Our Whole30 Report

chicken and sweet pot

photo credit: Whole30 meal prep

Roughly sixty days ago our family began our first Whole30 nutrition challenge.

A few days later, I wrote about it here. I explained why we decided to give this a try and what hurdles we encountered right out of the gate (“The Worralls on Whole30”). Since then several of you have asked me how it’s going, so I’m here to give my long-anticipated dietary report.

If you aren’t familiar with the Whole30 plan, it begins with this key premise…that “The food you eat either makes you more healthy or less healthy.” Those are your only two options. I used the book It Starts with Food (by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig) to guide us through the month, and it now lives on my kitchen counter. We’ve gotten to be very good friends.

Here’s how the Whole30 works. It asks you for one month of your life. One month to clean out your system. One month to do a complete nutritional reset. One month to eat only foods that promote healthy psychological and hormonal responses, only foods that support normal digestive function, and only foods that minimize inflammation. Practically speaking, that means eliminating all of the following from your diet: Sugar/Sweeteners, Grains/Gluten, Legumes, Alcohol, and Dairy.

And…we did it! For the most part.

True confessions. Daryl’s birthday was August 17, and we ate pizza and cake. There was also a friend’s birthday party and a restaurant visit or two where we just did the best we could. But we persevered, and we have found this Whole30 promise to be true: It does change the way you look at and think about food. It changes what you want to put into your body. It changes your taste and your tolerance for the “unhealthy stuff.”

The Whole30 made good on this promise as well: We do feel better. Peter’s stomach inflammation is greatly reduced. I no longer have my giant crashes in the late afternoon. My energy levels are more consistent and my thinking is more clear. (At least I think it is. Peter might beg to differ.) When he is eating clean, Daryl is more present and self-controlled. (And I can now often tell when he’s had something roguish to eat.) An unexpected benefit is that food just tastes better. (You should have heard the yummy noises the four of us made over a simple rotisserie chicken.) And the weight we’d tried for a long time to lose just disappeared–almost by accident.

Bottom line: we’re hooked. And we’re going to stick it out for the long haul—with a few simple modifications. After your official Whole30, the book gives you advice for reintroducing some foods—slowly and deliberately— and gauging your body’s response. We’ve reintroduced Greek yogurt. I’m back to putting cream in my coffee—still sans sweetener. We will occasionally enjoy a bit of gluten or sugar, but defining and sticking to “occasionally” is the key. (I should also say that we’re back to supplementing with Reliv products as well.)*

So, the question I’ve received most often has been this: Is it hard?

My answer has been, “Yes. And no.” Here are a few of my observations:

Eating out is hard. Sometimes impossible. At many restaurants—especially fast food establishments—there is nothing on the menu that we can eat. So we’ve learned to plan ahead more. We pack more lunches (and dinners, if necessary). And we eat out even less than we did before. (An added financial benefit.)

Cravings are hard. For the first two weeks, my craving for sugar was crazy. I knew I had a thing for sugar, so this didn’t surprise me too much. But pressing through those two weeks without ice cream or chocolate or a sweet Starbucks something from the drive thru was the hardest part of the whole month for me. That, and learning to drink my coffee black. Blah!

Social events are hard. While I’ve grown in my own ability to say “no” to the brownies our friends might bring to our house, I still usually cave when my kiddos are surrounded by chocolate-lipped friends and they look at me with such pitiful longing.

Grocery shopping is easy. Okay. Another true confession. I had already been using Peapod (a service that delivers your groceries to your door) for over a year when we started the Whole30, and this was perhaps my saving grace. It’s much easier to resist all the Ghirardelli’s milk chocolate chips when they aren’t staring me down, face-to-face.

Cooking is easy. I enjoy cooking, so before the Whole30 I would typically prepare recipes with a long list of ingredients several times each week. So compared to what I used to do, Whole30 recipes are simple. Just pick a protein, add some vegetables, cook in a healthy fat, and season with spices. We’ve tried many combinations of these basic four elements. We’ve like every one of them. And we’re not bored yet. (Though I know I will probably need to find some additional options soon.)

Re-training our kids was surprisingly easy. Amelia used to beg for candy several times a day. Of course, I said “no” most of the time. But I must have said “yes” enough to make it worth her while to plead. Now—two months in—she begs for frozen mango chunks and cashews. Daryl used to ask for McDonalds sometimes on the way home from school. Today he asked for a Starbucks “Protein Box.” And while the answer was still “no”—those things aren’t cheap—I like his new taste in fast food.

And that is, I think, the biggest payoff for me—knowing that I’m doing what I can to give my kids, my husband, and myself every edible advantage.

