The Wailin Jennys are playing gently in the background and I sit, unmotivated, in front of my weekly to-do-list. Doctor appointments, business projects and research, phone calls. Just a few of the thing that loom before me this week. I love the fresh start of another Monday, but there are moments when all the days blur into one another and I feel overwhelmed. Some days, I sense an internal juggling act going on inside me that hinders the outward juggle I must do with daily tasks and obligations. I'm still glancing behind, at all that I've walked through these past 3.5 years. I'm still sifting through the purpose of a lot of the grief, a lot of my own investments that I thought were going to pay off. But life is calling me forward. There are things to be done, but sometimes it's hard enough to do when it hurts so deeply to just be. It's enough to strip me of any self-motivation. Then, I stumbled across these words and feel a sense of freedom...
In my pursuit of a holistic lifestyle, I have often failed in one crucial area. My emotional health. I can link almost every physical ailment I have ever been through to my emotional state. While I have been aware of how these two areas or directly linked to one another, I am not very intentional about tending to my own needs. I can discuss natural health all day from all my research and findings, but genuinely living it out is usually another story. However, in those times when I've considered what my body needed, I have experienced a great deal of support and renewal. This post is a summary of those important building blocks which I have been greatly supportive to my emotional and physical well-being. Through my personal season of healing and grieving, I have found these habits to be grounding. I intend to formulate specific posts on this subject of the physical side to emotional healing in future posts. Much can also be said about diet, but I want to purely focus on five simple daily health habits for those who are walking through loss, grief, and seeking healing on a physical level.
1. Essential oils. There's an in-depth science behind theuse of essential oils for mental and emotional support. To put it simply, the tiny molecules of essential oils are able to reach and stimulate the limbic system of our brain, which is our emotional control center. It is the area of the brain that's related to regulating stress levels and hormonal imbalance and crucial body functions, such as digestion and heart rate. For this reason alone, essential oils play a significant part in our physiological and psychological well-being. There are many types of essential oils that are of great emotional benefit, but my favorites to use are: Lavender, Frankincense, and the blends by Young Living titled Joy (Bergamot, Ylang Ylang, Rosewood, Lemon, Mandarin, Jasmine, Roman Chamomile, Palmarose, Rose) and White Angelica (Bergamot, Myrrh, Geranium, Sandalwood, Rosewood, Spruce, Hyssop, Melissa, Rose) have been. I use Young Living's cold air diffuser to disperse the ingredients of the essential oils into the air [never use heat essential oils!] and it's one of the most uplifting and therapeutic ways to begin my day. I've written an entire post on the benefits of diffusing essential oils which you can readhere. For physical application of these oils, I place a couple drops on my wrists, behind ears, bottoms of my feet, and neck. In this way, I can breathe in the oils all day long even when I am out and about. I immediately receive a sense of calm and the feeling of being established and focused when I use these oils consistently, whether I have been dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression.
2. Magnesium and foot baths. As with essential oils, there is a whole science behind magnesium and its benefits for the body. It's one of those minerals that, sadly, many are deficient in because of the nutrient-deficient food here in America. Magnesium is a cofactor in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body and it is needed in order for Calcium and Vitamin D to work properly in our bodies. Magnesium deficiency is directly linked to hormonal imbalances, depression, and mood swings. It's something I am want to more seriously incorporate into my routine, but for the moment I have experienced its benefits from using Magnesium Chloride bath flakes by Ancient Minerals, which I purchased through Amazon (I also use Epsom Salts, which contain Magnesium Chloride and has a different function in our body). I have used these flakes for foot baths and have added dried lavender or lavender essential oils to enhance the relaxing benefits. I have also found some relief from making a spray from these bath flakes. I have noticed it does significantly relax and calm me when I do 20+ sprays of it on myself throughout the day. An additional way to increase magnesium intake is to take it in a drink with theNatural Calm supplement from Natural Vitality.
