Oh Christmas food, Oh Christmas food, my waistline will not miss you… The holiday season is such a special time to treasure family and the precious gift of God incarnate but after 3 weeks of heavy food and excessive social activities I am ready to thank God for His many gifts in other ways. Taking time to have new thoughts about old times and the new year is something I especially treasure after all the holiday chaos. Resolutions aren’t something that make the list of New Year’s thoughts however, because they tend to fizzle so quickly. Planning to improve things is different than resolutions because you make time to examine your heart and mind about problems and strengths present, and then specifically work to accomplish spiritual and mental growth in those areas as opposed to just listing things you want to be better at. Resolutions are merely good intentions whereas planning is specific and tangible. Give it a whirl and see how it works for you!
Here are a few of my favorite avenues for thinking through the old year:
Remembering God’s faithfulness in the hard times
Seeing God’s goodness in the easy times
Evaluating weaknesses of the past year, spiritually, physically, and in relationships with others
Evaluating strengths of the past year in those same areas
Thinking through how life has changed and processing a year of events
And favorite ways for looking into the new year:
Planning how to improve spiritual growth and fellowship with the body of Christ and in our home – like going through a Spiritual Health Check
Looking for more ways to be grateful for the abundance of blessings
Planning ways to be better steward of resources (like health and time)
Anticipating challenges the new year will present and preparing accordingly ( board exam anyone?)
Setting the precedent for a year that focuses on glorifying God and triumphing by grace over things in my control instead of the burned-out and frustrated attitude I usually have going in to Christmas break.
A journal, piece of scratch paper, or word doc is an easy way to track your thoughts too. Choosing to take some of the topics for Family discussion is an easy way to encourage your loved ones to evaluate their own lives too. I hope you and your family have many things to celebrate from this last year and have many more blessings in the upcoming one.
Everyone always has different ways they like to celebrate another year on this crazy planet and to anticipate a new year. What are your’s? 🙂
Warm chocolate chip cookies, milk in a frosty glass, classic holiday music, and a tub of Christmas decorations. Sounds like a party!
Since being married 3 years ago, we have had an annual Christmas decorating party where we dig out the red tub, string up lights, and write out our Christmas cards. We dance in the kitchen to the Christmas music I’ve dug out for the first time in the season while wishing we hadn’t eaten so many cookies and there are candles everywhere. Today I thought I would share a few traditions we have made together for our Christmas decorating party to make the holidays more meaningful and mindful. Enjoy!
This year we made chocolate chip cookies, most years there is at least hot cocoa involved too. I was smart and only baked half of the dough that was made up, but we still managed to polish off the entire plate that was made (Hey, don’t judge I’m headed to work out today). Taking time to make the cookie dough from scratch and smelling them while they turn golden brown are my favorite parts of holiday baking.
We take time every year to write cards to family and friends. We love getting to put holiday wishes, a note that we’re praying for them, or letting them know how much we have appreciated having them in our lives this past year. Having a specific time set aside to get these done is helpful, and knocking the list out together makes it a cinch. It’s the thoughts in the cards that count and not what you paid for them, so I’ll share my little secret that I also always buy my cards on after-Christmas sales and store them in the red tub for next year.
We listen to the Pandora station for Trans Siberian Orchestra with all of their classical renditions of carols and songs. We both like the older classic songs and instrumental versions for our wild party. A little Lindsey Stirling in the mix makes for a pretty dreamy atmosphere. Check out the station shown in the picture by clicking here.
Limiting the decorations
This one sounds a little weird for having a party. Trust me though, it’s much more fun. The house rule is it all has to fit back into the 20 gallon red tub at the end of the December. (We don’t presently have a Christmas tree – if we get one in the future it would be an exception.) No one wants to have to make numerous trips to the storage room and lug endless boxes from the attic. If you have ever been to a garage sale or thrift store you know the people I am talking about who have an extreme excess of Christmas decor. Tyler and I both said we never wanted that for our family. Being beautiful doesn’t have to mean being extravagant. Try it out! How can you streamline your decor? You might even find you are happier with less clutter during this holiday season.
Taking a moment in the middle of the busy season to spend an evening with family and decorate our home has grown to be a tradition we both look forward to immensely each year.
