A Least Expected Path

Just the night before, I was on stage in 5-inch heels with hair teased to the heavens, passing my sash and sparkling crown on to the next Miss Virginia. But that very next day, I was back in my college small town, lying in the grass in my Nike running shorts (you know the ones you live in during college), away from the spotlight, soaking in the sunshine with no makeup or hair spray. It was the perfect new setting for journaling my reflections from the great adventure of 2012.

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I had finished one of the most incredible years of my life, and had to move back into my isolated college dorm room, (my single dorm room that had no mirror I might add) to finish up my last semester of college after taking the year off to travel with the full-time job of Miss Virginia. All of my friends had graduated. I was back at the school that I nearly transferred from each semester because of the pressure and stress. And yet now, coming back to college, I felt free.

It wasn’t that I was “free” from my year traveling as a Miss America titleholder; it was deeper than that. I had grown. Somehow I felt like I had a new outlook on life. Somehow, in a place where people would assume one would become more shallow, self-centered and appearance-focused in “pageantry”, pictures, and autographs etc., God took me on a journey to learn how to deny myself and find true happiness in the midst of that world.

The night I was crowned, the Chairman of the Board of the Miss Virginia pageant handed me a silver pocket cross and said he thought I might need this for the difficult and beautiful year ahead. That was my first sign that something special was going to happen that year. I kept that cross with me each day and saw it each time I opened my crown box before an event.  I expected the year of living and traveling alone each day to be hard, but I did not expect to learn as much as I did about faith, hope, and love.

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From the day that I was given the honor to represent Virginia, I prayed for God to keep me grounded and to help me not get trapped and chained to my temptations. A couple months before the pageant, I was on my second mission trip to Haiti, where God showed me His heart for the needy, how He was there among them, and how I felt more alive than ever before in the midst of serving others. I was determined to not lose sight of what I had learned and stay the path to be the person the Lord was shaping me to be as I entered this new and unknown chapter.

There were a lot of things at the time that I was in the process of breaking free from: Desire for human approval. Pride. Un-forgiveness. Fear of being alone. Fear of not being in control. Fear of failure. Achievement and performance…Suddenly, when I won the prized title, picked up my life and moved to the Miss Virginia apartment in another city, I found myself smack dab in the middle of all of these temptations, and was forced to grapple with each of them throughout the year.

With a business manager setting up my daily travel schedule, I realized in a magnified way that I was very much out of control. Each day was a chance to find joy in the PRESENT, to be flexible, and choose the Lord’s plan over my own agenda and comforts. At the end of the day, His plan would always work out better than I could’ve orchestrated.

Of course there were many, many days that I struggled to stay flexible and surrendered…

Days that I got flustered because my hair wasn’t curling the right way and I would look stupid to the students I was speaking to…

Days I didn’t feel that my speech was quite ready or I messed up the lyrics to the song I was performing…

Nights that I read mean things online people said about me…

Several weeks of walking on crutches to appearances because I had broken my toes and was embarrassed that Miss Virginia would show up to the business meeting a few pounds heavier and not in heels…

Nights I was driving across the state and got lost in a cornfield with no GPS service and broke down crying…

Events where I was milking a cow in a dress and stepped in poop…

Days where I just hit pure exhaustion and felt overwhelmed by all the people I was meeting and things I was experiencing…

But, there was something nearly everyday that reminded me to reach out to God for help. And it was often on the hardest days when I felt most alone that God gave me confirmation that I was right where I needed to be and reminded me of my truest purpose.

It was the biggest blessing as God showed me that coming to the “end of myself” was going to give Him an opportunity to shine through me, to love someone, to serve someone, to make His name known, or at least to give me a good laugh and remember He was looking out for me along my travels. He would give me rest exactly when I needed it, and courage when I was nervous or worried. And He would sometimes miraculously get me to events on time, even with horrible traffic!

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When you ask God to be with you and to guide you, He certainly will.

He opened the door for me to share about my decision to save sex for marriage at a youth True Love Waits conference, to visit childhood cancer patients in the hospital and share that there is hope, to be an advocate in schools for healthy living by respecting your body and making wise choices, to teach fitness classes to those with disabilities, to spend time with our veterans and thank them for their service, and so on.

