how to survive in an out-of-control world

I recently heard someone say that they’ve experienced the thirty-day trial of 2021 and they’d like a refund.

The world has changed so rapidly in the past year. It is cause for concern, fear, and even grief, as we ponder the effects of those changes not only on ourselves, but also on our children and grandchildren. Our nation has been transformed in ways we don’t recognize and never thought possible – or at least never thought possible -in such a short amount of time. Things are chaotic, tumultuous, and turbulent.

For survivors of 2020, 2021 has started out much the same, and the struggle to put one foot in front of the other and forge ahead can be a challenge.

What can we do when things seem out of control? Here are some suggestions:

Pray often. Prayer is critical, and not a once-a-day event. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 reminds us to “pray without ceasing”. The good news is that God is available to hear those prayers 24/7 without fail.

Immerse yourself in the Bible and hide His Word in your heart. If our Bibles were taken from us tomorrow, would we have enough of it hidden in our hearts? What if we made it a goal to dive deeper into the precious words of Scripture more often and more fully than we ever have?

Church is crucial. Fellowship with other believers is essential. Make both a priority.

When things are stressful and unmanageable, focus on God’s promises. (I will be posting another installment of The Scripture Series on God’s Promises in the coming weeks).

Cherish your family members. Love them well, appreciate them, cling to them, and realize they walk through the same challenges in this topsy-turvy world.

Be selective about which headlines and articles you read. Hibernating, avoiding all happenings in the world around us, or playing ostrich is never a good idea. We need to be aware of what is going on in our world, but not take it to the extreme. Read from sources you know are based on honesty, not on an agenda.

In addition, be vigilant about what you allow into your mind. Not everything you read or listen to is true. More importantly, not everything you read or listen to is pleasing to God. Practice discernment.

Engage, but don’t make it an idol. I am a firm believer that Christians should engage in politics. In a world that, among other things, seeks to attack religious liberties and deems the killing of the pre-born acceptable, we need to stand for the right to worship God and for the value of all life. And we need to elect those who will do the same. If something grieves our Heavenly Father, it should grieve us. Contact your local, state, and federal legislators about issues of concern. Run for office. Pray that God would place godly men and women in positions of authority. Just remember not to allow politics to consume you.

Avoid the lure of constant 24/7 social media. While there is nothing wrong with social media (I will be the first to tell you that I love social media and have accounts on several platforms), the key is not to allow it to become an idol or something that takes you away from the important things of life. Checking it a few times a day is fine. Being tethered to it isn’t.

Turn off the cell phone/computer an hour before bedtime. Finish nightly duties, then spend the remainder of your time before bed reading the Bible. I guarantee you will find peace.

Don’t suffer alone. Spend time talking with a mentor – a spiritually mature person who can pray with and for you and help you navigate the ongoings of this chaotic world with a focus on the Lord.

Spend time listening to godly podcasts. Several people have told me in recent weeks that they are hungrier than ever for godly counsel and Bible-based teaching (and many are not getting that need met). Bible-focused podcasts that put God’s Truth above all else provide encouragement and remind us in Whom we place our faith. Again, practice discernment.

Journal your thoughts, worries, and concerns – then turn them over to the Lord.

Take care of yourself. Do your best to eat healthy foods, get sufficient sleep, and find time to exercise. Go outside and soak up sunshine, even on a chilly day. It will do wonders for your mood.

There is hope. Our lives, while affected greatly by the world around us, are not defined by it. Rather, they are defined by the One who holds the seat of highest honor today, tomorrow, and eternally. May we not only continually and permanently fix our eyes on Jesus, but also rest in our Heavenly Father’s arms where peace reigns.

___________________

Other posts on this blog that you may enjoy:

the importance of new beginnings

the importance of perseverance

for such a time as this: finding stability in an unstable world

28 verses for uncertain times

15 verses for strength in challenging times

you might be a homeschooling mom if…

the importance of teaching our kids to think for themselves

Movie Monday: Flying High for the Glory of God

Movie Monday: Unplanned

what to stock up on this winter

All of the craziness of 2020, including the pandemic and social unrest, certainly plays into the fact that it’s always wise to have some extra food/supplies on hand. I’m not talking about being a hoarder, stockpiling, or going into panic mode. Far from it. Rather, I’m talking about being prepared in case there are a few months in which you are unable to get to the store or the store shelves are bare. Or there are more forced lockdowns and quarantines and travel to the store isn’t an option.

Most of us remember not too long ago when we experienced the bitter taste of socialism as we visited our local grocery store only to discover certain items being rationed, or that some items were indefinitely out of stock. I remember that first time my heart lurched as I gazed at shelf after shelf at our largest grocery store, only to find a few stray dried pinto beans, rice kernels, a few miscellaneous dented cans, and nothing more in several of the aisles.

