Healthy Tip #4 – Go Organic

This week’s healthy eating tip is one of the most basic tips, but also one of the most oft ignored tips. I knew about some of the importance of following this tip for a very long time, but used finances as an excuse to ignore it. The tip I am referring to is eating organically. Specifically I will focus on eating organic produce.

So, we’ve all heard the reasoning. Organic produce has less pesticide residue, pesticides are bad; therefore, organic is better. This is all true, however it took me understanding how bad pesticides really are and how much really is in non-organic produce to convince me to make the shift.

Firstly, I’m going to explain something that was unclear to me before I went organic. I did not realize that the pesticides do not only stay on the skin of the fruit or vegetable. I had some picture that if I soaked my fruits and vegetables long enough then perhaps I could eliminate most or all of the pesticides. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Soaking your fruits and veggies will definitely help remove a lot of the pesticides, but sadly many fruits and veggies end up with pesticides on the inside of the fruit because they absorb it from the pesticide ridden growing location. Along with water and nutrients, the produce sucks up all the yucky pesticides as well. Not to mention, many soft skinned fruits are very difficult to thoroughly clean.

So, the only way to really begin to escape the pesticides is to buy organic produce. Though pesticides can still sometimes find their way onto organic produce the amounts are tenfold less than in traditional produces.

Now then, why do I even care? Are pesticides really that bad? Organic is sooo expensive, is it really worth it?

Let’s start with the bad news first. Why pesticides are so bad.

Pesticides have been linked to innumerable diseases and health issues. I could literally write an entire research paper on the problems that have been connected to pesticide levels. Everything from fertility issues, to cancer, to Parkinson’s disease and endocrine problems have been linked to some degree to pesticide use. Honestly, we don’t hear about the myriad of issues nearly as much as we should given the severity of the health issues, and the prolific use of pesticides. I just don’t have a peace subjecting my body to these poisons, especially when my daughter is breastfed and gets the nutrients and toxins I provide her directly from my diet.

Now, there is good news. While organic food can be expensive, I have discovered there are many ways to eat organic produce more cheaply.

The number one way to save your pennies while eating organically is to eat what is in season. With a little bit of exploring your area you can find the least expensive place to buy organic produce (farm market, grocery store, produce stalls etc), and when you purchase in season produce you may find that it is not much more expensive at all.

Of course, since we’ve been spoiled we often like non-in-season produce. Sometimes I just have to pay the little extra to get this luxury, but thinking ahead helps in this arena. Whenever any organic produce is on sale I purchase extra and wash, cut and freeze bags of the in-season sale stuff. I also plan to begin canning to make even better use of my produce. Then I also get the added benefit of yummier produce that was frozen or canned at its peak… which usually tastes a lot better than the off season expensive stuff.

Have fun exploring yummy organic options in your area!Image

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Love first

There have been so many things running through my head recently and I wasn’t sure what to write about this week. One particular subject sticks out in my mind and heart, but I have been hesitant to write about it because it is not a very widely appreciated or accepted view. I will tell you ahead of time that chances are you won’t agree with everything I am about to write. This also will not be the only post on such a subject, but I will try to be as clear and concise about what I am thinking, in this post, as possible.

The other day my husband and I sat down to watch the classic movie, “Philadelphia”. I don’t want to ruin the movie for you, but the basic storyline is a courtroom drama regarding homosexuality discrimination in the workplace. This movie brought up a lot of heart issues in me and got me thinking. I’ve been thinking about these issues for years now, but it made me want to put down my thoughts more clearly and concisely.

There are so many issues to address when it comes to homosexuality… is I right? Wrong? Chosen? Given? Innate?  Sinful?  Beautiful? … I’m not going to begin to address all of these issues, but really just focus on one.

This post is directed towards Christians. Not because these issues aren’t important to all, but because I feel that those are the only people I can directly address regarding these issues.

First off, I’m going to start this discussion by saying that I believe homosexuality is a sin. I think scripture is completely clear on this point, and I’ve yet to hear a convincing scriptural argument otherwise. The Holy Spirit has convinced me of this as well. Now, before you send a lynch mob after me, or perhaps start singing the halleluiah chorus… please read the rest.

For some reason we (Christians) tend to put sins on some sort of hierarchical list. Sins that for lack of a better term “gross us out” are at the top, and the sins we struggle with are at the bottom. Homosexuality, pornography and a mix of other sins are “awful” while a little white lie is “something I am working on”.

Now, scripture does speak to sexual sins specifically. It says that sexual sin is a sin against one’s own body and because our bodies are temples and meant to honor God this is very wrong. However, it does not say that quantitatively this sin is different to God. Sin is sin and all sin separates us from God. When you accept Christ all sin is wiped away and nothing separates us from God. Sexual sin is no different in this regard. Qualitatively I think it can cause more harm to the individual and speaks to identity issues more than many other sins, but it does not separate us from God any more or less.

