Diagnosis

What happens when the mom who occasionally blogs about healthy living is no longer healthy?  I guess we are all about to find out!  Most of you who know me, or have read my sporadic posts in the past year, may have picked up on the fact that something has been wrong with my body and it’s been a year of trying to figure out what.  In fact, I found out this week that it’s probably been going on for the past 3 years–which sheds light on a lot of the ups and downs my body has been through over that period of time.  So…what is wrong with me?  On my 33rd birthday I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

For the past month I have been processing what this means and researching what to do next.  I have found that some people have responded to this news with tears, while others have brushed it off as no big deal.  It’s all about who you know and what you think of when you see the letters M and S next to each other–some people function very normally (on the outside) with this disease while others spend their lives in the “disabled” category.  So…which one will I be?  That is the question that has been ringing in my head since March 12.

The good news that we learned this week when seeking a second opinion at the University of Pennsylvania MS Center, is that it looks like it could be a “mild” case.  The bad news:  this disease is unpredictable.  And the really bad news is that I, having dedicated much of my life to health and wellness, am no longer “well”.  It might sound like I am being a bit dramatic here, but bear with me–this has been a tough pill to swallow.  Speaking of pills, the thought of being on medication for the rest of my life honestly makes me feel…I don’t know, mostly just really sad.  This is NOT how I envisioned my healthy life.

But let’s end on a high note.  There are a lot of reasons to have hope; like the fact that there are effective disease-modifying treatments out there.  And the fact that I have the best family and friends ever who have been nothing but supportive.  But most of all, I have hope because I have Jesus.  What does theology and religion have to do with MS?  Everything.  No matter what my circumstances are, I know that God is good, God is loving, and God is faithful.  At the end of my life–whether long or short, well or diseased–I get an eternity with Him, and that is reason for hope.

 

Resurrection

Death.  This is something that we all generally try to avoid, but those who live a healthy lifestyle are especially doing what they can to put off the inevitable.  The whole goal of healthy living is to try to be alive and well for as long as possible, right?  For the Christian, however, there is a kind of death that is welcomed at the start of one’s faith; one that means a new beginning of a new life.

When I was baptized as a freshman in high school,  I understood that it was a symbol of what happened to my heart spiritually; that I died to myself and became alive in Christ.  It is because of this death to self that makes a Christian realize that this life given to us is not our own, but is meant to be used by God however he sees fit.  This is rather controversial, though — you know, the whole “I do what is right for me” movement that goes against what a Christian should be saying, which is “I do what glorifies God.”

God is in the process of working in my life in a way that I really would prefer him not to.  I am sure I will write more about this in the future, but for now, I am realizing that death to self (for example, my own dreams and plans for my life), is what glorifies God most.  When God’s plan for our lives derails our own plans, we are to take joy in the fact that we have new life–that the resurrection of Christ means we who believe in him also are resurrected spiritually.  Paul says in Philippians 4, “For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  I want in on that secret too, don’t you?!  The secret is in the resurrection.

I will obviously continue to try to avoid physical death through healthy living and such, but I am trying to learn how to pray a prayer that includes a daily death to self.  Praise God that the resurrection makes that prayer not as scary as it seems!

Goals and Habits

This week, at the 2018 Winter Olympics, elite athletes are going for the gold.  They have worked hard for years to reach goals that only few will ever reach.  These athletes train and compete like it’s their job…because for many of them, it is.  They do things every day that will help them reach their goals, things that have become habit for them.  For some of them, their goal is specific:  to win gold.  For others, it is to do the best they can do on the biggest stage of their life.  For us, well…I am sure our habits look MUCH different than theirs.

So let’s talk goals…for normal people.  In my mind, there are two kinds of goals:  sometimes we have goals that are specific, like to lose 15 lbs, and sometimes we have goals that aren’t, like to simply be healthy.  While specific goals aren’t at all bad (and often are necessary),  I want to encourage you to think about broader-minded goals–maybe even life goals.  Sometimes, goals aren’t meant to be met; they are meant to be forever pursued.  So what does this look like in the day to day?

Well, the formula is simple:  think of a goal, then think of something you can do every day that moves you toward that goal.  I have many goals in life, but below are two that I am sharing with you as an example.  Then, I shared two very doable habits for me that I can do in 15 minutes or less because, hello–I have 3 kids!  Habits are by definition “an acquired behavior pattern followed until it has become almost involuntary” (*see full definition below); in other words, it’s a lifestyle.  Sometimes I might do more and sometimes less, but if I have these habits, then I am on my way to achieving my goals.

