Let it Shine: An Argument for Speaking Up

An argument for speaking up and letting your light shine.

Shivers ran down my spine as I read about this incredible woman’s life. She fought with words. She fought with stories. She stood her ground. She shook a nation.

Abraham Lincoln when he met her said, “So, this is the little woman who started the great war.”

I am talking about Harriet Beecher Stowe.
The author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. A book, I am ashamed to say I have never read (although as soon as I can get to the library I will remedy that right quick).

She is one of my hero’s. She stood for truth. Not in a loud, judgemental, shaking a finger type of way.

She used stories, she was clear headed and she influenced thousands, from a lowly farmer, to the Prime Minister of England.

In this day and age of fake news, click-bait, photoshop and emotional Facebook rants, it’s tempting to either stay quiet or vent emotionally (and irrationally) on topics that matter. I have erred on both sides (although I’m more prone to the emotional ranting, if we’re being honest).

I’ve been told to stay out of it and stay quiet. I’ve been told the best thing to do is to simply love your family and be kind to others.

I agree, that’s a noble thing to do and I love doing it every day. I love having littles and getting to teach them these important lessons and pray that when I release these humans into the world they will stand up and make it a better place.

But, I think there is something to be said for speaking up & speaking out. Even if you make mistakes. Even if you get backlash. Even if you have to go back and apologize when you’ve gone too far. It may be messy, but I am convinced, it is worth the mess.

Learning how to communicate clearly, with emotion but without being mean, with humility but also with strength, takes time, and practice. It takes WORK, and it might seem to some an exercise not worth undertaking, but if you KNOW truth, if you KNOW God’s word, if your heart BREAKS at injustice and a lack of empathy and a complete departure from logic – I encourage you – speak up.

Now, please hear me, this is not an encouragement for more of the ugly, name-calling, lack of compassion, internet trolling – I’m talking about intelligent, balanced, composed, focused and love-filled arguments and conversations.

Words are our most powerful weapons. Words communicate ideas, and ideas get lodged into people’s minds. Eventually those ideas become actions and the actions of many can change the world.

We need more women like Harriet Beecher Stowe. Brave and strong, articulate and compassionate. Unmoving in conviction and powerful in influence.

If there is light in you – don’t hide it, pray about how you can let it shine.

Shine your light: speak up for what you know is right Shine your light, stand up for what you know is right

Fighting for a Healthy Marriage

healthy marriageLet me start this blog post out with the fact that I am in no way a marriage expert (or a love expert like the adorable trolls on frozen). My husband and I have been married for almost 9 years and even typing that sounds crazy because it really hasn’t felt that long! We essentially became adults together. I got married at 21 years old, and my husband was 24.  We were just talking about how this first decade of our marriage would be classified as one of “firsts”. First time living completely financially independent, first time buying cars on our own, renting apartments on our own, having kids, buying a home, starting a business. All these firsts – all types of mistakes and figuring out life. It’s been fun, it’s been stressful, we’ve learned so much and we have grown closer as a couple and respect each other more.

This next decade we would like to have it be one of planting seeds. Now that many of the firsts are out of the way and we have somewhat of an idea of who we want to be and how we want to live, it’s time to get to work building that life. It’s time to plant seeds for our financial future, raising our children and strengthening our marriage. Hopefully later in life we will get to reap the seeds we plant now.

This weekend we got some time away – just the two of us – which we haven’t had in over two years. It’s been great to just have uninterrupted conversation, laugh together, REST, and take a look at where we are at and where we can improve, especially in our marriage.

The big thing we both felt, was lack of time to communicate deeply with each other on a regular basis. There will be DAYS that go by where we haven’t had even ONE true conversation with each other. It’s hard to love and care for your spouse when they feel like a distant stranger. Now granted, my debilitating nausea that seems to hit primarily in the evening has not helped! Most nights I am unable to move from a fetal positio12341119_10154337629388765_3376731676063828258_nn by 7pm, leaving Fernando to put the kids down alone and stealing our evening chats away. Because he leaves for work at 5:30am, the evenings are really our only time to be together – so this has been hard. But even before that, just wrangling the kids to bed each night would sometimes leave us so exhausted, especially if we had some work to do for our jobs, and we would regularly skip spending time in deep, meaningful conversation.

