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“Take your make up off, Let your hair down, Take a breath, Look into the mirror at yourself, Don’t you like you? Cause I like you…”

“Put your make up on
Get your nails done
Curl your hair
Run the extra mile
Keep it slim so they like you, do they like you?”
 It’s the tiniest slip, a mere 100 feet from Gymboree to Justice, but it’s another galaxy. Kittens to cheerleading. Tiny bows to sparkly boots. The smallest change in cuts, so that the shoulder is exposed a bit more. You pull it down, I pull it up. This is the year of more no than yes. The year that the one piece versus bikini became reality instead of theory. These baby girls who hate being called babies walk their spindly legs down familiar halls, and the bathrooms suddenly have mirrors. When did they get mirrors? Us moms, we don’t ever forget that first time we see you suck your stomach in. We want to warn you, but we also see the freight train that carries braces, pimples, and cramps barreling down the track, and we are powerless to do anything but catch a ride alongside you. Doesn’t it feel like a race? To catch onto the thing that will make you “it”,  you just can’t be the last to catch on! You ask us when you can start shaving your legs, and we beg for more time. Babies, do you know how loved you are? Do you know how we stay awake, memorizing every dip and curve of your face? Do you know about the moments that we catch a glimpse and can’t speak because of your beauty? Can you hear your mother’s voice as it cracks with tears when she talks about you? Can you see the desperation in her eyes when you tell her that you just wish you were pretty, because she just can’t find enough words to express how beautiful you are?
Babies, did you know your Father feels this way about you?
“Get your sexy on
Don’t be shy, girl
Take it off
This is what you want, to belong, so they like you
Do you like you?”
 A thousand voices compete for your attention, and sometimes the most negative one is your own. You might despise us now. Loves, we mamas need grace. It’s probably easy for you to forget that along with hurting with you, we can be hurt by you too. We remember our own adolescent struggles with dress sizes and acne, with that one boy who spoke cruel words, with that embarrassing moment we were sure no one would ever forget, and then we sigh and remember that you have all these same moments captured on Instagram. When you walk into that high school on that first day, your mama is pleading for you, that you might rise above the fray, but we also know that no destination is worth getting to if you don’t have to swim hard for it. So we step back and continue the gut wrenching process of releasing that which we never owned, and give you a sympathetic smile when you cry over dateless dances. Did you know we would still let you stand on our feet to dance? Do you know that at every turn, we are praying that you won’t fall for the scheme of letting others decide your beauty?
Loves, did you know your Father pursues you this way?
“Get your shopping on, at the mall, max your credit cards
You don’t have to choose, buy it all, so they like you
Do they like you?”
Sisters, aren’t you tired? Do you remember a time when you thought that desire to belong and fit in was simply a childish goal and someday you wouldn’t care? And now we hover in doorways at PTA meetings, we sit alone on park benches, we form a line of quiet loneliness while our kids play soccer. We’ve gotten good at the game, claiming ignorance of the game itself. But we go home and slather on our expensive night cream, and we look in the mirror and sigh. Sure, we proudly own our laboring stretch marks and embrace the gray, but that desire, the one to be known, it is just as strong. Sisters, did you know that He put that in you? And yet we protect and manage, putting our best night creamed face forward, just to come home exhausted because its
Beloved Sisters, did you know your Father wants you to rest?
Today is the first day of school. Today, His daughters will venture out into a world that can be incredibly cruel. Today I will pray for myself and for my sisters.

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“Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore…”

Back in May, our family sat around our dinner table and made a list of individual goals. We divided them up into reading goals, learning goals, activity goals, and just fun goals. Some examples were- reading 10,000 pages, learning to make pizza, learning about civil rights, learning to fish, learning to run, going to a water park, having two days a week with no technology, etc.

I’m happy to report that we met all our goals and we are entering the new school year as well rested, well-rounded people who are quite frankly, much smarter and cooler than the rest of you slackers.