I know it isn’t the Holy Grail. And I know it isn’t for everyone. But if you’re thinking about trying your own Whole30, I would say, “Go for it!” I’m here to cheer you on.

*Our Reliv distributor is Kim. Contact her at gkcskinner@comcast.net if you’d like more information.


Have any of you done a Whole30? 

Tell us about your experience…

Any of you thinking about it? 

Let us know how it goes…

For All the Freshmen

photo credit: Dave Lampenin

photo credit: Dave Lampinen

They arrived today.

With their baskets of bedding and their neat stacks of notebooks and their brand new jeans. They came to our campus with their snarled up stomachs and their wide wet eyes and all of their hopes and dreams.

They arrived with their siblings and parents and friends, who filled up their fridges and helped settle their stuff. Who gave lingering hugs and some last words of advice and finally waved goodbye.

I watched them come. For the eighteenth time. And I am always moved by the sight of them. Moved with gratitude at what God has done. Moved with excitement over what He will do. Moved with a certain measure of awe.

On the sidewalk I greeted a few of them today with a handshake, a smile, and “you are welcome here.”

On Monday morning I will meet many more. I will show them a syllabus and learn their names and begin my specific task of helping them read, think, and write.

But knowing what I know—that these next four years will be full of all manner of things—I feel compelled tonight, before I turn out this light, to offer a simple prayer…


El Shaddai,

Walk with them. Reveal Yourself—in ways old and new. Please be near.

Fuel their passions. Strengthen their resolve. Fill their hearts with peace and love.

When loneliness comes, be their Friend.

When fear overwhelms, be their Rock.

When the path seems hidden, be their Light.

When they are broken, heal their hurts.

When they doubt their calling, be their ever Burning Bush.

When they doubt You, show up big.


May they fall in love with learning.

May they discover new gifts.

May they steward well their money, their talents, their time.

May they discern Your truth and cling to it. Tight.


I pray for a church home where they can find community and be fed.

I pray for a mentor who will challenge them and cheer them on.

I pray for some life-long, life-giving friends.


Build into their being tenacity and resilience,

Patience and compassion,

Boldness and gentleness,

And a deep dependence on You.


When they trip and fall, or when they run headlong in the wrong way, be their Father. Pursue them relentlessly. Pierce their soul. Lift them up. Dust them off. And bring them back.


You are God.

They are Yours. Not ours.

We commit to serving You and them, to the best of our ability and by Your grace alone.

We lay this year on the altar. Do with it as You will.



Freshman, what are you praying for this year?

Parents, what do you pray for your freshmen?

So Long, Sweet Summer

 D & A on beach

Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.

Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth;

Your right hand is filled with righteousness.

Mount Zion rejoices, the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgements.

Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers,

Consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation.

For this God is our God for ever and ever;

He will be our guide even to the end.

Psalm 48:9-14

Like it or not, it’s transition time.

Tomorrow Peter and I head back to our teaching jobs. Next Monday our kids start back to school. We’ve been cruising along in 3rd gear for the past three months, and we’re about to kick it straight into 5th.  I can already feel the jerking and the grinding of the gears. This transition always shakes me up.

You would think I’d be an old hand at this by now, having been on one side of the syllabi or the other for just about every year of my life. But I’m here to admit that I still feel sad every time summer and I have to say good-bye. Sad and anxious and resistant. Like I just want to stomp on the brakes, screech to a halt, and throw the whole world into reverse.

This year, though, I’m longing to make this shift more smoothly—gracefully—gratefully—if not for my own sake, for the sake of my husband and my students and the two pintsize passengers who are unwittingly along for the ride. I can’t stop the seasons or the spinning of the globe. Clearly I don’t have that power. But what I do have is a choice and a God who will be our guide.

So this morning, while the rest of my family enjoys a final opportunity to wake at their leisure, I’m sitting in our breakfast nook, sipping green tea, pouring over an unlikely Psalm, and praying for peace.

I’m counting towers and considering ramparts.

I’m remembering waterpark escapades and late night family time around the fire and a successful septum surgery and picnics with friends and all the ways He has shown us His unfailing love.

I’m choosing to trust and to tell the next generation that this same God will be our God into the fall and for ever and ever. Even to the end.

What about you? How are you handling the summer-to-school-year shift?

The Worralls on Whole30

whole 30 meal

photo credit: Good Cheap Eats

Here I am, sitting on a pile of pillows in a bathtub at The DeSoto House Hotel, Galena, Illinois (circa. 1855). We’re in room 203, with its soaring ceiling and grand windows and slanted floors. It is 4:30 a.m. I’m sipping black decaf coffee that I made in the little hotel pot. And the rest of my precious family is sound asleep just outside that door.