What Pre-Christmas traditions do you have? 🙂 Would love to hear in the comments.
Oblivion is bliss. Wait I thought the saying was “ignorance is bliss”? Well it might be, but today I’m talking about the kindergartner sitting in their classroom filled with bright colors and happy faces who is totally zoned out. Little Tommy is zoned out to the point he doesn’t hear the teacher calling his name or see Little Sophia reaching over to share her markers. He doesn’t feel anything. He chose to not feel anything because it was better than feeling the welt on his head where daddy threw a beer can at him that morning and remembering the yelling fight between his parents. Being oblivious was better than feeling the gnawing pain in his stomach because he wasn’t given dinner or breakfast because mommy was “busy”.
But Little Tommy is a rare happenstance right? Only drug addicts or alcoholics abuse their kids right? Unfortunately no, abuse happens in many families. Today in lecture we talked about some of the psychiatric disorder kids suffer from after suffering abuse. I was a little taken back myself. Oklahoma ranks #8 in the nation for abused children. In 2015 there were 31 deaths due to abuse and just over 55,000 investigations of reported abuse. These numbers are huge! And they have so many far reaching implications for everyone in the family, community, and state. These kiddos don’t grow up to be better versions of their parents, in fact there were over 9,000 arrests of kids under the age of 18 in the state in 2016. If they make it to adulthood without being criminals, they are much more likely to struggle with developing meaningful relationships (teen pregnancy anyone?), depression, heart disease, and a host of other problems occurring from extreme chronic stress and trauma. It shouldn’t surprise us that Oklahoma is #2 in the nation for heart disease; many of these cases stem from people suffering immensely in their childhoods. These statistics should break our hearts and cause us to question, where did we go so wrong?
Why Neglect was listed as the largest category of abuse in recent studies in Oklahoma with the largest category being kids 3 and under. Choosing not to feed kids, keep them appropriately dressed, not showing affection, and other forms of neglect are sooo preventable! Why is this an issue? The answer may surprise you. There is so little of the Gospel and the hope the gospel provides. No hope means more drug and alcohol abuse so kids get forgotten. No truth means we have no reason to care for others besides ourselves. No gospel means we don’t understand love and what it means to be affectionate to our kids. No accountability means we forget to develop patience with the little buggars when they are on our nerves and don’t put their needs above ours. Oklahoma needs an ocean of truth and hope that only the gospel of Christ will provide.
What You Can Do
For starts, go home and hug your kids. Tell them you love them. Teach them the gospel. Show them by example how to share the gospel with others. Then choose to step out of oblivion yourself, interact with your community, advocate for kids who are suffering, encourage parents who are struggling, be the parent you know your kids need.
If you struggle with addiction, intimate partner violence, or just with anger towards your kids, know that it is okay to not be perfect. Kids don’t need perfect, they need a parent who recognizes when to get help. Counselors aren’t just for crazy people, medications can be helpful, and being honest with those around you can inspire others to seek help too. Choose to be different and let’s make Oklahoma different. If you’re up for the challenge you can prayerfully consider adopting a kiddo who has a challenging home situation and help them join the 2400+ Oklahoma kids adopted every year. There are so many ways we can all seek improvement. Seek out how God can use you to make a difference.
Wait! Stop Winter! You’re running over fall. Be nice and wait your turn! Goodness, 4 inches of snow and a week of frigid temperatures does not look like a typical early Oklahoma November. Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday but it is being run over by Christmas with this weather. I just can’t keep a Thanksgiving mindset when I run to the store and they’re playing Christmas carols while it’s snowing outside! But I am trying to be grateful, the snow is pretty and God controls the weather too. Anyway, Thanksgiving is still coming and Christmas right behind it, providing the perfect season for a little soul searching. How is your spiritual health?
Priorities: How are you prioritizing God in your life? Are you investing in your daily spiritual walk? Maybe think about picking up a new podcast this week. Below are links to two, the first is a 5 minute once weekly podcast and the second is a longer podcast. I absolutely love the 5 Minutes in Church History one, it’s time efficient, thorough, and entertaining. The second one is totally worth your time with sound, deep, biblical teaching that will keep you grounded in your faith.
