Saturday, January 6, 2018

43

It's become a tradition for me over the past few years to write a birthday blog post. And now it's that time again - I'll soon have completed my forty-third lap around the sun!

(Forty-three - wow. Seems so close to fifty, which I used to think was officially old age. But when I look at the fifty-somethings that I know, I'm so inspired - fifty is NOT old!)

As usual, it's been a pretty crazy year - I'm coming to realize that each year is it's own brand of crazy ☺ A cross-country move, a major healing, a renewed business opportunity... it's been a year-full of transition and transformation and trust, growth and goodness and grace.

What I'm most excited about, though, is a MAJOR breakthrough in my relationship with food. Just over three months ago, a friend of mine had posted a picture of she and her husband, who had achieved significant weight loss and health gains by following a ketogenic eating plan.

I was intrigued. I had been hearing about this particular eating plan (not diet - I have come to hate that word; this is NOT a diet, it's a life-change) and it sounded like something I might actually be able to DO. (Anyone who knows me at all will know that I've been trying to lose weight practically my whole life, with little to no lasting success; when you're four-foot-nine-and-a-half, even a little extra weight is a problem, and I'm dealing with a touch more than a little...)

So I went online, I did some research... and I started. In addition to losing weight and getting healthier, I was desperate to confront my life-long dysfunctional relationship with food. Food was everything for me - I turned to food in sadness, sickness, celebration, boredom, stress, uncertainty, gratitude... everything but hunger; not even sure I knew what that was!

Lo and behold, I saw results! I lost fifteen pounds in the first month, and since then it's consistently been one to two pounds per week - THIRTY POUNDS IN THREE MONTHS! Hel-lo! (This is a near-miracle to me - I've never been able to stick with any eating plan for more than six weeks!)

And not only have I lost weight (almost half-way to my goal!), but my relationship with food has changed drastically. I no longer turn to food in response to my emotions. Food has lost it's power over me. (Man, I can't even convey with words how incredibly awesome it is to be able to write that - I have been set free!)

(I'll pause here to address those of you who are preparing cautionary/advisory comments - I know both the positive and negative things that are said about Keto, and about weight-loss in general; but what I'm experiencing is success - for the first time ever. So comment if you must, but please don't be offended if I don't change my mind as a result ❤)

Because of all this, I approach forty-three in high spirits - it's so much fun to watch yourself shrink 😍 I eagerly anticipate all the grace-drenched messy goodness the year will hold. Bring on forty-three!

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Inevitable New Year's Post - 2018 Edition

Farewell, 2017... thanks for the lessons.

2018, let's do this!

I've been going over the events of the past year in my mind and trying to determine whether 2017 was a good year or a bad year. I've come to the conclusion that looking at a year (or anything, for that matter) in such a black-and-white way isn't helpful. It's much more complex than simply "good" or "bad".

Lots of really good things happened in 2017 - I was healed from bipolar disorder (see my previous post for details), my husband found a job he loves and is so good at, we moved to a lovely new city, the kids did well in school and have adjusted beautifully to our major life changes, I've adopted a new attitude towards food and am reaping significant benefits, I've laid the foundation for a successful home-based business and grew in my faith. Good!

But there have been really hard things, too - in finances, in relationships, in transitions, in health, in vocation, in faith.

I'm so thankful that hard doesn't equal bad, though - all of those struggles from the past year have resulted in so much growth and faith and wisdom and patience. I feel a strange gratitude for all of our struggles; we never would have grown as much without them.

As I consider the year ahead, none of the usual resolutions come to mind. I developed some very beneficial habits in 2017 (thanks be to God!) that I will continue to nurture and pursue and tweak in 2018. There are no "new leaves" that need to be turned over that I can see from here - which is an unfamiliar but welcome change.

I do want to continue the tradition of choosing a word for the year, though - even though I'm not sure how much of an impact this has had for me thus far. (I had to look up the words from other years; but I did remember 2017's!) I'm going to write it in big letters on the white board in my office, where I'll see it every day and be reminded to ponder it, study it, practice it and share it. (Actually, this particular one shouldn't be too hard to remember... ☺)

This year, I've chosen to focus on... (drumroll, please) ... JOY - particularly on the meaning of "the joy of the Lord is your strength" from Nehemiah. I want to know the joy, get the joy, and spread the joy around!

Do you have a word, or a goal, or a resolution as we enter 2018? Let's share and help each other towards growth and improvement and consistency and progress!

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

BOOM!!

Many people have commended me over the years for my candor and authenticity here on this blog. Not without cause, I suppose - like Ernest Hemingway said, "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." I can relate to that.

