Keep on Keeping on

As I was recently thinking about blog posts, I realized it’s been a long, long time since I’ve written anything about health or progress on my big exercise goals I shared last fall. People sometimes ask about my five minute plank, and I feel a little heartbroken when I have to give them the update, which is usually a sign that I need to write about it, cause that’s the way I deal with stuff.

I looked back on my blog to the last time I wrote about it, which was interesting to me, because it was only a few days after the post that I injured myself so badly, I’m still trying to pull out of it. The progress has been painfully slow, and just painful in general, so I stopped saying anything about it, because there wasn’t much to say. A year later, I’m still not sure how much there is to say – no dramatic progress or exciting accomplishments, but here’s the thing: I’ve kept at it for a year without a lot to show. I’ve been thinking about how that in itself is worth a lot.

It’s easy to stay motivated when there’s progress, but when you work and work at something, with little to show for it, the motivation can take a major hit. It’s terribly disappointing to keep putting in the effort, hoping for things to change, waiting for some indication that things are improving, and not getting the results you’re wanting. What do you do then?

Before I injured myself last fall, I had worked my way up to a six minute plank, and I was feeling better than ever. My body was noticeably stronger, and I was feeling confident and excited about reaching my goals. But I ended up hitting my tailbone so hard I couldn’t move for a couple seconds, and it seems that everything in my pelvis, hips, and back is still being pulled out of place. The balance of strengthening these weak muscles is tricky – doing nothing means I won’t improve, and doing too much makes the pain flare up and then I need to backtrack. It’s long and frustrating and annoying.

I’m still able to plank for three minutes, but I’ve had to stay there for an entire year, unable to increase my time, hoping to get to a point where I can continue to work up to my 10 minute goal.

Just in the last month or two, I’ve started to feel some relief from some new things I’ve been trying, and I’m FINALLY able to begin increasing my planking time. I have to go very slowly and carefully, only adding about 10 seconds at a time every couple of weeks, but I’m delighted to be in a place where this is possible.

So how do we keep on keeping on? For me, it’s a combination of lots of prayer, Ben’s encouragement, and words of inspiration! It’s been awhile since I went hunting for quotes about exercise and not giving up, so here’s a good dose of exactly what I needed!

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How do you keep going when things are hard?

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How I Got Over Seasonal Mood Disorder

I woke up the other morning feeling happy to be happy. I got out of bed excited to start the day, and I did not take it for granted, because it hasn’t always been that way.

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Five years ago, I hit the darkest, lowest point I could imagine. I’d always found winter a bit hard – the short days and extra hours of darkness weighed heavily on me, but until that November, I’d never realized how much it could actually affect me.

Night after night, I would cry and tell Ben I just didn’t want to wake up the next morning and deal with another day. I had no energy, and everything seemed too overwhelming to deal with.

It all reached a climax one night right before Ben was leaving for a week to take a group of students on a missions trip. He felt horrible about leaving me alone with the girls in the condition I was in, and was trying to figure out what to do. He kept asking me things like, “Why are you dreading tomorrow morning so much? What is it that overwhelms you?”

I tried to explain to him how I was feeling – it was dark when I went to bed, dark when I woke up, and everything in me also felt dark. Every day was the same, every day was heavy, tiring, too much for me to bear. It was so dark and cold and depressing….and it went on and on.

I’m not sure how many times I used the word “dark” before Ben finally clued in to what was happening, but he finally said, “I think you have Seasonal Mood Disorder.” As soon as he said it, it seemed silly we’d never recognized it before. We read up on what to do about it, and Ben got himself to Costco as quick as he possibly could to buy a “happy light” for me.

Things didn’t improve overnight, but gradually I felt as though the weight was lifting, and that winter felt easier than it had in the past.

I made a lot of changes in my life over the next couple of years, and in December a few years ago, it suddenly hit me that I’d sail through November without even thinking about it. The happy light stayed in the closet, and I’d never thought of getting it out. I felt light, joyful, excited about Christmas coming, fully able to enjoy the season without any of the old sense of dread. If you’ve also been down to the depths, you can imagine how amazing it was to feel that way.

I think of this every November. When I hear other people talk about the struggle this time of year, I hurt for them, because I remember.

There’s a lot of information out there about how to deal with Seasonal Mood Disorder (here’s a good article to start with), but I also want to share what I did, with the hope that it might help somebody else who’s struggling with this time of year:

Happy Light

I can’t find the exact light we bought from Costco, but this one is similar. It’s easy to use – I would sit by it for about 30 minutes every morning, and I started noticing a difference within a few days.

Vitamin D

It’s recommended that anyone living in the northern hemisphere take vitamin D, but it’s especially helpful for anyone who struggles with winter. This is the vitamin D our whole family uses. It tastes great, and all of us can take it because it’s in drop form – one drop for Everett, three drops for the girls, and six drops for Ben and me.