3. Tea. Not just any tea, but teas that are mineral rich and known for supporting the body through stress. I try to find pre-made herbal tea blends at natural health stores that contain these key herbs: Oatstraw, damiana, raspberry, lemon balm, spearmint, peppermint, lemongrass, nettle, rosebuds and petals, rosehips, catnip, chamomile, and hibiscus. Then, I will create a quart or more of these herbs as an herbal infusion, which basically means I allow it to steep overnight in hot water on my counter-top. In the morning, I strain off the herbs and then refrigerate it to drink later. Allowing the herbs to step overnight brings out all the nutrients and minerals of the plants. Another favorite tea of mine is Tulsi, which my in-laws introduced me to a couple years ago. I adore this tea. It is also known as Holy Basil. I purchase the Organic India Tulsi brand through Vitacost, Amazon, or my local natural health shop, but I know there are other good organic brands available. I enjoy making a quart of Tulsi Rose or Tulsi Raspberry Peach ice tea by allowing several bags to steep in hot water for an hour or more. Then, once the tea has cooled, I place it in the fridge for awhile and drink later.
An herbal infusion.
4. Yoga. Or anything that gets me stretching. Yoga and Pilates are especially beneficial for seasons of high-stress or depression because it is rejuvenating as well as relaxing. This form of exercise is easy on our adrenal glands, which are heavily-taxed during stress. Running and more strenuous forms of exercise are not a good idea when our adrenal glands have been exhausted. Thus, yoga and pilates are the perfect option. Personally, I've never enjoyed vigorous forms of exercises, except for hardcore swimming. But since public pools are saturated with chlorine (which is damaging to our endocrine glands!), this hippie is sticking to her yoga mat!
5. Sunlight and leaving the city. So simple, but it's not always easy to incorporate these two into my routine. I don't even have to go in-depth about these two health habits. The good of them are without question! I grew up in the "valley of the sun" [aka Phoenix, AZ] and have, for most of my life, despised it. However, I realized I disliked it in Phoenix because it was always directly related to the unbearable heat. Since being in a new state and city, I have come to enjoy the sun because it doesn't always bring heat here. Now, I relate it to warmth, a carefree spirit, and the freshness of a new day. I want the sun all the time. Early morning sun is particularly good, but just being outside for an hour each day does wonders! There is nothing that can be compared to a soft breeze, early morning sun rays, and the texture of tree trunks and grass. Nature has always been our free gift, our natural antidepressant.
Sighing deeply, I slide my fingers through the pages of my notebook, glancing past the numerous words strewn across the pages, scattered and disorganized. The scribblings present on each page are snippets of song lyrics and ideas. Across the room stand two old friends, acoustic guitars that have traveled with me through my youth and adult life. There are moments where my hands caress them the way I once did as a daily habit. Everything in me misses those seasons when I could cradle them and choose a song from memory to play on their sleek-stringed bodies. There is a quiet ache that arises when I begin to think of songwriting, when my eyes glide over the binders of collected sheet music, or when I hold my dear friends again. There are days when I begin to create, begin to piece together chords, voicings, and scales that make up a familiar tune, either one from an artist or something I've written. But these types of days are so intermittent and unplanned. They do not last. My hands do not play the guitar as they once did. I am fragmented. I have been like this for quite some time. Only in recent months have I given myself the time to mourn this. There are so many reasons why I am in pieces. Seasons of investing in others. Seasons of long and tiresome waiting. Seasons of walking with those who grieve. Seasons of distraction. Seasons of disappointment. Seasons of drastic and sudden change. Seasons of having to grow up for the very first time. Seasons of forgetting. Seasons of coming face to face with the reality of how harsh life can truly be, not merely to me, but to everyone I love. Seasons of no fruit. Emerging from this scattered state, I feel disoriented, no assurance or direction for finding wholeness again. Was I ever even whole? I feel like I have been searching for it my entire life. But I used to think wholeness was defined by mountaintop moments, when life was all as it should be, or as I wanted it to be. My obsession with perfectionism hasn't waned into my adulthood, but has steadily increased with its demands. Through maddening moments of depression, heartache, and disillusionment, my spirit awakes again with ten times the resolve to continue this ongoing pursuit towards wholeness, to experience a fulfilling resolve in every area of my life that is scattered, divided, and broken. As long as I have been