Category Archives: Health

5 Great Reasons to Read Christian Fiction

We all know someone out there who doesn’t like to read, doesn’t have time to read, or only reads non-fiction. Maybe that someone is you! I obviously have strong feelings about Christian fiction or I wouldn’t spend hours a day reading, studying, and writing it, so I thought I’d share with you five good reasons to pick up a Christian novel and give it a go:

  1. Stress relief. Anxiety, depression, and overall stress levels have risen dramatically over the past few years. According to WebMD, a 2009 study from the University of Sussex found that reading was able to reduce stress levels by 68%. That makes reading more effective at reducing stress than other restful activities like taking a walk or listening to music. (https://www.webmd.com/balance/health-benefits-of-reading-books).
  2. Get to know yourself and others better. How can that be when you’re reading about made-up people, you ask? In every Christian novel I’ve ever read, the characters are like true-to-life people, representative of you and me. Observing their interactions with God and life provides new layers of insight and understanding regarding real people, and has even been shown to increase empathy.
  3. Exercise your brain. Every part of the body needs exercise to stay healthy, and reading stimulates the brain, providing benefits like reducing the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. It also helps you develop better vocabulary and writing skills.
  4. A refreshing break. Like any form of entertainment, reading provides a temporary break from the pressures of real life. Most of us seek out entertainment in one form or another, and grabbing a Christian novel is a healthy, uplifting break, rather than a mind-numbing escape like other forms of entertainment can be.
  5. The Bible says people are glad when they read encouraging messages. *throat clearing* “The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.” –Acts 15:31. Okay, maybe they were referencing a letter to the Gentiles and not fiction, but I stand by my claim. 😉

Are you convinced yet? Let me know below if anything in the list surprised you! And if you already love Christian fiction, let me know what your reasons/benefits are for reading it. Thanks so much for stopping by, and happy reading!

(And if you aren’t already subscribed to receive my monthly newsletter full of contests, humor, and updates, I’d love to have you join me! As a thank-you, you’ll receive my WW2 home front novelette, Love on a Whim, for free! You’ll find the sign-up on the side or bottom of this page.)

7 Promises of Ridiculous Hope

Successful people are hopeful people. Over the past 30 years, research has shown that hope, not skill mastery or optimism or grit, is the most important determinant of success (according to Pattison Professional Counseling and Meditation Center). Does this fact leave you cheering or sighing?

I’d venture to guess that many of us would call ourselves generally hopeful people. If this doesn’t describe you, I believe that hope is both a gift from God and a skill that can be developed, so you’re not out of luck – stick with me!

In the 1946 book Man’s Search for Meaning, Holocaust Survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl explains (in a much more grandiose way) that humans always need something to look forward to. This statement may sound basic, but it’s actually incredibly deep.

Frankl tells of being imprisoned in a concentration camp and noting that death rates of prisoners always increased the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

Why?

He concluded these excess deaths were because these prisoners had held on to illogical, ridiculous hope that they would spend Christmas with their families. When Christmas Day came and went with no sign of their loved ones, so did their will to go on. Their ridiculous hope had a direct impact on their frail physical well-being; it literally kept them alive.

Sometimes we don’t realize the hope we’re holding onto is ridiculous until later, and this is a good thing! People living in a state of hope are more likely to achieve their goals and live with a sense of purpose.

For instance, others might chuckle if I say I believe the novel I’m writing could one day change the world, but that ridiculous hope is precisely what it takes to accomplish the difficult task of completing the novel. Anything less than ridiculous hope would result in an unfinished manuscript.

After I complete my manuscript, I may then be able to look at it more objectively and see that it might not change the entire world, but it still might change a few lives – lives that wouldn’t have been changed without my holding onto such hope. Hope gives us drive toward our goals and enables us to push through difficulties. Ridiculous hope keeps us pressing on long after others have given up on our vision.

Hope (or the lack thereof) also clearly affects our physical health, as noted above. Not only does Frankl give several examples of this in his eye-opening book, but in a recent chat with a medical professional friend, I was told that the patients who beat cancer nearly always have a hopeful attitude. He said the physical difference between hopeful versus hopeless patients is stark and obvious.

