20 Changes I’m Glad I Made Last Year

This last year was marbled, like a good cut of beef. There was a lot of stress and pain, but there were also many choices I made that were greatly beneficial to mind, body, and spirit. I thought I would share my list, with the hopes that it will encourage you to look back and see what God helped you to do well this last year, in the midst of your own struggles.

ONE: Worked to add legume recipes to my cookbook.

Pinto beans, spices, and some diced ham are inexpensive, satisfying, and packed with nutrients. I was inspired by reading The Blue Zones Kitchen and seeing that people who live long eat legumes every day. We now make a regular pot of beans.

TWO: Put myself on sabbatical.

Church life had been extremely stressful for a few years, and I decided I needed a season of rest. I made the decision to keep going to worship but to take a break from serving for a few months. During this time, I sought the Lord with all my heart.   

THREE: Took a sign language class.

Since I wasn’t teaching at church on Wednesday nights, for the first time in years, I decided to look at the listing for non-credit community classes at the local community college. For years had been wanting to take one of these just for fun. I saw that they had a sign language class, and I’ve always wanted to learn this language. It also seemed good to get out and meet some people in the community during my sabbatical. The teacher was outstanding, and it was the most delightful, life-giving experience for 10 weeks.

FOUR: Started to pay attention to mineral intake.

When I cleaned vacation rentals a year ago, I listened to a ton of podcasts. Many of them were on health and wellness, and I started to learn about the importance of minerals in body function. I learned what foods had the most minerals and vitamins and worked to eat plenty of those foods every day. Even though the last year has been hard, I’ve never felt more energetic. For the first time in my entire life, I haven’t felt the desperate need to take a nap in the middle of the day. I’ve got energy until bedtime, which is a huge life change.

FIVE: Stopped wearing sunglasses.

In listening to podcasts about getting good sleep, I learned about the value of getting sunlight in your eyes during the day, especially in the morning. I also gave much thought to the fact that God is light and the first thing he created was light. I’m no ophthalmologist, but I wonder if some of my increased energy has come from getting sun in my eyes instead of blocking it every second that I’m outside? I have zero science to back that up, but I’ve sure thought a lot about it.    

SIX: Sought the counsel of wise people.

The last year found me so distraught that a few times I felt like I needed to seek counseling. I’m married to a counselor, but we were in the same boat together. I needed someone outside of the boat to listen to my story and give me his or her perspective. It was a humbling thing, to reach out for help, but I’m glad I did. These weren’t professional counselors but wise, God-fearing friends who let me be an erupting volcano and then ministered to me with compassion and truth. I read in The Other Half of the Church that suffering done alone turns into trauma, so I decided I had better not isolate myself.

SEVEN: Dug my fingers into dirt.

We put a lot of energy into gardening last summer. Every evening Matt and I took the “Tour de Flowers” and walked around the yard admiring all of the flowers coming up. This was an economical kind of therapy. We went to Wyoming in September, and my mom’s friend served us strawberries and cream and then dug up half of her flower garden to send home with me for my own garden. I learned about the health benefits of having your hands in the soil, and there was great spiritual and mental benefit in turning my eyes from the stresses of life and looking at God’s creation in cosmos, sweet peas, gladiolas, iris, calendula, peonies, black-eyed Susans, and sunflowers. We ate carrots, potatoes, lettuce and parsley from our own garden, and it was emotionally and mentally rejuvenating to harvest our own food.

EIGHT: Fasted one meal per week.

Never in my life had I fasted and prayed. It seemed an overwhelming spiritual discipline, but the Lord impressed on me through a sermon that it was time to do this. I gave it a go and just did a baby step of skipping breakfast one day a week and praying my way through the morning. It was challenging and unpleasant but also rich time with the Lord.

NINE: Reconciled our checking account and credit card every morning in YNAB.

You Need a Budget is the best budget app EVER. I started using it a year and a half ago and love it, to the point of being an annoying ambassador. They should pay me royalties. I started spending five minutes every morning reconciling our accounts with YNAB, and it has been an excellent habit that relieves so much financial stress. It allows me to feel constantly on top of our financial situation.