Goals:

  • To Glorify God: Always increasing in my love for and knowledge of Him
  • To Be Active: Not obsessive and not neglectful, but taking care of my body

Habits:

  • Read a chapter in my Bible each day.
  • Run a mile every day.  If I end up doing more, then great.

In closing, think about those goals that are something you never really meet but always pursue; goals that = mindset and habits that = lifestyle.  I would recommend to focus on physical health AND spiritual health.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism has this question and answer: What is the chief end of man?  Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.  What is your chief end…your chief goal?  What habits can you form to help you towards that chief end?

 

20180207_203014

*Definition of Habit (from dictionary.com)

noun
1.

an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary:

the habit of looking both ways before crossing the street.
2.

customary practice or use:

Daily bathing is an American habit.
3.

a particular practice, custom, or usage:

the habit of shaking hands.

 

**Cardiorespiratory Exercise

(Recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine-ACSM)

  • Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
  • Exercise recommendations can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week).
  • One continuous session and multiple shorter sessions (of at least 10 minutes) are both acceptable to accumulate desired amount of daily exercise.
  • Gradual progression of exercise time, frequency and intensity is recommended for best adherence and least injury risk.
  • People unable to meet these minimums can still benefit from some activity.

 

***Extra thought:  One thing I want to do when I write is to help us to together think about how our faith should be influencing our fitness.  In this case, let’s think about how does our faith influence our life goals, and even our fitness goals?  In the last few months I have thought about fitness goals and realized that I wasn’t tending to my spiritual health as much as I was focused on my physical health.  I imagine that is true for many of us when thinking about goals, and often times, don’t we get so set on a specific goal that things like spiritual growth go by the wayside?  That’s why I needed to back up and think more broadly about these things.  Is my specific goal of losing 15 lbs. clouding my judgement to make choices that will support my greater goal of nurturing my family?  These are struggles that I wrestle with because I want to lose baby weight, but I also want to make sure my family is loved and cared for.  And most of all, I want to glorify God in all areas of my life (Soli Deo Gloria).  Prioritizing these things is key.

Soli Deo Gloria

20180110_221103

Well, it’s 2018–a new year and a time to think about goals and resolutions.  I would love to be healthier in 2018 than I was in 2017, but some things you just can’t control or plan for.  There was a point in 2017 when I found myself asking this terrifying question: “What if God’s plan for my life isn’t to be healthy and strong, but to bring Him glory in my sickness and weakness?”  I still have many questions and few answers, but I do know that amidst my uncertainty, God must be glorified.

Don’t get me wrong, I have personal health goals–you know, the ones that include losing weight and exercising more.  However, if those are my only and primary goals for 2018, then my year will be wasted.  Health is a good thing, but it is not the ultimate thing.  I spent some time thinking about what my theme “word” is going to be for 2018, and it came to me in the middle of the night while I was suffering the affects of the flu–it was NOT a healthy start to the new year! My word came from a sermon on Christmas Eve titled, “To the Glory of God Alone” and it stuck with me in a powerful way.  On Christmas Eve, I found myself again asking that same question: what if God’s plan for my life doesn’t include health…but is to glorify Him in sickness?

I feel like I have done a pretty good job in general at giving God glory in my life, but wait, Pastor Benjamin, you are saying glory to God ALONE??  Like, no glory for me?!  My eyes were opened to how sinful it is for me to try to steal glory from the God of the universe!  You see, I am fine with giving God glory and all–especially in the big things.  But the reality is, I like to get a little credit.  Credit for things like being a good mom or a thoughtful writer…maybe credit for my health accomplishments or credit for playing the piano well on a Sunday morning.

Shoot.

My goals for health accomplishments are now up in the air due to a lesion on my spine, leaving me with a numb hand so I can no longer play the piano very well.  Even the ability to be the mom that I want to be is threatened with the possibility of disease…and my ability to write and type–well, it’s not fun when you can’t feel the keys accurately.  What happens when those personal “glory” moments are gone?  I am finding that seeking personal glory is not something worth seeking, but spending my time and putting my efforts toward giving God ALONE the glory–that is what I want my 2018 to be about.  I don’t want to waste my life worrying about how many people will read this or like it on Facebook.  Me?  I am like dust and will fly away in the wind one day, but God–He is eternal and magnificent and deserves ALL glory.  Soli Deo gloria.

