Thursday, February 28, 2013

Many Kindnesses

I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD,
    the deeds for which He is to be praised,
according to all the LORD has done for us—yes, the many good things
He has done for Israel,
according to His compassion and many kindnesses.
-Isaiah 63:7

I love this verse! 

Whether we're going through deep suffering or just having a rough week, these words offer hope and encouragement. Our God is full of compassion and kindness! 

I know we don't always feel like this is true. The pain of life often obscures the truths we most need to hold onto. 

But I can testify that even during my worst days of suffering, God never failed to show me His kindness in some way. Sometimes I wasn't watching for it and missed it. But later I looked back and saw clearly the evidence of God's compassion and the many ways He demonstrated His kindness to me.   

I want to learn to watch for His acts of kindness and celebrate them day by day, instead of only seeing them in retrospect. So here's a list of some of God's "many kindnesses" to me from the last couple of weeks. =)

Praise God -
*I've gained two pounds in the last two weeks! After years of being underweight, this is a huge answer to prayer! 

*For the first time in years, my hair is not falling out by the handfuls, and it actually feels soft and has almost no tangles! This is quite a miracle considering that I only use an organic shampoo, no conditioner or expensive products. To me it's a fantastic sign that my body is healing because my hair is healthy once again!!!

*Last week I was just wishing for some quality Christian fiction when my sister called and said her church library was closing and giving away all their books! She brought me a big stack of Christian fiction for free! Is that amazing or what? =) 

*(This one is a bit long, but really cool!) 
I've been searching for a new Bible for months, one that is totally "compatible" for me (i.e. not made in China, not a big, heavy Bible, in my preferred version - NIV 1984, etc.) 
I found out this month that the 1984 NIV Bible is no longer being printed. =( I've read this version since I was about 11, so it's the one in my head and heart. But I looked everywhere and couldn't find a copy that would work for me.  
Then I happened to see a sale of 1984 NIV Bibles on I was so excited and called the company to ask where they were printed. Most of them were printed in China, but get this - they still had in stock a nice, compact NIV Bible that was actually printed in 1984 and in the USA!!! 
I told my mom what a miracle it was that that particular Bible had been sitting in a warehouse since 1984, just waiting for me! It still makes me cry just thinking about it. Talk about the kindness of God! =)

Well, there you have it friends - I have told of the many kindnesses of God toward me lately. Praise His name! =)

What about you? How has God shown you His kindness this week?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Stretch for Health

A big part of promoting health in your body is keeping oxygen flowing, blood circulating, lymph fluid moving, etc. Exercise is wonderful for these things. But I think equally important is a habit of stretching. (Some exercise programs also incorporate stretching, which is great!) 

Stretching is especially vital for those who aren't physically able to exercise. For several years I couldn't even get off the couch let alone exercise.  

Doing stretches daily, even if it's only for 1 minute, can help promote healing in your body. If you've been unable to do any exercise for a long time, be sure to start slowly with only a few stretches. Don't push your body too hard. 

When I first started doing stretches, I literally did about 45 seconds, then I collapsed back on the couch. But gradually I was able to do 1 minute, then 2 minutes, 4 minutes, etc. 

If you already have a regular exercise routine but haven't been stretching, I'd encourage you to add some stretches. Keeping our bodies limber and fluid is important for many aspects of health.

Here are some basic stretches I've learned over the years. 

1) I like to begin with this one and usually do it 2 or 3 times:
Take a deep breath in as you raise your arms up (I make loose fists and pull them up past my head with elbows out as I raise my arms), then exhale slowly as you lower your arms straight out to the sides. 

2) Link your hands together behind your back and then very gently raise your arms to stretch and hold for several seconds.

(Note: It's good to hold the stretches for several seconds, some experts even say for up to 20 seconds. But only do what you can without overly stressing yourself. If you can only hold the stretch for 4 or 5 seconds, that's ok. Just start there.) =) 

3) Stretch your neck by turning it to one side and holding, then turn to the other side and hold for several seconds. Then face forward and lower your head straight down, feeling the stretch through the back of your neck.

