How to Feel Blessed

Someone once saw a photo of Brenna and commented in an online forum “If that’s blessed, I don’t want to be.”

As a mother who feels such pride and such gratitude for my daughter, that remark really struck me, and I’ve often thought about what it means to feel blessed.

Why do some people feel blessed and others don’t? Why do some people see pieces of their lives or experiences as blessings and others are in a state of self-pity?

And I think it really all points to a mindset of thanksgiving.CourtneyWestlake-2090

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” -Melody Beattie

I’m really beginning to learn, especially over the last three years, how to be thankful – how to express thanks and how to live in gratitude.

I’m learning that by being grateful – when things are going my way AND when things are not going as I had planned – my life feels full regardless. My heart feels full. I feel blessed.

Practicing being thankful in all situations leads to a heart of gratitude…which builds a life of abundance and contentment.

On the surface, it can be easy to feel discouraged, unhappy, discontent. But there is always, always, something to be thankful for. Psalm 106 says “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.” And I have seen time and time again just how good, how great, God is.

Not just because things are going my way. I have been fortunate in this life beyond measure, so privileged I can’t comprehend it, but things haven’t always gone my way.

But I try to say THANK YOU day after day, many times a day… and the impact on my heart is astounding.

Blessings are not always obvious. Many times, actually, they are disguised as hardship, covered in frustration and sadness and stress. And the positive can only be seen much, much later, when you look back in time and realize how much better your life is because of a certain person or a certain experience.

But with heart of constant gratitude, our eyes can be open to the good in all situations, all the time.

 Feeling blessed becomes a way of life with a heart of thanksgiving.023BW

Monday Favorites

The last half of the week is solely dedicated to Thanksgiving, shopping, preparing for Christmas and spending time with family …so I’m moving Friday Favorites to Monday!

This week, I’m especially thankful for  Brenna’s health. We got a great report from her eye surgeon, and she never even seemed to notice she had eye surgery - no rubbing, complaining of pain, nothing. She’s such a trooper!

Here’s a round-up of some of my favorite events, reads and moments from the week…

I am in the middle of a bunch of books right now, and I’m trying to finish at least some of them this week!


I picked up Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker and Undaunted by Christine Caine with a birthday gift card, and I couldn’t even stop myself from opening Interrupted, even with 4 other books almost finished! I absolutely loved Jen Hatmaker’s book 7, and I saw Christine Caine speak in July – and she rocked my world – so I expect awesome things from these books.

With the kids, we are reading Thanksgiving books like crazy, and I love that our library has special sections for holiday books, so we can grab new ones whenever we go. Recent favorites have been The Memory CupboardThanksgiving Is for Giving Thanks, and The Very First Thanksgiving Day.


Blogger Carly Findlay, who has a form of ichthyosis called Netherton’s Syndrome, wrote a post a while ago about how intrusive she feels questions about her skin are. When Carly shared it, my friend Bailey (who we met this past summer at the FIRST conference) and I commented that while tiring, it seems to be inevitable. And Bailey wrote a fantastic guest post on Carly’s blog about it. I love hearing different perspectives on things like this.

Love this post by Seth Godin: “No one is asking you to be original. We’re asking you to be generous and brave and to matter.”

Mary Evelyn of What Do You Do Dear? wrote a blog post a couple of months ago about when NOT to talk about her son’s health issues, and it made me laugh the whole way through. I have definitely experienced a learning curve of when to elaborate on Brenna’s skin and how much to say.

This post about making your last name plural made me laugh. The assault of the apostrophe is a very real thing :)

If this doesn’t get you excited for the holiday season, I don’t know what will. I’m trying to figure out how to get Evan to re-create this (would love to see his reaction when he reads that!)

I made this freezer meal a few months ago, and finally pulled it out recently – and it was a HUGE hit. Connor asked for thirds (!!) So good and easy, try it.

Holiday sangria - yes please.

I’m in the middle of painting an armoire coral for our guest room…and I want this bedding set to go with it.

I may try to make this in December.


