Sweet Like Honey

our family's journal of God at work


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Daily Blessings

So, I haven’t been writing much lately. . .actually, I’ve not been doing much lately. . .I am two months pregnant and have merely been surviving day to day because of the fatigue and nausea. There’s also been the emotional aspect of wondering if this pregnancy will go full term. I find myself surrendering to God’s will a lot. I also catch myself telling God that if this pregnancy doesn’t go well then I am done–I can’t keep doing this; but what does that mean for someone like me who doesn’t want to do anything permanent like surgery and who is against abortifacient forms of birth control? I’ve had 12 miscarriages, and I know some people think I am crazy, “Why doesn’t she give up?”–but there really are some tough questions involved. It is not a light thing to play God over your life. I just trust myself to the mercy of God and know He is storing up for me a greater weight of glory. He is sovereign and He is good. I am thankful for the children I have, and am not idolizing having a baby. I would like more children, but my life doesn’t revolve around that. I haven’t even been trying to get pregnant, but God seems to have other plans and so I trust the babies I’ve lost are with Him and that my losses are not a waste. I am weary of feeling like a broken woman though. I do beg Him to heal me.

Laura was making plans for the babies (she wants twins) today, and how she will help them learn to swim. It was so sweet. She really wants another baby in the family. Everyone does. Laura is almost four, and is definitely the mother hen of the family. She loves to take care of everyone and wants to tend to a little one so badly. When she was sharing her thoughts with me I became very choked up, “Oh, Lord, please don’t let her be disappointed!” I gave her a hug and told her how sweet she is.

We’ve finished up our school year (we go year round with short breaks) using My Father’s World Adventures and are taking the week off before we go into MFW Exploring Countries and Cultures. The boys wanted to start this week because they love MFW and can’t wait to get into all the new books. We got a head start on the geography last night when Christopher pulled our laminated US/World map from Adventures down and started asking us “What is the capitol of _________?” We spent over an hour passing the map around as we all took turns asking and answering similar questions–giggles and smiles thrown in for good measure. This was after a good Sunday afternoon nap, a thunderstorm that knocked our power out for a while and a dinner we threw together from things that didn’t need cooked, a family read-aloud of the Wind in the Willows, a pleasant walk and then a good visit with a neighbor. By the time we fed everyone again and put them all to bed it was after 11pm. But we were having such a fun time just being a family we didn’t notice how late it was.

This morning I was able to get out of bed early enough to have a good quiet time with the Lord. I’ve been dragging so much lately that this hasn’t happened like I would want it to, so I was really excited about this. The rest of the day was full of little blessings.

I was able to conquer the mess in my kitchen (had a bit more energy).

A friend came by to bring some books she’d borrowed and we ended up going to Staples together so we could talk for a bit and get something done too (she has her own business and is so busy right now). When we got to the store we met my friend’s mom, who “just happened” to be there at the same time, so we got to talk with her too. The children were so excited about going to Staples for the first time that they screamed with delight when I told them we were going–they were as excited as if I was taking them to the zoo or something. It was pretty funny. They’ve been stuck at home a lot lately though, due to sickness we’ve been dealing with. When I was checking out, the cashier said, “I just want you to know that you are an encouragement. My wife and I want to try for four kids too.” I was so surprised, and grateful that we could encourage this young man that children are the blessing he thought they would be. I hadn’t started the day out planning to go to Staples, but it became pretty evident that God had directed our going. I love how He is in every detail of our lives.

Later, another friend who orders for our organic produce co-op delivered the produce right to my kitchen and carried it all for me. That was nice, since I can’t lift too much right now.

I got a lot done, and then had time for a good nap which gave me energy to have dinner ready on time! LOL. That is a struggle when I am not pregnant, but right now it is really hard. It really is the simple things! I just felt the Lord upholding me all day. Dinner and family worship time were wonderful and we all talked about our favorite part of the day. Rob said his favorite part of the day was coming home–I am so glad. That is my favorite part of each day too. 11 years of marriage has gone by so fast, and I love my husband more with each passing day. He is a blessing!

How have you seen God’s hand in your life today?

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Stress, It’s Effects and Remedies

Mental stress is a part of every day life. It has always been that way, but with a continual increase of media input into our lives we are now bombarded more than ever by stressful situations: we are living our own lives and the lives of others on the news, TV shows, movies, and video games. Some people are addicted to stressful situations: bungee jumping, roller coasters. We are over stimulated and constantly on the go with rarely any time to just “be”. We are a culture of human doings. We have a tendency to think we can handle anything that comes our way and because of our “self-sufficiency” we find ourselves drowning in our efforts more often than not.

