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The First Step Toward Abundant Health

One of the biggest struggles people have with experiencing an abundant life is being healthy. And when I say “healthy”, I’m not talking about the absence of diagnosed disease. If you are experiencing optimum health, you:

  • have energy for most of the day, without any need for caffeine (I busted most of my readers right there!).
  • have healthy teeth, skin and hair.
  • experience no or only mild seasonal allergy symptoms.
  • rarely get a cold or flu, and when you do, symptoms are mild.
  • can concentrate and focus well.
  • do not experience mood swings.
  • feel positive most of the time.
  • can walk up at least two flights of stairs without getting out of breath.
  • have few aches and pains in your body, even into your senior years (traumatic injuries excepted).
  • are not obese.

If you’re like most people, based on those criteria you aren’t anywhere near being optimally healthy. Now, as time goes on I’m going to hit on diet, nutrition, and fitness tips to help you improve your health. But there is an even bigger factor that impacts the state of your health, and that is chronic stress.

Most Westerners live in a state of chronic stress, which translates into a state of hormonal imbalance in their bodies. This imbalance slowly yet progressively deteriorates the proper functioning of cells, organs, and systems. Dysfunction at the cellular level will eventually lead to some kind of disease.

So what is the first step toward living in abundant health? Reduce your stress.

Yes, I know, you’ve heard it before. But if you’re like most people who have heard it before, you are still experiencing levels of stress that are too high and too frequent to ensure that your body remains healthy.

So I’m going to say it again, and again, and again:

You need to reduce stress.

You need to reduce stress.

You need to reduce stress.

In the next few Fabulous Health Friday blog posts, I will be talking in detail about a handful of the most important things you can do to reduce stress. But for now, let me touch on them, and add a few more ideas for good measure.

  • Get unforgiveness out of your heart.
  • Stop needing to be right.
  • Stop judging.
  • Change your perspective about events you currently perceive to be stressful.
  • Have at least thirty minutes of “me” time every day.
  • If your job is sucking the life out of you, look for another one.
  • Avoid fear-instilling media, such as the evening news or horror novels.
  • Pray and/or meditate every day.
  • Try to take a long walk every day.
  • Smile more.
  • Replace negative thoughts and words with positive ones.

If you are serious about living an abundant life, then you need to be serious about improving your health. And the first – and perhaps most vital – step is to get as much stress out of your life as you can.

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What does it mean to live an abundant life? Is it about having a lot of money? Living the American Dream of having a big house and a fancy car?

Actually, some of the richest people in the world lack abundance. Why? First of all, an abundant life has at least as much to do with what’s going on inside you than what’s going on outside you. Second of all, most wealthy people worry about their finances. Worry causes stress. Chronic stress leads to disease.

If you’re not healthy, you’re not living an abundant life.

As I stated in a recent post, abundance includes having enough money to pay the bills and then some for saving and giving, being healthy in body and mind, having loving and supportive relationships in your life, and doing work that fulfills you.

Above all these aspects is spiritual abundance. Joy overflowing and peace that surpasses all understanding should be near-daily experiences because you have developed an intimate relationship with your Creator. A faith-filled life void of bitterness and fear is the most abundant life of all, even if the person living it is homeless and counting on soup lines in order to survive.

Three ways to live more abundantly, right now

Most people don’t feel that they are living abundant lives. For many it’s because they refuse to connect with God (it’s not enough just to believe!). For others it’s because they struggle to make ends meet, or are experiencing serious health challenges.

The good news is, living a more abundant life is as easy and simple as first, looking outside yourself and feeling compassion for other people; and second, gaining the knowledge needed to make wiser lifestyle choices.

That said, here are three ways that you can begin to develop more abundance in your life today.

#1: Add a cup of vegetables to your diet today.

If you’re serious about being healthy, your daily consumption of fruits and vegetables should be nine servings a day, not the five servings you usually hear recommended. Chances are good that you’re not eating even the “5 a day for better health.”

So, instead of meat for dinner tonight, have a cup of black beans. Or add a cup of broccoli florets or green beans to either your lunch or dinner (preferably frozen or fresh, not canned). Or have two to three cups of salad vegetables – say, two cups of shredded romaine lettuce with a grated carrot – with a meal.

Getting in the habit of eating more fruits and vegetables – thereby making less space for the junk and fatty foods – is a great way to improve your health over time.

#2: Forgive somebody.

Most of us have someone in our lives whom we need to forgive. If you are walking around in unforgiveness, you are full of bitterness, resentment, and/or hatred. This is not an abundant life, for your have imprisoned your own soul in a cloud of toxicity.

You don’t have to talk to the person. That may be impossible, anyway, as the person might already be dead! You just have to let go of all the bad feelings. Give them to God. Ask Him to replace the negativity with joy and peace. You will not only improve your future health, but in that moment experience a release and lightness of heart that will last the rest of your life.

#3: Give something to somebody…without expecting a return.

Give to a charity. Pay the groceries or gas of the person in front of you at the checkout counter. Give the homeless person on the corner that candy bar in your purse that you know you shouldn’t be eating, anyway.