Get outside

Going for a walk everyday is the cheapest therapy there is, but it’s not the easiest when it’s cold and windy! Fortunately, this has been the most beautiful fall weather, so I’m trying to take advantage of it!

I always knew exercise was important, but I was still surprised to learn that getting outside for daily exercise can be as helpful as taking antidepressants. We talked about getting a treadmill last winter, but in the end, I bought myself a really good pair of winter boots instead! I bundled up every single day, no matter how cold it was, and got myself out the door. I noticed that missing my walk for too many days in a row affected my sleep and energy levels quite significantly.

Balance Your Hormones

This was huge for me. I noticed a big improvement in how I felt after our family started seeing an herbalist. He was able to figure out exactly what was imbalanced in my body, and recommended what supplements to take in order to get my mood, energy levels, and hormones back into balance. I know some people feel weird about going to see naturopaths or other alternative health practitioners, and when you’re feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, getting yourself out the door to an appointment seems way too hard. I get that. There are options that can be sent right to your door, if you want the easiest method possible. I’ve tried a lot of stuff, so let me know if you want to hear about more options.

Find the spiritual connection

During his popular years, Rob Bell once said, “Everything is spiritual.” We are complete beings, and the emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual are all connected.

This gets tricky, though, because it led to feeling like I was a “bad” Christian because I couldn’t beat my depression. I cried and prayed and hung onto Jesus in every way I knew how, but in the end, there remained a physical aspect that needed to be taken care of.

Having said that, there is a spiritual aspect which continues to help me every fall. While reading the book Naked Spirituality a few years ago, I was introduced to a completely different way of viewing fall. I always used to see November as such a dark, dreary, ugly time of year – the scenery depressed me almost as much as the shorter days.

But as I read that book, the author talked about how each season relates to a spiritual season of life – we have the vibrant, exciting time of new growth in spring, and the rich, productive time in summer when we can watch the fruit growing. But after harvest happens, we enter a time of rest. I used to see it as a dry, dead time, but Naked Spirituality views it as a time of quiet, tranquility, and drawing close to God. We can stop working and striving, and just rest in His presence. The trees are stripped of their leaves, and they are beautiful in their stark nakedness, pointing to heaven. I think of it every time I go outside, and it reminds me that this time can be beautiful and restful, instead of dark and dismal. It can be a time of snuggling under blankets while I do my devotions in the quiet, dark mornings. I see the sun coming up, and am reminded there is still so much light.

I keep hanging onto that. God is calling me to rest and refreshment so that when spring comes, I will be ready for a new season of vigorous growth.

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There is no easy answer for this delicate balance of emotions and physical limitations. I don’t think there’s a quick fix, either – at least I wasn’t able to find it. But there was still a lot of goodness, beauty, and hope, and some helpful little tools along the way.

Let me know if you have any questions, or if you just need to hear some reassurance that change is possible!

 

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What’s Next?

Kendra: “My massage therapist says I’m doing so well after having a baby, we can have as many babies as we want.”

Anika: “You should have three sets of twins.”

Ben: “Oh boy, Mommy and I better get to work on that.”

Anika (mischievously): “Good luck!!”

Kaylia (innocently): “We are NOT helping you with that.”

Ben: “Good.”

EverettAs sweet as our baby is, and as much as we love him, and think babies are the best thing ever, we also think our family is complete! We’re completely satisfied.:)

And so I find myself in an interesting place in my life. I’ve spent the last 12 years either longing for a baby, praying for one, anticipating the arrival of one, or caring for one. What most families do in a handful of years took a lot longer for us, but our family is finally complete.

I knew it was complete the day I started dreaming about the future – I’ve been stuck in “baby mode” for a long, long time. Because I wanted another baby so badly, my thoughts kept going back to that, rather than looking ahead to what the future might hold.

It is amazing to be set free!

And now I have no idea what comes next. I was longing for the impossible, and now it’s happened! How do you come up with new dreams after that?!

I went to see both my physio and massage therapists in the last couple of weeks, and both were amazed with how I’ve recovered from pregnancy and labor. They’ve both worked with me for a number of years, and know what issues I’ve dealt with in the past. Considering where I’ve come from, along with the fact that I had a difficult delivery with Everett, I’m doing really well.

When my labor started, Everett was face up, but part way through, he turned to the side, which is the hardest way to deliver a baby. In many cases, it just doesn’t work at all, leading to broken pelvic bones or C-sections. My physiotherapist said she’s only worked with one other woman who’s delivered a baby that way, and the woman suffered a lot of damage to her body.

This boggles my mind, because I wasn’t even supposed to be strong enough to have another baby! In addition to all that, I slipped a week before going into labor, and re-injured a bunch of muscles needed for getting this sweet baby out.