When I watched “Philadelphia” I cried. I cried not because of the “sin” but because of the discrimination and hate. Christians are not called to hate but to love. Jesus got mad at sin, but I hate to break it to you… he got mad at the sin in the religious men primarily. He only ever addressed the sin in the non-religious after he demonstrated love, healing and hope. First he didn’t condemn he embraced a relationship, second he discussed sin.

It hurts my heart when I see Christians joke about sexual sins, make fun of homosexuals, or generally just treat any difficulties with the homosexual lifestyle as untouchable. Jesus touched the adulterers, the prostitutes, the tax collectors… he didn’t avoid them because he was afraid of their lifestyle. I don’t currently, or ever plan to, avoid those living a homosexual lifestyle, but instead choose to embrace them in love. If they choose to change their lifestyle I can guarantee the love of the father will help accomplish this more than any judgement on my part ever could.

Do I believe someone can struggle with homosexuality and be a Christian. Yep.  Just like someone can struggle with pornography, lying, gluttony, anger etc and still be a Christian. The fact that I am more “comfortable” with some sins in a Christian life is not the line that determines a relationship with Christ. Do I think there is something better out there than the homosexuality life? Absolutely; but, I will always stress a love relationship with God as the issue of prime importance.

There are many more things to say on this issue, and maybe I will at another time. I tried to write this post with grace and honesty. I am interested to see if others see the issue the same way as I do.

Healthy Tip #3 – Hide those veggies

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I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Because of the holiday weekend I did not post a Friday blog, but I’m back with another healthy living tip.

I know that vegetables are good for you, we all do, but I honestly don’t like very many veggies. If you are anything like me, or you have children or a picky spouse, then it can be difficult to get a steady source of vegetables in your family’s diet. Perhaps you are lucky enough to love vegetables naturally, or to have a family who loves vegetables, but I have no such luck.

The truth is that most of the US population does not get the necessary fruit and vegetable intake, and when they do eat vegetables there isn’t much variety or much green. We eat a lot of potatoes, corn and carrots but not many dark leafy greens or other brightly colored vegetables. How can you remedy this when you legitimately don’t enjoy many vegetables?

Two things:

Firstly, the more you eat vegetables and other real foods and avoid processed foods the more you will like vegetables. Seriously. This has proven very true for myself. When my tastebuds are not inundated with fake chemicals, fats and refined sugars I begin to appreciate the nuances of flavors in vegetables.

Still, even with a greater appreciation of vegetables I rarely want to sit and munch on a plate of sugar snap peas and kale. So, what do I do instead?

Point number two: Hide the veggies! Yep, hide em… in food that is.

I am always experimenting with the addition of different veggies in comfort foods. It’s easier than you might think. The list of possibilities is endless.

I’ll give you some of my favorite “hidden veggies”, but I encourage you to experiment on your own.

–          Cauliflower in anything cream or cheese based. Cook it, puree it, and it blends right in. My hubby can’t stand cauliflower on it’s own at all, but will eat it when I hide it this way. Our personal favorite is cauliflower mac and cheese.

–          Spinach (or other leafy greens) in sauce. You can throw a huge handful or two of spinach in sauce and it shrivels up and no longer tastes much like spinach (cut it in smaller pieces if your family doesn’t like the occasional large slimy piece).

–          Extra bell pepper or zucchini in anything tomato based. For some reason I don’t think you can really taste small bits of these veggies when tomato is the primary flavor.

–          Save the water from steaming or boiling veggies and add it to savory recipes that call for liquid additions (easy way to add more veggie nutrients).

–          Soak and scrub your veggies well and use the skin in the recipes. It’s more bang for your buck. A lot of the nutrients are lost when you get rid of the skin.

–          When cooking meat in nearly any manner, cook squash, peppers, onions etc right along with it. Nothing makes veggies taste better than a lovely meat flavor with it. Also, our bodies can use a lot of the nutrients better with a bit of fat (like animal fat) to help digestion.

–          Add pureed mushrooms to ground beef for tacos or burgers.

–         Put veggies in a fruit smoothie. Veggies like carrots are very sweet and blend well. Yellow pepper has a great punch that goes well with ginger and pear.

–          In general, any veggie pureed small enough will probably blend into most meals (casseroles, sauces, fillings etc).

When experimenting just think of the overall flavor profile of the meal and try for something along those lines. Eating something spicy, add a stronger veggie like bell peppers. Something mild, add a mild vegetable like cauliflower, potato or squash.

Have fun experimenting and share some of your favorite “hidden veggie” tricks.

Healthy Tip #2 – Switch up your fats

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I could go into depth on each of the fats (including whether saturated fats are really as bad for you as we’ve been told), but I will save that for a later date. Instead, here is a quick cheat sheet.I highly suggest beginning the process of switching over your fat consumption.