This always “on –the-go” lifestyle leads to many health problems. Because we do not get adequate rest or take time to eat regularly and healthfully, drink plenty of water and exercise in the sunshine and fresh air, or take time to be with the Lord in His word and prayer, we are usually running on empty without sufficient mental, emotional and physical strength to handle relationships and deadlines. We further stress our bodies by feeding them chemically laden foods and drinks, refined sugars and flours, excessive alcohol and caffeine—all of which lead to chronic dehydration and more stress.

Because we have so little time to contemplate on God, creation, and life, we can easily become overwhelmed. Our eyes take in only the here and now, and it looks so large to our out of focus eyes. We forget that we have a God who made all things, and is powerful enough to handle every situation we face. He is the God who said, “Be still and know that I am God.” He is the one who invites us to remember, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to Him who has no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not weary; they shall walk and not faint” Isaiah 40:28-31. We would eliminate a lot of our stress by slowing down and waiting on God—refocusing on our situation in a way that admits that God is big and we are not.

Stress of any kind produces several reactions in our bodies:

Strong emotions affect digestion by slowing it down and enabling toxins and acids to develop and be reabsorbed by the body instead of being eliminated. When we are relaxed our bodies are able to focus on absorbing and utilizing nutrients from our foods. For example, a child who worries a lot will not grow properly. My son, who from a very young age has been prone to worry, has growth arrest lines on his bones and he has not grown as well as our other children. Along this same line, intense physical activity should be put off until at least 30 minutes after eating a meal. Digestion requires so much water and energy to properly break down the food and vigorous activity interrupts that process by drawing available water and energy elsewhere. Family meals aren’t just good for relationships–they benefit our health as well.

Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands which our bodies use to regulate blood pressure and cardiovascular function as well as regulate how we utilize carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Cortisol helps in stress to balance adrenalin by giving us the ability to stay calm, think clearly, remember exactly what to do and act quickly, for example when your child is about to get hit by a car or they just got their finger cut off in a door. Cortisol gives us strength in the face of danger—it is what makes it possible for us to lift a fallen tree off a loved one when ordinarily we wouldn’t be able to make it budge. Cortisol breaks down muscle protein, and puts the freed up amino acids into the blood stream so the liver can use them to make energy in the form of glucose, and it releases energy from fat cells for our muscles to use. These things give our brain and body energy to deal with the situation at hand.

God designed us this way and it is a good system. Unfortunately we tax it so much that we tend to live on adrenalin and cortisol. Chronic high cortisol levels cause decreased immunity, autoimmune diseases, inflammation, insomnia, weight gain, hypertension, depression, blood sugar problems such as diabetes and hypoglycemia, headache, adrenal fatigue (low levels of cortisol) and resulting hair loss, exhaustion, irritability, lack of concentration and skin problems.

We can artificially stress our bodies by feeding them junk and by allowing ourselves to stay in a state of dehydration. Stress itself causes dehydration and dehydration causes stress—it goes both ways. Both situations put our body into stress management mode and all the available water and nutrients are sent to where they are needed most—in other words, they are rationed. In the case of dehydration there is a shortage of water and so the water is sent where it is most needed and other parts of the body suffer. If this goes on long enough it can lead to irreversible harm in the form of disease.

Dehydration leads to the secretion of vasopressin which is the water rationing hormone. This in turn stimulates the release of cortisol. Because cortisol suppresses the immune system, chronic dehydration is a primary cause of disease—this would support the terrain theory. Dehydration also causes the breakdown of muscles, again because of the cortisol depleting amino acids from muscles for use as energy in stress. This obviously causes a weakening of the body. And it deprives the brain of oxygen and nutrients, which makes it that much harder to face actual stress situations and can even cause brain damage if the dehydration is severe for a long enough period of time.

Cortisol release is meant to be temporary, and in order to ensure that it is we need to follow some simple guidelines.

The Bible says that “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” Proverbs 17:22. This is a literal drying up of the bones—as we saw, stress causes dehydration. Anytime we are faced with difficult circumstances we need to turn to the Lord and “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” Philippians 4:4-8.

These verses urge us to find our joy in the Lord, regardless of our problems, knowing that He is close at hand and able to help in our weakness when we pray with thankful hearts. His peace is what helps us to have a joyful spirit in trying times. Finally, speaking truth to ourselves keeps us from believing the lies of our flesh and of Satan, and keeps us trusting God. Other passages teach us to forgive and guard our hearts from bitterness which is rottenness to the bones. We certainly don’t forgive others merely to keep ourselves healthy, but it will have that effect.

