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Strength and Faith

strength and faith

How do we stay strong during disappointments and sadness? How do we stay faithful when it seems our prayers are not being answered?

I drag myself along the trail. My feet plod slowly on the dusty path…thud, thud, thud. They feel like they are made of lead. My heart is heavy too, pulling me downwards by an invisible thread, almost anchoring me to the spot. My whole body carries the weight of my sadness. I force my arms to swing and continue slowly forward, trying to physically propel myself out of my grief, trying not to get stuck, paralyzed in my disappointment and fear.

At the same time as I make my slow progress by foot along a dirt path, my husband does the same thing, but by bike. Our chosen methods to deal with our sadness – getting out in nature to think and breathe. The sun begins to drop in the sky, bathing everything in her soft gold rays. When we get home Jeff tells me he feels the burden of our sadness too. He says he feels deflated. “The wind taken out of our sails”, I murmur.

Last time we had learned about our IVF failure I had wanted to run or ride as fast as I could. I had wanted to exercise, breathe hard, feel my heart racing, push myself to my limit, (especially after two weeks of mostly sedentary resting/waiting). I had wanted to remind myself how strong I am physically and mentally. That afternoon back in June when we’d heard the news, I went on a ride with Jeff. I rode hard and at the end of our ride I held my bike high above my head. I demonstrated to myself, Jeff, and God, how strong I was. However, today feels different. Today I feel so heavy inside. Today it will take something else to help me move on.

I wish my inspiration to write today was out of jubilation and not sadness. I cannot wait for the moment to share one of my greatest joys with the world – that we’re expecting our child. But the result of our earlier phone​ ​call determined my current disposition. Jeff and I had sat at the teak table on our back deck, the fresh air on our cheeks and inhaling deep breaths, we looked at my phone and waited to hear the results of our IVF 4. To hear whether our tiny beautiful embryo, which had grown healthily for 6 days, had implanted. To hear whether we were pregnant!

During our wait I mention to him that this could either be the best phone call of our lives or the worst phone call. Then I reflected on that and corrected myself. No matter the news this phone call would reveal, it would not tell us of the hardest thing I could imagine: of a terminal illness or the death of a loved one. And while it could represent death in some ways – the death of our dream of parenthood at this moment in time, the death of our previously thriving embryo – at least it was not the worst news we could face. I felt thankful for that. It reminded me to be grateful for what we do have.

(Some studies have shown that ​​infertility carries a similar level of anxiety and depression ​for people, ​as ​those​ diagnosed with cancer and heart disease. ​Some women who have suffered from both cancer and infertility, have reported ​certain aspects of infertility being harder to bear – the shame, failure, and especially regarding their interactions with others on the topic. Dealing with infertility isn’t understood by so many people. This is ​partly why I chose to be open about our fertility struggles, hoping that shedding a light on fertility issues might ​reduce the stigma and to help people understand).​

The phone call eventually came. The tone of that first syllable of the nurse’s words again letting us know the bad news. Why? Why are we still not going to be parents? The tears came. My body crumpled into my husband’s arms. My sobs quiet at first and then louder, my breath gasping, chest heaving. We try to take it all in. The disappointed crashed down upon us, followed closely by confusion and frustration.

The ‘whys’ become directed at God. When I first looked for His plan in the delay of our conceiving, I tried to look for the silver lining and good that was a result. I thought that perhaps one of the reasons for the delay was to strengthen my husband’s​ and my relationship. While fertility struggles can cause major issues in the relationships of some, Jeff and I ​are fortunate to feel ​that it ​is bringing us closer and closer together. We admire each other’s strength, courage and sacrifices, and ​are ever more impressed by the person we​ chose to be our life partner. However, after time I felt like we had achieved ​such a strong bond and ​yet ​conceiving still wasn’t happening for us.​

Did I need to learn something more? I’ve​ already​ learned so much from our journey (mentioned in previous posts​ : Our Journey to Parenthood, We Are Ready For You, Thankful for those little things, and Our baby journey continues​), including: patience, strength, ​gratefulness, faith, and the love of family and friends. Over the past months and years we have drawn on that love. We feel incredibly​ ​thankful for the people in our lives, and their love and support​.​

