About Christy Brunke

Welcome, friends! I’m blessed to be a mom, a pastor’s wife, and the bestselling author of the fictional book, Snow out of Season. But my greatest claim to fame comes from being a child of the King. Because of that, I’m passionate about my family, unborn children, and God-written love stories. Though I used to live in China, now I love serving in ministry here in Maryland. Praying you’ll be blessed as you read my blogs, my story, and my award-winning novel!

Five Principles I Learned from My Parents

Christy Brunke with parents Mike and Denise LitzauHow have your mom, dad, and other guardians blessed your life?

This past Sunday, my husband preached out of Proverbs on family relationships. At the end of his sermon, he encouraged each of us to write down five things we’ve learned from our parents.

Narrowing down the ways my parents have blessed me to only five was challenging, but here’s what I came up with:

1. Be generous with your time, talents, and treasures. 

When we were growing up, my parents modeled generous giving. They took in a young man who needed a home. They hosted parties for friends, family, and my high school theater group. They gave to families in need, so parents could buy their children Christmas gifts.

Dad sang and preached at churches and led a Bible study out of our finished attic. Mom taught the high school Sunday school class and cooked for hundreds of inner-city kids at summer camp.

Today, they continue to model generous giving.

Denise Litzau with Brunke and Litzau Grandchildren

They devote much of their free time to babysitting their grandkids. They supported a family in China, so the daughter could go to school and the mom could get the medicine she needed. They gave me and my brothers down payments on our first homes and helped fund my healing from Lyme disease.

Dad remodeled our basement and stripped and stained our hardwood floors. He also helped my brother landscape his yard and put new roofs on our shed and my brothers’ houses. Mom gives to important causes, helps lead a Bible study, and “adopted” a girl from the cancer ward.

2. Family means fond memories together.

I come from a big family that loves spending birthdays, holidays, and vacations together. Think My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but with more blondes, an Asian, and lots of blue eyes.

Easter: The Brunke, Carter, and Litzau Families

Growing up, every Sunday after church, we went to Mom-Mom and Daddywill’s house for dinner. There, we joined my aunts, uncles, and cousins for lunch, laughter, and lots of love. The menu often included roast beef and mashed potatoes, the smell of apple pies wafting from the oven.

Today, we still vacation together and celebrate many birthdays, showers, weddings, and holidays together. Mom and Aunt Darlene host many of these events at their homes, offering hot food and warm hugs to everyone who walks through the door.

Celebrating Pat Litzau's Eightieth Birthday Party

3. Save, live within your means, and maintain a high credit rating. 

My parents are well-off now, but I didn’t grow up that way. They married when Dad was twenty, and Mom was nineteen, and got pregnant with me on their honeymoon. Over the next ten years, my two brothers were born. 

Mike Litzau doing carpentry with Landon LitzauDad was a carpenter, and Mom was a stay-at-home mom. (She also worked as a waitress, caterer, or day care provider, depending on the year.) In other words, my parents didn’t exactly bring in the big bucks during my childhood years. Still, we never wanted for anything.

We got new clothes for Christmas, our birthdays, and before school started each year. The rest of the time, we shopped at Goodwill and yard sales. We rarely had name brands, but we had plenty, and we didn’t go into debt

Mom bought day-old bread, always had coupons handy, and knew all the best deals. Instead of seeing movies when they first released, we went to the cheap theater and still had a great time. 

Today, Mom owns and manages a settlement company, and Dad buys and remodels homes to rent or sell. They can now afford name-brand clothes, a Mercedes, and even trips to Europe. Still, Mom’s always quick to point out any amazing deals she finds.

Mike and Denise Litzau on vacation

4. Even in the little things, honesty is always the best policy.

Despite my parents’ limited resources when we were kids, they never encouraged us to lie about our age to save money. Instead, quite the opposite. Truth was honored as one of the highest character traits. After all, if you can’t trust each other, how can you have a healthy relationship?

5. Have boundaries, but forgive, and make every effort to live in peace with everyone.

My parents are both strong-willed, intelligent people, but they don’t hold grudges. They speak the truth in love and do their best to live in harmony with friends, family, and coworkers. 

All in all, I’ve been incredibly blessed by both of my amazing parents. What five things did you learn from yours? Comment below!

Introducing My New Website, OurLymeJourney.com!

Never Alone: Our Journey with Lyme Disease

An estimated 300,000 Americans contract Lyme disease every year. My dad, daughter, and I are three of them. (Click here to read my daughter’s ‘s story.)