I know that the temptation for most of us is to worry and try to solve the problems on our own, and we stress over making sure everyone and their brother does the “right” thing. But we have to stop trying to be God and go to God instead. He is everything and we are nothing. I think that when we realize this it relieves us from a lot of needless stress. Jesus said, “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 (humble), and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” Matthew 11:28-30.

Drink plenty of water (minimum is about ½ your body weight in ounces but you will probably need somewhat more than that). When you face a stressful situation, drink extra water. It is important to replace the water lost during crying, for example. Even if you don’t cry, water loss is a problem that needs to be corrected.

Eat healthy meals of natural, whole complex and simple carbohydrates and healthy proteins and fats evenly spread throughout the day. Try to eat about 5 vegetables and 4 fruits per day. Include unrefined sea salt, such as grey celtic sea salt, in your diet. Everyone needs this mineral source, but those with adrenal fatigue need even more.

Get enough sleep for your body, about 7-9 hours typically. Take naps if you need to catch up. Sleep lowers cortisol levels. The deepest sleep generally occurs from 9p.m. – 12 a.m. so if you can get into the habit of going to bed around 9 every night your body will be healthier for it. However, everyone is different. I feel best if I go to bed around 9 and get up at 5:30 or 6:00. My husband prefers the hours from 11 to 8. Even small amounts of light increase cortisol levels, so make your bedroom as dark as possible.

Avoid excessive caffeine as this is a stress trigger to the adrenal glands and is dehydrating. Sugar, chemical additives and other refined products stimulate the adrenals unnecessarily. Spices and onions also stimulate the glands.

If you are healthy, spices, onions, and unrefined sugar can be used, but if you are dealing with a lot of fatigue, inflammation, or autoimmune disease caused by adrenal fatigue try limiting these and use herbs and very small amounts of honey instead, as they are more gentle to the body. Honey is still a sugar though so it is important to use it sparingly. You will probably find that avoiding juice and dried fruit is helpful also, as these concentrate natural sugars. When cortisol is functioning at normal levels it acts as an anti-inflammatory. When levels have been depleted from constant stress, inflammation and auto-immune diseases become a problem and can be aggravated by these stimulants because when you ingest them there is a greater need for cortisol than there is supply.

Alcohol is extremely dehydrating, so if you drink it, do so moderately and drink extra water with it.

Gentle to moderate exercise also reduces cortisol levels and evenly distributes water throughout the body (this is why joints tend to feel better after being moved around for a while). Walking is a great exercise that is low impact but which has many health benefits—stress relief being one of them. It also pumps the lymphatic system, which helps eliminate toxins in the body. Acid and toxin buildup is one result of chronic stress so this is very helpful. Avoid high impact and overly strenuous exercise as this actually increases cortisol levels and lowers immunity if carried on too frequently.

Avoid toxic chemicals as much as possible. Chemicals such as fluoride deplete the body of iodine which in turn leads to dehydration and stress for the body. Chlorine is closely related and ammonia can also be a problem. Synthetic fragrances put an immense amount of stress on the body. Chemicals also disrupt hormone production in the body.

Limit media exposure. Seriously. Don’t watch so much TV or stay on the computer all day or play video games so much. Besides the fact that there are many better things to be doing, these things do great harm to our brain and body. The worst thing to do when you feel like vegging is stare at a tv or computer screen—it will only further exhaust you. Get a glass of water and then go sit outside and watch the birds or lie down for a few minutes.

Take breaks throughout the day. Don’t work through lunch. Put your feet up and close your eyes for 10-15 minutes at intervals. Take a power nap if you can. Doing the same activity for long periods of time puts a strain on our mind and body. If you’ve been sitting still, get up and move. If you’ve been on your feet, sit down.

Spend time each day doing something enjoyable and relaxing. This isn’t an invitation to be lazy, of course, but in the midst of being diligent keepers of our homes as wives and moms we have to recharge or we won’t be much good. Some people take this too far, but I think we can find a balance. Most things can be done with your family such as listening to or playing music, reading stories together or everyone reading their own book but in the same room, taking nature walks, cuddling on the couch, working on a hobby together, playing games and laughing. This way you can recharge while you build relationships and create memories.

There is a time for withdrawing though, especially if you are really worn down from life. At those times a good nap is probably what you need most. A massage can be beneficial, as can a relaxing bath. If you’ve been under intense stress for a lengthy period of time you might have what is called adrenal fatigue. It will take several months to recover, but you can do so by following these guidelines consistently. The most important use of free time is to spend time with the Lord in prayer and in His word. We really can’t do anything apart from Him. Jesus was incredibly busy, but He began each day by spending time with His Father. Journaling helps me process daily events and the things the Lord is teaching me. I find that if I don’t have time to write I feel more overwhelmed. Usually if I don’t have time to sit and write I also am not taking time to sit and pray.

