destructive ways.

Instead, you must face those emotions. One of the best ways to do that is through prayer.

2. Pray. The second thing to do when your world is turned upside down is to pray. God wants you to pour your heart out to him. He knows what is going on in your life, and he wants you to invite him into it.

Did you know that over 1/3 of the book of Psalms (that’s over 50 psalms) are considered psalms of “lament”? That means that they are psalms crying out to God about hurts and brokenness. As Dr. Zustiak puts it, laments are a “loud religious ouch” — as we cry out in pain when we are hurting physically, lamenting is how we cry out in pain when we are hurting emotionally or spiritually.

pray in church

God can handle our raw emotions. And getting those emotions out through prayer starts us on the healing process. It opens us up to receive the comfort of God.

Though you may not feel God, he is there, he hears your prayers, and he cares for you. Just as 2 Corinthians 1 tells us, God is the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles.”

Ephesians 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”

Romans 12:12  “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

3. Trust in God. The third thing to do is trust in God. No matter the circumstance, God is able to bring about good. God does not cause evil things to happen; terrible & life-shattering things happen in this world because there is sin in the world. But when they do happen, our God is great enough to be able to work good out of it.

“Ok, so what good could possibly come from the death of a child, or from this terminal illness?”, you might ask. Like I said, I don’t claim to have the answers. I know that when bad things happen, it can seem like the world as you know it has ceased to exist. You may feel like no good could possibly ever come from it.

But hear what I’m saying – I’m not saying that you may ever think of the situation as “good.” Those who lose a child will never look back and say it was “good” that they lost a child. However, those who have lost their child have said that because of it, they found God and found a renewed hope in him. Parents who have children who are diagnosed with disabilities won’t say it’s “good” that their child will never live a regular life here on earth. But they do say that having a child with disabilities has taught them what love really looks like, how to have greater patience, and what it means to believe in God with a child-like faith. (This one I know personally, as my brother has mental disabilities.)


So what good can come from your situation? I don’t know. But I do know that God asks us to trust him and to trust that he is big enough to bring something beautiful from the ashes.

Though you may not be able to see it now (or maybe not for a long, long time), God, who has an eternal viewpoint, can see how good can come from even the worst of circumstances. God is asking you to trust his view of eternity. God is faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9).

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

If you have 30 minutes to spare, I would recommend listening to this message from Dr. Gary Zustiak, who I mentioned a couple times in this post. His words are healing to the soul and he has great insights about what it means to lament to God.

Reflections on the Life of a Great Man

It’s been almost two weeks now since my grandpa Erich passed away. Between all the busy-ness of flying back home to St. Louis to be with family and attend the funeral, the times of mourning, and the busy-ness of Kevin’s graduation and saying goodbye to friends, I haven’t made time to write lately.

Even more, in the midst of sadness, new blog ideas definitely took a back-burner in my mind as I processed the death of a very special man.

But I’m ready to write again. And what a better way to pick back up than to take a moment to reflect on the life of my grandpa?! I believe that we can learn from every person, experience, or encounter, if we would just take some time to observe and reflect. Over the many years I spent as his house, I certainly learned a lot from my grandpa. Even now that he is gone, I learn about the person I want to be when I reflect on his life.

Grandpa 2

1. He let me be a part of his hobbies and routine.

Some of my most cherished memories are those growing up at my grandma and grandpa’s house. I adored my grandparents, and it wasn’t because they bought me all sorts of gifts and toys. My grandparents gave me the gift of their time. Growing up at my grandpa’s house was special because he let me join in on his every-day life. My grandpa let me spend time in the shed with him (until I got too bored and decided to go run outside and play!). My grandpa let me help him feed the cows and barn cats. My grandpa let me help him find dandelions that needed to be sprayed. All of those little things meant so much to me because it was in those moments that my grandpa shared his heart with me.

As a friend, and probably someday a parent and grandparent, I want to be like him. I don’t want to rely on gifts to form a relationship, but on genuinely sharing life with each other. I want to share my hobbies and my every day duties with my children and grandchildren. I don’t have to change around my life for them, I just need to be willing to invite them into the life I already have and share it with them. I want others to know that they have a place in my life.

2. He was a hard worker.

Though my grandpa had retired by the time I was around, I’ve heard the stories about how hard of a worker he was for his family. He would work a full-time job at McDonnel Douglas and then still come home and tend to the farm. He did what he needed to in order to make ends meet. Even as he got older and his body faced health issues, he would do all he could do keep up the farm and the house. My grandpa was determined to get the job done.

…And then here I am, constantly saying how I’m ready to retire! Ha! I want to be as hard of a worker as my grandpa was. I want to do the job well. And I want to do it humbly, without complaining.

3. He had a good sense of humor.

In my experience, my grandpa was definitely more of the strong, silent type. He wasn’t a man of many words. But I do know that he liked to laugh. He had a great smile. I can faintly hear the sound of his laugh as he would tickle me as a child, or push me on a swing. When my grandpa laughed, you couldn’t help but smile along with him.