Our annual China Adoption Travel Group Reunion is coming to an end. We’ve spent a long weekend here in Galena with five other families, whom we adore. I’ll share more about this wonderful tradition in a later post…

Because this morning what I really want to talk about is food. Probably because I could eat my right arm, right now.

Back in June I shared that we Worralls had adopted three core summer values, three standards that we would use to guide our summer of 2015. They were (1) Good Health, (2) Relational Connection, and (3) Eternal Value. Well, now that the summer is all too quickly coming to a close, I’m here to report that we have prevailed on some fronts and lost ground on others and learned,well, a few lessons along the way.

For the first half of the summer, much of my “good health” energy was aimed at giving our home a much-needed overall. Walls and ceilings and fences needed painting. Closets and cupboards needed sorting. The basement needed a major purge. And it was time to get rid of some things that I had been hanging onto for way too long. (There’s plenty of fodder there for future blog posts as well. Stay tuned.) This giant clean-out culminated in last week’s massive, multi-family garage sale. When we get home later today, I’ll start donating the leftover piles. And I can (just about) cross that project off of my list.

So now I’m turning all of my “good health” attention to another major and much-needed overhaul. The way we Worralls eat.

I’ve known for a long time that our diet needed some attention, but I kept convincing myself that it wasn’t terrible. We’ve fiddled with things here and there over the years. Tried gluten free for a time. Cut back on carbs and sugar. And so on. But in recent months Peter has suffered from chronic discomfort and pain. Tests have been inconclusive. One doctor labeled his problem “inflammation” and medicated him to no good effect. Last year Daryl struggled with focus in first grade. Amelia consistently asks for candy fifty times a day. And who am I to talk? My own sugar crave has gotten completely out of control. My energy levels (and moods) have fluctuated—sometimes drastically. My back pain has returned with a vengeance. I haven’t slept well since I can remember. My own inability to focus sometimes frightens me. And I just haven’t felt as well as I know I could.

I did some research and stumbled upon the best-selling book It Starts with Food. When it arrived in the mail, I devoured it in two days and shared sections with Peter (in particular, the whole chapter on inflammation). He agreed that we should give it a try.

If you’re not familiar with the Whole30 plan, it’s pretty simple really. At least the concepts are. Put into your body what makes you healthy; leave out of your body what doesn’t.

It’s the execution that’s a bear. The Whole30 invites you to strip your diet back to the basics for thirty days. Take out all of the “psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups” and let your body heal. This means no dairy, sugar, grains, or legumes. Instead, build your diet around proteins, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats. Then, after thirty days, you can start to reintroduce some of the other stuff—slowly and carefully and with great attention to the effect. Figure out what your body needs. But the Whole30 program promises to forever change your relationship with food and even your life. We’ll see.

So last Wednesday we Worralls started our first Whole30. All four of us.

The timing was not ideal.

In fact, with our China Travel Group Reunion falling on days 3-6, the timing probably could not have been worse. It’s hard enough to eat this way when it’s just you and you’re at home and you’re in maximum control of your surroundings. It’s a whole other story when you’re out and about with a large group of friends, eating at restaurants and trying to include your kids.

I considered this when we began. Really, I did. But I decided to dive in anyhow. There is always a good reason not to start something like this, right? And I knew I needed to get us over the hump of the Whole30 before school starts up again. They warn you that the first two weeks are the worst. So we went for it and decided to just do the best we could “on the road.” We ordered eggs with onions and peppers off of the a la carte menu for breakfast. When everyone else was enjoying a sub sandwich picnic, we stopped at a grocery store and picked up some rotisserie chicken and carrots and fruit. Thankfully, the kids gobbled that up without too many complaints. And surprisingly, apart from a few comments at the breakfast buffet—“I want a muffin! Everyone else has a muffin!”—we were doing pretty well.

Until last night.

Last night our whole gang gathered at the local Culver’s for our final meal together. It was impossible to order Whole30 compliant food off of the Culver’s menu, but we did the best we could—opting for the dinners of meat and sides, rather than the sandwiches with fries. But, of course, many in our group were getting custard for dessert.

And our kids wanted some. Of course, they did.

So in honor of the special occasion, we decided to let them “cheat.” Of course, we did. As long as they ate their giant pile of green beans first.

Poor Daryl. He ate every last bean and a good helping of meat, and he was so excited to have his first serving of sugar in five days. But when his cup of custard arrived, he stuck in his spoon to get a bite and flung the whole scoop onto the table. Splat! And poor Daryl began to cry.