Last month, I launched a new website called OurLymeJourney.comStarting this Saturday, I’ll share must-have information about this tick-borne illness. Journey with me and others as we illuminate a path toward prevention, early diagnosis, and effective treatment. 

Learn how to recognize Lyme disease as the Great Imitator. Untangle the controversies about the diagnostic tests. Become your own best advocate and get the upper hand on this too-often debilitating disease. 

This blogged book will include four parts, dozens of chapters, and at least a hundred or two blogs. Here’s a sneak peek at some of the content I’ll be covering:

Part One: Our Family’s Story

  • What on Earth is Wrong with Me?
  • Saved by My Seven-Year-Old
  • My Journey from Hope to Healing
Mark, Christy, Michaela, and Angelina Brunke

Part Two: All About Lyme and Insect-Borne Infections

  • Lyme’s History, Biology, and Global Threat
  • Eleven Ways to Lower Your Risk for Lyme
  • How to Recognize the Great Imitator
  • Why Standard Testing Might Not Be Enough
  • Lyme’s Common Co-Infections and Other Tick-Borne Diseases
  • A Concerning and Controversial Theory
Eleven Ways to Lower Your Risk for Lyme

Part Three: Treatment Protocols for Tick-Borne Diseases

  • Antibiotics and Anti-Malarial Medications
  • Healthy Habits: Complementary Approaches to Treating Lyme
  • Lyme Disease Triggers and Related Health Issues

Part Four: Stories of Friends and Family

The final segment of Never Alone: Our Journey with Lyme Disease is all about you! I’ve already had the honor of hearing many of your stories, and I hope to hear and learn from many more. If you’re willing to share your experiences with the world, I’d love to interview you

Side note: Most of the part four memoirs will be exclusive to the published version of the book. Others will be exclusive to the blog.  

Join me on this journey by clicking here

11 Ways to Lower Your Risk for Lyme

Protect Yourself Against Lyme Disease: 7 Tips

Photo courtesy of lymediseaseguide.net.

In my last post, I shared my daughter’s story and tips to help you catch Lyme disease early. But how can we protect ourselves from getting it in the first place? Studies show at least 20% of people with Lyme disease don’t remember a rash, and the number could be as high as 73%.

And, unfortunately, the other symptoms can mimic everything from the flu to rheumatoid arthritis. Many with Lyme have been misdiagnosed with depression, multiple sclerosis, or chronic fatigue syndrome.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease by Lyme BlueSo how can we decrease our chances of getting this debilitating disease? I wish I could tell you the tips are easy, but for busy moms and nature-lovers like me, they certainly aren’t. However, they might just prevent our minds and bodies from giving out on us before their time.

So here they are! The more we do, and the more often we do them, the more we’ll lower our risk of getting Lyme disease.

When hiking, playing outdoors, or doing yard work from the spring through the fall, take the following precautions:

Wear hats, long-sleeved shirts, and pants tucked into socks. (Lighter-colored clothing is best, because it makes it easier to see the ticks.)

Size of Blacklegged Ticks: Nymph, Adult, and Larva

Photo courtesy of cdc.gov.

• Wear shoes—no flip-flops, sandals, or bare feet—and spray them with permethrin every six weeks. (This tip is one of the easier ones, but it’s been shown to have a big impact.)

Pre-treat your clothes with permethrin and use EPA-approved insect repellent on your body. (Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, or lemon eucalyptus oil are most effective.)

Walk in the center of trails to avoid brush, tall grass, and leaf litter.

Don’t sit on logs or lean against trees.

Tick Hotspots: Where to Check for Ticks

Photo courtesy of hikeitbaby.com.

• After being outdoors, check yourself and your children for ticks. Don’t forget hidden places like the underwear area and scalps, armpits, and belly buttons.

Bathe or shower within two hours of coming inside.

Toss your clothes in a dryer for 5-10 minutes to kill any ticks that may have traveled inside with you.

Plan ahead:

Avoid tick-infested areas from May through July when the nymphs are feeding. (Nymphs are the main disease-carrying stage of the deer tick.)

Deer Ticks Life Cycle and Risk of Infection

Photo courtesy of cdc.gov.

• If you live in a high-risk area, hire a professional to spray for ticks between mid-May and early June.

Discourage deer from coming into your yard through building fences and removing plants they enjoy eating.

Photo courtesy of bugspray.com.

Those are the best tips I’ve found for preventing this debilitating disease. I don’t expect us to do all of them, but every one we do will help lower our risk of getting Lyme. 

For more information about Lyme disease, read “Lyme Disease! What It Is & Why You Should Care.”

