The Best Parts of January

At the end of 2017, I decided I was going to keep a detailed log of all the good things that happened in 2018 no matter how small they might be. A log, so to speak, of every gratitude point and blessing. I want to look back and possibly be able to connect some dots in hindsight of where and how He helped us make a comeback. So, this is kind of a numbered, light-hearted update on us.

1.Taegan realized that she liked broccoli. MAJOR breakthrough for my picky, picky eater. I was eating some with my breakfast and she came to my plate and looked at it curiously. I saw an opportunity and went for it. “When I was a kid,” I said, “I used to pretend I was a giant eating tiny trees.” She gave me a skeptical grin, but I could tell it piqued her interest. “You want to try it? It’s kinda fun!” She hesitantly said yes, but only if she could dip it in Ranch. (Ranch makes just about anything edible for Taegan). Next thing I know, I’ve got a little giant eating tiny trees.

2. Luxe had told me through all of 2017 that she was “neva, eva, going on da potty…neva.” I thought Taegan was strong-willed and bull-headed. Folks, let me introduce you to my daughter, Luxe. It’s a good thing she’s charming and adorable cuz good night, Irene…heavens to Betsy…and help me, Rhonda. This. Child. Well, one day Aunt Tanna mentioned to Luxe that if she went on the potty, she’d have a pizza party at Pizza Hut for her. If only all of us had known that’s all it would take! Pizza is Luxe’s love language. However, not only that, but now Luxe’s big sister and her older cousin, Kalyssa, have a very vested interest in making sure this potty training happens because they stand to gain, as well. It was pure genius really! Luxe potty trained in a week and everyone went out for pizza…the added bonus that Marty and Linda got to join us. (Good things on top of good things)

3. I’m kicking my tail in my workouts and it feels good even though I hurt. In my 20s, I worked out because I wanted to look just so. In my 30s, it’s less about that and more about breaking my own barriers. Having a challenge and overcoming it. Proving to myself that I can do hard things in spite of having neck/shoulder issues. Seeing what once was tough—maybe even impossible in my eyes—become easy. This principle has so many applications on so many levels. Mindset matters maybe more than anything. But, January was a rewarding month as far as health and fitness goals are concerned. So, I’m thankful for that and look forward to pushing myself even more.

4. Taegan branched out even more and decided olives could go on her ever expanding list of foods, as well.

5. Luxe started dance class in November. One of my favorite things about being a parent is figuring out the places a burgeoning talent lies in my children and helping them maximize those strengths. Luxe may only be 3, but she’s got some talent. She loses herself in her own little world when she’s dancing and she just creates…and what she creates is good! Dancing brings Luxe joy and it brings us joy to watch her. We’re uncertain if the child can sing. Jury’s still out on that one. But, we see potential in her creativity and desire with dance. So, I started taking her to dance classes. It didn’t go so well for a couple months. Basically, she was a thumb-sucking, frowny observer who never spoke and only shook or nodded her head with a grunt from time to time. If she did happen to be seen participating, she would stop as soon as her instructor told her what a great job she was doing. Just a real pleasure to be around, ya know? A delightful social butterfly, to be sure! I knew she liked it because she would come home and repeat every move and flourish to a T, but she wasn’t going to let her instructor see that…until the end of January when she had “her best day yet!” YAY! Dance, baby, dance…even if it is baby steps.

6. Taegan’s basketball skills and grit drastically improved over the summer! Basketball is Taegan’s jam. She absolutely loves it, but after last year, I worried that she might not have what it takes to be coachable. She had no desire to guard and flat out refused. (It’s that whole stubborn thing again…my girls have it in spades). She was timid with the ball. She melted into a hysterical puddle of tears when a male coach called her out on a mistake in the middle of a game last season and couldn’t pull herself together enough to be put back in. Yes, she was 6, but wowza, that was embarrassing and a little tough to handle for two competitive parents. She showed some real promise even then for athleticism, but I feared she didn’t have the emotional fortitude. (Taegan is an interesting, hard to explain mix of tough and sensitive.) She also didn’t seem to care too much about winning and when you’re playing sports, ya kiiiinda gotta have that desire to be any good. Well, I believe it was just a little too much for her at that particular time because this time around, we’re seeing a different Taegan on the court. She’s trying to get her teammates attention for passes. She’s shooting and scoring points. She’s dribbling up and down the court. She’s guarding and starting to understand that we can be friends off the court and still play to win. And, low and behold, they lost the other night and she went home miffed…stayed that way for the rest of the evening. I’ll admit being secretly pleased that it bothered her so much. That’s what I’m talking about, sister! Sometimes it takes getting angry and frustrated to grow and improve unless you let it discourage you to the point of quitting. And quitters never win. I asked her if she did her best that night. Her answer? “NO!” How refreshing! Thank you for your honesty! I think we may have found what we needed a year ago. It’s been a pleasure watching her find her stride and I look forward to seeing what else she’s got up her sleeve as she grows.