A Culver’s employee witnessed the incident and brought him a second scoop with an added cherry to make up for the mishap. Daryl wiped his eyes and stuck his spoon into his replacement treat, only to somehow slide this second cup onto the floor where the lump of custard slid across the rug.

Cue. Meltdown.

I cleaned up the custard as best I could and whisked Daryl outside. When he caught his breathe, I asked him what was going on. I hadn’t seen him this upset in a good long while. “I’m embarrassed,” he said. “And sad.”

As I listened to him there on the curb of the Culver’s parking lot, I realized that I had set him up for just this sort of struggle—putting him on a restrictive diet in the company of so many of friends, taking him to Culver’s on Day5 of the Whole30 (the day they say you will want to “kill ALL the things”), asking him to eat differently from everyone else when he already feels different enough.

So after he apologized for his outburst, I apologized for my part in the problem. And I tried to explain again that, as parents, it’s our job to make the best decisions we can for our kids. That it’s our job to teach our children how to take care of their bodies, their brains, and their souls. That what we eat can affect all of those things. But that we don’t always get it right. That these things can be complicated. And that we’ll have to be patient with each other as we work our way through.

We’re heading back to McHenry in just a few minutes, and we’ll be continuing on this Whole30 journey through the end of the month. I’ll let you know how it goes and what we discover. If anyone wants to join us on the plan, let me know. We’re only a week ahead of you and would love to cheer you on!

p.s. Here’s Dinner Day 1. Mmm, right?

Summer 2015 050

He’s Up to Something


Credit: Tommy Olofsson Nordic Photos Getty Images

Credit: Tommy Olofsson Nordic Photos Getty Images

I am the Lord, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator and King.

I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea.
I called forth the mighty army of Egypt with all its chariots and horses.
I drew them beneath the waves, and they drowned,

their lives snuffed out like a smoldering candlewick.

But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?

—Isaiah 43:15–19 (nlt)


As you may already know, last winter—January to March—Peter and I wrote a little book. 20 Things We’d Tell Our Twentysomething Selves. We’ve spent considerable time since then on editing, proofreading, strategizing, seeking endorsements and such. (Hence, my inability to post here as often as I’d like.)

To be perfectly honest, it’s been a bit of a battle. This little book.

Not (usually) a battle between Peter and me. Thankfully, we enjoyed tackling the task together. It’s stretched us and opened our eyes, for sure, and it’s prompted some hard conversations. But we saw God once again use our individual—and very different—strengths in complementary ways. I think we learned to listen to each other on a new level. And I believe we are closer now than we were before this project began. (All glory be to God alone!)

No, the fight for this book has been something other than that. Something more and something multifaceted. It resided sometimes in the physical realm. I had trouble sleeping (even more than usual), and Peter’s been perpetually sick. Then we had random, repeated, major repairs to both of our cars and our house.

The worst of this happened one Tuesday when I came home to find three waterfalls running from our kitchen ceiling and then down to the basement. The toilet in our upstairs bathroom had spontaneously decided to overflow—for seven hours straight. The plumber couldn’t figure out why. Our old wooden kitchen floor was damaged. Some walls still need repair. The carpet and ceiling in the basement are significantly stained. And our insurance company calculated at least $11,000 of work. A couple weeks later a pipe burst, flooding another basement room—three times—before we could locate the source. And we were incredulous at our own “bad luck.”

It’s been an emotional battle as well—and, most significantly, a spiritual one. Sometimes brutal. Peter and I have both wrestled with discouragement and fear and self-doubt. While God has repeatedly confirmed to us His call, the enemy has seemingly gone out of his way to give us grief. But it’s forced us—yet again—into a deep and daily dependence.

Right where we ought to be.

Why do I tell you this? For several reasons really. Because you will undoubtedly experience a similar sort of battle. Perhaps you already have. Perhaps you are even now in the midst of a relentless flight. Because sometimes when God calls us, when He moves us and seeks to use us, sometimes when He is preparing to display His power in profound ways, all we can see with our physical eyes is the opposing army closing in from behind and the waves of the sea stretching out in front. Because sometimes God will turn our biggest struggles and disappointments in life into the greatest demonstrations of His glory and love.

I tell you this, too, because we believe God can do something new—in and through this generation. In fact, we believe He has already begun. And we will be more than honored if He chooses to use us or this book as some small part.