And yet everything went amazingly well! How is this even possible??!!

God is so amazing! Able to do more than we ask or imagine. I have absolutely no idea what adventure might be next for our family.

I daydream about getting strong enough for family bike rides, and playing soccer in the backyard, and we should really get a basketball hoop set up on our driveway…. I dream about hiking and camping and.. I don’t know, anything active that might pop into my head to do, with nothing holding me back! I’m not there yet, but anything seems possible!

Well, it did. Until I went for some kind of new Japanese massage last month. I like trying new things, and this type of massage was highly recommended, so I gave it a go. At the end of it, I asked the massage therapist what his assessment was of the issues in my body.

His answer: “There’s just not enough of you. You and I are both trying to live life, but there’s three times as much of me. You just don’t have the strength for doing what comes easily to someone like me. But that’s okay – you’ll just never be a bodybuilder.”

In a way, it was nice to hear that he didn’t think there was anything terribly wrong with me. And I’ve never wanted to be a bodybuilder. But I left feeling kind of deflated. I had thought anything was possible, but suddenly, I was seeing myself as small and weak and limited again.

I let those words sit in my head for a few weeks, but yesterday I decided to ask my regular massage therapist about it. I like his response much better!

His answer: “It depends on your mindset. It depends on how you exercise, how you eat, how you think, and what you want for your future. The things you want for your life are all within your grasp.” (He knows I don’t want to be a bodybuilder!)

And I started dreaming again. You see, I went to see Cirque du Soleil a few years ago, and there was one performer who was TINY!! She must have been well under 5 feet tall, but she was STRONG! She moved with such great fluidity, strength, grace, stability and confidence, she made me believe tiny bodies are capable of great things.

I don’t want to be a circus performer or anything, but I want to do the best with what I’ve got.

A friend of ours was recently lamenting over how his body started falling apart at 40. After listening to him for awhile, I informed him that my best years are still ahead of me. He laughed and laughed, but he didn’t know I was completely serious.

I spent my 20’s dealing with weakness and sickness. I’ve spent a good chunk of my 30’s figuring out how to work hard and trust God for healing, and I plan to spend many more years reaping the benefits of what I’ve learned and the great progress I’ve made.

Realistically, I know this body isn’t meant to last forever.

Culturally, I’ve already missed “the best years of my life”.

Forget that!!

I’m going to pretend I’m living in the culture my massage therapist told me about.

Somewhere in South America, there was a people group living in villages spaced widely apart in the mountains. They needed to get from village to village to trade things, and so they had many runners who would go back and forth between villages. The young men were amazing runners. The middle aged men were even better runners. But the old men? They could run far better than anyone else.

In their culture, they believed people got better with age.

I believe God made our bodies to work well, and sometimes things go wrong that we can’t control, but a lot of the time, we do our part to mess things up – through stress, food, lack of exercise, whatever. I’m ready to work hard, do my part, and stop messing up what God’s given me.

I want to be ready for whatever He sends my way. I want the strength to fully enjoy the life He’s blessing me with. That may not include miraculous health for as long as I live, but I’m going to do my part.

bikingAnd beyond that? I have absolutely no idea what comes next, and I’m so excited! Can’t wait to find out!

 

 

How I Survived, Part Two

Well, friends, turns out the story wasn’t quite over. (Maybe it will never really be over, because I’ll be learning and growing for many years to come!)

I thought I had covered all the important stuff in my last post on how I survived my December challenge.

And then Wednesday happened, and now I just have to share a bit more with you all!

After going for an entire month without any of my usual appointments, I felt the freedom to return to the most important ones. I have no desire to return to my old schedule of craziness, but I picked the three most important appointments to go to this week.

First up was Nigel, my extremely unconventional massage therapist who basically beats all the tension right out of my muscles. That was quite the appointment. I have no desire to repeat that experience again anytime soon, and am very thankful to return to my regularly scheduled beatings, when the pain doesn’t have quite so much time to build up.

But here’s the awesome part: Nigel was surprised and pleased with how well my body held up. He said I wasn’t nearly as tight as he had expected, and was “impressed” with where I was at. (And that’s coming from someone who is very sparse with praise!)

So that was really exciting, but then I went for my physio appointment, which I was supposed to be going to once a week, and my physio therapist was also very amazed with how well I was doing. She said I don’t need to go back until March!!

Last of all, my family joined me at the chiropractor, where I go once a week, and he said I only need to come back in three weeks, like Ben and the girls do.

I am so incredibly excited!! This takes a huge load off of my schedule and our finances, and is such an answer to prayer! I felt as though the month went much better than I’d expected, but I never thought my therapists would see such a difference.

I’ve thought about this a lot – how I didn’t get an instant miraculous healing, but how God has been calling me into something new. He’s leading me through a process, and really, I think it’s better this way. Not as flashy, and much more work on my part, but He’s changing me bit by bit.