Hope is not the same as optimism, although they are certainly related. While optimists believe good things likely await in their futures, hope-filled people are driven to make those good things happen rather than sitting passively by.

God has a lot to say about hope, too. Here are seven of God’s many promises about hope:

  1. We have hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
  2. Jesus Christ is our living hope. (1 Peter 1:3)
  3. Hope anchors the soul. (Hebrews 6:19)
  4. Hope in the Lord allows us to be strong and take heart. (Psalm 31:24)
  5. Our hearts are sick without hope. (Proverbs 13:12)
  6. The eyes of the Lord are on those who hope in him. (Psalm 33:18)
  7. Hope makes us bold. (2 Corinthians 3:12)

If we take these seven truths about hope and use them to chase after our God-given goals, I’ll be surprised if we don’t start seeing significant change in our lives. There’s no magic formula (after all, who can know the ways of God?), but ridiculous hope is certainly a life-attitude that will deliver results, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual.

If you want to read more about the psychological benefits of hope, I found this article helpful: Want More Success in Your Life? Have Hope.

And have a peek at my middle grade novel, Power Up, if you want to share with the children in your life about the ways the Holy Spirit can bring them hope. (Grown-ups have found hope through it too!)

Checklist Endorphins??

Hello, my name is Jessie and I’m a list maker. There, it’s out. I confess – I have grocery lists, meal plan lists, homeschool lists, to-do lists, books-I-want-to-read lists, and this list I’ve made of lists I like to make could go on and on. (Does the word list look strange to anyone else after that many repetitions?)

I’ve been laughed at for my list making, and although it genuinely doesn’t bother me, you can imagine my delight the other day when I heard that checking boxes on a to-do list actually releases endorphins.

That’s right, those oh-so desirable, feel-good endorphins are actually released into our bodies when we physically mark an item off of our list. (Physically, meaning marking it out with a writing utensil on paper. The same effect was not found to be true when marking it off of an electronic device.)

It’s so exciting to me that there’s actually science to back up my list making habits now! But whether you’re a list maker or not, let’s look at this a little further.

What does this new knowledge of endorphin-releasing checkmarks mean for us?

It means the more we check off our lists, the more motivated we are to continue doing so. Endorphins are that boost we need in order to get into a groove so we can stay on task.

This new knowledge also means that it’s absolutely okay, and even encouraged, to write menial tasks on our lists entirely for the benefit of crossing them off.

“Get up.” Check!

“Make coffee.” Check! Sweet, I’m on a roll!

Let’s give ourselves some time to start releasing those endorphins with smaller tasks before attempting the meatier ones like exercising or paying bills.

I gotta say…this new information definitely reduces the amount of crazy I’ve felt for all those times I backfilled my list for the sole purpose of checking more items off.

It’s science, people!

Maybe you’re not a list person. Maybe lists make you feel confined or burdened. Maybe you’ll never be a list person. And that’s okay. (I guess.)

BUT, maybe it’s just time to try again. In this busy age of existence, information bombards our senses at all hours of the day. It’s certainly enough to make the important things slip my mind if I haven’t written them down.

List makers rejoice! The next time someone scoffs at us and our list making ways, we’ll be armed and ready with science to back ourselves up. You can’t argue with endorphins.

Non-list makers, fear not! Now is the time to try again, making sure to add several easy tasks to your list first in order to get that endorphin boost before you tackle the rest of the list.

And while this topic may not be quite as deep as many of my posts, I really do love a good nugget of health related encouragement. And I love lists. So, you know…win-win!

Have a happy and safe Labor Day weekend and thanks for reading! I’d love to hear any comments you may have – feel free to post them below!

Good Health Can’t be an Idol…Right??

Let me be honest with you in regards to my lifelong food journey. Health was not on my mind the first 20+ years of my life. My mom was ahead of the curve in her knowledge of good vs. bad for you foods while she was raising my sister and me, so I had some advantage there, but there were still a lot of unknowns at that point. The internet wasn’t in our lives for most of my childhood, with it’s all-knowing wisdom and health guidance. Junk food and pop were the societal norm, which meant every time I was with my friends (which was a lot), junk was front and center on the menu.