breathing, this militant passion has driven me. It makes me bold even in the face of defeat and heart-break and fear. It drives me to even demand and question my Maker, not at all questioning that my fleshly honesty is really too much for Him, even if I fear it might be. Partly, this is a fire of pride. Pride that says no one and nothing will snuff me out. The other part to this fire is that it is a deeply ingrained need and desire for perfected wholeness, much in the same way a child will not rest until her entire world is "as it should be," nestled close in the safety and affection of father and mother. Recently, I read something that revealed to me the heart of the Father in my demands for wholeness. I know you've already discovered much of life isn't as spectacular or satisfying as the anticipation. I've watch this break your heart. It will actually serve to draw you to me. I've built into you this longing for a world which doesn't disappoint. I take whatever your race has brought on, and I redeem, refashion, and rework it all into beauty beyond anything you could have possibly imagined. All things. Horrible things. Evil things. Chronic things. I decide what is allowed through and what it will accomplish. I decide what needs to be refashioned. But I mostly stand in the arena, where you cannot stand, defending you and protecting you. I do not lecture; I do not mock. What I do is love you, no matter how angry you are at me, no matter what you imagine in your heart about me. I enter into your pain more deeply than even you. This I can do. This I will always do. Until we are home together in the land where tears cease. [On My Worst Day, John Lynch]
The knowledge that He stands with me, unwavering, even when I'm wanting to pick fights with Him, is astounding. This foundational characteristic of God is not often taught, written about, preached on, or portrayed in what we know of Christianity today. I need to know this is Who He is because I will act out on Him in a million different ways. At the end of my day, I need to know, we all need to know, that He isn't surprised or disgusted or exhausted by us. He is patient with us. He waits for us. Then, I am confronted with the knowledge of something that cuts straight to my heart... Increased devotion and diligence will not make me feel close to God again. Believing his never-changing affection will renew my joy. [John Lynch] In these words, I realized the same can be said for experiencing renewal and wholeness. Willpower will not bring me to that place of experiencing rest and wholeness in the core of who I am, nor in any of my creative endeavors and dreams. If I am to ever experience abiding wholeness in my spirit, I must come to a point where I accept this never-changing affection of my Father. At the same time, He is fully aware that I am not going to come to that point on my own. He has to bring me there because I do not rest. It is not my nature to lay down and take a nap when there are passions and dreams to be pursued and lived out. My heart views resting as a passive, foolish thing, when it actually means my safety, my protection, and my maturity. Everyday of our lives, this is the invitation of our Savior:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
We wrestle through the resting. The wrestling part is more of a learning to accept and receive our true identity in Christ, the gift of His ever-faithful, always present love for us. Creating is just like this. Whether we are writers, musicians, or artists of any medium, creating is a journey towards wholeness that involves us learning to be at rest. Creating requires humility, patience, and a gentle assurance that, even when the vision is not be obtained, the slow process of creating is undeniably significant to the formation of our character, the maturing our souls. I do not play guitar as I wish I could. I have not completed all the songs that fill up my notebook. I have yet to experience a fulfillment to any of my pursuits. I do not even know wholeness in my emotional well-being. I will continue to the make the mistake that striving will get me to that perfect stated. Somewhere along the way, I will rest, then fight, strive, wear myself out, and then more fully rest in Christ my Comfort, my net of Safety.
I write these words on Good Friday, a day to remember that He who was and is Perfection, Fulfillment, and Wholeness chose to become broken and crushed for all mankind. Christ Jesus came to give us the wholeness that we all lavishly strive and invest to know on this earth. I remember He has made me whole already, sealing my identity to His, erasing all that I was before without Him. And, now, this earthly life is an ongoing process of Him revealing to me the perfect work He began in me and bringing me into complete understanding and experience of that abiding truth. I desire the happy resolve of the ending more than the story itself. I may, for the present, only desire the perfection itself. He desires the glory, revealing Himself and getting to see me become who He knows I already am. And He will see that desire of His heart through to completion.
