In past posts, you may have noticed that I sometimes refer to my “mystery illness”. Today, I thought I would share a little more about that with all of you. It is my hope that by sharing about it and shining a light on it, people will be more understanding about it. Or, maybe you have similar issues yourself, and if that is the case, it is nice to know you are not alone.
My mystery illness journey started about eight or nine years ago. I used to enjoy working out three days a week at our local YMCA. I did that for a few years, and then the economy tanked and I lost my job. So, I said sayonara to my Y membership. It took me a good year and half before I found another job.
Once I finally got another job, I realized I wanted to work out again on a steady basis. So, one Friday after work, I headed off to the gym. Since it had been a while since I worked out, I knew I needed to ease back into it and start of slowly. I spend some time on the treadmill and worked out my arm and leg muscles on a few machines set on low weight. I cooled down by walking on the treadmill again. I spent about 45 minutes total working out. And, during that whole time I drank my big bottle of water. (I knew it was important to stay hydrated.) Before I left, I filled my water bottle back up so I could continue to drink on the way home.
I was feeling ok overall, then I opened the door to walk out. For whatever reason, the heat outside hit me hard. I remember thinking that I just needed to get to the car, sit down and crank up the air and drink more water and I would be fine. I wasn’t.
Once I made it to my car, I wasn’t even sure I could drive myself home. I remember thinking that I should call my husband to come get me. And, we only lived three miles away! Then I remember chastising myself because it was only three miles away. Surely, I could drive that with no problem!
Somehow, I did make it home. I also managed to get inside and collapse on the couch. And, that is where I stayed until Sunday night. My body felt like someone had taken a baseball to it. My head was in a fog. My hubby brought food to me and helped me get into bed at night and back onto the couch in the mornings. I recall wondering how on earth I was going to make it to work on Monday.
Thank the Lord, by Monday morning, I was feeling slightly better and went to work. But, I wasn’t 100 percent. I was maybe, maybe, 60 percent of my normal self. Obviously, something wasn’t right. I wanted to know what was wrong. I needed to know what was wrong. And, thus started my exploration into the black abyss that is my body and health.
I went to see my GP. His first thought was that I was dehydrated and had heat exhaustion. I scaled up my water intake and hoped that would solve my problem. It didn’t.
Over the course of the next several months I went back to my GP often. We went over a litany of possible problems/causes. I came up negative for every test I took. When I found zero answers with my GP, I started going to specialists.
I went to a cardiologist, an internist, a pulmonologist, and an endocrinologist. I had a small glimmer of hope when my endocrinologist told me that there was indeed something wrong with me. But, what that something was, he could never figure out.
Then, I decided to try a different route. I went to three different homeopathic doctors, a chiropractor, and an acupuncturist. I felt like I made a little more progress going in this direction. I started taking herbal supplements and stopped eating gluten and felt a little better. Emphasis on little.
In between all of this, I went to a rheumatologist. He diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. Unfortunately, there isn’t a “test” I can take that says definitively that I have fibromyalgia. It isn’t like diabetes where they can run tests and say, yes, you for sure have this. Basically, when you are diagnosed with fibromyalgia, they get to this conclusion by ruling out every other option.
Most people that I know who have fibromyalgia are in constant pain. (I know of about three ladies like this.) Thank the Lord, I am NOT in constant pain.
Other people have suggested that maybe I have chronic fatigue syndrome. Maybe I do. After all, my main concern is the fact that I am tired all the time. Who knows?
I have a new friend in my neighborhood and we were talking the other day. Come to find out, she has almost the exact same issues and symptoms I have. She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Maybe that is what I have. Again, who knows?
Therefore, I question if I really have fibromyalgia or something else. Hence, why I refer to my health problem as a “mystery illness.”
The Mayo Clinic tells us that fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood issues.
I am constantly tired. That has been my biggest problem—just being fatigued and worn out, especially if I do anything that is labor intensive, like working out. Even carrying in groceries and folding laundry can drain me. And, when I do have more physical stuff to do, I can power through it, but I know I will pay for it later. I have trouble sleeping and mood issues sometimes. I also have achy joints. And, my joint achiness has been increasing over the years. So, maybe it is fibromyalgia.