I was blessed with good genes, and weight wasn’t an issue for me. I saw no need to consider the food I was eating at all as long as gaining weight wasn’t an issue. So I carried on my merry ways, eating pizza and candy, and guzzling Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper every chance I got.

Fast forward to age 23. Newly married, both of us working full time, living off cheap ground beef, lots of cheese, pizza, and pasta. Most fruits and vegetables usually found a place in the fridge where they would stay put until they were rotten enough to throw out. I laugh about it now, but really – what a sad picture of nutritional health!!

Fast forward a year…I get diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. With my mom on my team doing crazy amounts of research, we discover it’s recommended for people with MS to do a low fat diet. I buy every low-fat item at the supermarket but continue to eat crazy amounts of sugar because, guess what? Sugar’s low-fat! Lucky me – I can continue eating most of my candy and drinking my corn syrup laden pop since, of course, it’s fat free!

Fast forward another year. I’m slammed with MS symptoms. Something’s got to change. Apparently this low-fat diet isn’t the magic bullet we were hoping for. After much research, I change medication and begin taking Low Dose Naltrexone. (Oh, and I finally learn about healthy fats and begin adding them back in. About time.) The LDN is helping, but I feel like there’s more I can do.

The eight years following were a time of trial and error, reading articles, books, talking to doctors and friends. And then a dear friend introduced me to the Whole30. I knew something needed to change, and this was a way to see if any of the foods I was eating were a problem for me, and to sort of “reset” the body. I was immediately in.

For thirty days my diet consisted of meat, fruit, nuts, olive oil, and more vegetables than I care to remember. By the end of the thirty days I felt So.Good. I felt confident in my health. Confident. That was huge for me. I felt like I didn’t even have to wonder about when my next flare up would be. I felt like if I ate only those things I could CONTROL my health. Dun dun duuun….

Let me just stop here and mention this. Guys, it’s hard to eat that perfectly. Time consuming, ginormous grocery bills, hours in the kitchen chopping vegetables kind of hard. It basically became a part time job since, you know, raising and homeschooling three kids and church planting didn’t keep me busy enough. 😉

Over the past several years since that time, I have had periods where I’ve really buckled down and focused on eating as well as possible, and I’ve had periods where I think “I feel really good, so I’m sure I can relax my food standards and be just fine…” But inevitably, it comes back to bite me.

So yes, I’ve learned that I feel best when I eat my best. Simple, right? To that I say HA! If only.

Every day is a struggle. Although the sugar addiction is gone, praise Jesus, I never stop wanting it when it’s available. I never stop dreading spending hours in the kitchen prepping healthy food. There always seems to be a food related battle going on in my mind.

I begin to have thoughts like “Well, if God hasn’t healed me from MS, I guess I have to take matters into my own hands…” And then I proceed to feel guilty about every bite I take that is not actively making my body healthier. I become meticulous and sometimes obsessed with what I eat and what I actively avoid eating.

I begin to trust in my own ability to heal my body from the inside out with food. Food is medicine, right? That’s what they say, at least. And I believe it’s true. To a point.

But when does healthy eating become an idol? You know, one of those pesky things warned about in the Ten Commandments, which is to be avoided lest it be honored more highly than God himself?

I’m sure there are scholarly answers to this question, but let me tell you my personal answer. Healthy eating becomes an idol when you find yourself trusting it more and more and trusting Jesus less and less. When you feel like you’re in control of yourself instead of God.

Yes, we need to be responsible about what we put into our bodies. Our bodies are temples – dwelling places for the Holy Spirit. That’s a big deal. So we do need to be smart here and play our part responsibly…just not to the point of trusting food for our wellness more than we trust God for our wellness.

Knowing this makes it easier for me to be okay with doing my best and resting in his grace and provision for the rest. Some days my best looks pretty impressive, food-wise. And some days my best looks like choosing chicken nuggets and unsweet tea in the drive-thru between my son’s ninja class and our church group, instead of that greasy double cheeseburger and Dr. Pepper that’s calling my name.