Eh…something like that. Here’s the truth- only Josiah met his reading goal. He surpassed 10,000 pages actually, which is impressive until I tell you that we probably haven’t spoken to him in a few weeks. There’s been no fishing, no deck building, I have learned 0 new songs on the guitar, no water park, and my children have developed a deep abiding relationship with the television this summer, followed closely by becoming besties with the Xbox. I did not learn how to make artisan bread or homemade sushi, but I DID learn that if you offer no alternative, your children will eat peanut butter and jelly for more than one day in a row.

This week has been difficult, for many reasons, but one of the reasons is that I have been struggling with guilt over how our summer has progressed, and the lack of meaningful interactions between me and my kids. Actually, that’s just fancy blog talk for saying I feel like a failure. A big old not running, frozen waffle making, swimming counts as a bath failure. School starts in a week and my house isn’t more organized. I have no meal plans ready. There are no homework stations and at this point, I am not quite sure where Josiah’s toothbrush is.

It’s amazing to me that we do this- we look at summer vacation and forget that it’s only a vacation for the kids. My life and responsibilities haven’t stopped! In fact, they have at least doubled, because now I have three kids home. Home. All the time. All the days and hours. They are home. With me. All the days. They are home with me and that means I have 88% less time to do laundry, cook, clean, organize the house, take care of the dog, do ministry, write, spend time with friends, spend time with the Lord, and be a wife. Not sure if 88% is right, but who has time to do correct math when all the children are here?? So we have less time and less energy, yet we make goals for ourselves as though we have all the free time in the world. It’s crazy and unrealistic. And for me, it has set me up for grouchiness and crying and guilt.

And I’ve decided I’ve had enough. I can’t find any scripture about spanish lessons or running a marathon or reading Shakespeare or learning cursive. But I’ve read plenty about rest and loving others and laughter and being patient and kind. And I think my ancestors would roll their eyes at my fretting, so I am taking my cues from them. I want to encourage you with the following questions-

1. Has your child been eaten by a wooly mammoth or scarred by an attack while gathering water at the watering hole?

2. Has your child lost any fingers or limbs in a combine this summer?

3. Did you child contract Bubonic Plague while gathering wild mushrooms to feed the family?

If you answered “no” to each of these, then congratulations, your summer was a success!

And more questions-

1. Did your child eat this summer?

2. Did water come into contact with your child’s body this summer?

3. Is your child currently breathing?

If you answered “yes”, then you are a rock star summer parent.


The truth is, while many parents wrestle with wanting to have a perfect Pinterest summer, I struggled more with wanting some high level spiritual experience for my kids. I wanted us to be sweet and generous and loving and prayerful and creative and singing and Spinterest. Spiritual Pinterest. But I bet I don’t have to tell you that the world of Spinterest does contain an extraordinary amount of “spin”. Our family is just full of human sinners, and three months of constant togetherness has brought out that sin in some unique and loud ways. Some days were louder than others.

Sweet friends, take a deep breath. Channel your inner Elsa and let. it. go. Don’t let your Spinterest hopes distract you from what is right in front of you- a beautiful, restful, joy filled sink of dirty dishes. They’ll be there tomorrow. Maybe even the next day. And no one will die or abandon their faith because of it.

Your babies are watching to see how you feel about those dirty faces and dishes.




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“No time for dreams or goals, pressure is so strong, her body she has sold so her child can eat, What is happening to this world we live in, in our home and other lands…”

Google “Mommy wars”, go ahead. I’ll wait. See you in about 57 days.

Writing about the so-called mommy war is almost a requirement for mommy bloggers. The angles are endless- are mommy wars real, are they important, where do they happen, what weapons are used, is it really wrong to throw your Starbucks at another mom (yes. unless you let it cool first), etc etc. You’ve probably experienced it- the judgmental stare of a mother as you soothe your precious cherub with a bag of processed dye laden cheez nodules after they tripped over the laces of their made in china sneakers. Or maybe you’re the mom with the organic homemade fruit leather who is being unfairly evaluated as you do naked yoga in the park with your child, little Artisan Flannel.