He’s teaching me to make good choices, and work hard. The thought came to me one day that if we’re called to work out our faith with fear and trembling, the same could be said for health –it takes work. I believe God heals, and I also believe that sometimes healing happens when we get to Heaven.

But I also think there is so much that we can do right now, and we don’t. I don’t, because I get lazy. I want to sit on the couch, watching TV and eating chips, and I forget how I really want to be spending this life of mine.

So I’m getting off the couch, and I’m doing the work, and God’s blessing it, and we’re going to do this well! I have such a sense of hope and joy and excitement.

Ben shared this song with me last night, and it just hit the spot – “Could a garden come up from this ground?” God can do such wonderful, fantastic things that we wouldn’t ever imagine on our own. I am so excited to see my garden growing, and feeling many things in my life becoming new – physical, emotional and spiritual.

Here’s wishing you many new, beautiful things growing in your own garden!

How I Survived the Month of December

Well, my little December health challenge is over.

I wasn’t miraculously healed in December, but what I gained was worth it all! In fact, as I was thinking over the highlights of 2013, I realized that one of the biggest was this last month. I’m not sure if I can properly put into words what this month has meant to me, but I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned:

1) The end result hardly matters.

We live in a world where success is often measured by your end result, and I don’t think enough emphasis is put on the journey. Climbing the ladder may actually be the best part, instead of getting to the top….

Obviously, I would like to be sitting here, pain free, and telling you about how Jesus healed all physical difficulties for me in some kind of completely awesome, inspiring way. But that hasn’t happened yet, and I’m okay with that. I’m not even sure this December challenge was really about that – it felt like it was more about obedience.

As I’ve obeyed, and spent the month focusing on God and what He wants for my life, I can truly say that “…the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” When I focus on Him completely, nothing else matters. I have enjoyed this journey.

Teresa of Avila summed it up well:

“Ever since I stopped obsessing about my comfort and ease, my health has radically improved.”

I think this is what I tasted, and can completely understand why it would be true.

2) Fasting from anything allows for a fresh start.

And really, this was a month of fasting. Fasting from food loosens the hold it has over us, and that’s what I feel like right now. All of the appointments, and everything I’ve been doing to pursue health in my life has lost it’s strong grip on me, and I feel as though I have a more balanced perspective of everything. I’m going to start going to some appointments, but I’m not interested in going back to the way I was living life before.

This month, I was able to see what my life can be like when I’m not focusing on a pain-free life. I had pain, and that was expected, and strangely okay. I acknowledged it, accepted it, and then went and thought about something else. Very refreshing!

And now, I get to choose what I’ll do next. I’m not controlled by the need to make my life as perfect as possible, and I will be able to go into this New Year with a stronger ability to make good choices.

3) I’ve surprised myself.

I’m tougher than I thought I was.:)

God is awesome, and can absolutely heal all, but I’m pretty sure He also wants us to do our part.

This month, I did my part.

I did stretching, exercises, and yoga every day, twice a day on most days, and it’s made a huge difference. I had no appointments to rely on, so I worked like crazy. Way back at the beginning, when I was asking God for guidance on how to handle all of this, I felt as though He said to me, “Act like a healthy person.” And that is what I tried to do. It is what I’ll keep trying to do.

Maybe I’ll have some pain, and maybe not everything feels the way I wish it did, but I’m tired of labeling myself as unhealthy, and I’m tired of carrying this weight of suffering around with me everywhere. I’ll give the weight to Jesus, and live a little lighter.

4) I’m ready for whatever comes next.

If God still chooses to heal me at some point, as I feel He’s promised, that will be awesome.

If He doesn’t heal me in this lifetime, that will still be awesome. It makes me anticipate Heaven more, and that is not a bad thing.;)

And the next time God asks me to do something that seems strange, I think I’ll be a little more ready to say yes quickly!

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When I have shared my end results with others, I think some people are a bit disappointed. But once again, Teresa of Avila says it best:

I have clearly seen that He has never failed to reward me, even in this lifetime, for any of my good intentions. No matter how feeble or flawed my deeds may have been, this Beloved of mine has taken them and perfected them, polishing and giving them worth.

I offered the month of December to Jesus, and He took what I had to offer. I had weak, dark moments, but He brought me through, and it amazes me that what seemed so hard and scary just a month ago, could turn into a time of blessing, even if the blessing did not includephysical healing at this time.

Let GodAt the beginning of the month, I kept thinking about taking “a leap of faith”. It was always about jumping, and trusting God to catch me.

But about halfway through the month, I realized this wasn’t about jumping – it was about flying. It felt like soaring, to leave that cliff behind, and fly with Jesus.

Here’s to much more flying in the future.

Things Are About to Get Crazy Around Here…

Well, friends, it’s time for a hard post.

