Full Disclosure

These past 2 months working at The Ark and attending the classes presented by the various Health Professionals has reminded me that I need to practice what I preach. Such as I’ve done in the past, my diet seems to always evolve to fit those around me. When I got married I started slacking off on taking care of my body. Wanting to take care and please Damon, I began to eat things that I had since omitted from my diet. At first I was eating very little of these foods but now looking back 10 months now I am far from where I began. I’ve been consuming large quantities of junk food – but they’re all vegan. I’d quiet my conscious by telling myself that. Nevermind all the chemicals and oils that are in the foods. Nevermind that those things are just as bad if not worse than some of the animal products!


In the beginning I was juicing 3-4 times a week, having green smoothies, and large quantities of raw vegetables. I was feeling fantastic, my skin looked great, and my body was getting fitter as I exercised more and more. Now? I’m feeling sluggish, my skin is breaking out like crazy, and I’m not eating much in the plant kingdom – I’m living off a few good grains and mostly packaged foods (chips, cereal, vegan ice cream). As a result my sugar intake has been astronomical and I am craving food all the time. I’ve been asking myself What is wrong with me! How did I allow myself to get here? I’ve been beating myself up and saying how can you be the health leader in your church? You’re a fake! But God is so merciful. In January I received a brochure for the NAD Health Summit being held down in NYC but for various reasons I wasn’t able to go. So I went online to look up some of the speakers from the summit and found the entire 2011 summit in podcast form! Ever since I’ve been listening to the files and have been amazed at the things I’m learning. Some of it I have heard before but never presented in a Biblical format. We beat ourselves up thinking we should have the willpower, the self control but we don’t realize all the facts at play in the body and the brain that has led us to our current condition. Most of all we don’t realize that the power to change ultimately come from God.

For me I am a food addict. I think of food all the time. At breakfast I’m thinking about what I’m going to eat for lunch. At lunch I’m planning dinner, and then after dinner I’m wanting to get to bed quickly so that breakfast can come faster. And sleep provides no respite – I dream of food! How many of you have had that dream where you stand before a table of your favorite foods and you’re trying to think of how you can eat some of everything without anyone seeing you?

I know that I’m not alone in this. At every single job I’ve had there is always talk of food. I’d get into the office around 8:30 and by 10am the food talk would begin – what did you bring for lunch? Do we want to order take out? What do you feel like eating today? We then would talk about what we had for dinner last night and plan get-togethers around going out to eat.  Just look at the explosion of food blogs on the web. I used to be fixated on a few of these sites. I’d spend hours watching cooking shows on youtube and copying down their recipes. Always looking for a way to make them healthy if I could, but if not I’d tell myself I will only make it for a “special occasion”.

Now there’s nothing wrong with enjoying food. God created us with taste buds so obviously He meant for it to be enjoyable to eat. The problem comes when it consumes you. When your whole life revolves around it. That had been me my entire life (as far back as I can remember) but I no longer despair. I know there is hope. I’ve experienced a time in my life when food was not controlling me. I want to get back to that place and now I am learning the why’s and how’s of this addiction.

Living Free

Book Excerpt from “Living Free: Finding freedom from habits that hurt.”

The “Junk Food Junkie”, who doesn’t know one? We all have heard people who laughingly refer to themselves as “junk food junkies” as they dip into a plate of brownies for the third time at a party. But for many it is no joke, many food addicts have a Jekyll and Hyde relationship with food.

Although separate disorders, obesity and food addictions are overlapping and related. Charles Billington (a professor of medicine and the former president of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity) believes that many have become “habituated” to the consumption of high calorie refined foods. “As we develop full understanding of neuro-regulation of appetite, I think the addictive nature of foods will come clear. And I think we will learn that these addictions can develop at various stages of life, in adulthood as well as in childhood. And I think we will learn that they are very, very powerful.”

Research suggests that a large concentration of sweets and fatty processed foods have powerful effects on hormone signals that control appetite. According to Peter Havel (an endocrinologist at the University of California-Davis) the more fat- and fructose-laden processed foods you eat, the less effect appetite control hormones have on the body. “These hormones help keep your body weight stable. When you drink beverages with lots of fructose the body continues to take in calories, but the hormones are not able to tell the body it is full and to stop eating. Many fast food meals are washed down with a large beverage.” How much fructose is in a soft drink? A large 64 oz soda contains 130 grams of fructose. By contrast, an apple contains 13 grams of fructose, a banana has 7, and a peach contains 4. But fruits are not only significantly lower in fructose; they are loaded with phytochemicals, nutrients and fiber.

Is it possible for a junk food junkie to change bad eating habits – for good? Is it possible to curb those cravings and cut those calories and still feel satisfied? The answer is YES! If you are hooked on fast foods, sweets and high fat snacks, start by eating more high-fiber plant foods, sugar from whole fruits and healthful plant fats. Calorie-dense refined foods such as fries and fudge may be tasty, but they do not fill you up and keep you satisfied because of their low fiber content.