I’ve read quite a few blogs in the last few weeks, many of them shared on twitter and Facebook by friends, so it’s clear to me that the subject of this war hits home for a lot of moms. I say moms, because I honestly don’t think dads get into this stuff like moms do. But by all means, dads, if you are getting judged unfairly because of your naked yoga skills, chime in! Just words please. No pictures.

The sentence I see repeated over and over again in all these blogs is “We’ve all been there.” As a writer, I know that sentence can be very healing, and create a sense of comfort and solidarity with your reader. Get a group of moms together, and at some point the subject of parenting choices and the judgment that can follow will probably come up. Breast or formula, co-sleeping or sleep training, cloth or disposable, cry it out or soothe, vaccine or no vaccine, homemade or jarred baby food, stay at home or work outside of the home, public or home school, santa or no santa. It doesn’t end when the kids get older. Help with homework or let them do it alone, modest clothing or fashionable clothing, PG13 movies or G, sleepovers or no sleepovers, competitive sports or just for fun sports, dating or courtship or chastity belt, driving or no driving, paying for college or getting a job and on and on and on and on.  Sometimes I wonder if parents breathe a sigh of relief when their kids go to college, just for the sheer fact that they probably won’t ever meet anyone else’s parents and compare if little Artisan is smoking pot or binge drinking.

We all hear the encouragement- “Don’t worry about others! Just concentrate on you! Think about you and your family, and that’s all that matters! Be confident in yourself!”

I want to flip it. Worry about others. Don’t concentrate on you. Think about other families. You aren’t all that matters.

See, the thing is- we have the luxury of caring. The fact that we have to choose between Goldfish and Cheddar Bunnies means that we have a choice. It means that we can afford to buy snacks. It means we have a way to get to a store. It means we can pay for them. It means we can read.

It means we have food in our country.

There is a mama out there tonight in a country where they don’t look out for summer storms to ruin picnics, they look out for bombs to blow up their homes. It is not even on her radar to think about what kind of snacks other moms are making. She can’t imagine caring if the mom down the road uses cloth or disposable diapers…because there is only one option.  Her eyes will close tonight and she will pray that the morning will come.

There is a mama today that will stand in line to be humiliated at an office for food stamps. She will have escaped from domestic violence and instead of calling her brave, we will call her a leech. She doesn’t have time to mentally critique the other mom in line for letting her 3-year-old wear a Katy Perry shirt, because she knows that shirt probably came from a charity clothes closet.

There is a mama today who will incorrectly strap her baby into a car seat to drive to a park, because she read that babies need stimulation. She will feel the weight of stares because she didn’t put sunscreen on the baby! and while she knows it might be easier to claim to be the baby’s older sister, she proudly carries him like a mother. It took her weeks to work up the courage to walk away from the clinic where they promised her that it would be over soon and she would never think of it again. She knows that she has no idea what she is doing. She knows that you know that too. She is hoping that someday, some woman might be kind enough to help her learn the ropes.

There is a mama tonight that will die. She is one of the lucky ones who hasn’t caught the disease of her country, but even in health, there is hunger. She dies because she chooses to give her food to her child.  She will sacrifice herself and pray with her last breath that the food will be provided. And it won’t be. Her child will die days later too.

THESE are the mommy wars we should be fighting. Do we pretend our wars are real because it makes us feel better to think we are fighting for something?

Someone will accuse me of using the “eat your vegetables, because there are starving children in China” argument. That’s ok. It’s mostly true, but more like “there are starving children in your city, so please stop stressing if your neighbor’s vegetables are organic” Let’s take our energy and passion and fight real wars. I’ll bring the snacks.