So, moving forward this is what we will be trying to do:

  • Continue to make weekly date nights a priority. (this is SO hard! but we have to keep trying!)
  • 3x per week go on walks together with the kids so that we can get a bit of conversation in (when we are in the house, it’s impossible, but our kids love being outside and usually while they ride their scooters around we can chat a bit)
  • Workout with Hammer and Chisel regularly together

I know that each of these points will take TONS of work to make happen. I will have to get dinner ready ahead of time to have the freedom to walk when Fernando gets home from work. We will BOTH have to be disciplined to do our workouts in the evening when we feel totally exhausted (although I do have a secret weapon for that!). And date nights…just finding someone weekly to watch the kids is a crazy difficult undertaking, let alone keeping our schedule free enough from other church and work commitments. BUT – we both know that we are committed to not just tolerating each other into our marriage, but loving – DEEPLY loving each other for the next five decades (at least) and that take work.

12311145_10154338545753765_8754362148664300970_nIt takes creating space where we can laugh and talk and also ask the hard questions. Why do you seem to be sharp with me? Where can I serve you better? Am I being selfish here? Are YOU being selfish here? Those are questions we never WANT to ask, but when we do, the conversation that comes from it is EYE-OPENING. When my husband asks me why I’m being sharp and I start to share with him the day I’ve had and break down in tears from the stress of having to deal with over 20 tantrums from between our three children and I just feel like such a failure as a mom! I never would have expressed that – even to MYSELF! If he wouldn’t have asked those questions. I would have gone to bed with that stress and those emotions bottled up inside of me, and woken up to another day without dealing with any of it. Instead he can realize I’m not attacking him, pray for me, and help me see Jesus, my helper and my peace.

I know this is a long post, and if you have stuck with me until now, I applaud you. We are not perfect by ANY stretch. We are often times selfish, quick to judge (more me that him) and lazy about fighting for our marriage, but if this glimpse into how we are imperfectly trying to build a marriage that lasts, inspires you to sit down with your own spouse, ask some hard questions, or just take a night to laugh (never underestimate the healing power of laughter) then I am thankful.

You are not alone. Marriage is not easy. But with God’s grace it can be beautiful and wonderful!
If you have any tips or words of advice for an exhausted couple with three (almost four) crazy kids on how to make time and pour energy into our marriage I would LOVE to hear!


On this weekend getaway we have been listening to the audio book of  You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan. Even though we haven’t finished it yet, I HIGHLY recommend it!

How I Spend My Day

This past week, from Monday to Friday I took the time to track how I spend EVERY SINGLE hour of my life. I have a lot on my plate and I was constantly feeling like I wasn’t spending enough time with my kids, keeping the house clean enough, reaching out to my friends enough, doing a good enough job as a coach and so on. I wanted to see what exactly I was doing with my time so I could find areas where I could be MORE productive and to see if how I spend my time was reflective of my priorities. 

What I found was pretty shocking. 

I am working REALLY hard and doing EXACTLY what I should be doing. 

This was shocking to me because I OFTEN go to bed at night regretting my actions of the day. Feeling like I didn’t spend enough time with my kids or on my business. Or discouraged over how dirty the house is or how I just can’t seem to lose those last few pounds.

Seeing that I really DO spend my time well showed me that I am judging my productivity based on meters that are unreliable. You see no matter how many hours I spend playing with my kids, they are always going to want more – one more story, one more game. No matter how many hours I spend coaching, my to do list will always be FULL of things. And, perhaps the most discouraging of all, no matter how many hours I clean, the house will always be dirty. 

