Thinking Healthy This Winter

I stumbled across a new blog (to me) tonight, Recipes to Nourish. Looks like a lot of great information on there. I was especially interested in Holistic Tips to Keep Your Family Healthy.

We do slight variations of many things on her list, simply because I’m a rookie. For instance, we just use store-bought Sambucol for colds & flu, but she has a recipe where you can make your own Elderberry & Rose Hip Syrup. I’d like to get all of the supplies together and try making a batch.

What are some of your favorite homemade tips for keeping your family healthy during the winter?

Have you ever made Elderberry syrup? Want to come over and help me make some? Ha!



Anxiety, Much?

Let me say this first: Life is tough, but God is good.

Some people think if you just ignore the hard things or focus enough on the positive things, that things will get proportionately easier. My experience? Not so much.

They DO help, but sometimes you’re just dealing with really hard stuff. Stuff that people don’t like to talk about or stuff where there just aren’t easy answers. And sometimes, your body goes into panic mode.

For some people that comes out as anger.
For others it may be tears.
Perhaps it’s aches & pains?
Or a racing heart and feeling like an elephant is on your chest?
Maybe it makes you want to run away.
Or maybe it makes you want to sleep.
Maybe it makes you want to scream.
Or maybe it makes you want silence.

No matter what your body’s response is, the most important  thing is that you see it for the bright red flashing WARNING sign that it is. You are the only one who can take care of you.

Others can help, but you have to take responsibility for taking care of yourself. You know that verse about how our body is a temple of  the Holy Spirit?

Don’t take that as condemnation, take it as a reminder of the importance of caring for it.  Don’t ignore the warnings your body is sending you, even if you are a Christian.

Yes, we are to cast all of our worries and cares to Him. Yes, He is greater than any storm in our lives. Yes, He works all things for the good for those called according to His purpose.  Yes, the joy of the LORD is our strength. Yes, we are blessed in many, many ways. But you know what? Even Jesus wept.

I believe that God has placed doctors, counselors, and dear trusted friends in our lives as His special gift to us. People that have wisdom in areas that we need it most. People that have walked (in some ways) in our shoes.

You don’t go to them instead of Him. But they may be one of the ways that He wants to minister to you.

Months ago, I shared with a friend some of the details of the struggles I was facing. She shared some of her struggles too. And then she told me about Lobelia and Bach’s Rescue Remedy Spray. She gave me some other suggestions too and they all helped, but it was the first time anyone had told me about Lobelia. Have you all heard of it before?

It’s like nature’s little Xanax so it’s perfect for when you’re battling anxiety or panic attacks. It’s not too expensive and you don’t have to take it all the time, just as needed. It’s a very powerful herb. In fact, it’s sometimes called pukeweed because it  you take too much it will make you, ummm puke. And it tastes nasty too. Some people put 10-30 drops in water, but it’s easier for me to just put the drops under my tongue and get it over with! She told me to start with 10 drops. Some people need more.

This website had some interesting information on lobelia if you want to learn more about it. (I’m not endorsing or promoting that website, I just found it via google.) It actually makes me want to try it for some of the back trouble I’ve been having! They say it helps people quit smoking too. Here’s another website’s information.

I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on TV, I’m just a person who is open to both medical and natural remedies, and am passing along some information that has been helpful to me.  Lobelia is controversial because it’s so strong, but all medications that we take have warnings on them too, now don’t they? 😉

Want to read about some other natural ways to deal with anxiety? Check out The Healthy Home Economist’s Natural Remedies for Panic Attacks. 

I’d love to hear what you think about it and if you’ve ever tried dry brushing. I’ve been reading more about that, but I don’t know much about it.

You’re not the only one.

Car wreck 11.11.11

Sometimes life throws you a curveball.

Lots of my friends went out Black Friday shopping. Some for the thrill of shopping and having an adventure with friends and family. Others because they wanted to save big money on a certain item.

I stayed home. I don’t have my gift list made yet and no matter how big the sale is, I don’t have any extra money set aside for purchases right now.