TEN: Put refined sugar in the smallest canister.

I’m slowly trying to cut back on refined sugar in our diets, so one day it occurred to me that putting the sugar from the medium-sized canister to the smallest would be a good reminder to me that sugar should be a miniscule part of our diet.

ELEVEN: Journaled the good and the bad.

I’ve written it all down: anger, frustration, questions, disappointment, and hurt. Sometimes I worry that if I die, my kids will read my journal and feel like I was a disaster. But as I look back at my journal entries, I see that marbling I was telling you about. The anger on one page but then God’s encouragement a few pages later. Does the encouragement mean anything if there was never the struggle? It seems those two things have to go in tandem. Writing down everything helps me to look back and see how God is growing me and healing me. Sometimes I’ve felt that I’ve just spewed words onto the page, but when I really go back and re-read entries, I see that those words were prayers. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see that even on my dark days I truly was seeking God.

TWELVE: Lived in the psalms.

My heart has been so raw for so long that doing an academic Bible study and digging deep last year held no appeal. But Praying the Bible helped me to see that I could camp out in the emotional ups and downs of the song writers through this season and worship from there.

THIRTEEN: Stretched to strengthen my mid back.

A year ago, I started having mid back pain that started to make it miserable to do a full day of work. I learned that the hunched-over habit (looking at screens, cooking, and sitting with poor posture) was damaging my back. I found a few exercises to strength my pectoral muscles and mid back. I do those stretches all throughout the day. I also started lying on a long half-round foam roller for 15 minutes every night, with my arms out and palms up. I also stretched my hamstrings, because the chiropractor told me that tight hamstrings make for bad posture when standing and lead to back pain. Those stretches have helped the pain immensely.

FOURTEEN: Bought organic food.

After reading In Defense of Food, I began to understand why organic matters. Before I had just thought that eating organic was some weird hippie thing to do. Now I know that minerals and vitamins have been depleted in the soil by modern farming practices. As the home manager, it was a tricky thing to look at financial frugality but also to look at the health of our bodies. I started buying a lot of organic food (at Costco and the grocery store and not at the high-end natural grocery stores) but also paying attention to the price tag and trying not to go overboard in the budget. I’ve decided that we’re going to pay for our health anyway–either in doctor bills or in nutritional investment. I opted to give more weight to the nutrition.

FIFTEEN: Started drinking whole milk.

After reading In Defense of Food, I became aware of the ridiculous stretch in American history of removing the fat from everything. I learned about the health benefit of leaving the milk whole so that all of the components work together for good digestion. I’m definitely no nutrition expert, but the whole foods concept makes sense to me.

SIXTEEN: Slowly purged the pantry of highly processed foods.

This has been a slow process, but every week when I made my grocery list, I just sat and thought about one of the things I usually bought and asked myself if there was a better quality of this food we could be eating. Granola bars was one food I considered. I decided to stop buying processed granola bars and to make my own. My daughter-in-law told me about peanut butter balls, so I started making a bunch of these once a week and sticking them in the fridge for snacking. (Peanut butter, old-fashioned oats, ground flaxseed, unsweetened coconut, dark chocolate chips, honey, and sprouted pumpkin seeds). You wouldn’t believe how filling these are.

SEVENTEEN: Made my own sourdough bread.

My sourdough starter is now one year old. (We call him Dave, because when I started him last Christmas, he had a cloth cover tied with a string and looked like a shepherd that belonged in the nativity scene.) I stopped buying store-bought bread and now make my own sandwich loaves once a week. The glycemic index is lower in sourdough, and the mineral absorption is better because of the fermentation process. And it tastes so good.

EIGHTEEN: Started getting more magnesium.

I read The Magnesium Miracle and listened to several podcasts on how magnesium works in the body. I learned that most people in the U.S. are deficient in magnesium. I also learned that stress rapidly depletes magnesium, so we need to support our stress by replenishing this vital mineral. Since taking magnesium glycinate at night and doing magnesium foot soaks, the restless, uncomfortable feeling I had for years in my legs at night is gone. I go to sleep much easier, and the feeling that I might literally have a heart attack due to stress has gone away. I know that magnesium is essential for energy production in the body, and I believe that replenishing my magnesium is one of the reasons why I don’t feel the need to take an afternoon nap now.