Hard, because I love to share openly after I’ve gone through a struggle – I don’t mind telling you the deep, difficult stuff on this little blog, but I prefer to wrestle through it privately before sharing it publicly.

This time, however, I have an urge to share during struggle. I have a feeling there will be a whole lot of joy in the struggle, as well, and that’s the part I don’t want you to miss.

Here’s the deal:

I’ve written before about how I deal with different health issues. I live with constant pain, which is so normal to me that I can’t actually imagine not being in a ton of pain, every moment of every day.

In order for me to keep the pain under control, I go to a lot of appointments. Each week, I’m juggling a schedule of massage, physiotherapy, chiropractic, and reflexology appointments, as well as some exercise and movement classes.

It’s slightly crazy, and really expensive. About a quarter of our monthly budget goes into keeping my creaky body running as smoothly as possible.

For the past few years, I have felt very strongly that God is going to heal me, at some point. He has told me so, numerous times, and I’ve been prayed over on a number of different occasions. I’ve had some amazing experiences of hearing different things from God that have filled me with a lot of hope and joy.

But no healing, as of yet.

In spring, I had another such experience, and I felt as though God was asking me to trust Him for healing, by stepping out in faith and stopping all of my weekly appointments. I pretended I didn’t hear Him. I don’t really know how I would survive without my little team of therapists, each of whom I really love.

Two weeks ago, it happened again. I was home alone, planning a relaxing evening of watching Downton Abbey, but while I was waiting for it to download on my computer, I felt God telling me to get down on my knees and pray. So I did, and it was awesome, and when I was finished, I got back on the couch.

But God said, “Do it again.”

So I did. And then sat down again.

And God said, “You’re not done. Do it again.”

The third time was the most intense time, and that time, God gave me a very specific message. It came to my mind, one word at a time: “Sheddai….will…..heal….all……..Trust….me.”

It was amazing. I can’t even describe it, because my feeble words would ruin the moment. It was awesome.

So I sat there, thinking, “Now what? God, how do I trust you?”

And immediately, the thought came, “Cancel all your appointments.”

To which I immediately said, “Oh, that’s ridiculous. I’ll keep trusting God WHILE I go to the appointments, and I’ll stop going after He heals me.” Totally shoved that thought out of my mind, and moved on to more comfortable things.

Until a week later, at the weekly prayer class I’m leading. A lady came up to me and told me an amazing story about her relative who had felt God saying He would heal her eyesight, but when she prayed, nothing happened. When she asked why, she felt as though God said, “You never took off your glasses.” When she did, her eyesight was immediately healed.

The moment the lady said the part about taking off the glasses, I felt as though someone had punched me in the stomach.

I knew. I knew, like I knew that Ben was supposed to go to B.C., and I would give birth to our baby without him. I just knew what I was supposed to do.

I went to an empty Sunday school room in our church, and fought it out with God.

First, I cried for a really, really long time.

Then, I started coming up with excuses. But it didn’t matter what I came up with, I knew what God was saying to me.

And that’s the thing – I’m not saying He heals everyone, and I’m not saying that everyone should stop wearing glasses, or stop going for physiotherapy. I just know what He said to ME, in that moment. I felt as though I was supposed to give up ALL appointments for one month.

So I said, “God, if this is for real, tell Ben, too. I can’t do this on my own. He needs to be in agreement with this.”

After church, I told Ben the whole story, and asked him to pray like crazy. I said, “If I’m going to do this, I need God to tell you, too. If I’m wrong, and this is crazy, there is no chance I can go through with it. We both need to hear it.”

And Ben said, “I’ve actually felt a number of times, over the last while, that if we truly believe in God’s healing, that you should stop going to appointments.”

So that was that. And we’re doing this.

Part of me is wicked scared. I don’t want to live through the pain that could build up over the next month. I don’t want to be disappointed if God doesn’t show up and do something awesome.

But I guess I don’t really need to worry about that, because I feel as though He is ALREADY doing something. The peace and joy in my heart when I finally surrendered was already worth whatever comes of the next month. I’m so excited.

And I need your prayers. I need prayer like I haven’t needed it for a long, long time. I’m doing this in the faith that God will heal me, but somehow, it doesn’t seem to really matter what happens. I want to live in complete surrender and obedience to Him, and the more I do this, the more awesome life becomes.

Last night, I asked Ben, “If prayer is the only thing I have to face the pain this month, can you imagine how much harder I’ll pray?”

It’s like a huge month of fasting, for me. It’s stripping away everything I’ve come to depend on.

I don’t know how much I’ll share about it along the way. I have no idea how this will go. But if you think of it, and want to pray, please pray that the pain would be gone. Pray that I wouldn’t get cranky at my family, as I often do when things are hurting a lot. Pray that I will have the strength to hang on to Jesus and nothing else.