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“Say what you want to say, and let the words fall out, honestly, I wanna see you be brave…”

My precious girl is off to camp this week while my oldest son and my husband are in Ethiopia. This is Selah’s second year attending Pine Cove camp at The Towers and she LOOOOVES it. Some of you might remember that last year, I found this list she had written down about all the things she wanted to do at camp. I still laugh reading that list!  You can read it here-

This year, we’ve been dealing with a good amount of anxiety. One of the funniest things about Selah is that she isn’t scared of things she should be scared of, and she IS scared of things that likely will never happen. She can deal with anxiety even over things she has done multiple times, and sometimes she doesn’t recognize what is happening in her mind and body as anxiety. I’ve been working with her a ton this year on stopping and recognizing what is happening to her physically and emotionally, being able to put a name on it, and making a plan to relax. What happens when she DOESN’T do these things is that she will get nervous, get unfocused and impulsively act on whatever idea pops into her head. I don’t think I need to tell you that those ideas are not always wise (see also multiple self inflicted haircuts).

So this month, I started seeing her display anxiety and I knew part of it was Wes and Josiah leaving and part of it was her going to camp. Even good stress is still stress, but sweet Selah just doesn’t always recognize that, so one afternoon I snuggled with her in my reading chair and asked her to make a list of all the things she was worried about for camp week, and asked her to write down some truth about those fears and a plan for how to fight off that anxiety. The following is part of her list (some of her fears are too personal for blogging), and some of her methods for calming down.


What I am scared of, by Selah Nicole Butler the First

1. What if daddy and Josiah have so much fun and don’t want to come home?

Truth- Daddy and Josiah have more fun at home because we have more fun things like pizza and sports on tv and Watermark and friends. And I am here and Mommy is here so daddy will always come home for mommy.  I should write to daddy sweet words so he doesn’t forget that I live here in AMERICA.


2. I am nervous because what if there’s a rat when daddy is gone and it bites me.

Truth- Mommy will just call a brave man in our community group but I don’t know who that is. I should find out. Mommy will call the xfrigerader (so close) to come and set traps. I can make my own trap with a pipe cleaner and cheese and a net. I need a net. I can use tights. 


3. Scared because a girl at camp last year said I talk too much.

Truth- God made me have all my words and HE LOVES ME SO THERE. Pray that she likes me. Pray that if I have too many words, they should mostly be about God. Some of them can be about horses and Taylor Swift.


4. What if it floods at camp?

Truth- Selah, remember about Noah. If it rains a lot, we can build tree houses. God, can you make it rain a lot?


5. What if an Ethiopian person gets mad at Josiah about talking about Jesus and he hits him with a broom or a rock or throws him into a crocodile pit. 

Truth- Daddy is there and he is strong. Josiah can run really fast. He can swim fast too. Maybe if he hits him with a broom then Josiah will catch the broom and then sweep his kitchen for him so he will want to listen about Jesus. Mr. Tim will protect him too. And Ms. Baker will because she is a teacher so she knows what to do when kids are mean. I wish Ms. Baker was my teacher. If Josiah gets hurt, I will never stop crying. I will be very mad at that man and I will throw a evangle cube at his face. 


6. What if I ride a horse and it gets spooked by a snake and it runs away and I fall off of it and I land on top of the snake and it makes the snake mad and the snake is Voldamart’s snake. 

Truth- I’m just kidding about the Voldamart part. If my horse gets spooked, I will just say whoa nelly and feed it carrots. If the horse doesn’t like carrots, I will feed it mexican food. If I fall off the horse, my counselor will carry me to the hospital and mommy will drive really fast to come visit me and bring me some flowers. I will forgive my horse because it’s a horse and I don’t even know if they have brains. I would be so scared if I saw a snake too, especially if it has jewels on it’s back. It’s like snakes are trying to trick people because they are shiny with diamond on their backs but they are mean. That’s just like STAN (pretty sure she meant satan) because he tricks people that he’s nice but he just wants to steal, kill, and destroy. He even wants to kill horses. 


7. What if my counselor is mean or doesn’t love Jesus or doesn’t like me or is a boy.

Truth- I don’t think my counselor is a boy because that is not aprowprate. I think my counselor will like me because I am nice and I will make her bracelets and I will brush her hair and I will sing to her but I WON’T SING JUSTIN BEIBER DON’T ASK ME. If my counselor is mean I will ask her what’s wrong? and give her a hug because everybody has a bad day. 