Bad Fats

In general industrial fats are not going to do your body any favors. This includes:

–          Any trans-fat

–          Any fat labeled hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated

–          Any interestified oil

–          Any oil “enhanced” with plant sterols

Moderate Fats

You should only consume a small amount of these oils, like the naturally occurring amount in the whole food. The man-made oils are usually processed and refined in a way which removes most of their good and healthy qualities. If you must choose them choose cold pressed which does not remove as many of the good nutrients

–          Corn oil

–          Safflower oil

–          Sunflower oil

–          Soybean oil

Good Fats

Any real fat is healthy as long as it is consumed in moderation.

–          Animal fats (especially grass-fed organically sourced animal fats)

Butter

Cream

Lard

Poultry fat

Fish oil (wild fish is best)

–        Real vegetable oils

Cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil

Cold pressed, unrefined flaxseed oil

Unrefined coconut oil

Cold pressed, unrefined macadamia nut oil

Cold pressed, unrefined walnut oil

Cold pressed, unrefined sesame seed oils

In my household I use coconut oil in both cooking and even as a supplement primarily. Certain oils stand up better to heat and this is one of the best. I occasionally use olive oil as well.

I will go into more details about why you should choose these particular oils, but it all boils down to the way our body uses the oils. We have been told that animal fat is bad for us but the truth is that in moderation animal fats are one of the healthiest fats we could consume. Research shows that the advent of the industrial oils has caused an abundance of health issues, while we continually see that animal fats contribute to proper bodily functions and growth.

Sources: Real Food for Mother and Baby By: Nina Planck

Confidence in Christ

This week I have been thinking a lot about how confidence fits into the Christian life. Often we hear about pride and humility because it is so easy to clearly identify scriptures that encourage humility and condemn pride, but where does confidence fit in, if at all. I will cover pride and humility at a later time, but I want to specifically focus on confidence today.

Firstly, I’ll describe what I consider confidence to be. To me confidence is a state of fully believing or knowing something to the degree that it is very unlikely you would entertain opinions of the contrary. Or in short, confidence is living in light of the truth. For example, if I am confident that my husband is a hard worker it is highly unlikely I will give someone the time of day if they were to imply he is lazy. If I am confident I am an intelligent person I will probably not give weight to the opinion of someone who says I am stupid.

Confidence is different than pride in that it does not smack of arrogance. Confidence is willing to listen, but is still aware of truth and will not allow obvious falsities to affect that truth.

So, if confidence is living in light of the truth does it fit into the Christian life? Absolutely.

While there might not be a single verse that says “thou shalt be confident”, there are many verses which encourage our confidence as children of the King. We over and over are encouraged not to be afraid because the Lord is our helper and we have not been given a spirit of fear. We are reminded of God’s grace and power at work within us and told to be assured of our salvation. We are told to go boldly to the throne of grace, and told to ask freely of God. I could list twenty or more verses which give us something to be confident in or thankful of, and even more that tell us not to be downcast or fearful.

So, I think it is safe to say that God desires his children to walk in confidence. Not confidence in themselves, but confidence in their position that He has given them. Once we accept Christ we are grafted into his house, we are a royal priesthood, we are sons and daughters. We are to live differently. A prince does not walk in fear when his kingdom is strong, he knows that he and all that is important to him will be safe and secure.

Why do I even share this? Because I think there is a huge portion of the body of Christ that thinks living in humility is living as a downtrodden individual. I can’t tell you how many Christians I know who constantly bring up sin in their lives as an excuse to negate their value or at the very least remind themselves of how worthless they are apart from Christ.

They are right, you are in a dark place without Christ… but guess what… YOU AREN’T THERE ANYMORE. HALLELUIAH! You aren’t a sinner anymore. Your sin has been taken away. I don’t care what you’ve done, it is no longer you… the Bible tells you that you are now righteous and holy. You are not doing God any favors by slinking around with your head low pleading for forgiveness from something that has already been forgiven.

Does this mean we don’t sin, of course not. But guess what, that doesn’t make you a sinner. Sound wacky? It shouldn’t. That’s what scripture teaches.

I put it this way to a friend. Let’s say prince William gets some wild idea in his head and decides to go live as a beggar on the streets of London. He puts on beggar garb, denies all royal privileges and sits as a beggar on a street corner for years. Is he still a prince? Yes! Is he acting like one? No. But that doesn’t change the fact he is one.

When we are saved but make a choice to sin, we have put aside our righteous robes for a beggars cloak… but our identity doesn’t change. I’ve known Christians to essentially live most of their lives in the position of a beggar when their identity is that of a prince. Again, you are not doing God, or the world, any favors living like that.

The world needs Christians to stand up and act like the royalty they are. The world knows shame, what the world doesn’t know is forgiveness and true reconciliation. We are reconciled to God and can walk confident of our position in His eyes. When you sin recognize that the sin is not you anymore. You are not a sinner, you are royalty. Right then and there stop, thank God that isn’t who you are anymore and turn from that choice. Forgiveness is yours already. Recognize when you are not living according to your station and turn, but don’t walk around acting like you have to “re-earn” forgiveness. Thank Jesus for the work he already did on your behalf.