These events taught me to let go of seeking perfection, and just simply BE with people and love them, from playing with babies and coloring with toddlers, to deep talks with high schoolers, to conversations with businessmen and the elderly in nursing homes. I had to accept whatever came my way that day, even if it was out of my comfort zone. There is no energy left to care about what people think of you. And instead of focusing on “loving myself and accepting myself”, my goal became to try to forget about myself and empty myself for the people before me, wherever I was that day. The more and more I shared this truth of “service over self” with the students I spoke to each day, the more and more it sunk in for me to live out in my life too.

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That chance to live life really engaged with strangers from all backgrounds taught me that it was possible to make each day incredibly meaningful. And it confirmed for me that while Miss Virginia opened many doors for me, I didn’t need to be Miss Virginia to make people feel special and loved, and to live out my mission in the world. 

It’s funny to me that God decided to use my time as a “beauty queen” to give me a deeper understanding about being His masterpiece and being content in His never-fading joy…a strange path I never would have planned for myself, and a path that often leads some to discontentment.

It was once I had the crown that it truly sunk in that I didn’t need to pursue any crowns on earth, and the true secret to a full abundant life was entire separation to Christ. It’s easy for people to think having some kind of “glamorous” elevated position is the most fulfilling; but I’ve found that it’s pursuing the humble life that is actually most beautiful. And what’s amazing is that almost every single Miss Virginia in the “sisterhood” that I’ve ever met is focused on making a difference in this world without the crown as well. They are always looking for someone to help and someone to support.

So when I moved back into school that summer, yes, I was ready to relax, unplug, and just be plain old “Rosemary” with no one to answer to for a little while. But I’m also forever grateful that God chose a crown and a sash for that sweet time, to teach me about relying deeply on His strength and storing up crowns in Heaven.

Often in the ways we least expect it, God heals our weary souls and offers His abundant grace to us on the extraordinary path He lays before us.

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Mother’s Day

I have childhood memories of the Sunday morning of Mother’s Day when my dad and brothers brought me breakfast in bed. I may have only been 7 or 8 years old, but that sweet gesture made me feel honored as a young woman, and excited to be a future mother. I have thought about what this day with my own child might be like for many years.

2 years ago on Mother’s Day, I was miscarrying our first baby. We decided to still go to church, but at a different location and time than our own. The church we happened to be visiting asked all mothers to stand and be recognized. Tears burst forth for the millionth time that day. My womb and my hands were empty. My husband nudged me to stand, but I couldn’t muster up the strength. I sat and hung my head.

I was a mother on this particular Mother’s Day, but not how I had hoped I would be.

Last year on Mother’s Day, my husband and I had just found out we were expecting for the second time. We were nervous with this pregnancy after our loss, but were overjoyed nonetheless, and it seemed like God’s perfect timing. It was a happy Mother’s Day for our family to have the hope of a healthy baby to come, and a nice distraction from focusing on last year’s experience. We traveled down to spend the day celebrating with my mom, dad, and Grandma Rosemary. We shared the exciting news with my grandma, who was elated to hear she would have another great-grandchild. She was in her 90’s and her memory was starting to go. Several times through the first half of my pregnancy, she didn’t remember that I was pregnant. It was very sweet how thrilled she was about the news each time, reacting as if hearing it for the first time every time I told her. When I think of this pregnancy and that Mother’s Day, I will always remember my grandmother (my son bares her maiden name as his middle name).

This Mother’s Day is bittersweet. It is extra special for my husband and me, as we are able to hold a precious baby boy in our arms. Oh what joy fills our souls to be gifted this little life! I think about how my life has changed already, and how I am learning more each day about what it means to live out my maternal vocation in my family and in the world. Yet, this Mother’s Day is still a reminder that my grandma passed a week after my son was born this year. She was an incredible mother and grandmother, and I know my mom and I miss her very much.

And also, many others weigh heavy on my heart… It is a reminder of a friend who lost her newborn son last year, a friend who isn’t able to have children but longs to be a mother, a friend who’s mother was absent growing up and she still has wounds, a friend whose mother passed away when she was young, a friend whose son is struggling and rejects her as mother. My heart goes out to all of these women and the ache they may feel on this “holiday”.