8. What if a girl is mean to Mela because she has brown skin? What if Mela cries?

Truth- I will WANT to punch her but I won’t punch her because I will get in BIG trouble and that girl is just sad and she might not have any friends. I will tell Mela how pretty she is because she has really pretty curly hair. I will make Mela a special BFF bracelet and I will make the other girl a bracelet and tell her she can only wear it when she will use kind words. I will hold Mela’s hand if she cries and give her tissue and ice cream. I will cry too because that’s so so mean. I will pray with Mela because she loves Jesus too. But I might not pray with the mean girl until later because I will be so so mad. 


Well, there you have it. Let’s hope none of these things happened at camp this week!

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“Oh baby, you know I may be a fool, I’m wastin’ my time by goin’ to school, The way you got me holdin’ your door, I can’t do my homework anymore…”

It’s almost February, and the days are long. And the hours from 3:00-7:00 are even longer. I’ve hit that time of year when I can’t get warm no matter what I wear and Wes is not happy about me setting the thermostat to 75. I’m tired of making soups and chili. Give me flip-flops or give me death.

There is something that I feel I need to confess. A friend was being very sweet and said this to me- “I don’t know how you keep up with three kids!”  We were talking about school projects and paperwork, and I laughed really hard and ruined her image of me.

I don’t.

I mean, I try. I have a system, y’all! Several systems. Multiple systems for when my systems don’t work. And a few back up systems. But I’m not going to lie and tell you that I didn’t find a paper this morning that I was supposed to have signed. In November.  But even keeping up with forms is not as hard as this other thorn in my side.  Homework.

It’s called homework because it makes your house feel like those old factories from the 1920s where you ate a crust of bread for lunch and lost fingers in machines and wore pinafores. I don’t really know what a pinafore is, but it sounds dreadful. It wasn’t supposed to be this way…

The mom in my head is one who greets her children at the door with a smile and hug. They have a snack waiting on the table for them, something with protein and carbs to bless their little bodies with energy and strength. Then all three sit at the table while she rotates, helping each one achieve academic greatness with their homework. When it’s done, she kisses them on their cherubic heads and papers are neatly filed into folders, placed back into backpacks and backpacks are gently placed into their own special cubby, ready to be used on the morrow. The children, their minds sharp from learning and their bodies nourished from the snack she lovingly prepared, go outside to ride their bikes and spread cheer to the neighbors.

But I have to, HAVE TO, be honest with you. I have my strengths as a mother and wife, but this is typically how after school goes…

Kids fly in through the door and I am in the kitchen, trying to get prep work done on dinner…



Josiah- “-Some sentences about who did what wrong on the way home-”

Me- “Guys, hold- hold on. Guys. I can’t. Guys. Guys. GUYS.” (while dodging the flurry of papers that they are throwing at me)

Malachi- “Can I have a snack?”

Me- “yep. In a minute”

Selah- “Did you write me any letters today?”

Me- “Nope. Do you all have homework?”

Chorus of yes and various complaints of the overwhelming responsibility of being in school…

Me- “okay, well…Josiah, why don’t you go up to your room and Malachi, you sit here near me and Selah…Selah…SELAH. WHERE ARE YOU?”

Selah emerges from the playroom wearing a wedding dress and clown wig.

Me- “Selah. It’s not dress up time yet. You have to do homework first. You sit on that side of the table.”

Selah- “but that’s not my side.”

Malachi- “it doesn’t matter Selah. Don’t make a foolish argument”


Josiah- “it doesn’t matter. You didn’t even buy this table. You don’t have a side.”


Me- “guys. It doesn’t matter. Selah, just sit and get your homework out. Boys, you too.”