So true! That’s why you can’t eat just one potato chip!!! So I don’t want to eat like that anymore. I want to eat and be filled – not eating and wanting more and more. So starting today I’m crawling back out of the junk food pit and starting my day with a green juice and some exercise. For lunch I’m having a very large salad – spinach, red bell pepper, carrots, broccoli, ripe green olives, and an avocado (that I mash up with spices and a little water to make a dressing). Dinner will be a small bowl of fruit or smoothie. I’m going back on a raw food fast. I don’t know for how long. I’m not assigning a number to it. I want to detox and clean out all the junk I’ve put into my body these past months. When I’m done I’ll reintroduce the unprocessed, cooked grains and lentils, etc.

Yesterday when I made this decision I reassured my husband that this would in no way be pushed up him. Poor Damon, in the beginning of our courtship and marriage I was the food police. We can’t eat that it has this in it…why would you want that it’s bad for your asthma…did you read the label…did you know there’s dairy in that? I thank God He finally got through to me and helped to understand that I cannot force-shame-manipulate my husband to eat the same thing as me. Food is a personal choice and a person must want to eat healthier foods all on their own. Otherwise you are just creating a worse condition for them. Think about it, if you want to eat something and you can’t have it – it makes you want it even more. One must realize there is something better and with that realization their mindset goes from a place of deprivation, saying I can’t have it, to thinking I can have it but I don’t want it. Actually Damon eats fairly healthy he’s just not as astringent as I am. For example I’m raw nuts only and he will eat the roasted (glycated, rancid…ahem…I’m on a journey). He needs a lot more calories than I do being 6’3” and with the metabolism of a gazelle. So I just have to remember I’m not supposed to be eating the same thing as him. He’s wanting to gain weight, I’m wanting to lose weight and we have to support each other.

I’ll update on FB as I go along. My goal is to eventually share all I’m learning in a series of classes at The Ark. Keep me in your prayers!

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Tranquility in the Storm of Life

Today I read a blog of a lady whom I used to follow a few years ago. I stopped visiting her site because the two of us started heading in different directions spiritually. She’s a truly beautiful and talented writer and today’s post reminded me of that. I read the first part of her post and stopped. I loved her words so much and they reminded me of the same journey of surrender I’ve been on this last year. The one major difference between our journeys, though, is that Christ has been at the center of my experience. I’d like to take her eloquent words and add a few of my own here to capture how God has given me tranquility in the storm of life.

“Life has been taking me on a ride. Not the roller coaster variety where the twists and turns leave you nauseated and thrown around, clenching and screaming, wobbly legged and spinning when it’s over. So that’s good.

This is more of a balloon ride. Lifting off the earth, and back down again, but in a soft and fluid motion. Because this is what it’s like when you move with the Spirit of God. When you surrender.

I’ve had more peaks and valleys than I can count. More scenes to see that I can recall. There have been times when I thought for sure this one or that was It. It would be the one that popped our balloon or took us over the mountain or settled us back to the ground but each and every time the clouds would smile crookedly and the wind would chuckle and twist us ’round to a new direction, a whole new scene.

This has been God teaching me surrender, to trust Him.

Teaching me to loosen up my grasp and just allow myself to float, allow the dips and swings to realign me and shake me from my sentry post and just let go. Show me that there is no such thing as gravity when I’m not in a death grip with the thing trying to catapult me to the ground.

Soft and gentle. This is Surrender.

He takes my second guessing and my worry and my deeply seeded desire to navigate the winds, and He wraps a sense of peace around me. So that everything is still there, snugly wrapped as well; I’m just warmer and cushioned from the harshness of the wind.”


1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation (storm) has overtaken you except such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able; but with the temptation will also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Your journey through life can be a roller coaster or a balloon ride. It is our decision and it is made by how we choose to respond to life’s challenges. For me I have always used the death grip method –grit your teeth, close your eyes and hold on tight until the ride is over and once it is pick the whole experience apart worrying and guessing if I did it right. Did I say the right thing, was it my fault it happened in the first place? What can I do to prevent this from ever happening again?

The death grip method is controlled by feelings and the balloon ride is controlled by Wisdom (Prov 2:6). My feelings see the storm developing ahead and it wants to back paddle and run far and as fast as I can away from the thing that is threatening me. Wisdom calms me saying that it’s safe to stay because He has promised to help me handle what’s in the storm.

When I’ve listened to Wisdom and chosen the balloon ride it still gets uncomfortable at times, atmospheric pressure rises, but if I turn my thoughts to Him He guides me to some deeper understanding of the situation, even as the storm is developing, and I am able to see from a different perspective. I’ll illustrate:

Damon is still looking for a job and the thought of leaving here looms like dark clouds on the horizon. I ask God for a different view.
I love the work I do, even though it frightens me at times, and my mind wants to explore the what-ifs so I can be prepared for the worst of what may come. Again I ask God for a different view.
I will focus on doing my best in the ministry God has given us and let Him worry about Damon’s next job.