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It’s okay to feel incredibly grateful for the mom(s) in your life who have been your role models, while simultaneously feeling anger or sorrow about your own circumstances. It’s okay not to feel like posting something happy on social media, and it’s okay if you do! It’s more than okay to be thrilled about the special relationship you have with the mother God gave you and want to shower her with praise. And it’s okay to not know what to feel on this day. This day brings out many different emotions, and may bring out different emotions each year that it rolls around.

There is no denying– Mom’s are heroes. And Mother’s Day is a beautiful day, one that lifts up this unique and nurturing role we are given as women. We shouldn’t take this day away! But if there is a woman in your life you know who may be struggling on this day or just deserves a little extra encouragement, remember to reach out to acknowledge her. Offer a hug, a card, a text.

This Mother’s Day, let us rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn. Let’s celebrate the women in our lives who have lived out this motherly role, no matter the number of earthy children they may have.

Thank you to all mothers for your service, your courage, your compassion, your fidelity to your family, and for making the world more honest and life-giving. Happy Mother’s Day to ALL moms… We honor you.

Click here to read more about the movement to #honorallmoms.

 

A Reflection on the First 3 Months of Motherhood

Sometimes motherhood looks like the greatest joy I’ve ever experienced, like seeing my son smile for the first time or watching my husband rock our newborn in the hospital and sing our favorite hymns to him at 3am… And sometimes it looks like getting peed on, pooped on, and spit up on all in one day, and shedding tears in the grocery aisle at the same time as my little one screams. In my humble opinion, there is no job more difficult than being a parent—but no job more rewarding.

Being a mom takes strength I don’t have. It is only by the special grace of God that women are even able to grow another human in their body, give birth, and then give the perfect food that their own body makes.  It’s a miracle! There is no other way I would be functioning without that grace. (And praise God He also provides an occasional Starbucks when I haven’t slept a wink!)

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What I’ve realized in the first few months is that motherhood in its essence is the Christian life. It is a stretching process, challenging us to care for someone else more than we care about ourselves, shedding pieces of our selfishness everyday.

It is saying, “I am weak, but He is strong.”

It is giving drink to the thirsty, food to the hungry, clothes to the naked, and taking care of the sick. (Matthew 25:34-40)

It is sanctifying and it is saving.

It is a glimpse into how much the God of the Universe loves us and laid down His life for us, and it is opening my heart to a deeper love.

And while I am giving of myself to this little human whom I love so much, I am trying to figure out who I am as a new mother and full-time homemaker, after leaving a job that I also loved so much.

When our little guy was around 8 weeks, I hit a weird slump. Before that, I think I was running on pure adrenaline and love. But now I was starting to become stressed about a lot of parenting decisions, and anxious to get into a routine to start incorporating things into my life that I thought would make life like it used to be or more of what it was “supposed” to be.

Maybe I needed to join an exercise group, join a mom’s group, find my volunteer project, do creative meal planning each week, start home improvement projects, have a cleaning schedule, a laundry schedule, a grocery schedule, an Eat-Awake-Sleep schedule, a quiet-time Bible study schedule, and visiting or skyping with friends and family schedule… Talk about me putting pressure on myself!

I started to find myself basing how my day went on how much I could accomplish on my to-do list. I wasn’t recognizing all of the soothing, changing diapers, feeding, rocking, and cuddling I was doing for the baby! But these things are a big deal, especially in the early months, and take a lot of time and energy on top of making sure my husband and I are fed too.

After I had a few emotional breakdowns, I was reminded that my top priorities right now in this early adjustment phase were filling myself spiritually each day by praying throughout my day and maybe doing some sort of reading or studying, keeping our little one alive and giving him all the love and attention he needs, and making sure we have some food in the house for dinner. Anything else that gets done or incorporated is icing on the cake, and every little decision or accomplishment along the way deserves to be celebrated! All or some of the above-mentioned schedules are important and can assist in helping me create a happy, healthy home, but they are not ultimately where my happiness lies, and do not dictate who I am.

What I needed to hear from my husband (being a parent with him makes me love and appreciate him even more 🙂 ) and what I’m now telling you if you’re a new mom is– go easy on yourself, get back to the basics, and don’t feel guilty for not being society’s definition of super mom.