It’s when we proceed full speed ahead by our own wills and leave Jesus trailing behind that those idols appear. It shouldn’t take long to discover there’s a giant idol in our path, blocking our view of our trustworthy Lord. And when we finally knock that idol out of our way, we have an open path to Jesus’ outstretched hand. As long as we proceed in partnership and relationship with Jesus at our side, we can find the rest and strength we need to keep doing our best.

 

 

 

Uncertainty and Anxiety with MS

For anyone who doesn’t already know, (and be thankful if you haven’t been forced to learn, haha!) MS is a very unpredictable disease.  It looks different for everyone, so there’s no way to know how the future will unfold.  I happen to have a fairly mild form of it – for now, that is.  I’ll go through a few years or so where I feel great, and then will have a flare up as if to remind me not to get too cocky about feeling so good.  When I do have a flare up, it’s usually pretty intense and may last several months.  Needless to say, this pattern can cause quite a bit of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear – if I allow myself to think too much about the possibilities!

It seems as if every time I search for something MS-related online, or flip through an MS Society magazine, all I get are visions of canes, wheelchairs and bladder control problems.  If I search MS groups and message boards online I inevitably find person after person voicing their health struggles and woes.  And these people have legit problems – I have great compassion for them! However, I often have to remind myself that (in general) the ones posting these tragic stories are often the worst off.  They find themselves in a dark place and they get online to reach out, share their stories, and search for hope.  But for those of us who are actually doing pretty well, it can paint a  frightening and hopeless picture of the future.

After the birth of our third child (6 years ago), I had a flare up that was so bad it basically halted my life.  I could do extremely little to help my kids, husband, or self.  I basically stayed in our bedroom for weeks having spasms while my family and friends cared for my children.  I’ll admit – I did resist medical treatment for a few weeks in order to nurse my newborn; if I had sought treatment sooner, it surely wouldn’t have been quite so dramatic.  And yes, I have been known to be stubborn once or twice. (Insert my husband’s laughter here.)

The reason I mention that specific flare up is because, although I’ve never been professionally diagnosed, I’m almost certain I have some level of PTSD because of it.  Obviously, there are many people who have been through worse situations. I almost hate to use the term “PTSD” because I don’t want to take away from their stories – war, abuse,  etc.  But honestly, those months were intensely painful for me, as well as crazy emotional since I wasn’t able to care for my newborn or other children.

That being said, each time I feel the slightest twinge in my leg that reminds me of that time, anxiety floods my mind and body.  My mind immediately goes to the worst case scenario and I start planning ways for my family to do life without my participation.  Not to brag or anything, but as a homeschool mom of three, my involvement is fairly crucial to our days functioning smoothly!  CBD oil helps me a lot, but it’s not enough to work on a deeper, spiritual level.

So then I have a choice.  Do I let myself get sucked down the trail of doom in my mind?  Or do I deliberately choose to speak truth and hope into my life?  Truthfully, it’s a mind battle between the two, but so far hope and truth have always won out in the end.  But only with Jesus’ help.  Honestly, oftentimes in those situations my first and most prominent prayer is simply: “Jesus.”  So much meaning behind one name.  And since God and I are tight, I rest easy knowing that he knows what I mean.  I don’t say it as some do, out of frustration.  When my prayer is simply “Jesus” what I’m really saying is:

“Help me, God.  I don’t have the strength for this.  I’m too tired.  I’m  scared. I need you to carry this and take it away.  I need you to be by my side as I go through whatever I’m about to go through. I need your peace so I’m not terrified and defeated.”

And then the anxiety eases.  And maybe it comes back five, twenty, or forty five minutes later, and I whisper another “Jesus.”  And it eases again.  Lather, rinse, repeat indefinitely.

If I don’t have the confidence that comes with knowing Jesus is always with me no matter what, loving me and helping me as I go, then I will always be anxious and scared when a flare up (or any other stressful life circumstance) occurs.  But since I do have this confidence, I know that I will ultimately get to a point where I say, “Whatever happens, God will be with me to help me and provide for my needs and my family’s needs. He always has and he always will.” And it’s after I’ve gotten to this point where I can truly move on with my day and live without fear for the future.  It’s at this point I can live the life I have and not the life I fear I’ll have one day.