In any case, whatever my “mystery illness” is, it is just something that I have learned to live with. I mean, what other option do I have?
I often find myself thinking about the words from the Lauren Daigle song Trust In You:
When You don't move the mountains
I'm needing You to move
When You don't part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don't give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You
Through this whole ordeal, I have learned to lean into the Lord and trust in Him. He is my strength and I know that with His help, I will make it through each day.
And, somehow, miraculously I do.
I know it has zero to do with me and everything to do with God.
As I grow spiritually, and just as a female in general, I am realizing the value of self-care. Life can often be full and time-consuming and tiring. Sometimes it can even be crazy and daunting. But, as I age, looking out for number one--that would be me, is becoming more and more evident.
I have mentioned my “mystery” illness before. It is something I have been contending with for more than eight years now. I get tired and worn down easily from anything physical and/or stressful. And, while I don’t like it, I have learned to adjust my life accordingly. I sleep longer each night than I used to. I eat a lot more fruits and vegetables—more natural foods and a lot less processed foods. And, while adjusting my life has been tough, I have learned two very important lessons from it.
This week, I thought I would share both with you.
First, while it may be frowned upon by some, there is absolutely nothing wrong with putting yourself first. As a matter of fact, I would argue that taking care of yourself first takes priority over everything and everyone else in your life. I know you have heard this before, but I love it and I am going to share it with you again, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
If this makes others mad, so what? If this is upsetting to others, who cares? Trust me, they will get over it. God wants us to take care of ourselves. He wants us to be happy and healthy. Happy. And. Healthy.
By-the-way, being healthy includes your physical health, mental health, emotional health, and spiritual health.
In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Paul tells us, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body.”
Make sure your cup is full—put yourself first. Take care of yourself. Then, you can do all the other things in life that you feel are required of you.
Second, when I am weak, God is strong. When I am struggling, God pulls me up. When I am bone-tired, God refreshes me. When I can’t do anything, but cry from anger or frustration, God whispers in my ear that it’s ok.
This “mystery” illness, has brought me closer to God. This “mystery” illness has allowed me to rely on God more and more. And, He has never failed me. Not once! Over the course of the past eight years, I have seen first-hand just how much God loves me and looks after me. I have witnessed God do some pretty spectacular things. Day after day, He is there.
After all this time, my perspective of my “mystery” illness has changed. While I used to despise it, I am now grateful for it. Without it, I would not have the relationship with God that I have. And, there is nothing in this world that I would trade for that. Nothing. (Not even my old body.) God certainly works in mysterious ways, doesn't He?
My every day self-care now includes spending good, quality time with our Father God. Every day during lunch at work, I go outside and listen to a meditation devotional for 15 minutes. It is one of my most precious times of the day. It is something that I look forward to. It is something that replenishes me. It has turned into something that I yearn for. It is like needing food and water. I need time with God every day.
You do too. Start taking better care of yourself and your soul. Start by spending more time with God. And, start right now. You are worth it!
In my last post, I told you I would share with you more ways you can be a better steward of the environment. So, here I am! I believe that the best thing you, or any of us can do to help Mother Earth is to produce as little waste as possible. There is a huge movement that began in the early 2000’s and has been steadily growing in popularity ever since, it is called the Zero Waste movement.
Wikipedia tells us that Zero Waste is a philosophy that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused. The goal is for no trash to be sent to landfills, incinerators, or the ocean. Only 9% of plastic is actually recycled. The process recommended is one similar to the way that resources are reused in nature. The definition adopted by the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) is:
Zero Waste: The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of all products, packaging, and materials, without burning them, and without discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.