Also, don’t be afraid to give yourself completely to your family. It’s okay to accept this as your entire vocation and let your life change when you have a kid. Love requires sacrifice and love changes us. I’m once again learning that I can’t do everything in the same season, or at least that adjusting to this new life takes time before I put those extra items back into the mix. It takes time to grow into parenthood! I needed to process that my life will look very different than it did a few months ago and this change is very good 🙂

Over the years, before I was even pregnant, I was often given the advice to be careful not to lose myself when I started a family. I needed to make sure I kept all of the activities and hobbies in my life that make me happy, and maybe (if staying home) keep a part-time job to make sure I’m staying interesting for my spouse, and to still have skills when my kids grow up. In theory, these are good intentions! A mom does need outlets and does need to prioritize a few things in her life that help fill her up so she can be the best mom she can be!

But in this short amount of time (and I have SO much more to understand!) I’ve realized that it’s okay to lose myself for a little while in taking care of our family. And maybe the “me” that I’m losing isn’t what actually makes me, me. It feels uncomfortable to change. It’s hard sometimes to be satisfied with “just” taking care of a baby and creating a God-centered home, when in reality that is an absolute privilege to be able to do. I’m not saying to abandon everything you enjoy, but I came to see that things like keeping up with the news, or posting on social media, or being in a book club, aren’t actually YOU, they’re just ways you choose to spend your time.

Motherhood forces us to answer the questions, “Who am I, really?”, and “What parts of my day and what parts of me matter most to the Lord?” When you become a parent, you learn new things about yourself every day. It has already begun to teach me that it is enough to simply be a child of God first, then a wife and mother, then a sister, a daughter, and a friend.

Sure, mom and homemaker carry certain important job responsibilities that need to be fulfilled, but the most important part of those is the heart and attitude I have while carrying out these roles. I am the first to admit I do not live this out daily! But it is my hope to so. I’ll need this reminder over and over as the days and months get harder and bring new challenges with hopefully more children to come.

I know when we let go of pursuing what we think will make us happy, there is a freedom in taking this time in life for what it is and letting it change you…Letting God change you… Accepting the hard work of being a parent as if doing it for Jesus Himself…Laying down your to-do list, laying down your expectations, laying down your worries, laying down your desires, and laying down your life.

The beauty of motherhood is found in pouring ourselves out with love. I wouldn’t trade the opportunity to do so for the world. Thank you, God, for making me a mama.

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Then Jesus told His disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

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“Since the Cross of Christ is the sign of love and salvation, we should not be surprised that all true love requires sacrifice.

Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands.

Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice. Do not be afraid of the Cross of Christ. The Cross is the Tree of Life. It is the source of all joy and peace. It was the only way for Jesus to reach resurrection and triumph. It is the only way for us to share in his life, now and forever.”

Saint John Paul II


“Healthy Pregnancy”

After the loss of our first baby in 2015, one of my hopes for 2016 was to be able to have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby.

“Healthy pregnancy” looks and feels different on everyone… I knew I wouldn’t be one of those awesome crossfit pregnant ladies who still had defined abs at 30 weeks, but I did know my body was capable of continuing to lift weights, being consistently active, and getting appropriate nutrients in the correct amount. I had very heathy habits the first time, but I felt even more of a desire to get it all perfect if the second time ever came around, as if that would somehow help keep the baby.

Pregnancy after miscarriage was a whole new ball game. I was no longer naive about miscarriage stats and all of the fertility struggles women go through. Everyday was and is time to be grateful to love the life within me, and I also slightly nervous about not being guaranteed that my child would make it to delivery.

Let’s just say the ideal perfection went out the window when for the first 3 months I was not able to keep much food down at all.  Between all day nausea, throwing up, and food aversions, the last thing I could even think about doing was eating or smelling vegetables. Just walking into the kitchen made me gag. I was mostly gluten and dairy-free before conceiving this time around and no sugar, but you better believe I did not hesitate to go for the saltine crackers, bread, and any carbs that would settle my stomach… oh and ALL THE FRENCH FRIES! I was in survival mode for weeks upon weeks, exhausted and very low-functioning. Praise God for my patient husband!