Jesus died so we could be confident in our love relationship with him. He will not make us put on sack cloth and ashes every time we sin because he no longer sees that sin. The world needs to see how he has made a change in us. Remember who you are, choose to live as royalty, and walk confidently.

If confidence is living in light of the truth than be assured that you are in the right to walk joyfully and peacefully as the saved, royal person you are. I think it is very likely that Jesus’ heart is happy when he sees his kiddos living happily in their conviction of their right relationship with him. Walk confident brothers and sisters!

 

Dairy Free Coco-nutty Hot Chocolate

I’ve been trying to get more regular with my posts and I didn’t plan on a midweek entry, but this recipe is too yummy to keep hidden. I was craving hot chocolate but since I am dairy free that limits my options. I also didn’t want to break the bank on my calorie intake and wanted to include as many “clean eating” components as possible. Thus, the following recipe was born. The coconut oil is completely optional, but I take it as a health supplement daily and loved the added coconut hint in this delicious drink.

Dairy Free Coco-nutty Hot Chocolate

  • Prep Time/Cook Time:10 minutes,
  • Makes: 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vanilla almond milk (I bet coconut milk would taste excellent in this as well)
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder or raw cacao powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons raw honey (you can also do 1 tablespoon honey if you don’t mind a richer dark chocolate flavor or are trying to lower your calorie intake)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (optional)

Preparation

1. Blend almond milk and cocoa powder together til all cocoa chunks are blended smooth.

2. Pour cocoa/milk mixture into a saucepan over medium heat.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the saucepan.

3. Stir well until blended, the honey and oil will melt in the heat. A film will develop on top of the liquid. This is normal and is just the coconut oil rising to the top.

4. Heat to desired temperature and enjoy.

(If you want to make a basically raw version blend all the ingredients but the water first, heat the water to a mild temperature and add to the other ingredients – trick learned from http://realrawhealth.com/raw-hot-chocolate-recipe)

Tell me what you think in the comments. Does it measure up to regular hot chocolate?

Tip of the week: Food Substitution – Greek Yogurt

I plan on posting some sort of healthy living tip each week. A lot of tips will be simple food substitutions for your everyday eating and cooking. This first meal substitution was one of the first substitutions I began doing regularly when making healthier choices for myself.

The first food substitute is Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt pairs comfortably with many different types of food. From savory to sweet it is a delicious, protein and calcium rich meal option. My favorite substitute is to use Greek yogurt in the place of sour cream, in my opinion you can hardly taste the difference. Unlike sour cream which is primarily fat, Greek yogurt is chock-full of protein. This protein also contributes to the filling effect of Greek yogurt. Dieticians have dubbed Greek yogurt a high satiety food, which means that it makes you feel more full than many other foods.

You can also combine Greek yogurt with fruit and a touch of honey for a sweet and guiltless treat. It can be used to make a great cream sauce for pasta, or cream base for a casserole. Because it is more concentrated than milk you get a great deal of calcium in a single bite. It is also is lower than sodium and higher in probiotics than other types of yogurt. And even though it won’t have quite the same health benefits you can make your own Greek yogurt from non-dairy sources as well by straining non-dairy yogurt overnight.

Greek yogurt comes in a variety of forms but the best to choose is the full fat, plain, organic version. It seems counterintuitive to choose full fat, but studies have begun to show that low fat versions of dairy products actually may not be as good for you as once thought. It seems that whole fat versions of dairy products actually may benefit cardiovascular health. Research seems to showthat as long as the fats are naturally occurring fats and not created fats they may not negatively affect cholesterol the way we were traditionally taught, but may actually help lower cholesterol.

Of all non-organic foods, non-organic dairy, is one of the worst places to skimp. If you don’t eat organic often I still highly advise choosing organic dairy to avoid added hormones, steroids and antibiotics. And it is always better to choose plain Greek yogurt and add your own fruit rather than to buy the pre-flavored kind.

Have fun exploring the many ways to use Greek yogurt and if you find a particularly tasty way please let me know in the comment section.

Sources: http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/5-reasons-why-greek-yogurt-is-the-perfect-healthy-snack.html#b; http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2010/04/full-fat-dairy-for-cardiovascular.html; http://www.livestrong.com/article/415066-is-sour-cream-good-for-you/; http://www.livestrong.com/article/257915-probiotics-greek-yogurt/

A humble take on politics

I try to make a point to avoid big political debates on social media. On occasion I cannot help myself, but for the most part I get frustrated by the impersonal style of communication which so easily leads to misunderstandings and arguments.

After this current election I found myself very saddened by the vast conclusions about parties, and bitter personal attacks made on facebook. I have found myself guilty of this in the past, but more recently have tried to stick to support for the party I agree with rather than slander of the party I don’t. If I have felt that something absolutely must be said about the opposite party I try to share facts rather than opinions and trust that people are smart enough to draw their own conclusions.