You’re not the only one.

Today is Cyber Monday and again lots of people are shopping and saving money on the perfect gift for people they love. Shopping online is much more my style and my inbox is full of great offers, but as I skimmed them, I started to feel frustrated because I can’t start shopping yet. So I started just deleting all of them. I’m not going to beat myself up about not having money set aside for Christmas right now. Don’t beat yourself up either. Delete those emails.

You’re not alone.

Christmas is a wonderful time to reflect on the greatest gift we were even given through the birth of Jesus Christ, but sometimes it’s hard to keep the focus on that when stores, commercials, and emails keep reminding us of how many shopping days are left until Christmas and how wonderful their sales are.

Christmas isn’t an easy time of year for everyone.

Sometimes the materialism of this world can make you feel poor, really poor.

You’re not the only one.

Sometimes the idealized Christmas family gatherings can make people wonder why things are so hard in their own family. They grieve for what they don’t have and struggle with what to do with what they do have. They know they can never please some people. They’re tired of being hurt.

You’re not the only one.

Some people battle depression, pain, and fatigue, or other illnesses that people can’t see or understand. The stress of the holidays can make those things worse. People may call you selfish for trying to protect yourself from making things worse.

You’re not the only one.

Personally, I think back to how Mary & Joseph couldn’t even find a room at the inn. They were turned away when Mary was surely uncomfortable and nervous about delivering a baby. They knew He was going to be the Messiah, but others thought they were crazy. They did the best they could and our sweet Jesus came into the world very humbly.

Feeling humbled by your circumstances?

You’re not the only one.

I like what Paul had to say in Phillipians 4. A lot of us have probably memorized various verses from that chapter: the one about how he’s learned how to be content whether he was in want or had plenty, or about how he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him. I like those too.

But here’s a little more to the story, with those verses in context.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Phillipians 4:12-14

Notice how Paul says, “Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.” The same Paul who said that he could do all things through Christ who gave him strength and the same Paul who said he could be content in any situation, was thankful for others who shared in his troubles and encouraged him. We all need people to share in our troubles and encourage us.

You’re not the only one.

People in the Bible didn’t mince words. They didn’t fake being okay when they weren’t. They didn’t try to act like being spiritual somehow protected them from life’s troubles. And they didn’t keep things all bottled up inside because they were worried how their struggles would reflect poorly on their walk with Christ. They knew that Christ walked a difficult road and that difficulties come along when you are truly walking with Him. No one is exempt from troubles in this life, not even during the holidays.

I know it can be hard to find people who love you unconditionally and will encourage you instead of judging you or trying to “fix” you

You’re not the only one.

I just want to encourage you to keep trying. Sometimes the people you want to be there for you the most simply aren’t capable of being what you need. It stinks, I know, but we live in a fallen world.

You’re not the only one.

Just keep looking for God’s grace amidst it all. He created you and loves you exactly the imperfect way that you are. He is truly the One who will never leave you nor forsake you. You don’t have to earn his approval or love. His grace is a free gift – one that none of us deserve (not even the holier-than-thou ones), but you simply have to embrace it.

I know it’s hard to understand. A lot of God’s ways don’t make sense in our world. But I know what that grace means to me, and I hope you do too.

Need help finding peace in the midst of the Christmas chaos?

You’re not the only one.

I’d love to hear how you take care of yourself throughout the holidays. Do you just give yourself permission NOT to send Christmas cards? Do you focus on charities? Do you let everyone know ahead of time that you’ll be staying home for the holidays? Do you have some type of Christmas tradition that you deliberately put on the calendar so that it happens? What do you do? I’d really like to know.

Send me an email or share in the comments box.

How are you doing?

Group pic Fall 2011

A beautiful day with Angel & Gwenny. October 2011 @Christian Way Farm

Since I accidentally reactivated my Facebook page, I’ve gotten a few comments asking how I’m doing.

Part of me wants to say “fine” or “good” or even “better than I deserve” ala Dave Ramsey.