This summer we’ve had the opportunity to use the 20 Things to encourage the college staff at a local camp. Every Wednesday evening we meet with them. We discuss sections of the book and work through some inductive Bible studies we’ve written to compliment each chapter. We’ve been blessed by their eagerness to engage and grow. And it’s been further proof to us that He’s up to all sorts.

Today I want to share the exciting news that our book is now available for preorder on Amazon! You can find it here. This is really happening, folks. Please share and help us get the word out!

20 Things Cover

A Father’s Day Surprise

Kelli and kids secret

I love it when a plan comes together.

I particularly love it when that plan involves surprising Peter Worrall. He is not easy to surprise. Or maybe I am just rubbish at keeping secrets. Whichever it is, more times than I can count, he has figured me out and blown my cover.

On Sunday, though, I managed to get him good.

On Sunday Peter was scheduled to preach at a church in Downers Grove, a charming Chicago suburb about an hour south of us. He often preaches at churches around the area. Sometimes the whole family tags along. But other Sundays—for the sake of consistency for the kids—I take them to our home church in McHenry, and we spend Sundays apart.

As Father’s Day approached, I asked Peter what he wanted to do for that special Sunday. Should we all go to Downers Grove? Or should he go alone? Should we meet up later for lunch?

Last week was a fun, but very full, week for our family, including three very late nights in a row—resulting in sometimes-cranky kiddos and a sometimes-irritable momma. So, not surprisingly, Peter looked at all of us and decided that—Father’s Day notwithstanding—an early Sunday morning trek to Downers Grove wasn’t in anyone’s best interest. I nodded with resignation, but immediately the wheels in my head began to turn.

On Sunday morning, then, Peter woke up early and prepared to go preach. He wanted to get to the church nice and early, so he was leaving at 8 a.m. Before he headed out, he came and found me—still in the big bed, cuddling both kids. He kissed us and said, “Goodbye.”

“Happy Father’s Day!” we all said. “We love you.”

Then, as we listened to Peter packing his computer bag and searching for his keys downstairs, I whispered my plan to my co-conspirators. We were going to surprise Daddy by showing up at the church where he was going to preach. The kids gasped at the prospect, eyes big as saucers.

“What?!” Amelia exclaimed. This was apparently the most incredible idea she had ever heard.

“Shhh. We need to be still and quiet until he’s gone,” I whispered. And amazingly they complied. I think they even held their breath until we heard the backdoor close.

Then, on cue, we all three jumped out of bed and flew into motion. We had just 45 minutes to get on the road.

“Daryl, you look out your window and make sure Dad’s really gone. Amelia, let’s get you dressed. What do you want to wear for our big surprise?”

“He’s gone!” Daryl shouted, jumping on his bed. “He’s gone!”

“My Elsa nightgown!” Amelia shouted, jumping around her room. “My Elsa nightgown!”

Okay. Admittedly, the initial excitement over our scheme was short lived. There were difficult debates about Amelia’s clothing choices, and once we were finally on our way, there were innumerable “when will we be there?” whines from the backseat.

But I’d do it all over again. For the surprise and the smile on Peter’s face when he saw us down the hall. For the opportunity to support the man who gives so sacrificially to all of us. For the honor of hearing that man preach about family. For the chance to hear him recount how his own understanding of fatherhood has grown and how he wants to father in the future.

So today—even more than boast about my own success at surprising him (though there is that)—I want to provide you with a link to the Father’s Day message Peter shared on Sunday from Ephesians chapter 5. He scripted that sermon, which he doesn’t usually do. Much of the material is pretty personal, and he wanted to get it just right. The happy additional benefit of this is that he could post the manuscript on his own blog, which he did yesterday. And you can find it here.

There’s a lot in there. Maybe read it in chunks, point by point. Maybe share it with a few of your favorite fathers. And maybe remind them of your support and how necessary they are—as imperfect as they may be.

Peter reading to kids


Sand bar

I met Meredith last month when Peter and I spoke at a young marrieds’ retreat in Gull Lake, Michigan. During the Saturday evening session, I spoke from John 11 about Mary and Martha and Lazarus and Christ. If you’ve done much reading here at This Odd House, you’ve probably picked up on how much I love that chapter—what it shows us about Jesus’ sense of timing and His purpose (the glory of God!) and His power over life and death.

As a part of my message that night, I also read from my essay “And the Walls Came Tumbling Down.” It’s a hard piece about our infertility journey. In it I describe—in rather raw detail—the sort of spiritual crisis I found myself in. I’ve read this piece aloud to a few groups now, and I’m nervous every time. Understandably, I think. It’s a whole lot of vulnerable. But I share it because I want to give other people permission to bring their pain out of the shadows and into the light. I want to challenge the church to come alongside of them. I want to point them in the direction of true healing and hope.