The issue arose and my feelings tried to control my thought process. I keep asking God for a different view until my thoughts change. Sometimes I have to turn to scripture, a book,  a sermon, or lecture just to stop my mind from trying to board that roller coaster. If I allow it to progress it will overcast my whole day. But each day I surrender my feelings to His wisdom, I get lighter. The roller coaster rides become few and far between. Order and peace dwell in my home and laughter and love reign.

So quickly we forget the last storm and how God pulled us through. We’re tempted by thoughts from others that perhaps our course isn’t the right one. But I can look back and see how God has closed and opened doors for me to be right where I am. It was my plan to be in India and He said no you’re training will begin right here. This is step one, wait and I will show you step two. So relax, breathe, and trust I will reveal the next phase of My plan when the time comes.

Just because a job ends or things don’t go exactly as we had planned I choose to let go of the feeling that I must know the next step in advance. It’s a day by day, moment by moment surrender. All I can do is be faithful in the work we are given right here, right now. My dreamy side has spent far too long imagining out all the what-could-bes. Now I need to get busy and focus all my energy on being successful in the little things. Never mind the rain (or snow) falling all around me. There will be many more storms to come and as long as my ways are committed to Him these things need not be distractions. I believe this is that peace that the Bible speaks so often of. I’ve been searching for it my whole life and at long last I think I finally understand it. Now I just need to keep putting it into practice.

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Meet God in the Kitchen

Two weeks ago I presented my first lecture (aka sermon) at church. It was a wonderful experience to be able to share my story with my church family. Many know about the blog and have heard it before but most have not. I was excited to share with them how God had been working in my life up until this point and even more excited to share with them my plans for Health Ministries for this year. As promised you can read my sermon below or listen to the audio here. [I tried uploading the video to YouTube but it was too long.] I praise God for giving me courage that day and every day to be able to open up and share the gifts He has given me over the last couple of years.

Garlic foot rubSpeaking of gifts! – the first class held at The Ark started Jan 14. Jane Kuntz and Karen Blanchard are co-hosting an herbal series called The Family Herbalist. They are taking the class through various natural remedies and at the end of 7 weeks each participant will have their very own family “medicine” chest. The classes themselves are absolutely free but those wishing to take home the medicine chest pay $10 per class. I’ve attended many of Jane’s herb classes in the past but I must say I really enjoy the pairing of her and Karen’s experience and knowledge. They are a delight to all!

March will be the official “Grand Opening” of the center. The restaurant equipment is coming in and we hope to be in the kitchen testing out recipes soon. I’m beyond excited that two of the health professionals from Parkview have agreed to mentor us in healthy cooking. I can’t wait to get started!!!


For those who don’t know me, my name is Tracy Vis and I am excited to serve you this year as the new Health Ministries leader. I am delighted for the opportunity today to share with you today my testimony. After writing this I have a whole new respect for pastors. You can’t imagine how incredibly hard it is to take 35 years and compress that into 30 minutes but I’ve done my best. I had to write this 5 times before I was satisfied with it and I hope that something I say today makes you think and maybe consider how you can do something this year to improve your overall health.

For most people the New Year begins with making resolutions. They sit down and record their hopes and dreams for the coming year. I can remember making these lists all the way back to childhood and I can remember that my number one goal every year was always the same until 2012. Last was the first year I can remember not making a New Year’s resolution because at long last the Lord gave me the power to accomplish my number one goal in life – to be thin. As I say those words it sounds like such a trivial and superficial life goal but so many women and men base their worth on the opinions of others. I was certainly one of those people.

You see since the third grade I had always been the fat kid. I was the focus of many bullies affections and I had a long list of colorfully descriptive nicknames. I even had a teacher once tell me I was just taking up space in his classroom. This came after I turned in blank tests because I didn’t understand the subject and was afraid to ask questions. Some might remember the children’s story I told last year about how painfully shy I was. Well my weight and the bullying I endured because of it played a huge role in creating that person. After that I became really good at being invisible.

When I entered my teen years I discovered the world of dieting and my weight, along with my emotions, began to fluctuate up and down like a roller coaster. I remember people asking me if something was  wrong with me. You always look angry. Why don’t you ever smile? Truth was that I didn’t feel like I had anything to smile about. I had no self value and life’s possibilities seemed limited for me.

As a young adult I reached my peak at 215lbs. I tried slim fast, weight watchers, diet pills, calorie counting. I’d lose ten pounds and gain back twenty. I subscribed to all the health magazines – Fitness, Shape, Prevention, and I even purchased a gym membership but I hated to exercise. I’d clip out those exercise routines from the magazines and paste them to my wall with all the best intentions of doing them. But months and years would go by and never could I muster up the willpower to stick with it.