When Kids are Sick

20170709_060417

I have found that one of the most challenging things as a parent is knowing what to do when your child is not healthy.  This weekend, we are facing the challenge of an allergic reaction and the dilemma of trying to decide what to do about it.  Do we wait and see what happens or do we wake up everyone and head to the ER?  Do we give him an EpiPen or do we try to make it to the doctor’s office?  Do we give him more medicine or let his body fight on its own?  There are so many decisions that need to be made about a child’s health, and here are 3 things that I have learned in my 6.5 years of being responsible for tiny humans:

  • Trust Your Gut  My full time job is to take care of 3 kids.  I have known these kids since before they were born.  I spend every day with them and have become an expert on knowing what their needs are, what motivates them, and how to help them thrive.  I know what their “normal” is and when something is not normal, it is an indication that something might be wrong.  As an advocate for my kids, there are times when I just have to trust my gut, ask lots of questions, and speak up on their behalf.
  • Trust Your Doctor  I am very happy with our pediatrician and the whole group of doctors at the practice where we go.  Early on in the parenting journey, I found that there were lots of decisions that we were going to have to make in regards to our children’s health, and I landed in a place where I decided to trust my doctor.  He has years and years of experience, has done lots of research, and has plenty of degrees under his belt.  There are times when I need to do my own research, but sometimes I foolishly think I know more than my doctor simply because I have done a Google search.  I realize that I have not been responsible when it comes to the health of my children when I claim to know more about medicine than the medical doctor.  Trusting your gut and trusting your doctor need to go hand-in-hand, and I recommend finding a doctor that you can trust too!
  • Trust God  I hear the phrase all the time to “take control of your health.”  While it is a great thing to be proactive about being healthy, we need to understand that there are things that are beyond our control.  I can do my best to make smart decisions, but sometimes God’s plan for our health is different than what we expected.  God created and cares for these little humans and has a plan for their lives, so trusting Him with their health is the best thing for me to do.  This one is really hard for me, a slightly paranoid and overly anxious control-freak.

Parenting is hard and navigating sickness is stressful.  As I sit here at 12:40 am and finish writing this, I am feeling nervous about what the next few hours might hold as we try to get control of our son’s allergic reaction to amoxicillin.  Trusting our guts, our doctors, and ultimately our God is how we are navigating through this scary episode.

 

Evangeline

2017-06-22 14.37.23

My last post was on Mother’s Day reflecting on the sacrifices that accompany being a mom and being pregnant.  Well on Father’s Day, we welcomed our third baby into our family.  At 8:12 AM on June 18th, Evangeline Vera Grenier was born.  She was 6 pounds 7 ounces and 20 inches long, and we are so thankful that both she and I remained healthy through the process.  We have gotten a lot of questions about the name, the labor, and how we are surviving after a major life event, so if you are interested, feel free to read on to find out more.

  • The Name  Evangeline is a name that Mike and I both have liked for a while, and it means Messenger of Good News.  She has brought us good news from the moment we first heard her little heart beating.  That swooshing sound brought us hope that life was possible after death, and we pray that she will continue to use her life to bring the message of God’s Good News to a dying world.  Vera is my grandmother’s name and it means faith.  We were thrilled to use her name and hope that our daughter will have a faith like my grandmother has and has held firm to over her 95 years of life.
  • The Labor  I was overdue and wondering when we would meet our sweet bundle.  I was foolishly convinced that I would be able to control when she would be born, since we had a vacation to work around that was obviously planned before even being pregnant.  However, all the spicy food in the world would not have changed the fact that God wanted her to be born on June 18th.  I woke at 2:30 on Father’s Day morning with a contraction that no doubt signified the start of labor, and so we called Aunt Sarah to come be with the big kids while we made our way to the hospital.  Contractions were infrequent and bearable for a while leading the nurses to believe they had some time before anything happened, but once we were checked in to our room things sped up quickly and Mike was soon pressing the call button in a panicked state because I was needing to push.  Our little peanut came out in one push and thankfully the doctor walked in just in time to catch a baby.  Random fact:  Evangeline weighed 3 lbs less than Gracelyn did at birth!  I am very glad to be done with that part of the process, because it is indeed true that childbirth is a very painful thing to go through (no time for pain meds).
  • The After  As excited as I was and still am to have Evangeline in my life, the truth is that it is really hard to have a baby, recover from a delivery, not get much sleep, figure out breastfeeding, and adjust to having one more kid in your family than you used to.  The Facebook pictures might make it seem like it is all very glamorous, but the first week after was very hard.  Every day has gotten a little better as my body heals and we get a normal routine established, and I am so thankful for all the help and encouragement that I have received from friends and family!