I hate homework. I hate it like a fat kid hates gluten-free cake. Hate it more than Uggs with shorts. I hate it more than Rainbow Doom Loom, which is saying a lot. I mean, I could just try to blame my kids and say that they are too rowdy, but the truth is, I am just terrible at helping them. I have no patience. I want it to be oooooooover. And Lord help us if the directions aren’t clear. It takes me approximately 4 seconds of staring at something I don’t understand to say “Uh…I think you are supposed to uh…write some numbers or stuff”

Sitting with the kids at the table while they get out their homework…

Child –  “I don’t know what to do”

Me- “it says write a sentence with the word “have” in it.”

Child- “What do you mean?”

Me(Oh Lord…what do you mean, what do I mean?? A sentence. With have.)– “A sentence. What is something you could talk about, using the word have?”

Child- “What does “have” mean?”

Me- (Oh. My. Word.  I HAVE a pencil that I will perhaps shove in my eye.)– “Have is…like…you are in possession…I mean…it belongs to you”

Child- “what belongs to me?”

Me- (shoot me. Just write a sentence. ANY SENTENCE WILL DO.) “Nothing. Just use it in a sentence”

Child very sloooooooooowly writes the word H-A-V-E

Me-(I. can. not.)– “honey (gritting teeth), that’s not a sentence. Okay, let me give you a hint. I blank a favorite book.”

Child- “Why are you putting your book in a blanket?”

Me- (I am going to actually perish right now) “No, not blanket. I (hum) a favorite book. Fill in with the woooooooord?” (Come on. You can do this. Say have)

Child- “pizza”

Child 2- “Can you help? Jennifer has eight flowers and John gives her four flowers and she gives three flowers to Chris, how many flowers does Jennifer have?”

Me- (please. ask me anything but a word problem. Ask me how babies are made. Ask me about periods. Please don’t ask me about Jennifer and her ever-loving flowers) “Well, how many does she start off with?”

Child 2- “Are they boyfriend and girlfriend?”

Me- “that’s not important to the problem”

Child 2- “but why is he giving her flowers?”

Me- (deep breaths, Brandy. Be thankful for curiosity)– “I don’t know honey. Maybe it was her birthday”

Child 2- “Why is she giving away the flowers? That’s not nice.”

Me- (I don’t know. Jennifer sounds sketch)– “Sweetie, it’s not real. We just need to figure out the problem”

Child 2- “What kind of flowers are they?”

Me- (I hate Jennifer and her whole family and everything she stands for.)

And I am just going to be honest and tell you that the other child doesn’t like help with his homework and that does not make me sad. So there you go- this is my confession. I’m so sorry, teachers. I am that parent that you wonder if they ever look at the folder. I do look at the folder. Most of the time.

Maria Homework

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If you give a mom a chia hemp acaiberry muffin…

If you send a non crunchy granola mom to Sprouts late at night because her daughter is having flu symptoms, she’ll probably search Facebook for her crunchy granola mom friends to see what they buy at Sprouts. Then she’ll notice everyone is talking about “essential oils” and she will wonder if that means it’s essential that you have them. She will probably roll her eyes then because she will think the only oil that essential in HER life is vegetable oil because you need that to make brownies and brownies are delicious. While she’s walking into the store, she will message her friends and ask for recommendations for things to buy. She’ll probably also make a mental note to check if they sell brownies. Then she will begin down the first aisle of homeopathic remedies, searching for something called “Osscocaliumnus” or “Osssocolostrum” or “Ossomesauce” or something like that. She will muse that it sounds very much like a Harry Potter spell and it probably makes your nose stop running. Then she will look for elderberry syrup, which incidentally sounds like something you’d use for a potion. She will wonder if the makers of homeopathic medicines are fans of Harry Potter or if that is just a coincidence. But then she will turn the corner and there it will be- the promised land. She will look in awe at the rows and rows of tiny bottles, filled with different oils, all claiming to treat any kind of ailment.