Of course we will always remember the craziness of the toilet paper caper (and truly, some of that panic was ridiculous) and the fact that cleaning wipes and hand sanitizer were obsolete. But in my neck of the woods, other things were difficult to find as well. Milk and butter were rationed and tortillas and any type of Mexican food (salsa, hot sauce, etc.) had disappeared. Cheese (admittedly one of my favorite foods) couldn’t be found. I honestly thought the cows had gone on strike. Potatoes were a luxury item.

My mom told me just the other day that toilet paper in her town (20 miles from a major metro area) had again been rationed to one pack per person. Hopefully, we aren’t going to go down this route again.

The Lord tells us in His Word not to worry about what we will eat. He reminds us that the birds of the air don’t worry about what they will eat or drink and we are worth much more to Him that the sparrows. (Matthew 6:25-34).

However, I believe God desires us to use the common sense that He gave us. We should have food in the refrigerator and pantry for times when it might not be readily available to us. Or times when we might need to help someone less fortunate. And emergency preparedness is always a good idea.

One of my favorite things to do is to purchase extra when one of our smaller local grocery stores has their “case lot sale”. These extras can be used for food drives, which are especially prevalent around Christmas. These extras can also be donated to friends or family who may have fallen on hard times and need extra food to carry them to the next paycheck.

According to some experts, it’s always a wise idea to have at least a month’s worth of items in your pantry. Here are some suggestions:

Perishables:

Frozen fruits (strawberries, raspberries, bananas, blueberries, mixed fruit)

Frozen vegetables (peas, corn, green beans, spinach)

Meat (chicken, beef, deer, fish, turkey)

Potatoes

Butter

Canned goods:

Corn, peas, green beans, and other vegetables

Peaches, pears, pumpkin, applesauce pineapple, and other canned fruits

Canned meat (tuna, chicken, ham)

Canned beans in several varieties (pinto, black, refried, baked, lima)

Canned juices

Soup

Broth

Chili

Non-perishables:

Oats, healthy breakfast cereals (including some that do not need to necessarily have milk to be eaten)

Popcorn

Jelly and jam

Granola bars, crackers, and other snacks

Sunflower and pumpkin seeds, almonds, peanuts, and mixed nuts

Raisins

Peanut butter or sunbutter if allergies to peanuts

Canned or boxed milk

Honey

Flour, sugar, and other baking items

Egg replacer

Canned spaghetti, Raviolis, and tamales

Beef jerky

Noodles

Rice

Dry beans in several varieties

Baby food

Tortillas

Bread (which can also be frozen)

Jars of salsa

Boxed meals

Ramen noodles

Bottled water

Ketchup, mustard, salad dressing, and other condiments

Bottled juices

Medical items:

Three months’ worth of prescription medicines

Three months’ worth of vitamins and supplements (especially important are a multi, C, B complex, D, zinc, and a probiotic, but check with your doctor before supplementing).

Acetaminophen, ibuprofen (including these items for children if necessary)

aspirin (if needed)

allergy medicine (i.e., Benadryl)

Other items:

Dental floss, toothpaste, lotion, hand sanitizer and/or hand wipes, laundry detergent, toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, and women’s hygiene products.

Hand soap, dish soap, dishwashing soap or modules, and detergent.

Cleaning wipes, bleach, and other cleaning supplies.

Lip balm

Deodorant

Tissues

Bandaids and gauze

Diapers

Garbage bags

Batteries

Pet food

Candles and a lighter

Personal water filter (such as Lifestraw)

One-time medical item purchases (always good to have on hand in case of illness):

Thermometer

Oximeter

Battery-operated blood pressure cuff

Heating pad

Ice pack

Be Koool forehead sheets for fever (these literally made a huge difference when I was sick with the worst flu this past January).

First aid kit (be sure to check periodically for expiring items).

***

It’s no stretch of the imagination that 2020 will go down as one of the most bizarre, unsettled, and perhaps even scary years in recent history. It’s never a bad idea to be prepared.

Other blog articles that may be of interest:

how to instill in your children the importance of voting

who are you behind the screen?

7 ingredients for creating the perfect character

Sunbutter and Chocolate Fudge Bars

Movie Monday: Hailey Dean 3-Film Collection

how to instill in your children the importance of voting

Voting has always been an important part of our family’s heritage. My grandma, Nanie, was the trusted investigator for our entire extended family, which included five families, all with the same political leanings.

Months before the election, Nanie would thoroughly investigate to determine which candidates in all of the races, from local, to state, to federal, espoused our same belief system in the things that were important to our families. My mom and dad showed my siblings and me the importance of voting, as neither ever missed an election and a chance to exercise their freedom and privilege of voting.

So how do we model the importance of voting to our children or grandchildren?