Every time I’ve read it, I have been amazed. Every time, after I’ve read, a man or a woman or a couple (or two or three) has come up to me and said, “Thank you so much. That was for me. That was for us.” Every. Single. Time.

Last month at Gull Lake after that Saturday evening meeting, Meredith approached me with two of her friends. All three of them have been working through some form of infertility. And they shared with me that they had been friends for some time—not knowing one another’s private pain—before one of them finally broke the ice and explained what was going on. Then—you can imagine her surprise—when the other two responded by saying something to the effect of “No way. Me too.”

When we talked that night, Meredith also told me about a blog she had started called “The Baby Wait.” It’s a lovely place where she is collecting stories and posting encouragement and creating community for those who are waiting.

Today I’m honored that Meredith has chosen to share a piece from our story. “Island Time.” You can find it here. And then you can read some of the other stories she’s gathered—all describing the faithfulness of our God and the many ways that He finds to build a family.

Please share this post, friends—whether infertility has directly touched your life or not. Share it because you, too, may be surprised at who of your friends is stuck in the shadows and needs just this sort of support.


Life Begins All Over Again

sun through leaves

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees,

just as things grow in fast movies,

I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby


If you’ve seen the Disney movie Big Hero 6, you undoubtedly remember the climactic scene where Hiro and his inflatable nurse-robot Baymax enter a mysterious portal to rescue Abigail, the daughter of the vengeful Professor Callaghan.

Baymax and Hiro find Abigail, who has been drifting around in her capsule, lost and unconscious, for some time. Baymax grabs the capsule and begins to propel it back toward the portal exit. Hiro clings to the top of the capsule and navigates around all of the space debris. “To the left! Hard right! Up and over! Level off. Easy. Woohoo! Nice flying. We’re almost there.”

But then Baymax spots a huge boulder flying straight for them. He positions himself to take the hit and save the capsule. Sadly his superhero suit is crushed on impact, and it slips away in pieces into the dark unknown. His thrusters are rendered inoperable. And the only option left is for Baymax to sacrifice himself one last time on the others’ behalf.

Hiro and Baymax share a touching goodbye—after which Baymax gives Hiro and Abigail and the capsule one final thrust. Then Baymax floats off into space just like his suit before him, and the capsule hurls toward the opening. It zooms through the portal, lands hard on the ground in the “real world,” bumps a time or two, then screeches to a halt.


And that, my friends, is what June feels like to me.

I don’t know about you, but we flew through the school year at often breakneck speed, navigating around whatever life threw at us next. We had some near misses and took some direct hits and said some sad goodbyes. Now we come hurling through the portal. We land with a smack and a thud, a bit dazed and stunned, nursing a strange mix of emotions—grief and relief. We made it—if barely. But what in the world just happened?

The rockiness of the June transition is magnified for our family by the fact that Peter and I are both professors, so we have the summers together at home. Consequently, it isn’t just me who has to transition into this new summer way of life. It isn’t just the kids. It’s all of us. The whole blessed family. Bump. Bump. Screech. Thud.

Last Thursday was the first official day of Worrall summer, the first day when no one had to be at work or at school. So Peter and I met on our patio that afternoon to ask some hard questions and formulate a plan. My peonies and irises were in full bloom. The kids were playing in the sandpit. Peter was sipping a cup of tea. And I was creating lists and tables on my laptop. Obviously.

First, we typed out every task that needs to be done in the next three months, every home repair that ought to be addressed, every activity that could be attended, every purchase that could be made. We sat there with the highlighted park district flyer and the camp schedule and the emails from family regarding good dates to visit. And we tried to piece together the puzzle.

Of course, it didn’t take long to realize that there were more tasks and activities and opportunities  and needs than there was time.

Staring down the calendar and the list, Peter and I were left asking—yet again—how do we decide what stays and what goes? What we allow into our lives and what we don’t? What we ought to invest in and what we ought not?

How can we live intentionally? How do we steward well each day that we have been given? How might we begin again?

We decided on three simple values, three simple criteria against which we will weigh things this summer, three simple qualities that we want for our family because they are important to us. But even more—we believe they are important to God.

  • Good health. Does this thing (this activity, this to-do, this purchase, this commitment) lead our family toward greater health—spiritual, physical, mental, emotional? Or not?
  • Relational connection. Does this thing provide the opportunity for a deeper connection with our family and friends and community? Or does it hinder that connection from happening?
  • Eternal value. Is this thing just meaningless, a chasing after the wind (Eccl. 1:14)? Or does it build up the kingdom of God?