She will see a bottle that says it treats stiff joints. Then she will remember that she woke up that very morning and her wrists were hurting. She will sniff the liquid and she will put it right back right away because dear Lord. A few bottles down, she will see one that treats attention problems. She will scoff and think “I don’t need that”. She will probably be wrong. At the end of the aisle, she will see a potion oil that treats allergies. Then she will remember that she’s been miserable for a week because of mountain cedar. She will muse that she doesn’t even live in the mountains so this could be a scam, brought on by a giant lobbyist group for all non-mountain trees. She will see that you can try it as a sample but she will wonder- do I drink it? Put it on my hands? Is it a nose spray?? She will decide that based on how gross it would be to have a nose spray sample, it’s probably not that. She will read that you should put it under your tongue so she will spray it on her finger and taste it. Then she will wonder why these companies hate people.

Then she will probably remember that it’s getting late and she will grab her Elderwand syrup and Ossyosbourne and a few other bottles that look good. She will skip over to the bakery section, but she’ll probably just find organic vegan brownies. Then she’ll shake her head in sadness, because who in the hizzle wants to eat brownies made out of vegans?!  Then she will just drive home where she will spend the next half hour trying to convince her daughter to actually take these concoctions by promising that if she does, she will get to drink a sprite made with the chemicaliest chemicals that ever chemicaled.

The End.