One of the newer aspects to my blog is featuring some of my favorite, well-known bloggers who write on the themes of grace, restoration, creativity, community, suffering, and healing. I enjoy the aspect of sharing within the blogging community and meeting others who are like-minded in grace-centered living in Christ. I love the diversity of stories, families, and lifestyle and, most often, feel connected to them just by reading the honesty in their posts. Ever since I began my first blog around 2008, I have loved this aspect of getting a look into the world of others and hearing their hearts.
Oddly enough, my writing of this parallels with the release of American Blogger documentary by Christopher Wiegand. To my shock, I have found the Wiegand family under a hateful and disturbing backlash of criticism by many within the blogging community who feel that their documentary does not accurately portray the true American Blogger because it does not capture a diverse audience. This has led many to personally attack Casey and Christopher Weigand and the nay-sayers are creating an obscene uproar over it. There is so much that can be said about this, but I would say the hatefulness and childish criticism is incredibly grieving. While mature and constructive criticism would be helpful, many choose to tear down with their words. So much can be said and learned about this intense situation, but my goal is to reiterate the need for a like-mindedness in how we view and speak to one another in the blogging community. This hurtful situation that the Wiegand family are in just reminded me that, now more than ever, there needs to be mutual respect, care, encouragement, constructive feedback, and acceptance in our blogging connections. We cannot out-shout the negative nancies out there, but our hearts being established in humility and truth is enough. And I believe Casey Wiegand demonstrates that gentleness in and through her reaction to all this. Publishing anything on the internet will always create something of a stir, especially when it begins to spread and reach certain types of audiences who it wasn't exactly created for. The same goes for any creative medium - film, books, music, art, or photography. Not everyone is meant to like or follow every creative work, nor be involved in it. And that is O.K. But it is truly remarkable when bloggers and writers intentionally [personal opinions put aside] choose to embrace the differences and make it their goal to build one another up in their pursuits. Or, we can just simply not follow or read a blogger we disagree with or do not feel we connect to. It's pretty simple. ;) All this to say, I am more passionate now about connecting myself with bloggers whose goal is to encourage and edify their readers. This is my intent in sharing these posts every month: to bring refreshment and light to those who are hurting within the Christian community. Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. [Proverbs 16:24]
My featured blogger for this month is Emily. She is a wife, mom, blogger, and published author. She blogs at Chatting At the Sky and has written Grace for the Good Girl and A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live. The style of her posts is reminiscent of Ann Voskamp, but more of her focus is on the creative side to our lifestyles. Her posts are usually addresses to writers and artists. I also enjoy her writings on living out the identity we have in our Creator and Father. Sometimes, she shares snapshots and peeks into her cozy world, the books she is reading, and the beautiful community surrounding her with family and friends and fellow bloggers. She engages her readers with reflective questions and link-ups. And she always shares her struggles in the creative process and pursuits and is usually posting something that breathes strength and renewal. Below, I have listed my favorite posts by Emily that I recommend others to read. May you enjoy perusing her writings and may your soul be filled anew with inspiration and light! For the Soul Who Feels Pulled in All Directions 8 Ways to Know It's Time to Take a Break On Marriage and Learning as We Grow Why I Want to Know You and Also Avoid You For the Artist Who Worries Her Motives Are Wrong
I am beginning this week with a new series of posts, which I will write every two weeks or so. These posts will take the form of a devotional reading. To restate my vision for these posts [and my blog overall]: to bring refreshment and renewal to those within the Christian community wrestling with loss, grief, or pain on any level. The sufferings we walk through to glory can be merely a loss of understanding our identity, or even the heart of our Heavenly Father, as we wrestle with the how of living through life's storms. Or, it could be a loss on an emotional or physical level and emerging through the trauma of those experiences.
Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay To mould me, Man, did I solicit thee From darkness to promote me? [Paradise Lost, Book X 743-745] Recalling that place void of affection, purpose, and abundance of love, we might dare to utter these words in the secret place of our soul. Whatever manifestation of pain we face in this life, there is a natural freedom in arriving at this place. To utter words or to act in a way that we never once thought we were capable of. But suffering, in the way it isolates and shadows us, will intensely stretch and bend our capacities.
What if someone told us, in our writhing anguish, that this was okay? To curse, to question? The answer, always yes. It might startle the raging voice of the suffering into quietness, to rest.
Our Father allows even the most detestable words to fall of our lips. He permits us to speak from our humanity. A man dealt a hard lot once spoke, "Do you think that you can reprove words, when the speech of a despairing man is wind?" [Job 6:26] The Lord, long-suffering with His children, did not speak for quite some time during that man's accusations and curses. As stated by John Piper, "There are words with roots in deep error and deep evil. But not all grey
words get their color from a black heart. Some are colored mainly by
the pain, the despair. What you hear is not the deepest thing within.
There is something real within where they come from. But it is
temporary—like a passing infection—real, painful, but not the true
The soul must be allowed to walk through this process in order to arrive at restoration. The pain presses in deeply and the Lord is patient to see His child restored because He knows the glory to be revealed in us, the joy to be fulfilled. There is nothing found which is not first lost. And there is no awareness of life without first experiencing death. Even in the Garden, before the first man and woman fell, there was no mental grasp for man to understand what it meant to live when death had not existed. We see this in the Cross. Our Creator could have made us all alive in Christ without the death of His Son. But we would not have known, in truth and experience, what it meant to be dead and in need of life if we did not know what Christ must suffer on our behalf. Darkness before Light. It is the mystery of Life. It is the comfort that supports us in our dark night. The sun always rises.
This spoken word poem below is a spontaneous creation of mine. It was inspired by Genesis 1:1-5 and has not been edited since I scribbled it down in my notebook this past weekend.
Pursue the quiet and listen. Listen to the pieces rattling. Listen to their lonely vibrations til they wrack your brain with their monotony. Listen to their piercing hammers til you can hum their lifeless tune, the drumming dead-end frequencies. Listen until you know them well. Translucent shards, shatters of disappointment, grief, and horror from the impact of when flesh met reality, when organ met scalpel, when bone met decay. No allowances for who you wish you could be, no permits for where you place your feet. Your ears assigned to memorize the clink of your inner parts disassembling at each gasp for oxygen from the blow of every loss. Life, in this suit of crusting skin, convinced with a faithful vow to instruct us on the mechanical nature of this body, that all is a void that all are varying degrees of complexities chaotically organized to function sub-par. And when the battery is low there are no replacements no recharge button to resume our robotic rule on the assembly line of time. You and I existing, not adding value, but by nature increasing the rate of entropy, emboldening the loss of order, if once there ever was. This, where madness begins to be the most logical the most probable design. And order, a theory most irrational, most unfounded. Speak to ourselves of wholeness and words will ignite a fury motivating our will towards a series of crimes to perpetuate the sequence of degeneration within these layers of tissue. The only certainty, the lack. Why does man journey toward wholeness? Was it intrinsically ours? An identity we forgot? I speak, or is it you? I take no responsibility, no credit, for this whimper of shame, yet, something like dependence to hinge my canvas on shoulders that will bear the weight of me - this. Myself - more like a thing becoming inanimate, a prop to mold into the void. I speak, and know not what I say. Then, a voice unlike, but so like my own, "Let there be light." My Creator, separating Night from Day. //yours truly, copyright April 2014//
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without
form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the
Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
My blog has been an abode of wandering thoughts as of late. Earlier today, I sat down and wrote out my original (and latest) objectives for this blog. Is it just another place to sit down and ramble out thoughts? That isn't what I had envisioned from the beginning. So, I am pulling back my scattered ideas and stripping it down to my one passion: Spiritual/Emotional Healing. This is a topic very, very near to me because it is something I have had to personally walk through, as well as watch others on their own journey.