I avoided scales, mirrors, and most social situations. I had little to no communication skills. I didn’t know how to make friends and when I got them I was clueless how to keep them. I was terrified of making a mistake, saying something wrong. But I hid it all with an attitude of indifference. Criticizing others took the spotlight off of me and if I was dismissive of you then you couldn’t hurt me with your actions or words. It’s a self fulfilling prophesy – treat people poorly and they will certainly return it in kind.

I didn’t know how to deal with rejection and I used food as a buffer. Bingeing on a big meal while watching a “feel good” movie numbed me to the fact that I wasn’t living life. I was just, taking up space. I allowed those words from my childhood to become my reality.

It wasn’t until 2005 that I realized I needed to get serious about my health. I woke up to find the left side of my face numb, as if someone had shot me up with Novocain in my sleep and was later diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I was 28 and thought I was too young for something like this to happen to me. I had never even heard of MS yet my body was attacking itself, and I had no idea how it was supposed to be working in the first place to even begin to figure out why it was malfunctioning. My health education came from all those magazines and television and all I knew about was dieting.

For those who don’t know what MS is, it is when the body’s immune system malfunctions and mistakes the myelin in our body as a foreign invader. Now the myelin is the protective covering that wraps around our nerves kind of like the plastic coating that covers the wires in an electrical cord. It keeps the electricity in and flowing along like it should. Well my immune system mistakes that myelin coating as an enemy and deploys the troops to go forth and destroy it. This unfortunate scenario results in deterioration producing visible scars (aka lesions). These scars prevent the signal traveling from the brain to reach the rest of my body in proper time. Just like that lamp that sometimes flickers because there’s a short in the wiring.

Sometimes the scars are just road blocks creating delays but at worse they can prevent the signal entirely. With my face the signal was blocked but over time my body was able to repair itself enough that most of the feeling returned. This is the ongoing cycle for the patient with MS – one part of the body trying to repair the damage caused by another.

My neurologist at the time wasn’t very helpful in teaching me about battling MS. He sent me on my way with a prescription, a pamphlet and the number to the MS society. So I went to the library and to the internet. I wanted to know how the body worked and what I could do to help it out. I read books, watched documentaries, and searched blogs. I started working out and dropped 25 lbs. So I thought that meant I was doing well. I made a few small changes to my diet, nothing big, mostly I was just eating less and exercising more – way more. I would spend an hour and half in the gym 5-6 days a week. Exercise was empowering for me. It made me feel like I was doing something about my disease. But that motivation only lasted 2 years. Slowly I stopped going to the gym and my eating habits became worse than ever.

Here’s a very embarrassing but very true representation of what my day to day diet looked like. It was best described as a cheese-based diet despite the fact I had been a vegetarian since age 21. Other than the veggies on the pizza and the corn in the chips I didn’t eat vegetables or fruit. So when I started doing all this research I began to discover that food plays a huge role determining whether or not my body has the necessary tools to repair itself. Our cells require vitamins and minerals to perform and the foods with the nutrients my cells needed were the very foods I refused to eat.

I was getting more than enough calories yet my body was severely malnourished. So after that revelation you would think I’d be all set to ditch the chips and start eating the veggies right? In my research I had read study after study and testimony after testimony of what a plant based diet had done for people who suffered from MS, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, hypertension, atherosclerosis, fibromyalgia and I could go on. And it wasn’t that I thought it wouldn’t work for me I just didn’t believe that I could do it. I had tried so many times to diet, to lose weight and over and over again I failed. So I’d read those health books while eating my bag of Doritos and I’d say to myself I could never give up cheese. I’d watch those documentaries while finishing off a pan of brownies and say yeah I don’t like vegetables.

Knowledge wasn’t enough to convince me. They say some people have to hit rock bottom before they’ll ask for help. I’m one of those people. In 2009 my MS symptoms got worse to the point I felt like the walking dead. I had chronic fatigue, vertigo, foot drop, memory loss, bladder control problems, and I was slowly sinking into a deep depression far worse than that of my childhood.

This went on for over two years. I was angry with God and the world but He knew this was what I needed for it to finally sink in that my diet of junk was harming me. It’s not that I believe that God gave me MS. I know it was just the natural cause and effect of genetics & environment paired with poor lifestyle choices. But God saw potential in me. He looked at that broken two hundred pound woman and said “I can do something with that.” He sees in all of us who we can be in His grace. I wasn’t a Christian then but He knew this would be the first step in breaking through the wall of pain and bitterness that my life experiences had created.

Matt 13:45-46 NASB
 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls,  and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

I chose the scripture today because that parable is a powerful reminder of our value to God. It’s often misquoted as the kingdom of heaven being like a priceless pearl but if you read it correctly it says the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant who is seeking priceless pearls. What a beautiful picture of Christ’s sacrifice. All of heaven was emptied out because He looked down and saw in us something He could work with. Even today I sometimes struggle to see what He sees in me but I’m reminded to look back on where I was then and where I am today.