The biggest attack I saw, from people of all political persuasions, was that which assumed both stupidity and lack of compassion from those of differing opinion. Over time this began to irk me more and more, and it didn’t stop after the election.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times I too wondered how someone could vote differently than I did if they knew anything about history, or allowed themselves to think through the moral repercussions of a default position; however, as a general rule of thumb I understand. I believe that many voters on both sides of the aisle truly have logically  and morally derived positions, and they couldn’t feel comfortable with themselves voting any other way.

For example, for every person who cried with joy over the opportunity to marry the one they love in their own state there is an individual who wept over the “legal” in-utero death of many children.

For every person who rejoiced over extended benefits to those who have felt disenfranchised their whole life, there is an individual who sadly is forced to close the doors to their self-built business due to expanded governmental standards or tax increases.

For every young adult who cries out for an opportunity to break the legal barriers keeping him from becoming a citizen of a country based in freedom, there is a soldier who cries out for a removal of the red tape that keeps him from performing his job in the field to the best of his abilities.

I could go on and on. I could go over every topic and give a logical or moral reason for almost any political stance.

My purpose here is not to imply that there isn’t a right or best option. It isn’t to say you shouldn’t mourn when politicians seemingly ignore what you see to be the most obvious correct response. And, I don’t imply that there is no political corruption or that there aren’t loonies on every part of the spectrum. But, I ask you to watch the words that come out of your mouth, or the text that is posted on your facebook or blog.

Slander does not convince anyone of your position, and hurts others more than you might know. Continue pursuing what you feel is right, and allow yourself to consider other positions. Look at multiple information sources because even if your position is not changed, your perspective might be. Manipulation may convince others in the short term, but they will be ripe for manipulation by someone else. Share facts, share examples, but above all demonstrate respect. Whether your candidate won or lost, be a graceful winner or loser and allow yourself a chance to learn.

Postpartum Journey

Postpartum depression… that’s what they call it. I think I was scared to say those words until just recently. After all, Christians aren’t supposed to be depressed.

Well, I was. I was severely depressed.

My daughter was born a little over two months ago, and for the first month I suffered what I now recognize to be a pretty severe case of postpartum depression.

If you’ve ever been pregnant you probably recall hearing or reading something along the lines of, “if you have feelings of hurting yourself or the baby after it is born talk to a doctor immediately”. Who really thinks about that? Who believes that would be possible? I know I certainly didn’t.

Before she was born all I felt was joy and excitement. The idea of not wanting my child seemed purely ludicrous. I couldn’t wait to hold my baby. I couldn’t wait to be a mom. I relished the idea of motherhood… both the good and bad parts.

The day she was born was honestly wonderful. Despite the intense labor (see previous post) I will consider that day and that labor process one of the most defining moments of my life. But, when she came out and I lifted that little form onto my chest I did not feel the immediate overwhelming attachment I expected. Instead, I felt empty. It was like an instantaneous switch was flipped… and the joy was gone.

The feeling did not go away.

That first month I loved Micah with the part of your brain that is logic based. I loved her because I chose to love her. Passion and emotion wasn’t a part of it. I desperately wanted it to be.

People would say, “Isn’t it the most wonderful feeling in the world? Aren’t you so in love?” And I would say, “yes, of course” because that is what people want to hear.

No one wanted to hear what I really felt. “No. It feels awful. I want to feel emotionally connected to my daughter but I don’t. She cries and I get mad because I don’t know what to do. I wish I could walk away from the whole thing but I can’t. Breastfeeding sucks… it hurts… I hate it. I worry about hurting my daughter unintentionally in my anger. I wake every hour to a baby who screams unconsolably (I later found out food intolerances were a contributer). I feel like a failure because Christians shouldn’t be depressed and I worry about the spiritual effect on her in the long-term.  And overall, the only thing I have ever wanted to be… a mom… is the most miserable and difficult thing I have ever done and I don’t know if it will get better.”

I didn’t say those things. People don’t want to hear them really.

I told my husband and he was my lifeline. My mother gave me a few hours of sanity a day and provided some extra cuddles for my daughter when I just couldn’t seem to give her that kind of love.

Throughout all of this I knew there was a spiritual element. I’ve heard all of the medical reasons for what I experienced… but what followed showed me that there was much more to it.

I began to recognize the spiritual attack underway when random bloodwork came back positive for a thyroid condition. This to me was an obvious sign of something greater awry than hormone fluctuations. The two biggest family curses, depression (from Luke’s side) and sickness (see my post on my Lyme Disease experience) both against me at once. Both seemed to be direct attacks on my position as a mother (thyroid conditions often alter fertility).

So I did what most Christians would do… I became afraid. I went on the defensive. I began praying the type of prayers that begin with “please” and end with “I’m just so worried”. I certainly did not act like the daughter of the king that I am… but in those moments my environment and emotions began to dictate my identity in my own eyes.

A month into this not much had changed. Micah was sleeping better due to the elimination of wheat and dairy from my diet, so I at least had some more energy. However, my heart and emotions were not much different.

Then, God stepped in.

