The powerful motivation of a before shot

The powerful motivation of a before shot

At the beginning of January, I did something I had never done before. I put on my workout clothes. I stood awkwardly in front of a blank wall, and I asked my daughter to take a photo of me.

It was weird.

I don’t love having my photo taken in general. But when I do, I make sure to at least wear a cute outfit. My tightest workout clothes definitely don’t qualify as cute!

But more than that, it was scary.

Taking that “before” shot was a vulnerable moment for me, not just because I hope no one stumbles across it in my camera roll and sees my flabby self. It was scary because I was making a statement to myself. This is the before.

That means, I’m committed to an after.

The magical motivation of a before shot

I can’t believe what a big impact that before photo had on me during the month of January. I looked at it several times, wondering if I would notice a difference at the end of the month. I thought about it when I wanted to eat sugar or grains or dairy. The before shot reminded me not to eat a bowl of ice cream before bed.

That before shot was helping me commit to the after.

This week, I took my after shot to compare. I had completed the Whole 30, and started working out more regularly.

I doubt that anyone but me could see the difference. But I could definitely spot the changes. Now, I’m happy to have my February photo as my new before. As I look ahead at this month and those to come and my plans to live more intentionally, I’ve been thinking about other types of before photos I need to take.

In February, I’m giving up social media, and adding in “truth.” My “truth” is an effort to seek affirmation and acceptance from God, rather than people (in the form of social media). This month, I bought a new journaling Bible, and I’ve been journaling my way through the Psalms. Writing down my thoughts, highlighting important phrases and copying verses in my Bible is one way I’m taking a before shot of the state of my heart.

In future months, my before shots might look like:

  • a photo of the clothes in my closet before I start the purging process
  • a printout of our budget before I take steps to reduce my spending
  • a copy of our calendar before I institute a day of rest into my schedule

As I looked at the two photos of myself this morning from the first day of January and then the beginning of February, I had to smile. The photos were proof that I’m a little bit closer to where I want to be. That before shot had a motivating power I didn’t expect. I’m more determined to keep working on my after until it becomes my new before.

What about you? Have you ever taken a before and after photo? Was it motivating for you? 

Hey, if you liked this post, make sure you don’t miss the next one! Enter your e-mail address to the right and you’ll get an e-mail when I write something new. 



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What I’ve learned so far in February

What I’ve learned so far in February

I was sitting at the table doing my devotional this morning, when I looked up and realized all of my materials were naturally arranged so photogenically! I didn’t even do this on purpose. They were just sitting in this configuration.

What I've learned from giving up social media and continuing the Whole 30

Of course, I had to take a photo when I was done reading. But alas, I’m not on social media this month, so I couldn’t even post it on Instagram. So, here I am, updating my blog instead, with a few facts that might normally qualify as my status update.

  1. Did you know there’s actually a name for this type of photo? It’s called a flatlay, and apparently, it’s considered an art form by some. People have Instagram accounts devoted to flatlay photography!
  2. Abstaining from social media this month hasn’t been as difficult as expected. I feel much calmer and less anxious. I do miss seeing what all of my friends are up to when we haven’t talked, but overall, this has been a very positive change for me.
  3. I love journaling in my Bible. I had pretty much gone paperless when it came to Bible reading. But I decided to reward myself for completing the Whole 30 and motivate myself for this month’s challenge by buying a journaling Bible. Since I love practicing my hand lettering and colored pens, this has been a bright spot in my day!
  4. I’ve been trying to decide what to eat since I finished Whole 30, and I thought Paleo might be a natural next step. I figured out that there are only a few differences between Whole 30 and Paleo. Whole 30 allows you to eat potatoes, Paleo does not. Paleo allows you to eat unrefined sweeteners, such as honey. Whole 30 does not. Whole 30 also guards against using foods that are Whole 30 compliant and making them into treats, like banana pancakes, pumpkin brownies, etc.
  5. So far, the only thing I’m eating that isn’t Whole 30 compliant is cream (that’s whole whipping cream!) in my decaf coffee and some milk. I’ve learned that I actually prefer drinking almond milk. Cow’s milk tastes much better, but I seem to tolerate almond milk better.
  6. I don’t want to go back to eating like I did before. I like this dietary lifestyle because I can eat as much as I want. I have a lot more solid energy and I don’t feel as heavy.
  7. I also learned this week that there is a subculture of people known as furries. My son was telling me about a girl at his school who is a furry. She wears cat ears and a tail to school everyday. I didn’t know this was a thing. Look it up if you weren’t aware.
  8. It’s really fun to see your children grow in their gifts and talents. Our 16-year-old is finishing up a video that he wrote, edited and produced for a film festival at school. It has been so fun to watch him do this all on his own! Our 7-year-old has started taking an acting class, and has decided she wants to be an actress. Our 14-year-old is growing a ton in his love for playing the drums. His band was one of only a few junior high bands asked to perform at a state conference for music educators. They are phenomenal for a group of 8th graders! I love watching all of our kids doing their thing.
  9. Women write blogs that are 100 percent focused on what outfit they wear each day. This seems ridiculous to me. And yet, I find myself wanting to read these blogs. I think I secretly want to write a blog about my outfits.
  10. See this adorable little snail on the edge of my cup? That is made to hold my tea bag. Isn’t it the cutest little thing? My friend bought it for me. Aren’t little tiny surprises from a friend the best?