Give your elderly neighbor thirty minutes of your time via a conversation he or she rarely has anymore. Give your children some play time at the park instead of your usual after-work meeting at Starbucks with co-workers.

“Give, and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, shaken, and running over shall men give into your bosom.” [Luke 6:38, The Holy Bible]

Giving brings joy to the giver. The more joy you have, the more abundant your life is.

And, like Jesus said in the above verse, giving leads to you receiving more in your life. More of what? Whatever you give!

Run with this idea!

There are dozens of other little actions you could choose from today to make your life more abundant. Let these three ideas be only a springboard. Take them and run with them. Or, sticking to the metaphor, dive with them.

What is abundance? Now you know.

Abundance to you,

Emily

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The Myth Of Freedom

“Time freedom.”

“Money freedom.”

“Financial freedom.”

“I want more freedom in my life.”

“Freedom of speech.”

I could go on. But you and I both have heard many phrases hinting at the ideas that we either deserve freedom, or can attain it. And if you’re like me, you’ve bought into those ideas.

The day I read the following quote in the novel Blue Castle by Lucy Maude Montgomery (of Anne of Green Gables fame), my idea of freedom began to change.

“There’s no such thing as freedom on earth,” [the main male character, Barney] said. “Only different kinds of bondages. And comparative bondages. You think you’re free now because you’ve escaped from a particularly unbearable kind of bondage. But are you? You love me – that’s a bondage.”

Twisting the constitutional amendments

People insult, threaten and slander others in the name of “free speech.” But the United States constitutional amendment that they are referring to isn’t about being able to say whatever you want, whenever you want, to whomever you want. It’s about the citizens’ right to verbally and openly disagree with the government, if they believe the government is making wrong choices and decisions.

With rights come responsibilities. And these responsibilities make us less free, not more.

We don’t have the freedom to murder. We don’t have the freedom to threaten. We don’t have the freedom to stalk. We don’t have the freedom to insult.

Sure, you may get away with the last one more easily than the others I mentioned, but there is risk involved when you insult someone. They might insult you back, or worse. Besides which, when you release negativity into the world, that negativity also surrounds you and imprisons you.

The “radical” unschooling lie

Parents who supposedly give their children the freedom not to brush their teeth or to eat junk food are actually leading them into bondage – the bondage of ill health and high dental bills. When they give them the supposed freedom of not learning the basic academic skills and knowledge they need to pursue their interests or grow their talents to the fullest extent possible, they are leading their children into a bondage of a mediocre life. Perhaps even worse.

A fair trade?

When we moved out to our rural property, I thought life would be freer. No more being forced to keep our weeds and grass down under a foot in height. Much more space to garden. Fewer neighbors, and less risk of being a victim of crime.

Now we have discovered what a tight bondage homesteading brings. When you have a huge garden and a bunch of thirsty fruit trees, you can’t just up and travel whenever you want. Because we live in the chigger-ridden South, we have to keep the grass in front of our house short in the summer – and there is more to mow than we had at our suburban home.

We are in bondage to taking a five-hour round trip every month to get organic groceries, as opposed to the thirty-minute round trip I used to take once a week. And always be able to have fresh produce on hand.

We traded neighbors with whom we were friendly – even though we didn’t always see eye-to-eye on how our front lawn should look – for neighbors who are surly, bitter, and vengeful. Not all of them, but given there are only four other couples here besides us and I’m talking about the husbands of two of them, that’s half who have taken a disliking to us.

I’m not going to deny that I have my complaints about our life here. But I had complaints when we were living in the suburbs. Perhaps more. We traded one set of bondages for another, a set that made us feel like we were gaining more freedom. But in truth, we haven’t.

I suppose you could say we made a fair trade.

Then, there are the MLM “freedoms”

If you’ve ever joined a multi-level marketing company, you probably heard the phrases “time freedom” and “money freedom” thrown around like spitballs in an unsupervised school room. You may have even thrown them out yourself, at the friends and family you were trying to get to join your business.

But the fact is, having more free time does not equate to “time freedom.” Even the hunter-gathering tribes of South American, Africa, and isolated islands have to craft their days around the day-night cycle. And in the Western world, having more free time usually equates to wasted potential. Most modern people simply aren’t disciplined enough to use their free time in productive ways. Understand that I believe recreational activities to be productive. But I’m talking about activities where you are actually engaged either mentally or physically, not staring numbly at a screen.

My point: if you are wasting time, you are wasting your potential and your life. How does this make you more free?

Besides which, if you’ve ever tried to build an MLM business (which I don’t recommend, by the way) you know that your time is not your own. You have to constantly use it to try to talk to other people about your business opportunity. And when you’re not doing that, you’re either feeling guilty for not doing it or thinking about the next step to take.

Not only is your time not free, neither is your mind!

As for money freedom? Even if the sorry statistics that reveal the tiny number of people who actually make a profit – let alone enough money to enable them to quit their job – were reversed, how does MLM bring you money freedom when you are required to purchase a certain amount of product and/or pay for a service every month in order to be able to get paid for the work you do for the company? When you are being told how to spend your money, that is not freedom.