So, let’s stop here for a bit. Just the term “zero waste” sounds impossible, doesn’t it? I am not going to lie, I don’t know if I will ever truly be a “zero waste” person. But, I can tell you that there is an amazing amount of stuff we CAN do. As Kathryn from GoingZeroWaste shares with us, “The true goal of zero waste is to rewrite the story of our consumption. It’s to put value back into our belongings and to focus on living instead of collecting junk we don’t need. It’s not about perfection; It’s about making better choices.” (By the way, Kathryn’s website is my favorite Zero Waste website. She has a great story and tons of great information on how to live Zero Waste.)
I think the biggest single piece of advice I can give you is to simply be more thoughtful. Be more thoughtful when it comes to your purchases. Can you buy the item you need used or second-hand? Do you really need whatever it is you are buying? Is it something you will like and/or use years from now? Is it well-made? Will it last? If you truly do not need it, refuse to buy it. Start jotting down the cost of everything you *could have* bought for a month and see how much money you are saving.
Be more thoughtful when you go out places. Are you going grocery shopping? Bring your own bags for produce and to take your purchases home in. Are you going out to eat with friends? Bring your own straw, cloth napkin and reusable containers to take home any left overs. (This is a million times better than bringing home a doggie bag made from styrofoam.)
Be more thoughtful in what you get rid of and how you get rid of it. Cleaning up and cleaning out your home and belongings is a good thing. (Remember my post on Less is More?) Is what you are getting rid of still good and useable? If so, then donate it to Goodwill or another charity, or maybe ask if any of your friends could use it. Can the item be used for something else? For instance, that old t-shirt could be cut up and used to make cleaning rags or maybe you could cut the arms off and sew up the bottom to make a shopping tote.
Be more thoughtful about the trash you do produce. Buy items that come with minimal packaging, or better yet, no packaging at all. Is there any possible way to reuse said trash? If so, please do. Can you compost it? If so, please do. Can you recycle it? If so, please do.
If you become more thoughtful and conscious now, the world will be better for it tomorrow. Again, I know this is hard; every time you change your way of thinking, it is a process. (And, admittedly, sometimes it’s a long and hard process.) However, if you start thinking in terms of what small changes you can make, and start making those changes today, over time your efforts will grow. Take one small step and make one small change this week. Take another step and make another change next week. The third week, you will become preoccupied with something else in your life and you will fall of the wagon. That’s ok! We are only human after all. Just get back on the wagon when you remember.
I will leave you with this great quote from Maya Angelou. I think it fits this topic very well;
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
It is another fresh, new year. I can’t think of a better time to start making some positive changes to your life and lifestyle than right now, can you? At the top of many people’s list is to get in better shape. This is always a good idea. Your health should be a top priority. At the top of my list this year is to simply spend more time with God and grow in my spiritual relationship with Him. Don’t you think you would like to add this to your list too? Well, you are in luck, because I have the perfect way to combine both goals into one. (We can kill two proverbial birds with one stone!)
I often find it is easier to make small changes in my life, rather than try to do anything too drastic. I also know that I get excited about the prospect that I can make my life better and I get gung ho about things. And, while it is good to be excited and have a good attitude, I have realized the hard way that going slow and steady is a much better way to achieve any goal I have.
Change is never easy and can often be difficult. If we take small incremental steps, we are much more likely to stick with the changes we make. We build up those small steps and before you know it, you are making great strides. But, it all begins with baby steps.
And, speaking of baby steps, if you would like to get in better shape this year, might I suggest taking a walk? I know, I know, walking doesn’t necessarily sound compelling or mind-blowing—but walking is a great foundation on which to build your exercise routine.
Walking allows you to build up a solid cardio foundation. Walking prepares your body for future cardio and strength exercises. It helps your body to circulate blood and aids in the removal of waste from your body. Laying the proper groundwork is the key for future and continued success.
Having a good friend to workout with makes exercising easier. It gives you someone to be accountable to and makes it more fun. However, finding a reliable companion can be tricky. So, I have a splendid idea for you--make God your walking buddy! Walking is a fantastic opportunity to spend more time with God. He is the ultimate friend. He will always be there with you and for you. He will never flake out on you or leave you hanging.