And where am I today, today I’m a new woman, 70lbs lighter and no longer on any of my medications. Not only am I symptom free but I feel better now than I ever did as a child. I struggled with ADD growing up. I could never focus for very long and now I can spend 3 hours studying my Bible and my husband has to remind me to take a break! And friends? I’ve made more friends this past year than I’ve had in my lifetime and I’m always looking for more! The shyness, as you can imagine is almost entirely gone, almost. I have my moments.

I praise God He let me fall on my face because without that I would have never turned to Him for the help I needed. I was kind of like Saul on the road to Damascus except instead of Christians I was hell bent on killing myself with my fork. God showed me I was worth more than that. He gave up all of heaven to come and set me free. So when I am tempted to fall back into that old mindset thinking I can’t do it, I’m not good enough, I remind myself of the infinite possibilities Christ sees in me. Because it’s not about will-power, it’s about His-power.

God sees those same possibilities in you. He looks through the eyes of faith and sees in us the fulfillment of all His hopes and dreams. We can have confidence in that faith and overcome any struggle this life presents. And if God can have that much confidence and faith in us we should have that same confidence and faith in one another.

There are so many people in this world who long for someone to believe in them, for someone to value them. Isn’t that part of the great commission Christ gives us? To so value all of humanity that we want to do all we can to show them their worth to Christ and to us. So this year as trials arise let us remember Philippians 4:13 and claim it. Then let us share it with others.

In March we are going to be hosting the Daniel Challenge. This is a ministry started by an Adventist organization out of Arizona called the Beehive. This is a 10 week program based on the lifestyle of Daniel and the goal is to share simple, inexpensive methods to lose weight, eat for life, and cleanse the body’s systems to obtain better overall health. I was hoping the program would start this month but I’ve been informed that they are totally revamping the program and the new version is bigger and better so I’m going to wait for it.

My story of how a plant based diet has helped me improve my health is just one of many. This woman pictured is just one of the many people all over the world today who are discovering the same benefits. Here are a few others.

Plant Strong

Now I’m not suggesting we should follow in the footsteps of celebrities and politicians, I just refer to them because being people that live their life in the public eye it affords us the opportunity to see this lifestyle in action. As more and more people experience the benefits I know more people will be curious about what it can do for them.

Perhaps you are curious yourself? I want to invite you to taste and see if your life can be transformed, like mine, with just a simple change of what you put on your plate and how you move your body. If you are battling weight, illness, depression, fatigue, whatever I want to provide you not only the knowledge to help yourself but also the wisdom to know we don’t have to do it alone. Remember God sees the possibilities of all you can be in His grace. This is my vision for Health Ministries this year, to create an environment of safety and support for those who want to improve their physical, mental, and spiritual well being.

Until the challenge begins in March I’m going to be showing a few of the documentaries that inspired me and set me on the road to wellness. You saw a clip this morning of the first. Just in case you missed it this Thursday Jan 17 at 6pm, right here, we will be viewing Forks Over Knives. I want to invite you out, even if your diet is already full of fresh fruit and vegetables and you exercise daily, have an abundance of energy and mental clarity – come out and support your brothers and sisters who are struggling. And if you are one of the struggling know that we are here for you. We all need a little hand holding at times. I want 2013 to be your best year ever.

I want to close with this last scripture. This is my favorite Bible promise.

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

God has infinitely better plans then we could ever dream up for this coming New Year. I can’t wait to see what He has in store for us. Thank you.

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Understanding God’s Will

Fork_In_The_Road_by_suzianiaaPhoto by suzianiaa

Since becoming a Christian a year ago I’ve been struggling with understanding God’s will for my life. The only clear thing to me is that I know God is leading me to work in Health Evangelism. I’ve worried about how that is going to happen since it seems I’ve made poor decision after poor decision. One might believe that one of those poor decisions was when Damon and I went from two incomes to one back in May 2011. The original plan was for me to go back to school and when I returned we would get married. Then the plan became we would get married before I left but the counsel of many (ok everyone) was that was a bad idea. You could grow apart, etc, etc. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret the decision to get married. I love this man more than words can describe. He is so loving, so encouraging, so fun, and at times so challenging. The last 6 months have been the greatest period of personal growth I have ever experienced. I doubt I would have grown so much spiritually had I been single. Living with another human being in the light of God’s truth really reveals who you are, I mean who you really are. Love your enemies, turn the other cheek, a gentle answer turns away anger – none of these come naturally to me! Often I don’t like the person who comes forth when things don’t go my way but each time I surrender that attitude and cry out to God, He has opportunity to work on my character. And you know what? I can feel it working.

When I applied to school and was told, at the last minute, that my application went through incomplete I questioned if this was God saying now’s not the time. They received the entire electronic form but the section about the work program came through as blank. In my savings I had just enough to cover the travel and program fees but the full tuition I did not have. I said to myself ok prayer answered I’m getting married first and then reapplying next year. So I started making wedding plans and then the school called back saying they were able to get me in the work program scholarship after all. I had already made my decision and the wedding date had been set so I told them I would reapply next year. Then the door opened for me to be apart of the ARK project. Then the offer came to help with starting the restaurant. Then I was asked to be the Health leader at church. The decision to quit my job when I did may seem to others like it was a mistake but the opportunities that have been presented to me would not have come had I still been working 40hrs a week at the office.