  • It’s never too early. From an early age, let your children go with you when you vote, if possible. My girls, from the time they were in our double baby-jogger stroller, accompanied me to the voting venue.
  • Express your beliefs and values with your children. Discuss the criticality of voting for those who share your morals and beliefs. What’s most important to you? Where do you stand on life vs. abortion? The Second Amendment? Religious liberties? Taxes? The role of government? What type of candidate do you want to see in the role of leadership? Why?
  • Encourage your children to ask questions. When they are adults, they will have their own opinions, but you can set the foundation for the values you hope they will emulate.
  • Don’t shy away from the hard questions. Your kids are growing up in an increasingly difficult and hostile world. Things we’ve never seen before have suddenly become commonplace. Don’t be afraid to open up the lines of communication, especially with tweens and teens.
  • Go over the sample ballot with them. Our local newspaper prints a sample ballot each election year. Our family sits at the dining room table and discusses the objectives of the candidates, based on public forums, debates, and their websites. Our daughters weigh in on who they would vote for if given the chance.
  • Engage in a mock election. When I taught Constitutional Literacy at our local homeschool co-op three years ago, we had a mock election on everything from the president to the city council. We conducted it like a real election – discussing the candidates’ views on the hot-button issues. Each of my students voted in private. We then tallied the scores and watched in coming weeks to see how closely they resembled the real outcome.
importance of voting 2.png

Modeling truth and aligning your beliefs with the Word of God is critical. When your children are grown, they will make their own decisions. What they choose is not up to you, but how you give them the tools to make the right choices is.

Nanie still thoroughly investigates all the candidates and gives us updates, although now her five children, 11 adult grandchildren, and numerous great-grandchildren (eight of whom are adults) all live spread throughout the United States. I’m thankful for the time she took then and now to ensure we knew the importance of voting.

Other posts on this blog you may enjoy:

the importance of voting

14 things for girls to consider before dating

why I’m proud to be an American

6 suggestions for getting through the rough times of life

what’s in a name?

14 things for girls to consider before dating

14 things for girls to consider

As a mom of daughters, we’ve had many great discussions about things to consider before they choose to date someone.

Everyone will have their own personal likes/dislikes. For example, my girls have mentioned they would never date someone who has a man bun, wears skinny jeans, or has body piercings.

While hair and clothing styles and body piercings are all a matter of preference, some things are non-negotiable, and while we need to remember no one is perfect, being aware of the following attributes (or lack thereof) will help you make a more informed choice before you choose to date someone.

Below are 14 things to consider before dating that cute guy.

1. How is his faith walk? Is he growing in Christ? Is he living out his faith? Is he unashamed of his faith? Does he pray with and for you? Is his faith an important part of his life? Does he “walk the walk and talk the talk”?

Romans 12 2

2. How does he spend his time? We have become a world obsessed with technology. While that’s not bad in and of itself, if you are contemplating dating someone who has an addiction to video games or is constantly on his phone or social media, you might want to think twice about whether there would be any room in his life for you. As a matter of fact, a name has been given to cell phone addiction: “nomophobia”. According to techjury.net, “66% of the world’s population shows signs of nomophobia.” And gaming and cell phone addiction aren’t the only addictions to be wary of.

And while video games, social media, and time spent on a cell phone are fine in moderation, look for someone who spends his spare time doing productive things.

3. What is his standard for music, books, and movies? What does he allow to fill his mind? What does he allow his eyes to see and his ears to hear? What goes in will come out in his attitude, personality, and the way he treats others.

4. Speaking of how he treats others, how does he treat…

Your family? A guy who wants nothing to do with your family is a guy to avoid. In addition, a guy who won’t allow you to spend time with your family could have possessive and abusive tendencies.

His family? Some people come from dysfunctional homes, and as such, the guy you are considering dating may not be close to his family. That is tough and there are many logistics involved in that. But is your potential boyfriend respectful to his family? Does he care about their wellbeing? You can be estranged and still care about those you are not close to.

Children? It has been said many times that how a guy treats little children and babies is a huge indicator of the type of person he is. Is he hateful, rude, and sees little ones as a burden? Does he believe babies should be aborted because they aren’t worthy of living? Notice how he treats not only your siblings and his siblings, but also children at functions, such as church.

The elderly? Does he view them as precious creations of God or as wasting society’s resources?

Animals?  Your potential guy doesn’t have to be a dog or cat lover to be kind to animals. But you don’t want to date someone who mistreats or abuses animals.

5. How does he treat you when you can’t do anything for him? Does he take care of you when you are sick? Is he there for you?

6. How does he handle disagreements? Does he withdraw, get into a raging fight, or blame everything on you? Guaranteed that if you date (and later marry!) anyone for any length of time, you will have disagreements. It’s natural for two people to not see eye-to-eye on every subject. How he handles conflict speaks volumes.

7. How is his work ethic? Is he lazy and unmotivated? Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, a workaholic?

8. Is he loyal? Will he defend your honor?

9. Is he honest? Does he keep his word? Does he do what he says he’ll do? Is he honest when speaking with authorities?

10. Does he have a servant’s heart? There are multiple ways to serve others and it’s not a one-size-fits-all. But is he using his gifting to make the lives of others better?