I chose to go to hear an incredible prophetic speaker, Bob Hazlett, who was speaking at a church near my home. He had already been one of the most influential teachers in my life in the arena of evangelism and prophecy, and I had developed a friendship with his daughter who I met on a missions trip. I had never met him in person, but followed his ministry and was excited to hear what God had to share through him.

That day I almost backed out of going. My husband was tired and chose to stay home and I felt overwhelmed at the prospect of bringing my fussy baby to such an event. He sensed my obvious distress and volunteered to babysit, giving me the most unusual night to myself.

When I arrived I went to find Bob and give him a birth announcement/thank you note for his family who had sent me a beautiful lullaby CD early on in my pregnancy. When I approached him he immediately knew who I was (because his daughter told him I’d be there) and greeted me with a warm hug. Any anxiousness I felt at being away from Micah melt away and I knew this night would be a good one.

Worship was wonderful and I felt more connected with God than I had in months. Immediately following worship Bob began to hand out a few of his teaching materials. People stood, waving their hands, hoping he would give them something.

Months previously I had been to a large conference where Bob spoke and went way out of my comfort zone to run to the front and ask for his “prophetic school” cd set, and for the first time at any conference a speaker gave me something. That conference, and that experience, worked together to cement some major spiritual path decisions in my life.

So, when Bob presented his second “prophetic school” cd set I thought to myself “I need to buy that”. Then, as people stood and waved for attention Bob stopped and said, “This is for someone special. Is Maggie still here? Maggie just had a baby and I want to bless her with this”.

I was kinda stunned, but very excited and gladly received my blessing. Then, Bob offhandedly commented about how he knew I was moving in these things already and this would help me continue. What he probably meant as an offhanded comment sunk deep into my soul and spoke to another fear that had been lingering since Micah had been born… that fear that I would not be able to continue moving in spiritual things the way I had before she was born.

Then, Bob began to speak. From the beginning I felt an atmospheric shift. I don’t know if it was just my heart and mind, or the whole place, but something was happening. He started off by prophecying over just one man in the crowd… one random man… one random man who happened to be my neighbor. We sat nowhere near each other, and this man didn’t even attend the church but had come because I suggested the speaker. His prophecy over my neighbor was incredibly accurate and it felt like I was just as blessed as he was.

God kept throwing little indications that he was at work my way. It was like a setup. Funny how he works that way.

During the message God pointed a floodlight at the depression issue. Bob was speaking on spiritual battles. He began explaining how all too often we look at spiritual battles as though we are trying desperately to hold up against the enemy, when in all reality the enemy must move in response to our choice to take over ground. When we feel opposition it just means we are getting ready for a spiritual promotion and taking over more ground. We are on the offensive, not defensive.

Wow. I had heard it before. In fact, I had probably counseled others using that example before. But Holy Spirit smacked me over the head with revelation that day.

In that moment God laid it all out for me. He said, “Maggie, this is an opportunity for promotion. You are not “bearing up under” the attack of the enemy. You are on the offensive. You are taking back lost ground in your family. What they struggled with you are now breaking. You are destroying this enemy stronghold and it will not continue on in your family.”

What a revelation!

My immediate family has never dealt with depression of any magnitude, but Luke’s family has struggled with depression in both minor and major ways, in multiple generations. The thing is, now we are one, his family is mine, and his battles mine. We had made a point of declaring that depression would not continue on into our children… and here we were… moving onto that enemy inhabited plateau. But I was not stepping onto that land to cower in fear but to conquer! I would take over precious land and never return it to the enemy! I would be able to see depression end once and for all in our family line. I got to be the conquering hero!

I jumped in my car after the night overflowing with joy. I began speaking out all these things that had been revealed to me, and layer by layer of depression dropped off. By the time I returned home everything had changed. My feelings toward Micah had already softened and strengthened. I felt both joyful for motherhood and attached to my baby girl.

Satan’s plans were foiled because I was aware of the ruse. He was trying hard to convince me he had the upper hand, but I was trampling him underfoot.

Since that night the depression has been gone.

But that wasn’t all. Remember that bloodwork?

Well that Sunday I received prayer for healing. I went to the doctor who sent for new bloodwork. She called me three days later and with a voice that sounded quite puzzled she said, “your bloodwork came back normal”. She didn’t have an explanation and sounded legitimately confused. The type of thyroid condition I had was not one that is post-partum related, and all my other bloodwork numbers were the same (cholesterol, iron etc), but the calcium levels and levels related to my thyroid condition were now normal.

The fight is over. I am victorious.

Now, I can say, I had postpartum depression. I’m not afraid of that phrase, because I no longer have it.

I feel for women who are struggling with it and joyfully say, “There is hope! It can get better!”

I am now more in love with Micah than I felt possible. I know my depression only lasted a month, but that was the hardest month of my life. When I look at my daughter I can’t even fathom how I felt the way I did, but I am so thankful to be on the other side.

I will never look at life the same way again, and I hope that I will be able to remember that I am a conqueror through Christ!