Why are we still waiting?​ I have sat by as I watched so many friends get pregnant, and smiled. I have learned of multiple people who conceived on their first try, and smiled. I smile through my own pain at not experiencing the same, but I smile because I always feel happy and excited for others. I have spoken with people who have struggled with and expressed the sadness of infertility for just a few months, I smile and empathize with them. I listen to people who are suffering from secondary infertility after having their first or second child, I smile and comfort them. Sometimes, in my human failings, I get frustrated thinking that a few months struggling with infertility, before or between children, is nothing compared to nearly 5 years. Or perhaps I don’t ​fully ​acknowledge​ to myself​ the same grief of secondary infertility, when I’d love for even one child. But then I remind myself, who am I to say their grief is any less than mine? I’m not a martyr for going through this. So many people go through so many different struggles and hardships in life.  It is often these shared difficulties that connect us.  And ​hopefully I can learn some things and help others along the way.​

Maybe I have more to learn on this journey? ​Maybe God has a different plan for me than I’m imagining? Maybe more than the lessons I have learned, and needing me to become closer to my husband, family, and friends, he needs me to become closer to Him?​ I search for what it is I am supposed to do.  Do I need to pray harder? More often? Go to church more?

Some people have expressed that God did not answer their prayers until they finally turned everything over to Him and put all their strength and trust in Him.  ​​I continue to grow in my faith​​, but I find it hard sometimes.  Struggles ​and hardships ​can test our faith, and it has certainly tested mine. But I remind myself that our hard times are when we can especially turn to and rely on God. ​

People have quoted Bible verses to us “Ask and ye shall receive”. They tell us they are thankful to God for blessing them with their child and answering their prayers. Why did he bless them and not us? Plenty of people ask God for things, for honorable things – for themselves or loved ones to be healed, to become parents, to be able to feed themselves and their families. ​We don’t always get the answer we are looking for. We have to trust God’s plan and timing for us. Being able to do that is a process.​

I read a couple of things today that stuck out to me ‘Sometimes BAD things happen to GOOD people’.  This is an age-old adage. People often ponder this, especially when they are doubting God’s existence: ‘Why would He let something bad happen to someone good?’  I also read ‘Sadness contributes to the richness and fullness of life’. I reflect on these two statements and realize that if bad things only happen to bad people, we would all live in fear of being bad or doing anything bad. Being fearful is not a good way to live. Also, when bad/hard/sad things happen to people it allows humans to ​connect, to show their tenderness towards one another, and to recognize their own humility (we are not above suffering, there is no reason someone else should suffer over us). We can learn so much from these things. To some extent, I believe we need to feel some hardship/lows in order to fully appreciate joy/highs. The yin and yang – necessary opposites, contrary but interconnected.

W​hen life is challenging, I try to look for the good and beauty in things. When I went on my walk today, after our devastating phone call (now a total of 7 failed embryos), I saw huge thick gray clouds overhead​, casting everything below in coolness and shadow. I ​also saw ​the sun peeking out from behind the clouds.  It made it’s way through the clouds and warmed my skin.​ I realize the sun, the light, the things that make me feel good and happy, are what I want to focus on.

As ​I carry on on this journey, I will continue to look for the silver lining​s​. I will use my inner strength to propel me forward. I will try to let go, and rely on God and my ​faith. I will be thankful for my husband, my family and friends, and let them help me share the weight of my burdens, as I help with theirs. And I will share the lessons I learn along the way. Jeff and I will go on​.​ We will find a way – someday, someway, somehow – to be parent​s.​ As we process our next steps, I want to thank you all for your continued love and support.


Read my most recent post for National Infertility Awareness Week, which includes a poem I wrote, here: My womb is empty, but my heart is strong.


one step at a time

Taking one step at a time.

Sitting on my favorite bench contemplating my emotions and our next steps.

Heavy clouds overhead, but the sun is trying to peek through.

The sun breaks through the clouds. It warms my skin and bathes everything in it’s golden rays.

We Are Ready For You

Two years ago I wrote about ‘Our Journey to Parenthood‘.  Now two years later, and four years of trying to conceive, our journey continues.  It is a journey of highs and lows, and incredible insights.  I believe sharing our raw emotions and lessons we’ve learned is how we connect as humans.  It can be hard to stay strong and positive in our faith and relationships during these challenges, but through love and support we can. These are my latest thoughts on our journey….