I have a lot to share about our new adventure because that was probably the biggest good thing (hopefully) in January, but we’re not quite ready for me to share that publicly yet. Stay tuned!


The Winds of Change

The winds of change swirl overhead. They move the clouds fast. Powerful. I feel it. His power. Our way of life crumbles around us as if dynamite blasts KA-BOOM. And yet…the fall out is blessing. This storm is not about destruction. It’s new road demolition. “I am doing a new thing. Now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?…” He says. (Isaiah 43:19)

Yes, Father! Yes, I see it. Help me see more. 

Leslee and I are in the middle of a huge life change at the moment. Recent events along with years of prayer and struggle have convicted us both to step out in faith. It is a 100% united step that involves selling our cows and saying goodbye to my husband’s dairy dream. It’s been tough for him to deal with even though he knows it’s the right move. In a way, dairy farming is a comfort zone for him (even though farming period is anything but safe). It’s hard for a farmer to look at everything he’s tried to do and build and not feel like a failure because no matter what, it just isn’t working. It requires too much. There are too many trade-offs he doesn’t want to trade. Too many fires to constantly put out that keep him from those things he deems essential: God, family, and a little fun from time to time.

However, I don’t look at this ending as a failure. At all. The dairy sustained our family for a season, but I think it was only the means to a journey. WE were the journey. I can’t express in words how much spiritual growth and progress has happened between the two of us since we had Taegan and embarked on a crazy road to a dairy farm in the middle of nowhere. That was the point. The kind of progress God wants. I don’t need much hindsight to see that. Sometimes the Lord needs to take us out to the wilderness to address the arid, dry places of our hearts…take us away from the system that distracts us from Him. I’m thankful for that because we were distracted. We simply didn’t realize it. The word “failure” doesn’t even enter my mind. Then again, maybe failure and progress go hand in hand more than we think.

I believe God is honoring our willingness to do this afraid. His tightly-wound, risk- managing, cautious son and daughter are open. They might be crazy throwing caution to the wind, but we feel like God is doing a proud, slow clap of approval. Nodding with a big grin–just like I would when one of my children finally “got it.” Obstacles have been removed. Opportunities have arisen. Good things have literally landed right in our laps. And we’re believing that He’ll take care of the things that still need taken care of (finding a buyer for our cows being our next hurdle). Do I know we’ll encounter road blocks? Sure. But, things fall into place with no drama when the Lord is making way and that’s how things have been of late.

All in all, the quote that convicted Leslee that this decision weighing heavy was the right one was this: “You’re not a failure when you can’t make things work. You’re only a failure when you stay in and continue to do what doesn’t work.” (The irony being that he read the quote in a dairy magazine. Coincidence? I think not. God is resourceful when it comes to confirmation of what He’s putting on your heart).

So, my resourceful, intelligent, hard-working husband has come to the end of himself and his resources without putting our family in dire straits we can’t dig out of. I’m thankful for that. And we look up for new direction, while keeping our heads down, focused,  both of us believing for a better season ahead.

He’s doing a new thing. The older I get, the more I feel like I’m just along for the ride. But, that’s ok, Lord. Take us where you want us to go. 

“…I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19)

Oh, how we long to see it.


Growth and Gratitude in the Worst Year of My Life


A new year. I enter it markedly different. I suppose we all do, but after a year like 2017, I feel like I’ve been carved into a very different person. The worst year of your life will do that to you. It hadn’t just been awful since the end of August. No…January began and train wreck after train wreck. Storm after storm. (In April, literally.) Challenge after challenge. There were so many prayers answered “yes.” One big one answered “no.” And so many still up in the air. It occurs to me to be thankful that I have so many things to pray for and about. The ones that He quickly answers give me hope for the ones He’s silent on. The answered ones keep me going when He says no. And even His big no was only a “Not right now…” A painful, deferred yes that I both ache for and anticipate with great joy.