How about time in Scripture? You don’t have to wait till New Years to try to pick up a new habit of daily reading or to renew your former habit. We miss out on so many blessings when we don’t have His words on our heart daily. Engaging an accountability partner is a great idea to help each other out too.
Attitude. This one is a hard one for me. Remembering to be a thankful person who trusts God for what’s next can be a challenge; but if we trust Him to redeem us by His love and grace we have to trust Him with the rest of our lives too. We can’t be complaining, gossiping, irritable, people. We are called to be joyful, encouraging, patient followers of Christ. Does your attitude reflect your newness of life?
Compassion. Holidays are easy times to think of others but right here on the edge of the holiday season and following the season to the rest of the year, we have the privilege of being the heart and hands of Christ to a church and world filled with hurting people. Visit a home-bound member of your church. Volunteer around your community. Watch the kids of a young couple at your church free of charge because they just need a break. Send a card to a person who recently experienced crippling loss. Buy coffee for a young person (not too young lol) and ask them about life. Experience the joys of having an overflowing heart when you choose to love the people around you.
Faith. Can you defend yours? What exactly do you believe? If you came across a high school friend on the street could you share your testimony with them? These are tough questions and the answers require a lot of diligent study, thought, effort, and prayer. It’s the 21st century, Christianity is still under constant bombardment from all sides. As a soldier of Christ we have to put on the full armor of God and be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks.
Many Christians today are considered “nominal” meaning they show up on Sundays and Wednesdays (sometimes), live to check boxes that earn them points toward heaven, only live pure lives in church service, or overbook their lives so that church and the things of God are just an afterthought. Are you a nominal Christian? Or are you a passionate follower of Christ, your Savior, who takes joy in pursuing righteousness, and live a life that beams the light of truth to those around you? Take this spiritual health check seriously and let’s be accurate reflections of the church we are called to be. 🙂
If you have a family the infographic below has some fun ideas:
What are ways you stay accountable for your spiritual health? 🙂
This is not an exhaustive list
This is not a “to-do” list
This can be a fun exercise, especially with a spouse, friend, or family
Just breathe. Suck air in. Hold it. Let it out. Repeat. Over and over the phrases came. Jagged breaths slowly came and went but the vice grip on the ribs wasn’t changing. After 8 grueling weeks of neuroanatomy, the test was over; the comprehensive exam with lab practical was over. No more dead brain pieces, no more obscure pathways, no more long nights of getting home just in time to crawl into bed over mountains of undone laundry. All over. But, breathing was still not normal! My body was having none of “normal” after putting up with that mess for 8 weeks. Even after a relaxed evening immediately following the test and 12 hours of sleep, breathing was still hard. It was going to take more than just an evening off to recoup. Thankfully we had planned a cool weather camping trip, an outdoor prescription if you will, to decompress for the next evening. After mandatory classes Tuesday afternoon we scooted out to a lake an hour away, had an incredibly evening and even made it back to campus in time for our 9 AM class Wednesday. Gorgeous weather and fall foliage paved the way to the secluded campground and now that we are back in full swing for psychiatry, our mind, bodies, and souls are prepared for it.
Serenity restores the mind and body In case you couldn’t tell from the photos, the landscape was phenomenal. Sunlight waters of a lake at sunset, fall fruits, vibrant foliage, and perfectly crisped air will work wonders for a tired mind and body. The hubby and I disagree a little on whether sleeping on the cold hard ground is therapeutic, but my ribs were very grateful for a change of scenery. The extra beautiful part is there is absolutely no reason to stay up late. The sun went to bed and shortly after so did I! No computer screens, no diseased brain photos, just a breeze in the leaves and a distant train.
Singing worship songs invigorates the soul
Curled up in a blanket sitting in front of a warm fire on a crisp night and opening our souls in worship under the cathedral dome of a starry sky was one of the best parts of the whole trip. Deep peace and souls restored in faith were the end result. Neither of us play guitar or sing exceptionally well, so maybe it was good we were the only ones at the campground, but hey, the Psalmist says “make a joyful noise” so we’re covered.
Simple food warms the heart
Early Wednesday morning I woke at dawn to see a crackling fire and my favorite person in the world. If that wasn’t a sufficiently good start to a morning, there shortly after was an iron skillet toasting apples, oats, and almonds with cinnamon and vanilla. it smelled like heaven and tasted like fall. Humble ingredients, simple preparation, and an ideal way to start the day with a warm and grateful heart.