I had/have complete faith that God was leading and all these opened doors confirm it. So does this mean my decision to postpone school was God’s will? Not necessarily. This all could have taken place when I returned from school. The ARK isn’t opening until Jan 15 and the restaurant still does not have a date. I would have returned from school in June 2013 and the education I would have received would have greatly benefited the project. Now the point of telling you all this is that I’ve come to the understanding that God knew which road I was going to choose and the good news is that regardless of me choosing “the right path” He had a plan for both.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

One of my biggest fears is making the wrong decision. I’m so afraid of missing out on something better. I have often been paralyzed by this and stuck making no decision at all. Now I don’t believe in predestination and I know that there are two forces at work in the world so it is possible to make a choice that is totally out of God’s will but understanding that He has a plan, even if I make a mistake, has freed me to go forth and make a decision. That said and due to circumstances at the present (being that our car is wrecked and needing repair or replacement) I am having to make one of those decisions. I need to go back to work until the restaurant opens. Now my mind has gone up and down about how this could hinder my current work (which is completely voluntary). Who knows what my hours will be and this may mean I have to quit working for the food pantry for a while and miss some of the ARK meetings. January kicks off the Daniel Challenge with my first sermon taking place on Jan 12 (more details to follow). The course I will be presenting is fairly intensive and I need to be readily available for it to succeed. I am trusting God completely that He will work all things out for good. I’m going to post ads on craigslist for cleaning and cooking in the area so that I can keep a somewhat flexible schedule. If that fails then back to office work I go. I’m open to suggestions from any and all and I’m excited to see where God is leading next. Who knows what He has in store! I’ll keep you posted.

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Taking a Quick Break!

Right now Damon and I are in the process of moving so the blog is going to be in suspension until we get moved and settled in to our new home. Did you hear that – home – not an apt! This is really exciting because I haven’t lived in a home with a yard in over 6 years! This means soon I will be able to take walks in the woods, start an herb and veggie patch, and even workout outdoors. We can’t wait!

Stay tuned my next post is going to delve a little deeper into the vegan lifestyle. I use the word lifestyle because this is a life change and not just a diet. Maybe you’re thinking about trying out the vegan lifestyle already? I don’t want my vacation to deter you. So in the interim you can go out and do some research yourself. I would recommend you start with the documentary Forks Over Knives – it’s available on Netflix. Then check out the Engine2Diet videos on youtube. Another excellent documentary that you can watch online for free is Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. All of these are highly inspirational and sure to get you in the spirit of getting healthy! Now with the holidays coming up it may be challenging to impliment the changes but don’t let that deter you from watching these now. Dec can be your planning month for a new year focused on getting well. Please do share your thoughts on each of these below. I’d love to hear what you think of them!

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Wellness is a Lifestyle Choice

Last May I left my job in the corporate world to head off to school to study hydrotherapy, massage, herbs, and nutrition. I shared with you in my last post how God is providing opportunities for me to learn right here in Maine so I don’t have to leave the state. I will someday go back to school but for right now there is so much to do here and so many people to learn from. One group of people are the doctors and nurses at Parkview Adventist Medical Center in Brunswick, Maine. I spent the first two weeks of October observing their Lifestyle Choices program. This program taught me how to put the 8 natural laws of good health into practice. Each night for 10 days the participants shared an evening meal, learned about cardiovascular and strength training exercise, and walked 1 mile. Then the rest of the evening was spent learning more about how you can protect yourself from and even reverse some diseases with just the choices in what you put in your mouth, how much time you spend outdoors, and how you move your body. Then each went home with breakfast and lunch for the following day.  Some nights there were vegan cooking demonstrations and the program ended with a trip to the supermarket to learn how to read food labels. It was a fantastic program and it was so inspiration to see the numbers go down – blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar – of those who stuck with the program.

So what are the 8 natural laws? I’ll briefly describe each below and in subsequent posts I’ll go more into detail on each.

1)  Nutrition: whole plant foods are the optimal food source for the human race. Not only does the Bible point to it as the original diet of mankind but doctors and scientist are now coming forward confirming we thrive on plants. I personally don’t need their statistics to know what this way of eating is best, having converted to the veg life myself it has worked wonders for managing my disease. I’m confident it can do the same for you!

2)  Exercise: we’ve been told for years that we need to exercise. Good news is that a 30 minute walk 6 days a week and weight training just 3 times a week is adequate for most people. Don’t forget to warm up and stretch before and after your workout!

3)  Water: According to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Water Science School “Up to 60% of the human body is water, the brain is composed of 70% water, and the lungs are nearly 90% water. Lean muscle tissue contains about 75% water by weight, as is the brain; body fat contains 10% water and bone has 22% water. About 83% of our blood is water, which helps digest our food, transport waste, and control body temperature.”
We lose water in those waste and temperature control processes and it needs to be replaced. A general rule of thumb is to drink half your body’s weight in ounces. For example someone who’s 150lbs would need to drink 75 ounces of water daily.

