Book Club, Anyone?

Book Club, Anyone?
In my Fit for Life group, some of the members and I have been talking about the most pressing needs we feel we have currently: spiritual + emotional health. In pondering how to best support our group, I wondered in a post if a book study might be of interest, and we definitely had some positive responses! I thought it might be easier to outline some potential books/studies here. Full disclosure, I have some affiliate links here, so if you choose to purchase a product because you saw it here, please know I appreciate your support!

OPTION 1:
Jennie Allen's Get Out of Your Head Study Guide is a workbook to go along with a 6-session study of the book of Philippians. My husband and I did this together pretty recently, but I'd be happy to do it again in a group setting. Because we've done it, we also have access to the videos that go along with it, so I can share my screen during our zoom meetings to watch Jennie's messages. (They are maybe 10-20 minutes long at most.) Jennie uses the book of Philippians as a springboard to discuss taking our thoughts captive before they take US captive.

OPTION 2:
If you like the topic of Option 1 but you're not sure you want a workbook (with homework, lol) plus video sessions, Jennie's Get Out of Your Head: Stopping the Spiral of Toxic Thoughts might be a better fit. We could read a chapter or so and have more of a freestyle discussion rather than being tied to a workbook. As I do not yet own this book, I don't know EXACTLY how it compares to option 1, but my guess is the content is very similar with just a different means of presentation.

OPTION 3:
If you'd rather delve specifically into how emotions affect us physically, with a smattering of spiritual elements as well (but in a different way than the options above), perhaps Karol Truman's Feelings Buried Alive Never Die book would get your vote. This is a well-known, often-cited resource that I ended up purchasing for our own family library, and I have referenced it a lot even though I haven't read all the way through it yet. My interest in the connection between our body, mind, and emotions continues to increase the more I learn, and this is a book well worth having even if it doesn't get voted into our book study!

OPTION 4:
From the author of the famous book Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud, is a newer resource that caught my attention: Changes That Heal. The first sentence in the book description says, "Many of us struggle with anxiety, loneliness, and feelings of inadequacy." Um, you think?! Check out the rest of the description to see if this might be a good fit for our book club. (Also, full disclosure, while I've seen excerpts from Boundaries, I've never read it, so perhaps that's an option...?)

OPTION 5:
I know this may be a little late, but because it captured my interest, I'll just put it out there. Paul David Tripp released Journey to the Cross: A 40-Day Lenten Devotional. Since Lent begins February 17, if we do this as a group study, it would likely require playing a bit of catch-up, but I think we could make it work if the majority desire it!

OK! If you're in my Fit for Life group, go there and vote in the poll by Sunday evening if you'd like to participate! And if you're not in the group, you can request to join! If you choose not to do a book study with us, no biggie, but I DO encourage you to be reading SOMETHING! What are you currently reading, or what will you start reading? Let me know in the comments!

Healthy Lifestyle Changes (6 Years Later!)

Healthy Lifestyle Changes (6 Years Later!)
It’s been 6 years since I ordered “that kit.” It was somewhat of a whim—my husband said we didn’t have much to lose, so why not try it? At least the house would smell nice, right?! And maybe, just maybe, it would help our family stop dropping like flies every time someone came home with a sniffle.

Little did I know how life-changing it would be for all of us. Little did I know I’d be learning more about science and how our bodies work than I ever learned in school. Little did I know how empowering it would be to have choices in the ways I support my and my family’s physical, mental, and emotional health—without harmful side effects.

This pic shows a few of my favorite things. A few came in that very first starter kit (well, refills obviously!) but are now counted as friends. What lifestyle choices have you made that are still part of your daily routine 6 (or however many) years later?

The ABCs of Mental & Emotional Health

Having been to the bottom of the pit of despair and back (and doing what it takes to never return), let me offer my ABCs of mental and emotional health. Maybe there will be some nuggets you can take away and implement today! 
Read more...

Hope & Peace

Hope & Peace
Three years ago our family had the opportunity to do one of the Advent readings in church. To be honest, I have no idea what we read or even which week of Advent it was. What I DO remember is what happened before church. We arrived in time to send our children to Sunday school and youth group, but I didn't feel like being with other people. Ted and I sat in a fog next to Verity's stroller in the gymnasium where the church service would be held the next hour. It had been another rough night, like just about every night was in 2017. Just as our interim pastor and his wife came to where we were seated to greet us, Verity began retching. Her vomiting spells happened about 6-8 times a day. Trisomy 18 kiddos tend to have GI issues, but this was getting out of hand; Verity was losing weight, and at 12 pounds and almost 10 months of age, she didn't have much to lose. 

The unexpected scene took the pastor's wife by surprise: copious amounts of liquid were coming out of Verity's mouth and nose as Ted frantically whipped out the suction machine while I mopped up the mess. (Yes, we traveled with a suction machine in those days. We lived in terror of Verity aspirating because of how frequently she vomited.)

When things were calm again, Gretchen asked if things like that happened often. I burst into tears. I couldn't help it. I was so tired, so weary, and somehow just so angry that people didn't know what our life was really like. I knew it wasn't Gretchen's fault that she didn't know, so I tried to describe life with Verity. She hardly ever slept, which meant we hardly ever slept. I couldn't leave her side for fear she would vomit and choke. The terror we lived with around the clock was ever present. I still remember the compassionate look on the faces of this couple, whose ministry we had sat under for several months by this point but who truly had no idea what our family was going through.