To Our Dearest Child,

There is scarcely a day in recent past where I have not thought of you – your long eyelashes resting angelically on your cheeks as you sleep, the movement of your lips gently suckling as you think of your next feed, the soft downy hair on your head catching the sunlight, the tiny pads of your fingers and toes. Your image is in my mind and heart, a constant companion and reminder you are not yet with us. Some days the void is more apparent. We dearly want you here – to hear the sweet sound of a child within our home, to feel you in our arms – to fill us with your presence. We are ready for you.

Why are you not yet here? Is there something more we can do? You are in our thoughts and decisions. We anticipate you being here. A small smile spreads on my face as my eyes scan our living room. We chose our furniture with you in mind, our side and coffee tables with rounded edges, “So, when we have a child they won’t hurt themselves on sharp corners” we told the salesperson. I look out of the window and see the area we leveled for a swing set, just as we did in our last house. I worry about the tree blocking my view to keep an eye on you and check you are safe as you play, but I imagine I will be outside playing with you much of the time. I raise my eyes to our second floor and see your bedroom door. We have painted your room for you and had the carpet repaired. We received a crib that our niece and nephews used, and your Dad and I built it together last year. “Build it and they will come!” your Dad always says. We are ready for you.

Is there a lesson we must learn before you arrive? Your Dad and I have learned so much over the last few years. It was hard when we were first married – each of us adjusting to putting the other person before ourselves, being thoughtful, communicating clearly, and making decisions as a team. We are both stubborn and headstrong. There was anger and tears at times, but there is also so much fun and joy. Oh, how your Dad makes me laugh – his smile, his energy and enthusiasm. We have come such a long way and grown so much. We are a better team now. We appreciate each other more. We have a deeper love and respect for each other. I am thankful we have had this time to learn and grow before you arrived. There will be more learning and growing to do, I know, but we are ready for you.

The last four years have been an unforgettable journey. The day we decided we wanted to bring you into the world, and all that has passed since. I picture your Dad and I on a boat, riding the waves of hope and disappointment, up and down, joy and pain. Sometimes your Dad is the captain and sometimes I am, taking it in turns to row or bail out water, keeping us afloat. We see our destination. We move towards it. We are ready for you.

This is not a journey of sadness though. We have so much to be grateful for and have experienced great joy on the way. We must remember this. So often it can feel like we are in limbo, waiting for something to happen, waiting for you to arrive. I used to cringe when people told me several years into our fertility journey, “Enjoy life while you can, before you have children” – thinking they had no idea how we felt. Now I realize we must enjoy life now, we must remember to be in the present, not in a constant state of waiting. I look around me and my heart is glad. We are so fortunate. Our lives are rich with the blessings of amazing family and friends, of travel and adventure, of professional and personal success and fulfilment. I look out the window at the beauty that surrounds me, of all that God has given us, and I am so very grateful. We appreciate each day and each blessing. But, as I bring my attention back inside I notice once more you are not here to enjoy life with us. We are ready for you.

Life without children can be hard (as it surely is with them – I have no disillusions of that). Our society often seems designed for families. It is expected of us. We tend to define a female in her role as a wife and mother, for women who choose not to bear children, or those of us who struggle with it, that brings immense pressure and judgement.  Childless couples can be met with surprise and suspicion. We feel the need to explain ourselves. There is upset and shame involved in not being able to deliver a baby.  You can feel responsible, even though there is nothing you have done or can do to change it. Your Dad and I are so thankful for the overwhelming support we have had – the wonderful family and friends who have sustained us on this journey. They make a great effort to include us in activities, even if we are the only ones without a baby strapped to us on a hike or without a toddler at the park. They identify with us in other ways, as they did before. Sweet child, you are lucky to have the best support network of children and adults, who are all ready to love you, as they do us. We are ready for you.

Our family, friends, and God have kept us strong during our fertility treatments over the last two years – four IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) procedures in 2014 and two IVFs (In Vitro Fertilization) in 2015. We focus on the power of prayer and positive thinking through these. Your Dad was, and continues to be, the best husband throughout. He will be an amazing Dad too. I cannot wait to be a family with the two of you. During IVFs we had to drive to the clinic nearly every day for ultrasounds and blood tests. We did injections each night too. I found it almost impossible to stick a needle in myself, especially the 1.5” ones. Luckily, your Dad did them for me. He is very caring and patient towards me; he held my hand, rubbed my injection sites in small circles, spoke in soft whispers, encouraged me, and calmed me. At the appointments, we monitored the follicles growing, hoping that one of them would contain you. We are ready for you.

