Words

“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bone.”

Proverbs 16:24

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BAM.  This hit me the moment I read it.  When we think of healing, we think of things like medicine and nutrition and physical activity.  Rarely do I ever associate healing with words.  And not just any words; gracious words.

Ugh.  It’s one of those moments where I realize that my words are not always healing, in fact, they have been hurtful at times.  Sure, I could blame it on my Jersey-girl background or on the actual hurricane of destruction that my offspring create each day…or if I really want the violin music to start I could chalk it up to not feeling well because of MS.  However, that does not justify the potential destruction that my tongue is capable of.

God does not change…but thankfully we do, with his help.  No matter where I have come from or what my current circumstances are, God can change my heart and help me to be gracious with my words.  Ultimately, when I remember how gracious he has been with me, I should be overflowing with endless grace.  If I desire to have a healthy home, gracious words will abound.  The proverb above compares them to honeycomb: sweet and healing.  So, my prayer for myself is this: forgive me, Lord, when my words have not been covered in grace and continue to transform my heart.

Fun fact about honeycomb:  it is obviously sweet, but it really does have healing properties!  There are benefits to eating it for sure, but it also helps heal skin wounds because it is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.

 

What Now?

Since being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in March, I have had a number of people follow up and ask me what I am doing now to treat it.  When it comes to health, we all know that eating good food and staying active are key to maintaining quality of life.  In fact, I am starting to believe that because nutrition and exercise have been important to me, I am in a good position to face physical challenges that I never thought I would be facing.  I will give you a brief update on my personal situation and I want you to be encouraged to continue on in your pursuit of making healthy choices.

The decisions my husband and I have had to make about treatment were based on what could keep my life as “normal” as possible for as long as possible.  I have 3 kids to take care of and I cannot take any chances or dabble around when we have the knowledge that a debilitating attack can happen at any point.  I am taking a medication called Copaxone which I give to myself through injections 3 times a week.  Side effects are minimal and the medicine is designed to help prevent attacks and control damage to the central nervous system.  I am not following any specific diet, but I am trying to eat more of the foods that are loaded with nutrients and less of the foods that are loaded with junk.

I want you to stay motivated to keep it up!  Keep making healthy choices even when you can’t see “results”, because when you are faced with the next challenge in life–whether it’s physical or not–having a healthy body will help you in ways you can’t even imagine yet.  The little choices you make now will set you up for a better quality of life in the future.

Below is a little about MS and what is going on with research if you are interested.

How I Feel About Essential Oils

Before we get too far, let me just say I realize I may have already lost some of you at the mention of oils…or maybe I already offended some of you whose livelihood depends on these fragrant little bottles of “magic”.  This post, if read (and written) accurately, should not be a divisive one but a unifying one.  That being said, this is how I feel about oils: Woman Shrugging on Facebook 2.2.1

Since I couldn’t really think of a word to describe how I feel about oils, I googled “undecided emoji” and this is what I got.  It’s a love-hate relationship, really.  I use them occasionally but oils have not saved me from the depths of despair.  Below I will summarize the love, the hate, a warning, and a resource.

  • Love-I love how oils provide a natural way for us to go about healing and living.  This morning I happened to read Genesis 1-3 and one of the many things that I get excited about in that passage is how God, through his creation, gives people food to eat and plants to use.  God didn’t accidentally make certain plants to have medicinal qualities–he doesn’t accidentally do anything.  God, being the Great Creator, saw fit to provide us with so many good and beneficial things in His creation–things that can nourish and heal.  I love the concept of using these God-given plants in ways that God intended them to be used, and oils can help us do that.
  • Hate-One of the things that I have come to hate about oils is that it has created a culture of criticism.  This oil subculture has a way of presenting oils as the ONLY way.  Whenever this happens, it often divides and criticizes whenever someone thinks differently or doesn’t have the money to spend.  Because it is often connected with direct sales, you can wonder if someone is building up the hype just because they want to make a sale.  Therefore, it makes the oils subculture a hard one to navigate.
  • Warning-In recent years, I have realized my own ability to “fan-girl” over things from oils and clothes to shows and books.  While I don’t think it is wrong to be a fan of these things, as a Christian I have been challenged by my own tendency to obsess over–even idolize–things that are good.  When these good things become ultimate things, it is no longer good.  When the good news about oils overshadows the good news (Gospel) of Jesus Christ, there is a problem.  If you are a Christian, then my warning to you is this:  don’t turn oils into your new gospel.
  • Resource-Since I actually like oils, I figured I would give you a resource of someone who will be honest and realistic with you about oils.  There are benefits to oils, and so I think it is good to consider them when it comes to health.  If you need a contact, Melody Sullivan is your girl.

So there you have it–those are my thoughts about oils.  I don’t ever make money with this blog and so my opinion is completely based on what I think, not on whether or not I can make a sale or get a click.  If you are skeptical when it comes to oils, let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water.  If you are obsessed with oils, let’s not elevate it to gospel status.  Jesus saves lives, oils don’t.

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?

 

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*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

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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

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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

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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