I have to admit, though, that I've never, or at least very rarely, let it ALL hang out. Some things are too private, or too complex, or too embarrassing, or too trivial, or involve other people, or haven't been sufficiently processed... Even for someone striving to be transparent and real, there are limits.

That's why I haven't written very much lately - for several of the reasons listed above. I've hated not writing; hated having to keep so much in. But like it or not, sometimes that's the way the cookie crumbles.

There is something I'd like to share with you, though - something I've kept quiet about for quite awhile. I'm not exactly sure why, either - it's something really awesome. Monumental, actually. Life-changing, in fact.

So why haven't I shouted it from the rooftops? The usual - fear of nay-sayers; my own doubts. But I think the time has come.

You may have noticed (or not ☺) that it's been a very long time since I've mentioned anything about my mental health and bipolar diagnosis. Well, there's a very good reason for that. I believe I've been healed.

BOOM!!

Here's the story: Last March, I attended a conference in Calgary. One evening, the leadership team was praying for healing for people who had illnesses and other physical issues. One of them had just finished praying for a dear friend of mine, next to whom I happened to be standing. As he prepared to move on, my friend gave me a pointed look that clearly said, "Don't you want him to pray for you?"

I have to admit, I hadn't even considered it. I felt that my affliction was permanent, just a part of who I had always been and always would be. It never occurred to me to ask God to take it away - I guess I just figured that if He allowed it, He must have a reason for it, and who was I to mess with that?

So my friend piped up, "You should pray for Joy!" as he was about to walk away, and briefly mentioned my diagnosis. (What are friends for? ❤)

He turned back to us, and posed a surprising question: "Do you want me to pray for you?"

Honestly, I wasn't sure - supernatural healing has always been a bit of a mystery to me. What if it didn't "work"? What would it do to my faith, and the faith of my friends? What if it did "work"? Would I still be me without bipolar disorder? Would it hurt? Would I feel weird? Would I do something embarrassing?

I hemmed and hawed a little; he said, "I'd love to pray for you, but I won't if you don't want me to." I was about to refuse - I felt I had the disorder more or less under control with medication and counselling and awareness of my mental health; I wasn't sure I was ready for any more changes - even for the better!

But Something made me say yes. The leader then called over the Head Honcho - whom I'd grown quite close to and had shared my mental health journey with only the evening before at the dinner table.

So they prayed for me. I don't remember much of what they said, except that one of them asked God to balance the chemicals in my brain. It wasn't a lengthy or dramatic prayer, no shouting or funny noises or pushing me down. Just a simple prayer of faith, because they knew Who was listening.

They finished praying, and all was quiet for a moment. The Head Honcho looked at me and told me that in his mind's eye, he could see an old-fashioned scale, with weights - and that he could see God moving the weights and balancing the scale.

That was it - I thanked them, they hugged me, and moved on. I can't say I felt any different at the time.

So I got home a day or two later; life proceeded as usual. A week or so after that, I knew I was coming to the end of the sample meds my doctor had given me to try for 12 weeks, and that I couldn't afford to fill the prescription. So I said, full of fear and doubt, "Okay, God - I'm gonna believe that You've healed me." I looked up online how to ease off this particular kind of medication, and followed the instructions over another week or so.

And it was fine. More than fine - I felt I'd been given a new life. One month passed, then two, then three... I was afraid to trust it - afraid that at any moment, I'd fall back into the pit. But it held. Even when extremely stressful and disturbing life situations arose, they didn't send me into the usual spiral of black emotions and numbness.

It's been over nine months now, since this wonderful thing happened to me. I still can't quite believe it. I'm following the advice the Head Honcho gave me when I (finally) got up the nerve to tell him what had happened. He rejoiced with me and said to keep monitoring my mental health and nurture it carefully. So that's what I've been doing.

Feel absolutely free to chime in with your questions and concerns - heaven knows I've had a lot of them myself! I know there's a chance that this is just an extra-long stint of "normal" in between bipolar episodes; I know it could just be my own positive thinking. There are probably a thousand reasonable explanations for what I've experienced.

But I choose to believe in the healing. I know that how I felt then and how I feel now are worlds apart. For example, there have been several times when, having experienced a disappointment or particularly stressful situation, I have said out loud, "So this is what a normal person feels like when they're sad/stressed/whatever..." (Not that I've ever claimed to be normal... but that's a whole 'nother story ☺)

Thanks for hearing my story, dear Friends - I'd love to hear yours! Stay tuned for the inevitable New Year's post - in which I will reveal my word for 2018! (I know, the suspense is killing me, too ☺)