The other day, my friend said to me, “Sometimes the truest prayers come during the times of deepest suffering.”

It seems slightly idiotic to purposefully put myself in the place of deep suffering, and yet, that’s what fasting is, right? It’s going without what we truly need, to teach ourselves to truly need Jesus.

Oh boy, am I ever going to need Him. It’s like jumping off a cliff and trusting that He’ll catch me.

Any words of wisdom out there from those who are experienced with jumping off cliffs in faith?!

35 Days of Favorites: Coconut Oil and Oregano Oil

Hello, everybody! I’m back from a little adventure away over the long weekend, and now I’ve got to catch up on a missed day of favorites!

I thought it would work well to combine the oils. Silly, to have favorite oils, but these two things have actually significantly impacted my health and my wallet, so I think they deserve to be on my list of favorites!

Coconut Oil

I love coconut oil. It can be used for many different things, plus it’s super healthy for you.

Here’s what we use it for in our home:

1) coconut oilCooking – There are actually only two oils which are truly healthy to use when cooking at high temperatures, and coconut oil is one of them. (Grapeseed oil is the other.) I know this makes people feel sad, because we’ve all been told olive oil is awesome, which it is, but only when it’s used without heating it up too much. Olive oil is great for salad dressing, or for tossing cooked vegetables in right before serving, or anything else not involving heat, but as soon as you start using olive oil for cooking, high heat damages the oil, and makes it unhealthy to eat. Sad, but true.

The good news is that coconut oil is great to use for cooking, even with high heat. It does make things taste a little bit like coconut, which I find very delicious, but there are some food combos that don’t go great with coconut, so you might want to have grapeseed oil on hand.

I also substitute coconut oil in any recipe calling for butter, shortening, or any kind of oil.

2) Lotion – Buying lotion made with only natural, healthy ingredients is expensive, but coconut oil works great instead! It’s pretty greasy at first, but it absorbs very quickly.

3) Facial Moisturizer – It feels quite heavy on my face, so using a very small amount is important.

4) Conditioner for Hair – Coconut oil makes hair feel amazing! Very soft and shiny. I haven’t done this often, as it requires washing hair at least twice to get the oil out, but when I have tried it, I loved it. Once again, only use a small amount, and only on the ends of your hair.

*And Costco sells it now! Even Ben was excited about this, because it’s much cheaper there. Good thing, because we go through it pretty quick at our house!

Oregano Oil

Oregano Oil

This stuff is very strong and has a nasty taste, but it WORKS!

We use it whenever we feel a cold coming on. I only got one full-fledged cold this winter, and it was because we had run out of oregano oil, and I’d forgotten to buy more.

Five drops mixed with water, a couple times a day, until you’re feeling good again.

That stuff is amazing. (Amazingly gross, too!) Because it’s so very potent, it’s probably a good idea to check into it before jumping on my oregano oil bandwagon. If you want to give it a try, oregano oil can be found at most health food stores.

There you have it! The two oils you will always find in my house.

Are there any healthy products you would never want to go without?

*My friend just sent me a link to an article about the concerns in buying cheap coconut oil at Costco, so I definitely wanted to pass on the info, as I will be looking into the accuracy of this myself.

Another cheap place to buy coconut oil is Bulk Barn, but I have not researched the quality of it.

We’re thinking of ordering a 5 gallon pail from this site, as it’s much cheaper to buy in bulk, and this one’s been well-researched, and is top quality.

Sometimes I’m Not Ready For a Miracle

I came across this quote the other day, about the Israelites wandering around in the desert for 40 years:

Their journey was a journey of liberation. They were being liberated from slavery in Egypt, where they had been dehumanized and exploited, so that their elite Egyptian slave drivers could build their own never-enough system. It was also a journey of discipline. They were learning values on the journey that would form their national character when they finally settled down — so they wouldn’t become either slaves or slave drivers in the future. (Naked Spirituality, Brian McLaren)

That struck me in a profound way, because it describes so well the journey I’ve been on in the last year. I’ve written before about how I’ve been struggling with some health challenges for over ten years. I’ve had people pray over me many times, and I’ve begged and pleaded and cried to God many, many more times myself for a miracle.

A few years ago, I started noticing some small, slow changes, and since then, my health has improved very gradually. Sometimes I would get so impatient. I believed that God could heal me instantly, but it didn’t look as though that was going to be His chosen method, so I tried to be okay with whatever form healing took.

In this last year, things have been changing in ways I never would have imagined. I’ve always struggled with a lot of stress, fear, and anxiety in my life, and a number of different experiences started to open my eyes to the fact that what needed to change, perhaps more than my physical health, was my mental and spiritual health.

God was after my mind and my thoughts. There was much fear in me surrounding my health problems, and I struggled with trying to choose and control what kind of thoughts filled my mind.