When they retrieved the eggs for IVF, I went under general anesthetic. They retrieved fourteen the first time and nine the second. The doctor told us we make excellent quality embryos so we are very hopeful. Both times after several days, they implanted two embryos. I was awake for this. We watched the process on a screen. I could not stop smiling and exclaiming my amazement to see the embryos transferred, dancing their way up the catheter where they would be placed in my womb, their new home. Throughout this journey, we are increasingly awed by the miracle that is conception and life, and bringing you into this world. The embryologist gave us photos of the beautiful perfect little cells. We prayed every day for them to take and implant or “Throw down their anchor!” as your Dad said fondly. We had hoped they would become you. We are ready for you.

We prayed about and visualized the embryos strong and healthy. I pictured myself with you, a baby, in my womb, growing each month, imagining myself looking in the mirror at my rounded figured and smiling. I pictured holding you in my arms. I created a vision board, I sketched myself with two babies, our two embryos, and I said positive statements every day. We were calm and optimistic. I imagined all of my loved ones sitting in a circle alongside us, smiling, supporting us. We are ready for you.

I was so sure that we had conceived you, that when people who knew we were in the process of IVF would say, “If it doesn’t happen this time, it will be ok, it will happen next time.” I would get angry. I did not want that to enter my psyche. I did not want to consider any possibility except that you were already growing in my womb. It upset me. However, unbeknownst to me at the time, I needed to hear their words, as sadly these two attempts at IVF did not work. We were devastated. It was worse than failing to conceive on regular cycles, as we were more physically, spiritually, and emotionally involved than ever. I told your Dad that I knew we both had a great inner strength, and that tenacity and perseverance were strong character traits of us both, but why were they being tested? It seemed unfair. We felt that this process had brought us so close to each other and that we had learned to support and balance each other better than ever. We had more to learn, but we are nearly there. We are ready for you.

If we could bring you into this world through trying, you would be with us already. In other areas of life when there is a goal you are after you can control it somewhat, through energy and effort to succeed. We have tried so hard, but bringing you into this world is not an area in which we have power. I get confused sometimes about how much is in our hands and how much is in God’s. Many people believe it is all in God’s timing and control. There is also the idea that God wants us to work at things too and not just wait for things to happen. We will continue to do what we can, and continue to learn the power of patience, trust, and prayer. Waiting is part of the process of what God wants us to be. We feel we are getting closer. We are ready for you.

We are getting ready to start our third IVF treatment at the end of the month, unless by some miracle we have conceived this month. We are optimistic and hopeful it will happen, and we will bring you into this world. We both dearly want to be parents. We have learned so much on this journey. We have learned to enjoy and be grateful for where we are at in our lives, without feeling in a state of waiting. Your Dad and I have learned to love, appreciate, support, and respect each other in new ways. We have gained a greater appreciation of God, and our family and friends, whose love and support upholds us on this journey. We have learned to be patient, trust, and have faith. We know when you enter our lives you will teach us new lessons too. We cannot wait to meet you our darling child. We are ready for you.

Your loving Mum

Images in my mind of of a sweet baby - their fingers, toes, eyelashes, lips.

Images in my mind of of a sweet baby – their fingers, toes, eyelashes, lips.

Ovulation stick - I get excited to see my ovulation peak (based on LH surge). I cannot wait to see the positive sign on a pregnancy test too :)

Ovulation stick – I get excited to see my ovulation peak (based on LH surge). I cannot wait to see the positive sign on a pregnancy test too :)

Some of my IVF drugs arrive in the post.

Some of my IVF drugs arrive in the post.

Injection time - one evening's supply of injections for IVF

Injection time – one evening’s supply of injections for IVF

We have ultrasounds every other day or daily to monitor the size of the follicles. The follicles look like large dark spheres on the ovaries.

We have ultrasounds every other day or daily to monitor the size of the follicles. The follicles look like large dark spheres on the ovaries.

Getting ready for the embryo transfer. Jeff is such a supportive husband and is going to be a great Dad.

Getting ready for the embryo transfer. Jeff is such a supportive husband and is going to be a great Dad.

I looked pretty excited and happy as they are about to transfer the embryos to my womb.

I looked pretty excited and happy as they are about to transfer the embryos to my womb.