But allow me to also say that while this season was difficult, I am not complaining. I was grateful in a way for the sickness, because it felt like some sort of assurance that baby was progressing and a reminder that I was actually pregnant, no matter how hard it was to believe. I know what it’s like to pray for a baby month after month, and enduring whatever pregnancy symptoms was par for the course in my mind. In fact, I had prayed for a baby, no matter what symptoms I had to endure… watch what you pray for 😉 Nothing like feeling weak all of the time to push you to rely deeper on the strength of Christ!

So if you were wondering why I wasn’t as active with Soul Strong Fitness, it was because I worked out just a few times during that time, and had no energy before or after work to give unfortunately. I did feel sort of guilty that I wasn’t being very “healthy”, or really couldn’t be, but every time I went in for an appointment, they said the baby looked healthy and was growing! I did my best to navigate those months, and that’s all I could really ask for.

Fast forward now to 18 weeks. We’ve had several ultrasounds and I am able to feel more positive and confident about baby!  I’m also physically improved, and have some great anti-nausea medicine after a few really bad spells! I finally feel like Rosemary again! I’m breaking out of the dragging days and ready to get back on course and motivated! I want to finish this pregnancy strong; feel strong in labor, and feel strong as a mother!

If there’s anything I’ve learned in my health and fitness journey over the years, it’s that giving up is not an option and it’s never too late to jump back into it!

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slowly starting to bump! 🙂 and the endorphins from exercise help me to get out of “slumps”

A few constants over the past few months that kept me as healthy as I could attempt to be were…

  1. PDP_VitaminWaterZero_SqueezedLemonade_20ozlots of WATER! A few weeks in, water started tasting funny, so I’d have the Lemonade Vitamin Water Zero when I could. The electrolytes were good for hydrating after getting sick, and the extra B6 is thought to help nausea.
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  2. Vegan Chocolate Shakeology -I usually made with a banana and added some extra spinach for more fiber, even though it already has greens included. That spinach might the only extra veggie I got that day! When everything else tasted bad, my body LOVED the chocolate flavor, and it’s quick to make for breakfast when I have ZERO energy. I’m so grateful for the incredible ingredients in my daily shake!                                                                                                                                                         17387874
  3. These amazing gummy vitamins ! I started off with these organic whole food pre-natals, but couldn’t manage to keep them down. Gummies without extra sugars and artifical colors are the way to go! It’s really hard to find gummies that have folate (NOT folic acid), which is the nutrient’s natural form rather than the synthetic form. Not everyone’s body can process the folic acid, so most health experts recommend folate if possible. AND you don’t have to take a separate DHA! All in one! 🙂
  4. Forcing myself (my husband forcing me) to at least take a long walk everyday. The workouts I did manage to do came from Beachbody On Demand’s pregnancy workouts called the Active Maternity Series. Free 30 day trial to the online workouts btw!  thumb_IMG_3299_1024
  5. My mindset to not worry and to pray about every little thing is greatly assisted by journaling! A co-worker got me this sweet pregnancy prayer journal to notate how each trimester was going, prayer requests, and people to pray for who are currently trying to concieve. I think for those who have experienced pregnancy after the loss, the most important thing is to TRY to remain grateful. The last thing I wanted was to end up having a second loss and not really giving that baby the love and celebration he or she deserved. preg10

Due date January 6th! I’ll be using this page to keep me accountable and opening up a fitness group soon for anyone interested in getting back on track with me!

Don’t be Afraid of Accountability

A couple weekends ago, I went on a “girls weekend” with my two childhood besties. We had all experienced a sort of transitional year, and needed the time with just the 3 of us back together like the good old days. As of last year, we all are now married, living in different cities, balancing school, part time and full time jobs, which makes it difficult to spend as much time together as we’d like.

The weather ended up being super cold and rainy, so we sat and talked from literally Noon until Midnight… it’s a female skill 🙂 At the end of the weekend, surprised I hadn’t lost my voice, I felt tired but so refreshed- so happy. I felt strong with the two of them in my court and me in theirs, knowing they were praying for me and loved me, despite my shortcomings.

There’s something hard about sharing the tough stuff with someone,  sharing the messiness of life, re-connecting in a deeper way, but when you DO share it and go through it together, it’s raw and real genuine friendship. It’s freeing! Good and godly friendship brings hope.