A lazy Sunday afternoon exploring Scheels!IMG_7397.JPG

An evening of playing CandyLand! (Brenna pulled out a surprising win :) )

Connor told me that Brenna needed “extra snuggles”…her stuffed animals rose to the occasion :)IMG_7437.JPG

Spent a morning at the State Museum with some friends. I played the part in my explorer vest and hard hat. We had some crazy expeditions in the jeep and digging for fossils.
IMG_7469.JPGColoring in front of the fire on a cold night = perfection.IMG_7441.JPG

 Last Thursday, we had the honor of sharing about our family and our experience at St. John’s Children’s Hospital, where Brenna spend weeks of her life her first year, on two different radio stations as part of the Radiothon for Children’s Miracle Network. This was our third radiothon, and we are so thrilled by the exciting news that $109,000 was raised to help the children at the hospital!!IMG_7499.JPG

Connor excited to ring the gong for several $100 donations that came in while we were on air :)IMG_7504.JPG

Every year, we have a tradition of going to my in-laws’ hunting cabin for “hunting camp” with the start of shotgun season. This was Brenna’s first year to attend hunting camp and she was SO excited.IMG_7534.JPG

Connor got to go in the stand with Daddy this year and see a deer walk by. Before we arrived at the cabin, Daddy got his biggest deer ever. I’ve never been super into hunting, but I definitely like having a freezer full of meat for the year that I didn’t have to go shopping for :)


 Have a very wonderful Thanksgiving week!!

Brenna’s Bathroom Reveal!

When we bought our new house this past summer, there were several areas we wanted to remodel right away, before we moved in, and one of those overhauls was a bathroom renovation for Brenna.

Our new home had enough bedrooms for us to be able to convert one to an on-suite bathroom for Brenna, with the rest of the space becoming a second floor laundry room (and the laundry room that was on the first story became an office space.) It was challenging to completely envision what this major change would look like, but we couldn’t be happier with the outcome!

First day of renovations – knocking down the wall between the two bedroomscIMG_4370

 And the space today! (yes we’re still in the process of painting trim/doors…and no, Brenna doesn’t have a door to her closet. It would just get in the way :) )


We spend a lot of time in this space, and we feel so fortunate that we were able to incorporate so much of what we had been dreaming about in a bathroom space for our girl.

Welcome to Brenna’s new bathroom!cIMG_7336

We went with a light lime green on the walls and lots of white…because white can be cleaned easily with bleach. There is not a lot of stuff in her bathroom either (decor, etc), which makes it easier to keep clean.

The one thing missing is a shower curtain. I have it purchased because I found one I LOVE…but right now, it would just be in the way of our daily baths. So it will go up in a few years :)cIMG_7316

The highlight of Brenna’s bathroom is our MicroSilk tub. It has changed our bath routine in so many ways, but one of those major ways is that it has basically transformed bath time from a fighting, screaming two-man job, to a playful, enjoyable one-man job. Evan and I are able to trade off bath duty, depending on the day’s obligations, which has been a huge relief for us.


There is a single jet in our tub that releases tiny micro-air bubbles. It makes the water look foggy, instead of bubbly like traditional jets. The way this air bubble technology works is that it is small enough to get into your skin to moisturize it. And in Brenna’s case, it helps the top layers of excess skin exfoliate much easier.


 It is also brother-approved.cIMG_7331

Another must for Brenna’s bathroom is a heated towel rack! Something simple that makes a world of difference.


With the switch of a button on top, she’s able to cuddle in a nice warm towel after bath time while we scoop skin out of her ears and begin to apply her Aquaphor (which we also keep in a warmer.) cIMG_7340

And for the fun stuff: bathroom decor!

The minute that I found this adorable online shop Uh Oh Pasghettio, I knew some of their prints would be going up in our new house. Their prints are so cute, bright, encouraging and positive!

The wonderful people of Uh Oh Pasghettio customized a couple of their existing prints so that they would match Brenna’s bathroom perfectly, and I am absolutely in love with the lime greens and purples they created for us. (the bathroom lighting was hard to work with, so I feel like these pictures don’t do it justice, but the prints are just such a pop of color and are perfect for the space. And I got the white frames from Ikea.)cIMG_7310


I love these encouraging words that Brenna will grow up seeing every day.cIMG_7313

Our light fixture is from Restoration Hardware, and we actually stole it from my parents’ house when they bought it for a room they didn’t end up using it for :)cIMG_7307And last but definitely not least… the cutest and possibly most awesome part of Brenna’s bathroom…

The Tiny Toilet!!cIMG_7324

We decided to get a toddler-sized toilet for Brenna, to encourage her independence as she begins to potty-train. She is so short and is still working on motor skills that most kids her age have mastered, so we felt a small toilet would really aid her in going to the bathroom herself. Climbing up onto a standard toilet won’t be a reality for at least several years, and she feels so proud when she’s sitting up on her potty like a big girl. She’s so small that her feet still don’t touch the floor when she’s sitting on it, and she still has trouble getting onto it by herself, so it will be a long time before she outgrows this one. (Of course we’ll get a standard toilet when she’s older and taller.)


We are thrilled that Brenna now has her own personal space, easing some stress on us now, and providing a comfortable, private area for her to complete all of her skin care on her own when she’s older!