The embryos are transferred from a dish into a catheter to be put in my womb. It was amazing to see them dancing up the fluid ready for their new home.

The embryos are transferred from a dish into a catheter to be put in my womb. It was amazing to see them dancing up the fluid ready for their new home.

My body feels like a pincushion. Targets are drawn on either hip for the nightly progesterone injections.

My body feels like a pincushion. Targets are drawn on either hip for the nightly progesterone injections.

The vision board I created with daily positive mantras and pictures.

The vision board I created with daily positive mantras and pictures. I wrote a post on visualization here.

Making a wish by the statue of St. John of Nepomuk on Charles Bridge, Prague. It is said to come true within a year and a day. I imagine you can guess what I wished for!

Making a wish by the statue of St. John of Nepomuk on Charles Bridge, Prague. It is said to be a very sacred place and your wish will come true within a year and a day. I imagine you can guess what I wished for!

An inspirational quote a friend shared recently - something great is about to happen...

An inspirational quote a friend shared recently – something great is about to happen…

Our Journey to Parenthood…

I stand in front of the mirror and look at my reflection, turning this way and that, imagining a soft swell in my belly.   I gently press my hand there and move it in small circles, willing our baby into existence.  Rubbing and wishing, like one would for a genie in a lamp.  Could it have happened this month?   Have we conceived?  I think I feel more tired than usual, and I felt dizzy this week, and the nose bleed earlier…they must be signs.  I chart my temperature, pee on a stick, and swallow half a dozen prenatal tablets.  This is how every morning begins.

I have held off for a while on writing about this topic – our journey to parenthood.  I am nervous to.  There seems to be enough pressure on a couple trying to conceive without letting the whole world know about it.  However, after nearly two years, most of our worlds do know about it.  So, I feel ok with sharing my emotions, that it will be therapeutic, and if it helps or resonates with someone going through the same thing, then all the better for it.

At first, it is exciting, fun – making the momentous decision to bring another being into the world, then going about making that happen.  You think of the child-filled lives stretched out before you – the baby’s sweet smile, their laughter, their first steps – of holding onto your spouse, as you look into their awed, loved-filled face, which mirrors yours.  You imagine the books you will read your child, the skills you will teach, the lessons you will guide them through.  You and your spouse try with abandon.  You laugh in excitement as you imagine the sperm making its way towards the egg, cheering it on.  Each month you fill with anticipation.  You cannot wait for this to be a part of your lives.

After time it becomes harder.  The anticipation becomes uncertainty, worry, pressure.  Disappointment sinks in.  Why isn’t this working?  Is there something wrong with me?  Or with my spouse?  You do not want to find anything wrong with either of you.  That would be hard – one or the other could feel guilty or to blame.  Although you tell yourselves if that did happen, it would not matter – you are in this together, you are a team.  They run tests.  You have numbers and terms assigned to you – excellent, good, normal/average, or the dreaded terms fair or poor.  You feel labelled and categorized. None of our results appeared abnormal, low, or reduced.  It was a relief, but seemed almost as hard as finding something wrong.  We had nothing specific to work with or fix.

That led me to thinking – is it psychological rather than physical?  Are we too stressed?  Do we need to relax more?  There it is, that key term R-E-L-A-X, which everyone tells you to do.  It is easier said than done.  I cannot help but to gather as much information as possible.  I read copious books, I search endless blogs, we see chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists.  We take herbs and vitamins, I stay warm, we get more sleep, drink less caffeine and alcohol, eat more fruits and vegetables, good fats, and less sugar.  The more time it takes, the more willing you are to try anything.  I think, I analyze, I stress.  I try not to stress!  I relax, I do yoga, and I work out – but not too much.  I decide to skip on strenuous workouts, even though the sun is shining and my bike is calling, and I would love to.  I read a book or take a walk instead, and assure myself that this is best for me and for making our baby.

Sometimes I go on that ride, but make it a gentle one.  Once, as I returned home, I saw a father and son side-by-side on their bikes, silhouetted against the sun.  The father’s hand on his son’s back, gently encouraging him along.  My heart ached.  It aches in happiness for them and their bond, but also aches for the child I want and the relationship we will have, and for more than my own needs, for wanting this so badly for my spouse too, that it hurts.