It would be helpful to maintain a daily schedule that helps you keep the clutter under control, and get the main things done such as cooking and laundry. Women are especially affected by their physical environment. Training your children to help you with these things makes it more enjoyable, keeps you from wearing yourself out and gives you more time to enjoy your family and friends.

Do not try to do every possible thing. It is good to remember that while a routine is good, only God gets His to-do list done each day. God has given us all different energy levels and “talents”. So prayerfully determine what it is He wants you to be involved in. If you have children you should teach them this as well. They don’t need to participate in a thousand different activities either. This only divides the family and makes mom crazy. And by involving our children in too many outside activities, we can contribute to their ill health by overloading them with stress. In our family we have found that it is best to schedule the work of the day mostly in the morning, as in chores and schoolwork, and then have down time in the afternoon for naps and special projects or interests. This keeps everyone emotionally, mentally and physically healthy and the work gets done too.

We cannot always control the stress that comes into our lives, but there are things we can do to minimize the health damaging effects of stress. If I could go back in time I would change a great many things. I am now dealing with the results of chronic stress and I hope to be able to reverse its effects in time.

God has healed me immediately from some of my health problems when I have asked Him to and I continue to ask for more healing. He truly is the Great Physician. Sometimes He allows us to wear ourselves out so that we will realize how dependent we are on Him for every breath, and when we turn to Him He blesses us with Himself. As much as I don’t like the health problems I’ve had and continue to have, I am thankful for them because the Lord has used them to teach me lessons I would not have learned without them. Most of all I have learned that I need Him desperately and He is all I want.

“Nevertheless, I am continually with You; You hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from You shall perish; You put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to You. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works” Psalm 73:23-28.


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Apples and Carrots

We accidentally discovered that if you put carrots with cut apples or pears that the carrots keep the cut fruit from oxidizing.

We took a bag of cut apples and carrots with us on our trip to my parents’. We ate most of the apples out of it but there was one piece left, along with some carrots–after almost two weeks the apple piece was as white and fresh as when we’d first cut it.

Rob takes his food with him to work everyday, so he did an experiment yesterday. He put half of his carrots in the bag of apple slices and half in the bag of pear slices–both the apples and pears were really nice when it was time to eat them. I’m sure you know how quickly pears normally turn brown and mushy once they are cut.

I’m not sure what the science is behind this, but thought it might be a helpful bit of information for someone else.


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A woman who fears the Lord. . .

It used to be that the men would go and study in the synagogues and come home and teach their wives and children–a woman didn’t get to read the Scriptures for herself during the week.  Then on Sundays (for the Christians) she would listen during the meeting and could ask her husband questions at home.  A woman could pray, and was expected to, but she couldn’t have what we now call a quiet time which includes Bible study.  She certainly would not lead a Bible study.  She would meditate on the Scriptures she had hidden in her heart during meetings and family worship times.

I am thankful that we as women have access to God’s word, but in some ways I think we are at a disadvantage when it comes to respecting and honoring our husbands.  I want my husband to lead me and teach me, but because I have been immersed in God’s word since I was a small girl he sometimes feels that he has nothing he can teach me, and I am tempted to try to teach him instead. . .because many of us work at home taking care of our families, we often have more time to study than our husbands do and that can make us feel spiritually superior to them. 

I am not saying that we should stop reading and studying our Bibles–I am so thankful I can read it, and have it available for teaching my children during the day when my husband is at work.  Proverbs makes it pretty clear that wives play a role alongside their husbands in the teaching of their children.  But it is so important for us to remember that a spiritual woman is not one who spends her day reading the Bible and praying to the neglect of her husband and children, and who then lords her spirituality over her husband.  I confess to being tempted by this throughout my marriage, and it is sin.  God is not pleased with my arrogance.  A spiritual woman obeys the word as she loves her husband and children, is self-controlled, pure, a worker in her home, kind, submissive to her own husband, is modest, has a gentle and quiet spirit, respects her husband, raises her children with faith, love and holiness, is faithful to do good works, is diligent instead of lazy, speaks only well of her husband and is trustworthy,  can guard her tongue, is hospitable and helps those in affliction. . .