It just wasn’t happening. The air was crisp. It had just rained a few days earlier. It had been a grueling week. And the studying was just a no-go on Saturday. It was time for a mental break. So I went mushroom foraging with the hubby instead and was much happier for it. 🙂
I happily took my mental break outside during my favorite season pursuing one of my favorite hobbies with my favorite person. (To be very clear for the curious minds out there, these are NOT psychadellics that we were hunting.)
The first species we came across was one I had not seen before and it looks like a corral growing out of the ground. It was the neatest looking thing! Just look at the picture! Someone took a sample of the Great Barrier Reef and planted it in my backyard woods and it grew!
After researching we were amused to find it is in fact a corral mushroom (Ramaria formosa). Roasted in the oven with a little garlic oil on top it made for quite the addition to dinner. We additionally found some Wood Ear (Auricularia auricula-judae) mushrooms. If you have ever had Hot and Sour soup at a Chinese restaurant and noticed the thin dark strips that have a mushroom-y texture you have had wood ears. They are delicious in soups and stir fry. I packed them along for lunch at school today to add to my ramen because I am out of time for gourmet cooking as this ridiculous neuro final approaches.
Later in the day we also went to a nearby lake and found some Ringless Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria tabescens). Those are on the menu to have tonight with caramelized onion dip. I absolutely love the clumping formation they have!
My husband has decided I will not be a crazy cat lady when I am old – it will be the crazy shroom lady. But seriously, there are so many different kinds! Next time you take a walk just notice how many different kinds of fungi you come across. They are all so different and spectacular. It reminds me every time to thank God for his incredible creation. Only a God with infinite creative power would make nature’s garbage clean up service beautiful and dynamic. Mushrooms literally exist to help decompose wood so we can grow new trees and plants and yet they come in myriads of morphologies, textures, colors, sizes, and flavors.
Be passionate about details in life, it’s so much more satisfying. That’s all I can say when it comes to mushrooms anyway.
Check out the links on the species names above for more details on what we found, and this post on a different experience with foraged mushrooms.
Have a favorite memory of mushroom hunting as a kid of do you forage now? 🙂
Family. A group of people tied by blood or friendship in un-explainable ways. A group of people committed to loving each other, supporting each other, helping each other, and serving each other. Most of the time somewhat dysfunctional and yet an entity we all treasure. This time of year we end up thinking a lot about our families as the holidays approach and the leaves turn. I think that is part of what makes the season so special.
But blood is not the only thing that makes a family. A family is so much more than that. Anyone who belongs to a church with a tight knit community knows precisely what I am talking about. A church is family for your soul. Today I wanted to share an experience with church family as I watched them surround a member in need with arms of love and compassion. It was absolutely beautiful. I have omitted names out of respect for the family but have shown pictures from around their beautiful home. And yes, the toad is adorable.
This past summer was when the news came. His cancer had come back. Melanoma, his dark nemesis was there again and this time for his life. It affected everyone in our small congregation deeply. He wasn’t very old but had rich legacy of a loving wife of over 40 years and a large family filled with kids and grand-kids.
Shortly before he passed he wanted to make sure his wife was well cared for, and they decided to move closer to town. The church family immediately responded with overwhelming support to help the move. There were donuts, laughs, hugs, and lots of packing tape rolls involved. Consensus said the chocolate glazed donuts were the best that day. It was some of the deepest fellowship the church had experienced. There just aren’t words for some things.
After his passing, there arose a need to finish cleaning up their yard before preparing the house to sell. Again the church rallied around the family and brought an arsenal of weed eaters, mowers, and willing hands. The pastor was out there (he is in his 70s) the youth were out there, and church members of all ages in between were there. There for her, there for the family, there to be family. It was awesome! And inspiring! So much joy everywhere and willingness to work.
