Hope in the Hormone Wilderness

Recently, I’ve found myself stuck in the “in between." Through the years, I've spent substantial time on both poles of chronic illness: extremely sick (hopeless) and feeling strong (doing great!) Right now, I’m in the blurry, daily muck of it---both emotionally and physically. I’m not pregnant, I’m not having a period. I’m just wandering in the hormone wilderness.

I knew going off of the pill would wreak havoc on the normalcy I once had. I knew that going off Spironolactone (used for acne in this case) would also make my body readjust once again. I knew the probability of sporadic periods, returning acne, and the overall effects of hormone imbalance that come with PCOS. I knew what I was walking into yet even with all the preparation and preparedness in the world, it’s still really hard.

I pee on sticks to see if I’m ovulating, I pee on sticks to see if I’m pregnant. I check my underwear for any signs of blood, just SOMETHING to tell me where my body is at in the cycle. No signs, nothing to get my bearings on this path towards fertility. I feel like I’m floating in the wind, going every which way, not sure where I will land. One of the most frustrating symptoms? Acne as a 30-year old. It takes me right back to middle school with the embarrassment and hassle of it. Every day when I look in the mirror, I’m reminded that my hormones are gasping for breath, reaching out for normalcy once again.

In this journey, I’ve had to open myself up to the idea that I could be peeing on stick for a long time. I could be waiting for my ovaries to figure themselves out for longer than I dare to write. And unfortunately, that’s not uncommon for many of the women I know. There are countless stories of struggle AND hope with PCOS. Yet, knowing there’s hope in a situation doesn’t take away of the weariness I’ve felt living in the midst of it.

Living with PCOS is such an internal battle. On the outside, I’m moving forward in what I know to be true but on the inside, I’m weary and frustrated with the path that’s been chosen for me. It’s in times like these when I wish I was just "normal"---whatever that means. It’s funny how the low places make me believe that everybody else has it together, even though I know that’s not true. We all have junk to carry and battles to fight on this path we’re walking.

Whether it’s PCOS, an auto-immune disease, or other chronic health issues, dealing with the emotional and physical weight of our bodies being out of whack is HARD. Yes, there are practical things we can do to alleviate symptoms and promote healthy living. There's counseling, community, and faith to help us cope with the emotional roller coaster chronic illness can send us on. There is also a time to look each other in the eye and say “Hey, I hear you, “That sucks,” and “I'm with you.”

Can we walk alongside each another in the murky “in between” of life; when there isn’t a 3-step program or overnight solution for the brokenness we experience on this side of heaven? Can we grieve together and lean on one other when we feel weary?

So, friend. With eyes welled up with tears, I'm here to tell you: you’re not alone. Even though you feel like no one understands and are tired of fighting in this battle, don’t you dare give up. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, knowing that you’re fighting a worthy cause. We can do this. With scars and limps, we’ll walk along this earth knowing that there is a heavenly Hope where our bodies won’t hurt anymore, where we won’t have to face our insufficiencies any longer. One day, we will be made whole again and brokenness will be a faint, distant memory.

Oh come, Lord Jesus, come.

3 Things I Learned at a Fondue Party

Women thrive on inspiration and ideas.

Gather a group of women together and it’s only time until someone starts sharing about a new skincare routine or how to quiet a colicky baby. All ears in. The questions begin. “Does anyone have a quick dinner recipe?” “How do I get pet stains from the carpet?” "What book are you reading?" “I just started Whole30 and feel like I’m dying—any tips?” We want answers; inspiration to our daily conundrums. Life hacks to mix up our routine. It’s therapeutic yet productive at the same time. I leave those brainstorming sessions with more (recipes and) gumption for life.

 

We need to be reminded that we're not alone.

"You mean, I’m not the only one who can’t figure out how to curl my hair right?" or "You hate running too?" or "Marriage is hard for you too?" There is a major part of us that yearns for genuine friendship with other women. We desperately need time outside our four walls to ground us again in this common reality: we are all women. All in the same boat. Sure, different stages of life, backgrounds, personalities, and issues. But we all need hope when we feel hopeless, a pick-me-up when we’re down, a hug when we need to feel accepted. We need to feel like our problems aren’t the only problems in the world. We need to be reminded that we are not alone. No matter how many times the lie deceives us—we’re not alone.

We think everyone is cooler than us.

Have you ever had an acquaintance who you’ve admired from afar, thinking of how you could be best friends if only you were as cool as her (maybe that’s just me)? You politely smile and wave in social situations, hoping you get stuck in the same conversation circle as her. Like peering into the in-crowd—she seems unreachable. Then when you finally have an actual a conversation her, you realize she's been thinking the same thing about you all along. We think everyone is cooler than us. Or we believe everyone has it better than us: better marriage, job, kids, body, hair, life. This lie only keeps us further from each other. These fabricated stories ignite the comparison game instead of bringing us together; they will keep us alone. It’s time to put the stories to rest so we can finally connect with each other, the way God intended.

Nourish: Ginger Root

             This looks like a dinosaur but it's ginger root.

             This looks like a dinosaur but it's ginger root.

Flu season is upon us. With sniffles, sore throats, body and stomach aches, immune systems have been on overdrive working to keep our bodies strong. I was sick most of January. It was long and traitorous but I'm finally recovering, returning back to normalcy which is joyfully welcomed. During my time being sick I was introduced to a favorite addition my diet: ginger. 

I’ve heard a lot about ginger in the health world but hadn’t given it a try until now. While sick on the couch, my mom paid me a visit with all the flu goodies you need, including ginger root. She made me ginger tea and not only was it delicious but it greatly improved my nausea. After seeing her prepare it, I was less intimidated to try it on my own. 