I spent a LOT of time on my knees in 2017 praying for change—and the thing that changed the most was me. God worked some miracles for me and He also brought me to the end of myself so many times I can’t even count. Every strength wasn’t strong enough. Every weakness seemed to be laid bare. Every place in which I relied on myself—even unconsciously—was no longer reliable. Distractions no longer distracted. My efforts to plant dreams or make plans were completely uprooted to the point where I felt paralyzed to even dream or make plans. There was literally nothing I could control.

And I think that was the point. I AM is God of your life, Breauna, not you. I heard that loud and clear.

So, I spent a lot of time also asking God, “What do you want from me? What am I not seeing here? I’m begging you for blessing, Father, and I trust you, so I know there’s a reason You’re not honoring my requests. What do you want from me?” Not in a frustrated way…in a willing one.

“You. I want you,” is what I started to understand. “I want you to seek Me because you just want to be where I am. I want you to seek me simply to draw close. To understand and know Me. You remember how you were when you were a child? In some ways, you need to go back. Let go of control. Let go of thinking you are in any way in charge of your life. Let go of expectation. Let go of your own ideas of what you think a blessed life is and be present in the blessed life I’ve placed you in. I want your gratitude.”

“But you have it, Lord! I am grateful!”

Not when I bless you and then you’re on to your next request. Achieve one, move to the next. Open your eyes, daughter. I AM everywhere. I want you to see My favor in your life in spite of the challenges, storms, and disappointments. An easy, comfortable life does not equal a blessed one. An easy, comfortable life does not mean you have My favor. When you were a child, it was just you and Me. You had dreams, but no expectations. No comparisons. No notions of what a “happy” life was supposed to be like. You just lived. My pleasure in you and love for you was not based on my action. It was simply based on your belief that I AM what I say I AM.

Trust Me.”

As water poured out of my eyes in my closet, living water was carving riverbeds in my soul. 2017 was an exponential growth year. I grew…because I shrunk. The paradox of moving forward on my journey was all in the setbacks. I needed to revert to mature. I needed to decrease so He could increase. It’s ironic to me that my whole mantra since moving to a little dairy out in the middle of nowhere was “Bloom where you are planted.” I now see God’s motive was “Make a whole new flower.” Your struggles, challenges, setbacks, etc. are not the pain of the executioner’s whip, my daughter. My no’s and my silence are not punishment. Nor are they you somehow missing the road signs or messing up My plans. You, dearheart, are not that powerful. You’re simply impatient. In the meantime, I’m  using my scalpel to fix a few things. I’ve got Your life in my hands. You’ve seen Me in action on your behalf enough to know that. Trust me with it.

I do, Father. I am trusting You. And thank You.

It took me 11 months to stop praying for the things I wanted and start simply asking God to bless me with the things He wanted me to have. To open my eyes to those things when they came. To open my eyes to Him everywhere. To feel Him. To see Him. To experience Him. To be completely fulfilled in all things Him. I sat down with my Bible simply to read—with full faith that if He wanted to me to know something specific, I would end up there at the perfect time. And I told Him I would try my best not to bring my own requests for material or physical blessing, but simply humbly accept what He saw fit to give and cherish with gratitude everything I had. Not because it’s wrong to ask for those things, but because I wanted to put my trust into action. It’s been tough! I’ve had to overhaul some habits and do some major mindset work—or maybe I can’t even take credit for that as my own strength. All good that I do is Him.

Last month, a friend gave me an idea that I prayed about weeks. A word. I simply wanted a word. Something to hang onto as I entered 2018. I prayed for it. Waiting. Watching. A day or two later—the word “prepare” was jumping off book pages. It was everywhere I looked. It was a broken record in my head. I looked up. Is that you, Lord? Is that Your word? I timidly asked because it had a positive feeling with it, a hopeful connotation, and I’ll admit to being afraid I was intercepting it wrong. Afraid of getting my hopes up.  Things expectations are made of. And yet, this word would not leave me alone. Prepare.