There may or may not have been pizza and hay bale rolling afterwards…
So often in today’s busy world we miss out on the incredible experiences of being the hands and feet of the body of Christ that serves one another. So often we forget to take care of the widows in our churches. But every so often, grace abounds and we get a few things right and function as the family God intended for believers. Those moments are priceless, and it was a tremendous honor and privilege to be a part of this family’s story as it unfolded. His wife and immediate family have a hard road ahead filled with grief and a sense of loss, yet they can also celebrate with their church family surrounding them that he graduated from the pain and suffering he had here to a perfect existence in the presence of God.
How do you experience family and participate in being family in your church or community?
So you got on Instagram or Facebook and you scrolled for 2.3 minutes and saw exactly 8 different kids at pumpkin patches with proud parents displaying all the fall adorableness. And it’s totally adorable, and I love it too, and I am also thankful you were brave enough to read this- another article on pumpkin patches – despite being in pumpkin overload season.
Why did I go to a pumpkin patch might be a good question to start with. Aren’t they for kids? Well sort of. But, I love being outside, my husband loves corn mazes and we both love supporting local agriculture. And hey, the neuro test that morning was a relief to be over with and we were looking for ways to celebrate.
Supporting local agriculture might not be an aspect of pumpkin patches you had thought about, but they actually provide quite a bit of revenue for agritourism.
Any of the U-pick farms, wineries, petting zoos, Christmas tree farms, or similar operations classify as agritourism and you may find some incredible experiences in your area. If you weren’t familiar with agritourism, it’s just farmers who wanted to take their trades and open them up to the public. Many farmers rely on the tourism revenue on top of their regular crops to make ends meet. Not every pumpkin patch will have the same level of involved agriculture; some just buy pumpkins from a farmer and place them in a fun way to explore. (still lots of fun and makes for adorable photos) Check out what is in your area! There are usually several in a given place and not all patches are farmed equal.
We scored an amazing “corn” maze (sourghum) and these two heirloom pumpkins. Wait, there are heirloom pumpkins!? Yes! And they are amazing! The one on the left is a Pennsylvania Dutch that very much resembles a butternut squash in flavor. The one on the right is called a Red Warty thing and it made some incredible pumpkin butter that night as well as a pumpkin alfredo sauce to top some sausage stuffed shells. By purchasing heirloom pumpkins we get to support agricultural heritage preservation of some exceptionally rare types.
Tyler loves pumpkin butter and I don’t like paying $3 / jar so this was a fun adventure in saving money, supporting agriculture, and enjoying the majestic fall weather.
Daily in my training I am reminded how these three entities and everything in our bodies is connected. Literally everything. This past weekend I attended a yoga workshop encouraging women to love their bodies and a training session the next day on therapies for facial bones, postural evaluations, and some esoteric topics of the minute movements of intracranial structures that affect the entire body’s function…. wheww, that was a mouthful. Anyway, why did I go? Because everything is connected! And because I felt totally amazing afterwards, it had been a stressful week and I needed to slow down and refocus.
After the weekend I had a few thoughts about points brought up from people of very different backgrounds that all revolved around putting your mind back in your body.
First I should clarify what I mean by the above statement. Putting your mind back in your body is not the result of a paranormal reality that everyone is having an out of body experience and needs to do the Voodoo to put it back. Not at all. Putting your mind back in your body means being aware of how your body works, its level of health, and its purpose in life.
Society as a whole struggles to know their own body and where their mind belongs in relation to it. As a Christian I find this appalling. We worship ourselves as society. We adore how we look, we are obsessed with what others think of us, we spend hours on self-gratification, self-fulfillment, and self-indulgence. It sounds a little odd on that you can be totally obsessed with yourself and still not have your mind in your body at all, but it is a problem as ubiquitous as obesity or Alzheimer’s.
Why is This an Issue?
Next time you go out to eat notice how engaged you are with whoever you are with. Notice how engaged the people are around you. Not very engaged? It is too easy to live for distraction from anything besides the present. But not living in the present costs us in our relationship as well as our own health. (Check out my previous posts on spending more time with family or taking time to see baby rabbits for practical ways to live in the present). When we feel discouraged or depressed we reach for our phones and devices. When we feel hungry, or bored, or anything else we reach for food. When we feel pain we reach for meds or something to just take it away and seldom deal with the cause. We have high blood pressure chronically and make no lifestyle changes. Why? Because to fight any of these, to live intentionally and to live in the present we have to remember God connected our minds to our bodies and sometimes we have to take inventory! What are the consequences? Mind out of body problems, like not being able to tell when things go wrong, growing mindless altogether as in the cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s, and succumbing to chronic pain and mental illness.