But part of me isn’t ready to say that.

When I ask someone how they are doing, I really mean it. I want to hear more than fine. I know that “fine” is just the easy answer.

Friends get real with each other. They skip the diplomacy because they know that everyone struggles. I loved what Gypsy Mama said in her post, The truth {about “fine”} will set you free

I think Lisa Jo and I could be friends. She doesn’t waste time with being fine either.

So, here’s the reality of how I’m doing:

I’m still struggling – with my fibromyalgia pain, with the depression, with if I should stay on medicines or stop them, whether my supplements are helping or a waste of money, whether all of the visits to different doctors are worth the expense it costs my family. Some days are better than others, but sometimes it feels like things keep getting worse no matter what I do.

I’ve discovered that I have a lot of allergies and now my stomach hurts too. I’ve drug out all of my books about fibromyalgia. I’ve gone back through Dr. Mercola’s Take Control of your Health. I’ve read The Fungus Link by Doug Kaufman. I’ve read more websites than I can count discussing Leaky Gut and the Gaps diet, and I’m currently reading a book about how inflammation can be the cause of many health issues called Win the War Within by Floyd H. Chilton, Ph.D.

I’ve read Change Your Brain, Change Your Life by Dr. Amen and another one called Your Brain: The Missing Manual.

I’ve cried, I’ve prayed, I’ve been in so much pain that I went to the emergency room. (I wouldn’t recommend that one.) And I still hurt. Sometimes it feels like the pain is killing off my brain cells. Simple things like trying to adjust email settings on my computer or remembering passwords to different websites can be a challenge. I need a lot of time by myself. It feels like my nervous system is in overdrive and any stress at all shuts it down.

Sometimes I feel worthless. I can’t do much to help or serve others because it feels like it takes all my energy just to try and figure out how to help myself get better. I’m not working for The Old Schoolhouse, I took a break from serving with our state homeschool group, and I don’t even do much with my local group. It’s a rough season. I thought the least I could DO was to put together our monthly newsletter for our support group, but this month I was a week late getting it out.  (Thanks for not hollering at me, y’all.) sigh . . .

But in it all, God has been faithful. Tony and the boys have stood by my side. Friends who really know what is going on have offered comfort when I feel like I’m starting to sink. They’ve researched things online for me when I couldn’t make sense of what I was reading. They’ve helped me think through various options. They’ve shared their own struggles.  I am so thankful for them.

I’m definitely not where I want to be. I still hold out hope that we’ll find the root of what is causing so much turbulence in my body.

Until then, I try to be thankful that it’s not worse; that I am still here with Tony and the boys. I love them so much. And I keep trying to watch for what God is teaching me or how He can use me through this struggle. I’ve discovered other bloggers that have shared their stories of chronic pain and depression online and I find comfort in them.

Some of you might be disappointed or shocked that I’m still struggling, but just MAYBE some of you are struggling too and will take comfort in knowing that it’s NOT just you or that you’re just not trying hard enough, praying the right way, reading the right Scriptures, exercising the right way, eating the right things, or finding the right doctors.

I have to remind myself that even though my issues haven’t resolved the way I want them to, it’s not all about me. God is the One who gave me this body and He knows that I really want to be pain-free and healthy. (I suppose no one chooses to be sick, do they?)

And hey, it’s not because God is unhappy with me. I rest in the fact that God is Sovereign and nothing that I do or don’t do is going to change His love for me. I believe that before I was born, He knew that I would have these struggles. Maybe that’s part of the reason that my parents chose the name Nancy, which means full of grace. I think He knew I was going to need lots of grace in my life.

So, that’s how I’m doing, friends. Things are tough, but I’m still trying to look for the silver lining to the clouds. I’m trying to count my blessings and focus on God’s gentle mercies in all of this.

I appreciate your emails, cards, and prayers. I started putting the cards on a bulletin board or tucking them in special places so that I can see all of the love and encouragement when things are rough. It helps.

Now it’s your turn.