4) Do a corner stretch: put one foot slightly in front of the other facing into a corner. Then place your arms at right angles up on the walls, (like a football goal post). After holding for several seconds, move your arms straight up on the walls as far as you can stretch them. 
This is a really good stretch for the back, chest and arms. 

If you can't stand up to stretch, then try some stretches laying down:  
5) Lay flat on your back. Gently bring one knee up to your chest as close as you can. Then relax that leg and bring the other knee up to your chest. Then bring both up together.

6) Laying on your back, stretch your arm straight out to the side then gently turn your hips the other direction and feel the stretch up the side of your body. Repeat on other side.

Another thing you can do to just help your body relax is to lay flat on your back, arms resting at your sides, no pillow (or a small one to support your neck). Close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply. Think about relaxing every muscle in your neck, back, arms, etc, all the way to your toes. Stay in this relaxing position for a few minutes and feel your muscles unwind.

There are many more stretches that are helpful. You'll find numerous diagrams of different stretches here.

I've also learned several new ones from my physical therapist. Every time I try a new stretch I realize how tight that specific area of my body is. Our bodies were made to move, but in today's world that happens less and less. Thankfully, as we work on stretching consistently, we can experience the positive effects of our bodies relaxing, moving more fluidly, and strengthening overall health.

I'd love to hear what you you have a favorite stretch? Or what keeps you from doing stretches every day?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Non-toxic (& Money-saving) Lifestyle

Our world is becoming increasingly more toxic. Practically everything we eat, drink, breathe, wear, drive, or touch is tainted with chemicals and toxins of some kind. 
Research shows that even babies are now born "pre-polluted" with upwards of 200 known toxins. 

In such a toxic environment, we must be proactive about limiting our toxic exposure wherever we can. The human body can only keep up with detoxing a portion of the hazardous chemicals most people are exposed to daily. If we don't adapt a non-toxic lifestyle, our bodies will eventually pay the price. 

The positive side to this, is that living a non-toxic lifestyle is also a money-saving lifestyle. =) I began this lifestyle because I had to in order to survive, but now that I've learned how valuable it is, I don't plan on ever going back to "normal" living. 

For living non-toxic and saving money, here's a list of products I don't buy or use:

- numerous cleaning products - (I use baking soda and vinegar for all cleaning needs)
- hairspray/gel/mouse - (I use an organic shampoo, nothing else needed)
- air fresheners/scented candles - (setting out a plate of baking soda for a half hour will absorb odors in a room, no need to add toxic smells instead)
- perfume/cologne 
- make-up - (ok, I realize not everyone finds this optional, but for me right now, it works)
- lotions/body spray - (organic coconut oil is a healthy, natural moisturizer)
- fabric softener - (we use Charlie's soap and avoid dangerous fabric softener like the plague)
- nail polish/remover 
- anti-bacterial soaps or products (using plain soap & water is just as effective and much less toxic)

(I also try never to buy anything made in China, as those products are highly toxic for some reason.)

Well, that's the 'short' list of products I don't need to buy. My home environment is healthier and my bills are less. =) 

The products listed above are loaded with carcinogens (cancer-causing), neurotoxins (toxic to the brain), hormone-disruptors, and more. Just because they are sold in stores does NOT mean they are safe for the human body. 

"On the whole, there's no pre-market safety testing required for the chemicals that go into personal care products like your body wash and moisturizer. Washington allows the cosmetics industry to self-police their ingredients' safety through its industry-funded Cosmetics Ingredients Review panel, and, as you'd expect, they're pretty lenient on themselves.

In 36 years, this industry panel has only rejected 11 ingredients as unsafe for cosmetics. Compare that to the European Union, which has banned more than a thousand chemicals in cosmetics.

Our research at EWG has found some alarming toxic chemicals, including hormone disruptors and carcinogens, in products that people use every day." -Ken Cook (President, Environmental Working Group)

I know making lifestyle changes is never easy, but for the sake of your health (or your loved ones who may be ignorant of these details), please consider what changes you can make or who you can pass this information along to. You'll be glad you made the effort to eliminate toxins in your home, and hopefully even save some money along the way. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Do you want to get well?