Weeks went by. I kept my eye out for a different word. A different message. I’ll admit I’m still doing it. I just don’t want to get it wrong. And yet, this pesky prepare is still here.

Prepare…prepare for what?

I’m not sure…the only thing I can be sure of is that change is always certain.

Prepare for change? Is that it? At this point, I feel like I’m prepared for anything. Having no expectations will do that to a person. Anything can happen. I simply have to roll with it, which completely goes against pride and my own self-accomplishment.

There’s a sense, for me, that prepare was an apt word for 2017. Brace yourself, Breauna. This is going to be a long, dark, bumpy ride. Major growing pains around the next bin.

And yet, here we are in 2018, with this positive, hopeful “prepare.” What was He preparing me for in 2017? And not just me…but Leslee, as well? I’m reminded of Jacob after wrestling with God. Leslee and I can relate to walking with a limp. We come limping into 2018, but with newfound strength, as well. And  humble, grateful hands wide open for whatever the Lord wants to give.

And the word is… “prepare.”

Day 2-3: Walking On in the Ugly Beautiful Bitter Sweet

The sun went down on our first day home and pain blindsided me in a moment I didn’t expect. You might wonder how it blindsided me when it had been the only constant, but some happy moments were even sadder than the sorrowful ones. I glanced outside as the sun went down to see Leslee pushing our girls on the swings.


It was a sweet moment, but I felt the bitter start to build inside me. He was smiling, they were giggling…laughing, and I was having a hard time with the image of happiness this scene was portraying. It was surreal…standing there fully aware that this was my life and yet I was so far removed from it. In my mind, I was wherever Leif was. That’s where I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be witnessing a happy family. I didn’t belong there.

I remember a conversation I had with my mom before I left the hospital. A conversation about how life goes on in spite of you. I told her I didn’t know how in the world I was going to move forward. That I had no desire to. I can’t remember everything she said, but one line stuck with me. “That’s the hard, but somewhat merciful thing about life…Whether we want to move forward or not, as life moves forward, it tends to drag us along with it.”


I stood there looking out the window and realized this was one of those moments. This beautiful, ugly, golden, bitter moment where I first experienced that she was right. I was going to be dragged along whether I liked it or not. It was happening as I stood there. My family was going to drag me along.  I might as well find the beauty over the ugly. The sweet over the bitter. I got my camera. It occurred to me that I might want to remember this. This…the moment  life started to move on. The moment life looked like nothing horrible had happened to us.  A normal, happy family playing in the yard.

I saw Leslee pushing the girls and I wanted to embrace his strength. This was a joy-filled moment. For him. I was sincerely thankful for that. He found solace in two little girls. I took pictures. Someday, we’ll all get back to this, right, Father? I have to believe that.


My head hit the pillow that night and I passed out. But not before I cried some more. For as I had gone to turn out the light under our cabinets, there lay the pacifiers I had bought last week.


I woke up the next morning feeling a lot more rested. A little stronger. I moved through the fog that surrounded me and prayed a thousand prayers. Every moment, I need You. I need You. Give me the strength to get out of this bed. Give me the strength to make breakfast. Give me the strength to plan my son’s funeral today. Let me feel you, Lord. Heal my broken heart. Give Leif a hug and a kiss from me (I love you, sweet boy). I need You. Please comfort me.

If my own prayers weren’t enough, I was covered.  In prayers and love. I could feel it. A warm embrace. Prayers went up…the Lord’s presence intensified. So tangibly. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced and it’s difficult to put into words. He was there…through a loving, specific, well-timed word from Leslee. Through a heart-felt message from friends or family.  Through hugs. Through generosity. Through meals. Through His Word. Through tears. Lots and lots of tears. When I broke down, He carried. When I leaned into the pain and the flood broke forth, His strength could handle the storm. When I whispered, He whispered back.

However, that day was a hard day. We met with the funeral home and made the arrangements for Leif’s service. I sat there and could hardly speak. I was grateful that Leslee did all the talking. We wanted a little handout for people to have at the service. I was frustrated that I didn’t have full control over the design, the font, the colors, the EVERYTHING about it. Amidst my gratitude that the funeral home was willing to do an infant service for very little cost, it worried me that it might not be our idea of perfect. I just wanted everything to be perfect. I wanted to control the details because I couldn’t control anything else.