 

 

Swollen Feet and Double Chins

It’s Mother’s Day so naturally I wanted to get a family picture.  When I looked back at the few I had to choose from, I immediately noticed things like my swollen feet and double chin.  Being one month from my due date, these things are perfectly normal for expectant moms but it’s still a hard thing to grasp when I look back at the pictures.  I immediately thought, well I am not going to put THAT one on social media.  However, the more I thought about it today I realized, on this Mother’s Day, that swollen feet and double chins are among the many things that moms are willing to endure to live sacrificially for the sake of their children.  And when I put my thoughts into their right place, I remember that living sacrificially for others is a joy and honor because it is exactly how Jesus lived.  He gave up his body, suffered greatly, and died for those he loved.  So today, as I am tempted to complain about the many ailments that accompany motherhood, I am reminded to be thankful for the love of the One who has given the greatest sacrifice of all.  20170514_133209

The Cause I Care Most About

With social media, it has been so easy to make one’s “cause” known.  The more we post about a certain topic, the more our social media identity becomes synonymous with our cause.  For example, the more I post about healthy living, the more I become the healthy living lady.  Or the more I post about my pregnancy, my sole identity becomes the pregnant lady (although if you take one look at me, that is pretty much all you’ll see).  These are fine things to be and they are part of who I am, but I don’t want them to be all of who I am.  There are various causes I care about, but lately as I have been feeling sucked into our world of false gospels, I have been wondering if the things I am shouting about are worth all the time and energy I spend shouting about them.

There is a phrase in Christian theological culture that goes like this: Major on the majors and minor on the minors.  What this means is that there are some theological issues that are foundational and critical to Christianity, and conversely there are some things we can agree to disagree on.  So let’s say I apply this principle to my social media posts.  The more I make a big hype about the minor issues of the day, the more I start to lose focus on what the majors are.   And I am not only talking about social media, actually.  Lately, the words I have been speaking to others and the things I have been showing my passion for have been minor things.  I, like many other human beings, have the tendency to lose my focus.

Therefore, I need to ask myself this: what is my major?  What do I want to be known for?  If I express my opinions and my dissatisfaction with the state of this world, what is it that I am speaking out for?  At the end of the day, how have I used my voice?  I have been mulling these things over for a few weeks now, but gained much clarity as I recently read this verse from 1 Corinthians 1:31, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”  To boast is to speak with pride about something.  Right now we live in a world where many people are very proud about their opinions to the point that they despise others who might disagree with them.  I don’t want to be like that.  If there is one thing that I am proud about…one thing that I will boast about, it must be in the fact that God has saved and redeemed my undeserving soul and showered his grace upon me.  Of course I have thoughts and opinions on many things and very important causes, but the one thing that I want to most care about is the cause of Christ.

20170414_201632(0)

“I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.”

How Deep the Father’s Love by Stuart Townend

Thoughts on Being Sexy and Taking Selfies

In general,  most people exercise to be healthy.  However, sometimes people exercise primarily to look good…to look sexy…to be able to show it off when the time comes to take it off.  Think of the saying, “If you got it, flaunt it!”  Women post pictures on social media all the time that shout of their desire to be desirable.  Lately, I have been thinking about what culture says about women and where, as a Christian woman, I am to be different.  For example, is it ok to want to be sexy and strive for beauty?  I want us to explore what our motivations are for beauty, why we workout, and even for what we post on social media.

Being Sexy

Culture might be all for sex and beauty, but for Christians, it matters where our hearts are on this issue.  I think we can find in Scripture that we are encouraged, even commanded, to be good stewards of what we have been given–and our bodies are included in that (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  However, I have found it hard to draw the line between being a good steward by taking care of my body and becoming obsessed with my body.  A helpful way to check out my heart’s motivations is to take an inventory of how I am spending my time and money, and what consumes  my thoughts. Am I pouring endless thought and amounts of money into fitness and clothes that show off my figure or products that enhance my beauty?  If so, this may be due to an unhealthy obsession with “looking hot” or being beautiful.  When this obsession becomes an idol–something taking the place of God, something I think will “save” me in a sense by bringing me the utmost happiness in life–then I have likely crossed the line.  However, there is nothing inherently evil in wanting to be attractive.