I want to exude joy and laughter. There are times to be serious (as he was many times), but also times to laugh and revel in the moment. I can sometimes get so caught up in the stresses of life, that laughter is far from me. I want to find simple joys every day to make me smile.

Grandpa 1Grandma and Grandpa in the photobooth at my wedding!

4. He was devoted to his wife.

My grandpa was married to my grandpa just shy of 68 years. And even up til the end, he continually cared for her. Even when her health started to fade, he took on the household duties she couldn’t do…laundry, cooking, shopping. He visited her in the nursing home. He loved my grandma.

I want to be devoted to Kevin for the rest of our lives. Even in the hard times (which I know there will be), I don’t want circumstances to affect our commitment and relationship. I want to care for him forever, no matter what that looks like.

5. He lived a full life and faced death bravely.

My mom told me that near the end, my grandpa said he was really ready to go. He was ready to face death, and to see Jesus. He said that when he saw Jesus he would sing the old song, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” My grandpa was able to say such things because he lived a full life. I know that he and my grandma went on some amazing trips and had tons of unforgettable experiences. He had meaningful relationships. And he had faith.

I want to live a life such as that, so that I am ready to face death. Of course, because of my faith in Jesus Christ, I have no reason to fear death and I know my life is in God’s hands. However, I want to live this life to the fullest. I want to soak up every opportunity and make meaningful relationships. I want to do something great for God with the time he gives me. When I’m old I want to be able to look back on my life and know that I lived it well.

You see, I want to be like my grandpa.

Grandpa 3Grandma and Grandpa at my wedding.

I know there are so many more things I can learn from my grandpa’s life. He was a very special man to me. It is weird thinking he’s, just, not here. At the funeral, all our family was gathered so it felt like grandpa should be there too. Such a strange thing. I do miss him.

But not only do I miss him, but I miss what used to be. I miss those care-free days growing up on his farm. I miss the simplicity. I miss my grandparents as they were in those cherished memories, before so many health issues took their toll. I am saddened to think that I will never make any more of those types of memories. I am sad to face the end of a chapter.

But of course, the end of a chapter only means the start of a new one. And a great reason to make these stories great ones: to honor the life of my grandpa and to, hopefully, one day be the type of person he was.

Grandpa 4Grandpa and Grandma with their grandchildren at my grandpa’s 90th birthday.

Erich August Brakensiek, January 21, 1925 – April 29, 2015

My Adventure in [Making] Cloth Diapers, To the Glory of God!

You might remember one of my goals for April was to finish sewing cloth diapers for a friend. I’m excited to say that I accomplished my goal! It was my first time sewing these and it was definitely an adventure.


I think these diapers look so cute, I just had to share with you! 🙂

I learned a big lesson while making these diapers…I made a mistake in my fabric measurements. The pattern has the measurements for one diaper. I was planning on making three diapers. So, logically, you’d think that to make three diapers, you should just multiply the measurements by three, right?

That’s what I thought. But when I went to cut out my pattern pieces, somehow I had enough fabric to make way more than three diapers. I was pretty peeved that I had spent money on fabric I didn’t need! I was convinced the pattern had lied to me!

Suddenly the lightbulb came on: I only needed to multiply ONE of the measurements by three, not BOTH the width and the height. The height of my pattern piece stays the same for all three diapers, I’m just essentially multiplying the width by three in order to create three diapers. Or, vice versa. Thus, I had actually bought enough fabric to make NINE diapers! (If you don’t understand anything about laying out pattern pieces on fabric, just trust me when I say I made a dumb mistake…)

Yeah, suffice to say, I felt like an idiot. But hey, I inadvertently accomplished another goal of mine for this month: make a mistake and learn from it. Additionally, when I first decided I was going to make these diapers for my friend, I considered the future potential of making these to sell. Maybe I just accidentally kick-started my cloth-diaper-making business! 😉

My stupid mistakes aside, I’m proud of the finished products. I made mistakes along the way but with each diaper I learned how to improve. And I will seek to continue to improve as I get feedback from Breanna on how well the diapers work.

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It is really amazing to be able to use a talent and skill that God has given me to bless others! I first decided I was going to make these for my friend Breanna because she was telling me how expensive cloth diapers can be! Even though it’s generally cheaper in the long run to cloth diaper your child, there is definitely a higher up-front cost.

As Breanna didn’t start cloth diapering her first baby until the baby was a little older, she didn’t have any smaller diapers more fit for a newborn baby. I decided that this was a gift I could give her that would come from the heart and my own handiwork.

Here I am with Breanna at her baby sprinkle and to the right is a picture of me with baby Peter, who I made these diapers for! I’m holding him only 13 hours after he is born…he’s the newest baby I’ve ever held!


                                 Breanna  DSCN0245

My thoughts from this diaper-making experience are simple: what hobbies or skills do you have? How could you use that to bless others?

If you can sew, who could you sew a special hand-made gift for? Or have you ever considered sewing simple clothes to send overseas to impoverished people? I’ve heard of ministries that do that and it’s something I would love to start doing one day.

If you are good at scrapbooking, drawing, stamping, etc, perhaps you could make beautiful cards that you fill with beautiful words of encouragement for someone who is having a rough time.