If it is not this father and son, I see others – mothers pushing their babies on the swings, singing to them; infants peering over their father’s shoulders at church, smiling at me; parents and children looking together at the brightly colored fruits in the grocery store; friends with their toddlers, or swollen bellies carrying their child.  Several friends who also had difficulty conceiving, have told me they felt jealousy towards others and the ‘why them and not me’ mindset.  I totally understand that.  I feel for them and their pain.  However, I have honestly never felt that feeling towards anyone else who has children.  The emotion has never entered my psyche.  I feel fortunate for that.  While there is pain at the hole in our lives we want filled, l have happiness and gladness in my heart for people with children.  I especially love to see my husband, parents, siblings, and in-laws interact with my nephews and nieces.  The smile on their faces and glow in their hearts is tangible.  Children are a gift.

I say ‘gift’, realizing parenting is not all easy.  I am under no illusion that rearing children will bring only joy.  I have not built it up to be something unrealistic.  I have spent time with children – as an aunt, a friend, a teacher.  I know there will be times of frustration, tiredness, and tediousness; there will disagreements, tantrums, and tears (from all parties involved)!  When people think about the freedom and flexibility before children and say lightheartedly to us “Enjoy it while you can!”  I wince.  We do appreciate it now, but we dearly want the next step.  (I was going to say we are ready for the next step, but I realize – are you ever truly ready for something you do not know?)  We may not be ready in all senses of the word, but we want it, we are excited for it, we are willing, we will try.  This gift, the whole package, the ups and the downs, the joy and the tears – we welcome it.  We expect this in parenthood (as with marriage too).  When you love someone and have them in your lives, you face emotions on all ends of the spectrum; you are in it for it all.

I anticipate the love for my children being different than that towards my spouse – not loving them more than him, but not in the same way.  Children are more vulnerable than adults are; they need us, especially as babies.  It inspires a different type of love, a protectiveness.  I hear most parents saying they would lay down their lives for their children – their own needs and indeed their very being, no longer coming first.  I believe many people would do the same for their spouse too.  It may be easier to claim such sacrifices for your child, your own flesh and blood, than it would for your spouse.  But, in wanting to be a selfless, loving, giving parent, it inspires me to want to be a better spouse as well.  Planning to give my all to our children, reminds me to do that for my spouse.  I know there will be hard times, and our marriage will be tested, but overall I hope it will enhance my love towards my spouse.

Over the last few years, I have shed very few tears over this.  I think most of the time I try to push my emotions deep inside and cover them up.  I know this is not healthy and I am getting better at talking about it.  I have some very dear family and friends who are great listeners, advisers, confidants.  Some who have been through this and some who have not -those who understand and those who try their best to understand.  All of them I appreciate greatly.  I have had one or two meltdowns.  I have stood in the bedrooms we have planned for our children, and cried, and cried, with my head in my hands, until I thought I could cry no more.  I have let a single tear slide down my cheek as my period begins, and another month goes by with no success.  I wipe it away with the back of my hand.  I hug my spouse, and we hope.  We hope, we pray, we love each other, and we carry on.  We know this journey is different for everyone.  As our journey unfolds, it is all we can do.  When it does happen, we cannot wait to meet you our sweet child…


Faith, Hope, and Love.

Faith, Hope, and Love.

The gift of life.

My friend bearing the gift of life.

Father and son on their bikes.

Father and son silhouetted on their bikes.

With my sister and her sweet son.

With my sister and her sweet son. I love the joy he brings to all our lives.

My husband and nephew.

My husband and nephew.

My mum and nephew.

My mum and nephew.

My dad and nephew.

My dad and nephew.

My brother and nephew.

My brother and nephew.

My brother and nephew.

My brother and nephew.

Me with my adorable nephew.

Me with my adorable nephew. One day I hope my husband and I have a child of our own.

Healthy Living

With my recent birthday and becoming a year older (well only really a day older, but for anyone above a toddler we record our age in years), it has got me thinking about the topic of living a healthy lifestyle.  A few good friends have also just had birthdays and look fabulous for their age – my 50 and 69 year old friends both looking at least 10 years younger than they are.   I have been wondering what the secret is.  Is it a healthy lifestyle, good genes, or a combination?  

Truth be told, I have been thinking about healthy living for a while, but with these recent birthdays it comes to the forefront of my mind.  I don’t mind having a birthday.  In fact, I love birthdays – they are a day to feel special.  I am thoroughly enjoying my late twenties and early thirties.  These years have been the best era of my life and it is no coincidence that it is the same period of time since meeting my husband Jeff.  Also not by chance, I have also been in the best shape of my life.  Jeff has introduced me to a plethora of new sports and is keen to work-out almost daily.