If I judge myself based on the kids, my to do list, or the crumbs on the floor I will NEVER win or feel like I am doing good enough. But this past week, when I looked at my day and where I spent my time – I fell asleep EVERY SINGLE night full of peace and satisfaction. 

My heart with this post is to encourage each and every mom who worries that she isn’t doing ENOUGH – you are! In fact…the 2 glaring omissions in my day: Time for rest (not even 30 minutes in the 17 waking hours that I documented) and time for my husband. 

So, where I expected, after this week, to find that I wasn’t doing enough things, I’ve actually come to find out that I need to do just a little bit less. Relax and feel content in the things I am doing. Take 20 minutes to make myself a cup of coffee in the middle of the day and flip through a magazine (ok – I can’t see myself doing that at ALL, but maybe I need to try).

My challenge to you – go through your day, honor your priorities and don’t let the cries from your kids or the dishes in the sink tell you how you are doing – you are doing enough. <3

Stronger Than You Think


As I have embarked on this journey of health one of the BIGGEST impacts to my overall health has been my renewed priority of reading GOOD – life-giving books. 

Growing up in the Christian, home schooling culture that I did, I had a constant diet of “Christian Living” books. Books that were very specific on a topic like Contentment or The Holiness of God or Suffering and they were helpful…some even life-changing. However, in my circles there is a heavy emphasis on the fact that everything is in God’s control and in His hands. This belief, coupled with the belief that God is gracious and his grace covers all of our shortcomings created a mis-guided apathy for me in my life.

I know that properly understood, these doctrines (or beliefs) should NOT produce this kind of living, but in my personal life that was the effect. I knew I had weaknesses and short commings, I knew that learning more about God was good and He could do amazing things. So I just kind of kept learning about HIM and waiting for HIM to ‘change me’ and ‘transform my life’ if I just prayed and waited, it would *happen*. 

I would fail and cry out to him and feel a sense of relief, knowing that He fully forgave me and his *grace* was sufficient in my shortcomings, but personal growth seemed extremely slow (and almost non-existent in several areas). 
It wasn’t until I started reading secular “self-help” books (which I had been raised to think were straight from the devil and full of evil heresies – how could one help himself when we are evil and depraved people – entirely dependent on a gracious God to pull us out of our sinful muck?) that I realized there was a missing piece in my beliefs on personal growth. 

Although I fully believe that I am in need of God’s grace I am beginning to learn that I am also made in His image and capable of powerful and amazing things. I am learning that there is potential within me to DO something about my weaknesses, to CHANGE, and that change is not something that will happen to a passive, hopeful couch potato. Feeling bad about my weaknesses will get me no where. I must WORK and take action steps and have a plan and chart a course for change and I CAN be a pro-active, work my butt off, get in the game powerhouse. Not defined by my weaknesses but empowered by action and growing in skill. 

In order to do this, I believe you have to be a reader, and some of those books you have to read are books that take a look at YOU. Help you evaluate who YOU are, take stock of your strengths and weaknesses, show you where YOUR actions can be powerful tools to move you forward. Give you hope for Personal Growth. I don’t think of these books as “self help” books anymore, but personal development books. 

I still read my Bible *everyday* and read gospel filled books, BUT adding personal development books has opened my eyes to the spark of the divine that is with in me and the amazing potential that I cary and the RESPONSIBILITY I have to take action and look at myself and devise plans and set up goals and GROW. 


If I could recommend one book to you it would be The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. The truths I have discovered in this book have rocked my world and set me and my husband on a journey to re-think and approach EVERY aspect of our lives with a renewed purpose and focus and excitement. We are refining our lives being intentional in a new way and taking control of OUR actions – while still trusting in our gracious God. 

I know not many of you share my upbringing and background, but wherever you are coming from, I cannot overstate the importance of value of reading books that will challenge you and give you the tools to be the BEST version of yourself that you can be. We were designed by a gracious God to do AMAZING things and to be INCREDIBLE people. We are made in HIS image!!! Apathy, Discouragement, Hopelessness, Destructive Patterns – does that sound like the image of God? 