Guest Post…Eczema and the weight of debt

I asked my sweet friend Courtney to share a little about her son’s eczema and how they have been dealing with it. If you are interested in guesting posting on a subject you are passionate about, please email me at
Getting out of debt- no not that kind of debt…
                                                                                                                                                                                        Hi! My name is Courtney Vorel. I married my college sweetheart in May of 2000. Since then God has given us three precious children- two biological and one adopted. Our youngest has struggled since birth with severe eczema. Brandy asked me to write a guest post on the journey we have taken to find healing for him. If the funniest person you know asked you to do a guest post would you feel intimidated? Would you feel like if she knew that you’ve never read a single Harry Potter book that she might retract her invitation? But could you redeem the invitation by admitting you have solo dance parties in your living room when all the kids are at school? These thoughts and others went through my mind. In the end I felt like if I could even help a few families have hope in their struggle with eczema it would be worth the effort.
                                                                                                                                                                                           Oddly enough I feel like the theme of the story God is writing through our struggle with severe eczema centers on debt. When Jason and I were first married we set aside the first 6 months of marriage to just invest in each other. We married the week after Jason walked the stage at TCU, so we were coming out of a 4 year chapter in our lives of balancing ministry (we were both Young Life leaders and we both took a term as serving as chaplain for our fraternity and sorority), commitments, schoolwork, jobs, family, and friends. After six months of rest we decided to enroll in an equipping class at Watermark. Jason suggested we take the Crown Ministries class. I thought that sounded awfully dull. But I submitted. Thankfully because of my husband’s wisdom to get us into a class on Biblical stewardship we have enjoyed the sweet blessing of considering God the true owner of everything. In a world where stress over money and belongings can be sky high, we have enjoyed the peace of living by God’s plan.
                                                                                                                                                                                                The debt that God has been revealing to me lately has nothing to do with the traditional financial debt that first comes to mind. One type of debt that I am fighting to get free of is the debt of being overweight. When I am stressed (and the stressful days are frequent with a kid with severe eczema) I tend to overeat. To put that in terms of debt- I am overspending the amount of calories my body has to spend in a day. Instead of bank loans my deficit actually looks like stored fat cells. Fortunately God is layer by layer freeing me of this struggle as I learn to believe that He is enough to satisfy the deepest longings and needs of my soul.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  Another type of debt is having a time and energy deficit. The week before school started in August I took my son to National Jewish Hospital in Denver to participate in their pediatric day clinic for kids with severe eczema. Because I didn’t want my 2nd grader and kindergartener to miss their first week of school and because of the strain it would put on my husband to miss two weeks of work, I traveled with just my youngest son. Being in a hospital setting in a distant city without my normal support network and playing the role of a single mom was more physically and emotionally exhausting than I had ever imagined. This trip to the hospital in Denver came at the end of a 3 year battle that included sleepless nights and frustration and heartache. The by-product of being “in the red” when it comes to physical and emotional strength is that you just get behind. For me I got behind on housework. I got behind on Bible study. I got behind onshopping for groceries. The hole that I needed to climb out of was intimidating. In finances the rule of thumb is to live well enough within your means so that when the water heater busts or the car breaks down you have built up enough cushion to absorb the blow. When you are working your way out of physical and emotional debt you are already below the line and just when you think you are about to get into “the black” it does not take much to push you back into deficit. The thing I am most thankful for as we fight to build up a cushion again is my community. Not just my official on paper community as wonderful as they are but my community at large as well. The outpouring of love, kindness, and compassion from friends and family has been a wonderfully effective salve to help soothe the heartache of being in a hard season.
                                                                                                                                                                                                   What I am excited to share with you today is that my sweet young boy is at the healthiest place he as been in terms of his eczema, allergies, and itchiness. The doctors in Denver say that in several more months we should reach the magical place called “maintenance.” As of now regarding his skin we are still working our way out of the deficit of damaged skin that he has incurred since birth. But the good news is that we are on the right path and we are no longer where we were. We are steadily progressing and improving. Before Denver we had seen 2 dermatologists, 2 allergists, two pediatricians, used almost every skin product under the sun- over the counter, prescriptions, homemade concoctions of olive oil, coconut oil, and vegetable glycerin. We even tried Accupressure this summer. Our poor little guy was always itchy despite our best efforts to help him. He would wake up several times a night with what we called “cricket legs”. He would rub his little legs together to try and soothe the itchiness. We started putting ponytail holders around the ends of jacket sleeves to prevent him from scratching at night or in the car. He had to wear tights under onesies to prevent him from scratching his legs raw. We were truly in a dismal place.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   In Denver the main source of help came from their version of hydration therapy. They believe that a kid with eczema has trouble retaining moisture in their skin cells. So rather than just adding a layer of a thick, greasy moisturizer on top of the skin, they seek to drive moisture in the form of water deeper beneath the surface of the skin. The way they achieve this is through baths and wet wraps. Ironically the plan they executed looked fairly similar to the plan that our current allergist had prescribed. The difference was in small details and especially having nurses give me hands on coaching and guidance to execute the plan effectively. We started with three baths a day followed by wet wraps after two of the baths. The wet wraps consisted of my husband’s old tube socks for arms and legs and a layer of cotton pajamas over that. We soak the socks and pajamas in warm water, wring them out, and put them on over a fresh layer of either thick moisturizer (we use Vanicream) or prescription steroid cream (we use triamcynalone). We also use Protopic following baths that don’t get a wet wrap. We then put him in a dry fleece footie pajama and sometimes wrap him up in a warm blanket fresh out of the dryer. By the time we left Denver we were down to 2 baths a day and just one wet wrap a day. We will stay at 2 baths a day for the next few months. We have dropped our wet wraps to just once or twice a week. Someday we hope to get on maintenace which is just one bath a day followed by lotion.  It was truly amazing to me how quickly his skin improved in just a few days time when undergoing that rigorous schedule of baths and wraps. We were already doing 2 baths a day at home, but we were only doing wet wraps every so often. To bump up to three baths of 20 minutes a piece in luke warm water followed by 2 wet wrap sessions where he stayed in his wraps for at least 2 hours made such a huge difference.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              If you have a child who struggles with severe eczema I would encourage you to clear off your schedule for a few days and just focus on baths and wraps. I think you will be encouraged by the progress a kid can make. Of course if you have never been tested for allergies that is also a great place to start. If there is an allergen that is triggering the eczema you will want to avoid that allergen- whether that is a pet or a certain food. The other thing that I have learned on this journey is that what helps one kids is not always what helps another kid. Wherever you are in your journey I hope you will take heart and press on. I hope and pray God reveals to you the steps you need to take to get out of the debt you are in- whatever form that is.
You can follow Courtney on twitter @mightypetunias
You can follow me @brandyb77
Let’s be Facebook friends!
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