Did you know that ginger root helps inflammation, digestion, and nausea? Ginger root is also a natural way to boost your body's immune system

          Berry Ginger Smoothie

          Berry Ginger Smoothie

There are several ways to enjoy the benefits of ginger in your diet. One way is to make a tea from it. Simply peel about a thumb size piece of ginger and cut it into chunks. Boil in a saucepan (Dr. Axe says for 30 minutes) or until you have the ginger taste you want. You can include a tea bag of choice or drink it by itself (this way is good when it's really gingery).

Another way to use ginger is to throw it in a smoothie. This week, I blended frozen banana, blueberries, blackberries, almost butter, spinach, almond milk, ginger root and ice together. It turned into a deep, rich purple color with a fragrant hint of ginger mixed throughout. I loved this combination- super refreshing!

So, if you’re looking for a natural way to fight sickness this winter, ginger is your secret weapon! It’s an inexpensive, low maintenance, and versatile food with amazing health benefits. Boost your immune system, kick the nausea, and promote healthy digestion in your body! And don't forget about fighting inflammation which is the source of a lot of common diseases. Why wouldn't you want these things?

Now, go add ginger to your grocery list! Let me know how it goes.

Five Pitfalls of Social Media

Social media is a vital part of the way our culture functions and communicates ideas. In September of 2016, research recorded 1.79 billion active monthly users on Facebook alone. With it, we have incredible opportunities to share ideas quickly across the world. Various forms of social media have been used to rally for causes, plan events, and connect old friends. It’s shown the depths technology can go to build a platform for people to virtually connect.

As a millennial, I’ve grown up with social media as the norm. But over the last few years, I’ve struggled with how social media has changed the way we interact with each other. I’ve frequently contemplated its proper place in my life, and maybe you have too. Here are a few of my qualms about our relationship with social media:

  1. Comparison. It happens when I see a friend’s recent trip to Europe, and she looks incredible in heels (why are my feet so fat?). She looks happy in all her pictures, and her life seems way more put together than mine. Does she not wear sweatpants for leisure like I do? Suddenly, I’m depressed and my life sucks. Ever happen to you? I know it’s not someone else’s fault for making me feel envious nor is it social media’s doing. The struggle with comparison is an issue of the heart. But most times, I leave Facebook feeling worse about myself not better.

  2. Approval. Social media breeds an environment of constantly seeking approval through the content we post. Just look at young girls posting selfies of themselves and hoping for comments like: “You’re so pretty!” “I love your lipstick!” “You look so skinny!” We constantly check our phones after we post a pictures to see how many ‘likes’ we get. It’s natural to want people to like the stuff we put out there, but could we be looking for approval in the wrong place?

  3. Waste of Time. What is the first thing we do in the morning or right before bed? How about waiting at the doctor’s office or in line at the grocery store? How about on the toilet (I can't be the only one)? If there is a quiet moment, we fill it with something. Sadly, many of us are mindlessly browsing our news feeds. We creepily peer into people’s lives, many of whom are acquaintances and drive us nuts, rather than filling our time with things that are actually meaningful.

  4. Pseudo Connecting. Social media claims to do a lot more “connecting” than I’d give it credit for. Sure, it links us to people that have moved away, helps us plan our high school reunions, and allows us share our opinions on politics. But if anything, I feel more disconnected from the people around me because of it. I’ve walked into restaurants and seen families sitting around the table with both kids and parents staring at their phones. I’ve felt isolated while my friends eagerly post a picture of our gathering on Instagram before we’ve even left their house. I’ve had to pause my sentence because the person I’m having coffee with is taking a picture of her coffee cup and posting it so that everyone knows what we’re doing. Perhaps, sharing our every whereabout or reading about what other people are doing is keeping us from truly connecting with those in the same room as us-- those who we really value and care about.

  5. Sacred Moments. There are sacred moments in life that deserve privacy; memories that are for you and the person you share them with. Like waking up the day after your wedding with your new spouse and not feeling rushed to change your Facebook status. Or quiet moments of reading the Bible or at the spa where you’re “resting.” Can we not let those moments be unseen by the rest of the world? More importantly, do our minds ever stop from thinking about how we’re going to craft the next moment for the camera?

In her recent article, Gracy Olmstead says it perfectly: “There’s something beautiful, and increasingly rare, about inhabiting a moment without a thought for its online potency. About loving a place, a person, a dish, a moment for their intrinsic goodness, and not seeing them as a means to a technological or social end.”

Social media isn’t bad, and it’s not the source of our problems. But like most things, when humans get ahold of something great, it becomes more nuanced. We add social context, emotions, and our sinful nature to it. Social media simply provides an amplified platform for us to struggle with the same things we struggle with in real life. If we want the approval from others, we can manipulate social media to give it to us. If we struggle with comparison, social media can feed that. So, quitting social media isn’t necessarily the solution (although some people feel convicted to do that, and I salute you).

My exhortation is to simply be mindful of the role social media has in our lives. Let’s be curious about how we interact online and the content we consume there. Asking ourselves the question, “Why?” before we post or mindlessly scroll through Instagram will keep us honest with ourselves. It will also keep us intentional with our lives. Maybe we'll see the ways in which we run to social media to fill the void. Perhaps we'll notice the way it feeds those areas where we struggle. And let our awareness move us to develop a healthier relationship with social media, one that allows us to live more freely--the way we're intended. 

Life deserves our presence, so do the people we love. When we’re less consumed by our screens, we're free to be more engaged in the {actual} world around us. We can be present in both the high and low moments in life, not just the perfectly crafted ones. When we're truly present, we don't have to constantly prove our life's existence by be conjuring up posts about it, but rather treasure it for what it is: real life.