Several years ago when I was still quite ill, we tried doctor after doctor looking for answers. None were able to help me, but we kept searching anyway. Then one doctor actually had the nerve to ask me, "Do you want to get well?" 

If I hadn't been so weak, I might have thrown something soft and squishy at her. We had traveled half-way across the country, were spending thousands of dollars looking for answers, and she dared to ask if I wanted to get well? 

Needless to say we didn't continue with that doctor. My mom tried to comfort me by explaining that there really are people who don't want to get well and this doctor had obviously encountered some of them.

But I just couldn't believe it. How could anyone with chronic illness not want to be well? I didn't understand it then, and I still don't get it now. Doesn't everyone want to be well? 

Ah...perhaps there's the answer. Of course everyone wants to BE well. Don't we all wish we had perfect health, the kind you never even think about, and never have to do anything about? 

But we live in an imperfect world. Perfect health does not exist. At some point, everyone will have to think about their health and either do something about it or suffer the natural consequences of living in a less than perfect world.

So while we all want to BE well, perhaps there are some who don't want to GET well. 

"Getting well" is a process that requires knowledge, consistent effort, continual learning, stepping out of your comfort zone, perseverance, determination, time, patience, assistance, prayer...(I think you get the idea). 

So whether it's because they've lost hope, just don't have the physical energy for it, aren't willing to put in the effort, or some other reason - I can understand that some people might not want to "get" well.

However, having been through my own process of "getting well" for almost the last four years, I feel terribly sad for anyone not willing to pursue it. 

For me "getting well" has been all about experiencing God's healing - in every area of my life! And there is nothing as beautiful as being healed - in any way, large or small. 

There were many times over the last eight years that we prayed and asked God to heal me instantly. And I know He could easily have done so. But looking back I wouldn't trade my "healing process" for anything in the world! 

To watch God take me from where I was - physically near death, emotionally empty, and spiritually drained - and to experience His touch in oh so many different ways, is beyond anything I can put into words! 

Day by day, little by little God has healed and restored me through this very long process of "getting well." 
- I've watched Him deliver me from a medication I had no hope of ever getting off. 
- I've seen the gradual increase in strength and energy that has made life so much more enjoyable.
- I've felt the positive changes in my body as it has healed from old infections and stored toxins.  
- I've experienced God's healing touch in my emotions, freeing me to express joy, love, enthusiasm, and so much more, like I never could before! 
- I've laughed til I cried because it felt so good to see the world from a happy view once again.

I am thankful for the years of physical suffering because through them God was doing a necessary work in my heart. But I'm even MORE thankful for the incredible experience of being healed by God in so many ways. I can't even tell you how beautiful it's been and how sweet it is to truly feel ALIVE once again! 

So wherever you are in your health journey today, I hope you are encouraged by my story. 

- If you're in your own healing process, then you know what I'm talking about. And I rejoice with you in all God is doing in your life! Let us continually declare His praise to others that they might be encouraged as well.

- Perhaps you know someone who doesn't really want to "get" well. Please don't quit praying for them, asking God to give them courage and willingness to follow wherever He leads, to keep doing the hard work necessary to take care of their body, and to one day experience His amazing healing process.

- If, for whatever reason, you've realized maybe you haven't wanted to "get" well, please take heart! No, the process is not easy. It requires a lot, but God is able to provide everything you need to face it. And whatever measure of healing He accomplishes will be SO worth the struggle.

- Or if you're like me and you can't imagine anyone not wanting to get well, but you're not sure where to start in your own situation, this might be a good beginning. Or you can email me and maybe I can help you find some things you can do to begin. 

We often talk about God as the Healer, yet for me, the last few years of "getting well" have been an astounding journey of truly experiencing Him as my Healer. And I look forward to my Healer's ongoing work in me. 

I pray the same for you.