Walking gives you the ideal opportunity to spend true, valuable, quality time with the person who loves you most. One of my all-time favorite things is to just be outside walking in nature. It is the perfect setting to reflect on God and His glory. You can soak up the beauty and get in tune with that still quite voice of God. It is also the ultimate time to talk to God. He is a great listener. And, He longs to hear from you.
Walk and talk to God. Tell Him about your day. Tell Him about every little thing that is on your heart and mind. Hand Him your troubles, worries, and fears. He will gladly carry all that weight and stress for you. (See Matthew 11:28-30)
By walking and talking to God, we can build up our physical and spiritual health at the same time. In my book this is definitely a win-win. So, let’s get moving! Are you with me?
As Christmas approaches, I can’t help but think about how many people are hurting in this world. For whatever reason, Christmastime seems to put a spotlight on people who are suffering or are in need. (At least, it feels that way to me.)
The older I get and the more I grow in my own spiritual relationship with God, the more I realize that we are all hurting in some form or fashion. Some of us may not even register it. Are there things that you do that you don’t like, but take comfort in? (Eating sugary snacks or smoking, for instance.) Do you find yourself being resentful of other people and what they have? Do you battle feelings of insecurity? Are there aspects of yourself that you hide from your loved ones, because you are ashamed of them? I think all of these are signs that you are hurt and need healing in some way.
Our hurts can be physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental. This is why you see so many people who are sad, angry, insecure, discontent, or just plain lost.
What we need is healing. We all need it. You need it. I need it. Our country needs it. Our world needs it.
So, instead of waiting for the new year, make a resolution now and start your healing today.
And, I am sure you are asking, exactly how do I go about this? Well, I am certainly no expert, but I will tell you that a great place to start is with God. I truly believe that God can and will heal you. And, He is really the only one who can.
The second thing I would tell you is that kindness works wonders. Kindness is a miracle drug for the soul.
Learn to be kind. Start your healing today. This is my Christmas wish for you.
Be kind to yourself. Be kind to everyone around you. Be kind to your environment—the world and all of God’s creatures living in it.
Wisely pursue healing and start with kindness. Rewire your thinking and start creating thought patterns that are kind. Start with being kind to yourself. Practice thinking about yourself the way that God thinks about you. Start your practicing now and don’t stop! Remember that old joke about Carnegie Hall? If not, let me refresh your memory. Question: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Answer: “Practice, practice, practice.”
How do you get to healing? Be kind, be kind, be kind. Practice being kind. Think Godly thoughts about yourself. God created you and He loves you unconditionally, just as you are. God thinks that you are an amazing and wonderful person. Every negative thought you have about yourself, stop them as soon as they start and redirect them to the powerful and positive ones that God thinks about you. This way of thinking about yourself is much healthier. And remember, God already knows the plans He has for you and they are good plans to prosper, not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future. (See Jeremiah 29:11).
Once you start thinking more kindly about yourself, turn your kindly thoughts towards others. This not only allows you to help in their healing, but it allows you to continue in your own healing as well. It has been scientifically proven that being kind is good for your health. Kindness eases anxiety, is good for your heart, helps you live longer, reduces stress, and helps prevent illness. A key thought to remember here is the “Golden Rule”—treat others the way you want to be treated. (See Matthew 7:12). I don’t know about you, but I very much appreciate being treated kindly.
Being kind changes your heart. When your heart changes, your outlook on life changes. And, this is where true healing begins. Ask God for His help—He is just waiting to hear from you, help you, and heal you.
My Christmas wish this year is for healing. Healing for you. Healing for me. Healing for all of us.
I will leave you with this wonderful prayer to get you started. It is from Susie Larson:
I know You want this for me. I want this for me. Help me to retrain my thoughts and reframe my perspective. I marvel at how often my thoughts take me downward. But like an eagle that soars in the sky, You call me to set my sights on things above. I need supernatural help with this! Fill me afresh with a strong sense of Your presence and Your peace. Help me to remember the great things You have done. May I one day marvel at how my thoughts reflect a heart and mind that are healed and whole, just like You always intended them to be. Do a miracle in me, Lord.
In Your Name, I pray.