Many of my health problems were related to stress, so as God did a new work in my mind, my body followed along.

There is still much room for improvement, but what struck me about the Israelites is this:

If God had brought them straight to the Promised Land, it would have taken 11 days, instead of 40 years. God needed to do a great work in them first.

They weren’t ready for the Promised Land.

Those years wandering around in the desert stripped them of their old identity, and turned them into God’s people.

desert

photo   © 2011   Moyan Brenn , Flickr

 

If God would have given me my miracle right away, and healed my body in an instant, I would have ended up right back in the same place. Thoughts of fear and anxiety would still have enslaved me, and my body would have continued to respond to that.

He’s taking me around the long way, because He is doing a great work in me. He’s making my mind ready for the miracle of healing that is slowly taking over my body.

I also need to be stripped of my old identity.

Oh, how wonderful that He loves us too much to leave us the way we are! He takes us on whatever path we need the most, and gets us to the Promised Land in the perfect way, at the perfect time.

I still have so much to learn, and I continue to hope for more healing in my life, both mental and physical, but I think I’m starting to enjoy the journey. I’m at peace with the fact that there’s some scenery I need to see first, as we go around the long way.

And I don’t believe it’s punishment or hardship to need to go the long way. I think it’s just life. If I can accept that, and if I can soak in each step of this process, there can be joy in God’s timing, instead of impatience.

He’ll get me there, in His perfect timing.

Are you waiting for a miracle? How is God transforming you, as you wait?

Pursuing Health in a Temporary World

I realize I’ve been blogging a lot about health in the last month or two. This is the last post I need to get out of my system for awhile, I promise!!

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Sometimes, it feels like I spend an awful lot of time pursuing health.


Much of my day is spent cooking healthy foods from scratch, making natural cleaning products, running from one health appointment to the next, exercising regularly, and trying to resist temptation constantly.

yams

I do these things because all of them are helping me feel healthier than I have in many years. But every once in a while, I wonder if I’m wasting my time…

In the end, I don’t get to keep this body, anyway. Pursuing health is chasing something as temporary as material possessions. Is it worth the effort I’m putting into it?

My friend’s husband says he will keep eating the unhealthy food he loves, die sooner, and therefore get to heaven faster than I will. Junk food for a lifetime, and then, eternity.

Either way, we’ll both come to the same end.

But I can’t find it in me to agree with his strategy. Even though I’ve struggled with health issues for many years, I keep seeing this body as a gift, entrusted to me to care for.

I remember reading about how Jim Elliot kept his body in good physical shape, not for his own vanity or pleasure, but because it was his vehicle for getting the message of salvation out to the people living in the jungle. He wanted to be fit to do whatever it took to spread the gospel, and he did not want his body to hinder him.

As I care for my family, I am reminded over and over that this body is all I get for this lifetime. If I want strength, energy, calmness, and the ability to enjoy today fully, I need to care for my “vehicle”.

If I don’t get enough sleep, I am impatient and short-tempered. If I eat pancakes for breakfast, or anything sweet mid-afternoon, it puts me in a horrible mood – I seem to crash, and am unable to cope with the surge of sugar in my body. I never used to notice it, but as I cut out the unhealthy food in my life, I am better able to pinpoint these patterns.

I’ve been told that pain makes people grumpy. Experience tells me this is true.

This body wasn’t made to last forever, but that knowledge drives me to care more for it, rather than abuse it and view it as “disposable”.

I have no idea if making healthier choices will lengthen my life. But I’m going for quality, not quantity. And it doesn’t take much to see how healthy choices are increasing my quality of life.

Sometimes I still wish that all my efforts were producing more of a difference, and I get frustrated with the body I have to work with.

But the verse that continually pops into my mind is, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”

I think God cares about health, too. I just finished reading The Maker’s Diet, which was extremely informative and enjoyable. Rubin writes about how the laws given to the Israelites in the desert by God are today being scientifically proven to still produce ultimate health in the human body. The Israelites were extremely advanced in their hygiene at that time, and by following God’s laws, avoided many common types of sickness, just by the foods they ate, and their habits of cleanliness.

If God directed them towards health back then, I think it’s important for us today, too.

He made my body.

He has a plan for my life.

It makes sense to me that He desires this body to function well, so that I can live a full life, for whatever length of time He chooses.

I don’t believe Christians are immune to disease. But I do believe He’s given us a lot more answers to health than we may realize, or choose to act on.

And I do look forward to Heaven, but in the meantime, I want to really do this life. I want to enjoy my family, and see God in nature, and be in deep, meaningful relationships with other people. I want to discover my strengths, and use my gifts, and if there is anything holding me back from enjoying all of this, I do not want it to be something I could have avoided by making better choices.

I want to be a good steward of the gift God’s given me for right now, and when it’s time for Him to call me home, I will gladly trade in this body for whatever He’s got for me up there!