1 Peter 4 10

11. How does he handle your concerns or fears? Lightly? With care?

12. Does he respect you? Or does he coerce, guilt-trip, pressure, or force you to do things that are against your convictions, make you uncomfortable, and/or aren’t safe?

13. Does he show any signs of an abusive temperament? In other words, how does he treat those he is no longer friends with or girls he formerly dated?

One thing my daughters and I have discussed often is the high rate of abuse suffered by young women in “romantic” relationships. A horrifying statistic from the website loveisrespect.org states “Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year”. Further, “Nearly half (43%) of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors”. The rise of cyber abuse has contributed to the problem.

As a mom, this frightens me more than I can express. We can’t see all of the warning signs in a potential abuser, but we can be aware that abuse does exist and be on the lookout.

14. How is his overall character and integrity? One of my favorite quotes is that assessing one’s integrity is done by seeing what they do when no one is looking.

C.S. Lewis

Webster’s defines integrity as “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty”. Character and integrity are crucial and a huge part of someone’s personality. Does your potential boyfriend stand for what is right?

Stand even if alone

In our house, we put an emphasis on intentional dating. Not dating just to date, but rather seriously contemplating who to date and whether that person could be a potential long-term prospect. This helps to “weed out” those who could never be potential mates for a variety of reasons, and helps eliminate the emotions, heartbreak, and problems that arise from failed “romantic” relationships.

 

 

Other posts on this blog that you may enjoy reading:

4 ways to reconnect with your spouse

10 ways to help your kids choose good role models

Looking to homeschool? Here are 7 things to consider.

7 tips to help safeguard against an entitlement attitude in your kids

Movie Monday: Chronicle Mysteries – Recovered

 

surviving shingles – part 2

surviving shingles pt2

Thank you for joining me for part two of my experience with shingles. To read Part One, please go here.

Today is Day 20. My rash is nearly gone in some places and scabbing over and fading in others. The shingles journey is definitely not for an impatient person (the average length is 3-5 weeks). Every day, I rush to the mirror to see the progress God is making in healing my body. He has brought me so far. Just a quick glance at the pictures from those first days is evidence.

I still have intermittent pain and now my scabbed-over rash has started to itch. But I am doing so, so much better.

There are several things I’ve learned about this illness. Again, I am not a medical professional, so please be sure to check with your doctor before trying any of the listed items.

Use a cold compress. Placing a cool (not frozen) compress on the rash several times a day has worked well for me for pain management, especially in most recent days.

Wear loose and comfortable clothing. After this journey is over, I will definitely never again take for granted being able to wear whatever I want.

Make an appearance. Since shingles can make you feel so lousy, an important thing I have found to do is to be sure to get dressed, fix my hair, and put on some makeup each morning. This can do wonders for your esteem when you already feel crummy.

Do things to take your mind off the pain. As a writer, more than anything, I have been yearning to work on my current novel. Unfortunately, due to the location of my polka-dots (as I call my shingles) it’s difficult (but getting easier!) to sit in one position for long. However, writing takes my mind off the shingles, as does reading, watching a movie with my family, listening to my favorite Christian music playlist, and spending time sitting outside in the fresh air, surrounded by my flower pots (added bonus).

Continue to gradually build up to where you were before that fateful day. In my first post, I mentioned that I was walking each day and doing minimal stretches. I have worked my way up to walking further and to twice a day with plenty of rest in between.

Today, for the first time in three weeks, I actually took this one step further. As a group fitness instructor, I was on the schedule to teach my cycling class today. With my doctor’s permission, I taught class – low impact for me and the usual high impact for my class. For the rest of the week, I will take it easy and continue with my walking. Next Monday and Wednesday, I again teach. I am hoping by gently easing into teaching again, I will be able to progress and not regress.

Keep clinging to God. The odd thing that I have discovered about shingles is that you can feel better for a portion of the day and then zing! The pain reminds you it’s not yet gone for good. My pain has definitely been alleviating and I find myself taking less Tylenol than when I first started, but at times (especially at night) it rears its ugly head again. It’s a good reminder to me to continue to cling to God for comfort and strength as He continues to heal me. And just to humbly add – I have had a few tearful moments through all this, so if you’ve had some of those moments too, you’re not alone.

Psalm 145 18a

Be careful about what you allow into your mind. Trust me on this one, as I’m also talking to myself when I say this. There are some nasty things that can happen with shingles. Don’t be an internet warrior and go looking for them. Instead, at your doctor’s visit (or subsequent phone call with a nurse or other medical professional), ask what things would necessitate an emergency or, at the very least, a return visit to their office.  They will temper their response so its helpful, but not scary. By Googling things on our own, sometimes we can find the worst of the worst. This doesn’t help. It only causes anxiety and fear, something we need to avoid, especially since stress makes shingles worse. Curious about something? Have a trusted family member look it up for you and see if it even applies to your situation.

