Five years ago I was blessed with twin boys. Babies 6 and 7 came into the world after 17 hours of fruitless labor which ended in a c-section where the anesthesia didn’t take and the doctor didn’t listen when I told him I wasn’t numb. He made the first two incisions in spite of decided protest from me. But mercifully the anesthesiologist standing at my head swung into quick action and put me out of my misery for the remainder of the delivery.
I awoke confused and disoriented but grateful. However, the toll of a difficult pregnancy, traumatic delivery and a body that was depleted of natural vigor had worn me to the ground. A few days later, I returned home with my arms full and my nerves frayed. The following four years were a constant volley of health crises and doctor’s offices, including an ambulance ride and two surgical procedures.
I was a mess. Hanging by a thread.
Exhausted and desperate, I clung to my desire to find the path to better health. And because we serve a God who hears every plea, my desire was realized. I began studying what true health means and what it entails. I opened myself up to change because without it I knew I was handing over years of my life without so much as a fight.
This morning I want to share with you 8 ways I have spent the last year growing toward improved health and restored vigor. Eight simple ways I’ve taken my life back by the grace of a loving God.
And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
A cleaned up diet
This step was a gradual one, but it has likely produced the greatest dividends. I went through my pantry and eliminated processed, prepackaged foods. I got rid of sugars and artificial sweetners. I gathered some solid, healthful cookbooks and experimented over time with many recipes. I refused diets or gimmicks or the elimination of any nutrition group. I studied the diet originally intended for man before sin entered the realm of our existence, affecting everything right down to the food on our table. And when my husband received a dire report on his own health, following a mandatory physical and blood panel through his work, I had a partner in the process. His main-stream doctor recommended a primarily plant-based diet, which served as validation for the path I was already on.
We haven’t counted calories, followed strict plans, or otherwise boxed ourselves into anything we couldn’t sustain for life. We’ve simply chosen to eat mindfully and healthfully without obsessing over it, and the Lord has blessed tremendously. Pounds have dropped, our minds have cleared, sleep has improved and energy has multiplied.
Increased water intake
I’ve known for years I should be drinking more water, but I was a soda addict. And water doesn’t hold a lot of appeal when it’s competing with carbonated sugar in a can. So hand-in-hand with my journey to learn to partake of this cleansing, purifying, clear liguid from the heavens, I had to face my addiction head-on. And by placing it in God’s hands, and choosing to tap into the self-control He bestowed upon me, I’ve escaped the clutches of the can and embraced the wonder of water. The difference is visible in everything from my skin to the swelling that has disappeared allowing me to wear my wedding band again.
This part is my favorite. Not because I’m one that loves exercise, per say. But because I like the way I feel following it. Though honestly, in the process of time, I have come to enjoy the feeling of strength that comes with doing that which I couldn’t even imagine before. My stamina has improved ten-fold. The aches and pains have disappeared. My back– which was weakened by 7 pregnancies, poor posture, toting toddlers and three abdominal surgeries–has grown stronger. My stiff and painful joints give me no trouble anymore. And, coupled with my improved diet, I’ve shed nearly 30 pounds since the early spring of this year.
I should mention that I’m not killing myself or taking exercise to an extreme. My husband and children got me a Fitbit for Mother’s Day and I’ve been striving to meet my step goal every day. This has been accomplished through lots of walking with my family and an occasional T-tapp video for strengthening and rehabilitation. My husband and I even began running a few times a week, which seemed like an impossibility before I laced up my shoes for that first run back in June. We follow an app which took us from short, 30 second spurts of running interspersed with walking, to where now we do run/sprint intervals for about 5 miles without walking at all, just 4 months later. It’s truly amazing the work God will do when we cooperate with Him.
Adequate, quality rest
This is a big one but it’s also where I slip up the most. Because I am a wife and mother to 8 children spread over a span of 17 years, my time is in hot demand. In order to spend time alone with the Lord, I have no choice but to rise very early. But I also have older teenagers (the oldest will turn 19 this month while my second-born is standing on the threshold of 18) and they tend to open up at night. It’s hard, and probably ill-advised, to turn away from a teen who wants to share their heart with you, regardless of the hour, and many nights I get less than the 7-8 hours of sleep I function best on. But I do make the effort to get to bed as close to 9 each night as I can (earlier if possible though it’s sometimes much later) and I rise somewhere between 3-4am most mornings, depending on how late I was up the night before. I’d love more sleep and I have no doubt my health would improve even more if I were able to get it, but I’m not willing to give up my quiet time with God or to turn my back on kids who want my ear and my heart.
Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.Proverbs 3:7-8
We take for granted how healing good, fresh air is. We’ve come to center our lives inside homes or buildings where we unknowingly breathe in and touch recycled germs regularly. The open air is absolutely free and filling our lungs with it pays in huge reward. Even on a day filled with housework and homeschool and the hustle of a hundred other things demanding my attention, I escape to my porch to breathe in great gulps of air. But getting outside for gardening, yard work or exercise is most ideal to capitalize on this incredible source of health.
Another underutilized element of good health and well-being is that great, big ball of light in the sky. Germ-fighting, immune-boosting, Vitamin D-producing rays burst forth from it in a healing display of glorious splendor. Obviously, I’m not suggesting we should bake ourselves in it, but we should definitely be striving to get our daily dose of its goodness.
Temperance in all things
To be temperate means to exercise self-control. To use common sense. To live out the divine pattern. Which means we shouldn’t be either too loose or too restrictive with our diet, too intense or too slack with our physical activity, too busy or too distracted with our study of the Word, too rushed for prayer, and we shouldn’t get too little or too much sleep. Temperance is about balance and balance is too often overlooked and underappreciated. If you’re having trouble finding it, make it an matter of prayer, trusting the promise that He answers the door to every earnest knocker.
An intentionally sought-after relationship with the Creator
Which brings me to the cement of health and healing. The mortar between the bricks.
Because all the elements we’ve talked about here mean little, and nothing at all from an eternal perspective, if we don’t know Him. He is the lock to the life-giving source of each component of good physical health…and He also holds the key.
Unfortunately, this is where we get things mixed up. We feel like we have to get our lives in order before we come to Him. Or we feel we need to clean ourselves up before we surrender ourselves into His hands. Or we feel we need to lose weight or get in better shape or get out of the baby-phase with our kids or have a less demanding job before we can carve out time to meet with Him. When in fact, those are all lies.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.1 Corinthians 6:19-20
We come to Him first. We seek Him out before anything else. We make Him top-priority and He’ll show us how to prioritize the rest. And knowing He’s a God of order and perfect health who has established that we are to be temples for the Living God (Holy Spirit), we should be compelled to take seriously the care of those temples.
Because good health and a close connection with God were intended to go hand in hand.