An important question to ask ourselves is who we want to look good for.  I think cultivating intimacy in a marriage relationship is a wonderful, beautiful thing.  However, reality is that as sinners we are hungry for attention and a desire to be noticed.  If you are married and you find yourself wanting other men to notice you, a red flag should go up in your head.  “Do not desire your neighbor’s wife” is a verse from Exodus 20 that applies to us too, because in the same way, when women are desiring the attentions of their neighbor’s husband, our hearts have gone astray.

Workout Goals

Is the way that you exercise glorifying to God?  God created our bodies to move, so I believe when we use them the way they were created to be used, it makes him happy.  However, in our culture, exercise has become so much about maintaining the way we look that I think it is healthy to think about what our motivations are for working out. A way to check the heart is to think about how you would feel if you lost all your “sexiness”, or all your fitness.  If you lost something that you held so dear to you–your beauty–would it devastate you to the point of despair?  Right now being 6 months pregnant, I feel far from sexy.  Weird things happen to your body when you’re pregnant, and feeling attractive is not how I would describe myself in my current state.  And even when I return to my normal state, I am still aging every day that I am alive.  The point here is that these treasures on earth–like toned abs and hot legs–will soon fade and our bodies will one day be destroyed.  How can I be laying up treasures in heaven through exercise?  It’s possible, but the heart has to be in the right place first.  Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (See Matthew 6:19-21).

Taking Selfies

I have taken the occasional selfie, for random reasons, but I think a challenge to women (myself included) is necessary.  Most of the time, it seems like people post a selfie as if to say, “Look how good I look!”  But isn’t there a signal that should go off in our heads when we, as Christian women, post for this purpose?  Is my heart needing affirmation from others because I am failing to look to Christ for my acceptance?  Is the amount of likes and comments that I get what I need to get me through the day?  There is something inconsistent about this behavior and what we believe to be true in the Bible.  We could talk about humility here, or especially about how our need for acceptance is met in Christ and not affirmation from others, but this verse comes to mind:   “Whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, do it all for the glory of God.”  Not for the glory of self.  (See 1 Corinthians 10:31.)

Bottom Line

Striving for beauty is not a sin, and neither is taking selfies.  But while people are looking at the outward appearance, God is looking at the heart.  Where is your heart on the issues of beauty and acceptance?  Mine has been off many times in my life, so let’s encourage each other to look to God’s Word to right our hearts as we seek to bring Him glory.

Limits

In a women’s Bible study group that I go to, we recently discussed how God is infinite and we are created with limits.  In Jen Wilken’s book titled None Like Him: 10 ways God is Different From Us (and why that’s a good thing), she devotes the whole first chapter to this characteristic of God.  My mind is wired to think of the human body and how it was created in any given conversation, so naturally in discussing how we should understand our limits, I jumped to thinking about the way our bodies were made and what does that mean practically for us.

Understanding how God has created us is crucial to understanding how to live healthfully.  Take sleep, for example.  God made our bodies to need it, and when sleep is off–when we try to ignore this limit we have as humans–it effects our state of health.  Eating usually works the same way.  God created our bodies to need food.  When we don’t eat enough food, or when we eat too much food, our bodies respond in a way that deviates from a state of optimal health.   Our bodies were also created to move, not to be sedentary.  It is amazing how we can push our limits to exceed what seems to be humanly possible, but Olympians do it all the time.  However, reality is that bodies break down and ultimately have limitations.

Our whole lives as Christ-followers are to be given over to the identification and celebration of the limits God has ordained for us.  He lovingly teaches them to us through his Word, through trials, through discipline.  He humbles us through these means to remind us that we are not him, nor is anyone or anything else we know.

Jen Wilken, None Like Him

 We don’t like to think we have limits, but those limits actually allow us to be more free.  My husband reminded me of this illustration:  if a goldfish is out of water because he wants to be free from the confines of his bowl, he will die.  But when the fish is in the environment he was created to live in, he can swim freely and live.   When we submit to our Creator and live within the limits that he has given us, we have the ability to thrive!  Unfortunately, I don’t like to be told how to live –even if it’s coming from the infinite and eternal Creator of the universe.  However, to try to fight against him and the limits he has given would be foolish and futile because who can know the mind of an infinite God??  Who am I to try to defy the parameters he lovingly put into my life?  Who am I to think that I can eat as much as I want to eat, sleep as little as I want to sleep, exercise only when I feel like it, and then still expect to thrive physically?  David writes in Psalm 139 that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and therefore shouts praise to his God, his Maker.   I want to celebrate — like David did and like Wilken writes about–my human limitations by living in a way that I was created to live and by giving our eternal and infinite God praise while doing so.  I want to thrive like that little fish, don’t you?

bubble-eye1