Continue to get lots of rest. Oh, but there are so many things I need to be doing right now! Yes, I’m definitely behind on many things, but my family graciously reminds me that I’m not going to get better if I don’t rest (very hard for this active girl!). Even if we’re feeling better, we need to continue to take it easy. Our bodies will thank us for it.

Have a good support system. I am so grateful to have a family who cares about and for me. Not only do I have an amazing immediate family, but my extended family reaches out to me daily to check on and encourage me. They all, in addition to my church family, have been praying for me. We can never collect too many prayers.

So what do you do if you live alone? I would encourage you to connect with family members, friends, and/or your church. No one should have to go through shingles alone.

Pray fervently. I have prayed for four things consistently during my shingles journey. They are that no one else in my family would get this (especially my parents and other older relatives), that I would heal completely and not have the permanent pain that can affect some shingles sufferers, that God would change me through this for the better so that I may be used mightily for His Kingdom, and that He would be glorified through this (sometimes) frightening trial. Prayer is effective and it works.

Shingles are just bizarre. The burning, tingling, zapping, throbbing, intense pain is like nothing else. Big thanks (not!) to the reactivation of the varicella-voster virus, the one that gave us chickenpox when we were kids. It makes the top 10 lists of the most painful conditions, gives us several weeks of grief, and then, in some cases, can re-emerge (ummm, no thanks!).

So as I conclude the almost three-week mark, thank you again for joining me. Continue to hang in there. We will get through this!

 

Other posts on this blog that you may enjoy:

surviving shingles – part 1

outside-the-box homeschool ideas

Movie Monday: Beautifully Broken

the importance of new beginnings

 

 

surviving shingles – part 1

surviving shingles pt1

The most unexpected thing happened to me recently.

Totally unforeseen, unanticipated, and totally not on my radar.

As a matter of fact, I thought the soreness I felt a day before the onset was due to overdoing it while lifting weights or spending too much time at the gun range with my husband.

My diagnosis begged an answer to  the question: aren’t I too young for shingles?

Apparently not.

If you’ve ever had shingles, you know that it can be some of the worst pain you will ever experience. It’s a burning, searing, stabbing and unrelenting pain that gets a grip on you and doesn’t let go.

For those of you who have had shingles or are perhaps going through them right now, I hope this blog post offers you some comfort.

2 Corinthians 1 3-4

I am not a health care provider or a medical professional; the following items are merely things that have worked for me as I continue down this trek of surviving the shingles virus. Please check with your doctor before trying any of the following suggestions to be sure they are right for you.

Cling to God.

My first night with shingles was a nightmare. I still wasn’t sure of my diagnosis, only that instead of sleep, a pain like I’d never known invaded the left and back sides of my neck and my collar bone. Tears streamed down my face in the middle of the night, as I sought peace while calling upon comforting Scripture verses. I prayed that God would help me with whatever was going on, as my sweet husband clutched my hand and prayed over me. I’m not sure how people make it without the Lord during times of trial.

Get diagnosed.

My oldest daughter and I Googled rashes (by Friday morning, I had four blisters) and came to the conclusion I had shingles. My chiropractor confirmed it when I headed to his office for an adjustment in hopes of helping the unrelenting pain. By Friday afternoon, my blisters had multiplied from my left upper chest up around my neck, my jawline, my upper arm, and around the back of my neck and into my hairline. The fatigue and flu-like symptoms, including a sore throat, ear pain, and fever, added to my discomfort.

A few hours later, I was in my primary care doctor’s office with a prescription for Valtrex. While I am one who tends more toward natural therapies, taking the Valtrex soon after being diagnosed was a very wise decision. I have also been taking Tylenol and Ibuprofen for the pain.

Realize shingles affect everyone differently.

Some I have spoken to have said their shingles weren’t too severe, but for the majority I have talked with, their shingles were a horrific nightmare they don’t soon want to remember. And no, it doesn’t just attack the elderly. Three people I know shared with me that they had succumbed to the shingles virus while in their 20s.

Get rest.

There is no way around this one. You have to rest when you have shingles. Even if you have a mild case, get lots of rest and take time to heal so there are no complications. It’s said that this virus can last 3-5 weeks, and for some people even longer.

Do an assessment.

As I mentioned previously, shingles were not on my radar. How on earth could a healthy girl like myself get it?

Well…apparently stress can contribute. So I decided to do an assessment. Besides the many hats I wear: wife, mom, homeschool mom, author, volunteer, group fitness instructor, blogger, etc., I had also had some pretty serious stress in the past six months. In mid-January, my oldest daughter and I came down with the worst flu we’d ever experienced that lasted a month with lingering fatigue continuing an additional two weeks. Job furloughs and unemployment, a dental procedure that included an allergic reaction, a huge door swinging shut on me for a book project I had poured my heart into, and my youngest being rushed to the ER for what appeared to be a stroke added to my list of stressors. (Turns out she was having a horrific complex migraine – her first ever – and hopefully her last).