In one particular conversation, we all realized that many years ago, the 3 of us were each struggling with the SAME THING, but we didn’t tell each other. SHOOT! We could’ve been there for each other! We could have kept each other accountable and held each other up. We could have supported each other in a time where it counted the most! Heck, maybe we could’ve avoided some pain along the road too.

But it’s hard. It’s hard to be vulnerable. It’s hard to admit you need help. And it’s hard to break through the facade of perfection we are “supposed” to maintain. We had to admit to each other that life is messy and we all went through things that didn’t make us “bad”, but were part of our growth.

We took away an opportunity away from close friends to let God use them to minister to us, to correct us, and love us though it. So we promised, complete openness from here on out!

All of this got me thinking about accountability… the thing we resist but we so desperately need for abundant living. Accountability is the glue that keeps us committed to the life we know is worth living, not the one we sometimes settle for.

The Christian life is not a solo sport. There’s nothing that Satan loves more than to make you feel lonely, stuck in sin and defeat, doubting your purpose and isolated from your community.

The cool thing is, this can apply to pretty much anything! As humans, we need community to sharpen and better each other to live out God’s calling in our lives.

If you’re battling gossip, stuck in an unhealthy dating relationship, fighting against an eating disorder, struggling to stop spending so much money,  desperate to lose weight and find energy, trying to avoid thinking highly of yourself, or doubting your faith, you need the gentle accountability of a friend to build you up no matter what you’re facing.

If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! -Ecclesiastes 4:10

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

We are called to invest in each other…We are called to be there for each other through the joys, yes, and also in the struggles. In a world of critics and pitfalls, let’s be encouragers to one another! Let’s sharpen each other and serve each other to physical and spiritual health.

I don’t know where I’d be with my workouts, with my prayer life, with my emotional well-being, with my marriage, and with plenty of difficult situations that have come my way, without someone coming along side, stirring me on to make the right choice. Whether it’s one of my fitness challenge groups with likeminded motivated people, or just a simple Saturday making cookies gleaning wisdom from a wise old friend, accountability has surely been good for me. Not easy, but good.

What in your life do you need accountability and support with? Who in your life can help you do that? Don’t be afraid to get real and tell them you need them! Don’t be afraid of accountability.

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We Can be Free

 

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” {Galatians 5:13-17, 22}

You were called to Freedom. Wow.

First of all, let it sink in that we are called by the God of the Universe, out of darkness, out of the law, out of the curse, out of our own selfishness, out of our doubt to have freedom for faith working in love. We were given liberty not to have license to be sinful and indulgent, but to have the opportunity to mature and grow and to become all we were meant to be! When we live by the Spirit, we don’t gratify our desires that we don’t really want.

This is not freedom FROM rules, this kind of freedom is freedom TO… a positive freedom that gives us the opportunity to choose what we really NEED (not just what our emotions or impulses want).

Sounds exciting and all, but how does this apply to our health?

Put it this way, just because there is giant chocolate cake on the table, and you are free and allowed to consume it, that doesn’t mean that it is the best choice.

  • Does eating that cake mean you are going to be trapped in guilt?

 

  • Does eating this one piece mean you’re going to have another and another and another until you’re caught in a vicious cycle?

 

  • Does it mean you’re going to become a slave to sugar?

 

  • Are you eating it after being indulgent in plenty of other “treats” this week?

 

  • Do you feel the cake calling your name, taunting you, like you can’t say “no” to it?

 

We are free to choose, but we are free SO that we can choose the best God wants for us. I’m not saying never ever have a piece of cake. Cake is wonderful on birthdays, especially if it’s something yummy like this! I am saying that cake will never give us true happiness, and no one needs cake. It will never be the beneficial choice for your body. Don’t hate me, hate the science that proves that 🙂

What to do?

Sow into the Spirit. Ask Him for the fruit of self-control…you know the last fruit on the list that often gets over-looked? The fruit of love or peace seems a little more pleasant, but the fruit of self-control requires a battle within us. It means denying something in the moment for something even more glorious in the future.

It means we have to switch our thinking from a society that says you always deserve to have whatever you want and have it your way, to a kingdom mindset that says it is good for us to deny ourselves sometimes.

And it’s when you finally get to a point in your health journey that you tap into the power to deny those cake temptations that come chasing you, that you actually DO feel free! You didn’t feel out of control, forced into eating something, regretting it later, eating it because it’s what you’ve always done, friends pushing you into that extra cookie, or just in a mindless binging state… you THOUGHT before you ate and actually chose what made sense for you.

“Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible, but not everything builds up. “ {1 Corinthians 10:23}

When I was recovering from being a binge eater myself, this verse above was my go-to script to find strength. I would whisper out loud,”everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial…”, and it almost always gave me that extra encouragement I needed to continue healing, instead of clinging to my former ways.

Self-control isn’t always fun, but in the long run, it is the most gratifying 🙂

Lord, I thank you for winning freedom on my behalf so that I could have the fullest, most abundant life through new life in You. I pray that you give me the strength and the knowledge to not abuse that freedom. I desire to choose right and not be controlled by my fleshly desires, but it is a hard battle to fight. I ask for the fruit of the Spirit to be made evident in my life. Grant me greater self-control so that I might walk in a manner worthy of my calling. May You get the glory of my self-control victories. Amen.

 

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Toxicity

When someone is first starting their “healthy living” journey, one of the first tips people tend to give to him or her is to become ingredient aware– to check out the labels of what you’re eating. If the product has a ton of added colors, preservatives, trans fat, corn syrup, pesticides, artificial sugars, GMOS and the like, the advice is to steer clear. Simply put, science says over time, these foreign substances stuck in our body can poison us, lead to cancer and other diseases.

Different sources may say slightly different things about the affects of chemicals on our bodies, but the main takeaway should be to find the most natural sources of our products and be comfortable and knowledgable with whatever we’re using or eating.

Over the years I’ve learned more, and through small changes, the process of choosing what’s better for me has become more normal/easy to do. It’s no longer a “I should”, but an “I want to” take care of myself.

At first the hassle seems like too much work, but as you start to make little swaps, you feel capable of greater changes over time, and realize you have more energy, are more confident, feel stronger, and quicker on your feet. I at least aim for the most “natural” groceries, organic protein without added hormones and stick to getting the dirty dozen organic as well.

Recently, I read the book the Super Life by Daren Olien, a nutritionist and superfood expert.

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As much as I had been focusing on good nutrition and exercise, my eyes were opened a little more about the importance of some of the other life-forces that affect our health like oxygenation,  alkalization, and (what this post is about) detoxification. Our systems are overwhelmed and overtaxed, and constantly processing all of the crazy stuff our organs weren’t meant to handle. The more overworked they are, the more vulnerable, the less strong our immune system is to fight for us against mutated cells and other sickness.

 

I had been working on step 1: what I fed my body, and after reading the information in this book, was ready to move onto step 2: what I allowed into my body through my skin and breathing in the air.

Things like shampoo, makeup, lotion, aren’t regulated and can get away with a lot more chemicals and not labeling what goes into their products. Your skin absorbs up to 70% of what you put on it, so it IS important to think about what is getting in!

OH where to even START?!

SO I started digging. Google can be a good friend, and so can other women out there who are way further along on this non-toxic journey than I am!

So just as I did the first time with my eating, I decided to start becoming ingredient aware of all the products I use daily. It wasn’t pretty… surprise!! It seems like everything is bad for you! 😛

Below are some suggestions for some slow changes I’ve been making over the last month. It was overwhelming at first to feel like I’ve been doing many things “wrong” for so many years, but just like healthy eating and exercise, it is never too late to get started doing things a little better to take some stress off our kidneys and liver.

All the items below are simply things to think about, and you get to decide what to implement and what you feel like is best for you to look into. Same with healthy eating, it involves weighing the price/inconvenience against the potential harm. I believe you just have to do your best with the information you have! That’s all 🙂 IF you’re interested in this stuff like I am, read on!

If you get overwhelmed like I did, maybe focus on making one category each month a little bit better. As you run out of a certain toiletry or product, research something new to try instead of your normal supply! A lot of times we just use something because it’s the cheapest item or our parents used it, but we don’t really think about if it’s healthy or effective. Don’t drive yourself crazy, just be aware 🙂 I’m no expert!