I feel fortunate to live in a place where a healthy lifestyle is the norm.  (Not the whole country mind you. Quite the opposite – although I hope it becomes healthier.  But the city I live in, Park City).  We are lucky to have miles of trails and weather that makes it conducive to being outdoors. It is common to see everyone in the community out on bike rides or hikes.  I love to witness families partaking in exercise, and organized events and races.  Many of my athletic friends kept in shape throughout their entire pregnancies too, with their usual routines of running or cross-fit right up to giving birth.  (One good friend even did push-ups in the parking lot of the hospital just before she gave birth – because she felt good and she could!) People’s love of fitness and the outdoors here is inspiring and contagious.

But a healthy lifestyle is more than just working-out, it is what we consume too.  It has often been said “You are what you eat”.  This encourages us to think about what we are putting in our bodies – it is so important to our health, well-being, and energy.  It is widely held that a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in refined, processed foods is best.  There are also trends with paleo (caveman) and gluten-free being current popular diets.  I have noticed restaurants and food companies jumping on the band-wagon to cater to these requests, especially with more gluten-free options becoming available.  This is great for those with celiac disease or other gluten-intolerances (my husband being one of them).  But these diets are not for everyone.  I think it wise to do your own research and decide what is best for you.

One thing that seems apparent, is that more of us than we think have food allergies that we are not attending too.  With an estimated 60% of our immune system in our gut it makes sense to eat what best suits our individual bodies, creating a better overall health and well-being.  In addition to managing our immune system, our gut, part of our digestive system, is also said to control our moods, energy, focus, and sleep – further impetus to eat well (read this article for more info: http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/your-gut-5-things-you-didnt-know/ ).  And don’t forget the recommended 2.2 liters of fluid for women and 3 liters for men per day too.

I try to eat and drink healthily and provide my body with what it needs.  Even more so now we have purchased a Vitamix blender.  I got sucked into the demonstration at Costco – the smoothies and soups they made for us to sample were delicious, and my husband had been wanting one for a while. (I have heard great things about the other main blender brand Blendtec too.  People seem to love them both).  Blenders are an easy way to consume the valuable fruits, vegetables, and fluids your body needs.  We throw anything and everything into ours – fruits and veggies (fresh or frozen and many with their skins and seeds containing beneficial nutrients), yogurt, cottage cheese, probiotic powders, fish oil, and nuts – sometimes all in one drink!  We use our blender almost daily and the smoothies have all turned out great so far.  There are tons of great recipes online to take advantage of.

A balanced diet - part of healthy living.

A balanced diet – part of healthy living.

With all this exercise and healthy eating, I feel in pretty good shape on the outside.  But, how about the inside?  How about our psyches – the human soul, spirit, and mind?   While many of us work on our outsides, our inside often gets neglected.  I previously wrote that beauty is both on the outside and inside.  I believe that healthy is an external and internal phenomenon as well.  Healthy living is for our spirits as well as our bodies. 

To nourish who we are on the inside I believe that doing things for others and being open to them helps us.  There are other aspects of our insides and minds to work on too, and I am getting better at this.  For example, I am trying to think positively and worry less (in previous posts I have professed tendencies towards worry and skepticism).  My writing and reflections have helped, along with great sermons at church on acceptance, forgiveness, love, etc.  (I attend Mountain Life in Park City: http://mountainlife.org/media/sunday-messages/).

I have found yoga and meditation beneficial as well – both great outlets to clear and quiet the mind.  I attended a wonderful yoga class recently.  There was a part during the lesson when the instructor had us all repeat a series of sitting to lying moves together.  It looked amazing seeing us all in the mirror moving and pulsating in sync, as if we were one giant living, breathing organism.  I felt peaceful and connected.  She left us with a passage about peace to think on:

Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” – Unknown

Several other passages stood out to me recently too, which encouraged me not to worry:

Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want.” – Unknown

“Sometimes you just have to stop worrying, wondering and doubting, have faith that things will work out may be not how you planned, but just how they’re meant to be.” – Unknown

You can worry or you can trust God.  You can’t do both

With these thoughts and quotes in mind here is to a year ahead of healthy living, in all senses of the word.  I hope yours is too.