Don’t be afraid to take some time to dig deep into WHO YOU ARE and learn tools that you can implement to take steps (even if they are baby steps) in the direction YOU want to go (and grow). Value yourself enough to invest in yourself…you are stronger than you think. 

Feed Your Mind: Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full


As I dive deeper into healthy living, healthy eating and exercise I have been shocked and intrigued by the interconnectedness of our physical, spiritual, and emotional health. As one gets healthy, the others improve, but unhealthy patterns in one area can affect the others negatively as well. 

So, I am beginning a book review portion of my blog to give you some thoughts on ‘delicious’ books that can give your mind a healthy diet. 

I picked up Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full at The Gospel Coalition’s Women’s Conference. There was an entire large conference area (it was too large to properly call it a room) filled with books – hundreds of books. I wanted to buy so many of them, but this title spoke to me in a way that the others didn’t. The subtitle reads: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms. 

More than 300 pages on women’s role in the church, more than 230 pages on how to be effective in one on one counseling, more than any other topic or book in that space, I knew that I needed the gospel and I needed to find a way to meditate on it in the midst of a busy and crazy life. I knew that sometimes I only had 5 minutes in a day (and even those 5 minutes would probably be interrupted or I’d find them only if I could steal away to the bathroom and lock the door) to press into Christ and meditate on His glorious gospel. 

So I bought the book and opened it up the morning after returning from the conference. 

It’s a short book and the chapters are small. There were several concepts and observations that I found helpful in my season (Chapter 5 “A Mothers Call to Worship” in which the author invites us to hear our children’s and babies cries as a call to worship God has truly helped me when my plans get ‘interrupted’ by my children’s cries.) but there were no ‘earth shattering’ revelations. It was just what I had hoped it would be: a book where this busy mom could go and every SINGLE chapter be met by the rich truths and encouragement of the gospel. 

My soul was fed and strengthened by this book and I highly recommend it to every mom who needs a small ray of gospel sunlight to shine into her day. 

I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the book:

“The gospel stands above and beyond all the most practical, family-friendly, or cost-effective philosophies of mothering. The good news of Jesus Christ is superior to our to-do lists and metaphorical mother-of-the-year trophies. This is because the greatest problem a mother has is not a lack of creativity, accomplishment, or skill, but her inability to love God and others as Jesus loves her.”


Why Are You Trying to Be Skinny?

“Why are you trying to be skinny? You were meant to be strong.”

I saw this quote on pinterest and it resonated with me SO MUCH. 

When I first started this fitness journey, I did it because I wanted to be skinny. I wanted to fit into my beautiful clothes, and I wanted to feel comfortable in my skin again. 

As I started working out, I realized the only way I was going to make it through to the end was to be strong, to grit my teeth, set my will and finish to the end. This started to build my inner strength just as much as the workouts were building my physical strength. Next thing I knew I was reacting and responding to trials and ups and downs in my life with greater strength than ever before. Instead of cowering back when things didn’t go the way they should, I grit my teeth and set my will to finish something to the end – no matter the obstacle. 

Strength. The ability to do something I previously couldn’t. The ability to carry on when before I gave up. The ability to support someone who is weak instead of crumbling under the pressure. 


That’s what I have gained, that’s what I focus on now! Not the lbs that I still want to lose, but the strength and abilities I want to gain. It puts a positive spin to my workouts and eating that I LOVE.

We were made for so much more than just existing! We were made to do great things! What dreams have you not even allowed yourself to dream because you are afraid you aren’t strong enough? You can grow, you can become stronger, and your dreams can become a reality.

Why are you trying to be skinny? You were meant to be strong.


Turkey Burger with Spiced Corn and Kale

dinner 21 day fix

Here’s another super easy, yet surprisingly delicious 21 Day Fix meal. I am all about keeping it simple (duh) and not ashamed to post the most basic of recipes here. No Martha Stewart’s needed for this one, but it’s sure to please even the kiddos.