NINETEEN: Acknowledged my hormones.

“Have you considered that through all of this stress you’ve also been perimenopausal?” said my mother one day. I said something to Matt, and he gave me a cautious look and said he had been hoping someone might mention this to me. (I can’t stop laughing about this. The poor man.) I definitely had reasons to be emotional over the last few years, but maybe not quite so emotional. We’re such complex beings. I went to a doctor, and we’re talking about my hormone health.

TWENTY: Forgave people who hurt me.

The psalms allowed me to cry out to God about injuries sustained over the last three years, but then I put the grape juice and the bread in my hand at church and worked to remember that Jesus forgave me and he expected me to forgive others. It was (is) hard to do, but I don’t want to be wicked in my heart. My sabbatical was a time for me to work hard to forgive and to get rid of bitterness and resentment. Jesus has helped me, in a profound way that makes me feel born all over again. His patience and gentleness but persistence with my wounded heart has made me love him even more.  

There are many more good things God helped me to do last year that I haven’t included in this list. Life was never all bad. Surely his goodness and mercy were following me even in the dark. His goodness has been following you, too.


  1. Oh, what a wonderful list! Thank you for sharing it with us, and for the encouragement and the challenge that I received from reading it. God bless you with increasing wisdom in managing your health, and with comfort and healing for all that you’ve been through.

  2. I loved the honesty and helpfulness of your list! I just came across YNAB recently and now again in your post. I think the Lord is trying to give me a hint. 2023 was a year of cancer and the loss of my husband but I know God has lots of changes and good things in store for me in 2024.

  3. Christy, You are a gifted beyond measure writer ✍️! I held on to your every word, not to mention your beautiful & honest testimony! I see so many books in your future blessing & encouraging others! Thank you for helping me to grow in my understanding of what others may be going through????????

  4. Corene Finley says:

    Oh Christy, I almost feel like we may be kindred spirits lol… well I guess actually we are since we are technically sisters in Christ lol. I won’t go into all the details because they aren’t really important other than to say we’ve dealt with a painful 5 yr estrangement from our oldest son and family… not the first time and certainly not by any choice of ours but it’s def been the longest period he’s initiated. The first couple of years were my darkest ones I’ve ever faced in my 66 yrs of life but the Lord used those years to grow and strengthen and mature my faith more than any other time in my 50 yr journey with Him. We’re no where near done with this but the Lord has proven himself able to carry us through and has taught us to trust Him, accept that the battle is His and to enjoy every minute of this life He’s given us. I also implemented some of the same changes you did! I heartily second your statements on magnesium in particular. Hang in there, sister… as my mom used to say… This too shall pass… and remember one day He will make all things right…

    1. I’m sorry to hear of your pain and at the same time glad to hear your testimony of the Lord carrying you. That’s encouraging.

  5. Lindsey Norman says:

    I love these intentional efforts to be healthy and well in mind, body, and spirit. Inviting God into everything with awareness, truly simplifying and savoring God’s foundations of creation. It’s awesome. I have wrestled with the reflection on the journal. I have 30 years of journal stacked up. I hope they will one day see that I was human. I wrestled. I made terrible choices. I lived and learned. Grace was evident through it all and maybe they will see an awesome story of redemption. I hope and pray the same for you as well. Happy new year.

    1. Wow -30 years of journals! I’m just a beginner compared to you. Happy New Year. 🙂

  6. Linda Evans says:

    I love reading your ups and downs and Relating to a lot of your health concerns and remedies. We have changed a lot of our eating habits. Fat is good for your brain! Sugar makes you fat and cancer thrives on sugar (not fat). Love you sweet neighbor. Linda E

    1. It’s exciting to be making good changes in my 50’s and seeing positive benefits. I don’t ever want to have that “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” mentality. Love you, friend!

  7. Fantastic encouragement for me. Thank you!

  8. Thanks for sharing this list! I too need to work on being a better version of myself with small changes like you do here. Blessings

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