Well, that’s what I’ve been learning so far this month. How about you? What have you been learning lately?

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Are you a moderator or an all-or-nothing person?

Are you a moderator or an all-or-nothing person?

If you’ve been reading my blog the past few months, I’m sure you’ve noticed a common theme in my approach to life. Whether it’s food or TV or social media, I’m an all-or-nothing person.

My husband is the exact opposite. For example, when I wake up one Saturday morning and announce that I’m giving up caffeine, he knows he will have to brace for the coming tsunami.

“Can’t you just taper off?” he begs. “Could you just cut back a little at a time?”

I look at him and laugh hysterically. “Are you crazy?!?”

Then I plunge straight ahead into a week of caffeine withdrawal, life-halting headaches and frequent naps. That’s how it has to be.


You see, there’s no such thing as “taper off” in my world. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it everyday at the same time, the same way. For example, my husband can drink a can of Coke once in a while or when he’s in the mood. Not me. If I drink one can of Coke at 10 a.m., I will drink a can of Coke at 10 a.m. every single day until I take some drastic measure to stop.

He can pop on Facebook once a month. He can eat a bowl of ice cream tonight and not be tempted to do it again tomorrow. He doesn’t have to worry that if he drinks a Cafe Mocha today, he might become completely addicted and have to have one every single day for the rest of his life. I’m just the opposite. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it all the way or not at all. There’s no in between.

This summer, I was so thankful to finally get some clarity on why we approach life so differently when I read the book, Better Than Before. The author, Gretchen Rubin, explained that some people are abstainers and other are moderators. Abstainers have a harder time doing things in moderation. It’s actually easier for them to give something up completely, than to try to do it just a little. Moderators are the opposite. They can set rules and boundaries for their habits and live within them.

Understanding that I’m an abstainer and he’s a moderator has been so helpful for our relationship. Now, when my husband suggests that I just cut back or take a day off or do that thing a little less, I tell him, “I can’t because I’m an abstainer.” When he merrily goes through life without all of the black and white lines that mark my path, I tell myself, “That’s’ OK. He can do that. He’s a moderator.”

He doesn’t have to worry about setting monthly goals for himself or making crazy adjustments to his diet. Meanwhile, I cover the walls in charts to mark my progress as I attempt to make some new drastic change to my lifestyle.

What about you? Are you a moderator or do you take an all-or-nothing approach to life? I would love to hear in the comments!

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Five reasons I’m signing off social media in February

Five reasons I’m signing off social media in February

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with social media since I first created a Facebook account nine years ago. Most of the time, the good side of social media outweighs the bad for me. I love being able to stay in touch (although superficially) with people I haven’t seen in a long time. I love hearing about the highs and lows of people’s everyday lives.

But I go through stages — and I’m in one now — in which social media causes me way more harm than good. I’ve known for a while that I need to take a break, but I’ve been arguing every reason in the book why I don’t need to give it up. For one thing, it’s part of my JOB to update social media. I can’t just shut down my account.

It’s the same feeling I had a year ago when I knew I had to give up watching TV. I didn’t want to do it. I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t so bad, really, was it? All of that internal arguing was a sure sign that I was holding on way too tightly. If it’s THAT hard to give up, that could be telling me something.

The time has come. I’m giving up social media in February, and here is why.

  1. Significance. I spend too much time caring, worrying, wondering what people think about me. Am I funny today? Interesting? Did my kids do something awesome? In short, I get too much of my feeling of significance from the likes, comments and reactions on social media.
  2. Comparison. I spend too much time comparing my life to other people. Why is she is so happy, popular, pretty, perfect? Why am I so lame?
  3. Inauthentic relationships. A friend texted me recently and said, “How are you? Everything looks great according to Facebook.” It made me realize how easy it is to think I can just click on someone’s Facebook updates and assume I actually know what’s going on in their lives. It’s like the sugar of relationships. It’s a quick fix. It has no depth. And it’s not even real. Relationships take time and effort. They take real conversation.
  4. Animosity. Honestly? The whole political conversation on Facebook is pushing me to the edge. I find myself so often feeling angry or hostile toward people because of what and how they are communicating their views on social media. I just need to walk away.
  5. Time. How much time do I spend in a day just scrolling? How much time do I lose with my family because I’m distracted? How many books could I read if I wasn’t scrolling? How much more productive could I be without scrolling? I’m going to find out!