Half an hour later we stood in front of the church lighting a candle and reading words I can't remember. I felt like such a hypocrite, creating a picture of what surely looked from the outside like a perfectly lovely family. Two parents, nine children, the tiniest of whom was living a very precarious life. Little did people know what was happening on the inside: the deadness of my heart, the difficulties of my marriage, the near-destruction of my mental and emotional health. I didn't intend to put on a show; I would have gladly shared our struggles with others. And I think I tried. It's not that people didn't care or didn't ask, but somehow there just wasn't time or energy to sit down and lay it all out. 

Fast forward three years...our church now has a new full-time pastor, and our family was asked to do the reading for the second Sunday of Advent 2020. We relit the first candle, Hope, reminding the congregation (and ourselves) of the hope we have in Christ. Next, we lit the second candle, Peace, testifying to the fact that Christ came to bring God's peace to us.


As I stood holding Verity on my hip while my sons and husband read their passages, I suddenly remembered that exhausting Sunday morning 3 years ago. We have come so far. Not only is Verity doing so much better health-wise, but our family is so much stronger for having gone through some really dark times and seeing the light of Hope and Peace shine in the midst of it all. When Verity squealed during the prayer, I couldn't help but feel the joy surge in my heart. 

Hope. Peace. Joy. And LOVE--so much love. They were there all along, even when we couldn't feel their presence.

If you are experiencing a season of darkness, I pray you find the light of true Hope and Peace.

Father, we thank you for revealing yourself through Jesus, and we praise you for the greatness of your love. Help us to know your peace in our lives. When life does not go as planned, may we know and understand that you are with us and we can have peace and rest in your ways. May we also share your peace with others and live our lives more like Christ every day. In His name we pray, amen.

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If you're looking for support for your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and/or financial health, check out our free community Fit for Life!

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Mother of the Bride

Mother of the Bride
On June 13, 2020, my firstborn, my baby girl, got married.

Nineteen years ago she was in my womb.

Today she's a wife, happily serving her husband in their tiny, love-filled apartment as she juggles online classes and babysitting jobs.

I teach moms how to be fit for life in all areas, and I especially like to focus on mental and emotional health. But can I be honest for a moment? I was completely unprepared for the emotional journey this blessed event would be.

Now, almost 3 months after the big day, it seems less momentous and more...I don't know, NORMAL, I guess. Charis and Isaac were made for each other. When they talked with us only a couple of months into their official dating relationship, saying they thought they were ready to be married in the summer of 2020, Ted and I had to agree. They WOULD indeed be ready. But that didn't mean my mama heart was prepared for the speedy changes that would take place over the following months!

My head knew everything was unfolding just as God had ordained from before the foundations of the world. I could see clear evidence of His direction in the lives of these precious young people.

Emotionally, though, I realized I was ignoring much of what threatened to well up inside me if given the slightest opportunity. It was far easier to smile and nod and assure people who asked that yes, this was happening and yes, we were happy about it. I mean, it was true, right??

I used my emotional support oil blends; I journaled (not as much as I probably should have); I went for morning walks or runs and prayed. And I thought I was doing all right. I think, mostly, I was. But I needed to let myself FEEL. To acknowledge that there was a part of my heart that did indeed feel sadness at the passing away of one stage of mothering even as I was so grateful to be entering a new stage, one that involved "mother-in-law" as a new role. 

The day before the wedding, I went for my morning walk/run and intentionally chose to soak in every detail I could. The sun was already shining brightly by the time I hit the trail near our house. A gentle breeze kept me comfortably cool. Two birds met in the air close to the path I was on, and I paused to watch and wonder whether I was seeing a caustic confrontation or an amorous affair. The birds disentangled themselves and flew off, leaving my question unanswered. 

Emotions are harder to separate and leave us feel-ers asking many unanswered questions. As I prayed through my thoughts that morning, I realized with a pang that I needed to release some past hurts--I needed to acknowledge that I HAD, in fact, experienced some hurts in the recent months. These had nothing to do with anyone intentionally causing me pain. No, it was unavoidable hurt as a by-product of life changing.

Life changes. It isn't always good or bad, it just is. But the change brings pain at times, and it's wise to let it surface and just sit with it for a bit. Yo, pain, there you are. I feel you. I love you just the way you are. You remind me of the precious relationship I have with my daughter, the amazingly BIG love I feel for her. What a great love it is, to feel such sadness at a goodbye of sorts. I could excuse it away, brush it aside, because this is a GOOD change, a wonderful change, as God is blessing me with the son-in-law of my prayers. And yet there it is. 

I stopped on a bridge to look over a green meadow into the blazing morning sunshine and let my tears flow. It was healing release with new insights into my thoughts and emotions. God and I had a good, long talk, and I cried on His shoulder. And then?

Then it was time to set up for a wedding!

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What emotional journey have you taken recently? How are you honoring your emotions while not letting them control you? Leave a comment and let me know!

And if you don't yet have my guide delving into 4 ways you can be fit for life, grab it here...you can bet emotional fitness is one of those points!


 
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