*God is a healing God, but please do not try to handle depression of any type alone. This is my testimony, but every journey is different. Do not hesitate to seek help in both the medical and Christian community. Be blessed!

My Birth Story: Micah Captola

ImageIt was one week after my due date on August 27 and I felt like I’d been ready to pop for a month. It seemed like every day I’d find another “sign” that surely meant labor was right around the corner, but to no avail. That night as I went to bed I had an inkling that something might be different. I’d had “the feeling” other nights, but for some reason this night I didn’t even want to mention it for fear of jinxing something. This night just felt different.

At 4:00am I woke to go to the bathroom and had my bloody show. I think I almost passed out from excitement. I knew that blood didn’t necessarily mean labor was imminent, but I was pretty sure it would be in my case. I went back to the bedroom and woke my husband, Luke saying “I don’t think you will be going to work today”. Only moments after getting back in bed I felt contractions begin and knew my baby was on it’s way.

We tried going back to sleep because we knew there might be a long road ahead of us, and the contractions were not unbearable yet. I slept about 2 hours, in between contractions, before excitement and mild pain just wouldn’t let me sleep anymore. The contractions were still about 13-15 minutes apart at this point but sleeping through them with the adrenaline coursing through my system no longer seemed possible.

I called my midwife, Liz, around 6am or so to let her know what was going on. At this point the contractions were a bit closer together, somewhere between 9 and 11 minutes apart. She told me to keep her updated, try to rest, and call her back when they were about 5 minutes apart or less.

Luke and I kept track of contractions while he rapidly cleaned the house and finished the set up the birthing tub in the nursery, We settled in to watch a movie, fully expecting things to begin progressing… and… they didn’t. All day long we watched movies, went on short walks and timed contractions, but they did not get stronger or closer together.

We told some family members what was going on, but at this point we were figuring out that sadly baby might still be days away.

My brother surprised me by coming to the house and staying the night with my parents (we live in the upper apartment of the home my parents own), taking the day off work the next day in expectation of his nephew or niece’s arrival.

My midwife called me about 9pm to coach me through the next steps. She told me to consider drinking some wine or taking a Benadryl to try to sleep in preparation for what was to come. I didn’t think it would be possible to sleep through the contractions, but with a little wine and a lot of exhaustion I managed a few hours of restless sleep.

At 3:00am on the 29th I woke with much stronger contractions. “This is really it!” I said to myself. We began timing contractions again and sure enough they were slowly getting closer together and definitely stronger. They were steadily between 4 and 6 min apart when we called the midwife. The midwife and her assistant arrived sometime before 7am and checked my dilation. I was about 4cm dilated and officially in “active labor”.

The midwife and her assistant hung out with me for about an hour and then because my contractions were not speeding up, they decided to go get breakfast and give Luke and I some alone-time to labor, telling me to keep my phone near.

An hour or two passed as I walked a bit and tried to breathe through increasingly painful contractions. Luke and my mother began filling the birthing tub with warm water and I spent a little bit of time laboring in the water to the sound of peaceful worship music. My mother checked on me on and off and Luke and I enjoyed the intimate connection brought about by the sacred process.

Liz and Shanna (the assistant) returned and checked my progress. To my dismay I had only dilated another centimeter. They chose to go to an in-town at home appointment for another client because my progress was still slow. Luke and I spent some time cuddling and to add to my frustration my contractions began to slow. I felt like standing and walking would speed things up, but only ended up tiring myself out. I had thrown up, couldn’t keep food or water down and felt my body losing steam.  I was frustrated and exhausted and after a phone discussion with my midwife she decided to run home to rest for the inevitable end-of-labor and counseled me to lay down and attempt to nap… or at least close my eyes.

I legitimately felt mad. I was so worried that if I laid down it would slow my labor, I would be too exhausted to continue and my homebirth hopes would be dashed. Perhaps if I knew how much the pain would increase I would have reveled in those last few moments of bearable pain.

Luke’s mother had just arrived to the home Luke and I lay down in the bed and he gently helped me to relax and surprisingly sleep for moments. Never before have I had the ability to fall asleep so quickly and soundly. It was almost as if my state of labor allowed my body to shut off and reserve energy. I would wake and brace myself through the pain of contractions, already increasing to a degree that I couldn’t have begun to fathom before labor, and then collapse back into a brief but deep sleep.

Approximately one and a half hours later I fully woke to an intense contraction lasting approximately twelve minutes, immediately followed by a shorter contraction with two peaks. I woke Luke and said, “you have to call Liz!” This time I couldn’t really talk and he rapidly explained what had happened. Liz and Shanna immediately got on the road to come check my progress.

When they arrived they checked my status and announced that I was fully dilated. They were as surprised as I was. I don’t think any of us expected the progress to speed up the way it did.

It was now early afternoon, about 2pm. They began setting up for labor quickly and told the other midwife to head over immediately. I got in the birthing tub, and Luke joined me. We fully expected baby to appear any minute.