I mentioned in my last post that as I look at my months and what I need to give up, I also want to add in something that’s the positive polar opposite of the thing I’m giving up. For me, I’ve known that I need to seek the good sustainable protein of the truth. Instead of using social media to find significance and meaning, I need to look into God’s word.

Wouldn’t you know it? Just as I was trying to decide what to do, I “randomly” stumbled across a blog that described so perfectly what I wanted to do that I know it was meant to be. So, I’ll be going through the book,I Am: A 60-Day Journey of Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is”.

I’ve also had to work through the fine print of how my social media fast will work. So, here are a few details:

  1. I will still be blogging. As I thought about why I need to give up social media, I don’t feel blogging is causing me the same negatives as social media. However, 99 percent of the interaction I get with my blog is from sharing the link on Facebook. So, I will have to deal with basically blogging into the wind. 🙂 If you still want to read, please make sure you subscribe (just put your e-mail in the box to the right) or check in once in a while!
  2. I will still be updating social media for work. I’ve been on a Facebook fast before, so I know how to update The Sanctuary social media accounts without checking my own.
  3. I’m still allowing myself to use Pinterest and to check Snapchat (if necessary) only to see what my kids are posting. In case you haven’t heard, Pinterest is becoming the new Google. 🙂 I use Pinterest to find ideas and resources that are a positive in my life. I will monitor the time I spend mindlessly scrolling Pinterest, but I’m not banning it completely. I won’t be posting anything on Snapchat, but if you have teens, you understand why I want to check their stories from time to time.

I really wrestled with whether I should still allow myself to update my blog during this month. I love writing and this is such a great creative outlet for me. I know it will be weird to look at my stats and see that no one is reading (since almost all of my readers come from posting the link on Facebook)! So, if you want to still read, I hope you will pop in once in a while.

Even better, let’s get together in person for a real life conversation.


So, how about you? Is social media a positive or negative factor in your life?


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January: a month of challenges, growth and other stuff

January: a month of challenges, growth and other stuff

I know we still have two days left in January. But because Sunday was the last day of my Whole 30, I feel like the month is over. For me, January wasn’t just about changing my eating habits, so I thought I would give an update on what happened this month.

This first month of my year of being “intentional” was definitely one I will look back on. It included some challenges, a few wins, stepping out and some disappointment. I’ve been trying to figure out how this whole idea of being intentional would play out in 2017, and I feel like I learned a few things from dear ol’ January.

Just as I took control of my love for food and started exercising regularly in January, I want to find one thing to give up and one thing to add in future months. The thing I give up would be something that has become a negative factor in my life. The thing I add is something that is its opposite. So, get rid of the negative, add the positive.

Here’s how things went in January:

  1. I finished the Whole 30! I gave up many of my favorite foods by eliminating all grains, sugar, dairy and legumes. I feel such an amazing sense of accomplishment that I DID IT! I will admit that around Day Nine I was thinking of every reason in the book that this was a bad idea, and I should quit. I’m so glad I didn’t give up. I feel so much more in control of my food choices. My body is feeling well fueled. And I did end up losing three pounds. (I’ve been really sick the past five days, so I can’t really say if I have more energy.)
  2. I started exercising more regularly. I’ve been working on my couch to 5K progress and doing a couple of strength training workouts via the Internets.
  3. I decided to face my fear of falling and go for something that I wanted to do that was just for me. I’m typically very cautious of committing to anything beyond my wife/mom/work/church duties. But this seemed like something that would help me grow in an area that is a passion of mine. Guess what?!? I got REJECTED! Guys, I actually got a rejection letter! (It was an e-mail, really.) I was really bummed for a few days. I think it’s just hard to think about doing something fun that is just for you, getting excited about it and then hearing that rejection. In the end, I know it wasn’t meant to be. The rejection actually was a confirmation about what I need to do in February, so I’m trying to be thankful for falling.
  4. I also completed a big personal project for the month. I uploaded all of our photos from 2016 to Shutterfly and organized them into photo albums. It took two albums, with the maximum number of pages! I start this process almost every year, but this is the first time I actually completed it since 2011. I am really, truly going to try to work on my photo book at the end of each month in 2017. I barely took any photos this month, so it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Well, I’m excited about February. I have a big challenge for myself. I know what I’m going to eliminate. I know what I’m going to add. And I know what project I want to complete. This is going to be a tough one for me, so I’m glad the month has only 28 days! 🙂

How about you? How did your January go? Do you have anything you are trying to accomplish in February? I would love to hear about it in the comments!


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