Not a day passes when I am not reminded of the mire I am still trudging through on this earthly journey to glory. And not a day passes when I am not reminded of those around me, friends far and near and family members, who are in heavy, dark, confusing, or fruitless seasons. My passion is for the hurting and utilizing gifts that the Lord has given to aid in the healing and strengthening of others, including myself.
Being a Christian, my posts will always have a focus towards Christ and the healing and empowering that comes from His Holy Spirit in and through us. However, I also firmly adhere to a holistic approach on healing. Holistic is a word that means, "characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as
intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole." Holistic health care is something that takes in the entire person, their habits, their diet, their family-life, their day-to-day schedule, etc. Nothing is left out of the equation. Their whole being is cared for. To me, that speaks of our heavenly Father who so cares for the whole aspect of our lives and our heart. Every matter of our life is important to Him. I am incredibly passionate about living and encouraging a holistic approach to living. In our modern society, everything is so detached and fragmented and then we wonder why we are falling apart with health and emotional issues! I have been there time and again and, by His strength, I desire to break this cycle of living my life in fragments. I truly and wholeheartedly believe God has granted the gifts of wisdom, education, discernment, and talents to be used toward the renewal of the whole person. This will mean my posts, from now on, will include, but not be limited to:
~ Natural health(the use of herbs, essential oils, practical and physical daily health habits),
I have so often found that modern Christian, sadly, does not offer more than a band-aid approach to those walking through difficult times. The most common ways that Christianity seeks to deal with struggling Christians and heavy issues is to over-simplify it. These are 5 common forms of [unhealthy] support that modern Christianity only seems able to offer:
1. Extend a well-known Bible verse/passage to make others feel better about God, themselves, or their situation. Sorry, this isn't always the most loving, Christ-like approach. Many will disagree with me, as I once did. However, most will never learn how utterly empty this response can be until they themselves have entered into a humbling season of suffering or loss. This reality does not diminished the Word of God. It, in fact, reveals powerfully how the Word of God is meant to be lived out and wrestled in the flesh and to show that Scripture was never meant to be merely words on a page.
2. Quick to speak into the issues and the person's life. The best approach, 99.9% of the time, is to tighten those lips shut and use your ears to fully enter in on listening to the heart of the suffering.
3. Pious, pithy sayings that seems so perfectly and sweetly Christian. Enough said.
4. Being super and overly-optimistic to encourage. Sorry, most of the time, the suffering long for someone to weep with them. We need to understand what kind of responses are appropriate to varying situations. We might be able to see their issuse with clarity and objectivity, but they are in the dark and need someone who will feel their pain with them.
5. Present for a moment, gone for the long-run. This can look like someone who says, "I will pray for you!" and then they seem to disappear from your life until your next meeting. They may say helpful and caring words for the moment, but they don't really deliver a nearness that we humans so long for. I realize we don't have the supernatural ability within ourselves to be there for every single suffering soul. That's not what we are called to do. It can be exhausting and it takes much prayer and discernment to be aware who God is actually leading us to invest in. However, pretending to care for a moment is not an effective form of ministry.
I know there are many more unhealthy responses I could cover, but those are the first ones that come to mind.
I confess with much embarrassment that I am guilty of all the above. I will never again claim to "have it all together" when it comes to dealing with others or their hard situations. I am learning every day what it means to love with the gentle, long-suffering passion of Christ. It is so beyond our human understanding. It requires so much discernment and patience to know how to love others through their pain.
I have suffered. I have experienced deep pain and loss. Not to the same extent as others. But I have tasted enough of pain to become very aware of what happens to our frail flesh in the midst of it. There are raw and deep layers to pain, suffering, and loss that only Christ can restore. But, with a humble heart, we can begin to learn how He designed for us to minister that comfort and support to others, as well as to ourselves. It is a journey, not a race. Suffering is part of our path to glory. It requires an ever-increasing humility to embrace it as precious company this side of eternity.
In conclusion, my new areas of focus will begin next week. I pray that they are true medicine and nourishment to any who may stumble across my blog.