So do an assessment of where you’re at with stress. Covid-19 and all the upheavals currently taking place in our world are enough to cause anyone a sleepless night.

Be healthy.

In an effort to fight this virus, I adopted and continued with a list of healthy things I would be doing in the coming weeks. Some that have helped me are the following:

Supplements. Multi, C, E, D, zinc, B complex, and a good probiotic can be super helpful. For Optimal Daily Amounts, my personal go-to book is The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book by Shari Lieberman and Nancy Bruning.

Foods. Vegetables and fruits, such as sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, red/black grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkin and pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, berries, avocados etc. are all good choices. Avoid anything inflammatory, such as junk food, refined foods, and sugar.

Water. Stay well-hydrated.

Time with God. Spending time in His Word and a vibrant prayer life is a must for me. I am so dependent on His mercy and grace.

Prayers. I put myself on my church’s prayer chain and collected those prayers along with the faithful prayers of my immediate and extended family. Prayer works.

Sunshine. Plan on getting 10-15 minutes a day, preferably surrounded by nature.

Exercise. Gentle stretches and a short walk are a good start to building up to where you were before shingles.

Hugs. Studies have shown that hugs boost the immune system. My family is awesome about helping me fill my hug “quota” for the day.

Chiropractic care. It’s a good way to strengthen the immune system, and if you are fortunate to have a good chiropractor, he/she can be a wealth of information.

Just say no to stress. That includes taking a break from social media and the toxic news that currently surrounds us.

Sleep. A full night’s rest can be a challenge with the pain, so be sure to give yourself permission to take naps as necessary.

Don’t get discouraged.

I will humbly tell you that discouragement has knocked on my door a couple of times during this trial. As an active person not accustomed to not being busy, it has been difficult to not have the energy to do anything. And the pain? There is something called neuralgia that can stick with you long after the shingles are over. The thought scares me to death since my own sweet mom has severe chronic pain and is wheelchair-bound.

All this to say, discouragement will find you if you allow it. The second you take your eyes off Jesus, despair is there ready to accompany you through the day. Don’t let it.

discouragement - mom

Return your focus on our Lord and His promises. Remember Peter when he took his eyes off Jesus that day during the storm? He sank. We sink when we take our focus from the One who loves us so much He gave His Son for us.

To be continued…

I am officially on Day 13 of my shingles journey. I wish I could say I am completely healed. That I have no more neck, shoulder, and ear pain. No more fatigue.

But that’s not the case. While it has relented somewhat and I continue to get stronger everyday, I still have a ways to go. The pain and fatigue are ever present. But I’m hanging in there and am relying on God’s faithfulness to see me through this ordeal.

So all this to say that if you are going through shingles right now, hang in there. We will get through this!

 

 

 

 

5 do’s and don’ts when interacting with someone going through a difficult time

5 do and donts

Sometimes it’s challenging to know what to say and how to interact with someone going through a difficult time. Our well-meaning words and gestures can sometimes have the opposite effect of what we intend.

Here are five helpful tips for the next time you reach out to someone experiencing a tough situation.

  • Don’t share horror stories.

When Kara began to have pregnancy complications, most of the women who reached out to her offered valuable advice. However, one woman, who honestly thought she was being helpful, shared about all the difficulties she had while being pregnant, some were downright frightening. Unfortunately, such commentary only caused Kara to become more anxious.

Do be encouraging.

If someone you know is going through a health struggle that you yourself have been through, seek to be an encourager. Rather than sharing about the fearful things you experienced, listen with a heart full of empathy. “I can understand how you feel, as I’ve been there. Is there anything I can do to help you through this painful illness/disease?”

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  • Don’t share “too  good  to be true” stories.

Conversely, be aware that not everyone’s situation mimics yours. When Simon became ill with the worst case of influenza he’d ever experienced, it was difficult for him to be laid up and unable to do his job as a personal trainer. His cousin, while likely trying to be optimistic, shared that a guy he knew healed in a far lesser time than Simon was taking to heal and had fewer complications.

Do be compassionate.

Remember that not everyone heals in the same manner or in the same time frame. Our bodies have all been designed differently, and some bodies heal more quickly or more slowly than others. Rather than offer comparisons, offer to run errands or ask in what way you can assist.

  • Don’t put on the guilt trip.

When Mike lost his job and struggled with depression, a well-intentioned neighbor offered the unsolicited advice that if only Mike had a stronger faith, he would already have another job and would certainly not be dealing with depression. Mike began to doubt his faith and struggled with the question of why God hadn’t helped him with the depression or in finding another job so he could support his family. The guilt trip caused  him to slink further into despair.

Do offer to pray with and for someone who is struggling.

Offer to listen, without judgment, when someone facing a trial needs to talk. Even those with strong faith can have struggles, suffer from depression and anxiety, and go through serious trials. In Mike’s case, offering to keep an ear out for job leads would have been much more helpful.