And then I found out I had to write the obituary. I guess I assumed they would have kind of a fill-in-the-blank template for us.  Yeah, something mindless would be best for me right now. I don’t want to think. However, in my current state, I’m certain I would have wanted to hijack that, too. I needed something to give me purpose. Something to throw myself into. I couldn’t be pleased. And the responsibility of writing my baby’s obituary left me feeling overwhelmed.

The ride home was long. There was silence, but feelings and thoughts filled the car.  I stared up out the window, blue sky, white cotton clouds, trying to draw near to those heights. Trying to lose myself…hear God…find my son. Tears were ready and then Leslee grabbed my hand and squeezed intuitively.

“What are you thinking right now?”

Floodgates opened as I turned my head to look at him. “I miss my son!” I wailed. As I cried, he squeezed harder and continued to hold on as tears brimmed in his own eyes. No words were necessary. He missed him, too. His generosity in asking me time and time again to share my thoughts was not lost on me. Giving me permission to unload on him is what he’s always done, but it’s easier to hear when you’re not in it. When you’re not the one unpacking the baggage. We were sharing a suitcase on this journey.

“I love you, Breauna. I miss him, too.” A phrase he uttered countless times never grew old. It grounded me.

When we arrived home, he went to take care of some chores and I sat down at my computer, wrote the first line of Leif’s obituary, and sobbed. I wrote another line and had to stop because I couldn’t even see the screen. Another line. And another…until I had reached 8 lines that I absolutely hated. If ever anger presented itself, it was in that moment. I was angry at myself for not being able to articulate what I wanted to say about my baby. A baby I had only known through little kicks and twists and rolls in my belly. A baby that knew me so much better than I knew him…or would ever get the chance to.   I should have been able to DO this, but it sounded so flat. I looked up and said, “Father, You’re going to have to help me with this. Give me inspiration. Give me the words. I need You.”


I decided to leave it for a while. Walk away and put it off. I needed to message a friend and tell her I was using her poem in the ceremony. Little did I know she would help me finish the hard part of his obituary with her response. Her words were perfect.  Yet again, and as always… there He was.



I finished up my chores and went for a little drive around the farm to clear my head. I had gotten upset upon arriving at the funeral home to find my son was still at the hospital. I beat myself up. I should have brought him there myself. I left him thinking they would pick him up that day. He spent another night at the hospital alone. The thought cut me to the core. I know I was somewhat irrational, but just because he wasn’t living didn’t make me any less his parent. It didn’t make me love or care for him any less. It’s not a switch I can turn off. The funeral director assured me someone was on their way to get him as we spoke, but I was visibly frazzled. These woods and hills brought me peace.

I decided checking my cameras would be a nice distraction. I enjoy tracking the deer population on the farm, hunting sheds…hunting, period. I like to watch the little bucks grow and ponder what they might mature into. I had had my eye on one in particular. I had watched him grow. I had held onto his sheds. He was on my list. I loved how symmetrical he was. The best way I can explain it…He was just my kind of deer. And we had a history. He was stealthy, though, which made him even more of a challenge.

I drove up to one of my cameras, scrolled through a few photos, and there he was. Front and center. His face and his antlers filled the screen. Yes! I thought. What day was this?


I looked down and it suddenly hit me. 8/27/17. I’ll admit I’ve always been more a believer in coincidence when it comes to details. Small things. This feeling that washed over me was more up Breauna’s alley. I always just kind of grinned and let her tell me a story about details she saw God’s hand in and thought, Well, maybe…But I’ve never felt or experienced anything like that personally.

God wasn’t going to let me write this one off. There stood my special buck—the one I’d hardly talked to anyone about—on my camera on the day we said hello and goodbye to our son. The photo sent a message straight through me. I know you. I know all of the little details. Things you don’t share with everyone. And I know this moment because I know this buck is special to you. Hear Me: It’s going to be ok. If this photo says anything to you, let it be this. If I can work about this tiny thing that speaks volumes to you, I can work about the big things. Start trusting I do indeed speak and work in the details.

I hopped in my side-by-side and ran home to show Breauna my picture and the date. She would know. She would understand what it meant to me and I understood her even better now. I had a story—an encounter of my own—about how God reaches us and how very resourceful He is.

