resting & believing

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These past months have been intense, unexpected, challenging, and ultimately a great blessing. Without launching into all the details or an online pity party, let’s just say — over the past few years there have been things I wanted to see happen that didn’t, and there have been things I desperately didn’t want to happen that did happen. I experienced loss in ways that left my heart in such deep awareness of my need of God. This is a good thing, though never comfortable.

Each instance in and of itself was painful enough, but when stacked together, the cumulative effect felt absolutely crippling. I knew in my head and heart that I was not defined by external circumstances but I still had to grieve the sadness and loss. I went awhile without smiling, I hated small talk, all I wanted to do was cry or sleep, and somehow when I laid in bed, it was the greatest feeling of God wrapping His arms around me saying “I am with you.”

In the midst of this season of being stripped, and being forced to be at rest, I wrote this crafted daily declaration which I have been reading and saying daily over myself. The funny thing is, these declarations are things that I actually struggle with. But since years of “trying harder” and seeking ways to change myself has not worked… I have taken a new approach. This approach is resting and believing. It’s actually harder than trying harder. It is resting in Him and believing His power over me and through me, which necessarily requires relinquishing what power I (subconsciously) thought I had to change myself.

It is harder for me to rest and believe, perhaps because of my ‘get ‘er done’ mentality that likes to work hard and see change. I love projects in part because it shows me change in the matter of hours. It is a sense of accomplishment. But God has not created us to have a sense of accomplishment in changing our souls. This is why He has given us the gift of His Son’s death on the cross and the resurrection that gives us power to live new. His primary intention is for relationship with us. It is our weakness that pulls us to His strength and allows us to relate to Him in the process. And so I no longer see my weakness as a liability but an asset.

These following declarations are essentially about receiving the power that God has already supplied me through His Holy Spirit. Instead of asking Him and begging Him to help me change, I am believing and declaring actively that His truth and His love are changing me every minute of the day.

Without further, I will share this piece that has become a part of my (mostly) every day over the last 4 or 5 months.

I am Holly Ann Southerland, and with God’s help, I am strong and brave. I complete what I start and I accomplish my intentions and goals. I live by His Spirit and truth, not by how I feel. When I wake up, I ask myself not how I feel but what I believe. My days are in His hands. When bad news comes my way, I am not scared. Instead, I rejoice in the many possibilities of how my God will show up for me. I look for Him constantly and I find Him in the little and big things. I look for Him in other people, and encourage and lift them up. I never complain or tear others or myself down. I love myself and treat myself with care and compassion. When I fall, I get back up one hundred times. I never give up. I regularly feed my body nutritious and delicious meals. I enjoy various forms of exercise to keep my body and mind active and alert. I handle my money with diligence and wisdom. I maintain a neat and beautiful environment for my peace of mind and ready hospitality. I give generously of myself and my resources without holding back. I view others as more important than myself so I look to their needs first, trusting that God will meet my own needs. I am others-focused and servant hearted, so I do not seek others to speak well of me. I hear God’s affirmation of me every morning and I am filled up in Him before beginning each day. I delight in His unfailing love. I experience His kindness in happy and sad times. I trust that He is pleased with me because I have been redeemed by the blood of His Son Jesus. No weapon formed against me shall prosper. I trust His appointments for me and I am committed to showing up each day rather than retreating. I believe that in every appointment set for me, I offer value and love to those I encounter. I see them with heaven’s eyes and approach feeling hurt by others with curiosity and understanding, rather than judgment. I look beneath the surface to see people. I forgive easily and quickly because I am not surprised by the sinfulness of humanity and because I have been forgiven much, so I forgive much. This includes forgiving others and myself many times over. I do not hold the past against myself or others. I see myself with the eyes of heaven, as one who is loved, known, valued, needed, wanted, appreciated for my uniqueness and for my God-given talents and abilities. I define myself by who He says I am, and not by what I do or don’t do. When I succeed or fail, I know heaven sees me no differently. I know that God is not disappointed in me and so I am not disappointed in me either. I hear how He sees me and I internalize it as truth, letting it permeate my thoughts and emotions, until I feel His thoughts as truth in my bones. I am driven by truth and not circumstance. I am defined by inward realities and not by anything external. What happened on the cross is for me today. The cross and resurrection defines me today. I am forgiven, I am loved, and I am free.


Whole30 Round 1 …complete!


Today I finished Whole30. Whoop! It was 30 days of eating whole foods and cutting out all added sugars, alcohol, grains, dairy, and legumes. Before starting, the program intimidated me and I didn’t know if I would be able to be successful. My dad has said several times that he thinks I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to, which I always remember in times like this & think to be mostly true, and yet I didn’t know how much of my mind I would need to be setting toward this! It seemed daunting.