I have always enjoyed making things and doing artsy-craftsy stuff. Ever since I can remember, I have had creative juices flowing through my veins. In the past, I would often make items to give as Christmas gifts. I have made hair barrettes, jewelry, storage containers, and photo albums. I have knitted scarves and throws. I have painted pictures and sewn zipper bags and books. And, it has been years since I have done this. So, this year I thought I would get back to my artistic roots—but in a little different way.
Ever since I found out about my “mystery” illness, I have done lots of research on what could be possible causes. In my research, and in my walk with Christ, I have come to my own personal conclusion that the more natural substances we can consume and come in contact with, the better. There are so many chemicals in what we eat and come into contact with each day, that are having very harmful effects on us. It is just not good.
God has created our bodies to be wonderfully complex. They have the power to heal themselves. If we just give our bodies the proper nutrition, the proper fuel, you can feel a difference. This is why I try my best to eat as many organic fruits and vegetables and grass-fed/natural proteins as I can. I limit my intake of anything processed. I am also working towards being completely gluten free and eating only natural sugars.
Most of the products we come in contact with, and use on a daily basis, are filled with harmful chemicals. I am talking about harmful chemicals that can be found in our water (fluoride for instance), food, plastics, furniture, cookware, cans, carpets, electronics, shower curtains, beauty products, and even home cleaning and body cleaning products. They are everywhere! (I warn you, don’t google it, unless you want to freak yourself out.)
When I first started reading up on this, I wanted to sell everything we own, buy some land in some remote part of Georgia, move, and figure out how to live off the land. Sadly, my hubby would never allow this! So, I am trying to do the next best thing—limit my contact and exposure to these chemicals as much as I possibly can. (A great resource is Suzanne Somers book Tox-Sick.)
So, how does one do this, you ask? And, what does this have to do with making Christmas presents?
Well, first, let me start by telling you that you can make your own cleaning and body products at home. Most of them are easy to make and are exponentially safer for you and your loved ones. Plus, in most cases, it is cheaper too! The majority of the all-natural ingredients you will need are probably already in your home: castile soap, baking soda, vinegar, witch hazel, raw honey, essential oils of your choice, and carrier oils of your choice. It is also good to have some washing soda and Himalayan sea salt handy.
Below I have a list of some of the most basic household items that we use day in and day out. These are all things you can make at home. I have included handy-dandy links from some great bloggers on how to make them.
These are the top 20 items I want to try and make soon. If you do research on Pinterest, you can find recipes for just about anything and everything. I am sure there are lots more than just these 20 items—but these will get you started. (In alphabetical order)
(Also, I would be remiss if I did not share with you about a company called Norwex. A friend of mine from high school introduced me to them. You can purchase wonderful, chemical free and all natural products from Norwex. My personal favorites, so far, are their EnviroCloths and kitchen towel and cloth sets. The EnviroCloths are great for cleaning just about every surface of your home. Check Norwex out by clicking here.)
Now, on to the gifts. Buy your ingredients and some cute containers to put them in and get to work! Instead of making Christmas cookies this year, make some peppermint body wash or lavender laundry detergent! Trust me when I tell you, your body will thank you. And, so will everyone you give these special homemade gifts to. There is nothing quite like receiving something that was specifically created just for you.
In life, it is important to take care of yourself. And, in my mind, there are at least four ways in which you must take care of yourself: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Juggling all four of these can be hard. Sometimes, it is hard to even know where to begin, on what area to focus.
While I don’t claim to be an expert in the area of taking care of yourself, I have come to realize that doing the following three things will help set you on the right path.
If you want to look at some other ways to start taking better care of yourself, I recommend reading this article on greatist.com. In it, Alexandra Duron highlights 25 science-backed ways to change your life by taking better care of yourself.
I believe that taking care of yourself, in any and every way possible, is the greatest gift you can ever give to yourself. Because, the way I see it, if you don’t take care of yourself, how can you possibly take care of anyone or anything else?
I am so glad you are here! I am Erica Strickland, a girl who loves God. My goal here is to simply share His love and light.