I named the buck Leif’s Buck. Never had I wanted to see a deer live so bad in my life. As long as he stayed on the farm, he was safe. And that day was a turning point for me. God had my back and all the little details in between. He orchestrated them and there was a peaceful blessing in being able to see. I simply had to put the right glasses on when I scrolled through the camera.

It’s A Wonderful Life


11/25/17 – Our Thanksgiving was a blessed one. It wasn’t stressful, we didn’t spend a lot of time on the road, and somehow we managed to see a lot of family AND take a cute photo for our Christmas cards over the course of two days.

Leslee and I were doing good. Great, actually.  Our focus was on the present…not the past…not the future.

The past is now something I don’t want to talk about. Saying that makes me feel a little guilty, but in my mind, it has nothing to do with Leif, and everything to do with choosing joy. Choosing healing. Choosing to continue on this path the Lord has me on in cooperation with His will rather than dwelling on what mine was.

The future is always uncertain. So, the day I have is mine to enjoy. One good family photo was all I needed, so we sat for it and my mind was on making sure the girls were doing what they were supposed to be doing while I was still maintaining a smile.

We got up and started back for the house when sadness snuck up on me. Our family photo was missing a person. I should have had my little guy in my arms. My arms were empty. And this photo on my camera looked as if nothing had ever happened.

Inhale, exhale. Get it together, Breauna. I had actually been avoiding family photos to avoid this feeling. However, Luxe wasn’t a part of any of our family pictures to date, so I took the opportunity I had on this one.

We walked in the house and the girls were a blessed distraction as they bustled around trying to put play clothes on and go their separate ways with other family members. I sat at my desk in the silence and touched up a few things on the photo. The next task was perusing the different holiday cards for the perfect one.

I scrolled and scrolled thinking, Meh, not right for us….too many picture slots…too much pizzazz…etc. I wanted something very simple. At the very end of all the card choices, I found it. Just the right one. It was a simple family photo card and across the bottom it said, “It’s a wonderful life.”

I sat there and pondered that for a bit. I overanalyzed what people might think of me–with my empty arms—sitting there on a card that says it’s a wonderful life. The enemy was in my ear. “Is it a wonderful life, Breauna? Really…for you? I’m pretty sure a person wouldn’t call losing a child a wonderful life…”

No…no, they wouldn’t. But, that still didn’t define everything that this family in the photo was…or is. Losing Leif didn’t make the people or the pieces that still remained any less wonderful. It didn’t make me any less full of wonder when I thought about how this life had been specifically orchestrated for each of us by a Master Conductor.  How each day was another piece of the puzzle that I was certain was going to be wonderful when I got to see it all put together and finished.

It is a wonderful life, I firmly declared and went about setting our photo in that card, all the while still feeling melancholy.

Leslee walked in from doing chores and peeked around the bedroom door.

“Whatcha doing?” he casually asked.

“Oh, trying to get our Christmas cards ordered…It’s got me in a little bit of a funk.”

“Oh, yeah? Why’s that?” he asked.

“Well, I look at it and I can’t help thinking about what it’s missing…”

“I totally hear that. I was thinking about that earlier,” he replied.

“But…,” I looked up at him, tear-filled eyes, as he looked at the proof of our Christmas card, and said, “it’s still a wonderful life…right?”

“Oh, babe…absolutely,” he emphatically replied. He circled the three girls in the photo with his finger and said, “There ain’t nothin about this that isn’t wonderful. I look at the three of you and think, ‘Man! How did I ever get so blessed?!’ It is a wonderful life. Send that one. That’s the card.”

I guess all I needed was his corroboration to bolster my own belief. It’s interesting how choosing a simple Christmas card made me question my truth, but it wasn’t even about me, really. It was about me looking at my life from the outside–the tragedy of it–and wondering if someone would question God. What kind of God gives someone a baby and allows it to die? And how in the world is that woman still calling her life wonderful? She’s delusional. She’s out of her ever-loving mind!

See, that’s the point that I can’t explain to my own humanness. It defies understanding…this peace. This wonder that still remains. This joy. The wholehearted belief that God is still so good. It’s impossible to wrap a mind around.

Which brings me back to the card. It’s a wonderful life…when the Lord is in it. A wonderful life. Full of Him. Full of  wonder.