4)  Sunshine: skin cancer scares has driven us all inside our homes but the truth is we need the sun. Studies have shown that proper exposure decreases your blood pressure, stimulates the thyroid gland and normalizes metabolism, helps relieve stress, helps with insomnia, lessens menopausal symptoms, and the list goes on. Sunlight is only your enemy if you have a diet high in cholesterol and fats, do not exercise, and stay out too long and get a sunburn.

5)  Temperance: This is usually the least popular of the 8. We’ve been given a wrong definition of what it means to be temperate. It’s not moderation in all things. It is avoiding all things that are harmful to your health and being moderate in all the good things. I will admit this one has been a struggle for me. My brain says “it’s good for me so I can eat till I can’t eat no more!” But this is soooo wrong, overeating is just as harmful as eating the wrong things.  

6)  Air: Air is the most essential element needed to sustain life. We can live weeks without food, days without water, but only minutes without oxygen. It is essential to get outdoors in breath in the fresh air. The air quality in our homes is not the same as outdoors. There has been an increased number of people developing Asthma and other respiratory illnesses over the last hundred years. At the same time people are spending more and more time indoors. There seems to be a connection there.

7)  Rest: This one is near and dear to me. During the darkest days of my MS symptoms I could find no rest. Our society today doesn’t really value rest – until you can’t get it anymore. Sleep loss compromises all our body’s systems. It weakens the immune system, impairs our ability to think quickly and process complicated subjects and tasks, it slows our reactions and has contributed to a number of car accidents over the years, it affects short-term memory, and I don’t think I have to tell you what it can do to our moods! Our body requires 8 hours of sleep each night and sleep debt is cumulative.

8)  Trust: Does the long list of things above sound overwhelming? You may be saying “that’s an awful lot of things to change in myself” but the good news is you don’t have to do this alone. The power to change doesn’t lie in our willpower it lies in His power. How many times have you made a new year’s resolution to lose weight, stop smoking, or control your temper and how many times have you failed? The number one cause of death is people doing the things they know they shouldn’t do. We don’t need more information we need a source of power. With God there is no habit or addiction that is too difficult to overcome. He wants to give us freedom from the habits that bind us. I’ve already shared how He’s done this for me and I know He’s waiting to do the same for you.

So there you have the 8 natural laws. Follow these and you will see dramatic changes in your health. Those following these principles have reversed Diabetes, Heart Disease, and in my case Multiple Sclerosis. This is the foundation of the program we are going to be presenting at the Ark once it’s up and running. Here’s a before shot of the building. Once remodeling is complete I’ll share an after. As for the programming Monday-Thursday there will be different seminars and classes on various topics from Diabetes to Depression Recovery. Also there will be vegan cooking and herbal healing classes. The doctors from Parkview as well as a whole host of experts and layman alike are coming out to help us educate the Lewiston community. There is so much sickness and disease in this town and I cannot wait to share with you the stories of the individuals who, like me, find healing through lifestyle change.

The restaurant will be coming soon and as more of the pieces come together I’ll share more details about that and maybe even a recipe or two! I’d love to hear about anything healthy ministry related happening in your neck of the woods. I’m currently piecing together a newsletter sharing all the things God is doing to heal the people of New England. Even if you’re not in New England please share your story. I can only talk about myself for so long. I’m looking for others to share their story as well! Love you all and wishing you an abundance of blessings for the rest of your week!

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I’ve learned that shyness looks different dependent upon the person suffering from it. As a child I would run and hide from embarrassing situations. As an adult I just avoided them all together. I cannot tell you how many times I turned down my friend’s offer to go out because I was feeling really self conscience that day. I had a roommate once who would invite friends over and I would hang out in my bedroom assuming I’d be intruding upon the visit should I venture out. Plus the social awkwardness of not knowing them and fear of rejection kept me behind the closed door too. Whatever the lie we tell ourselves God is able to deliver us from this bondage.

I tried for years to deliver myself. I recognized my dysfunction. I read books, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, I joined self-help support groups, I practiced affirmations and positive self-talk and I’d make small little steps forward then one big leap back. I’d have a really good night hanging out with a bunch of strangers but the next morning fear would seize me and I could barely squeeze out a hello never mind making eye contact. Over and over again I tried to fix me and I failed. I don’t know about you but I hate failure. It sends me right back to my hole with my tail tucked between my legs. It’s a vicious cycle that sends me into cynicism and bitterness. It was during this time of deep self-evaluation that I started to see God’s hand being extended.