That’s what we want to be about this summer as best we can and by the grace of God.

How about you? What criteria do you use for how you spend your hours and your days? Please share.

So, here’s to summer and fresh starts and the sun through the leaves and tall glasses of ice cold lemonade and life beginning—all over again.


Whatsoever Things: Finding Peace in the Midst of the Crazy

pink peony

I’m still here! Really, I am—although I accept that my April “return to blogging” after my three-month hiatus was underwhelming, to say the least.

The past several weeks at This Odd House have been full of end-of-semester teaching responsibilities, end-of-school-year kiddo activities, several speaking engagements, and book editing. Then, in the midst of all the crazy, we’ve also been watching our Old McHenry House seemingly fall down around our ears. An upstairs toilet overflowed for seven hours straight, flooding my kitchen and the basement, damaging floors and ceilings and walls on all three levels. Then our old furnace sprang a leak, shut down completely, and now needs to be replaced. Then Daryl broke multiple windows with his new-found love of baseball. Then we discovered that a pipe must have frozen and cracked when the basement flooded yet again. And so on. You get the idea.

It’s been one of those seasons where I’ve been living in the urgent—putting out fires, scrambling to stay one step ahead—printing off notes just in time to run out the door to a speaking event, stitching Daryl’s costume together in the car on our way to his concert, ordering groceries to be delivered by Peapod at 10 p.m. so I have something on hand to make lunches the next day.

Things are not as they should be.

And yet, the past weeks have also been full of many wonderful moments. For example, last weekend Peter and I spoke to a group of young married couples at a retreat on Gull Lake in Michigan. A peaceful spot. A day with glorious sunshine. And a sandy beach where the kids got to splash in the lake all afternoon.

We spoke on The Life of the Mind from Acts 17, The Life of the Heart from John 11, and Faith in Action from Deuteronomy 6. As application and illustration, we incorporated several of the points from our upcoming book (20 Things I’d Tell My Twentysomething Self).

Ironically, point 7 in the book is “Learn to Rest.” And in one Q&A session, a retreat participant asked us to share how we have managed to do just that. Her comment was something like this: “Rest sounds lovely…but unattainable.” Thankfully, I wasn’t standing up front at the time because I probably would have simply responded with a glazed-over, albeit empathetic nod. Thankfully, my much-wiser husband was fielding questions on his own just then because he actually had something helpful to say. Thankfully, he was able to point them—and me!—to Philippians chapter 4.

He started by challenging our definition of rest. It doesn’t necessarily mean lounging on the sofa with the remote and a bag of pretzels and an ice cold drink. It doesn’t have to mean sleeping until noon or lying on a white sand beach, listening to the waves. It doesn’t even always mean a lack of activity.

What it does mean is peace. In the Greek, eiréné. Wholeness. Contentment. A tranquil state of the soul. Which won’t necessarily come with the click of a button or a flight to Jamaica or a tick on a to-do list. But will only come with a refocus of the mind and heart on whatsoever things are true and right and excellent and worthy of praise.

Then Peter led us through the following prayer of surrender. Of all the things we shared last weekend, several people said that this was the most helpful counsel of all. So I offer it to you. Pray through these points during your morning commute or while you’re washing the breakfast dishes in the kitchen sink. Pray through them while the kids are screaming and fighting and tracking sand through the house. Pray through them in the doctor’s office or the mechanic’s waiting room or the break room at work. And may the God of peace be with you.

Think of any area of your life where you feel a sense of hopelessness and failure. In the safety of God’s presence, let yourself feel those things. Breathe deeply. Accept the presence of this emotion, rather than fighting it. Then—carefully and completely—lay it at the foot of the cross.

Then, with the same care and intentionality, pray through each of the following items as well—in this order…

Think of any area of your life where you feel a sense of loss and sadness. Lay your grief at the foot of the cross.

Think of any area of your life where you feel a sense of fear and anxiety. Lay those concerns at the foot of the cross.

Think of any area of your life where you feel a sense of longing or lust. Lay those desires at the foot of the cross.

Think of any area of your life where you feel a sense of anger or jealousy. Lay those feelings at the foot of the cross.

Think of any area of your life where you feel a sense of stubbornness or judgment. Lay your pride at the foot of the cross

Think of any area of your life where you feel a sense of adventure and strength. Lay your courage at the foot of the cross.

Think of any area of your life where you are experiencing harmony and compassion. Lay your joy at the foot of the cross.

Think of any area of your life where you are experiencing wholeness and contentment. Receive the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, and then lay it too at the foot of the cross.