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{Deodorant}

This one actually started to learn about when I first found out I was pregnant this past April. The aluminum in antiperspirants, the parabens, and the “fragrance” in the deodorant were recommended as ingredients to avoid because of the carcinogens (cancer causing) and could cause birth defects. I didn’t know how much to believe this at the time, as I’ve always been a “sweater” and couldn’t imagine not having the SUPER protective antiperspirant. But if it meant I could reduce my chances of cancer and any other complications, I figure it doesn’t hurt to try it out.

I made a switch to Tom’s Deodorant. Not going to lie, it doesn’t work as well as the aluminum that blocks you from sweating. I have to reapply it if I don’t want to start smelling at the end of the day. If you want to get really ‘crunchy’ and you have the time, you could try to make your own and give your armpits a break from the chemicals that are potentially interfering with your hormones and let yourself sweat those toxins OUT. Look for products that say “aluminum free” when you can! Our sweat is part of our body’s detox system!

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{Meal Containers}

I was microwaving my lunch everyday at work in plastic wear. Now, even though some of the plastic  is “BPA free”, that doesn’t mean that the plastic isn’t breaking down over time and releasing chemicals, like dioxin, into my food that otherwise wouldn’t be there; chemicals that could cause reproductive issues or once again, cancer.  I thankfully had a Container Store gift card, so I purchased a few glass lunch containers, to take to work when we have something to microwave, and still use the plastic containers just for food storage. Baby steps.

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{Face Wash} 

Everyday, since probably high school, I have washed my face, then used Clearasil astringent, and then used an acne medicated lotion… morning and night. That’s a lot of product going into my pores! The ingredient triclosan in my face wash, can be toxic to reproduction and can alter the thyroid hormone receptor.

I switched to Witch Hazel as a natural toner for the “astringent” step, and Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil for the lotion part. I’ve heard Rose Water is also a good option as well as different kinds of essential oils. Coconut Oil is a GOLD mine and has tons and tons of uses for your skin and digestion.

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{Body Wash}

 Dr. Bronner’s has a wide variety of uses, is 100% organic made with vegetable and coconut oils. I decided to make the switch to this instead of my generic Dove-type body wash which has “fragrance” and several other ingredient linked to developmental toxicity, allergies, and cancer. My body wash was going all over my entire body very frequently, so I wanted to be sure to find a sure non-toxic solution.

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{AIR}

We spent a lot of time indoors, unfortunately. To improve our air quality in our medium size apartment, we got a plant! A beautiful peace lily (it requires very little sunlight and watering so we knew it was best for us! haha). It topped NASA’s list for removing all three of most common volatile compounds — formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. It can also combat toluene and xylene. Basically I figured if we had sketchy things in the air, it could at least help clean it up a little bit for us without us even trying!

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{Cleaning Supplies}

This is usually the category that people start with I think… or at least the one I’ve heard most about. However, maybe I don’t use cleaning supplies often enough to have thought of them first! Having a multi-surface cleaner was key because I do frequently wipe down counter surfaces in the kitchen and the bathroom. I would usually use Clorox Wipes for this. There are plenty of cleaning concoctions you can make at home with water and vinegar and baking soda! Give pinterest a search if you’d rather make your own than buy!

 

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{Candles}

We go through periods of time where we have 3-4 candles lit at a time in our apartment. We love candles, the smell and the mood they create. SURPRISE. The fragrance amongst other things is bad for you. You can also find others made of coconut wax and beeswax. This is a small business brand I found at a used bookstore. They have an etsy store if you’re interested!

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{Linen Spray & Air Freshener} 

Turns out, it’s not that “fresh” after all. Don’t be fooled! We keep the febreeze in the bathroom, as I think most people have some kind of spray in there!  Turns out this is pretty horrible….  haha I also would spray linen spray on our sheets to keep them fresh in between washes, but turns out spraying the chemicals on our sheets was potentially getting in our skin as we slept. I found this DYI Linen spray that I’ll definitely be trying out instead!

 

Finally, I have to suggest this app called “Think Dirty”. You can scan in any of your products and it will tell you what ingredients are dangerous and why. It gives them a rating of how harmful they may be, and suggests alternatives for you to check out. Ask around your friends, someone is bound to sell brands like Ava Anderson, Shaklee, Norwex, several different brand of essential oils that can help with cleaning or be used as with an air diffuser  with plenty of health benefits. Maybe next I’ll tackle my makeup!

Good luck detoxing your life!! It’s tough work out there!