Lyme Disease: Our Story

The Brunke Family: Mark, Christy, Michaela, and Angelina

Family picture from November 2014, just months before we moved to Maryland. Photo by Stephanie Kuecker.

What are your greatest fears?

Since we moved to Maryland in May 2015, one of mine has been that my husband, daughters, or I would get Lyme disease. We had traded the cold, crime, and bad traffic of Chicago for an adversary the size of a sesame seed. How could we fight a foe we could barely see?

Lyme Disease Risk in the United States

Photo courtesy of myblindspotjourney.wordpress.com.

As you may know, Lyme disease is spread through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Also known as “deer ticks,” these bugs are much smaller than other ticks. Depending on the stage of their development, they range in size from a pinhead to an apple seed.

But the damage they cause can be life-changing. Our neighbor had to retire early and still suffers from pain in his back and knees. A sweet friend from church struggles with brain fog, debilitating fatigue, and physical limitations. Combined, these problems led to her having to go on disability.

In both their cases, they had Lyme disease for years before it was diagnosed. And untreated Lyme disease can cause arthritis, meningitis, nerve paralysis, and even heart problems.

Later signs and symptoms of Lyme diseaseIn contrast, the CDC says, “People treated with appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of Lyme disease usually recover rapidly and completely.” Hence, the incredible importance of discovering the disease quickly.

Five years ago, my father also contracted Lyme disease, but his story gives us hope. Because he realized what it was within a week, he was able to recover from it without any permanent damage.

His story and ours are why I’m writing this blog: to help you recognize the disease early before it wreaks havoc on your health. Even more important perhaps, for parents, is to recognize it in your little ones.

Seven-year-old girl with her baby bearded dragon.

Michaela on her seventh birthday–Tuesday, August 28, 2018–with her baby bearded dragon.

Our seven-year-old, Michaela is strong, energetic, and independent. She delights us with her inventiveness, her creativity, and her surprising and perceptive observations.

But winter mornings with her can prove challenging. Even if it’s literally freezing outside, she almost never wants to wear a coat. To prove she doesn’t need one, she’ll stand on our deck for .2 seconds and say, “See? It’s not cold!”

But on the way home from her late August birthday party, she started complaining she was cold. The next day, on the way home from the zoo, she said the same. That evening—the Friday before Labor Day—she was hot to the touch. I took her temperature, and it was 103.4 degrees.

Seven-year-old girl at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

Michaela at the Maryland Zoo the day we discovered she was sick.

My husband, Mark, checked her from head to toe and found nothing unusual. Since her doctor’s office had closed by that time, he took her to a clinic, and they concluded she had a virus.

On Labor Day, after days of no symptoms except chills, fatigue, and fevers, I discovered a rash. At first, I thought it might just be a pressure mark from her long nap on Mark’s recliner. The middle of the night proved that theory wrong.

Just after midnight, Michaela came into our bedroom crying. Her head hurt, and her fever had spiked to 103.9. I checked the oval red mark on the back of her upper thigh, and it was still there.

I gave her medicine and a lukewarm bath and left a voice mail for the on-call pediatrician. When he called back, he advised me to bring her in first thing in the morning.

Seven-year-old girl 24 hours after starting antibiotics.

Michaela eating lunch 24 hours after starting antibiotics. You can still see the red circles around her eyes, but her bright smile is back and her hair is messy, because she was playing superheroes.

I did, and another doctor examined her and ruled out common causes of fever. Then she called in a third doctor to check out the rash, which was clearing in the center. They agreed she probably had early Lyme disease and started her on antibiotics.

(Diagnostic blood tests aren’t usually accurate until four to six weeks after infection, so they start treatment for early Lyme disease based on your symptoms.)

Most importantly, since the doctors think we caught it very early, they don’t predict any long-term problems. And because I want you to catch it early too, here are my main tips:

First, don’t just check for the rash once. The circular red area usually takes 3 to 14 days to appear after the tick bite and can appear as late as 30 days later. Some people never get the rash.

Second, don’t forget to check your scalp and areas where your skin creases when you stand.

Third, don’t assume it has to look like a bull’s-eye. The erythema migrans can take many forms (see the chart below).

Erythema migrans can present itself in many forms.In my dad’s case, his rash looked like a normal rash but then spread to other parts of his body. In Michaela’s case, the rash didn’t appear until several days after her symptoms started. If your fever or a loved one’s persists, check for the rash again and see your primary care physician.

So now we know a little more about how to catch Lyme disease early. But how do we prevent ourselves and our loves ones from getting it in the first place? Check out 11 Ways to Lower Your Risk for Lyme.