As I observed the various perspectives this weekend as well as previous experiences on putting your mind back in your body I noticed two camps. Eastern cultures regularly use healthy behaviors blended with mysticism to create a religion (that later dropped most of the religious aspects and it back to whole person health i.e. yoga and similar arts). Exercise classes like Yoga have taken the world by storm and for a very good reason – they are great at putting the mind back in the body. The second camp is Christianity which among many church circles avoids looking inward and many times forget their body and soul are connected at all. In fact many Christians view Yoga and mind practices as pagan or Satanic. Some Christians view regular prayer as a way to reset the body and I am inclined to agree that although this is not the purpose of prayer it is an undervalued benefit. It shouldn’t really be a surprise that refocusing our soul on God helps put our mind back in a proper place inside our body; remember, everything is connected.
The sad part is that one camp offers profound health benefits while denying God any of His creative glory for designing such unique, infinitely complex, and incredible organisms. God made us so incredible we have mechanisms to help us heal. The other camp is drowning in obesity and stiff religiosity. They can be seen reaching for another donut and vehemently stating God thinks it’s sin to sit with your legs crossed thinking about your breathing. Not exactly a pretty picture of being good stewards of our dynamic bodies. And a few people do get it right, that health is something to be taken care of, God is a God to be glorified, and we are people that have lives to live!
Saying we are designed to never experience suffering is wrong and so is refusing to do anything on our parts to minimize it. Saying we cannot acknowledge God as ultimate Creator, Sustainer, and Healer is wrong, and so is saying He has not given us mechanisms for self repair (hello, we do not go to the ER every time we get a paper cut). So roll out your yoga mat, stretch, check your mental and spiritual health! Go outside and be amazed by the beauty of God’s creation while you exercise, spend time in prayer, and get your mind back in your body.
What are your thoughts on health and living intentionally? 🙂
Heavy breathing filled the tiny exam room. The rancid smell of a patient who hadn’t showered in who knows how long, smoked heavily, and weighed 300 lbs was overpowering. Greasy strands of hair clung to her face as she hunched over in her chair in her miserable existence. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t pleasant, and it wasn’t exactly what people picture getting to be a “doctor” would be like.
The description evokes a powerful image. This patient was just a theoretical one but I have seen many just like her over several clinical experiences. You may have seen people like this at Walmart or walking down the street. Same characteristic shuffle, with no hope in their eyes and no joy in their heart.
So as a physician what do we do with her? I can give her the 1-800-QUIT-NOW number just like I did the last 3 visits. I can ask her about her diet for the umpteenth time. I can tell her the importance of personal hygiene for preventing weird infections. But none of that matters. That isn’t what she needs.
What does she need? She needs a physician who can see the whole picture, the whole person, the whole problem. The idea of whole person medicine is hardly a new one with Osteopathic medicine championing the philosophy since it’s origin in 1874. It emphasizes spiritual care with body and mind care, and is one of the reasons why as a Christian I am so excited to be studying Osteopathic medicine. She needs a doctor who can share with her the good news of the gospel, who can ask about her spiritual health, who can pray with her in her difficult journey, who can point her to a supportive church family.
Christians in any field and especially medicine we need to be concerned with spiritual well being of others. Research supports that better patient care happens when physicians care for all aspects of their patients. In fact, 70% of patients actually want their physician to ask about spiritual needs. End of life costs drop dramatically when patients report being quality spiritual care too. Following our own faith has blessings in many forms, even better patient outcomes and satisfaction. I hope we never forget that.
Well our theoretical patient needs a satisfying end to her story. After talking with her about what gave her strength in life and she said she didn’t have any and was considering suicide we were able to recommend appropriate mental health services and a local pastor. She further opened up and said she began smoking and having poor dietary habits after a childhood filled with horrible abuse, both sexual and physical. Her story was so much bigger than her list of problems showing up in our clinic, but God’s grace was bigger still. Be a part of the solution and work to see the whole person in your journey in life. <3
P.S. this post was inspired after hearing a guest speaker at our school on taking a spiritual history.