  • Don’t force your “remedies”.

Laura’s breast cancer came as an utter surprise. She’d always figured she was in good health and had no cancer in her family history. Working with a wide range of medical professionals, Laura began a treatment course that she felt, after much prayer, was best suited to her. “While most people were supportive, I did have a couple of people who thought that if I would just try their supplements or oils, I would be healed in an instant. While I have always been one to try a more holistic approach to illnesses, this situation was a bit different for me, and I tried a mixture of conventional, as well, as holistic therapies. When someone is struggling with a serious, possibly even terminal illness, it never helps to force your remedies on them with unrealistic claims that may not work.”

Do give an open-ended suggestion.

Many times, those of us who truly love the health field and are knowledgeable about certain issues are eager to offer a single solution as the only way. While there is definitely nothing wrong with sharing your wisdom and confidence in remedies you have found helpful, your method of delivery is key. Supporting the person in their choices is imperative. If you do have an alternative idea, phrase it in a thoughtful and less insistent way.

  • Don’t make it all about you.

When Melinda’s husband suffered a heart attack with a lengthy recovery, she never expected to be at odds with a friend over it. “My friend told me how hurt she was that I wasn’t there to help her move into her new house. There just wasn’t anything left of me to give. I was already caregiving for my husband and managing all of my regular household duties, along with a full-time job. I know she was hurt that I wasn’t able to give her the assistance she needed, but it came off like it was all about her.”

Do make it all about them. When tough times arrive, whether it be health issues, a divorce, loss of a loved one, or loss of employment, people need to know you care. They need to know that you are praying for them, looking out for their best interests, and will do whatever is necessary to partner with them in getting through the trial.

Theodore Roosevelt

Before you talk with someone, pray that God would guide your tongue so you can offer truly helpful advice that will encourage and not hinder. When tough times arrive, the best blessing you can give is to let someone know you are there and are praying for them.

 

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13 ways to help someone going through a difficult time

10 ways to help your kids choose good role models

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Movie Monday: Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Road Less Traveled

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5 ways to be happier

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We live in a challenging world. Bad things happening all around us – kidnappings, shootings, assaults, Christian persecution, severe weather, car accidents…and the list goes on. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to not get discouraged by the negativity that can be found at the touch of our fingertips via social media, news outlets, or on TV.

So how can we push past the dangers lurking behind every corner, the fears that overwhelm us, and the toxicity of our fallen world?

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.”

The website further states, that Major Depressive Disorder, or MDD, is”The leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.3…MDD affects more than 16.1 million American adults, or about 6.7%of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.”

Aside from the usual therapy options, including medication (because I am a firm believer that God allowed medicine to be created for those who truly need it), what can we do to take our focus off of the world around us and be happier? To find joy in the midst of all that is going on around us?

Here are five suggestions:

1. Spend more time with the Lord. Keep our eyes on Him. Rely on Him. Seek Him. Rejoice in Him. I can tell you from experience that the moment I take my eyes off Jesus, things take a turn. Set aside time, preferably each morning before you start the day, to dive into His Word, pray, and seek His guidance. The morning is the best time, as with all the busyness in daily life, this important action can quickly take a backseat to all of the other demands on our day.

Two of my biggest prayer requests during my morning quiet time with the Lord are that I would walk in a manner worthy of the calling He has placed on my life (Ephesians 4:1), and that I would be a blessing to my family first and foremost – and not only to them,  but also to others I encounter throughout my day.

For those of us who have made Jesus our Lord and Savior, this is not our home. Not our permanent home, anyway. Remembering that can put our circumstances and the bad things that happen around us in a different perspective.

2. Spend more time with our family and our close friends. Sometimes in the midst of employment, soccer practices, cell phones, and extracurricular activities, family time can be all but forgotten. Seek to spend more time with your family: your spouse and your children, and your close friends. Doing so makes for a much happier life. This can be as simple as going on walks, playing games, or just sitting down to talk. Whatever the method, your relationships will be strengthened, and you will find yourself with a lighter heart.

3. Spend more time putting others first. We are definitely happier when we put ourselves aside and seek to serve others. Doing nice things for someone, volunteering, and showing random acts of kindness can all add joy to our lives. According the HelpGuide website, “Volunteering is good for your mind and body”, and “Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life”, among many other benefits.

And you don’t have to commit to a huge volunteering project to reap the benefits of happiness, but rather pray that God would show you who you can assist each day, whether in big ways or small ways.

4. Spend more time in nature. Studies have shown that nature is important to our well-being. Who can stay crabby after being outside with the chirping birds, gentle breeze of the trees, and the warm sunshine? And summer isn’t the only time nature can make us happier. Just being outside in all seasons can improve our outlook on life. When we are out in God’s creation, our thoughts will center more on Him.