I’ll end up in the same place either way, but I want the journey to be as good as possible!

What do you think – how much is health worth to you? To what lengths are you willing to go to care for your body?

3 Reasons Why This is Not a Food Blog, But I’m Trying Something New…

Today, it is exactly five years since I stopped eating sugar.

smoothie

That seems like kind of a big deal to me, so I decided this would be the perfect day to introduce you to a new little project of mine, which involves food.

I love food. I love eating it, making it, and taking pictures of it.

I love the bright colors of vegetables, or when healthy food looks super appealing, and I really enjoy a plate of food with great presentation. If I had time in this life, I’d be a food stylist.

But I will never have a food blog. For the following reasons:

1) I very rarely make up my own recipes.

I love following other people’s amazing recipes, but I don’t “experiment” in the kitchen. That’s just not my thing.

2) I don’t know anything about food photography.

Although I’m often taking pictures of food, I really don’t know how to do it the way professionals do. I could learn, but it’s not close to the top of my list of priorities right now.

3) I’m interested in too many other things.

While healthy eating is very important to me, and something I’m passionate about, I can’t see myself limiting this blogging hobby to food. I love Jesus, I love my family, I love photography, reading, writing, organizing, simplifying, etc, etc. The list could go on and on. A food blog or even a health blog would feel very limiting.

However.

Despite the fact that I don’t want to write an entire blog about food, I’ve been working on a little surprise for all of you who are interested.

I have been approached by several different people who are curious about the way our family eats. I am often asked questions about how I have navigated the different diet transitions my family has been through, including going gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free. (Lots of free…)

Because food intolerances are becoming increasingly common, and healthy eating is on the rise, I have been asked a number of times if I could put together all of the recipes our family uses on a regular basis, as well as any tips for where to find great products, resources, or any other helpful tidbits.

The only qualification I have when it comes to healthy eating is experience. I have read and researched for hours and hours, and I have lived it for five years.

I will never forget that day, five years ago, when my naturopath called me with test results, and her solution to my health problems: a total food makeover.

The day she called me with the results, I was lying flat on the couch, recovering from a surgery which was supposed to treat my infertility issues. I felt about the worst I’ve ever felt, which was probably a good thing, because I was ready to agree to ANYTHING she suggested.

And her suggestion was: No more gluten, dairy, or sugar.

I had no idea what to eat. No idea how to cook. No idea how to survive within the new limitations I’d been given.

The first two weeks were completely terrible. Because I couldn’t eat the very things my body was desperately craving, I felt hungry all  the time. I lay awake at night, thinking about food. I cried a lot.

But I stuck to it, and slowly, things started to change.

Slowly, I found a new normal. And then things went well for a few years.

Until our girls started having too many digestion problems, and Ben and I decided it was time to make some changes in the way our whole family was eating.

So I started all over again. I could feed myself in a healthy way, but it wasn’t appealing for kids.

I’ve spent the last year figuring out how to feed a family in a healthy, appealing way. It is a constant work in progress, as I learn more about what is truly good to eat, and as I discover more recipes.

But it doesn’t stress me out anymore. I enjoy it.

And I don’t ever want to go back to the way we used to eat.

I love what our family eats. I feel truly good about the food I serve. Part of me would love it if our girls could enjoy what “normal” kids eat, but mostly, I’m just thankful for how much healthier we eat because of the food intolerance issues we deal with around here. I have so much left to learn, and many more healthy habits to add to what we’re already doing around here, but I feel that we’re on the right track.

So this is what we’re going to do around here on the blog:

For all of you who have expressed interest in what our family eats, or for anyone who just loves to check out new recipes, and you want some ideas on how to eat gluten-free, dairy-free, or sugar-free, I have decided to add a new page to my blog labelled “Recipes”. I have put together a list of links to all of our favorite recipes, and I will pass it on to you, in an effort to make it easier than it was for me in the beginning.

Also, I am working on a second page which will include all of the resources and health tips I have picked up over the last five years, from the reading I’ve done, and the multitude of healthcare professionals I’ve seen.

What I know, I’ll share!

And...if you have great gluten/dairy/sugar free recipes to pass on, I’d love to have you email those to me, and we’ll share with everybody.

But if you love your wheat and sugar, then by all means, avoid those new pages, and keep coming back for the usual blog stuff! The only thing that will look different are a few new tabs across the top.

And now, I must ask: How many of you out there are with me on this food intolerance adventure?? Any suggestions on how to navigate through all of the obstacles? Any recipes to share?

*Update: I have decided to remove the recipe page from my blog, and to replace it, I have started a Pinterest board with all of the online recipes we use on a regular basis. It is much less time-consuming to keep it updated, and more easily accessible, so I hope you find it enjoyable and useful!:)