How are you? Really. If you’re doing awesome, and feeling the best you’ve felt in years, don’t feel guilty. I am truly happy for you. I won’t call you Little Miss Perfect Pants or throw a cream pie in your face. I’m hoping someday I’ll feel that way again! And if you’re struggling, don’t feel guilty about that either. I’d be happy to pray for you. Maybe we can encourage one another.

Not So Sweet Anymore

I’ve known for a long time that too much sugar wasn’t good for you. My parents didn’t forbid it in our home or anything. We just weren’t big dessert people. Dessert was for special occasions, but there was usually plenty of fresh fruit around. My parents were smart like that.

Graduation with Mom & Dad

Graduation night, 1988

Here I am at my high school graduation with them. I probably weighed in at a whopping 110 lbs. I thought I was just naturally skinny, that I was simply “blessed” with the kind of metabolism that would let me eat whatever I wanted without gaining weight.

“Hello, 1988? This is 2011 calling, you’re going to want to enjoy wearing small sized clothes and having lots of energy and thinking you can tackle the world, it won’t last forever.”

For whatever reason, as I had each boy, I would gain a lot of weight and never be able to lose all of it. I was puzzled because staying healthy had never been an issue for me. And then things just kept getting worse in the past year. I just kept gaining and gaining. I felt really out of control.

This summer I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which helped explain why it was so difficult for me to lose weight. I was actually insulin-resistant so it made my body store my glucose as fat, rather than using it for other functions. Aha! That’s why I didn’t have any energy and just kept getting fluffier.

But what’s a girl to do?

Desperate times call for desperate measures!

I had thought of cutting out sugar before. I had read the books and information online. I knew that I was a carbohydrate addict. But I wasn’t sure if I could really stay away from sugar. I remembered that a friend had told me years ago that she stopped drinking sodas because they only made her crave them more, so that’s where I started – cutting out the sodas. When I got tired of just drinking water, I would make lemonade sweetened with a little bit of honey. And while not every no sugar/low sugar diet plan would agree with this, I pretty much ate a lot of fruit. Mainly apples. That was my way of having a naturally sweet treat without getting into processed sugar.

After a while, my taste buds began to adjust and I didn’t find myself craving sweets as much. I also started trying to read labels on everything and trying to keep my carb count for the day under 36g. It’s not easy, and sometimes I fail, but I just keep my eye on how much BETTER I’m doing with my eating, rather than beating myself up for giving in on occasion.

If you’re trying to cut out sugar, here’s a great article by the Healthy Home Ecomonist called  Slay the Sugar Monster in Four Doable Steps. 

I will say that I also started taking a cinnamon supplement to try and help my body metabolize sugar better, I’m taking a lot of coconut oil to try and help fight off cravings, and I try to focus on eating lots of protein throughout the day. I really do believe that if you can have healthy options that you ENJOY available as you’re weaning yourself off of refined sugars, it helps.

I’ve been happy to see the numbers on the scale going down slowly, but surely. I’m hoping that as I eat more healthy, the Carter men will get on board. So far they still enjoy teasing me about what I’m eating, but maybe after a while I’ll win them over. I know it took the fear of becoming diabetic to make me willing to make the change. And don’t worry that I’m going to cast a judgmental glance at you if you’re enjoying a yummy brownie, a gorgeous slice of cheesecake, or quick candy bar. I know how good they taste and how hard it is to steer clear of them, especially if it’s a comfort food for you. Trying to stay away from sugar makes me more understanding of how people have such a hard time giving up smoking. Even when you know something isn’t healthy, it’s hard to give it up when you like the way it makes you feel. I just thought I’d share how I’ve made some gradual steps in the less sugar direction in case anyone is just overwhelmed with the idea of totally giving up sweets.

I’m not sure how I’m going to make it through Thanksgiving without eating a slice of pumpkin pie. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I’m going to give in on that one, but I’ll try not to let the Sugar Monster get me back into my old habits.

How about you? Have been making any dietary changes? What are your favorite sweet treats that don’t involve refined sugar?