This isn’t just for us craftsy-type people either: if you’re skilled with cars, you could offer your car maintenance services for free to a single mom or a college student who can’t afford car work right now. If you’re a plumber or electrician, you could volunteer your services for free to you church. If you are good at yardwork, why not offer to help the widow down the street with her yardwork and lawn mowing? If you grow the most prized garden, why not share a bouquet of your flowers with some ladies at a nursing home?

There are so many more examples and possibilities, these are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head! No matter what talent or skill we have, there is some way you can use it for God’s kingdom. It is amazing to think that God can use something that is just a hobby or common knowledge to us and use it for his glory. We certainly worship an amazing and very creative God!

Comment below, what ways do you use your hobbies to bless others?

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Why I’m In Phoenix, In Case You Were Wondering!

In life, there are those people who move from place to place, who travel and see the world, who can’t fit the number of states or countries they’ve lived in on one hand. I’m not that type of person! I’m the person who has lived in one place basically my whole life. Same town, same house, even the same state when I went away to college!

So when Kevin and I announced that we would be moving to Phoenix, Arizona, there were a lot of questions – why are you going there, what’s in Phoenix? And, I don’t mean to say that people asked these questions in a skeptical or unsupportive way. Family and friends were just wondering what was taking us so far away from what we have known and from those who love us.

That’s why I wanted to write this post. I wanted to answer that question of “why”, for all of you who maybe don’t really know why we’re in Phoenix!


However, for me this answer is two-fold.

First, why are we in Phoenix? As in, what are you doing in Phoenix? For those of you who don’t know, we are here because my husband Kevin was accepted in a Residency Program at a Phoenix church. Residency programs are common in health professional fields, as a final stage in a graduate medical program where physicians can finally receive the hands-on training that isn’t possible in a classroom.

Similar to this, Christ’s Church of the Valley (CCV) decided they wanted to create a residency for Bible college graduates. In Bible college, students receive training on how to interpret the Bible, how to preach, how to lead a church, but there is still so much that can only be learned by doing. Like, how to perform a wedding or funeral, how to make a hospital visit, how to have great first impressions on all church guests, etc. There are some things about ministry that you just don’t know until you do it.

Unfortunately, this can make Bible college graduates under-prepared for the realities of ministry life. They may struggle with unmet expectations, feelings of inadequacy, and the day-to-day pressures of being a pastor, eventually leading to burnout. This is why 85% of all trained pastors leave ministry within the first five years of ministry. Ouch!! That’s not a promising statistic!

This is why CCV created this intensive, hands-on Residency Program, called their Leadership Institute. They have a heart to train the next generation of Christian leaders, and to set them on a healthy start into ministry. Through these first-hand experiences, the Leadership Institude aims to reverse the troubling statistic by sending out church leaders who are prepared for the realities of ministry.

Awesome stuff, huh?! So anyway, that is what we are doing here. Last year Kevin applied for the Leadership Institute, along with about 200 other applicants. He and 35 others were chosen to participate. I’m so proud of him for choosing to come here and do something that is so way out of his comfort zone, and I’m just here along for the ride! But we are both learning a lot from CCV that will forever affect our lives and ministry. I know for a fact that our time here at CCV has honed in on our purpose and vision for our future. But, that’s for another post. 😉

The Residency Program ends in May. Right now the church is helping the Residents to find job placements. Some may be hired at CCV, but most will not. Kevin and I are praying for God to guide us as Kevin looks for jobs – that He will guide our steps and place us exactly where we need to be. We are totally leaving that up to Him!


So, that answers the first part, what we’re actually doing here in Phoenix. However, there is still another question that I think tugs at some people, “Why are you in Phoenix? As in, why are you willing to leave everything you’ve known? Aren’t there plenty of ministry jobs in Missouri?”

Yes, of course there are opportunites everywhere! But the reason why we are here boils down to a simple truth: God called us to come here, so we listened.

There is one promise from God that has stuck with me since my sophomore year of college. It’s from Luke 18:29-30:

“‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus said to them, ‘no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.'”

I’ve never been able to forget those words and the lesson that comes with them: if we follow where God calls us, even if it means leaving loved ones, He will not fail to provide us with as much as we have left behind.

If we leave our family, God will provide us with family wherever we go: He will provide us with friends like brothers and sisters, mentors like parents, younger people who we can mentor and invest in like our own children. Wherever we go, God will take care of us.

That doesn’t make it any harder to leave behind the people and places that feel like “home,” but I have always trusted in this promise that no matter where God takes us, He will make it a home for us just as much.

And the beauty of it is, God didn’t let us down. He provided exactly who we needed – friends, mentors, helpers, our own little “Phoenix family.” And I know that no matter where He takes us next, He will keep His promise again.

So that’s my long answer to the question, “Why Phoenix?”. I appreciate your prayers for Kevin and I as we’ve made this journey and as we continue to take new steps. And I hope that no matter where God is calling you – whether it be to move across the country or the world, or to stay right where you are – you will have the faith to trust in His guidance and His faithfulness to provide you with all that you need.

Grand Canyon