5 Ways to Wait Well


On Saturday I had the privilege of speaking to the wonderful women of New Life Community Church in Portage Park. I shared a part of my story from “And the Walls Came Tumbling Down.” Then I recounted the story of Mary and Martha from John chapter 11–the story of what must have been both the worst and the best week of their lives.

I’ve written about John 11 here and here. It’s a favorite passage of mine. And the first point that I highlight from this narrative any time I get to talk about it is this: “Jesus hears, but He does not hurry.”

And—bam!—there it is. That theme of waiting yet again.

If you visited This Odd House last fall, you know that we spent considerable time looking around the waiting room. Several of my friends wrote about their experiences and what God showed them there. And I shared a few waiting-related pieces of my own.

But on Saturday afternoon, during a follow-up Q&A, one of the women asked a question that I don’t think we have thoroughly answered yet. She wanted to know: What does “waiting well” look like? Practically speaking, what should I do?

So I thought it might be good to return to our conversation on waiting this week to address that how-to piece. Here are a few of my ideas, a few things that have helped me. Please, feel free to share your own below.

Look around. When we are in the waiting room, we tend to fix our eyes on the exit sign. We keep listening for our name to be called, so we can get out of there and move on to what really matters. We long so much for a future ideal that we forget to value and fully engage with our present reality—the floor right beneath our feet. But we can’t live in the future—or the past, for that matter. We can only live today. This moment. So we would do well—even as we wait—to open our eyes to what is right in front of us. We would do well to love the people just across the room, to appreciate the view such-as-it-is, and to give ourselves fully to whatever God has given us to do right now.

Get ready. The waiting room is often a place of preparation. It need not be a stagnant space. In fact, it can be the sight of great growth. A greenhouse of sorts—if you’ll pardon the mixing of the metaphors. It can be an opportunity to deepen our roots before we are called upon to spread our limbs and produce new fruit. Or maybe it’s more like a weight room—a place to build up our muscle mass before the big game. Regardless of which image holds appeal, we must make full use of the time. We must train thoroughly. That might mean going to to school. Taking a class. Reading good books. Sharpening our skills. Cultivating our character. Finding a mentor. Gaining experience. Volunteering our time. Refining our relational skills. Meeting with a counselor. Building a network. Assembling resources. Setting some goals. Making a plan and following through and practicing prayer. So when the time comes, when we are called to the next thing, we are all ready to go.

Find the fun. Life in the waiting room can be drab and difficult. The walls are grey. The chairs, uncomfortable. The magazines are outdated, and who actually reads Golf Digest anyhow? But we’ve heard that “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.” And though it sounds cliché, we find that it rings true. So rather than resigning ourselves to the sadness and discouragement, rather than assuming we will only be happy when we bust out of this place, we can seek joy right in the midst. While Peter and I were waiting many years to be parents, we found fun in regular weekend getaways to nearby B&Bs. We hosted frequent dinner parties and took spontaneous movie dates and trained for a marathon because we had the time and the energy, and we knew that both would likely one day wane.

Foster hope. It’s easy for hope to fade when the wait drags on—when we hear everyone else’s name called but ours, when we begin to wonder if the receptionist even remembers that we’re sitting out here, playing Panda Pop on our phone. Truthfully, some of us eventually find that it’s easier not to hope at all, so we stuff our dreams into the bottom of our bag and try to forget that they exist at all. Maybe that’s because the object of our “hope” is our own desires. We hope in this sense: “I hope I get what I want.” And truthfully, this sort of hope is fragile. This sort of hope will surge and recede with every shift of the wind. There are no guarantees. Yet, still, we ought to believe. We ought to hope. It’s the object of our hope that ought to change. Our hope must be placed in something certain and sure. That is, God Himself. His character. His presence. His glory. And our eternal destiny as His children.

Draw close. When we feel stuck in the waiting room—and the days turn into months and the months turn into years—we may imagine that God is off somewhere behind closed doors, giving all of His time and attention to someone else. However, He not only created the waiting room, He inhabits it. It is actually the location of some of His most profound work. Jerome Daily calls our times of waiting an “Invitation to Intimacy.” So let’s accept that invitation. Let’s answer that call. Let’s climb up next to Him, lean in, and listen carefully for whatever He wants to whisper in our ear.




Sarah Bessey

writer, speaker, recovering-know-it-all

Enjoying the Small Things

On Being Gutted, Renovated, and Restored

Flower Patch Farmgirl

On Being Gutted, Renovated, and Restored

Shauna Niequist

Author of Bread & Wine, Bittersweet, and Cold Tangerines

chatting at the sky

a place for your soul to breathe


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