5. Spend more time exercising. Regular exercise can make us happier. According to an article on Livestrong, besides the usual health benefits, exercise “can also improve your mood, lift your spirits and make you feel better about yourself. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals that boost your sense of well-being and suppresses hormones that cause stress and anxiety.”

There are many more ways of gaining happiness. Rather than focusing on the world and it’s negativity, focus on God, family, and others.

5 ways to start your day off right

5 ways to start your day

You wake in the morning and fling open the curtains to find another beautiful sunshine-filled day. Perhaps you reach for a cup of coffee or head to the shower before tending to your job as a wife, mom, employee, or all of the above. Whatever your plans, be sure to do the following to start your day off right.

Drink a glass of water. According to the Livestrong website, there are several benefits of drinking water right after waking. And it’s a great way to start toward your daily hydration. I keep a bottled water on my nightstand for that very reason.

Spend time with God. Even before I open my eyes, I spend time in prayer thanking Him for giving me another day and praising Him that everyday His mercies are new. I ask Him to help me to be a blessing to others and then offer my prayer requests to Him. Immersing myself in His Word is my next plan of action.

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Spend time with your spouse and kids. My husband heads to work before 5:00 a.m.,  before I wake during the week. However, on the weekends, we spend some time together before embarking on our day.

As a mom, one of the things I do first thing during the week is to spend a few minutes one-on-one with each of my daughters. My youngest daughter loves to have everything planned out for the day, so that is one thing we discuss before praying and going our separate ways until breakfast. Speaking of breakfast…

Be sure to eat a healthy breakfast. On Thursday mornings, I teach an early cycling class, so time is more crunched than the rest of the days of the week. However, being sure I get a good breakfast helps start the day off right and gives me energy for daily activities. WebMD has an excellent article detailing why breakfast is so important.

Do some gentle stretches. Stretching relieves tension and prepares you for the day. It also helps with circulation. As one with a former ankle injury, I always integrate ankle rotations into my morning stretches as well. (Always check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program).

And if you need some fun music to get you going while you are doing stretches, check out Good Morning by Mandisa.

So embrace every morning and remember that each day is a gift and a chance to start over!

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13 ways to help someone going through a difficult time

Wen my husband had open heart surgery a year-and-a-half ago, we found out quickly who are true friends were. Our immediate and extended family stood by our side, even through the numerous complications my husband faced (and continues to face). Friends, some whom we didn’t even know very well, were the first to “step up to the plate” when a need arose.

So many people blessed us during that time that we will be forever grateful.

How can you help someone going through a difficult time?

  1. Pray. And not only praying for the person in need, but also praying with them. Take a moment and lift up that person and their needs to the Lord. Several people did this for us, whether in person or by telephone, and it meant a lot.praying-3
  2. Make contact. I was surprised when I heard from a few people long after the surgery that they didn’t want to “bother us” while we were going through our difficult time. The worst thing you can do for someone going through a difficult time is to avoid contact. This is when they need you the most.
  3. Investigate. How can you help? Do they need meals? Grocery delivery? Kids taken to an extra-curricular activity? The car filled up with gas for their next doctor’s appointment?groceries
  4. Be specific. Instead of saying, “let me know if you need anything,” which leaves the person in need an easy-way-out of not asking, say, “what can I do to help?” Or “I’m going grocery shopping later today. What can I pick up for you?”
  5. Check in often. One of our dearest friends checked in a couple times a week just to let us know she was thinking about us and continuing to pray. A quick text or phone call means a lot, as does a traditionally-mailed card.telephone-call
  6. Don’t make it about you. This isn’t the time to place the guilt on the person in need because they aren’t able to have lunch with you as often as you’d like.
  7. Don’t stop caring. How many times do we stop helping someone going through a lengthy crisis long before they stop needing our help? Be there for the long haul.
  8. Think of the little things. We hear a lot about the mowing of yards or the shoveling of driveways. But what about the little things? Picking up their mail or newspaper while they are out of town overnight at the hospital, for instance. A friend of ours offered to water our newly-planted trees. That gesture was such a blessing to us.mail
  9. Be mindful of those with chronic illness. Three family members of mine suffer from chronic illness. It’s a day-to-day never-ending struggle with intense pain for each of them. Be there for them, even if they just need to talk.
  10. Don’t give unsolicited advice. Or pressure them into a supposed “cure-all” for their circumstance or illness. I.e., “If you would only take these special supplements, you would be cured of your heart issue.”
  11. Offer some respite. Know a newly-divorced mom? Offer to babysit her children while she tends to important matters. Know an exhausted caregiver? Offer to assist where needed.
  12. Be a listening ear through the grief. Know someone who has recently lost a loved one? Be a listening ear through the sadness and the memories.SONY DSC
  13. Help monetarily. If you know the person in need has accumulated numerous medical bills or is off work for any length of time, a small donation is always welcome.

What ways have you extended help to someone in need? Have you ever been on the receiving end of extraordinary kindness while going through a difficult time?