Just cook a turkey burger – either one you have made and seasoned yourself, or the frozen kind (no judging here!). I LOVE to top mine with salsa – it is SO good, but you could also saute some summer veggies like mushrooms, onions and yellow squash with some garlic and oil (maybe even a squeeze of lemon) and that would make an incredible topper as well (and give you an extra serving of veggies!!).

Next, either cut the corn off of the cob (my favorite way) or open a bag of frozen kernels. Heat with a tiny bit of oil in the pan and season to your taste with salt, garlic powder and chili powder. Add in some chopped kale and cook until everything is warm and tender.


When You Fall Down

old ways

This past week I fell – and in typical Vanessa fashion – I fell hard. It’s crazy how quickly I was able to slip back to my old habits. We’re talking Pizza and Ice Cream, skipping 4 days of workouts (in ONE WEEK!), listening to the doubts and fears, feeling lethargic and overwhelmed by life.

Just feeling LOST.

Can you relate? One bad thing happens and it knocks you down, and before you know it you are spinning out of control, not knowing how to stop and feeling too tired and lost to even figure it out. I compare it to getting knocked down when the waves are strong at the beach. Just as you are trying to get back up another one comes and drags you under. You aren’t drowning per-se but you can’t seem to get your footing. The longer you fight, the more exhausted you become, until you almost just want to give up.

That’s where I was this past week. I wanted to give up. I hated where I was, but felt too tired to fight my way out of it. I thought it would be too hard and frankly, didn’t know if it was even worth it to try. I felt like I should just resign myself to barely surviving the day, being short with my kids, feeling tired and yuck, and not being super kind to my husband either. I wanted something in my circumstances to change, someone to lift me out of the muck…but you know what,

no one can lift you out of a funk like that. It’s something you have to do for yourself…and it’s not as hard as you think.

This morning I just decided (that’s the first step) that I had had enough. As simple and as crazy as it sounds, you have to choose to change your life before you can go about changing it.


So I decided that things were going to change. I realized that if I could just get back to basics, the small healthy steps that when compounded turn into a healthy and happy life, I *maybe* could get back to feeling alive.

– I read my Bible – for 15 minutes (the kids interrupted me and I almost gave up, but I KNEW I needed to fight for this)

– I read a personal development book for 10 minutes (I’m currently loving The Slight Edge)

– I ate a healthy breakfast (2 scrambled eggs)

– I did devotions with my kids which ended in a beautiful worship song about God being our rock, and a shield that never fails.

– I made little healthy meal choices throughout the day – I just chose not to eat junk and to eat healthy….it’s not hard, I just have to believe that it is better for me to fill my body with healthy food, and then choose to do it.

– I reminded myself what my goals and dreams are, and worked for 1 hour to push forward toward those goals. Sure, I’m still a far way off, but I pushed forward. One step at a time.

– And I exercised. I just pushed play and did it.

It’s not hard.

What you do is who you are.
and you choose what you do.

Choose to be happy
Choose to be positive
Choose to be healthy

The limits you put on yourself, the excuses you give yourself don’t need to keep you from being happy anymore.

I don’t mean to sound harsh or cold. I’ve been there! I’ve let my old habits creep in. I’ve doubted with all my heart that I could actually change, but once I let even just a sliver of hope, a sliver of determination shine through the darkness, AMAZING THINGS HAPPENED.

So that’s what you do when you fall…you get back up.

stop holding yourself back

My Transformation Story

Never underestimate the ripple effect.
A small change in my physical health gave me incredible gains in my mental and spiritual health as well.

I have never been more full of hope and excitement!
Life is not easy, but even when obstacles come my way, I find myself looking to get around and over them, because…hey, I’ve done it before!

This is my little story and I’m proud of it. I would love to be apart of yours!

Fill out the form bellow or connect with me on facebook and we can talk about your goals…they aren’t as far fetched as you might think!

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