The only real freedom

Jesus (Yeshua, if you prefer) said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” That truth is that He is the Son of God, Himself being one with the Creator, and that He sacrificed His life and received it back in order to break the bondage of sin off of humanity. Whoever accepts (knows) that truth is set free from the consequences of sin – separation from their heavenly Father.

The only true freedom you will ever find on earth is spiritual freedom, and I just told you how to get it.

Pick your bondage

At the beginning of this post, I quoted Barney from the classic novel, Blue Castle. Valancy, the woman who loved him, responded to his statement with an old quote: “The prison unto which we doom ourselves no prison is.” She’s telling Barney that the bondage we choose doesn’t feel like a bondage.

But, it still is. Whenever we make a choice, we become bonded to the consequences of that choice. Choosing to be single often leads to the bondage of loneliness. Choosing to marry leads to the bondage of having to compromise on the major decisions of life: where to live, how you will spend your free time, and so on.

When my family chose to move to a rural area, we faced different bondages than those which we faced in the suburbs. But I would make the choice all over again, because for me the benefits of living here far outweigh the bondages.

Still, it would be a lie for me to say that we have greater freedom now.

Spiritual freedom through Christ aside, freedom on earth is a myth. The sooner you stop searching for it, the sooner you will find joy, peace, and fulfillment.

Abundance to you,

Emily

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Bye-Bye, Vertical Garden!

The vertical strawberry garden was going to be like a second savior to me. If I got the strawberries out of the ground, they wouldn’t be so prone to the rot fungus, anthracnose, that they get every year. Right? And the mice wouldn’t be able to get to them.

Here’s how it was supposed to work (uh-oh, note the phrase “supposed to”): I poke a hole in the bottom of a container (I used empty frozen fruit bags), insert a rope the height of the container plus two inches, then fill the container with soil, working it in around the rope. Finally, I plant in a strawberry plant.

The extra rope hanging out the bottom would go down into a hole in the PVC pipe, and was supposed to wick the water in the pipe up into the soil.

Uh-oh. There’s that phrase “supposed to” again.

And it was only supposed to require a once-a-week watering.

Aaannd…another one! Three “supposed to’s”. Can you guess what’s coming?

Yep. The wicking failed, and the pipes needed refilling several times a week, not one.

Besides many of the plants drying up thanks to the wicking not keeping enough of the soil moist, the fruits in the vertical garden got rot just the same as the ones that I’d left in the ground.

What to do? What to do? J had spent so much time putting the structure together. I wasn’t going to let myself give up.

I know! Redo the containers, but this time coil the rope inside the soil so the water could get to more of the plants’ roots.

Newsflash: I despised putting the containers together the first time. Would I really want to redo it?

Okay, so maybe I can plant something else instead, something with a simpler wicking solution. What about fashioning containers out of fabric that would fit into the one-and-a-half inch holes – finger-shaped things – fill  them with coconut coir, and grow lettuce and spinach on the vertical garden?

Yeah, yeah, that would work! And I could quit feeling guilty for having asked J to build the structure, because I would use it for something, right?

But after some time, I realized I didn’t want to do the work it would require to improvise such tiny containers.

Back to the drawing board.

Hmm. Thinking, thinking…I still want to grow strawberries. Might there be a more effective way to use the pipes than the rope-wicking way?

I know! Line frozen fruit bags with landscaping fabric. Poke a hole in the middle of the bottom of each bag that’s big enough to push two inches of the fabric through. When I fill the bag with potting mix, I make sure to fill that little “finger” so that when I stick it into the water-filled pipe, it will suck up water.

The concept works, but after making three such bags I again asked myself, “Do I want to have to pay for the therapy I’ll need after putting fifty or more of these bags together?”

The answer was a definite, “Probably not.”

In the meantime, J had told me a couple of times that he wouldn’t mind taking the thing apart. Really.

But I just couldn’t let him do it. I made him make the thing, so by golly, I was going to figure out a use for it!

Except…every single idea I had overwhelmed me. And besides, underlying each idea was the thought that it might fail as big as the original idea had.

Finally, I stopped trying to figure out how to use the vertical garden structure, and started trying to figure out why I couldn’t just let J take it down.

The answer came swift and sure: guilt. Because when you make a mistake, don’t you know, you can’t just be forgiven of it and move on. No. You have to do penance. You have to work for forgiveness.

That’s what I was brought up believing. And even though I started hearing differently as an adult, some of Satan’s hooks just take more time and effort to pull out than others.

God used the vertical strawberry garden to show me that, after years of struggling out of the bonds of religion, they still had a hold on my soul. In the back of my mind, I still believed that I didn’t deserve instant forgiveness for my mistakes and wrongdoing. That I had to earn it by beating myself over the head with guilt, and bending over backwards to make things right.

No more!

When the weather cools down a bit, that structure is going bye-bye. And, starting right now, I’m not going to feel guilty about it a second longer.

But I learned my lesson. Like I implied at the end of this post, I’m not going to have any more bright ideas that will involve huge projects on which J would have to do most of the work.

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