Psalm 86:11 asks the Lord, “Teach me Your way, O Lord, that I may walk in Your truth; UNITE my heart to FEAR Your name.” My prayer for all of us is that our times of Bible study and meditation on truth will renew our minds so that we can serve our families the way God intends for us to. In this way we will defeat Satan’s intentions for our family, and this is spiritual indeed!  Proverbs says the virtuous woman is one who fears the Lord and her description in chapter 31 is of a hard working, loving wife who honors her husband in all her words and actions, doing him good all the days of her life, caring for the needs of her family and the poor, teaching with wisdom and kindness–she supports her husband, with no thought for herself or her own glory, so he can succeed in the role God has given him as an elder in the land.

Father, unite my heart to fear You so that I will obey Your command to respect, honor and submit to my husband.  Make me the helper he needs so he can devote himself to the calling you’ve placed on his life.  Thank you that it is spiritual to serve in my home and in my church family and that when I do this I give no opportunity to Satan for slander.  Please keep me from being deceived by Satan’s lies.  Help me to believe Your word and obey and love You with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.


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Sewing for Sarah

Rob encouraged me to follow through on learning to sew, and specifically asked me to sew a skirt for Sarah.  The result is this straight fitted skirt with side zipper, side vent, facing finish at the waist and darts.  I kind of threw myself into the pool in order to learn to swim, I mean sew.  This is a very formal skirt, and Sarah has to sit like a lady when she wears it.  🙂  My next project will be a play skirt.

 


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Rising Early

I was so blessed to be able to go to a ladies study, tonight, with some good friends.  The topic was from the book, Shopping For Time by Carolyn Mahaney and her three daughters–The First Tip: Rise Up Early.

We talked about the selfishness we often engage in when we stay up late doing what we want to do instead of getting a full night’s rest so we can  rise early to spend time with the Lord and serve our family effectively the next day.  It reminded me of something I wrote last year:

Too much time for me is too much of a good thing.

Like too much food:

In the proper portion I am refreshed and strengthened;

But when I exceed that I become sluggish, lazy, fat.

What begins as a tool to help me serve my family better

becomes an all day feast of selfish pursuits.

Self-control is what I lack

against chocolate cake, potato chips, and all the books I want to read

right NOW and not tomorrow,

and all the writing I would do. . .

Self-discipline, patience, gratefulness for the time I am allotted–I need these.

Proverbs 25:16, 27 say, “Have you found honey?  Eat only as much as you need, lest you be filled with it and vomit. . . .It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.”

Going to bed on time is an area I have been dealing with for over a year, since Rob has been working late most nights on our remodel.  It is hard for me to go to bed at my goal time of 9:30 when he is not here to keep me accountable.  I’ve been taking it one night at a time, praying that God will help me to have self-discipline in this area.  I’ve also been trying not to take naps, even when I am really tired, because then I definitely have a hard time going to bed on time.  I don’t need a lot of sleep, but I seem to function best if I get to sleep by 9:30 or 10:00, and then get up early. 

After tonight’s discussion I am even more motivated to pursue this.  I came home with good intentions and I did follow through–but I think my hormones are doing crazy things tonight and I am really cold and can’t sleep.  I thought maybe I had a fever, but I took a temp and my temp is low.  I’ve jogged in place, eaten a snack, bundled up in warm layers, and prayed for everyone I could think of.  I even drank a hot mineral drink with magnesium before I went to bed (magnesium usually helps me sleep).  I have three patches on my back with various chemicals on them to test for allergies.  I wonder if that has anything to do with it?  I get those off tomorrow.  Maybe I will sleep better.

I will try again tomorrow. 

We went over some discussion questions that you may find helpful–

1) What are the obstacles in your life (unique challenges or lazy habits) that make it difficult for you to rise early?

2) Does your current wake-up time allow for sufficient time to meet with God?  What effect do you think rising early would have on your spiritual life?

3) Are you aware of any ways you could serve your family better by rising early?

I like this quote from John Piper, which was in Shopping For Time:

I earnesty recommend that it [Bible reading and prayer] be in the early morning, unless there are some extenuating circumstances.  Entering our day without a serious meeting with God, over His word and in prayer, is like entering the battle without tending to our weapons.  The human heart does not replenish itself with sleep.  The body does, but not the heart. . . .We replenish our hearts not with sleep, but with the Word of God.

I’ve often thought about how Jesus went to the mountain to pray while it was very early, before other people were up and needing His ministry.  He made private conversation with His Father a priority, but He did it at a time when the people were not seeking His attention.  I try to follow His example as I serve my family each day.  Unfortunately, I am often tempted to allow other things of lesser value than prayer distract me from serving the precious lives God has placed into my care.  “Too much time for me. . .”