It was as I was coming off of the conference high and realizing that my life was still nothing to write home about that I acknowledged my shyness was holding me back from living life. I had all this new information about health and healing but I had no voice in which to speak it out loud. I decided I was going to force change upon myself. I had been reading online about different alternative medicine institutes in China, India, and Thailand. I said to myself, Tracy you will go there and work and learn and you will be a different person when you return. I told my friends about my plans that I was going to quit my job and go back to school. I felt that if I had a degree then my voice would follow; if I had credentials then people would want to listen. I was in a state of total desperation. This is usually the state one must reach in order to hear God’s voice.

So my plans were to go off and study Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine. I figured about 5 years overseas would prepare me to return to the states to open up a Healing Hostel. I had fallen in love with the idea of hostelling when I went out to Oregon and Washington last year. Hostels are the cheapest option when traveling. You share accommodations and thus pay only a fraction of what you would for a hotel. Plus they are a great way to meet people from all over the world (if you can muster up the courage to chat with them). I wanted to create a similar environment but as a means of providing a healing retreat for people who couldn’t afford to go to expensive wellness centers. I wanted to create a sanctuary of sorts for those who needed to step away from their everyday lives to re-educate themselves and to reset their bodies and mind. Most people don’t know how to feed themselves according to the way the body is designed and I wanted to teach them how to do so in the most natural way possible.

Part of that big dream would be enough land to organically grow all the food we used in our programs. I wanted to make agriculture part of the program. We’re so far removed from the skills of our ancestors and I feel the ability to grow our own food is crucial in understanding our connection to what we eat. What you put in the soil also goes into you. Also if you can grow much of your own food in the summer then that means lower food bills and money saved!

So with all of this swimming in my head God sent a messenger to call me in. My brother is the most unlikely candidate. He has had a hard life – drugs, gangs, and violence. So when he started going to church a calmer, more patient man began to emerge. This astounded me. From being ready to kill your enemies to wanting to give them bible studies – only God can do that. But my heart was hardened. My brother tried for at least a month to get me to go to church with him. I was quite content with my version of God. The God of the Bible didn’t interest me having had a few bad experiences with religion in the past I wanted no part of it. But God didn’t give up on me and my brother came and told me that the pastor’s wife was an herbalist. This piqued my interest. I had been reading about herbs and their healing properties ever since my MS diagnosis – thus my interest in Chinese Medicine. He said she held classes once a month at the church. I thought maybe I’ll go but never made it. Then a few weeks later he came to tell me about the beautiful camp the church owned and that this weekend everyone was going up for a family retreat. It sounded nice but I still was not interested. I didn’t know those people and I really didn’t want to hang out with “church people”. Then he said the herbalist was going to take her class on an herb walk to identify the useful herbs around the camp. It amazes me how God uses the very things you’re interested in to draw you to Him. I had just been looking into joining a class in northern Maine that did just that. It cost a lot of money so when Cody told me about this free class I was in!

I talked about that weekend at Camp Lawroweld in my very first post. I said that was the weekend I began to wrestle with God. He was seriously tugging at my heart. I had big plans for myself and whatever He had planned couldn’t be as good as my dreams. That’s where I was SO wrong. Let me tell you that the past year has far exceeded anything I could have planned for myself. He has provided opportunities for me to learn about Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine right here in Maine. He’s provided opportunities for me to learn more about organic farming through a local farmer in my church. I’ve been connected to a group of doctors who are looking to start a sanitarium here in Maine – something very close to the healing hostel I wanted to create. I’ve been asked to help start a vegan restaurant right here in Lewiston (I’M SO EXCITED!!!) and I’m working with a team of health evangelists to start an educational outreach center in the same building – ironically it’s an old pizza hut. Plus my church has asked me to serve as their health ministries leader. Now my plans was for 5 years from now to be doing something like this. God said no I have work for you to do right now. “God doesn’t called the qualified – He qualifies the called.” On top of all that God has lead me to the most loving and wonderful man who is now my husband. Damon pushes me everyday outside my comfort-zone and challenges me to trust God’s promises that He will give me His courage, reminding me that  when I am weak He is strong.

So what about the shyness? Well the cure began with Bible studies. I began to go with my husband, who at the time was just my friend, to help teach people to study their Bible. The first month I was silent, just listening and praying that no one would ask me a question. Then it just happened. As I surrendered more and more and studied more and more I found myself speaking up and sharing what I’d learned. Fear had melted and I wasn’t even thinking about being rejected or judged. I just started thinking about serving others and my hesitancy was no more. It was never a conscience effort on my part. As I focused on Jesus He removed all fears. And funny thing is I didn’t realize it had happened until months later. I was going door to door doing community health surveys and teach classes when it dawned on me that I was speaking to complete strangers in their homes and not freaking out!! Now I’m not saying I never have moments of shyness or fear anymore but I notice those moments only come when I’m not connected to God. When He and I are tight there is no fear. It is the most amazing feeling in the world and I could never go back to my old life. Eating right and exercising can deliver you from the chains of obesity but only God can free your mind to love the world.

Next week I’ll tell you more about the lifestyle center and what we are going to be doing there. It’s all really exciting stuff!!! Love you ❤

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