Labor pains were significantly stronger now, and I began to enter into a new mental zone. The nurse midwife, Nannette, arrived and they checked the heartbeat every half hour or so to make sure everything was still going smoothly. Time passed and I could tell that the midwives were becoming concerned. I still had no urge to push though the contractions were obviously strong.

They reassessed me and decided that the baby was having trouble moving around the pubic bone to move into the birth canal. We tried a variety of different position all to no avail. I moved from the water, to the bed, to a birthstool and nothing seemed to be working.  I was bearing down with every contraction in an effort to move the baby, but stubbornly nothing was budging. I had thrown up again and felt even more exhausted. My mother, my mother in law, and a friend were all in the room with me and even though I didn’t mind I began to wonder how they hadn’t died of boredom yet. It had been so long and so little had happened.

I again felt frustration creeping in and felt like I should give up. In the midst of one of the most painful contractions I remember exclaiming “I can’t do this!” and immediately was silenced by all three midwives and my husband with a loud “yes you can!”

At this point it was unclear whether my water had broken, though they knew it was at least leaking because the test strip tested positive for amniotic fluid. Hours had passed, and the sun was near setting. The midwives decided to check me one more time and surprisingly felt that I hadn’t completed effaced as they thought, but had the most minimal of thickness left to my cervix.

They told me to lay down again and stop bearing down, but to breathe through contractions. They left the room, turned off the light and Luke and I again lay down in our bed. This was one of the sweetest moments of the whole labor. I was in so much pain I could hardly speak but began thinking how wonderful it would be if we could pray right then. As though he could read my mind Luke began praying for me and immediately I was at peace.

For the next half hour or so, Luke guided me through breathing through contractions. I had never before felt such pain and his soft reassuring voice was the only thing helping me to keep my senses together.

Then, with no warning, I got a contraction that reduced me to screaming and was unable to breathe through. I pleaded with Luke saying, “I can’t breathe through them anymore!” My midwives immediately entered the room and said “It’s time!”.

I had another two contractions on the bed, both with an unstoppable urge to bear down. Nannette checked me again, announced that the cervix was totally effaced and the babies head was right there. Suddenly as I lay on my back the next contraction brought a gush of liquid as my water burst, and the urge to push became overwhelming.

I requested to hop back in the pool, which was the only place I could imagine having the baby at that moment. We waited out the next contraction then they rapidly helped me into the pool.

Things sped up very quickly!

I remember laughing inwardly… inwardly because there was definitely no ability to speak or laugh left… that there was no reason for doctors to tell women to “push!” like they did in the movies, because there was no stopping this urge.

I was on my knees leaning against the side of the tub allowing the warm water to enfold my tired body. I began a guttural scream with each push, and collapsed into a near sleep against the side of the tub in between every contraction. The atmosphere in the room was almost pulsing with intensity, though it was almost completely silent aside from my screams. I suppose I was not the only one feeling the intensity, as Shanna had to remind my friend to breathe.

Time seemed to last forever, though I was told after the fact that this portion of labor only lasted sixteen minutes. I felt my mom place the cool washcloth on my forehead between contractions, I was aware of my husbands hands on my hips, but primarily I could only feel the intensity and the increasingly overwhelming burning. I now understood the title given this feeling, “the ring of fire”.

At some point Luke told me he could feel the head, but I don’t think I even heard him. I recall Shanna telling me that the baby’s head was almost through, and I gathered up every ounce of strength I could muster and pushed as I hard as I possibly could.

At 10:57pm on August 29, I felt a release and heard the exclamations! It didn’t register that the baby was out until I heard and urgent voice saying, “Maggie. Take your baby”. Luke had caught the baby and was holding it out to me between my legs under the water. I grabbed the baby and with assistance pulled the limp, tiny form out of the water and onto my chest.

In just moments the midwives had the baby cleaned up and swaddled in the water on my chest, and I felt the reassuring movements and heard the first amazing cries erupt from the tiny form.

I didn’t even know if it was a boy or a girl, but I only knew that I had my baby… my amazing baby!

My mother was the one that thought to ask the gender, and we discovered I had given birth to a beautiful and incredible baby girl.

The moments that followed were sweet and blurry. Sharing the name we had chosen with the family “Micah Captola Dubois”, seeing my father and brother come into the room to see the baby, cutting the cord, a stitch, discovering Micah’s weight and length (7lbs, 8oz; 19.25inchs), forcing a snack and drink down, and ultimately drying off and crawling into a warm bed with my daughter and husband.

My homebirth was the most intense, passion-filled, exhausting and rewarding experience of my life. I wouldn’t trade a moment for anything! I am so thankful for my amazing midwives and assistant who made me feel peace in the midst of an entirely new and potentially frightening experience. I am thankful to my mother for being the best untrained doula I could hope for. I am thankful to my mother in law and friend for participating in the experience with me. I am thankful to the best husband I could ever ask for, who guided me through every step and embraced the opportunities for intimacy in a position which makes many men run in fear. And I am abundantly thankful to God for forming my daughter in my womb and blessing me with the gift of motherhood!