I enjoy healthy eating and the way it makes me feel, but I’ve never gone this extreme. The reason I did it was because of digestive issues that lasted for some months and I knew I had to find a way to make that stop. I read online about people with those issues trying this food challenge. I’m happy to say those issues stopped after about week 1 or 2 of starting the Whole30. To me, that says that it was definitely something I was eating causing the problem. And that alone was worth the 30 days!


Tomorrow is my first official free day from the program, and yet I’m not sure I want to deviate much from it, because of how good I feel. I no longer need caffeine to prop me up in the mornings and I don’t feel my usual utter-tiredness-until-10am syndrome. I always chocked that up to the fact that I’m a night owl, but after sleeping better this month and feeling better in mornings, regardless of what time I awoke, I think I can also attribute these results to diet.


It was essentially a very strict form of the Paleo diet, and I am considering adopting a Paleo diet 90% of the time. I still want to enjoy treats on special occasions like cake at weddings, and eat Daddy’s mashed potatoes when I go home to Texas, and other very important things like that. 😉 I’ve been aware for awhile of the hidden sugars in many food products (bread, milk, sauces, smoothies, packaged foods, etc) thanks to a book I read a couple years ago by Jorge Cruise called The Belly Fat Cure. I also read in his book that about 15g of sugar per day is ideal. That 15g goes fast, especially when I have fruit or yogurt! But more than just added sugars to those things, I have a sweet tooth in general and make too many concessions for indulging said sweet tooth. “Oh, I’m at Starbucks working for a few hours, that pastry would complement my coffee well.” Not really a special occasion in that instance, and I’m not going to totally eliminate that option from ever coming up, but I’m trying to find a happy medium for what to do with sweets from here on out. I know this about myself: the more sugar I eat, the more I crave. The less I eat, the less I crave. Thankfully after having no sugar for this month, I can see that I do just fine without it and enjoy things like better sleep and more stable energy levels.


Now, for the tangible results of Whole30. Because I do still have some weight to lose that I gained during nursing school, I was glad to see I’d lost 6-7lbs. But I really appreciated all the “Non-scale victories” and health benefits that Whole30 focused on — it wasn’t created just about weight loss. The scale doesn’t actually say anything about health, and there are many other ways to gauge health. My before & after measurements also showed that I was down between one and 3.5 inches everywhere I measured (bust, hips, abdomen, waist, upper arm, & thigh). I took before and after pictures on May 27 and again today (June 30), and it’s apparent that the biggest area of improvement was the abdomen. I lost a LOT of bloat. Losing 6-7 lbs I won’t complain about, but after not eating grains, I think that made it look more like losing 10-15lbs simply because of the bloating. I fit comfortably in pants that used to be tight on my waist, and I’m comfortable wearing certain shirts that were tighter where I didn’t want them to be tight. 🙂 Now they fit more loosely.


That was with minimal to no exercise this month (I think I went to the gym once or twice in June). I was so busy cooking every meal for myself, who has time for the gym?! Seriously it was an adjustment! My biggest realization is just how much I adore convenience when it comes to food. For breakfast before Whole30 I would usually eat Greek yogurt and a protein bar, supplemented with a helping of Diet Dr. Pepper to jumpstart the waking process, followed shortly after by more DDP! On Whole 30, I could have none of those food items, so it was challenging to cook breakfast for myself That’s my only gripe but that’s a total first world problem so I need to get over that in 2 seconds!


Speaking of first world problems, I realized again with my Whole Foods store wanderings how expensive it can get to eat organic/local/grass fed meats/cage free eggs, etc… but tried to prioritize what to buy organic and what ideals to let go of, and just be thankful I have stores close by that carry those things, and the ability to cook for myself! Perspective! Along with the realization of my undue adoration of convenience, came the revelation that I am worth preparing a meal for. I enjoy cooking for others, but cooking for one throughout my single years has always been a challenge & struggle. Sometimes it just doesn’t seem worth the hassle to get out the pots and pans at every meal, cut up the produce, cook whatever it is, wash the dishes and put them away EVERY SINGLE TIME. I seem to think others are worth that hassle, but when it’s just me, I haven’t valued that process. But alongside the Whole30 I’ve been doing a Bible study on food (for the 3rd time) called The Lord’s Table, which teaches biblical mindsets for food and health, and somewhere in between the lines there came the revelation that I am worth the “hassle” too. God has created my body to need nourishment, and nourishment takes time. It often doesn’t come in the “quick” foods.


The next step after Whole30 is reintroduction of certain foods, since that was the purpose of this — to see what my body doesn’t agree with and what was causing my digestive tract to be so mad at me. Tomorrow my boyfriend is treating me to a nice dinner to celebrate finishing Whole30 (love how supportive he has been), and I think I will order a dessert. Hopefully it will settle well! Beyond that, I think my approach will be to do Whole30 one or maybe even two more times. I read from some people who have done it that it really takes 45-60 days to see better results. I think I’ll give my system a good long reset and then carefully decide what comes back and what stays out!


For round 2, whenever I decide to start that (probably will do it back to back, with one day or one week for relaxing a tad bit), I intend to incorporate more exercise, switch my vitamins to ones that are not gummies (because they have a bit of sugar), focus more on food prep (week 4 was glorious and easier because I had a food prep day), finish the book It Starts With Food, and focus on getting 75 ounces of water daily (need more since I live in high altitude). Round 1 was challenging with all the adjustments (cold turkey on 4 food groups right away), that all those extra things were hard to focus on, but after week one I got the hang of it more. At the end of the first week, we traveled 6 hours away and I really had to plan for what to bring to eat. I also learned the skill of specifically telling the waiter/waitress at restaurants how exactly to adapt a menu item for me. No beans in that salad, bring that burger without the bun or mayo, and put the mashed potatoes on a separate plate (for my bf to eat)! It was just easier to cook for myself most times! I did find solace in Chipotle and their amazing guacamole, as well as Smashburger and their bunless chicken avocado burger. I found I could still travel and eat out, I just needed to plan ahead for traveling, and be SUPER specific when eating out!


Days 14-15 were the hardest for me, when I was walking through the grocery store with my boyfriend pointing out every food I wish I could have… Milano mint chocolate cookies, Pringles (I don’t even normally eat them but was salivating looking at the tall, slender can…), and BLUE BELL ICE CREAM for crying out loud! Thankfully I got past that hump. But then came dreams of massive Kit Kat bars. Again, I don’t even normally go for a Kit Kat, but I was dreaming of huge bars that would break and drop into my mouth. I read about people’s dreams who did Whole30 and thought they were funny, and now I have experienced it myself!!


Most of all, I gained confidence that I can do this. It’s not impossible and not intimidating anymore. Giving it a trial run was helpful for me, as I tend to be of the “all-or-nothing” mindset in many ways, and set such high goals that I get discouraged when I don’t attain. This was a high goal, but it was for a short time. It wasn’t for forever, and it helped having an end in sight. And yet, as I mentioned, I actually like the way I feel better now than before, and I intend to carry on at some level. Funny how that works!!

Money Saving, Natural, No Nonsense, Hippie Face Wash

A few years ago I learned about the oil cleansing method for face washing and shall I say, I am a lasting convert!

Lynsey’s blog was the first I read about this method, and after the initial, “What kind of crazy washes her face with OIL?!!” … it just made sense to me that mainstream face washes remove oil from your face, and then moisturizers replace it. There are businesses and industries and pink Cadillacs centered on this concept! Our skin has natural oils that are good for it. I read a few websites & blog posts and decided to give it a try.  I started in January 2011 and have not looked back! It’s such a refreshing way to end my day and my face feels so soft and clean when I go to bed! This post is for all my friends who I tell about it, so you have a reference point for the process of making it.

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My De-Cluttering Story

Hi, my name is Holly and I am a recovering stuffaholic.

Top: my room when I moved in // Bottom: Project “Get This Crap Out of My Face” completed

I have been wanting to write out my story of simplifying and de-cluttering over the past several months, but just haven’t known where to start or how to tell it. I am actually still in process with it and it doesn’t feel “done” but I will actually probably always be in process with this, so I will just start typing and share where I am now with it.

The Back Story

Let us start with Holly as a child and all her “duff…” Continue reading

Exploding the Myth of Safety

girl on slide

“Therefore risk is woven into the fabric of our finite lives. We cannot avoid risk even if we want to. Ignorance and uncertainty about tomorrow is our native air. All of our plans for tomorrow’s activities can be shattered by a thousand unknowns whether we stay at home under the covers or ride the freeways. One of my aims is to explode the myth of safety and to somehow deliver you from the enchantment of security. Because it’s a mirage. It doesn’t exist. Every direction you turn there are unknowns and things beyond your control.

The tragic hypocrisy is that the enchantment of security lets us take risks every day for ourselves but paralyzes us from taking risks for others on the Calvary road of love. We are deluded and think that it may jeopardize a security that in fact does not even exist. The way I hope to explode the myth of safety and to disenchant you with the mirage of security is simply to go to the Bible and show that it is right to risk for the cause of Christ, and not to is to waste your life.”

-Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, page 81

Dark Chocolate Ganache Cake with Strawberries

Dark Chocolate Ganache Layered Cake with Chocolate Covered Strawberries on Top


Have to love it when an experiment turns glorious.

After searching the interwebs for just the right recipe for a cake for my Lifegroup leader, and not finding what I wanted, then came the experimentation. My Lifegroup leader’s husband contracted me secretly to make a cake for her at cost, saying she likes things that are chocolate and fruity, with a special affinity for dark chocolate…

Now, my cake baking experience up to this point has been Funfetti out of a box!!!

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